We spent the night before at the LaQuinta North Hotel (a decent, no-frills property) which offered FREE parking for the duration of the cruise, a complimentary airport shuttle and a $10 per person cruise port shuttle. A cab ride from here will cost about $40 so the shuttle is a bargain.
We arrived at the POM around 11am and they started boarding passengers at 11:30. Cabins were ready before 1pm and luggage was delivered before 2pm -- all in all a very speedy process!
The ship itself is in fairly good condition for a 12 year old vessel and it is obvious they do whatever maintenance they can to keep it in good repair. Although there were some signs of wear and tear, even more evident was the fact that the ship was immaculate. Empty cups and dishes were whisked away from outdoor tables almost as soon as you put your fork or spoon down. Someone was always wiping down a counter or tabletop. And the buffet serving areas were also kept very neat and clean.
Food in all venues was good (not 5 star by any means) but sufficiently tasty and freshly prepared. We ate in the buffet for breakfast and lunch every day (either Great Outdoors, Garden Cafe or Pool Grill) and though the menu never changed, the food options were varied enough. For dinner we were completely satisfied with the ambiance in the Four Seasons MDR although the servers seemed inexperienced and seemed not to understand some of our fairly simple requests. However, this did not stop them from trying to cater to our wishes! We also ate in some of the specialty restaurants: Il Adagio -- food was good here, reasonably priced, and an attractive venue. Moderno -- the food quality here was just okay but the fact that there were very few diners when we were there took away from the experience as it's much more fun eating this way if it's a little busier. If you have never been to a Brazilian steakhouse, Moderno doesn't really define the experience. East Meets West Steakhouse had a nice atmosphere, and we ate here twice because of it, but the food quality was again just good and we felt that we could have gotten equally good food at the MDR at no extra cost. Le Bistro -- I was really looking forward to this because this has been my favorite restaurant on other NCL ships but again it was just okay. Service in all restaurants was very very good so no complaints there, but the food was just good... not great, just good. Keep in mind that I am not saying anything negative about the food -- it was good, really! I gained probably 4 pounds and there wasn't anything that was bad or had to be sent back. I am just saying that if you are on the fence about paying more for a specialty restaurant...save your money because the MDR food is just as good.
Where NCL has always stood out for me is in the customer service area, and this cruise was no exception. The management on this ship must be first rate because all of the employees I encountered were so friendly and they really seemed to enjoy their jobs. Hotel Director Steven Jacobsen could be seen everywhere, day and night, checking on things and his efforts really pay off for the customers. I'm not sure how many "hero" cards I filled out during my cruise but I'm sure it wasn't enough.
Entertainment: standard cruise fare -- production show, comedian, magician, singers, hypnotist. Poolside the group "Titanium" were terrific but I thought Adam's Rib sounded like a bad American Idol audition. Evening shows were a pretty good way to pass an hour but not something you would pay for a ticket to see on land. The competition games were fun (name that tune, trivia) but don't go crazy if you don't win as the prizes are tchotchkes.
Casino -- my favorite part of the cruise! I felt that the machines were as fair as could be expected when you have a captive audience of players. There are a lot to choose from as well as most table games and an electronic roulette. The prizes for the slot tournament (like Bingo) could have been higher based on what they take in but if it goes toward keeping our cruise fare down then I suppose it's a worthy cause!
I have written so many reviews that I can't even think about what to say anymore -- but all in all I'd strongly recommend NCL and I'd VERY strongly recommend this particular ship. Minus the bells and whistles of its newer, larger siblings, it has a character all its own and is my favorite ship in the NCL fleet.