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76 Tampa to Panama Canal & Central America Cruise Reviews

We chose this cruise because we had always wanted to go through the Panama Canal. We only could take two weeks off from work, so this was the cruise we chose. This was a repositioning cruise for the Miracle, but Carnival also billed it ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we had always wanted to go through the Panama Canal. We only could take two weeks off from work, so this was the cruise we chose. This was a repositioning cruise for the Miracle, but Carnival also billed it as a Panama Canal cruise. PROS: Our stateroom (an obstructed view balcony) was large enough for two people and kept well cleaned and stocked by our excellent steward, Lindon. The obstruction of our view was not bad at all, and consisted of a lifeboat that came about up to our ankles. Our servers in the main dining room, Roxana, IWayan, and Indrawan, were excellent. The cruise had numerous sea days, which was very relaxing. The fun squad kept us busy with lots of trivia and games. Food was delicious, and there was plenty of fresh fruit and veggies. Minimal chair hogs and dinner lines, the cruise was not fully booked. Embarkation was fast and easy, about 10 minutes from curb to lido deck. This crowd was a little on the geriatric side with loads of diamond and platinum members. Everyone made it to the muster drill, and everyone made it on time after being ashore. We did the Chef's table, it was excellent and well worth the money. Singh and Helen at the service desk were very helpful. CONS: Carnival needs to take a look at their cruise passenger demographics before a cruise. This cruise was filled with senior citizens (there were only 11 children on board!) that were on a bucket list cruise. We went through the panama canal during mid-day (which was too hot for these seniors), people were understandably standing out on deck to see the locks, and Carnival could have provided some cooling measures like iced washcloths and cool drinks. I did see some cool drinks being handed out, but none never made it to the forward lido deck where there were about 250 passengers. Also, put some chairs out on the forward lido deck! We were standing for hours in the hot sun. With all the sea days, I would have appreciated some chairs out on the outside promenade deck. It's nice and quiet down there, and a great place for reading, but only if there's a chair there to sit on. Carnival advertised this cruise as a Panama Canal cruise, but we were given minimal information the actual day of the canal transit. They did have some sort of (pilot?) guy that made about 10 short announcements over the course of the 13 hour transit, but that was it. No guest speaker the night before that told us what to expect, or about the history of the canal, or any other speakers. There was one Academy of Fun guy, but he talked about space, astronomy, astronauts, etc. He was great, but it would have been more appropriate to talk about the canal that was on all of our bucket lists. Seriously, Carnival, what would it take to get some history buff speaker? Or a civil engineer? Debarkation was terrible, and I've never ever said that before in any of my reviews. Not sure if the ship arrived late or what, but debarkation started about an hour late. We didn't get off the ship until almost 11, and we were in the middle of the crowd. Read Less
Sail Date September 2019
Going to Panama canal was the highlight of our cruise...friendliest people onboard crew was excellent, dining room very slow ..plan on spending 2 hours there ...shows old school nothing fancy, bands in red frogs excellent mainly ... Read More
Going to Panama canal was the highlight of our cruise...friendliest people onboard crew was excellent, dining room very slow ..plan on spending 2 hours there ...shows old school nothing fancy, bands in red frogs excellent mainly female front/male front musicians excellent...being a musician vocalist I love good harmonies great songs, karaoke was magical fun with great bunch of people...drawback ..karaoke was 3rd to 5th day and I think they should had it from 1st day to last night since everyone enjoyed karaoke. Excessive amount of Bingo and trying to push selling jewelry which was a turnoff. Excursions were excellent. Embarkation smoothly and debarkation smoothly. Panama canal was interesting ..would have enjoyed getting off ship to view from outside or even excursion of panama the city. The ship dining room was very unusual colorful and enjoyed it. Miracle is nice sized ship not too big or not too small. Enjoyed the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
Cruising the Panama Canal was on my husbands bucket list so this cruise was a birthday gift for him and our 29 year old son. This was my 28th cruise with Carnival and the second time on the Miracle so I'm not new to evaluating what ... Read More
Cruising the Panama Canal was on my husbands bucket list so this cruise was a birthday gift for him and our 29 year old son. This was my 28th cruise with Carnival and the second time on the Miracle so I'm not new to evaluating what works and what doesn't on these ships. I've sailed pretty much every class as well. The Ship - So the Miracle is not the newest or my favorite. But it was a nice size and easy to navigate. Yes the crew is always working hard to keep it clean and updated. I see that on all the ships. We had a suite for the three of us and the balcony was extended and really nice. The cabin itself was nice as well. Very roomy for three adults and our ac worked just fine. The Crew and the Passengers - Probably one of my favorite of all cruises. The prior weeks cruise was spring break so they were thrilled to have a ship full of "old people" with tons of status treating them with respect and warmth. And I have to say - combine an eight day cruise with the cost of the Panama canal and you get an average age of 75 years old and 500 plus diamond and platinum members. Our steward Arnold, our dining staff Lydia and Rosi, the Alchemy Bartenders Jacob and Gabrial and Gabrial's wife by the pool couldn't have been friendlier. And it was not about extra tipping, the crew was just so eager to please. Maybe the nicest crew I've ever experienced. And finally the food. Well I am not a huge fan of the American Table menu on any ship these days but I can always find something I like. Was it fun? Well for my 29 year old he had to find his own fun as there were barely any other passengers even close to his age. But he did. And as far as the entertainment the house band was good as were the vocalists and violin trio. This was not one of those late night cruises for us by a stretch with the crowd on board but it was completely relaxing. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
Cruised with my 20 YO Granddaughter. Had a great time despite having very few younger people on the ship. First time to Panama Canal. Tampa embarkation is a little more difficult to me having to park across the street but ok. Got right ... Read More
Cruised with my 20 YO Granddaughter. Had a great time despite having very few younger people on the ship. First time to Panama Canal. Tampa embarkation is a little more difficult to me having to park across the street but ok. Got right on the ship. Cabin was in good position on the ship but Cabin steward was not the best I ever had. Enjoyed the entertainment. Food was adequate but not anything to rave about. Both excursions that we took were fantastic. They cancelled one that we booked with Carnival so we took one from the port at Grand Cayman. The ship is in good shape and I liked the gaudiness. It reminded me of the good old days of cruising. Didn't miss Guy's Burgers, the grill took it's place and was good. Debarkation was easy. Off the ship with my own luggage and on the way home at 8:15. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
The only the enjoyable thing on this cruise were the fellow passengers. Staff: Unless they were working for extra tips at the bar or trying to sell you something, they looked and acted miserable. Some practically falling over tired. ... Read More
The only the enjoyable thing on this cruise were the fellow passengers. Staff: Unless they were working for extra tips at the bar or trying to sell you something, they looked and acted miserable. Some practically falling over tired. Food: Im used to military gally food, and thats what they served. And it was the same food served in all four restraunts with only the $40 steakhouse having something different. Cabin: Average size but HOT! Air conditioning was working all over the ship, but not in our room, even the minifridge quit. We tried several times to get customer service to help without success. Slept with wet towels to try and stay cool. Entertainment was more focused on gambling/sales. Comedians and trivia hosts were trying their hardest but were at it for hours and ran out of good jokes. We ended up just playing drinking card games with other guests. Services were adverage, except for the hard sell for the spa/botox. Only had ome working ellipticle. DONT pay the $60 for the VIFP upgrade. Everyone who already sailed with Carnival gets it for free. So you dont get on or off the boat early, you wait for cabin to be called like anyone else. Just another ripoff. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
Pre-cruise: We flew in the day before and stayed at the Courtyard Tampa downtown. Our stay was excellent and I would highly recommend. Embarkation was quick and painless. We had 11:30 to 12:00 check in time. We arrived right about 11:30 ... Read More
Pre-cruise: We flew in the day before and stayed at the Courtyard Tampa downtown. Our stay was excellent and I would highly recommend. Embarkation was quick and painless. We had 11:30 to 12:00 check in time. We arrived right about 11:30 and were onboard shortly after noon. We didn't have to even sit in the terminal to wait. The Miracle isn't the newest ship with all the latest things. That was fine with me as the goal was relaxation. Live the ship size and layout. One dining room so you can cross the ship on all decks. Ship is clean and does have some of the 2.0 upgrades. Food was good to excellent. MDR dinner was fine. There were a few entrees that weren't great, but the wait staff quickly brought something else. Steakhouse was excellent. If you get a reservation for the right time, you can watch the sun set at dinner. Lido was good. I also loved the new deli sandwiches. Entertainment was a highlight of this cruise. We attended all the shows and they were great! The cast was also very approachable and interacted a lot with the audience. Go see the Daft Sailors in the Red Frog Pub. They were excellent and it was the place to be for both guests and crew. Leigh the CD and his staff were personable and energetic. With 4 sea days, it could have been easy to get bored and they kept everyone engaged and entertained. Ports: Limon, Costa Rica- We did the sloth tour through Carnival. This isn't the fanciest port. There is a large craft market near the dock. There are no Diamonds International if that's what you're looking for. The sloth tour was excellent. We drove about 45 minutes on an air conditioned bus to the sloth sanctuary. The tour guide spent that time teaching us about Costa Rica and the area. First, they gave us time to use the restrooms. Then we had about 20 minutes in the gift shop. Prices were reasonable and they take USD. After that, we split into two groups to see the rescued sloths in two different rooms. It was amazing and very educational. We then went on a canoe ride through the canals to see animals. We saw sloths, howler monkeys, geckos, a crocodile and more. The canoe guide was very good at spotting animals and waiting for us to take pictures. We took the bus back to the port. We skipped the planned fruit stand stop due to there being too many buses there already. We had time to shop after the tour. The craft market was crowded, but people were friendly. There is wifi, but I had trouble getting it to work. Panama Canal- This was basically like a sea day. There was a historian onboard to explain everything to us as we went through the canal. If you want to see from the front of the ship, get there early because it was crowded. A lot of people watched from balconies. They also had a makeshift store on lido for t-shirts and souvenirs. A lot of the souvenirs went quickly. There were t-shirts available in the fun shops until the end of the cruise. Shops and casino were open while we were in the canal. They also showed movies in Mad Hatter's lounge during the afternoon. Grand Cayman- We did not do a tour here as we've been before. We got off the ship and just did some shopping with a stop for lunch. Do bring smaller bills if you can as we found some places didn't have a lot of USD to give change. If you go to the right from where you tender in (after you leave the gated area) and walk down a ways, there is a small craft market where you can buy things like jewelry, coin purses, art, etc... Prices there were way more reasonable than at the little stands near the port. Special note: We did an ashes scattering on this cruise and they were amazing. A crew member from guest services and security officer met us and escorted us to an aft crew area. They told us where we could scatter and gave us as much time as we needed. They also provided us with the coordinates later. Debark: We were not in a hurry so we picked the latest tag. Debarkation was a little delayed due to only having two customs officers. Things went much quicker once they got a few more. Once off the ship and through customs, we flagged down a porter and got our checked bags. He directed us to a shuttle to the airport for 8 dollars per person. A taxi would have cost 28 dollars. Tips: Bring a glass with a lid for drinks on lido. Great to fill up and take to the bar after dinner. A string backpack is great to use around the ship on sea days or in port. A lanyard made things so much easier. Bring extra plugs so that you can charge more than one thing at a time. Read Less
Sail Date February 2019
I chose this cruise by the Ports that I have not seen yet. The price was good so I did some research of the ship and just winged it at the ports, all worked out well as it could possibly be. The ship is kept clean, as there are ... Read More
I chose this cruise by the Ports that I have not seen yet. The price was good so I did some research of the ship and just winged it at the ports, all worked out well as it could possibly be. The ship is kept clean, as there are always crew members working around the ship wiping, vacuuming and shining. the cabin was small but livable for the 2 week cruise. Cabin steward was good at keeping us happy and there was always a towel animal at nights turn down. Dining was good at both main dining rooms and the buffet as well. I have no complaints of the service there. There is an abundance of musical entertainment thought-out the ship going everyday. The latin band, Avalon, was great, but were mostly in the Atrium where there is rug, so dancing was a laborious effort. We found that we could dance on the deck above, deck 8 in front of the O'Sheehans restaurant on a Vinyl floor with no trouble to anyone. There is a dance floor on deck 13 in the Spinnaker lounge where bands are rotated in daily, so that was a nice change from the rug in the Atrium. The productions shows in the Theater were all good, as well as guest entertainers and the crew productions. The crew on NCL are a happy crew, always greeting you and respectful. The ports were interesting, with shuttles to get out of the container area of the port in Columbia then easy walk or taxi to see the city. Most of the other ports like Colon, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Jamaica, you could walk in to town or catch a taxi right in port. I was never wowed on this cruise, I have been wowed before with NCL but not this time. It was good but not a "wow"! Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
Staff and servers were wonderful. Staterooms were very nice with plenty of room for 2 people. Attendant was very good. Ports were fun as long as we did our own thing. My biggest complaint is the pool deck ambience. Many patrons asked ... Read More
Staff and servers were wonderful. Staterooms were very nice with plenty of room for 2 people. Attendant was very good. Ports were fun as long as we did our own thing. My biggest complaint is the pool deck ambience. Many patrons asked for music but were refused over and over. Don't understand why a pool deck can't have music playing. Lots of cancelations of live music and activities. Food not good. Didnt realize all the dining rooms serve the same thing. Food never was changed up. Same entres over and over for 14 days. Desserts were awful. Only thing eatable was ice cream. Excursion desk was never open. When it was lines we extremely long. Agents new nothing about excurions except what they could read from the computer. Entertai ment was very poor. Not many activities worth doing. Many cancelled or just not happening. Embarking and disembarking was lines around the buildings and ships. Poor planning. We still had the trip of a lifetime and we made the best of it, but I didn't think the food and entertainment were going to be so disappointing. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
“‘Twas two weeks before Christmas and all through the Pearl; The seas were so rough that it made the CREW hurl…. The Shoppies & Steiners were snug in their beds, While visions of Revenue danced in their heads….” ... Read More
“‘Twas two weeks before Christmas and all through the Pearl; The seas were so rough that it made the CREW hurl…. The Shoppies & Steiners were snug in their beds, While visions of Revenue danced in their heads….” We sailed on the Pearl on the Dec. 9th sailing out of Tampa on a 2-week ‘Panama Canal’ cruise. This was our ‘retirement’ present to ourselves, having just sold our business (Restaurant/Bar) of 13 years and finally able to get away for more than a few days without the anticipation of a phone call from an employee or customer. First off, some background.. I am 53, live with my Wife (49) in Pennsylvania. This was my 33rd cruise. The last 17 have been on NCL, the first 16 were on RCCL, Carnival and Celebrity. We switched to NCL when they started the Freestyle concept and have stayed in Outside cabins, Balconies, Two-Bedroom suites, Owner’s Deluxe, and for the last 2, the Garden Villa. So this review may seem like it is coming from a spoiled, privileged cruiser, but since we have had very little ability to get away for the last 13 years, we spoiled ourselves when we could. Plus – the Casino has given us substantial discounts for the last 5 cruises. I have also been a (very small) part-time travel agent for 10 years, for family and friends as well as the small discount we get in commissions when booking our own trips. Even so, the Garden Villa cost the three of us (Myself, Wife and 23 year-old Daughter) about $25K. Hey, you only live once, right? Anyway, this review is from the perspective of a GV suite, 14500, so some of the experience will only relate to the Haven ‘class’ of cruising, although most of it will be the Pearl in general. The Garden Villa Experience The GV on the Port side of the ship was about 2/3 the size of the larger ones on the earlier-built class like the Dawn, where they have no Haven and you get the entire upper deck 15 to yourselves. Made not a whit of difference since the GV is HUGE on any ship, especially for just 3 people. Private hot tub (when it had water in it, they were working on the hot tubs for a few days and had it drained) was perfect in temperature and great to soak in during sea days and at night. Amenities were first class, from the bathrooms to the wet bar to the espresso machine to the SERVICE. OH, the service. The Butler, Peter Silva, was great. Any wish was his command. Snackies every day, continental breakfast laid out every morning by 7am, along with my favorite Laugen Rolls (Those pretzel things. I just LOVE ‘em) Gummies, M&Ms, cookies, etc. You get the picture. Chocolate Strawberries for my Daughter every afternoon was a big hit. Our Stateroom Attendant, Jeffrey and the Pool attendant were great as well, always smiling and greeting us by name, they kept things spotless and neat, despite rough weather and high winds that blew all kinds of debris around our deck for most of the trip. We had a couple of specialty restaurant deliveries/setups in the room, mostly from Lotus Garden, Breakfast from Moderno/Cagneys and the MDR menu. Food was always hot when delivered and it got there quickly. The best part of the Haven experience for us on this trip was, without a doubt, the Concierge. Anoop Bhanu had just signed on from his vacation after being on the (Getaway, maybe?) and despite the fact that he was as newly embarked as we were, got right into the swing of things. He became to us, the ‘Silent Ghost’. It almost became scary how whenever one of us mentioned his name, he appeared like magic. I kid you not. With almost 50 Haven cabins to handle (Can’t imagine how they do it with almost 100 on the bigger ships) Anoop was, without a doubt, the most attentive, friendly and professional individual I have ever known on an NCL ship (Sorry, Adrian Bica, love ya, man, but, wow…) We learned about Anoop, he learned about US, he really cared and became a friend to all 3 of us. He just could not do enough for us, whether making dinner plans, spa stuff for the girls, entertainment in the main showroom with reserved seats on the upper level, port debark, etc… Anoop was just amazing, 24/7. Despite being under the weather for the last day of the cruise, he made sure that we and the other Haven guests were taken care of at all times. We could not have asked for a better Concierge, he is our Cruise Hero. Well, that is the Good. Now, the other side of the Pearl Equation. (This is cruise CRITIC, after all) Time to be critical… The Good, The Not so Good, and the Kinda Ugly… The following experiences and/or critiques are based entirely on MY personal experience. Your mileage may vary. First off, what I did NOT utilize, nor shall I comment on them: Kids program. Sports. Deck Parties/Cruise staff events. Shore Excursions (we did our own). Art Auctions. Napkin Folding. Dance Classes. Not-So-Newlywed. Deal or No Deal. Hairy Legs competition. Many folks seem to have enjoyed them, some not so much. Entertainment- We went to the Piano Player show (although I forgot his name) He was quite talented, and the show was enjoyable. The Magician was very good, although being almost directly above him gave away a couple of his secrets. The Aerialist couple was very good as well. Their show was a mix of acrobatics, new-age trapeze and contortionism, with several video presentations thrown in about their personal origins as a couple and the development of their act. The lounge/bar/atrium/pool deck soloists and bands were all good, if not memorable. No big deal, as they change all the time and are pretty much standard fare on most of the fleet. Ports of Call – TAMPA- Embarkation was late due to Customs issues, supposedly only 2 CBP agents for the whole ship to get off. The ‘VIP’ Haven lounge was just a roped off segment of the main room with very lax checking for access. People that were not Haven guests were coming in and out, thinking it was a ‘snack bar’ for everyone. The port people seemed a bit overwhelmed by it all. Got on the ship around 12:30 Grand Cayman – The weather and seas were rough, so we could not tender in, as there are 2 ports in GC, one that accepts 2 ships and the other one that was closed. We were the 3rd ship to get there, so we could not get to that port and had an extra sea day. Ocho Rios – Grabbed a taxi outside the gates and did a 2 hour tour. Jack In the Bush, Fern Gully, etc… The usual local folks trying to sell weed. Hit the Taj Mahal shopping center to get Cuban Cigars before returning to the ship. Cigar store there had really good prices after haggling a bit. If you like Cigars, they have a great selection. Santa Marta & Cartagena Columbia – Seemed like the entire population tried to sell us something. Within 3 minutes of exiting the ship, I was offered weed, coke, ecstasy, hats, linens and magnets. When we took a taxi and asked to be brought to ‘Mr. Emerald’ , a ship-recommended store, the driver took us instead to one of ‘his’ stores which was ¼ mile away from the one we asked for. When I told him that we wanted Mr. Emerald, he pretended not to speak English and insisted in Spanish that we were where we had asked to go. Rather than argue in Spanish, we walked the rest of the way followed by persistant locals. Panama Canal & Colon, Panama – The ship went through the Gatun lock about 1.5 hours early so that half the ship was still in bed when we went through. The narrator did a fine job telling the history of the canal and describing the various stages of the passage. Once in Lake Gatun, the tenders took of shore-excursion booked guests and we anchored for a couple of hours before going back through the lock and docking in Colon, where there were a few shops & restaurants, a casino or two and a really neat ‘locals’ grocery store that had just about everything a scaled-down Walmart SuperCenter would offer. Puerto Limon, Costa Rica – Really beautiful country with few hard-sell approaches. All ship-sponsored shore excursions were cancelled due to a local tour operator work stoppage. (pretty sure it was THIS port, I might be incorrect) Negotiated with a local driver for a 3 hour tour. $60 got us a great driven tour around the area with a few stops, and he waited while we took a river boat rain forest ride that the ship was selling for $80 pp, we got it for $20 pp. He took us shopping, a Banana plantation (Del Monte) the HUGE container port that handles Dole, DelMonte & Chiquita fruit and a bunch (no pun intended) of other places. We were going to grab lunch at a locals place, but opted for the ship buffet instead. Harvest Caye – Wife & Daughter went to the beach and had lunch at the restaurant, they said that it was wonderful all around. I have read many mixed reviews of the island. Last cruise we took 2 years ago, they had just opened the island and it was quite rough around the edges. Apparently, they have gotten it together and it is quite enjoyable now. Santo Thomas De Castilla, Guatemala – We were supposed to tender here, but were able to dock. Nothing by the port except a huge warehouse with about 100 local vendors selling the usual stuff, as well as a ‘Jade Museum’ which was just an air-conditioned version of a usual stuff shop. Costa Maya, Mx – Best port of all, in my opinion. Over the last few years they have been developing this port into an almost ‘Disneyesque’ experience. Many shops, restaurants, pools, Dolphins and a really neat Aviary walkthrough with rope bridges and many tropical birds that you can feed and have them land all over you. We have 2 parrots at home, so this was particularly neat for us and well worth the $12 pp price. Restaurant was excellent as well. Safe, clean and friendly. Great merch to be had if you are able to haggle prices with the shopkeepers. Tampa, redux – We were late getting into the port, so disembarkation was a nightmare for most people, but we were lucky in that our Butler escorted us past all the lines right down to our luggage area and through to CBP and our waiting car to take us to the Airport. The Food - Here’s where it gets a bit dicey. I know that NCL is not Renaissance 7 Seas, Crystal or even HAL or Princess, so I don’t really expect 5-star cuisine. Having been in the restaurant biz for a long time, I believe I am qualified to review this part with some knowledge. The quality of the food, the portion size, the variety and the service has dropped dramatically in the last couple of years. I could write an entire review of just the food, but I will sum it up. No more lobster on the ship. Anywhere. No more smoked Salmon at the buffet. No more Tomahawk Chop in Cagney’s. Only 6 fish available at the Sushi Bar. Le Bistro and Cucina have improved dramatically. Basically, for the most part, the specialty restaurants were good to very good, nice presentations, good service (see caveat below). The free options, not so much. Pushing, shoving, arguing and rudeness were the order of the day at the buffet. Washy Washy, yes… Happy Happy, nope. Every meal began by someone telling us ‘You know, that is not included’ or ‘That is not part of the meal plan/beverage plan’ or ‘Water will be $6 a bottle extra’. It got to the point where I wanted to wear a button that said ‘I KNOW everything is extra, stop reminding me every 10 seconds’ One night we went to Teppanyaki and were not welcomed, but were immediately told (for the 5th time) that our Daughter was not included in the dining plan and would have to pay full price. I actually saw the Teppanyaki hostess, in front of the Concierge, ROLL HER EYES at us when I told her we KNOW she is not on the plan, we don’t need to be constantly reminded every meal of how everything is ‘not included’ or ‘extra’. I know it sounds like I am being a spoiled, petty, whining guest, but I tell you honestly, we were CONSTANTLY being made to feel like the proverbial ‘trailer trash’ by the staff on the ship. They used to welcome you FIRST, now they have been trained to tell you how much extra you will need to pay to prevent folks from complaining later. Which apparently some people do. It was just amazing how many slips you need to sign at each meal. For water bottles? Really? Casino – I ain’t gonna go there.. LOL Suffice to say it was verrrrry quiet for most of this 2 week cruise. But from G., the Manager, on down to the Pit Sups and Dealers, they were a great and friendly bunch of people. It was a true pleasure making my usual Donation. Service – I know that as a Garden Villa guest I was treated, on THAT end, extremely well and spoiled beyond compare, as I am sure the other Haven guests were/are. However, as far as the rest of the ship experience, from the Shoppies to the Spa to the Specialty dining it seemed like it was a constant push to generate revenue rather than enhance the guest experience. Apart from being nickel and dimed at every opportunity there was a constant feeling of the ‘hard sell’ going on. In the shops, if you stopped to look at something of high value, you were POUNCED upon and followed around the shop by someone trying to upsell something. In the spa, you could get a $40 service and then endure a 20 minute hard sell on $250 worth of products to take home. The Spa & Shop people were very dismissive of my 23-year-old Daughter, I believe because they did not see her as a ‘mark’ for potential revenue. She made one spa appointment herself, but when she showed up, they told her ‘someone’ called and cancelled it. No more, no less, no apology. So she did not GET that spa appointment. Until my WIFE called. THEN and ONLY then did they grant her the appointment. She was looking at a piece of jewelry in the shop one night in a virtually empty store and was not approached by a salesperson for 10 minutes, until I walked over to her and asked what she was looking at. 5 seconds later I had TWO shoppies practically run over to us and ask ME what I wanted to see or buy. Now, I am a realist. I understand that the ships departments must generate revenue as a whole in order to sustain a lower overall cruise cost for the consumer and be able to offer the ‘5 for free’ promotions, i.e. Unlimited drinks, Dining Packages, Internet, Friends and Family sail Free, and now Airfare. There is a great deal of competition out there for customers to choose from. But IMHO, NCL used to combine the lower price point with less focus on onboard revenue and more focus on guest satisfaction. It seems that is no longer the case. To sum it all up – While our experience was kind of unique as a Garden Villa group, while the Suite service was Sweet, the Itinerary, Food and other services were So-So. Ship Life, I suppose. Now that we have actual free time, we might give one of the Mega ships a try. Maybe Celebrity or HAL on one of the Nieuw ships, just to get a better perspective from a different brand standpoint. We still believe Cruising is the best way to Vacation. After all, there WAS a Christmas tree in our Garden Villa… And it wasn’t extra… Hope this review was helpful. Happy Holidays!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
From a 6 time Norwegian cruiser, who will probably be looking more elsewhere. Biggest problems were getting on and especially getting off. Getting on, the boarding process was very unclear, and few knew. A sign explaining the order ... Read More
From a 6 time Norwegian cruiser, who will probably be looking more elsewhere. Biggest problems were getting on and especially getting off. Getting on, the boarding process was very unclear, and few knew. A sign explaining the order would have helped. Also put some bakery items, and drinks in the waiting area. Getting off was a total zoo, as wife not a US citizen. Told everyone to go ot the 13th and a huge line of hundreds, then told everyone immigration was on shore. Norwegian personnel in the area knew little, and a very bossy type form St. Lucia was handling most. Jodie needed to have this organized by time called. Some organization was needed. Food decently prepared but now many headliners on the menu (lobster, lamb, duck, prime rib, etc. were scarce or nonexistent). Service general very good. Would help if they would publish buffet headliners in advance so you can choose where to go. Rolls need help too. Did miss the special occasion cake that was asked for in preboarding. Room nice for the money, good service from housekeeping. Recreational activities (ahem cruise director) spotty, nice tennis court, but one day nets not up, second no tennis racquets, one day doing scaffolding, always no spare tennis balls. Also canceled a golf activity and a nightly movie without much explanation. Casino seemed to have few winners and little activity. Often about 10 tables open with fewer then 5 total players. TV sports generally lousy other than a bit of NFL, unless you like 24 hour a day soccer from a cheap international sports station. Norwegian also needs to have a few drink specials. No happy hour, killed the beer pitchers and wine carafe sales, as well as the O'Sheehan's special dinner of the day. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
Always wanted to go on the Pearl and to the Panama Canal. It was a great cruise other than the weather got kind of rough . The food was good but after the first week started looking all the same. Loved O'Sheehens Bar. Our ... Read More
Always wanted to go on the Pearl and to the Panama Canal. It was a great cruise other than the weather got kind of rough . The food was good but after the first week started looking all the same. Loved O'Sheehens Bar. Our bartender Will from China was the greatest and made the best drinks. There was a waitress there that was also great. I just can't remember her name Our cabin steward was always willing to help and was really good . Entertainment was also good just wish they had more of the shows with the dancers. Cabin was small but great for 2 people not anymore than that. We didn't get to go to Grand Cayman because of rough weather and in Cartegena the tour bus drivers went on strike so we missed that excursion, the others were really good. Even with some of the not so good things that happened I would go again on the Pearl , she is a very pretty ship. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
Timing was good for this 2 week cruise, schools not out yet, Christmas holidays not started. I enjoyed the exercise we were able to get while walking the decks, climbing the stairs. There was so much food available all the time, instead of ... Read More
Timing was good for this 2 week cruise, schools not out yet, Christmas holidays not started. I enjoyed the exercise we were able to get while walking the decks, climbing the stairs. There was so much food available all the time, instead of pigging out we elected to eat at the Indigo Restaurant every night. Small Portions of delicious food were served to us by friendly waiters. It was a better experience than eating in the busy Garden cafe. The gym was very nice, I had a new experience while running on the treadmill in choppy seas, swaying side to side, recruits a lot more muscles! Every morning we had fresh coffee and continental breakfast delivered to our cabin, this is complimentary and was much appreciated.As long as one places the order card outside the cabin before 4am. Our main focus was to see the Panama Canal and visit Cartagena and Santa Marta in Colombia. We were blown away by the cruise ship passage through the Panama canal. So happy we had our own balcony to watch it all. Grand Cayman was cancelled due to bad weather, we were not bothered, we found the other ports in Ochos Rios, Puerto Limon and especially Costa Maya in Mexico to be tourist traps. One had to dodge a lot of touts and taxis, which we did, we had to walk quite far to try to find authentic areas. Costa Maya was a total tourist trap, so we chilled at a cafe in sight of the ship and enjoyed decent wifi for a change. We didn't do any of the shore excursions, preferring to explore on our own. Harvest Caye in Belize, is a man made island constructed by Norwegian cruise lines, for their exclusive use. So we never saw anything of the real Belize, but actually enjoyed a lovely day on a very nice beach with lots of comfortable beach chairs. It was good to escape from the ship for a while and get away from an abundance of mobility scooters on board. We enjoyed the Jacuzzi on the pool deck, we went in the evenings when everyone else was having dinner. Very relaxing for sore muscles. I appreciated that we had beach towels put in our cabin. The room stewardess was outstanding. Fresh towels and sheets and the place was spick and span every day. The wifi on board is terrible. Even though we bought the package. It is well worth it to buy the in house texting app they offer on board NCL for around $9.95. As you can communicate with all friends or family on board the ship, Texting and sending pix and also scroll through daily event calendar. We did not enjoy the ships entertainment much, except for an exceptional Latin band called Avalon, they were terrific. Everyone danced when they performed.We found a lot of the organized activities on offer a bit childish and uninteresting for us. Others may enjoy them. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
This was our first 14 day Journeys cruise. Ship was Carnival Miracle. Departure port - Tampa. Panama Canal partial crossing. Ports - Cozumel, Limon, Panama Canal/Gatun, Cartagena, Aruba, Curacao, Montego Bay. Did a cruise package at ... Read More
This was our first 14 day Journeys cruise. Ship was Carnival Miracle. Departure port - Tampa. Panama Canal partial crossing. Ports - Cozumel, Limon, Panama Canal/Gatun, Cartagena, Aruba, Curacao, Montego Bay. Did a cruise package at Country Inn & Suites in Brandon. Very good package with room, hot buffet breakfast, 14 days parking and to/from port shuttle. Embarkation went well. Disembarkation was not as smooth and took much longer. This was a couple's trip. Shore excursions: 1- COZUMEL - "by land and sea", good experience in underwater glass windowed boat and bus exploration trip. Both guides were excellent. Chocolate, then Tequila tours were very interesting. 2 - PANAMA CANAL - Locks were very interesting, then anchored in Gatun Lake before returning through locks back to sea. 3 - Limon - "Caribbean train/boat/bus", tour was excellent and guides for each segment were very informative. 4 - CARTAGENA - Interesting harbour entrance and docking right next to operating container port. Did not do a shore excursion here. 4 - Aruba - "Best of Aruba Island Tour", on air-conditioned bus. Tour was excellent. Bus driver/guide was most informative and had many humourous anecdotes and stories. 5 - Curacao - "Discover Curacao Island Tour". This tour featured a bus that, although air-conditioned, was very narrow inside with very cramped seating. The tour guide spoke very quickly and presented a challenge to understand. She stopped at a museum first, which was interesting but went on far too long. We stopped at a Curacao Blue Liqueur production facility, which was interesting, but we were rushed through the site too quickly. 6 - Montego Bay - "Give back to the Community Tour". This was a good tour as far as the sights go, and the stop at a primary school where the children came outside to sing for us was a real treat, most enjoyable. However, the bus driver drove too fast on narrow roads, which was a bit unnerving. The commentary by the guide was sporadic and there was none on the rapid return to the ship. Before leaving on the tour we were delayed by a couple arriving late, and before returning were delayed by the guide not returning, timely, to the bus. The stop at the plantation for lunch was interesting. The ship, Carnival Miracle, an interesting name as a miracle was needed to repair the ship and refurbishing was sorely needed. Stateroom and other areas of the ship needed repainting as some rust was visible. We had a brief power blackout in the stateroom and toilets that didn't work for a few hours during the night. We had a light switch that didn't work. Wiring and plumbing repairs were carried out during the trip, in stateroom corridors. Our TV remote didn't work, upon arrival, and needed to be replaced. The rear serenity area was used often by us and was very relaxing. However, there was a serious soot problem later in the voyage that caused the pool and hot tub to be closed as soot was floating on the surfaces. One woman passenger remarked to me that she suffered a facial burn from the stacks emissions. The food areas were set up well with quite plentiful seating areas. The quality and variety of foods served was quite good. The food in the formal dining room was excellent and the service was superb. The surroundings in the dining room were quite dated and needed up-grading. We had a balcony room and have found this type of stateroom offers more floor space which is most welcome. The entertainment offered was quite good, although we didn't attend shows every evening as our dining time was later. We have booked a similar cruise from Tampa for next year leaving within a day of this cruise. We are travelling next time on the Carnival Legend. We are hoping it to be a more amenable environment than the Miracle. I would have given the overall rating of this cruise 4, instead of 3, stars had the ship not had the issues mentioned. We enjoy our Carnival cruises and look forward to our up-coming one. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
We choose this cruise because it left from Tampa (closest to our home) and visited the Panama Canal, along with other ports we have not been to. The weather (Dec. 2-16) was perfect! Shorts and short-sleeved shirts were fine for the day, ... Read More
We choose this cruise because it left from Tampa (closest to our home) and visited the Panama Canal, along with other ports we have not been to. The weather (Dec. 2-16) was perfect! Shorts and short-sleeved shirts were fine for the day, while long pants and long sleeves were desired in the evening. This was a "journey" cruise which we had not heard of before. There was a lot to do on board! Many trivia and other games filled our days. Entertainment was good in the evenings. If you like karaoke, there were many opportunities to show off your talent. Different decades were highlighted on sea days. Frankie, our cruise director, and his staff were fantastic! The ship was decorated for Christmas, and many of the cruisers came out with their Christmas outfits all the time. Room doors were decorated more than normal, too. There were very few children on board (maybe 7), probably because it was a 14 day cruise. We did not play in the casino, but it was a very large room and filled all the time. Unfortunately, this made that area of the ship very smokey, and one susceptible to breathing issues might have a problem. The food was okay. I was excited to see lobster at two of the gala nights (no extra fee). I thought the main dining room was a bit dark; it would have been nice to have a little more lighting, especially since the main color was purples. By the end of the cruise, I was bored with the lido food (which maybe was a good thing since everyone was eating too much)!!! I remember from past cruises that the waitstaff and room stewards used our names and greeted us every night; ours didn't do well in that department; maybe they were just overworked. I loved having breakfast on our balcony each morning. Having room service bring us a few things kept us from eating too much. It was nice to relax with the waves lapping while reading or playing my ukulele. As far as the ports, we didn't get off the ship in Cozumel since we've been there before. Costa Rica was disappointing, maybe because we didn't opt for any excursions. Cartegena was surprisingly nice: right off the ship there was a bird aviary with birds, flamingos, monkeys, and other creatures among the tropical plants. Aruba was wonderful! We got on the city bus ($5 roundtrip) and spent the day at Palm Beach, then shopped when we got back to town. Sat at a bar and got free wi-fi (with the purchase of a drink). Curacao is always fun. It was the most decorated for Christmas. Walked over the moving bridge to town and did a lot of walking and shopping. Last stop was Montego Bay, another disappointing port, a few 'huts' of souvenirs. Oh, the Panama Canal was different ... took most of the day. It was hot sitting in the front of the ship. A man was announcing the history of the canal which was nice. My husband enjoyed going through and seeing how the locks worked. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
We choose this cruise because of the itinerary and departing from our home port. Great selection of port of calls with a partial Panama Canal Transit. Cruise went smooth and overall the service on the Miracle was above average. Only ... Read More
We choose this cruise because of the itinerary and departing from our home port. Great selection of port of calls with a partial Panama Canal Transit. Cruise went smooth and overall the service on the Miracle was above average. Only issues were minor. Food selection could be better and the Cruise Director was below average compared to other ships. Cruise Director appeared to want to be the center of attention all the day. Great cruise overall, the Miracle is an older ship but is smaller and the floor plan is perfect. Ship was kept very clean at all times and crew members were very friendly. It was nice to sail on a smaller ship for a chance. No problems ordering a drink, seeing the shows, or getting a lounge chair poolside. Carnival did a good job with this 14 day journeys cruise and have no issues with the Miracle its self. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
I went on this cruise with my 8 year old daughter. I choose this cruise because it was port intensive, 9 ports in 14 nights. This was our first time on a 14 night cruise and our first time on NCL. We took this cruise in late November so ... Read More
I went on this cruise with my 8 year old daughter. I choose this cruise because it was port intensive, 9 ports in 14 nights. This was our first time on a 14 night cruise and our first time on NCL. We took this cruise in late November so unfortunately there were not a lot of kids on the ship maybe 10-15 total out of 2300 people. SHIP This is an older ship and well-kept up. All the common areas are nice. The ship was decorated for Christmas while we were on the ship so that was nice. The lighting on the ship is poor except in the elevators. The mirrors and lighting are great in the elevators. This is where i had to constantly check my makeup :). The one thing that i was disappointed about was the pools. There were 2 swimming pools. One was adults only and the other one was for everyone. The issue was that they were 4.8 feet deep. Im only 5 feet and my daughter is 8 years old. So even though she can swim, she had to wear a life vest in the pool because she could not reach the bottom and she would tire out. These are also salt water pools which i do not like. The layout of the ship is dumb! There are restaurants everywhere in strange places that take forever to find. There are not ship maps on every floor so we would have to go to random floors to find a ship map to find things. However we were on the ship for 14 nights so by the 5th night we new how to get to the main places fairly easily. There were some restaurants that we never found. Jodi the cruise director was great and so was the entertainment host. The were both beautiful, young, vibrant, full of energy, funny, super sweet and very approachable!!! CABIN We had an interior room and it was tiny!!! I am used to Royal Caribbean rooms that have a sitting area and table. This room did not have that. However the bathroom was great. I loved the shower. The room worked for what we needed it for. DINING I will start by saying that I am vegetarian and my daughter eats like a typical 8 year old. We did not visit any of the speciality restaurants. People that i spoke with really enjoyed the speciality restaurants. The main dining was OK! We mainly ate in the buffet and that was great. The Indian food was always excellent. There was always a great variety of food. The deserts were great also. They even made fresh crepes every night. My daughters favorite was the ice cream. They had an impressive selection of about 8 flavors of ice cream that they will scoop for you. My daughters favorite flavor was lemon. They also had self serve soft serve from the machine. We did not get the drink package as I do not drink alcohol and neither me nor my daughter drink soda. The water tea and juice that they provided was good. No complaints on the food. ENTERTAINMENT The entertainment on this ship was exceptional!!! Every show was amazing!!!! However and this is a huge however. NCL did a poor job of promoting the entertainment. Prior to the cruise you only know that you will have a "variety" of entertainment. The shows are at 7pm and 7pm. Additionally, you only find out the entertainment for that night when you get your newsletter the previous evening. This was problematic with scheduling dinner, downtime after ports and getting to the theater. This upset me a bit because the entertainment was so good and I missed a few. I would rather have known all the entertainment and been able to schedule it out. They should really do a better job promoting the entertainers on the site or their app because they were truly exceptional. ACTIVITIES Origami was my favorite. The girl that taught it was so sweet, helpful and patient. She would show a couple folds then go around to EVERYONE to make sure they were getting it correctly. And we all needed so much help. :) I think i participated in origami about 4 times. We also did towel folding, napkin folding and trivia. They were great also. My daughter did the rock climbing a few times and enjoyed it. This cruise was port intensive so were off the ship a lot and exhausted when we got on. So our activities were limited. KIDS CLUB My daughter loved it. There weren't a lot of kids on this cruise so sometimes they were completely empty and my daughter would just opt to go to the pool instead. However this was not their fault. They were a great group of staff there. They did pirate parades, circus shows, arts and crafts, video games and education during the transit through the panama canal. SERVICE hmmm...So There were some very exceptional staff on the ship and then were were others. No one was rude but some just could care less. The staff that were great were really really great. They work very hard and i will leave it at that. EMBARKATION This was appalling. DO NOT SHOW UP BEFORE NOON to get on the ship. Holy cow. So first they board all of their VIPs and Haven Suites. I kind of understand this but it seemed like it took longer to get them together and onto the ship. Then they board by floor. We were on the 8th floor so it took forever. There was about 100-200 people in the port and it took about an hour for them to let me and my daughter start boarding. This makes no sense. We are not animals, we are not going to trample each other. Im fine with them letting the VIPs on first but then just let everyone free board. There was no point to that. I will say that by time we got on the ship our room was open and ready. This was nice because we had flown all night. So that is the soonest I had ever been able to get into my stateroom on any ship. DISEMBARKATION I do not have many nice things to say about this. Me and my daughter did a walk off the ship. As soon as you walked onto the ship deck you were in a looooooong line. Apparently there were only 3 customs agents and 1 was doing VIPs only. It took 2 hours to get out!!!!! Did i mention it was raining!!!!!!! A good portion of the time we were standing outside in the rain. When we got in we were SITTING in line. We were not moving. This was the worst disembarkation that i had ever experienced. I was told that there was 2 reasons. One was the VIP line that NCL does. It slows everything down for everyone. They don't move any faster so its pointless. And the fact that there were not enough customs agents. HONORABLE MENTION The TV channels and movies shown on tv were great! We watched The Meg, Ant man and the wasp, Mamma Mia, here we go again, Mission Impossible fallout, Skyscraper, Pick of the litter, Teen titans go to the movies, Pacific Rim Uprising, Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom, Oceans 8, Rampage, Ready Player One. Those are just the ones I could remember. We are making videos of our cruise and if you want to see them please view here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjyVKAz32N4-1Ere4B3GROw Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
We chose this cruise because we thought it would be fun and interesting. Traveling with four other people, two of which were in our suite. The suite was smaller than suites on other cruise lines but our cabin guy was very helpful and fun. ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we thought it would be fun and interesting. Traveling with four other people, two of which were in our suite. The suite was smaller than suites on other cruise lines but our cabin guy was very helpful and fun. Embarkation seemed slow but manageable, but disembarkation was ridiculous. It took us 2 1/2 to 3 hrs to clear customs. After all that a piece of our luggage was loaded into another vehicle and sent to Bradenton, Fl (we live in Ohio but were staying another two days nearby). It took another day to get a hold of someone to find what happened to our missing bag. They had to ship it to Ohio, we were not able to pick it up before we left. The food on the ship was adequate. The food in O'Sheehans was the best, while the main dining room had no exceptional food (very little seafood at all). Also had our best service there (O'Sheehans). Most all of the staff was extremely friendly and helpful. We ate in the buffet several times and most of the food was good. The entertainment was adequate but nothing spectacular. Two pools, four hot tubs and bowling you had to pay for. There was an exercise room and the girls at the spa were very nice and helpful. of course, the casino. The ports were shipyards, in at least 3 instances, not what we expected. We thought the beaches would be beautiful but the Grand Caymans beach was very rocky and on the beach in Jamaica you could go so far out before you ran into seaweed. The beach in Costa Rica was very nice and we loved Harvest Caye. Most people were upset that you had to pay for everything there but the beach and pool were beautiful We made our own fun and overall had a good time, but would not cruise on the Pearl. We did not realize that this cruise was a senior cruise but it seemed that it was. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
Loved there were 3 combinable promo's which made this cruise very cost effective. The NCL staff and entertainment was phenomenal and the food was generally very good with a few exceptions. Some excursions were not worth the time or ... Read More
Loved there were 3 combinable promo's which made this cruise very cost effective. The NCL staff and entertainment was phenomenal and the food was generally very good with a few exceptions. Some excursions were not worth the time or money but some were fantastic so it was a mix. It's always good to experience other countries and cultures so I'm glad we took this trip but we'd skip going back to a few. NCL's island, Harvest Caye, in Belize had an amazing beach and pool, as well as many shops and even a small zipline. The only down side was that you had no ship privileges even though NCL owns the island so food and drinks are on your own. We had an obstructed OV room and, although a bit small, it was laid out to make use of space very well. In fact, it had more drawer space than we needed and this was a 14 day cruise! The only complaint would be that there is absolutely no soundproofing and you can hear everything being said in the adjacent cabins. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
Wife and I had previously sailed on Pearl about 8 years ago and loved the ship. Found it just as nice now, if not better. Ten ports in 14 nights and sailing into Lake Gatun through the Panama Canal was a wonderful experience. Our balcony ... Read More
Wife and I had previously sailed on Pearl about 8 years ago and loved the ship. Found it just as nice now, if not better. Ten ports in 14 nights and sailing into Lake Gatun through the Panama Canal was a wonderful experience. Our balcony stateroom (Deck 9) was clean and comfortable but lacked a little in storage for a 14 night cruise. We had the Ultimate Booze Package and a 4 meal Ultimate Dining Package. Drinks were excellent. We ate 3 times in Cagney's (Outstanding) and once in Le Bistro (Excellent.) The entire shipboard experience was beyond expectations. Some ports, especially Columbia, had too many locals in your face to buy something or to give them money. We succumbed several times! There were very few young adults or children, which was fine. Average age possibly 50 to 60. Many singles and lots of planned activities in the Freestyle Daily newspaper. Great value for the money and we would definitely do it all over again! Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
Panama Canal was on our bucket list and a dream. It was an amazing experience and a very humbling Embarkation was very unorganized and a nightmare. But finally was on the ship. Meet & Greet was nice even though not too many ... Read More
Panama Canal was on our bucket list and a dream. It was an amazing experience and a very humbling Embarkation was very unorganized and a nightmare. But finally was on the ship. Meet & Greet was nice even though not too many people showed up also had a follow up at the end of the cruise. Which was actually nice. Our reasonable Feed back was listened. Only thing I did not appreciate by our fellow cruiser was that staff should not free time and George Town Grand Cayman - Discover Cayman- Tender Port, it was pretty hot nice informative tour. Loved the turtle farm. Trip to hell and back was little spooky Overall view was nice. Felt safe walking around. Crossing street might have been the only challenge Ocho Rios, Jamaica - Ocho Rios Highlights- Visit to rain forest was very informative. Tally was really knowledgable. Rest was a waste of time. We were told that we do go to Dunn River Fallls - not true. Drove past infact most of the trip was just driving around. Coffee & banana bread was nice. Better not to shop at the place they take you. I was able to find the same thing cheaper near the port of Ocho Rios which was walking distance from the port and was safe. Santa Marta, Columbia - Highlights of Santa Marta- $99 is too much for this excursion. If I am ever here again, I would not leave the ship. As expected Hot hot hot. Very industrial port. In fact ship is docked next to all the Shipping containers. Vendors do not take no for an answer. Even a mom had an infant trying to sell something. Loved the trip to the Church. Beach was nice, Dancers beautiful. Cartagena, Columbia - Old City & Spanish Fortress- Beautiful and had an amazing place. Would love to visit again. Again as expected hot hot hot. Walk up to the fort was challenging. View was breath taking Cartagena had their great wall of 11 miles. Shopping was ok. Going thru the inquisition museum was so sad. Panama Canal / Gatun Lake/ Colon - The shape of Panama-Tender Amazing.Going thru the locks is a once in a life time (May Be) Experience every penny was worth this experience.Was not hot as expected. However rain jacket, came handy. Went to old city new city. Did a walking tour Jorge was a very informative guide. Ship did not go thru the locks till after 8:30 tour started 2 + hours later due to Ship not getting clearance and NCL was awesome about giving us extra time at Colon. Bravo. At Colon did some last minute shopping. Lots of ruins of churches and convents. Awesome Tour guide. Puerto Limon, Costa Rica - Banana Plantation : Scenic Drive & Shopping -waste of time. Except for seeing Banana plantation from the bus, all we saw was the cleaning and packing of Bananas. Appreciated the effort of guide trying to speak English. Shopping was like 1 overpriced store & 1 street vendor. Beef Patty for $1 was actually very good. Should have stayed on the ship Santo Tomas de castilla, Guatemala - Guatemala Highlights & Beach Resort - Highlight means taking you from the pier to this resort which had this pool and cheap watered bar & some overpriced Americanized food . Nachos were like $13 and waiter said he prefers the tip in cash. Tour guide is like what do you want to know. Pretty much everybody was in the bus before the set 3 hours. Bus hardly had air condition either. Once he started talking about caravan, bus was quiet . Guide was apparently a very educated person. He is a lawyer, accountant and a tour guide Harvest Cayes, Belize - Glass Bottom Reef Explorer - Disappointed. I was so looking forward however due to rain, Boat Captain recommended that it may be a rough ride so we ended up cancelling. Refunded the $ Costa Maya, Mexico - Salsa cooking & dancing w beach break. - Had an Awesometime. Got 2 blue margarita; learned to make 2 different salsa & Gaucamole. OMG those margaritas were strong… got totally drunk. Nice would like to do it again. Had fun Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
My husband and I took this cruise with his grandparents with the intent of having a lot of quality family time together. This was our fourth cruise, second with Norwegian. We had previously sailed on Norwegian Jade and actually came ... Read More
My husband and I took this cruise with his grandparents with the intent of having a lot of quality family time together. This was our fourth cruise, second with Norwegian. We had previously sailed on Norwegian Jade and actually came away quite disappointed, but we were willing to give NCL a second chance, and we are VERY happy that we did! This has been our favourite cruise of the four we've taken (two now with NCL, one with RCI and one with Celebrity), and our favourite ship, as well. Knowing that Jade and Pearl are sister ships, we knew what to expect size-wise from Pearl. We were very happy with the size of the ship (we were told that all rooms were sold and we were at about 2300 guests on board). It's not too big that it feels daunting if you need to get from fore to aft Very rarely did we feel crowded or have to wait at a bar or restaurant. The refurb to the Pearl (in comparison to our experience on the non-refurbed Jade) is GORGEOUS. The room decor is beautiful, clean and modern, and the public spaces are generally stunning. Service across the board was generally excellent. Drinks were the best we've been served on a cruise line -- very high quality bar-tending! Loved the bar area at Magnums/Shakers/Maltings, great atmosphere and a lot of fun. We also spent a lot of late afternoons at the bar in The Great Outdoors, nice to be in the shade but still enjoy the weather! It was rarely busy at all up there, and my husband enjoyed watching football and soccer on their TVs. Overall the food and service in the MDRs, Specialty Dining, and O'Sheehan's was very good (with the exception of the spinach dip at O'Sheehan's.... just don't bother). We are not very much buffet people, but we did grab a plate of snacks now and then to eat at the Great Outdoors bar. Buffet food looked varied and quite tasty. We had one poor wait staff experience in Moderno, where we felt very ignored by our waitress, but we didn't let that ruin the evening. Wait staff in O'Sheehan's seem the least well-trained -- any time you go off-menu or make special requests, it seems like it is very difficult for them to process. For example: I prefer milk over cream or half-n-half for my coffee. Twice when I asked for milk, I was brought warm milk, which is.... weird? I learned to clarify after that! We also visited Teppanyaki (delicious and fun, definitely get the steak!), Cagney's (SO GOOD, an the giant chocolate cake is 100% worth saving room for!) and Le Bistro (very tasty, with excellent service!). I definitely wish there was some kind of "Brunch" option on sea days. I'm on vacation, I don't want to be up and dressed for breakfast before 9am, but a 10am-12pm sit-down brunch in one of the MDRs would be just perfect! We purchased the Thermal Suite pass for the two week cruise, and it was just WONDERFUL. Beautiful space to relax, rarely crowded. We especially loved the heated loungers and the Thalassotherapy pool, but I felt the sauna and steam room temperatures were a bit high. Really well located at the front of the ship, it was a great space to view our Panama Canal transit with it's panoramic windows and tons of loungers. We got mani-pedis at the spa, the nail technicians were great and we had a lot of fun. Embarkation in Tampa was a mess. Huge lines of traffic to get into the port. Lines everywhere with no clear signage or direction as to what the line was for. Not enough porters so huge mobs of people with baggage milling about trying to check their bags... Once we finally handed over our bags and got through the first round of security, things went more smoothly. Husband and I, being returning NCL cruisers, were able to check in to the Latitudes line, and were allowed to bring the grandparents with us, even though they didn't have Latitudes status, which was quite nice. Arrived at the port around 11am, were on board at around 1:30pm. Debarkation in Tampa was a total disaster. We had train tickets for 12:30pm departure (the train station is a 5 minute drive from the port) so we chose the latest debarkation time, 10:00am thinking we'd have plenty of time to collect our bags and get to the station. THIS WAS A HUGE MISTAKE. We spent over 1 hour in line ON THE SHIP before we could even swipe off the ship!!!. Poor grandma can't stand for this long, so at about the 45-minute mark we managed to flag down an NCL employee with a wheelchair for her. At this point, seeing the status of the lines, I spoke with several NCL and port employees about our train departure time, and asked could we be escorted through the lines quicker (as we had seen several other groups go!) but to no avail. We were told there were only two customs officials clearing our ship, which explained the long delays. Luckily the wheelchair got us into ADA lines which were shorter, and the gentleman pushing it for us just kept on pushing through! Another hour in line and we had cleared customs and were flagging a cab, and so made it to the train station with a few minutes to spare. I would allow a LARGE buffer of time for Embarkation and Debarkation in Tampa port, and pack your patience. It is a disorganized mess. Ports of call were generally wonderful. 1. George Town, Grand Cayman: We booked a beach cabana at Royal Palms beach club. Great beach, wonderful service. Did some jewellry shopping in the port and came away happy with the service and prices. 2. Ocho Rios, Jamaica: We took a private cab who drove us through Fern Gully, to a few local merchant malls, and to some scenic lookouts, then to a beach for a few hours. Very friendly cab driver, beautiful scenery. 3. Santa Marta, Colombia: Again, we took a private cab who drove us to a scenic overlook and through the old town for shopping and to view the local architecture. VERY hot, we elected to return to the ship quite early. 4. Cartagena, Colombia: Another private cab day, with obligatory stop at an emerald shop. Merchants in Cartagena are VERY aggressive, you couldn't walk 5 feet without jewelry, tablecloths and knock-off sunglasses being waved in your face. The aggression really took away from our visit, it was hard to enjoy the beautiful city. 5. Panama Canal: We elected to remain on board for the day. Spent time relaxing and enjoying the view of the passage through the canal. 6. Puerto Limon, Costa Rica: We booked a tour through NCL: Aerial Tram & Rainforest Adventure. It was PERFECT! 2h bus ride with a knowledgeable and entertaining guide teaching us all about life in Costa Rica. The tram ride through the rain forest was stunning, beautiful and wild and peaceful all at the same time. Lunch was delicious local fare, beans and rice and meats, with beer and desserts available to purchase. Bus ride home went WAY longer than expected due to construction and multiple accidents, but the ship waited about 30 minutes extra for our return. Would recommend this tour to anyone, and also recommend to take through the ship due to the distance to travel. 7. Santo Tomas, Guatemala: We had booked a tour through NCL: Discover Rio Dulce, but ended up cancelling it. Our excursion ticket came with a note describing the panga boats which we would travel in as being hard to get in and out of and not recommended for anyone with difficulty walking. Well... grandma can't handle that, so we cancelled. The description when we booked it called the difficulty level "1", but obviously this was inaccurate to the actual reality of the tour. All but one other excursion offered through the ship used these panga boats, so we elected to remain on board for the day. Watching other guests board the boats for their tours confirmed our decision, they looked very difficult to maneouver in and out of. Disappointing, but it was nice to have an extra day to relax! 8. Harvest Caye, Belize: BEAUTIFUL beach, great place to spend the day hopping in-and-out of the water. Obviously over-commercialized and expensive, but we expected that going in and just enjoyed relaxing in the sun for the day. 9. Costa Maya, Mexico: We booked a tour through NCL: Chacchoben Mayan Ruins & All Inclusive Blue Lagoon. Ruins are INCREDIBLE, but at all wheelchair-friendly. We struggled pushing grandma around. Unfortunately it poured rain the entire time we were at the Blue Lagoon; luckily there was a covered picnic area for lunch. The trip to the ruins was wonderful and worthwhile, but even in better weather I'm not sure how much value the Blue Lagoon added. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
The ncl pearl has many varieties of activities for any age including bowling. At times multiple activities have been booked in the same venue at the same time. But the staff sorted it out and made applicable changes. The garden cafe has ... Read More
The ncl pearl has many varieties of activities for any age including bowling. At times multiple activities have been booked in the same venue at the same time. But the staff sorted it out and made applicable changes. The garden cafe has plenty of seating, however at peak times you may choose the italian restaurant for additional seating or choose the great outdoors. There seemed to be 6 hot tubs advertised, but 2 of the hot tubs are in the heaven suite area only and not accessible. However, for sun bathers there is plenty of room and many lounge chairs to choose from on deck 12, 13 or 14. The service is good, find your server in the main dining room you are happy with. We are thankful, that the main dining room (summer palace) had always the option available to have a table for two. We would have liked to find out more about this summer palace dining room "theme" as it resembled a touch of russia in 1905? We could not find details or missed that info on it. We have taken a fair amount of shore excursion and made ourself to mistakes. We do not drink, but booked the tour " a taste of caymen" which you will get many samples of beer and rum and some rum cake. Another excursion which we experienced was the "discover rio dulce" in santo tomas. If you like speed boating on the ocean sitting on a fibreglas bench than that tour would be for you. But than again a sore bum and some back pain come free. Our tour guide was a little bit to pushy as we came of the ship after lunch and he brought us within the hour to a restaurant in livingston were we supposed to have lunch; we guess he does not know some main features of taken a cruise. Again it still has been a positive experience, no complaints, but make sure you are in a fair physical shape to take the rio dulce excursion. we would almost say that the excursion in panama city " the shaping of panama" has been an eye opener. First you see all the very special architectural high rise buildings, but just around almost every corner you see the run down buildings or metal sheds which are inhabited by misfortunate panamanians either by choice or by the own outlook. However, they may be happy in their own way of life. So much for the differences we have in our lives. Coming back to the ncl pearl, as said before all was very well and we would go again on any regular sized ncl ship (we skip the very large once). Please one improvement needs to be done and should not be blamed on the hardworking custom officers at the disembarkation. It would have been appreciated, if jodie the cruise director would have come on the intercom to say that there is a delay of one hour or whatever applies. But instead we heard only around 11am the information that now all colours can disembark. As the fact stands: our time to get of the ship was 9.30am and we actual came off the ship almost at noon, just before the new boarding started. HAPPY CRUISING Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
14-Day Panama Canal Round-trip from Tampa November 25-December 9  Norwegian Pearl Embarkation We stayed just outside Tampa the night before and drove in Sunday morning. We parked just across from the terminal and ... Read More
14-Day Panama Canal Round-trip from Tampa November 25-December 9  Norwegian Pearl Embarkation We stayed just outside Tampa the night before and drove in Sunday morning. We parked just across from the terminal and got to the check in point around 10:30. These steps were all painless. We did wait a while with a terminal full of people to board the ship. When we did board with our carryons with the first group we went straight to Summer Palace for lunch. We checked our cabin right after and it was ready so we dropped the bags there and went up top. Cabin Our cabin was 9610, a balcony cabin. We were glad to have upgraded to the balcony with such a long trip. Our room steward was fine. He was friendly the first couple of days then very cool after that. I have no idea if we offended him in some way. We had zero special requests and I always tidy up on my own as much as I can. We always had clean towels, a perfectly made bed and towel animals every night. We usually have a relationship with our steward so this was different. Internet I bought 250 minutes which I thought was a crazy amount of internet time. Latitudes Gold added 30 minutes so I thought I’d be online plenty. The WiFi is insanely slow and some days I couldn’t accomplish anything at all while the minutes burned. We have 2 kids and I thought 2 weeks was way too long to be out of touch. If I did this cruise again I would buy unlimited or none at all. Live and learn, I guess. App Communication Package I hadn’t given the app communication much thought. We ended up getting it at 9.95 each for two weeks and it was well worth the money. My husband and I are rarely in the same place during the day so this was most helpful. You can call or text, even send pictures. That’s what I did when I got the where are you message. I’d take a shot of what I was looking at and it worked. If you were on this trip I was the one who always had a book with me. I sat in the window seats down the hall, in the library, even before the show in Stardust. Laundry We sent out a very full bag around the halfway point to be washed and folded for 19.99. We got half off with Latitudes so it was around 10 dollars. Well worth the money in my opinion. Ports This was a port heavy cruise. Most ports we walked around if there was an area close by. We did the trolley tour in Cartagena. Our favorite day was in Harvest Caye. It was a beautiful and relaxing day. Dining In the interest of full disclosure I am the pickiest eater I’ve ever known. That being said we both thought the food was very good. We had breakfast mostly in Summer Palace. One morning we went to O’Sheehan’s and three mornings we went to the Garden Cafe. Lunch was where I ran into trouble and it wasn’t the food but variety. We had ten port days out of fourteen so those days we had a choice of the buffet or O’Sheehan’s. I really liked the open faced turkey sandwich but not every day. Buffets are always tricky. I like only a handful of things so I usually had pizza and salad. The chicken salad was excellent. We ate in Summer Palace every evening except one. That night we went to indigo. It was fine. It had the exact same menu but we much preferred the atmosphere in Summer Palace. As a side note, I called the Garden Cafe ‘Survival of the fittest’ because people acted like NCL was going to run out of food. I hate the pushing and shoving and line jumping. A couple of mornings we went up early and very much enjoyed being able to choose food items in a calm environment. I’m not built for wrestling for food. Spa/Fitness We got the thermal spa pass for my husband and he thought it was the best money we spent. He especially enjoyed the view as we went through the Panama Canal locks. I had three spa treatments and they were very helpful. I used the treadmill in the fitness center a few days but mostly I walked on 7. I did Latin Fitness with Yvette by the pool on three mornings and the class was great. Entertainment This area is subjective so I understand not everyone will agree with this assessment. My favorite show was the Legends concert with Michael Jackson, Tina Turner and Elvis impersonators. We also really enjoyed the acrobatic duo. I can’t for the life of me remember their names. We thought the entertainment overall was good. I understand why young people wouldn’t be crazy about some of it. Staff We thought the staff was top notch. We especially appreciated the Summer Palace staff since we spent so much time there. Debarkation We carried our luggage off and were called around 8:00 am. The line to get off was long but all things come to an end. We finally cleared the terminal after 9:00 am. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
Overall, the cruise was pretty much nice. Most of the shore excursions, not so much. The package price and "Five for Free" and all that foofraw was intriguing until analyzed, and then not so much. Entertainment on ship was great, ... Read More
Overall, the cruise was pretty much nice. Most of the shore excursions, not so much. The package price and "Five for Free" and all that foofraw was intriguing until analyzed, and then not so much. Entertainment on ship was great, it was clean and well-maintained and had a smiling crew. The "suite" cabin was marginally better than a standard and nowhere close to my experience with other suites. Our reasons for choosing this particular cruise were that it was a two-week cruise, out of our home port Tampa, and visited some faraway places we can't see on a one-week from home. For the price, considering even the "Free at Sea", "Distinctive Voyages" and other so-called freebies, there were equivalent options, but not from our home port. So, we overpaid a bit for that advantage. I'm bothering to review mostly because the shore excursions left a lot to be desired. The cruise itself - on shipboard - was fine and certainly up to par. The shore excursions and package deals, not so much.If you book a similar cruise, be careful of those to items. The mini-suite, not so much. Details: Marketing Spin – We first signed on for this cruise based on the nearly all-inclusive nature of the offering, what with “Free at Sea” freebies and “Distinctive Voyages” and such. 120 days before departure, NCL requires final full payment (… ya gotta love how cruise lines have us over a barrel). It was after that – and this is on us – that we finally looked at the total package and compared this NCL trip with similar trips from HAL and RC. Theirs were a la carte for shore excursions subsidies, wifi, phone, beverage packs and such. We found out the other cruise prices were similar to lower, but selectable instead of a fixed package. An example: the beverage package, one of an oft-chosen (including us) “free” option in NCL’s marketing package. Turned out that NCL charges for the tips for the BevPak, though the drinks are included. If you calculate out the tips, it turns out to be about the equivalent of spending $88/day on drinks. Heavy drinkers – probably a deal. Casual drinks/sodas, not so much. We also got subsidies on NCL shore excursions – thereby encouraging us to book everything through the ship. Which we did – to mixed results. Some of them turned out to be net-$0 to us. However, as noted above, that subsidy seemed to be built in to the overall cruise cost. Moral: No matter how enticing the marketing freebies seem, NCL – and other lines, for that matter – don’t give nothin’ away. Embarkation - A disaster. Worst embark in my home port of Tampa that I've ever seen. An entry line at noon that wound around and down the block. People couldn't figure out how reiieve themselfves of bags and get in line too. Once into reception, it was quick. I’ve seen people take their own 24-packs of water onto their cruises. Not here. NCL security confiscated all my Bai flavored waters. We mused over where they went after we were at sea. Debarkation - Also a disaster. We had 2 1/4 bags each and had planned/rehearsed how to do a “walk-off” departure with the required one hand free (for the escalator, I guess). In spite of this my partner and I were shunted onto an elevator-only line along with all people with canes or wheelchairs. And additional wheelchairs always went to the front of the line. It took us an hour from the time we hit shore until we got down the one floor to passport and luggage. Activities: On board the Norwegian Pearl, we happily found that there indeed was a tennis court. And we played with new tennis friends on every sea day to our great enjoyment. Crew help getting the nets/equipment available to play was spotty. They also have two pairs of bowling lanes. Before you get visions of keeping your average up, the “house” balls were limited. More important, as a 40-year bowler, I was told that I couldn’t do anything to the surface or the left shoe so that one could slide on release of the ball. A bowler could get badly hurt expecting to be able to slide on the final step - and suddenly stopping like on a rubber mat. And $7/game – not a free activity. We enjoyed the trivia contests, except for the fact that there were no real prizes for winning – not even an NCL pin (like HAL does). We did a ring toss context in a lounge. Problem there was that there were no rules and the crewman seemed to make them up as we went along in an elimination competition. Again, no real prize, so I guess it didn’t matter. Food: Garden Café (equivalent of HAL’s Lido) – Wide selection, ready at hand. Often tepid to cool by the time you gather it all up and find an empty table somewhere within range of walking back multiple times to the service lines. Made me long for the old days when you could use a cafeteria tray instead of multiple trips. I made us stop eating breakfast here because of always having cold toast, muffins, pancakes, and eggs off of the serving lines. Instead, we went to O’Sheehan’s Irish pub restaurant, no extra charge, for most breakfasts and many lunches. Very convenient, uncrowded, generally warm and tasty food. Lotus Garden, no charge, oriental foods. Very good, very tasty. My favorite although my partner doesn’t have my taste for all foods oriental. Both main dining rooms – generally good service, fine restaurant style and atmosphere. What was wanting was tasty, interesting dishes. Everything was pleasant enough, just not eye-widening at all. We were doing a two-week cruise and there never was lobster! Are ships giving up on this? It used to be a highlight. We did get a record-setting prime rib on our last night! It was the thinnest-sliced prime rib dinner I’ve ever seen. I can say this, it was thicker than bologna. Maybe. Dress code of long pants for men and no tank-tops, tees, was mentioned in the Summer Palace MDR the first night, then, judging from what I saw, never brought up again subsequently. The Indigo MDR apparently did not have the same code. In later nights, I saw lots of “Drink Beer” type tees in both MDRs. Shore Excursions, all booked through NCL and with $50/person subsidy, part of our package: Grand Cayman – Reef & Wreck Snorkel. Large roomy boat, but few places to sit down to put gear on. (We brought our own snorkel packs.) As a long-time diver in younger years, Caymans were nirvana. Unfortunately, our boat stayed nearby in the harbor. The wreck was large and interesting, with few fish. The “reef” spot was all black and gray dead reef. A quarter mile away were a number of spots with living reefs and more fish, but I guess we were saving fuel cost. Without the shorex subsidy, we’d’ve booked on our own with a smaller boat that would go out to “real” reef. Conclusion: Mediocre. Jamaica – Bobsled Jamaica and Zipline. Only a mile from the dock and in the hills. The Good and the Bad. We took a high sit-on tram to the top of the mountain. Then got in line for the zip line. All five traverses of it. They had twelve, but were only using five on our day. It was pleasant, but with long lines at switchovers. Then on to the dry-track bobsled run. Except the wait was two hours. So we had the highlight of this shorex by buying our own lunch in the mountaintop and building-top restaurant. Fantastic views down the mountain and toward our cruise liner harbor. Even better with the view tower above the lunch spot. Once back to the bobsled run, the wait was now three hours. So, we bailed. Conclusion: Being worth it is being generous. Glad we didn’t pay the full $139 each. Santa Marta, Colombia – Quebrada Valencia Eco-Expedition. You understand when a shorex is described as “expedition” or “adventure” that it’s not the literal use of the term? The online description showed a beautiful view down a mountain valley. Not so much. Never did see that. Did get our shoes soaked by unexpectedly having to walk through a half-foot deep, 15-foot wide creek, SIX times on the way to seeing a little mountain waterfall. Where one could swim, if so inclined. Or wade, since our shoes were already water-logged. Conclusion: Full of water. Cartagena, Colombia – Exclusive Hop-on, Hop-off Bus. Took us around town and to the entry into old Cartagena. And back to the ship. Had no need to on-off since there was only one stop for old town. Got an including staring tour upon walk into old town district. Fifty bucks list price; zero with our subsidy. Worth the $50. Old Cartagena was one of the highlights of our shore diversions. Conclusion: One way or another, get into old town. Panama Canal – on-board viewing A second highlight of the trip. The Pearl goes into the first locks of the canal and then allows tenders to go ashore. Shore visitors re-connect with the Pearl later in the day when it’s gone back out of the canal and docked in Colon, Panama. Before that, seeing the locks in action, with another huge ship 100 feet away, is truly fascinating. No cost benefit and entertainment for this cruise. (Actually, based on info given us, we each probably paid about $200 of our cruise cost to Panama Canal Authority.) Panama – Shape of Panama bus tour We took advantage of the shore access tender and caught a shorex bus which took us from the Caribbean side locks down a super-highway to the Pacific shore in Panama City. Another highlight of the trip. A bus tour of 2mil-person PCity; tons of skyscrapers, lots to see; the Pacific Ocean; and then a walking tour of Old Panama City. A comfortable major highway trip back to the ship in Colon. Another highlight and worthwhile shorex. Puerto Limon, Costa Rica – Aerial Tram & Rainforest Adventure. There it is again, an “adventure.” Well, not so much. Two hours down a two-lane highway and then into a for-profit eco park “adjacent to a national park.” A lot of hoopla for flora and fauna. The tram ride was about an hour with a “naturalist” on board with a green laser point to show us the forest and animals. We did not see the grand mountain view and closed gondola that was in the shorex marketing materials online. We did see a lot of leaves. We saw one mountain far off on the horizon. We saw one spider. (Checkmark: fauna?) The included meal in the restaurant was tasty and nice. The two-plus hour ride back down the highway was cluttered with construction stops and pauses. We got to the ship a few minutes before departure. Conclusion: If you pay the whole $149, I hope you’re an optimist. We paid $99, and I’d like to time travel that decision. Santo Tomas de Castillo, Guatemala – Livingston Explorer Fortunately, our subsidized cost for this was $0 (instead of $50). You ride an open “panga” outboard up the coast for an hour to Livingston, a land-locked town. Apparently part of the fun is to sit in open sitting and get beat up by the pounding bow as it races through the waves. I feared for my fillings. The town itself is an interesting view of lives and neighborhood in a remote city. I don’t know what our 45-minute guided perambulation through town was supposed to show us. We almost missed the boat back to the Pearl when our panga was inexplicably ready to go from a different dock and time then our guide told us. But as our guide said at the start when he “lost” two of us, “I guess it’s going to be one of those kinds of days.” Conclusion: Visit Livingston, but not in a panga. Harvest Caye, Belize – Private Island for NCL. Monkey River Eco tour I think I’ve figured this one out. Other cruise lines do this, it’s not just NCL. Buy an island and make it a playground for just your ship for the day. Declare that it’s on shore, so even though it’s all NCL and you can use your passcard to pay for things, it’s all separate charges. If you have the BevPak, you have to pay for drinks on the island. NCL recreation there, you pay. Equipment, you rent. We took a shorex that went down a river. Another panga-type boat beating on top of the waves for an hour to get us down to the Monkey River entrance. Our guide then pointed out lots of bird species – I think, because his Belizean English was almost incomprehensible to me and others – and a couple of monkeys. Half the boat was open and presented excellent sunburn options. On the return, he also took us to his house which, unsurprisingly, had items and food for sale. (Most of these kinds of trips have some souvenir/rest stop side trip that will result in compensation to the guide.) Then, a wave-pounding trip back to the ship. Conclusion: Our subsidized net of $49 would have been too much. Costa Maya, Mexico – Beach Power Snorkel. Well, not really. Not the provider’s fault, the weather did not cooperate. We were offered a conversion to a “beach recline and stare” with the same provider, since he wanted to hold on to at least some of our money. It was an enjoyable couple of hours lazing around, mostly because we had free drinks and no crowds. So, a ship’s excursion in all nine ports with mixed-to-mediocre results. Altogether, an average cruise. We had good times and good days, but much of that was due to our deciding to roll with (sorry) things. We won't buy again based on freebies and marketing. And as far as this cruise and "wouldn't change a thing" thoughts? Not so much! Read Less
Sail Date November 2018

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