This was my 25th NCL cruise, our first repositioning cruise (4/15/12), and by far the best experience we've had on a ship. This Deluxe Owner Suite is probably the most expensive cabin we've cruised in, but a few weeks before the cruise it came down to a reasonable price and we jumped on it. I'm female and 48, and my other half, Steve, is male 54.
We arrived in Tampa 3 days early, because of the Airlines flight schedule and trying to avoid flying on Friday the 13th...lol. We stayed at the Sheraton River Walk, which we bid on and got for $75 a night. The hotel is conveniently located and offers a free shuttle within a 3 mile distance, which includes the cruise pier, Walgreens, and a Publix. We had a great room with a balcony that looked over the river. We enjoyed watching the boats going down the river, as well as a few manatees.
Boarding in Tampa was a breeze, we arrived early. After going through the metal detector we were taken to the VIP lounge and seated. This is one of the only ports that I've cruised out of that has a VIP check in station right in the VIP lounge. Snacks and drinks were available in the lounge. We were introduced to Monica, one of the best Concierges we've had the privilege of sailing with.
We were escorted on the ship and taken directly to Cagney's to enjoy a leisurely lunch with some great new Cruise Critic friends. After lunch we couldn't wait to get to our suite. After entering the ship, we immediately took pictures knowing that we would soon be rearranging some of the furniture to get the best views out the large windows. Our Butler, Henry, arrived for introductions, and to see what type of sodas and drinks we would like stocked in the fridge, they were complementary with the suite. Henry also took our order for the 3 free bottles of liquor, the brands we were looking for were not on the list but didn't seem to be a problem for him to get since they showed up later that evening.
One of the best ways to start the day on the ship was breakfast in Cagney's, for suite guests. The hostess had our names down by the second morning, knew our favorite table and always asked if our neighbors would be joining us for breakfast. By the second morning my favorite server, Lucy, quickly brought me over a bowl of fresh cut strawberries with whipped creme to start my day....followed by the steak and eggs most mornings.
I arranged the Meet and Greet for our group and had over 200 people signed up on the roll call, and about 160 attending the Meet and Greet on the first sea day. I had heard about other roll call groups getting a bridge tour on the STAR but didn't think we stood much of a chance with the size of our group...but when the Captain came in I took him aside and told him how many on the roll call were really looking forward to the possibility. I also mentioned the many sea days (5) that we had on this particular cruise. When the Captain got up at the Meet and Greet and told the group that they would all be receiving invitations to a bridge tour I was so happy.
Having one of the 4 large suites, members of our roll call had the other 3, we enjoyed leaving the door open most of the time for new friends to stop in and join us for some great views, laughter, and a few drinks. Norwegian offers Freestyle dining and we never dined alone. The first night we had 16 of us, two tables of 8, of Cruise Critic members who had met during sail-away. After that we had tables of different sizes, different restaurants, and different dinner companions. The food on this cruise was as good, if not better than any/all of our past Norwegian cruises. Lobster was on the menu the first night, and although it isn't Maine lobster, it was good. Lobster was served twice during the cruise, as was my favorite Prime Rib entree. Many nights during dinner there were crew members, officers, going from table to table checking to see how everything was on the cruise. We also received a call in the suite one afternoon checking to see how everything was, and a card on the bed to fill out if there was anything they could do to make our cruise more enjoyable.
Each afternoon Henry would deliver treats to the cabin, and he quickly learned our likes and often brought us substitute items that he knew we would appreciate more than the other items. We had pound-cake, cookies, chocolates, chocolate covered strawberries, potato chips, banana bread, and a large tray of assorted items from the Chocoholic buffet which we told him we weren't going to be able to attend because we had other plans that evening. Henry refilled the drinks each morning, based upon what we had used. A couple afternoons when Henry knew we would be having groups of guests in the suite he brought selections of different snacks from around the ship, and even brought a couple extra bottles of champagne for the party.
I had red reviews about the ship not being in the best condition, and it is an older ship....but all during our cruise you could see they were continuously cleaning, replacing carpeting, touching up varnish, and touching up parts of the hull art and murals around the promenade deck. During our cruise they converted the Tex-Mex restaurant into Moderno. We tried out the new restaurant on the 25th, with a group of 17. We were all seated in one area together, and then they started bringing around the different types of meats, chicken, ribs, fillets....this continued until you turned over your card to red, and then they served dessert. They also have a salad bar, which many people enjoyed and they had side dishes (beans, garlic mashed potatoes, rice, and fried bananas) served family style.
There were a few issues we had with the cabin, that were handled quickly. Batteries in the remote for the tv above the jacuzzi tub weren't working. Battery in the safe needed to be replaced, took a couple of different guys but it was taken care of. One of the tiebacks for the drapes was missing and another wasn't attached correctly, they sent up a seamstress who took care of it in about 30 minutes. The lock on our door wasn't working properly, and was adjusted fast. Everything was taken care of as soon as it was brought to their attention.
We were so impressed with everything on this cruise that within 24 hours of getting off the ship we immediately booked a repositioning cruise for the same time next year, and have a few of our new Cruise Critic friends also booking the same cruise with us.