THIS IS MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE ON NCL CRUISE TO BAHAMAS APR 6, 2014 SAILING FROM NYC.
This is my cruise #13 and #2 on NCL. Two couples with two kids - 6, 7 and 2 yr olds. Previously been on pretty much every cruise line, most recently with Disney.
To start of the weather for Apr 6 cruise was just awful and was extremely cold the entire time, but I can not hold this against NCL.
ALLERGIES / FOOD - AVOID THIS CRUISE LINE! BELOW SECTION IS ABOUT FOOD/ALLERGIES/RESTAURANT STAFF.
#1 concern we all had was accommodations for 2 allergic kids and one adult. At the time we booked vacation, many follow up phone calls and emails with personal consultant @NCL, we specified the allergies and addressed the concern what's the best way to go about it when we embark the ship. We assumed the procedure was similar on all ships.
When we arrived, Maitre D was nowhere to be found. We wondered from restaurant to restaurant and failed to locate anyone with knowledge about his/her whereabouts.
NOTE, that most waiters on the ship, although very nice, have no clue about allergies - they are instructed to hold off on your food until given approval by the managers when can be delivered.
Our first dinner in Manhattan Dinning Room took us 2 hrs and 40 minutes to get so they can prepare something for my 7 year old daughter.
Then we pre-ordered her lunch for Savor Dining Room which turned out to be a great disaster. It took 1 hr 35 minutes to get a PRE-ORDERED grilled chicken (chicken made on veg oil instead of butter with some veggies). At lunch I was frustrated and spoke with Assistant Maitre'D several times stating that I do not want everyone's food to arrive before kids and esp my allergic daughter.
1 hr 35 minutes later - everyone's lunch was delivered and hers was nowhere to be found. Any parent would understand the frustration.
At the end of the lunch another Assistant Maitre'D Sandra took over our dinner preparations and it was a smooth sailing ever since.
Another Assistant Maitre'D Jessica was also big help.
However, it took many frustrating hours and a personal phone # given to us by a manager to get this addressed.
Something that any Diner can prepare in 15-20 minutes takes NCL hours to do and even then they ever forget or do it wrong!
The last night of the cruise they still forgot another person's special ordered dinner after an hour wait.
Also during EVERY dinner it seems that the waiters have absolutely no clue what they are doing - who is to get special orders, who ordered what - if it wasn't so serious, it would be funny to watch this sad circus.
In regards to food itself - imagine the worst possible buffet you have every been to, multiply this by 100.
NCL food is known to be bad, but we didn't realize how bad it's gotten since our last cruise a decade ago.
The entire ship consists of restaurants and more restaurants - it feels like your are walking through a giant food court in the mall.
In the buffet, which takes half of Deck 15, the food is the same positioned few times over and over - if you want a really old bagel, you do not need to take a cruise to have one.
IN REG TO KIDS - NICKELODEON LOGO ON THESE SHIPS IS A TOTAL FRAUD!!!
Last year we went on Disney cruise which has everything that you want when you go on the cruise.
When we saw Nickelodeon pics all over the ads as well as proximity to our home (to avoid flying), we settled on a fun adventure.
Note, this ship has NOTHING TO DO WITH NICKELODEON - there is absolutely no activities for kids related to Nickelodeon except a Breakfast Pajama Party which costs $20 pp.
During this breakfast, they bring out the buffet food from upstairs, Dora, Sponge Bob come out for a song or two and then you stay in line for picture.
That also happens at so called Meet the Characters for 20 minutes on another day.
Considering the cold weather and not able to use the pool - we are not the crazy parents that let the kids go in at 50-60 degree weather with 30mph winds at sea, my 2 year old ended up walking back and forth with us throughout the ship. There is something called Guppy Room which is a room 15x15ft with mats and you can bring your kid there and let them play with few toys they have.
It looks like a waiting room for sick kids in your doctor's office so we ran away from it as fast as we could.
There is a Splash Academy for kids age 3 and up which made our 7 year old very happy with various activities and we are VERY THANKFUL to ALL counselors in Splash Academy.
Even for 2 yr old they had few 1/2 hr activities (in entire cruise length, not per day) that they could color or glue - so Thank You Splash Academy again.
They have Nickelodeon channel on the ship but if you miss those few hours they show kids appropriate shows, your smaller children are stuck watching the teenage sex infested shows if you don't shut it off.
APPEARANCE / CLEANLINESS / CABINS - TOP GRADES!!!!
The ship is only 1 year old so it's still in perfect shape. Staff in charge of this really works hard - they do not stop for a second.
Every area of the ship looked very clean and impressive. If anyone made a mess, it would be cleaned up in seconds.
The cabin steward was great and available at all times. Balcony Cabin on 11FL was very decent size for 2 adults and 2 kids.
SMOKE!!! We are ex smokers and are aware how smoking stinks. If you put your casino right by the open atrium and no window in sight, naturally smoke will rise and spread everywhere. It does NOT smell like an ashtray nor are you walking through clouds of smoke but at the end of the night, your clothes will smell like smoke if you are in the proximity of that general area.
Every cruise line on the planet has some kind of entertainment on their ships - typically one or two main Broadway/Vegas style show and other acts.
Carnival, RCL, Princess (forget about non-stop entertainment of Disney) all have wonderful shows.
Nickelodeon NCL Breakaway also has a show - Rock of Ages (which is great), however, not suitable for kids! I am not sure if you need to pay for this as it seems you have to PAY FOR EVERYTHING on this cruise line. There is a wonderful Cirque Dinner which you have to pay for which we experienced.
The only FREE entertainment that everyone can enjoy like Karaoke or Dance was done in the Atrium on Deck 6 - NOT in their Theater!!!
I think this is the smallest theater of all cruise ships at sea which is understandable with amounts of food places they have.
EMBARKATION/DEBARKATION was a breeze in NYC comparing to prior experiences so do not worry.
I got food poisoned the last day on top of it - luckily it wasn't a stomach bug to affect anyone else, but hearing how many people get this overall, I can not complain too much - it happens.
Overall, it was the worst vacation we have ever taken as a family. I know weather was a main contributing factor but having absolutely Nothing to do with kids (except Splash Academy), wondering the halls of Norwegian Breakaway for hours every day really killed our vacation. Constant struggle to get food was another crucial factor. I did hear many people without kids complain that this is their last cruise on NCL as well. I was the biggest advocate for cruises, but I think NCL killed my very love of this type of vacation!