I was a bit concerned on the mixed reviews seen on this site - I would say that it very good in some aspects, could do better in others, (not terrible like other reviews) - but didn't have any specific areas that were excellent. Good activities, food avg, entertainment avg, smokey casino long wait times throughout ship. Need to be on top of your schedule.
We have sailed RCL, Carnival and first time with Norwegian. We were a party of 6, my parents, my wife and 2 kids age 8 and 10.
Activities - this was key for my kids. The ropes course and waterslides were very good on the ship. I believe with the drop waterslide, there is nothing quite like it at sea (min 100 lbs). You are placed in a capsule, then the floor drops and you have enough speed to slide upwards in one portion of the slide. The other slides for kids do generate pretty good g forces on the corkscrew section. The main issue is the limited hours for the supervised activities. Either the rock wall was open or the ropes course was open, and only had 2-4 hours of availability every day. On days at sea, this ended up being 45-60 min wait per activity - so get there 15-20 mins before it opens if you only want to wait 45 mins. Otherwise it is longer and risk not getting in before they close. The breakaway bounce (trampoline + bungee cords) was almost never open. Fortunately we stayed on board during the Cape Canaveral stop and had much of the ship to ourselves. There are 2 pools, one main pool (basically kids pool) and the adults only pool. The water is heated, which was a great feature when sailing out of New York in March. Weather is still cold until you reach Florida after a couple days at sea. The splash zone looks pretty fun for smaller kids, mine were not interested. They played the minigolf maybe 4 or 5 times, again, sometimes needed to wait due to volume of people. It is a pretty good minigolf 9 hole course with structures and sea creatures not a generic putting surface with wood obstacles. Didn't do bowling (extra paid activity and was busy).
Food - book ahead of time, way ahead. I know it is "freestyle" dining, but if you don't book ahead, be prepared to wait 30-45 mins to sit down. And if peak time, slower service at the restaurants. With the kids who enjoy the buffet and are not fans of sit down restaurants we did not opt for the specialty dining restaurants. The complimentary restaurants were bad compared to other cruise lines. There were quite of few options for specialty dining vs other cruise lines. I would agree that the focus is to push you towards the specialty dining options, where other cruise lines with less choice of specialty need to provide an excellent menu for standard dinner. There was a limited menu in complementary restaurants. Would recommend Manhattan room. My kids wouldn't appreciate the restaurants and preferred the buffet. Otherwise we would have taken the dining package and use that total price to compare with other cruise lines. From a buffet point of view - decent, but nothing specific to write home about, probably less options than other cruise lines. Skip asian night. Did offer (Maine) lobster in buffet one night.
Entertainment - book ahead of time, even before you depart. Tickets are snatched up pretty quickly and you need to coordinate with your shore excursions/dining plans. Left the kids in the camp program and the adults saw Rock of Ages. I've seen it before, there is no reason why they can't clean it up a bit so that a younger audience can attend. If anything, they went in the other direction and this version is more adult than the stage production I saw.
The Cirque show we did not book ahead - as the reviews are correct, the first night there is a 25% discount on the admission so we took the offer. Well worth it for both kids/adults to go to the show - performers were excellent, the food was awful, no choices on the menu - either eat something before or plan to eat later.
Magic show was very good, some tricks I've not seen before and continue to wonder how it was done. Burn the floor was pretty standard cruise entertainment (yes go). Second city was a nice surprise, definitely go if you can to the different shows that they offer.
They showed various movies, including 3D Despicable Me 2.
Casino was extremely bad for a stale smoke smell that gets into your clothing.
Ports- one of the ship's engine was out - so got to Canaveral late. (and left later). It was also cold and raining so we stayed on the ship.
Nassau - did our own excursion to the zoo. More birds than other animals. $4 per person each way from cruise port (5-10 min ride). Adult admission $16, kids $8 (10% discount with MasterCard). Much cheaper than $50 per person via excursion. Good for 2-3 hours. Public Beach within walking distance from cruise port. Shopping is very limited for brand name/luxury items other than watches, sorry spoiled by St. Thomas, Grand Cayman and Bermuda.
Great Stirrup Cay - tendering was fine, I was worried about line ups but was quite organized. We got there early and spent the day on the beach. We had our own snorkel gear and went out to see a scattered shipwreck in the cove. The ship provides a lunch etc on shore. Very nice beach and setup.
Service - maybe not as friendly as other cruise ships (RCL), but the staff weren't rude either. Some were very nice/friendly, some neutral dispositions which I am ok with. Maybe one incident with waiter at O'Sheehan's when they were understaffed, poor service and frustration showing on the waiter. They bumped us up to a balcony, but didn't inform us - though they may have notified the agent and the agent dropped the ball - they were able to intercept the luggage tagged to the old room and sent to our new room with no incident.