We just got back from a 7 day cruise to Nassau, St thomas, San Juan, and GSC (Norwegian Island). Got to the port after a crappy transfer/parking service (Premier Parking--DO NOT USE) and made it onto the ship with relative ease. Once on board headed to the main buffet for some lunch. Food seemed like it was gong to be good here and pretty much was for breakfast. Omelet bar and waffle station were a plus. The down side is that it is the only buffet station on the ship and tended to get crowded at times.
The room was pretty good, with the exception of a broken drawer that got fixed on the second day of the cruise. However, the room steward was very inconstant throughout the cruise. We were there with three kids and they like the towel animals from previous cruises. When we did get one in the room sporadically, they had no eyes. Not a huge deal but something that kids noticed. They put pool towels in the room and switch them out once used. Again...Inconsistent. We should not have to remind the steward to do his job. there was a huge wet spot outside our room and when reported they put a fan out for a day, but it was never dried up. Something is leaking somewhere.
Now for the dinner service in the main dining rooms. We have sailed Carnival three other times and the service has been great and the food as well during dinners in main dining rooms. NCL has "Freestyle" dining and uses a team approach. This means you eat whenever you want and you have more than one wait staff per table. This would, in theory, seem to get you better service. We went to dinner in the more casual dining room 5/6 nights and once in the contemporary room. It never seemed crowded in the casual room and we were seated quickly. But the meal took between 1.5 and 2 hours every time. Just seemed way longer then it should have and there were many long gaps when we had nothing on the table. the night we went to the dressier one, we were told that they had to set a table up. After about 10 minutes we were told that it was almost ready and they were setting up a window seat. 5 minutes later we were seated. Not really sure why they thought the window seat was so special or worth the wait...It was pitch block outside. As for the selection/quality of the food...Carnival has them beat hands down. They two restaurants basically had the same food with maybe three variations between the two. The food portions were sometimes small. The beef had too much fat. My wife got fish one night and between the amount of salt and the overly fishy taste, she choose to stop seating. The deserts were odd in texture sometimes, like they had been sitting out all night.
We were there with three kids ages 3,10, and 12. The programs for them were good but sometimes they did not do what was stated on the schedule. Not a big deal for the older two, but when you tell a 3 year old he is going to finger paint and then they don't, he did not understand. Again...Carnival gets a WIN over NCL as Carnival has programs late into the night included. NCL charges after 1030 PM.
The pools were fine. It was rough at sea a few days and they had to be shut down, but not a big deal. They had four hot tubs on the main deck. Two were for kids and two for adults. There is a small sign that states this, but there were always kids in the adult ones and adults in the kids ones.
The specialty bars/ restaurants. One highlight was the sports bar. After 530 OM they have a menu that included chicken wings that were pretty decent. Only issue was I went there with my son and he wanted an apple juice. We had been told apple juice was included for kids all day and he had gotten it everywhere else without issue. The bar tender there said there was a charge. He then said the fruit punch was better anyway if we were going to pay for something. What he didn't say was that it was priced as a non-alcohol mix dink @ $4.50.
They layout of the ship changes as the day goes on. The Brazilian Steakhouse cuts off traffic on the port side of the ship from about 5-11 PM. This was the smallest ship I have been on, but it seemed more confusing.
The shows were good overall. The hypnotist and magician were great. Matt Marcy (Magician) was excellent and did an additional close up magic show. He signed my sons deck of cards and took picture with him. Some of the "Broadway" shows need some work. The fountains routine was just disgusting with crew members spitting water at each other. On a ship that has hand sanitization stations every two feet and staff with spray bottles squirting your hands at the buffet line, you would think....UGGGGGG!
Not a horrible cruise as most of us had fun in the ports and with activities, just probably not going back with NCL next time. HAPPY CRUISING!!!