Embarkation: We arrived in Tampa for the cruise and caught a cab from the airport which was a 15 minute drive. We checked our luggage and proceeded up to check in. The line entering the building was getting long and the NCL rep told us to form 2 lines. Upon getting to the terminal door, we went into one line. I guess two shorter lines outside will make you think you're proceeding faster. As we went thru the security check, a lady was being told by the Cl rep to go thru a different line, and then was told by another to get back in line. The first rep started yelling at her so she did what he told her. Then the second guy started yelling at her to go back. She was an elderly lady and was confused, but the two men finally talked to each other and she was taken thru the express lane.After going thru security, you got into another line to turn i9n your Health survey. One person handled this, so another slow line. We then went and took care of the cruise docs and finally proceeded on board.
We went to our cabin. It was forward by the elevator and we were pleasantly surprised. It had the largest shower we have ever had on any cruise line. That took a little out of the room, but was well worth it. Balcony was also refreshing. One thing, no ice in the ice bucket. No big deal as it usually is chaotic on the first afternoon. We proceeded up to the buffet and this is where we had read was a problem with NCL. Everything I had read, was now coming true.
The food was barely warm, lettuce was brown like it was old, drink glasses the smallest I ever saw, and tasted bland. Service also was non existent. We only ate 1/3 of what we put on the plate, which wasn't much to begin with. We ventured thru out the ship to find it was older and showed lack of maintenance. Bathrooms were small and had rust on the stall walls.I normally get the "Bottomless Soda," so I went to get it. I had to go to 3 different bars to find it. Princess and RCCL have it as soon as you get on the ship. Not NCL. Seems they want you to purchase a soda every time. That evening we tried the Freesystle Dining. Good luck getting in when you want. We went to the Venetian Room where we received a pager. Was told there is a 45 minute wait. The podium for this dining room is stationed one floor above the entrance of the dining room. Finally we were paged and headed down to the dining room. We we entered, the dining room was 1/3 empty. Tables ready without people at them and many tables with dirty dishes on them. We sat down and handed the menu. We ordered and the food was warm like at the buffet and lacked taste. Service was terrible. Had to almost tackle the waitress to get my water glass filled. Unlike what we have had on other cruise lines, you have a waiter/waitress and that's it. No assistant. Looked to me NCL is way understaffed. The tables that had dishes on them took between 15 to 25 minutes to be redone. And then the were left open. Many large tables never were used while we were there.
After dinner, back to the room and the bed was turned down as expected. Still had not met our room steward. Ice bucket was also empty. Had to call to get ice. The next evenings meal was worse. for a table of four, 1 hour 45 minute service. And we ate the food as soon as it hit the table. That night there was almost a riot at the door as people were upset as to the wait. Ship gave out Champagne to settle people waiting. And yes, there were tables available. Breakfast service matched dinner. Ordered eggs, over easy,and sausage, got an omelet and these things they called hash browns. They were they size of a silver dollar and cold. I figured go for it because who knew what would be delivered next. We even tried the specialty Japanese restaurant. Service there was as expected, very good, but, the food was not. Where in this world is Kung Pao Chicken made with jalapeno peppers? At it had a green color to it. Didn't taste anything like any Kung Pao I've eaten elsewhere. One dinner, in the Aqua Room, had decent service. We even tried making reservations for dinner and was told no reservations for groups under 6 before 8PM. So Freesyle cruising is a joke. Oh, the Bimini Bar and Grill, only place to get hot food consistently, but the grill was closed more then it was open.
We went on this trip with my parents. They had picked this cruise due to the ports involved. Even they, who have cruised before, were very disappointed with the service. They normally cruise on Holland America. We will not ever go on NCL again.