I am going to break everything down into sections for ease of reading. Obviously, this is just one point of view, but we had a fantastic time with very little to complain about.
I am 44, my husband is 46, my son is 17 and my daughter is 14. Also traveling with us were my in-laws. This was our 3rd family cruise and the 5th for my husband and me. We drove from Massachusetts and parked at Pier 88.
Parking and embarkation
The drive from western Massachusetts to the Pier was very easy - down the Taconic Parkway, to Saw Mill Parkway to Henry Hudson Parkway directly to the pier. We arrived around 10:30, parked and made our way down to check-in. Check-in was a breeze, we were assigned a number for boarding, had our embarkation pictures taken and settled down to wait for our boarding call. Boarding began around 11:00 and we were on the ship by 11:30. I immediately went to the Spa to obtain a weekly pass and then met the family in the Garden Café for lunch.
We thought the ship was beautiful and liked the more subdued look. Although this is a larger ship, we found it easy to navigate. There was plenty or choices for dining, entertainment and leisurely activities.
I do not know for sure how many people were on this sailing, but heard it was way over the 4,200 double occupancy figure. I was told directly that there were 1,400 children on board, including over 500 teens.
We had room 10234, a mid-ship mini-suite. There was the “queen” bed for my husband and me, and it was positioned by the balcony. There is a bunk that comes down from the ceiling and a sofa bed. We asked our room steward to leave the beds made up all week and found this to be most convenient for us, especially when all of us met up in the room during the day. The beds were comfortable for all, although you have to be careful on the bunk to not hit your head. We were able to find storage of all of our clothes. We needed more hangers and the steward brought them to us immediately when requested. The bathroom was large and the shower was great – good, hot water pressure. I would recommend bringing your own shampoo and conditioner (not supplied). Balcony was small but we could all stand out there together if we chose to. Our steward kept our room clean and remembered our specific requests for extra towels and ice each day. We had towel animals on 4 nights.
We signed up both of our kids for the teen club. The first night they both attended the welcoming gathering. It wasn’t my daughter’s thing, but my son enjoyed it and spent most of his evenings with the group staying out until 1:00 am.
As I mentioned, I got the spa pass for the week. I would go each morning at 8:00 and I basically had the whole spa to myself. There was one day that I went in the afternoon and it was more crowded and a group of men were talking very loudly making it hard to relax. My routine was: the hydrotherapy pool; the hot tub; steam room; sauna; and, sometimes the salt room. Then I would relax on the heated loungers or the cushioned loungers - I liked the cushioned loungers better as they were very comfortable. The salt room is just a room you sit in. I didn’t notice any benefits to it and I am still not sure what it is supposed to do. If you get the spa pass, I recommend the early arrival.
I did not use the fitness center, but noticed as I walked by that it was always busy. The first morning, there were people waiting for machines.
Rock of Ages – All family members loved it. The seats in the theatre need to be replaced. There is a bar towards the back of the seat that digs into you. If you sit forward, it is fine, but I heard many complaints about the seats.
Cirque Dreams and Dinner Jungle Fantasy – Again, all family members loved it. We originally had the premium seats but changed them to standard seats because my in-laws were unable to get the premium seats. We were seated in one of the cushioned booths – very comfortable and great view. We thought the dinner was good.
Howl at the Moon – My husband and I enjoyed the music and thought the singers did a great job. The songs depended on audience requests.
The Second City – The first time we went it was my husband, my daughter and I. It was Improv and based totally on audience suggestions. The second time, my daughter and I went together. It was more stand-up and just a little Improv. I personally liked the stand-up better. My daughter liked the Improv. Both shows were funny and we enjoyed ourselves. The only complaint here is that the seats in Headliners are not very comfortable.
Slam Allen in the Fat Cats Jazz & Blues Club – very enjoyable.
Burn the Floor – again, very enjoyable.
Fireworks – because we sailed over the holiday, our firework show took place in Bermuda on Thursday, the 4th rather than on the Friday sailing day. We got off the ship and watched the fireworks show from the dockyard where we had a great view. The show was good for a cruise ship but less than what you would expect for a normal 4th show, and there was no grand finale. This is a great addition to a cruise vacation.
Bingo – my daughter went with my in-laws, too expensive, in my opinion.
Newlywed game was funny.
Atrium Fire & Ice singers were good.
Enjoyed 55 to Stay Alive game.
Played large chess game.
Waterslides – fun. I liked the drop ones better than the others.
Pools – did not use, too crowded.
Sundecks – hard to find lounge chairs on sea days, especially in the morning. We were usually able to find two chairs together on deck 17. Cool cloths a nice touch.
Spice H20 – went once.
Sports complex & ropes course – did not use but looked like people were enjoying them.
Casino – Very tight, made donations every day! I am a non-smoker, very adverse to smoke and the smell. I did not find the Casino or surrounding areas to be too smoky. The smell was there, but in my opinion was tolerable.
We found almost all staff to be very friendly and helpful. I was very happy to experience this because I was somewhat nervous due to some past harsh reviews.
Note – No lobster in the main dining rooms on this sailing, one of the major disappointments for me.
Carlos’s Bake shop – my husband and daughter got some dessert here and gave it a thumbs up.
Savor/Taste/Manhattan main dining rooms – good selection, good food, fast service, and friendly wait staff. No problem getting tables for 4 or 6 people at 5:30ish. We liked Manhattan the best.
La Cucina – Fantastic!
Moderno – bring your appetite!
O’Sheehan’s – our favorite “hang-out”
Shanghai’s Noodle Bar – my son and I enjoyed an “early” pre-dinner. Good noodles & rice.
Uptown Bar & Grill – perfect for lunch, really good burgers
Garden Café – we mostly ate here for breakfast, and a few lunches or late night snacks. Good selection. Loved the omelettes. Sometimes it was crowded, but as with anywhere else, timing is everything.
Bars & lounges – plenty!
Liked the casual attire. Note - pants required in Manhattan Room
Shows & specialty restaurants – not Freestyle. I would recommend making reservations early and in advance.
We had perfect weather all week. The normal high temp of 82 degrees, sunny, low humidity.
The first day had some minor swells, smooth sailing on all other days. Ship rocks slightly side to side.
One word – Bermudaful!!
The first day in Bermuda we took a van taxi to Horseshoe Bay Beach. Cost was $7 pp each way. This is one of the most beautiful beaches we have been to. Crowded toward the entrance, but go a little way down the beach and there was plenty of room. Water temperature was good as was the body surfing. We rented two chairs and an umbrella. There are bathroom facilities and a snack bar.
Day two we hired a private guide to tour the island. This ended up being a six hour tour, but was well worth the time. Our tour guide was David Fox. I would highly recommend David as a guide. He is a native and has a wealth of knowledge regarding his homeland and it is obvious that he loves Bermuda. We saw so many major sites and attractions I will not list but believe we hit all of the major highlights. The tour was $40/hour for 4 people or $55/hour for 6.
Day three we took the Dockyard Segway tour. Our guide was named Jordan. She was fantastic and, again, would highly recommend this tour. Segway’s are just FUN.
NCL staff were friendly both on leaving the ship and on returning to ship. On return, cool cloths and water waiting for you before re-boarding.
We did not do self assist. We were able to disembark at time stated (8:45). Flagged down a porter as soon as we got to luggage area, breezed through customs and on the road by 9:15.
I am not an NCL cheerleader, nor very easy to please. We just had a great experience and elected to enjoy ourselves and ignore minor irritations. Of course, I think the fabulous weather and calm seas helped. Yes, the crowds were bothersome at times, but again pick your battles and try to do things at non peak times. I would definitely recommend both the Norwegian Breakaway