Back home in frigid Canada after a week aboard the Norwegian Sea - Jan. 24 - Jan. 31.
So much to say but will try keep it short.
Four of us drove to Houston from Central Canada (Winnipeg) - 28 hours over three days. Could have done it in two days if we had really wanted to. (Cheaper than flying and the driving made the whole holiday seem that much longer.) Arrived in Houston Jan. 22 and stayed at Best Western in La Porte. Nice place, very close to terminal (about 10 minute drive). Nice to have extra time to relax, head to Wal-Mart to pick up any odds and ends we forgot.
Arrived at terminal building about noon. Dropped luggage off right at the entrance and driver parked car. Too easy. Checked in with NCL and got through customs and on board in about 20 minutes. Nice stroll up ramp. A snap.
Wandered around ship for an hour or so, checked out room. Small but ok. Showing its age but neat and clean and that's all I ask. Bathroom small but no problem. Shower very small but manageable.
Tons of storage area. More than we needed. One electrical outlet outside the bathroom so take an extension cord - and extra hangers. We took about 6-8 but needed more so asked staff and had extras delivered pronto. Housekeeping staff very efficient, etc. Do up rooms twice a day. Joke of the day: "I got up at 3 a.m. to go to the bathroom and someone made my bed." Hey - that's not far from the truth.
Luggage delivered to room within two hours of boarding. Very efficient.
The ship: although one of the smaller cruise ships, the Sea did not feel or look crowded at all. Some ocean motion on Sunday and heard reports of some passengers getting sick. But didn't speak to anyone who did get queasy. We enjoyed the motion and from what we saw so did most other passengers.
Mandatory lifeboat drill was a hoot. Our group had a great time while the crew counted heads. We decided the whistles on the lifejackets were for attracting sharks.
Restaurants on Deck 4 were excellent. Casual wear, great food and even better service. No line-ups at meal time. Highly recommended.
Went to La Bistro (needed a reservation) instead of the captain's formal dinner. $12.50/each cover charge but well worth it. Great atmosphere and service. Food was top notch.
Big Apple Restaurant - cafeteria style. Food not bad but like any cafeteria food, temperatures ranged from just right to cold. Take your chances. But good for quick bites or coffee. Didn't try Pasta Cafe or Gatsby's.
Oscar's Bar - nice; Tom Theobold on the piano. Great pipes - sounds like Roger Whittaker which thrilled my wife to no end.
Cabaret and Lounge - entertainment, bingo, themes, etc. pretty well all day and all night. Good way to spend some time. Evening entertainment - comedian Jeff Harms - pretty funny. Music was OK but not spectacular. Also stuff like Liar's Club, joke telling, etc. Ship's entertainment troupe not bad but I only took in one night. Friends were more impressed. Think of a so-so dinner theatre when it comes to troupe's performances. Karaoke every night.
Casino - ok - larger than I expected. Staff seemed a little cool.
Shore stuff - we skipped the excursions and found our own entertainment. Went to Playa del Sol in Coz. Short cab ride. About $10 for the beach and amenities. Food and drinks were extra or you could pay $30 or $40 for the full deal. Nice beach, etc. Lots of surf, however, so not really relaxing in the water.
Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras the next day. Again skipped excursions and hired a cab to take us to Half Moon Bay. $15 per person round trip. Remember: Pay the driver only after he returns to pick you up and delivers you to the ship.
Half Moon was not bad - quite uncommercialized but quiet and very relaxing.
From what I heard others say, Tabyana(?) would have been a better choice.
Belize on the next day. Friend signed up for countryside tour - about 6-7 hours. He was not impressed. Bus driver seemed to trying for a landspeed record - many sites were there and gone in a flash. Too much time spent on the bus. My wife and friend went ashore and poked around the markets on waterfront. Not bad, they say, but nothing spectacular.
Three of us went ashore in Cancun the next day. Again - tendering (after the excursion rush was over) was quick and easy.
Final day at sea. Weather was iffy but plenty to do inside. You have to take in the midnight chocaholics buffet. Terribly decadent. Big crowds so get there early.
Summary: great experience. As good or better than the week we spent at a budget all-inclusive in Cancun last March.
Many older passengers. I would guess average age about 50. I'm 54 and often felt a lot younger. Some young families with children and babies.
Avoid the Internet Cafe unless urgent or you have plenty of money. Very expensive. Ditto phone calls - friend had a family emergency back home so she had to make a number of calls. $6 or $7 a minute. Like the Internet, those minutes just fly by. Ouch!
De-embarkation: We chose express, as did many others, and got off very quickly. If you don't mind hauling your own luggage, express is the way to go. Ship docked at 6 a.m., de-embarkation process (immigration, etc.) started at 8 a.m. and we were driving away from the terminal before 9:30 a.m.
They make it way too easy to spend money - drinks, souvenirs, casino, etc. - just jot down room number and sign. A little self-control and you can make the cruise very affordable.
Would recommend Coz and Cancun (lots of markets and nice beaches). Also Roatan if you choose the right beach. Belize - iffy at best.
I (remember, we were first timers) would rate the Sea and the cruise as 7 or 8 out of 10. Would we cruise again? Absolutely! On the Sea? Absolutely! Freestyle? - The only way to go!