January 2015 - 7 Night Western Caribbean (New Orleans Roundtrip) Cruise on Norwegian Dawn
We chose this cruise because it offered freestyle dining, and NCL does this well. We really enjoyed evening meals in the Venetian dining room, and were happy with the menu choices. If seating was not immediately available, we were given a beeper and vouchers for a glass of champagne. Most waits were no longer than 20 minutes. Breakfast visits were split between the Aqua dining area and the Garden Cafe buffet. Food was good, but it sometimes took a while to be served at Aqua, and seating was occasionally difficult to find at the buffet. Lunch time was spent at the Garden Cafe, where the food was good, but we wished the daily menu changed more often.
Evening entertainment was enjoyable, especially a dance and aerial show, comedy sketches by Second City and a pianist's tribute to Elton John and Billy Joel. Hubby enjoyed the casino, but left a few times due to smoke.
We cruised with another couple, and met every day at the Star Bar , a great spot that was often overlooked by other passengers. The staff was excellent, and helped us select a wine package. We were given the option of having the bottles delivered to our room, or taken to a central storage area where they'd be accessible throughout the ship when an order was placed. We kept both the wine and a bottle of whiskey purchased through the bar in our stateroom, and were allowed to carry glasses and/or bottles throughout the ship. With a little planning, this helped keep the bar bill a bit lower than usual.
The ship was very well maintained, and our cabin steward was sensitive to our needs if he happened to arrive when we were in the cabin.
We chose this route because it included places we hadn't visited previously, but didn't find many must-do activities. Vendors in all ports were annoying, constantly begging you to buy something, but we were still able to enjoy sunshine while strolling the main streets. Our only tour was the Chacchoben Mayan ruins in Costa Maya, which lasted 4 to 4 1/2 hrs. Not many of the ruins have been restored, but our guide helped us to envision the way the complex used to look by pointing out areas that looked like hills, but were actually building sites covered by earth, rocks and vegetation. We traveled by bus, about an hour each way, but there was adequate time to walk through the site. Here, too, we found aggressive vendors by the bus parking area. It was hard to avoid this area since the public restrooms were located by the shops.