Hubby & I love cruising, we are in our late 30's and this was our 7th cruise, w/2 more on the way! We are also fans of Freestyle Cruising, so NCL is our all time favorite.
We booked this cruise on a whim, b/c of the BOGO deal and we needed to get away. We were excited to get on this massive, newer ship, and some things did not fail. The Balcony cabin was very comfortable, the layout was excellent, and we had plenty of room to move around and enjoy. I never minded the "loud" design on the older ships, but I really did enjoy the refined look of this ship, it's absolutely gorgeous!
We met several wonderful people at the CC Meet N Greet, many of whom became good friends and we did a lot of activities w/them, which is one of the things we love most about cruising. Overall, we felt the food was very good, pretty much everywhere we went. I guess it's all about expectations, and considering they are feeding 6K people/day, I think the quality was above average. The entertainment was just OK to us - we aren't really the musical type, so we skipped a lot of shows. Rock of Ages was a little slow in the beginning, but it got better by the end. Second City was decent, the magician/comedian was awesome, wish he had a longer show! Howl at the Moon was by far our favorite, lots of amazing talent in that group!
Bermuda as a port of call was excellent, we loved having the flexibility of getting up late and still having plenty of time in port. Had some interesting drivers on the Bermuda buses who did a good job of scaring fellow cruisers w/their driving skills, but otherwise, the people were just totally beyond friendly, and the entire place is just gorgeous. The water color & clarity is amazing!
Some of the pay services were great, hubby loved Carlos Bakery and we even got him a cake for his birthday, which was awesome! La Cucina was very nice, although we felt rushed b/c we had tickets to a show that same night. Not a slight on the staff, they even commented on how fast we were running through our courses, lol!
We had an excellent time overall, and found the cruise to be relaxing and the time didn't fly by, which is great. However, we do have a few issues w/the ship, and I'll note them here:
1. Spice H20's pool was under construction, and we sorely missed the option of having an adult only pool. The hot tubs weren't that hot, so we made it work that way, but it's not the same. It looked like they were wrapping up construction at the end of our cruise, so hopefully everyone else will get use of the pool there. We skipped the main pool on sea days - way too crowded! This ship really needs another pool for this size.
2. We would have loved the chance to pay for the Beach Club, but it is so limited it is nearly impossible to get in! Maybe a better system that allows you to sell blocks of time, so more people can try it out? Also, while it's wonderful that the Haven has it's own area and pool, it sucked for the rest of the commoners who had so little access to pools on this ship. (Yes, it was a big deal for us!)
3. The Atrium/Cafe/Guest Services area is lovely, but very small, and not the best venue for a lot of events that used to be held at the Spinnaker lounge. Bring back Spinnaker! The newlywed show had to be toned down b/c of the location, and the comedy club felt like an afterthought - the sight lines weren't great, and the wooden chairs were not comfortable. Meeting up w/new friends wasn't as accommodating as Spinnaker is, so we couldn't really chat while enjoying a show like Howl at the Moon.
4. We missed having a promenade deck. Without a doubt, the outdoor seating for the restaurants was awesome, but the layout was choppy since you had to walk through the ship to get to the other side. Some of our best memories on cruises is the after dinner walk around the promenade deck, just talking and looking out at the sea.
5. We completely understand that when you have this many people on a ship, you can't have a massive theater, but the theater itself was tiny, and those metal bars on the chair seats were not comfortable at all! It felt like the whole point of freestyle cruising was lost w/the reservation system - you had to make reservations to the shows, you really need to book ASAP once you get on the ship so you can get the times you think you want, and many of the shows were super short - comedy shows were about 45 minutes. Also, some explanation of shows like Second City would have been helpful - we unknowingly booked their unscripted show, which was both just OK and seriously watered down for the PG crowd. We know we could have gone standby for the remaining shows, but our conversations w/other cruisers pretty much confirmed what we thought - not really worth the hassle. So the entertainment wasn't as good as on other ships. I will say that if you really like live music, there are tons of options, so this was more of a preference thing for us.
Oh, and one final note - the fireworks display on the last night (postponed b/c of windy weather Friday night) was simply amazing. How totally cool to see fireworks off the back of a ship, and an awesome way to cap off the final night of an awesome vacation. We had a blast overall, but we'll probably stick to the older ships going forward.