In the opinion of this experienced cruiser (10+), it is very difficult to not have a good time on a cruise unless something unusual happens- so with the itinerary of Panama Canal and Costa Rica, along with the standard western Caribbean port swing through Harvest Caye, Roatan, and Costa Maya, good times were expected- and NCL met expectations. Those who cruise a lot may note that exceeding expectations is what distinguishes different cruises from others - I will try to tailor my comments for those new to cruising and for the more seasoned.
The food is often the focus of many reviews- and I side with those who find the food ranges from "good" to "great" in all venues - and my wife and I ate in them all on this 12 day itinerary (although we did find somewhat repetitive menus). Service and attitudes were also accommodating from almost all crew – they certainly are a highlight. If you want to ensure a high-end experience, the special venue for breakfast and lunch for Haven and suite guests - the Moderno restaurant on this ship - was definitely that in terms of flavors and service – especially breakfast. In fact, the best filet I have had in any venue on NCL ever, including any Cagney's, was the Steak and egg breakfast I had in that venue - several other cruisers mentioned the same thing – a perfectly cooked and seasoned filet mignon. This was a Thanksgiving cruise, and the main dining room had a standard turkey entree and a ham holiday entree on the menu that evening that met my expectations. Desserts sometimes exceeded expectations- from the macerated berries with Grand Marnier sabayon in the main dining room, to the OMG cheesecake in several specialty venues on the ship, the raspberry crème brulee, a perfectly cooked apple tart, to a cassava cake on the buffet and even a sugar-free coconut pudding on the buffet. Snack time at the back of the ship had fresh baked goods that were a highlight. O’Sheehans was good for junk food and watching football, and you can find tasty hamburgers and hot dogs on the buffet and at the outdoor grill. Obtaining drinks were never an issue, as waiters seemed ready and able to serve (thanks Gede in the Sky High Bar!). I can recall only once in the Spinnaker lounge where the bartender could not make a drink because it was unfamiliar (although it really isn't difficult to figure out the ingredients for a dirty monkey – I went somewhere else to get it). Additionally, our concierge has now set a high bar in terms of service - she was truly outstanding. We only saw a few shows, and while talent is usually a standout on NCL, the theater experience was so-so. Legends in Concert was worth attending, but some comedians were not. I must say Dennis Veator, the guitarist in the main atrium, was outstanding. The woman scheduled for the last night, as a singer, was actually pretty good – even though that slot is going to play to a less than half-empty theatre with passengers starting to pack, she did her best to fire us up. Additionally, the guitarist and singing at the entrance to the buffet, not by pros, but by food staff (also named Gede), always put a smile on my face as well. I had a great time and new cruisers should certainly consider this ship. As far as the ports, the Maya Key resort in Roatan was enjoyable, had great food, great wildlife rescue center - and luckily, not too crowded (this could alter the experience). I would describe the Costa Rica excursion exploring their rainforests and canals/rivers as enjoyable as well, but the Maya Chan resort in Costa Maya - booked privately outside of NCL - is the best value as drinks are included, massages are available for a price that is more than fair, and the food is wonderful. So, for the more seasoned, where were the areas that needed improvement?
Well, the initial itinerary of this cruise had the port of Cartegena, Columbia, but was switched to Grand Cayman - announced two days AFTER final payment was due. My suspicion is that NCL may have known about the changes a bit before the deadline, but cannot be sure. There were no towel animals- even after telling the steward we missed them. The "sky high bar and grill" is supposed to be a complimentary eating venue, but was only open for lunch on sea days, and even then had only hot dogs and burgers (although they were tasty in other places on the ship) - this still seemed a bit like false advertising.
Cabin was more than adequate with tub/shower and a spacious balcony. The location allowed me to run up to the buffet several times during the cruise, gather breakfast on a tray for my wife and I, and we could then enjoy it leisurely on our balcony.
typical private island experience - with a few more shops