Background on me: Experience cruiser with over 20 cruises on a variety of lines and I have never been on a bad cruise. I am male, 50, traveling with spouse and two boys ages 14 and 12.
We have sailed out of New Orleans many times (we live in NO) and find the best time to get to the port is about 11:00 AM. This year we arrived about 11:20 and were in the Windjammer by 12. Also if you are a past cruiser register with the Crown and Anchor program by RC, there is another line for C&A members and it is much shorter than general boarding. My brother arrived at the Port about 1:00 and it took him over two hours to get on the ship.
Alcohol tip here, if you want to bring extra wine on the ship. Just put two bottles in your carry on, but have your spouse go through another security line with another two bottles in their carry on. We got four bottles of wine on board, but could have brought much more, no one pays any attention in security to who is with who, just don't put more than two bottles in each bag. Also, we brought two case of water on board that we checked at the pier and both made it to our cabins. I met someone on board who paid $88 for the "water package" this seems pretty high to me for water. Also did not buy the new drink package as it is just way to expensive considering all adults in one cabin have to purchase this package.
A big problem at the pier is many people do not have luggage tags and this takes the Porters about 2 minutes per bag to tag causing a back up. RC may be saving money by not sending these luggage tags (I know you can print them) but it is adding much delay to the boarding process.
If you are arriving by cab your driver will simply drop you off at the curb, if you are driving you will be parking in the Whale lot, just ask and an officer will direct you. You can also have your luggage taken here and it is just about a five minute walk to the ship. Parking is about $112 for the week paid in advance.
Having sailed on the Voyager last year (and loved it) I found this ship, The NOS to be just as beautiful.
We had an outside balcony on deck 8 and the room was clean and your typical cruising cabin. However, my boys ages 14 and 12 had an inside cabin with a view of the Promenade deck. This was a very nice feature and the noise never woke anyone up or keep them awake. We choose two cabins over one because we felt the extra bathroom was better than just upgrading to a suite. The extra bathroom and extra cabin IMO is the way to go for families if you can.
Once again the ship is clean and very beautiful, but I won't sail this class of ship again, having sailed on the VOS last year, this seemed like the same exact ship from last year and I discovered what I like is exploring and learning a new ship on my cruises.
The food in the dining room is some bad, some good, some excellent. Ask you waiter, he knows what is good. We ate in Chops one night and thought is was a waste of money. The filet in Chops was excellent, but everything else (the sides) was also available at some time in the MDR. Also, on most nights the food in the Windjammer is the same exact food being served in the MDR.
Breakfast is the same EVERY day and gets very boring toward the end of the cruise. Never ate breakfast in MDR but they have nice lunches in the MDR and the Tuttie salad bar is outstanding. I really miss the fact that the VOS and NOS have no grill around the pool. I just love the smell of those hamburgers grilling as I lounge around the pool.
Both my kids had fun and enjoyed the teen programs. However, we won't sail again on a ship unless it has a better pool area. This ship only has two small pools with hot tubs, no slides or other H2O areas for the kids to play.
The shows were really bad and your typical cruise ship shows, however the ice show was very nice and is the only must see show of the week. I think RC could do a better job of giving out tickets rather than making you go wait in line for them on your first sea day. The lounges really stink of smoke and were kind of boring, not much going on in them.
Found a great new place to go on Couzmel called Paradise beach, a great place and found for the kids with tons of stuff to do. Also, do Dunns River falls in Falmouth, it was outstanding.
Overall a good ship and a great time, if you have questions just ask.