I am an experienced cruiser on a variety of cruise lines, yet this was my first on NCL. I traveled with my brother who was a first time cruiser. We booked this cruise because it was short (in case he didn't like it), it had a separate adult pool and it had more hot tubs than most. Live Loud was the theme and I did realize that included a musical festival at sea. I did NOT realize that meant all traditional cruise experiences would be eliminated. If there was a cruise director ...he/she didn't direct much less make themselves heard. It felt like we were cruising on our own, which for me wasn't all bad as it was plenty quiet on the PA system but for my brother it wasn't a great first experience.
LIVE/LOUD - great music and was aligned with our era so no complaints other than a failure to clearly advertise it was going to be a hostile takeover of my cruise experience. Putting the band stand in the kids pool and moving the diapered little ones to the adult pool didn't set well with me since an adult pool was a deciding factor to cruise on this ship. Closing hot tubs to accommodate the band did not please me either, Headphone disco was so much fun. My brother told me about it and I am glad he did because again there was nothing from the cruise line that would have created an interest to go,
MODERNO Brazilian steakhouse specialty restaurant - I am not a fan of asking cruisers to pay an up charge to eat fine on a cruise. After all a cruise IS all about fine dining for me. I paid $20 each for me and my companion and another $20 for my brother to join us and it was NOT worth an up charge. Our 830 appt conflicted with level 7 bar band so we couldn't hear ourselves or the wait staff talk. The salad bar had nothing special and was very limited. We were presented with sausage and chicken selections over and over until I asked for beef. We were told they were still preparing the beef. We got beef within 10 minutes but it was either well done or still bleeding. A waste of $60.
Food - Buffett was one of the best I have seen. Formal dining room selections were below expectations. Never saw lobster or prime rib on the menu. The extra charges for pizza, specialty coffee and sushi was a real turn off . I don't want to pay for anything except alcoholic beverages and gambling. The soda card was a great deal.
Room - our room attendant only worked certain hours and dialing 00 was never successful for me. Upon entry to my room there was a half empty bottle of water, one swim towel and no robes. I needed to have this accounted for before iI could go have fun. He did keep our room picked up and our bed made regularly. Only got a towel animal once but not a deal breaker for me. The balcony was in need of deep cleaning and painting. The flooring inside and out of my cabin needed to be replaced (deck 10 room 646) the bathroom glass doors were nice but the plastic molding was filthy.
Experience - everywhere I went there were doors open to worker areas. On cabin decks I saw rooms full of towels, vacuums etc. on main decks I saw electrical cabinets and storage areas wide open. In the garden Buffett I saw way too much of the kitchen as a door swung open all day long to service the Buffett. Why isn't that door behind the Buffett bar?? Take a tip from Disney and hide that stuff from your customer. It totally ruins the magic of the vacation. Great TV lineup with first run movies. We found by accident since no TV guide.
In summary I think freestyle eating is a great idea but the entire cruise should not be left for the guest to figure out. I don't carry those daily papers around to track what's going on. I have a few drinks or sit in the pool longer than planned and I need the cruise director to remind me of when and where the next fun event will be held. I also want to watch fun pool games during the day. I saw none on this trip. BTW I found one clock on the ship and it was near the pool. I won't again cruise with a line that feels the need to charge me extra for really good food even if it happened to be worth it. Just increase my total fare and stop hiding costs.