We chose NCL for our first cruise September 2012 because of the "Free Style" spirit and the ports of call. We don't want to have a set time for meals, don't want to dress up and don't want to be paired up with people we don't enjoy.
Our first trip was on NCL Dawn and we LOVED every minute of it, even in the smallest, inside cabin in rough seas. The staff was absolutely wonderful. No complaints, couldn't have asked for more.
Our second trip with NCL was aboard the Jewel. This time we went with an aft-facing suite because of the added space, the view, and the little "extras" advertised as perks -- concierge to get seats at the shows we wanted to attend, etc., and a butler! "What would I do with a butler?" I thought.
Turns out, the butler was fabulous! He personally delivered room service each morning (we are early risers) with a great smile and lots of hot coffee. Anything we might want, he was there to provide. Superb service.
The concierge, it turns out, was useless. His entire focus was on those in the larger suites (too little of him to go around, perhaps, or he assumed we were not excellent tippers?). The few times we asked for help with seating, he said he would check and get back to us, which he never did. On one specific occasion, he asked us to meet him in the theater so he could seat us in the VIP section. We waited, and waited and waited until 5 mins after the show started and then found seats for ourselves, not together and not reserved. I've never felt "less than first class" in my life. Thanks for rubbing that in. We would have been happier in the inside cabin with the friendly staff. Oh, and the butler got a very substantial tip at the end of the cruise (equivalent to two days' passage).
The "entertainment" in the theater was awful: Band on the Run. They should be on the run and not aboard a cruise ship. It felt like a high school musical forced to use the second or third string players. Horrible.
The staff throughout the ship was just not as crisp, as friendly, as happy, as those on the Dawn. They appeared tired, overworked, unappreciated.
We are booked on an upcoming cruise on the Pearl and another on the Star. If we can't get that loving feeling back (as we received on the Dawn), we'll be looking elsewhere.