This was only my second cruise and was chosen purely on the itinerary for my dates.
Embarkation - stood in line for 40 minutes.
Cabin - plus for this cruise was the fact we could have mini suites ( one for myself and my partner one for her mother and daughter ) due to cheapness of this ship. They had everything we needed, the beds were incredibly comfortable and the bathroom had a bath, big plus for British ladies.
However I was disappointed that there were no other benefits to a cabin styled a suite. Superior cabin would have been a more accurate description.
Food - while I liked the concept of freestyle cruising, the reality left a lot to be desired. The first night we did the summer palace as it was steak and lobster, this was very nice apart from seriously over cooking my steak. This was corrected along with a couple more lobster tails. We dined once more in this MDR and were disappointed in the food. We then mainly dined in the garden cafe (buffet) which while not the best quality, was plentiful with a good variety. Breakfast was fantastic!!!! Lunch tended to be graze during the day, apart from last day when we did the murder mystery lunch (see separate description).
We did one of the speciality restaurants, the Teppanyaki, and were very impressed..
Presumed Murdered - murder mystery lunch, this was both amazing and disappointing at the same time. The murder mystery part was performed by The Second City and was truly hilarious. The food however was very poor and as this took place in the Le Bistro restaurant (and cost $50pp) we come back to disappointed again.
Entertainment - was excellent. All the bands were very accomplished musicians and generally played a wide range of music. As a musician I felt the bands were done on the cheap as they were all keyboards, bass, drums and vocals. No true band is complete without a guitar, big black mark for NCL. We liked Jim the pianist/comedian. We did every show and were NOT disappointed with any of them.
Ports of call/excursions - we chose this cruise as the itinerary ticked all the boxes. My partner was apprehensive about great stirrup cay, as she is not a lay on the beach kind of person, but we all had a great time and could have stayed longer. We did not book anything as there was nothing that took our fancy. Ocho Rios, Jamaica was the main port of interest for us. We all wanted to do the Dunns river falls and were all blown away by it. Just be prepared to pay extra for your guide, pictures and DVD. I and my partners daughter swam with sharks at dolphin cove and all I can say is WOW, having an eight foot long shark laying on your lap is a mind blowing experience. My partner an her mother went to the botanical gardens, which was nice but a bit of a trek. We all met up to do a bit of shopping at Harbour island, but instead ended up in Margaritaville. I don't mean to plug anywhere, but i feel this needed a comment. To find a bar with its own pool, beach and serving great food while listening to great tunes was awesome.
Grand Cayman - we did our own thing, shopping, went to Hell, spent time at a beach club.
Cozumel - this was the second reason for choosing this cruise as we all wanted to do Tulum, which blew us away. Great trip but a long day due to lots of traveling to get there.
Disembarkation - this was very nearly the low point of the cruise, as we had to queue, queue, queue and just for good measure queue some more. Queue to get off the ship, I could not believe how poorly this was managed by the crew. Tip to all people who are without manners and think they are more important than everyone else, don't try to push in front of an English man. We are raised with manners and deplore those that don't ( this is a good tip for all cruise related queue's. WAIT YOUR TURN. It will save you a verbal reminder). Next queue was to get through immigration. Then had to queue for a taxi. Top tip on getting to the airport. Shuttle buses are $10pp so are great for 2 people, taxi's are a flat rate set by Miami/ Dade county of $24 with no surcharges so are a better deal for larger parties. The final queue was trying to leave the port. The lack of organisation was alarming, there were 5 ships in a line (pearl was the last) all appeared to be either unloading or reprovisioning. There were trucks coming in blocking the road to reverse on to bays so all outbound traffic stopped. In all it took over an hour to leave the port.
In conclusion - the ship was looking dated, part of the pool deck was shut off as the slide was being dismantled and there was what looked like staging stacked up. The biggest issue I had with this ship was the service. Our cabin steward was fabulous, nothing was too much trouble, the bartenders also were great. Now we get to the waiters and busboys. In general they were incredibly poor, waiters that didn't know that days drink specials, drinks orders that came one drink at a time in a premium restaurant over a 30 minute period. Busboys who were so eager to clear tables they were grabbing plates without asking if you had finished. Finally we come to the straw that made me complain. The final at sea day I was breakfasting on my own in the garden cafe. I popped back to get some pancakes, gone no more than 2 minutes, when I returned not only had my table been cleared but a couple were sat there. I had to replace my coffee and find somewhere else to sit, needless to say my pancakes were cold.
I wrote a four page complaint to the director of hotel services. I received a phone call from the f&b manager who naturally apologised. The reason given was that there were a lot of new staff. I called into question there policy of communal tips as I was unhappy that poor service was being rewarded and I should have the choice to tip where I deemed it was warranted. I got offered a couple of bottles of wine, I did not accept and will be contacting NCL further.
I would recommend this ship to anyone, accept that you get what you pay for and you hopefully won't be disappointed.