Written by Debb Endres-Scamehorn.
Let me first say that if you have never taken a cruise out of New Orleans – you should! It is the easiest port that I have ever gone thru. I had the opportunity to sail aboard the Norwegian Pearl for a 9-night cruise instead of the usual 7-night cruise. There are many hotels to book for a pre-cruise night (or 2 or 3 or 4 – after all, we are talking New Orleans!) that are actually within walking distance of the port. There are plenty of things to keep anyone busy in New Orleans – shopping at the French Market, dining, riverboat cruising, and of course, Bourbon Street nightlife. It does not take much for a parade to start in New Orleans. Also, while enjoying your private balcony, you can watch life on the Mississippi river while waiting to set sail. Cruising down and out of the Mississippi river into the Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean is a destination in itself.
DAY AT SEA
The first full day at sea is a great way to familiarize yourself with all the ship has to offer. You can have a spa treatment, watch a show, or take part in the many activities that are always going on. If you have not already picked out your shore excursions, now is also a great time to do so. Also, take advantage of all the dining opportunities onboard. Dining is no longer “set in stone”, nor does it require formal wear (unless you want to). You will be able to eat 24/7 including room service.
Even though we have been to this port many times, there is always something to do. If you enjoy shopping, there is a new shopping square in downtown Cozumel including duty-free shopping. We have been snorkeling, diving, taken cooking classes, dance classes, 4-wheeling, salsa making, just to mention a few things. Cozumel is an easy island to make your way around or you can always take the ferry over to Playa del Carmen.
This is another port that is great for the snorkeling and diving enthusiast. But even if you are not a pro, you will be able to enjoy the water by going on one of the many Stingray City excursions that are offered. Because we have done those before, we decided to try the Turtle Farm. This is also great for the nature enthusiast. Of course, there are turtles of all sizes that are raised and/or rescued to be put back into the wild, but there are also rescued birds from hurricanes that are being brought back from near extinction. There is also a nice sized lagoon that is great for the novice snorkeler that gets you up very close and personal to the turtles and several varieties of fish.
ROATÃN, BAY ISLANDS, HONDURAS
I personally love the beauty of this island! If you have never been, I suggest an island tour as your first excursion. This will give you some amazing views along with some great beaches. Norwegian Cruise Line comes into Coxen Hole, which is smaller, but very quaint with many excursions running out of it. Mahogany Bay is the other port where you can go to and take a ski lift over the water to the beach! And no stop into Roatán would be complete without the island’s favorite drink called the Monkey LaLa. It is a creamy chocolatey drink with a punch.
SANTO TOMÃS DE CASTILLA, GUATEMALA
This is the only port that we had not been to and we were excited to see it. However, this port is a fully working shipping port. I highly suggest a shore excursion be booked here! The water and lands around this port are spectacular. We went on a boat ride across the bay (where many migrating birds were taking a break) and up into the beautiful Rio Dolce with it’s high forested limestone walls.
Because there are two small cities that are only accessible by the river, the people rely on the river for their liveliness. We saw two boys up by the limestone walls collecting fresh water that drips down from the mountains. They have to do this daily. We were able to continue all the way up the river to see the start of it, which is a spring that comes down from the mountain and opens into the river.
On our way back, we were able to see some dolphins off the side of our boat. We also made a stop in Livingston, which is at the mouth of the river and is a small, but bustling city. They even had a Travel Agency!
HARVEST CAYE, BELIZE
Norwegian has done an absolutely fantastic job with their newest “private” island stop. Great attention was paid to keep the natural beauty intact. There is a large pool with personal cabanas if you prefer pools to the ocean. There is a large beach area lined with palm trees to keep you in the shade. There are many things to do here, or nothing at all if you wish. There are boats that will take you to Belize City, or other boat excursions – there are plenty of watersports to take part in – there is also a zipline over the water. There is even a small zoo and butterfly house. If you do not feel like walking back to the ship, there are a couple of restaurants to enjoy.
COSTA MAYA, MEXICO
Even though this is a small port, it has expanded in the last couple years. You do have to take a shuttle to get down to the beach area that is lined with many local restaurants. Or you can shop in the port that has added quite a few shops over the past year. They have also built a large waterpark with a waterslide that looks like a pyramid.
DAY AT SEA
The last day at sea is a great time to get your packing done and any last minute things that you did not have time to do while you were enjoying your cruise. You will know that you are getting close the Mississippi river when you start to see the horizon dotted with oil rigs that light up at night.
BACK IN NEW ORLEANS
There are many ways to get off the ship. I personally like to take my own luggage off at whatever time that I want. You will also be able to leave your luggage outside your cabin on the last night if you would like Norwegian to do all of the heavy lifting for you. Once off the ship, you will collect your luggage and proceed through customs which is fairly quick at this port. Then you are on your way home to soak in every memory that you just made!