We arrived at the Black Falcon Pier at 10:45 and by 11:30 we were in our suite. Truly the easiest and fastest boarding of any cruise line we have traveled.
We(Wife, Daughter and I)had Aft Facing Penthouse 9232 and our Son and Daughter's Boyfriend had balcony 9210. AFP was spacious and nicely appointed, but kind of poor planning in certain areas, such as the balcony is long but not deep. The two lounge chairs can not be moved much to follow or avoid the sun as the balcony is so narrow. Never the less we used it a lot and was a great place to relax. The smells from the bakery below were incredible, the views even better. The last sea day we watched whales for about thirty minutes and I swear they were putting on a show for us, jumping completely out of the water. The bathroom is good size but I don't understand the little cubby that they stuffed the toilet into. I can't imagine how large people can possibly use the toilet. Lighting in tub/shower is terrible and the shower head controls are such that you get hit in the face with water when you turn the shower on while standing outside the tub. The guys balcony room was small but fine for two people. They were jealous because we had a doorbell and they didn't!
Joseph, our room steward was excellent and kept the room spotless. Rama, our butler was very helpful. The room steward for our guys room (never got his name) was excellent and always filled us in as to their whereabouts if he saw us in the hallway. He was tipped very well at the end as the guys are pigs!
Meals were in my opinion (and we all agreed) the worst of any cruise line we have traveled with the exception of MSC. The first night(and two other nights)we ate in the Venetian dining room, which is a beautiful dining room especially if you get seated at the rear of the room in front of the large windows. Service was excellent. The food was ok. The Aqua we found extremely noisy, cramped and the food was horrible as was the service. La Cucina was good and service was good. Cagney's was a total waste of money in our opinion. I had strip steak that after two bites I was done. It had a very strange taste as did the prime rib that my wife had. We noticed this with all beef dishes we ordered on the ship. Not sure where they buy the beef products, but very strange flavor. Service at Cagney's was excellent. Le Bistro was good (escargot excellent) and service excellent. I am not sure what the big hype is about Suite guests perk of breakfast at Cagney's...we did it the first morning and it was the worst. We ate at the Venetian or the buffet the rest of the week. The Garden Cafe was your standard cruise ship buffet. The kids (22, 19, 17) loved the Blue Lagoon buffalo wings and started the tradition of ten wings at 1:00AM as a before bed snack (thus the extra tip for their room steward, the poor guy!)
Karabe, our concierge was excellent in assisting with dinner reservations and planning a birthday celebration for my wife on July 4th.
We found the shows to be ok for those that we saw. But didn't see a lot because of dinner times.
Pool area was kept clean and bar service was always available but not pushy with the exception of one female server. Emerson at the Bimini Bar was excellent and very friendly.
Pearly Kings pub had karaoke and a guy playing the guitar both were ok. "Chips Ahoy" the Bartender is the funniest and the best bartender on the ship. Ya Chips from your "Brother from another Sister".
Excursions - we did the Dolphin Experience on our first full day. It was expensive and I don't think it was all that great for the money. Also think the way they have the dolphins cooped up in small pools is inhumane. Price does not include pictures and they are pricey. We spent the rest of the day at Horseshoe Bay...beautiful but crowded beach. Water was warm and beautiful.
We also did the Rising Son Catamaran, which started out as a great day trip to a beautiful cove for snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, etc. Then the booze started flowing and it got a little out of hand in a number of ways. There was a large crowd traveling together that basically took over the boat and like many of the large crowds we noticed on this cruise, tried to out-drink each other. Then the crew started pouring tequila through swimming noodles to all who wanted to participate (young kids included) and even some that didn't want to. One of the crew tried to talk my 17 year old son into participating, until I told him to back off. After the tequila there was more rum punch and drinks being spilled on people and everywhere. Not a pretty scene and a lawsuit waiting to happen! The parents were just as bad, if not worse than the kids who were all under age. The crew got these people all liquored up, then pulls back up to the dock and sends them on their way back to the ship where it all continued at the pool area. This was our biggest gripe, that most of the large groups we saw were getting completely out of hand and had no regard for fellow passengers. One large group of "Dance Parents" and another large group from Whitman, MA were classic examples of this. We are by no means prudes, but we like to enjoy listening to music in a lounge having a few drinks with friends without having someone standing over my shoulder screaming in my ear then spilling a drink down my back, and some drunk pounding on a piano while someone else is singing. These people were out of control at times.
One thing we did notice is drinks are rather pricey for a small drink. Also noticed that unless you specify the brand of liquor, you will be given(?) top of the line and charged accordingly. My wife drinks vodka and cranberry and we noticed we were charged three different prices for the same drink in the same bar by three different people. Pay attention to your charge slips people!
Being new to NCL we were hesitant but optimistic about our cruise. In all, we enjoyed it and loved the fact that we only had a twenty minute drive and we were on board and another twenty minutes back home. We made some great friends and great family memories. We have a credit for a future cruise and will try it again. I would give it a B-.