A friend and I flew to London to see the west end premiere of a Sondheim show and decided to return to America via ship. This brand new cruise liner was about to make it's maiden voyage, taking a leisurely 10 days to transit from Southampton to New York. The route took us south across the Atlantic to the Sargasso Sea roughly even with the Florida/Georgia border before cutting up and passing wast of Bermuda into New York. The ship will be stationed in the Caribbean and is designed for that sort of tropical climate with vast outdoor areas that include swimming pools, exercise areas, climbing wall and an oddly intimidating rope course that takes up a significant amount of high deck space. Since the passenger count was approximately 30% of what the ship can accommodate, there were no lines or crowds for boarding or buffets.
Our cabin was a rear facing stateroom designed for disabled access. It was roomy but oddly poorly decorated. The bathroom had almost non-existent counter space but a roomy shower. This stateroom featured a large veranda, fitted with two smalls chairs and a table. When we arrived, it had an overflowing ashtray on it which inferred that the crew had used this space for a break area. Really unappealing. The beds are exceedingly comfortable, but only one chair was provided so two people could not sit and enjoy the view at the same time. I hope that they take another look at this particular stateroom, as it was an upgrade but seemed almost like crew quarters.
The ship's pluses: 1. Great dining options, all of which we tried during the cruise. 2. Great food almost uniformly. 3. English speaking staff were delightful. 4. Lovely spa (treatment area) 5. Excellent room service with limited options. 6. Good entertainment in lounges, particularly. 7. Wonderful flat screen TV with terrific movies and show options for an additional fee like in most hotels.
The ship's negatives (at least on this voyage): 1. Non-English speaking crew were a true challenge. I recommend putting them through a conversational course in English upon hiring. Very frustrating. 2. Entertainment was somewhat limited and under par. the big showroom musical was only presented ONE evening during the whole cruise. The comedy headliner was dreadful. The Ilusionarium is fun if a bit kitschy. I wasn't aware it was a dinner theater, so they should make that clearer to passengers. The singers should have been used more as they were great. I suggest using the Headliner or Grammy club for more vocal/cabaret acts during the cruise. 3. The safety orientation in the main dining room was completely inadequate and unprofessional. The crew seemed completely unprepared an a young Hispanic gentleman who gave the presentation was condescending and rude to us. They need to get this act together post haste. Important! 4. Although the spa treatment rooms were great, the spa itself is inadequate for a ship this size. It was unappealing, with dirty towels and an odor of mustiness when I visited. I just found it a bit too "Japanese communal" in atmosphere and hope that they rethink it for the next update.
Overall impression was that of a ship getting it's sea legs on many levels, but with a potential for great things. It is definitely designed for warm-weather vacation cruising and should be a hit in the Florida/Caribbean market. Since I tend to favor a more sophisticated atmosphere, however, I doubt that I'd be taking this ship again. I think NCL has a winner on their hands with the Getaway, however, and wish them much success.