I have cruised Ten times before, on Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Princess and Carnival. I wanted to have an open mind and I tried to give NCL a try!! We like cruising the Mexican Rivera, and we needed a relaxing vacation.
The Embarkation process was slow, but not much different than other cruise lines.
We were disappointed with our cabin in that we had paid for a mini suite, however It turned out to be the same as a standard balcony found on the Holland America cruise line.
When we arrived to our cabin no information was available. On any other cruise line, you will find a welcome packet of literature.
We also had a situation where our attendant forgot to service our room one evening, and forgot to include our customs forms on the last night of the cruise. This has never happened before.
The worse part of our cabin experience was that me and my wife were bitten by BED BUGS!!! This happened on the last two nights of the cruise. Again this was the first for us, and we have traveled and stayed in less glamorous hotels without this happening.
We don't really cruise for the food, but this was our observations.
The food in the main dining room was good. On one evening it was the best we had ever had. The food in the specialty restaurants was good too, especially the Brazilian. The Market buffet upstairs was not very good at all, especially breakfast. The food was so very bland. The coffee was horrid, luckily our room had a coffee machine. I purchased some bottled water and ground coffee in Puerto Vallarta, and was able to enjoy some good coffee for the final days of the cruise.
This was a first for us, we found that we had to wait on several occasions, as the dining rooms get backed up as there is no set seating. After speaking with many other guests, I heard that many don't like traditional cruise dining because they are to some extent, not very social. My sense is this type of cruise line tends to attract this attribute in the passenger. So it was not very surprising to experience a higher level of grumpiness among the guests, which we never experienced before.
I was surprised to learn after speaking with many of the staff, that the tenure was very low. Most of the crew were relatively new. Having said that, I found the crew to be the nicest and most pleasant that I have ever experienced among our other cruises. On one occasion one of the dining room staff went well above and beyond my expectations
I must say that the entertainment was awesome, The Second City group was great as well as Magika the magician. Jim the piano player was awesome too! Some of the best ship entertainment I have experienced.
All in all it was a relaxing cruise, the ports were great. The employees on board were great.
But I don't think I can get past the Bed Bug bites, it took us several hours to disinfect our luggage after the cruise. Also I am not to keen on what the free style method appears to attract.
In my opinion there are much better options for the same price out there.