Embarkation: I arrived at the port at about 11am. Dropped bags with the porter and checked in. Pretty pain-free check-in. The ship wasn't yet ready to board, so we collected in a pre-board area. NCL passed out boarding-group passes according to check-in order, but these passes turned out to be more trouble than they were worth. The pre-board area became crowded, and when NCL made an announcement allowing boarding group one on board people began crowding the doors leading to the ship. After holding the crowd back for a while, they gave up and announced all the remaining groups could board. Bad start to the cruise, NCL.
I began exploring the ship while waiting for my cabin. NCL made a ship announcement around 12 noon that all cabins were ready. Nice.
Getting around: Many, many decks. Food service on decks 5, 6, 15, 16. Pools, sunning, hot tubs on 15, 16. Clubs, entertainment on 5, 6, 15, 16. Spa / Gym on 14. Unless you want to climb stars, you'll take the elevators a More
lot. Just resign yourself to waiting for elevators. It's not unusual to spend 3-4 minutes getting from deck to deck.. One special gripe for me is the elevators servicing the Haven. Those elevators go to deck 17 (Haven deck) while the others stop at 15. The problem? Haven guests apparently have priority keys to hijack the elevators and bypass the great unwashed masses. It's galling to be on deck 11 waiting for an up-elevator, watching the elevator floor indicators and see an upward-traveling elevator pass you by.
On-board entertainment was excellent. I attended Blue Man Group, Legends In Concert, the Cirque Dinner/Show and the Comedy Club. All were top notch.
I did not have meals at the premium restaurants, except for the Cirque Dinner/Show combo. Taste and Manhattan have the same basic menu, with good food quality and service. I did not care for the band playing from 6-7pm in the Manhattan room. Good music, but I want to be able to talk with friends at dinner and the music was too loud. The buffet was good, my only negative comment about that is that many of the waiters in that area were grumpy, unhappy with their jobs.
Shore excursions were delivered as advertised, no complaints or highlights to speak of. One item of note for those visiting Jamaica for the first time: The Jamaican sales behavior is aggressive. If you don't look like you're ready to buy, it becomes confrontational. You won't be able to browse unmolested. I found it off-putting, and cut my shopping short as a result.
I bought a "Posh Pass", a limited-availability pass to the exclusive lounge/bar area on deck 18. I'm not sure I'd do it again. I'd heard complaints about crowding on deck on sea days, difficulty finding available chairs & lounges. The Posh area has no such crowding. The lounges & chairs at Posh are nicer than in the general areas. Posh has a limited free food menu, but all drinks are from the bar at extra charge - even water.
Disembarkation was a breeze. You place your bags outside your cabin on the last night, and they're ready outside of customs the next morning. Disembarkation is by departure time/flight time. You choose your departure time and your bags are color coded to match. I had a late flight, and so was part of the final color-code group. I had breakfast on the last day at O’Sheehan’s at about 8:30, watched the early departing guests leave, and when they called my group, made my way to the bag area. It took less than 10 minutes to line up and check out through customs. Not bad at all. Less
Space is at a premium in these cabins. Given the space available I think the cabin is designed well, with two exceptions: 1) There aren't any drawers for your personal items. There are shelves to stack folded clothes on, but not enough to organize and separate things. Unpacking my suitcase onto two clothing shelves and about 6 hangers was difficult. 2) The lighting is confusing and insufficient. Many light switches, which sometimes did different things. After a full week I still didn't understand why some switches did what they did. It makes a difference what order you hit light switches. Weird. Even with all lights on, there isn't enough light to read. Grr. Still, the Studio cabins are a great deal for the solo traveler.One very high point that's specific to the Solo cabins is the studio common area. NCL has a staff person who meets/greets the singles, organizes group dinners and some other activities, and in general adds to the solo-cruising experience. Coffee available from a self-serve espresso machine, light breakfast items and snacks available there 24/7. Way to go, NCL!Some studio cabin guests complained about poor sound insulation, hearing neighboring guests snoring, watching TV, etc. I was lucky to have a quiet neighbor, but in the future I think I'll bring a radio/clock to use as a white noise generator. Tune to a channel with static, let it mask the ambient noise.