We decided to go with The Haven as we felt that we needed the extra space and loved the idea of so many private amenities. This was our first European cruise so we wanted to go first class all of the way. Although on some levels, they delivered... Norwegian still has some fine tuning to do here.
EMBARCATION: This was a miss as far as we were concerned. Check-in by-and-large was quick for ALL passengers. What made Haven different was that it took WAY too long long. You are escorted to a "holding" area (which was fair at best). There you wait for someone to come and escort you from one person to another person to another person... You get the idea. Then you wait again on board the ship for the concierge to "show" you the facilities (total check in before we got to the cabin was 40 minutes. I guarantee you that if you were in another section of the ship that it would've taken less than 15 minutes. Trust me... SKIP the tour (it is completely useless).
CABIN: This was a major hit! We had the 2-bedroom suite which was incredible! Huge and comfortable with tons of space to move around, 3 TVs (so never any arguing with the kids), a great pod coffee maker, 2 really nice bathrooms. In other words, better than most suites that we've ever seen before. The location is also only a short walk to the Haven pool area and restaurants.
HAVEN pool area: Plenty of seating here (never fighting over chairs) and fairly intimate. Nice hottubs, pool was a bit small though. NOTE TO STAFF... Pools are meant to refresh... The water was WAY too hot (same temp as hottubs). Could've used more service for drinks and food (service was infrequent).
Epic lounge: Nice but not terribly exciting. Beautiful furnishings except nothing special ever goes on there. Great if you want to sit comfortably and chat or have a drink (or play some games).
Epic restaurant: Again nice, but not thrilling. Service is no better than in the main dining room frankly. Limited food options (and food tends to repeat). It is convenient however (especially in the morning when you need to be out quickly for an excursion). The outdoor section (for breakfast and lunch) is quite nice though. No crowds and very quiet.
BLUE MAN GROUP: Haven guests do get preferred seating for all shows (which is nice). This particular show was awesome! If you've never seen it before, be prepared as it is a little loud and can get a little weird. Quite a unique experience and worth it! Make sure that you don't need to use the facilities during the show (and if you show up late, you become part of the entertainment, which is hilareous). First few rows are a splash zone (beware!!!!).
LEGENDS IN CONCERT: Wow! I've scene impersonations before but these were spot on! Top rate and professional (not like Carnival which gives you cheap knock-offs). You would sware that it was the real Adele and Tina Turner! Tom Jones was less convincing but he brought great humour to the persona.
OTHER DINING: Very good! Main dining room and Taste are essentially the same (except more formal in main dining room). Service was very personal and the food for the most part was very good. Freestyle dining is good and bad. Good if you go early enough but VERY crowded after 8 (be ready for long wait). Only drawback... The music is good (but a little loud for eating).
O'Sheean's: Great fun! Very good bar-grub and a real "pub" atmosphere. Try the mozzarella sticks, they are phenominal!
Moderno Churascaria: Well executed and delicious! You will never wait very long. If you are a meat eater (as I am), this is WELL worth the cover charge! Be prepared to wear the "Big" pants!
LA CUCCINA: Not bad (but not the best). Service was uneven and the food was only ok. The atmosphere here though was very nice (well located and great Tuscan decor).
GARDEN CAFÉ: Nice selection of food, great environment for eating but frankly gets too crowded during peek periods. You may want to visit just off schedule.
During the evenings just outside (by the pools), they offer a great late-night snack buffet (better than other ships).
The only thing that really needs to be worked on in the food service is the dessert offerings.
Miscellaneous: As with all cruise ships, the pool area is mostly too crowded (which is one of the appeals of the Haven). The slides are great fun though (and well organised). My kids and I spent many hours there. Beware, people unfairly "hog" the deck chairs. This is a common trait of all cruise companies and the staff do not enforce the "no reserving" policy (which they really need to).
For those of you with kids, there is an arcade but it is very expensive to play. There are many games to win tickets and there is a redemption machine for prizes but the selection of prizes is very "cheap" and I'd recommend that you redeem on the second-to-last night of the cruise to avoid long line-ups. Play for fun, not for prizes!
If you enjoy casino play, the selection is very good! Machines are plentiful (you are never waiting to play) and there are many table play games (with low minimum bids). There is also a rewards program like in any other casinos.
Overall decor of the ship is clean and modern. There are touch-screens all over the ship so it is very hard to get lost.
Shore excursions.... Do your own homework before you leave!!! The staff does not seem to have a good sense of exactly what goes on during the tours (they just seem like salespeople trying to push products). Norwegian needs to better educate their staff here to sell appropriate tours for their customers.
Here is a brief rundown of what we've done and our own experiences:
- Pompei and flavors of Sorento... Amazing! It is a long day but well worth it! You never feel the sense of crowded and the tour runs very smoothly. Sorento has tons of great shopping (and is beautiful) and the meal on the farm at the end of the tour is delicious!
- Hilltop Orvietto... Again, very good! I'd recommend over visiting Rome which gets crowded and hot (and leaves you with very little time to actually see anything). The tour of the cathedral in Orvietto will leave you with a sense of awe and the many restaurants and boutiques are not expensive and plentiful. You also have plenty of alone time to thouroughly enjoy!
- MARSEILLES ... Hilltop Le Castelet and Seaside Sanary. VERY disapointing. This 5 hour tour essentially has 3.40 hours of travel time total which leaves a measly 90 minutes to visit each of the 2 stops (total). Don't waste your money here. We'd recommend that you take a taxi to either location (chose one, not enough time in port to do 2 of them). Both locations were beautiful and worth the drive. Leave early in the morning on your own (as the boat docks). Another recommendation in hindsight... Go to "Cannebiere Street". It is the hub of the region (tons of shopping and restauranst).