This was our 10th cruise, 2nd on NCL. Our first NCL experience was somewhat mediocre, but we were very pleased with this one. We chose NCL because it was a newer ship, went to Bermuda which was on our bucket list, and it left from midtown Manhattan. We really enjoyed cruising down the Hudson River with the New York skyline, passing the Statue of Liberty and under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.
Embarkation was very fast. We arrived about noon and were on the ship in about 15 minutes. As we were exploring the ship we stumbled into the Moderno restaurant and discovered they had a small buffet there open for lunch so we ate there rather than the main buffet, which I'm sure was very crowded and noisy. This was very quiet, uncrowded and a very nice setting to enjoy our first meal on board, and the food was pretty good. Disembarkation on the other hand was a little slow. Our color was called at the designated time, but it took about an hour from that point to get our luggage and move through customs.
The entertainment was excellent, as it was on our previous NCL cruise. We decided at the last minute to attend Cirque Dreams and it happened to be 25% off the first day of the cruise. It is an excellent show and the meal served during the show (surf and turf) was also quite good. We also enjoyed Rock of Ages, Burn the Floor, and Second City. We reserved seats for these 3 shows pre-cruise which is a good idea because the theatre is smaller than usual and these shows fill up quickly. One show that wasn't on the NCL website for pre-cruise reservations was the comedian/illusionist. We were surprised when we went to the theatre that we had to wait in line until people with reservations came. Had we known that reservations were needed for this show we would have made them. We did get in and it was another good show. We did find the seats in the theatre to be a bit uncomfortable. Plenty of legroom but there was a bar across the back of the seat cushion that you hit if you sat up straight, and if you slouched a bit to avoid that your back wasn't too comfortable because there wasn't a lot of padding in the seat back. The seats in Headliners comedy club were also uncomfortable. Plain wooden chairs or stools and after sitting there for an hour my tailbone was aching. Howl at the Moon (dueling pianos) was another good show in Headliners.
The food and whole dining experience was much better than our previous NCL experience on the Star. We ate breakfast every morning in O'Sheehans Pub. They have a very limited menu--full English Breakfast, Omelets, or French toast--but it was always good and quick. We never had to wait to be seated and service was fast, we were always out of there in about 30 minutes, and they left a thermos of coffee at the table so you didn't always have to find someone to provide refills. We tried LeBistro once and it was excellent, Moderno once and it was somewhat disappointing. The other nights we ate in the Manhattan dining room which is very nice. They had live music there 2 of the nights and the Burn the Floor dancers performed the other 2 nights we ate there. Very nice entertainment to go with the meal, which were all pretty good.
We had a small balcony cabin and we were very pleased with it. Roomy enough with plenty of storage. The bathroom seemed a bit bigger than others we have had and the shower was definitely a bit bigger. The balcony itself was rather small, but room enough for the 2 of us. Cabin service was excellent. All service was excellent. I require a gluten free diet and all waiters, hostesses, and maitre d's were very accomodating.
I had read previous complaints about smoke from the casino and congestion on the main floors but we didn't really experience any problems. There are some narrow spots where I could see where congestion could occur and maybe we were just there at opportune times. I don't like smoke but I spent a fair amount of time in the casino and I didn't think it was bad and I never noticed any smoke outside the casino. The hallways on the cabin floors are narrower than usual and you had to turn sideways when you met someone to get by, but that wasn't a big problem either. There are no middle elevators, only forward and aft, so that might make you do a little more walking than usual. We used the stairs as much as possible but when we did use the elevators we didn't have any problem with wait time.
Whatever you might think about the ship, the destination of Bermuda is worth the trip, and getting to spend 3 days there is very enjoyable. It is a beautiful island with very nice people. We particularly enjoyed St. George and Horseshoe Bay. The dock area is also nice with a number of things to do, and using the public buses and ferries is very easy, convenient and affordable. We will definitely consider taking this cruise again.