It was pretty painless parking and boarding from Boston. We got there early and were one of the first people on the ship. The rooms were ready about an hour after we got on the ship and the bags were ready about 2-3 hours later. It's worthwhile to get on board early for lunch while waiting for the rooms and bags.
Room was filthy. There was a baby bottle with milk and an empty milk carton underneath the bed. There was a booger on the desk and what could be fecal matter from diaper on the rug. There was filth that was left on another table top and a long black hair that wasn't ours by the glasses and bottles of water. The toilet seat wouldn't stay up and the toilet had a horrible stench. The shower had additional hairs that weren't ours when we first entered the room. There were parts of the room that haven't been vacuumed in a while and covered in dust and debris. We basically sprayed down our room with Lysol and after we More
complained the room was cleaned to a standard it should have been in the first place. Our cabin steward maintained it to the same level through the rest of the stay.
We were placed in an inside room right above the Spinnaker Lounge where the late night entertainment kept us awake the entire week. There were other rooms available mid-ship on the same level so I don't know why they put in us the aft of the ship. When we complained initially we received earplugs which didn't work that well when you can feel the bass through the floor. They gave us another room we could sleep in and we didn't have to move our items. But we also didn't want to go through the same scrub down process again with another room. We would have been happy with the new room had we received it initially.
Definitely bring a power strip since there is only one 110v outlet in the room, they should provide one with the room. Towels and linens generally had holes or stains, particularly the pool towels.
Food was generally over salted but otherwise bland, I guess the salt is to compensate for the lack of flavor. Napkins and towel frequently had stains even before using them
Garden Cafe (Buffet) -- Usually a zoo during prime time, you need to get there either early or late during meal service. Poor layout and the waffle station created a big bottle neck in the morning. People on the cruise weren't well schooled on buffet etiquette i.e. eating while standing in the buffet line and using their hands to put items on the toaster instead of using tongs. About 1 out of every 7 or 8 items would be decent but nothing that would be a wow. Guacamole was about 95% sour cream and 5% avocado and that's being generous. The fruit was fresh for the most part and I enjoyed the watermelon and the cantaloupe. The lemonade/ice tea dispenser was frequently out of service as in empty. The English muffin on the eggs benedict was stale from sitting around too long. Pizza was horrible as was the roti. Even the Chocolate buffet special wasn't anything to write home about except for the people eating directly from the buffet.
La Cucina -- wasn't worth it and the food wasn't very good. The Osso bucco is pork and not lamb and there is no mention that it's a pork osso bucco. It was also way over salted.
Le Bistro -- we had a nice meal here and enjoyed the lamb chops, service wasn't the most efficient given the number of tables
Sushi Bar -- had decent sushi. The fish was reasonably fresh and the rolls were well made just don't expect more specialty items like uni or even ikura (Salmon Roe) . I ordered the Singapore noodles one day extra spicy and they were drenched in sauce vs. just adding additional spice. The Singapore noodles in the buffet were much better but not anything to brag about.
Blue Lagoon -- Biggest waste of space on the ship, we had two meals (breakfast / lunch) and both were horrible. We waited 30+ mins for cold eggs/bacon/hash browns. Any decent diner can turn this meal out in minutes and more importantly hot. The worst part was that the restaurant wasn't busy at all and now we know why. We had bite of the breakfast and just left. The previous day we had lunch there and ordered buffalo wings that had more skin than meat and bleu cheese dressing had the consistency of skim milk. I ordered a wonton noodle soup that tasted like sea water and contained neither wontons nor noodles, only some julienned carrots. The "grilled" chicken had artificial grill lines on it and was either boiled or microwaved but was most definitely not grilled. The cooks in this kitchen must hate their jobs and there is zero quality control. Not really 24/7 service since they take breaks in between breakfast and lunch so you can't order.
Venetian -- more civilized environment vs. the buffet but the hours are very limited since it closes for breakfast by 9:30am. Another ploy to get you to capitulate and pay for the specialty restaurants
Aqua -- Food was decent and service was friendly, more efficient at some times than others. We had dinner here three times and they were decent though nothing was memorable except for the cheese plate which was probably the best of the ship including the one at Le Bistro. All the blinds had to be closed or open at the same time forcing people to miss the whale / dolphin sighting and ruining the ambiance.
Brimini Grill - good burgers, fries are a bit salty but my chicken sandwich was undercooked as in still pink.
Chef's Table - Fun experience though don't expect any Michelin star worthy dishes. The wine glasses were always filled with quality wines but they were insistent on pouring white when you ask for red. The room was way too hot and took away from the experience. Nothing fancy but definitely better than the standard fare on the ship.
Wine -- the wine on the ship is way overpriced about a 3-4x markup. It's definitely worth paying for the $15 / bottle corkage fee to bring your own wine on board. The ship security screening is primarily focused on screening out alcohol vs. security. I had some pepper spray I forgot was in my bag that was never picked up since they were focused on assessing the corkage fee. We had two bottles of the house red and wine on the ship and it can be best described as aged vinegar.
Coffee -- was from concentrate and reheated, $ required if you wanted fresh brewed coffee.
Ice Tea -- not available in the restaurants, just the buffet
The best way to describe the environment is spring break, it's ridiculous that a boat of this size basically has one pool for everyone and is more of a wading pool at that. Hot tubs were frequently crowded with kids. In general the pool area is a zoo, people will talk loudly in the quiet areas and people will invade your space by trying to squeeze in more chairs. Staff does nothing to enforce the posted rules.
Even though the ship went through a "multi-million dollar" renovation in 2011 there were parts of the ship that are well worn. The toilet seats in a lot of the restrooms need replacement. There was stained carpets in our corridor and in our room. We saw the staff cleaning and fixing things frequently. Some of the higher volume restrooms need more frequent cleaning and maintenance. Certain seats in the theatre were broken and need repair.
Was fine, wasn't very crowded. The craps table was usually empty. Staff was friendly. Very smoky in the casino, they can do a better job with ventilation. Most of the focus is on slot machines. The blackjack rules are very unfavorable until you reach the $50/$100 tables i.e. 6:5 payout on blackjack vs. 3:2. Never saw a full table for hold'em outside of the tournament. You have to pay for drinks even while gambling. I broke even on the trip. Don't plan on playing for comps since they're very stingy in the point accumulation. Also beware of the promotional chips since you must play with them until you lose or draw. Yes, they will take it away when you push in blackjack because you technically didn't win versus typical promotional chips where you must play at least one round before you can cash out. You can never cash out your Norwegian promo chips.
We didn't sign up for any of the shore excursion through Norwegian since they seemed overpriced. When we checked the prices at port there was a 3x markup if you purchased through Norwegian.
Overall, the staff was friendly and some were more functional than others. We didn't really come across anyone that went the extra mile. The buffet needs better management to deal with the workflow since that's the de facto dining area since the Venetian and other venues have very limited windows for service. So much for freestyle cruising.
At Port / Excursions
Getting on and off the ship at Bermuda was very efficient while we were docked at port. We didn't go out with the initial horde getting off the ship as soon as it was docked so we never had to wait in line.
It was a zoo to get off the ship, it took us about 45 minutes to get off the ship after winding around the ship with our bags in tow. It was definitely not a pleasant experience. We carried our bags to the parking garage and were able to get out of the area quickly.
We booked at the last minute and had a good rate on the cruise but with Norwegian, it seems that you get nickeled and dimed for everything to make up for it. The wine screening at security, forcing you to pay for a specialty restaurant if you don't want to go to the buffet since Venetian and Aqua are usually pretty packed and/or have limited service hours. Photos are a huge ripoff at $20 / photo as is internet access at $0.75/minute for very slow access. This was my girlfriend's first cruise and my first on Norwegian. We booked it as a last minute birthday trip since she had booked another Norwegian Epic Cruise in September and this was meant to be a test run.
We didn't get any room upgrades even though another single woman booked at the same time and price and got upgraded to a balcony when we were stuck in an inside cabin which wouldn't be an issue except that it was right above the lounge where all the nightly and late night entertainment took place. Ear plugs work to a certain extent but don't work when you can feel the bass through the floor. Not sure why they put us there when there were rooms in much better locations on the ship. The initial filth in the room just made a horrible first time impression of the ship and cruise line. Not sure if she'll go forward with the Norwegian Epic 9/23/12 departure. Less