This was our first cruise (although we have done 3 trans-Atlantic crossings on Cunard). We chose NCL because of the timing and the fact that we wanted to disembark in Vancouver. Embarkation was quick-thank goodness- because it was pouring rain, winds were 40 knots and there was almost no covering for the passengers as they approached the ship. So we began our trip wet and cold-but then things got even wetter. On the first morning of our trip, the toilet overflowed. It was literally Niagara Falls in there-the carpet was instantly soaked along with some of our belongings. We were throwing our things on the bed, looking for our water shoes, keeping our electronic devices dry-if it wasn't happening to us, it would be funny....The response was quick and they actually replaced the carpet but all of our things (which we had so meticulously unpacked for a 7 night stay) were strewn and stowed anywhere dry. We were moved to an inside stateroom (their emergency cabin) but I felt ill because I need the fresh air, even on a big ship. They moved us again as the repairs were being made until we were finally able to re-enter our cabin and try and figure out where everything was. A toilet can overflow on any ship, but the crew was singularly neutral-their apologies seemed insincere and there was not even the slightest attempt to "make up" with a free meal at one of their specialty restaurants or something similar-that is, until I said something and the service rep said: I was just going to offer that to you. Sure.
The free-style dining experience was certainly not our style. Even their very causal dress code was not enforced in the "upscale" restaurants. Something quite incongruous about a waiter draping a napkin across your lap, saying "Madame" while the people around you are in flip-flops and T-shirts saying "I survived the Alaskan zip line" . The staff were friendly but not particularly helpful-mostly because very few spoke English well enough to answer all but the simplest questions. As a monoglot myself, I truly understand how hard it is to learn a foreign language. However, none of our waiters were able to answer questions about how a dish was prepared or even identify foods in the buffet line! Our bad luck? Maybe, but from our steward to the waiters to the people helping with excursions we experienced some major communication gaps. However, once food appeared it was quite good. The wine selection in the restaurants was more than adequate and they will cork a wine for you and bring it to any restaurant you are eating in. We ended up eating in specialty restaurants for 4 nights-in retrospect we should have bought the dining package but we had no way of knowing how rushed and difficult the service would be in the main dining rooms.
The shore excursions were the high point of our experience. We enjoyed all four ports. However, all people going on an excursions were rounded up in their entertainment lounge before disembarking. The purpose of marshaling all those people into one room at 15 minute increments was never revealed to us. You sat there while someone yelled out the name of the excursion; people raised their hands and at the end of each 15 minute period, EVERYONE in the room got up and walked to the gangway together, not in separated groups. Once off the ship, each person was on their own to find the appropriate person holding a placard with the name of their excursion on it, Why gather people if there was no attempt to divide us into our tour groups?
Besides the excursions the only other high point on the cruise was that we were participants in one of the games that was led by the cruise director. She was terrific and always made a point of saying hello to us and asking about our day whenever she saw us on the ship.
There were, unfortunately, many more relatively small things that occurred that taken together made this an experience we are unlikely to repeat.