What a mistake!
I didn't think there were any bad cruise lines... wrong! Too bad I didn't realize this forum existed, before I planned and booked our NCL cruise.
We just returned from a 7-day Bahamas cruise on NCL. We chose the cruise line because of the destination and the ability to depart from New York, which is just 75 minutes from our home.
Our arrival and check-in at the port was easy and fast since we were traveling with a senior citizen in a wheelchair. Our balcony room was wonderful, and provided a relaxing place to sit, especially for the seniors. The ship was beautifully decorated... that's where the good part ends!
The FreeStyle dining system takes all the fun out of the meal experience. They sell it as a way to choose what and where you want to eat. In reality, 2,000 passengers are now having to make reservations on an archaic computer and phone system where the phone cuts off and the computer is more often down than up. Dining on a cruise ship has always been easy, with no need to think. Your meal is set, the time is set, and the theme nights are fun and provide for a variety of meal choices. Not so on NCL! The food was not up to the standard we were accustomed to on the 15 other cruises we have traveled on. They repeated the same steak and seafood choices each night, with a few other options. The buffet in Raffles was the same every day. There was no Captain's Dinner, which excluded a free cocktail hour, and no Midnight Buffet!
I realize that most cruise lines have eliminated a nightly midnight buffet, however, two years ago on Royal Caribbean we had a midnight buffet where a shrimp pate and an abundance of gourmet food were offered freely.
Breakfast never included Eggs Benedict, and the late night food at Raffles was less appealing than a trip to my own refrigerator at home.
On to the entertainment (if you can call it that!). The best show was Seymour and Alfred, two comedians. Other than that, the guest Talent Show featured the most well-rounded entertainment of all!
The shows did not even live up to the standard of a good high school production. The music was so loud it drowned out the poor singing (which may then have been a good thing!).
The only people happy were first-time cruisers (the have nothing to compare it with!).
I would say that NCL has a huge management problem. While the individual staff, waiters, and cabin staff were pleasant enough, the system of FreeStyle cruising did not allow for the personal attention (as seen on other cruise lines), as when the same waiters are assigned to you.
The tipping system, which ensures a gratuity (charged to your account) of $10/day per passenger seems to make the crew indifferent to the passengers.
I suggest that NCl dump "FreeStyle!" I'll cruise again, but never on NCL!