I booked this cruise about 18 months prior to sailing so we've read a multitude of trip reports prior to cruising. My wife and I travel two or three times a year and understand the reason many write reports is to complain about one thing or another. Over and over again we're read trip reports about cruises and resorts and wonder if these people were at the same place we were as our experiences were way different. I have to admit I was apprehensive about travelling on the POA based on a lot of the reports.
Any apprehensions were immediately erased. We arrived at the cruise terminal at 11:45am. There was no line for the security check of bags, we then proceeded to the ticket counter and was greated promptly by an agent. After processing we were escorted to the suite guest waiting room where we met our concierge (James) and butler (George). After a brief wait for others and a briefing on our meal options, we were escorted to Cagney's for lunch.
At about 1pm an announcement advised that the rooms on our floor (12th) were ready. After lunch we proceeded to the room. After about 10 minutes the room steward (Jonathan) came to our room and introduced himself and gave us his ship phone number if there was anything else we needed during his duty hours. Throughout the week we were always greeted by name by Jonathan in an extremely cheerful manner. Our room was spotless upon arrival and continued that way the entire cruise. There were always clean (and plentiful) towels and the bed was very comfortable.
Our room had just been refurbished, new carpeting & new furniture! The first morning we realized they neglected to add the room darkening curtains - we only had the white sheer curtains. This was fixed very quickly after notifying our butler - who personally installed them with the help of our cabin steward. One day after coming back from an excursion the air conditioning wasn't working. Again, one call and maintaince along with the director of guest relations were in our room within 15 minutes and the problem was resolved. Since we travel often, we understand things happen - it's how the facility responds is the key and NCL came through in a big way.
Our excursions were all done through NCL. We had no problems and their staff were always on hand to guide us to our pick up points. I've read that many others have chosen to use independent operators or rent a car for their exploration of the islands. I've done this in past cruises in Hawaii when we took the kids, but this time my wife and I didn't care to drive. The problem with booking outside NCL is that if there's a problem, the ship aint waitin for ya! On a past cruise (in Mexico) with NCL there was a problem with the tour bus and the ship
waited for our group before departing port. I do understand travelling both ways however and had a blast with our family utilizing a rental car on a past Hawaii cruise many years ago.
Meals were all booked in specialty dining rooms so I can't comment on the included restaurants or buffet. We did eat at the poolside grill and bar b que which were very good. Specialty restaurants we visited were: Cagney's (the manager, Harry is a scream!), Jefferson's Bistro, East Meets West and the Italian restaurant (can't remember the name). All food and service were excellent. On two occasions my wife made a simple comment (not a complaint) to the waiter that we didn't quite like the seasoning of a meal and all a sudden the chef personally came to our table to ask what was wrong and if we wanted something else. Again - great follow up service to a perceived complaint.
We felt the ship was clean in all public areas and all staff that we encountered were friendly and would direct you if lost. We didn't see a lot of the shows because they tended to be early and we ate dinner at 7:30 each evening. We understood this due to the port intensive itineary of this cruise. The 9pm shows we did get to see were very good.
I don't mean to seem like a snob by booking a penthouse. I've been cruising since 1988 and started in inside cabins, then booked balcony cabins when our two daughters cruised with us. However, once you book a suite category cabin, the service and food is above and beyond - enjoy the ride!! My point is, don't book an inside cabin and expect to be treated like royalty. I understand everyone has a budget and their own ideas on the level of service they desire, ie. room category and dining options. But don't complain about everything when you desire a budget cruise - that's what "freestyle" is all about.
In closing, don't listen to the complainers you'll see in quite a few of the POA reviews. Their cup is half empty instead of half full. The ship is beautiful and the crew as accomodating as they can be. We Don't mind tipping either - if any of you have worked in the service industry, you'd understand....