Just completed the repositioning cruise from Vancouver to L.A. with my Wife and Daughter (age 20). We have been on three previous cruises, all with Carnival, but liked the itinerary and thought we should give Norwegian a try. Not because we were disappointed with Carnival, on the contrary we were very pleased with those cruises, just though we should try another to have something to compare to. We really enjoyed to ports, but found NCL to disappoint us. I will tell you the good and bad about NCL, and then talk about our shore excursions.
First, the items we liked about NCL:
Embarkation went very smoothly. We were concerned that it might take longer because we were not using the normal port in Vancouver (Canada Place), we were instead leaving from Ballantyne. No problems.
Debarkation went smoothly as well. We carried our own luggage and were off the ship by 8am.
Now for the items we were disappointed in:
We were used to being able to view our on-board account status on our TV with Carnival. No such thing on NCL. If we wanted to stay on top off our account, we had to go to the registration desk and request a copy. Not a big issue since our daughter is 20 yrs. old, but this could be an issue if you have smaller kids playing video games and maybe not keeping track of their spending.
This may seem like nothing, but we also liked on Carnival how they had one channel on the TV that showed the ships position, direction of travel, speed, etc. Again, no such thing on NCL. Not a big thing, but disappointing.
While there were a few crew members who were very friendly (our cabin steward, the casino staff), overall the crew were not very friendly, at times seeming bothered to interact with us.
Freestyle Dinning: I’m sure everyone has their own opinion on this, but we found we enjoyed set dinning times better then freestyle dinning. With a set time and venue, the staff on Carnival would learn who you were and what we liked and didn’t like. We never had that on NCL. No consistency night to night and you had to be prepared for a long wait for a table. Also, the food at the free dining options was nothing special. I heard someone say they believed that with the number of dining options with a fee, they lowered their standards of food in the free venues to encourage people to go to the venues that charge a fee. For us, that backfired on them. We intended to try the steakhouse but, after we tried the food in the free venues and saw how difficult it was to get a table, we decided not to give NCL any more of our money that necessary.
Food availability: It seemed that whenever we were hungry outside of the normal dinner times, we would find the buffet closed. And one thing we enjoyed on Carnival was the 24/7 soft serve ice cream. We could make our own whenever we wanted and a big as we liked, not with NCL. You could only have ice cream when someone was there to operate the machine for you!!!
Room Size: We have had balcony cabins on every cruise we have gone on. The one on NCL was by far the smallest cabin we have been in. We had a choice of a fold out bed for our daughter which made it impossible to go on the balcony without climbing over the bed, or use the drop-down bed which caused you to hunch down and virtually crawl to make it to the balcony. She opted for the drop-down bed but said both were much less comfortable than Carnival’s. Also, there was much less closet and drawer space on NCL
Showroom: The showroom on the Jewel has theater type seating, making it very difficult to move past people to get to seats. On Carnival, at least on the ships we have been on, there was bench style seating with a small table in front of you for your drinks and room for people to move past easily….much better design.
Now for the ports….
Vancouver,BC….We arrived in Vancouver the day before the cruise. We went to Granville Island to check out the farmers market. We thought it would be similar to the market in Seattle, but found it to be lacking. In all honesty, we did not walk the entire area, but what we found was very few homemade craft booths and way too many pricey galleries.
Victoria,BC….We booked a tour to see the Craigdarroch Castel and City Highlights. There was a bike race through the city on that day that limited our sightseeing in the city. To their credit, NCL refunded $10 back for the part of the tour we would miss. We enjoyed the castle very much and after the tour took the shuttle back into downtown for some shopping.
Astoria, OR……We booked the Cannon Beach and Seaside Village Tour. The Cannon Beach portion was very disappointing. We only had 10 minutes to walk along the beach and take pictures of Haystack Rock…just 10 minutes. We then stopped in Seaside Village for shopping. The shops were very nice and we enjoyed the town very much, just couldn’t get over the short time at the beach.
San Francisco, CA…….We booked the Muir Woods and Sausalito Tour. We enjoyed the time at Muir Wood very much. The giant redwoods are very impressive. We then stopped in Sausalito for shopping. Again, we enjoyed our time in town looking through the various shops.
Overall, while the cruise did not live up to the level of our Carnival cruises; we still had more fun than a week at work. We have decided that as long as both Carnival and NCL are going to the same itinerary we want on our next cruise we would chose Carnival. The only way we are going on NCL again is if they are the only cruise line going where we want to go.