Number of Cruises: 3
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Sea
Sailing Date: March 26th, 2005
This was by far the best of the three NCL cruises we have taken. We always expect the best from NCL and have never been disappointed. We boarded the ship in Houston in less than twenty minutes which was a far better scenario than the three hour wait when we cruised from Miami. You do not have to be a Latitudes member in Houston to jump ahead. When we boarded, the line for regular passengers was actually shorter than the VIP line so we jumped in the regular line. The ship is an older one and I was a little worried prior to our trip.
We had four first-time cruisers with us in our party and I was afraid that an old ship would turn them off of the NCL that we love so much. Boy, was I wrong! We were treated like royalty onboard and the whole family is planning to go back again. Our five year old daughter accompanied us and she was thrilled by the way that every person on staff greeted her by name. They went above and beyond to make sure that she had a wonderful time. The Kids Crew program was entirely free (although gratuity is suggested) and she had a wonderful time. They gave the kids so many free gifts that there really was no need to buy her any souvenirs.
Our first port was Cozumel, Mexico, and we all did our own thing. My husband and I had done Cozumel on a prior cruise and we had enjoyed a jeep tour. This time, we opted for a Beach Dune Buggy and Snorkeling tour with our daughter in tow. She had a wonderful time in spite of the fact that she had to be eight years old to snorkel. We had fun playing on the beach and watching her daddy snorkel in the crystal clear water.
Our next port was Roatan Bay, Honduras. It was fantastic. We did a pirates, caves, and monkeys tour where each of us got plenty of one on one time playing with wild monkeys. They were so tame and very gentle. We will remember this portion forever. Then, we were treated to a lobster lunch, included, and allowed plenty of time to play on a nice beach. My daughter had her hair braided by a very nice woman working at the park.
The following day we ported in Belize City, Belize. Our family members all went on the cave tubing and jungle trek which they claim was "the experience of a lifetime" and highly recommend. We could not do that with a five year old, so we opted for a Wildlife Adventure tour. We had so much fun with our tour guide, Rudy. We got on a small boat and floated down the Belize River spotting manatees, crocodiles, howler monkeys, bats, and HUGE iguanas. It was so much fun and so beautiful. We were then let off at a small tavern where we had another lunch that was included. It was chicken, dirty rice, and a soda. After lunch, we were able to shop at the small huts set up around the tavern. Our tour guide had advised us that these places were cheaper than the ones at the actual port. He did not lie. We purchased many items unique to Belize and spent little money. They do like to haggle over there so never pay the first price! Our next stop on the tour was supposed to be the Belize Zoo but officials had closed the zoo to tour groups. Instead, we were taken to a place called the Community Baboon Sanctuary which was really a few landowners' properties that they made a refuge for howler monkeys. We were, again, treated to up close contact with the monkeys. My daughter was able to feed them various leaves and mangos. This was the highlight of her trip. At the end of the day, we took a short tender ride back to our beautiful boat.
The following day we were supposed to port in Cancun but the swells in the ocean were fifteen feet high (we were rocking!) so we just leisurely headed back to Houston. We ended up getting back at the same time as expected because the captain slowed down due to the rough waters. We didn't mind missing this port as we heard that is was very commercialized (they have a mall and a Wal-greens). Also, we enjoyed having another day at sea for some extra relaxation.
On the last night, the crew was kind enough to allow my daughter to participate as a "guest star" in the NCL talent show. We had a wonderful time. As I have said before, our cruise ship was wonderful. Our cabin stewards were fantastic and they brought little surprises to us each day while we were out. My daughter loved coming in each afternoon to see what surprises awaited us (I believe this was due to the fact that we were in the higher cabin class and had a concierge). She often got cookies and milk by her bed at night. The room was actually larger than we expected. We have found that the rooms are larger the older the ship is. We actually had two giant windows and a very nice bathroom that included a tub. We were more than comfortable.
All in all, we had another wonderful NCL experience and do not intend to ever sail with another line. On every cruise, we hear horror stories from other passengers about the other lines and we thank our lucky stars that NCL has always treated us right. Even when our first cruise was cancelled into the second day (due to a maintenance problem on the NORWAY) we were given a 100% refund AND a free cruise. What better customer service could you ask for? I highly recommend this line and the Texarribean cruise itself. Next year they are replacing the Sea with the Dream which is a bit newer, I think. Happy sailing!