My wife and I have been married 5 years and were looking for something fun for our anniversary. This cruise fit the bill (literally it was quite inexpensive)
We booked several months in advance. A few weeks before the cruise I noticed prices beginning to drop. I had originally booked an inside guarantee. I spoke with NCL and was upgraded to an ocean view with picture window.
Embarkation was an absolute breeze. I think we were Grand Central Station to cabin in under an hour. We immediately went in the hot tub and ate at the buffet.
The room was adequate and our steward was great. She gave the most consistent service but I have forgotten her name (I will talk about service later).
The atrium is a fun spot and the public rooms all appear to be in good shape. The theater was a nice place to catch some shows. The casino does reek of smoke (as if you would expect anything else in the casino). The main dining rooms (Magenta and Grand Pacific) seem well laid out and the décor is tasteful.
The buffet are and great outdoors are clean.
The gym was nice and the machines were in good shape. Running track gets a little crowded as they usually do so running is fairly exciting.
The main restaurants had good albeit small portions of food. I consistently ordered 3 appetizers and between my wife and myself we would order 3-4 entrees.
The buffet had a nice selection for breakfast and lunch. It was a bit crowded and seemed to close more often than I have experienced on other ships. It was pleasant to find a full breakfast buffet on debarkation day.
The only specialty restaurant we ate at was Cagney's Steakhouse. This was the best meal all week. Order several side as they are very small but delish.
The Blue Lagoon is the 24-hour pub grub joint. The menu was nice for bar food. The chicken wings were fantastic. We had them at least 7 times while on this cruise.
This is unfortunately where the most improvement is needed. The service in our room was fine. The steward remembered our name and made us towel animals and we tipped her extra.
Food service (except for Cagney's) was another story. With the exception of one night and Cagney's there was not one night where I was satisfied with the service. We either sat forever with no help or the food took forever. Some of the worst service was in the Blue Lagoon. At times it is a struggle to even be seated.
Cagney's service was fantastic as expected.
I went to the main desk early on the last sea day and removed the food service half of my gratuities. I truly believe that not having the same waiter or even the option to is a detriment to service. The pre-paid gratuities seem to have dragged down service.
The production shows were fairly pedestrian.
The magician was great (Chip Romero)
The circus style act was great. (Forget his name)
Barry the piano player was always entertaining playing games like name that tune, boys versus girls, etc.
Leo the guitar player was also great. I would make time to see both of them.
The sushi demonstration was great and quite informative.
The Martini tasting may have been the most fun we had all week. (we ended up doing a second one)
Leslie's progressive trivia was a great time.
The Latin dance class was a good time and I would highly recommend it.
San Juan - DO NOT TAKE THE SHIPS EXCURSION TO BACARDI
Take a walk to the water taxi (2 minutes)
Take the 8 minutes water taxi ride (50 cents each way)
Take a 10 minute cab ride (3 dollars per person)
Go on FREE tour and get two FREE drinks
Take cab back to water taxi
Take water taxi back to town
Go eat Mofungo (sp) at Mojitos just up the stairs from the main road
Get back on ship
All this cost us a total of 60 dollars including food and drink.
The ships excursion to Bacardi costs 49 dollars per person
We shopped and sat on the beach just off the water taxi. Use the wifi in most of the restaurants to post on Facebook.
We took the Power Cat catamaran snorkel to turtle cove and honeymoon bay. This trip was fantastic. They had rum punch flowing from the minute you got on the boat from the snorkel stop until you got back to the pier. Just remember to eat before the trip. (I didn't and paid for it)
We took the trip to Cayo Levantado with the ship at $14 per person. It was a nice beach. The little shopkeepers are very aggressive. If you are comfortable bargaining you can get some good deals on trinkets and cigars. I went into one shop and he wanted $140 for a sculpture. I got it for $30. These people mark way up so go low. There are also many people trying to sell drinks on the beach and massages. There was a sea lion encounter available but I did not see how much that was.
I have heard the town is not a great place to go. Look at the boards here for more info.
The cruise director (Ben from Australia) did a good job. The Asst. Cruise Director (Nacho) was fun. I am going to go on a bit of a tirade that I think most seasoned cruisers are used to but here goes. The shopping people on the ship were extremely cold unless they thought you were buying pounds of diamonds. They are used car salesman waiting for their kickbacks. Do not bother going to the port explanations. You get way better information on the boards here on cruise critic about the ports. Also the jewelry on the ship is a joke especially the "inch of gold". Go into town and haggle with the people and buy it there. I got my wife a huge mystic topaz and matching earrings for just a few more dollars than an "inch of gold" 21" necklace. And there are no returns. There is a CVS just off this ship in San Juan if you forget anything.