Embarkation on September 20 was a breeze as we arrived at 12 Noon, jumped on the line for Latitude menbers and were on the ship at 12:35 PM. This was our third NCL Cruise, but the other two were over 5 years ago when the cruise line was owned by a different company. We noticed a significant improvement in the Garden Buffet area where the food display, ambience, and staff were much improved from our prior experience on the line. There were about 2200 passengers on board with only 30 children. The crowd was mostly 65+ from the UK, Canada, US and a few from elsewhere.
The shows in the evening were of good quality and varied, but only 45 minutes in length. The piano player, guitarist and trio played in the lounges or Atrium or at the pool and were very talented.
All the staff, including the senior management team, did an excellent job and were outfront about being available for any concerns. I had the pleasure of personally speaking with the Hotel Director, Food and Beverage Director, and Beverage Director to discuss various issues. They all were attentive, pleasant and showed a high degree of interest in my comments and taking action as necessary. This is the only senior staff on any of the 17 other cruises that I have been on that have been available from Day 1 to meet with or be available to the passengers. This is an outstanding policy and one that other cruise lines should emulate.
The inside cabin that we booked was smaller than similar cabins on other ships. Unfortunately, the third bed on hinges on the wall made getting out of the one queen bed difficult as it was really in the way. There was sufficient storage space, and the bathroom shower with glass door was the largest we've experienced on a ship. Soap and conditioner were supplied via a dispenser. The toilet was at an odd angle so that a big or tall person may have a problem sitting on it. The cabin attendant, Miller, was outstanding in all respects.
The food in the Garden Buffet was fine, but the selection was not to my liking. Also, it was mostly repetitive from day to day with a few changes to the hot dishes and carving station. The soup choices were not often changed and that was disappointing. The salads and fixings were fresh and well-worth having. The ice cream flavors of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry were served daily with a few other flavors and sherbet. But there should have been more variation and choice.
The food in the main dining rooms was okay, not the same quality or choice as other ships we've been on, so that was disappointing. I had to eat dinner in the Garden Buffet on two nights as I could not find a suitable choice on the dining room menu. The main has a fixed section where all the choices were set for the entire week, and a variable menu changed each day. The lobster on the first night was very good, and the salmon on the fixed menu were tasty items. The service was fine considering the large number of people to be served at peak times. On the last night of the cruise there was a barbeque on the pool deck from about 3:30 PM to 5 PM with the usual items. The barbequed ribs and lo mein where sensational. That was my dinner for the night!!
The ports of call were nice. We had been to all of them before except for Bar Harbor which we enjoyed because of our journey to Acadia National Park. Once you get to the dock you can walk up the main street for a bout 5 minutesto the ranger station and get free buses to various points in the park all day long. Be sure to bring any US national park pass that you may have, otherwise you'll have to buy one for $5. You can get off at any point and get back on the next bus which runs every 30 minutes or so.
Since we had two roll-ons and two duffel bags we did not have to wait for our luggage when we boarded. Moreover, we did the "walk-off" option on arrival back in NYC which was from 8 am to 8:45 AM. We were off the ship in about 10 minutes, breezed through customs in 5 minutes and were on our way home.
Overall we had an enjoyable trip and we may consider NCL again, although we prefer Azamara as our cruise line of choice for many reasons. If you are not familiar with that line, then check them out.