EMBARKATION: Got to pier at approximately 11:05. Dropped off bags, walked into terminal was checked in by 11:15 and walked on the ship at 11:30 and the rooms were already ready. Smoothest, most organized walk on ever! Now, would a glass of champagne and staff all around be great, sure, but it doesn't affect my overall experience at all.
INITIAL SHIP IMPRESSIONS: Beautiful and new! As you all know by reading reviews here, some people love everything, some people hate everything. Its vacation people, lighten up, reduce some expectations and enjoy it. I found the layout of the ship great. Everything is centrally located and easy to find. The venues are beautiful. I will outline them in detail later, overall first impressions are great.
FOOD: BREAKFASTS: 1. Ate at the buffet for breakfast mostly. It's a buffet so my expectation is not to have perfect eggs Benedict prepared for me. It's bacon, eggs, pancakes etc. It is what it is. Greasy breakfast More
food. There is also cereal, hot and cold, bagels, pastries. etc. It's good for what it is supposed to be. One caveat from my previous NCL cruises. I loved the great outdoors where you could eat outside on the back of the ship. Wasn't a make or break thing but just something i enjoyed that Breakaway didn't have.
LUNCHES: Ate at a few venues: 1. The outdoor bar and grill. Very good, standard, burgers, dogs etc. 2. Buffet, see above, its a buffet. 3. TasteSavor. Good not great. Standard lunch menu, had fish and chips.
DINNER: Day One: La Cucina - $15. Good Italian meal. I had risotto and pizza, both were excellent, roomies had chicken parm and lobster, all excellent. Desserts were very good too. Day Two: Moderno - $20. Good. I go to Fogo De Chao a lot and yes that is better, but it is certainly very good. Day Three: Manhattan Room. Free. Great entertainment, great room and food was good. Solid, nothing to blow you away but a good meal. Had seafood cioppino. Day Four: Cagney's. $30. Worth every penny. Excellent. They never, ever disappoint and the Oreo cheesecake was ridiculous. Had a filet and some sides and shrimp cocktail. Day Five: Teppanyaki. $25. Fantastic. Always one of my tops. Had Steak and Shrimp, both were amazing and chef was super entertaining. Day Six: Cirque Dreams. $30. Ok i know everyone complains here but it isn't terrible. Show is amazing, more on that later, food was ok! not awful not great. Ok. It was fine for me for a dinner theater ish experience. Day Seven: TasteSavor. Free. Only complaint on my cruise. We sat and waited 20 minutes and no one came to serve us. It was really busy and we left and did the buffet. Not a huge deal as we are pretty easy going but you can see why people don't love the free restaurant. I love the specialty restaurants and don't mind paying for them so, no big issue here, buffet was fine, had Indian food and it was good.
ENTERTAINMENT: After 13 cruises, the song and dance shows do get old. NCL blew me away here. ROCK OF AGES: AWESOME!! great cast, great singing. Was it dirty, a little, i wouldn't take a kid and they stressed that everywhere but people still did and some left. Such a great show though. BURN THE FLOOR: Dancing was fantastic. Little boring, but great talent. HOWL AT THE MOON: Huge highlight, Drew, Kim(i think) and Tony K were just fantastic. Saw them 3 times. Just great!. SLAM ALLEN: Ridiculously good, bought the CD, he is just a gem. CIRQUE JUNGLE DREAMS: So crazy good. I thought it was the most amazing thing on the ship. SECOND CITY: Good, improv is so hit or miss but i thought they did an admirable job.
VENUES: SPICE H20, super fun, loved it there, great outdoor area, wish it stayed open later. Glow party, 80's party and Fireworks were amazing. BLISS: OK, i will preface this by saying i was a dj for 20 years. NCL dj's have never wowed me, they are not great. Not sure why this is never a priority as it is usually crowded on every cruise. Literally went 3 nights in a row and the dj played the exact same songs in almost the exact same order. I love to dance but it gets old super quick. Really wish this was better. HEADLINERS, FAT CATS, - all awesome small venues. Love the more intimate feel. WATERFRONT - love being able to be outside to read, eat etc. Just a great idea.
Overall, this was an awesome experience. I love freestyle cruising. It is not for everyone, i get that, but I love it.
DEBARK: Smoothest ever on a ship. Left my room for walk off at 8:15am and left the terminal to the NYC streets at 8:43. That is fantastic.
Cruise Director Staff: On GEM in 2009 and they were amazing so no one ever lives up to them. I felt like i knew all of them personally by the end, they were everywhere and really injected themselves into you having a great vacation. I felt this way about Julie, the cruise director, she was awesome. I literally saw her everywhere and super engaging with the guests. The others i found a bit sullen and standoffish. Not bad, just not really engaged with the guests.
I love NCL and will continue to support them for all of my cruising.
Balcony Stateroom. It was fine. Room was a bit bigger than usual. Bathrooms are awesome. Balcony is smaller, yes indeed, but it wasn't a deal breaker, i only sit out there and read and look around. It was fine for that.
Does NCL nickel and dime you a bit, sure, but i am OK with that. You can choose to buy or not buy. I don't let it bother me. Ultimate Bev package saved me a ton of cash but made me drink more than i normally would. I probably would not do that again. just a preference, but def a money saver.