My wife, son(14y/o) and I just returned from the Mar 16th sailing out of Tampa. I will start with the travel to the port and embarkation. Getting to the terminal was very easy and the parking was right across the street from the terminal. We had checked three bags and carried the others ourselves. Check in and embarkation went very smoothly compared to other ports and cruise lines I have used. People at the terminal were friendly and helpful and the process was painless and quick.
Once on board, we needed to establish an onboard account as we chose not to use a credit card. The guest services desk was right as you entered the ship to the left. I had put a cash deposit down for my account without difficulty and was on our way to our room. Sadly the room was not ready so we headed to the pool deck(12) to sit and have a drink. The bar at the pool was called Topsiders and there were plenty of servers patrolling the deck. The one outstanding server was John-John who always went out of his way to say hello and always had a smile and a handshake ready. There was another woman who was very friendly but I never got her name sadly.
Now , as far as our luggage.....took some time to get to our rooms. It turned out 1 bag was lost which contained all my clothes and all the snorkeling equipment. Guest services was rude at best to my wife when she inquired, sent her to a pile of luggage which mine was not a part of. Luckily my bag was at the room around 9 PM that night.
The room was small and very uncomfortable at best. Little beds with thin mattressing. If you pushed the twin beds together, there was less room. The bathroom was ungodly small with a toilet door that kept falling off its tracks. You could literally sit on the toilet and brush your teeth at the same time. The TV was small and not HD for a flat screen, made it hard to see anything on the screen. Another thing about the room, all cruises I have been on you can see your account in your room, not NCL, you have to go to guest services to get a printout and as I said previously, they were very rude.
Now as far as the food.......two main dining and buffet food was barely food. No taste, no presentation, not what you would expect for what you pay. If you wanted a decent meal you had to pay to go to the specialty restaurants ranging from 15$ to 30$ per person. In these restaurants the food was very good and the service was good. Freestyle dining is a joke.....when you went to the main dining hall you had to sign in and were given a beeper and wait about an hour at peak times which seemed to be between 4 PM and 8 PM. So if you wanted to get dinner when you wanted you had to make reservations which is the same as having a set time for dinner. The buffet was OK for breakfast but the bacon had no taste and was a big clump which was impossible to separate in single pieces. So overall be ready to spend 30 to 60 dollars extra for dinner for two people(I had three in my party).
Debarkation was painless and easy as we carried our lugguge ourselves. Trying to get breakfast before you left was nearly imposible. I am an early riser and am on deck around 5 AM. No coffee, no food until at least 6AM. Couldn't get breakfast from room service due to the steward never gave us a card to hang on the door after several requests. Same for toilet paper, had to steal some from one of the deck restrooms. Took 2 days to have enough towels for 3 people with several requests. Don't know if this was due to us prepaying tips and the stewards knew or what but I've got better service in a dive motel in the getto.
The saving grace was the tour operators the cruise line uses. In Belize my son and I went cave tubing which I have done before with a local guide but Peter from Cave tubing of Xibalba(I think) was a wonderful, funny and knowledgable guide who made the trip wonderful. Francesco in Costa Maya salsa and salsa tour was a blast and had probably the best family fun of the cruise, Gama was our guide to Tulum and again..knowledgable, funny and made the tour special. I would go with these people again if I could.
The entertainment onboard was very good to mediocre. The comedian was good and Second City was good as were the dancers/singers. There was entertainment throughout the ship in most lounges the was good if you like spending your time sitting and drinking while listening to music. The english pub had karioke and a Wii but for me a British pub needs a dart board. Overall the entertainment was well worth it.
Now I like to use the sauna and steam room on vacation and the adult only pool and hot tub. I was heading into the spa area to use the suana and the girl at the desk stopped me and asked if I had an armband. I said no I was going to the steam room. She rudely(bad attitude) told me that it would be 20$ a day to use the facilities. I have never been charged to use the adult pool, hot tub, sauna, steam room or the gym equipment on any cruise. For what it costs to get on the ship these should be included. I understand charging for trainer, massage/facial etc. but the gym and adult pool?
In ending this review , I will not be going with NCL ever again. This trip cost a good amount just to get on the ship and found they charge you for everything that I have never paid for on cruises before. And before I forget, do not gamble the last day of the cruise. Apparently one of the crews relatives was onboard this cruise sitting across from me at the casino on the last night. I was wondering why one of the crew was constantly with this woman while in the casino. As I stood to leave I heard her say something about hitting the jackpot and the employee told her she will not get a jackpot on the last night of the cruise. Just a heads up. Go on Carnival or another cruise line, this one is just a joke and rip off.