One of the main reasons we chose this particular cruise was that it embarked from San Francisco meaning a minimum of travel for us. We were even able to send Morgan on her field trip Friday morning and drive up to SF afterwards. The check-in process was hugely frustrating (and over the next several days we found out that almost everything - from taking our ID photos to processing our credit card - was done incorrectly), but we made it on the ship with plenty of time to explore and start to unpack before the boat drill and sail away.
We had a balcony stateroom on the 9th deck with a queen sized bed and a double sofa bed (more like a futon) for the kids. It was small, but we all fit. I think without a balcony it would have been a more claustrophobic experience!
Around 4pm the ship left the pier and we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a beautiful, clear (!), warm (!!) day in San Francisco and the view was amazing.
Once we were out on the ocean it was cold and windy so we changed into warmer clothes and decided to have a casual dinner in the buffet. Worst. Buffet. Ever. It was so poorly laid out that the line stretched all the way back to San Francisco and the food wasn't all that great either. It took so long to get through the line that we never got to eat together in the buffet. Jon or I would go through first to get the kids' food (it was too tall even for Morgan to do it herself) and then by the time we had our plates the kids were done and starting to get restless so we've have to shovel it down before they went crazy. Not a good dining experience and after the first couple of days we only used the buffet under extraordinary circumstances.
After dinner we got the kids ready for their first visit to the Kids Club. Morgan loved it right away, but Zachary wasn't too enthusiastic. He only cried a bit at the begining, though.
Sailing under the Golden Gate.
Day 2 - Saturday, October 25:
This was our first full day at sea. Unfortunately, it was still too cold most of the day to use the pool, but we spent our time exploring the ship in more detail and just relaxing. Since the dining options on board hadn’t wowed us yet, we decided to try one of the "specialty" restaurants (these have a cover charge). We made a 1pm reservation in the Teppanyakki room (think Benihana). The kids were in kids club so it was just Jon & I. It was very disappointing. We usually love this kind of food, but not this time. We got the shrimp & steak and it all tasted the same. Even the vegetables and rice. We were also the only ones there so it wasn’t as fun as it is with a full table. We were starting to think we’d actually lose weight on the cruise! That night we dropped by the show in the Stardust Lounge. It was a songs from various musicals. It was pretty cheesy, but Zachary absolutely LOVED it! He sat quietly and watched the whole thing completely mesmerized. Morgan wasn't so sure about it. During the Les Miserables section she seemed pretty confused about why anyone would want to watch such sad songs!
All-You-Can-Eat Ice Cream!
Waiting for it to warm up!Enjoying the view from the balcony.
Our first towel animal gets a kiss.
Day 3 - Sunday, October 26:
Finally it was warm enough to go to the pool. The ship has 2 large pools (one is adults-only) but never even went in them. We stuck to the kids pool which is very small, but Morgan & Zach thought it was great. There is also a kids "hot tub" adjacent which was nice for Jon & I to hang out it while the kids played on the little slide. Morgan had already made friends so she really liked splashing around with all the kids.
Unfortunately, the kids pool was also a bit dangerous. It was clearly an afterthought on the ship. The surface around the pool structure was slick – more so than around the regular pools, and the grate surrounding the hot tub had several gaps just large enough to trap a small foot. Jon also found a drain cover left open in the middle of the pool. If it had been more crowded and harder to keep a close eye on the kids there very likely could have been an accident. Once again, we were not impressed with NCL.
Basking in the sun on the Sun.
She's not really strangling him.
Too tired to finish his hot dog.
Day 4 - Monday, October 27:
We got to our first port - Mazatlan - around 1pm. I'd heard from many people that the city was kind of dumpy, but I thought it was very pleasant. We took a "pulmonia" - an open-air golf-cartish taxi - to the beach in the Zona Dorado. We asked our taxi driver about places to eat and he kept pointing out Burger King, McDonalds, El Pollo Loco, etc. He seemed surprised that we wanted to eat Mexican food in Mexico! But we ended up not eating there at all because we had so little time.
The beach was great. Morgan & Zach haven't been to the beach since 2006 (Z was just 7 weeks old at the time) so it was a completely new experience for them. We couldn't have picked a better beach. It was not crowded - maybe 3 or 4 other families - and we got drinks and nachos from the nearby hotel so we could use their tables and umbrellas. The water was so warm it hardly even felt refreshing and the waves were gentle. The kids jumped in the waves, collected shells and built sandcastles until they were worn out.
Zachary fell asleep on the way back to the ship. Even though we'd been on board for 4 days, he still didn't realize that we were on a ship. I think its because he was asleep when we boarded in SF too. He would still ask "Go on boat today?" all the time. It wasn't until the next day that he actually experienced walking onto the ship. Poor kid thought we were on a 6 day cruise!
Another sea day. This night the kids club took the kids to dinner so Jon & I made reservations at the steakhouse (another specialty restaurant) still in search of a great meal. We got what we were looking for here. The steak was great and the desserts were excellent (we ordered 3). It cost us about $100 including a bottle of wine, but we left full and satisfied! This was also the ships “monte carlo night” with optional formal night. It was fun to dress up and we got some good family pictures taken. Morgan particularly liked taking a picture with the Captain. After he explained to her that there was still a reliable person driving the ship while he was out meeting the passengers. She was a bit worried for a minute.
Day 6 – October 29:
We pulled into Acapulco early in the morning for our longest port visit. We were the 2nd cruise ship on the pier and a 3rd docked out in the harbor. “What happened?” Morgan asked. “Did their captain just give up?”
We waited long enough to get off the ship that we were able to avoid having our picture taken with fake Mexicans. In each port, crew members from the photography department dressed up in costumes and tried to get everyone to pose for a picture. In Mazatlan they were a parrot and a bald eagle. Here they were in stereotypical Mexican garb. One was in a full plush costume with a giant plastic head. Kind of like a bobble head doll. Very, very strange. And irritating because it made the line slow down getting off the ship.
Acapulco is a big city so I’m sure it is always pretty crowded, but 3 cruise ships in port just made it worse. It was also blazing hot. First we went to visit the fort (Fuerte de San Diego) which is right across the street from the pier. It was slightly more interesting the Sutter’s Fort for the kids (this one had pirates) and the exhibit rooms were air conditioned.
After that we hired a taxi to take us to lunch, and the market and the cliff divers. We had a good Mexican lunch and then browses the Mercado and managed to only buy 2 sets of maracas for Morgan & Zachary. The cliff divers put on a good shoe, but Zach had fallen asleep so I tried to keep him in the shade and it was hard to see. I did get to see several senior citizens get into fights over who was standing where first so at least I got some entertainment for my money.
We went back to the ship to rest and change and then found our way to the beach. The waves were quite rough here so we didn’t go in the water much. Luckily, a vendor selling sand toys came by so we made some great sand castles.
We went back to the ship around dinnertime although we did not leave the pier until after midnight.
This was definitely our busiest port day of the trip.