We decided to book this cruise on fairly short notice (sail date was June 28, 2014) and we booked the mini-suite with a balcony stateroom (GTY). We knew that the cruise line would choose our stateroom, though we did not think that they would place us in the "family deck" as we were traveling as a mature couple with no children. As our luck would have it, we were assigned stateroom 12788, right by the "Splash Academy", in the middle of the family deck 12. I called them a few days before the sail date and asked to be moved to another deck, they would not consider this at all. They even stated that this stateroom was "an upgrade" from our MX category stateroom. I was very appreciative for this "upgrade" but was concerned about being in the middle of an area designed for families traveling with young children. Still, NCL refused to consider a change.
Boarding went smoothly, the ship had lots of options for dining so we purchased the ultimate dining package ($119.00 pp) so we could sample all the specialty restaurants, with only exception (additional $30.00 per person) from this package being the Ocean Blu (by Iron Chef G. Zacharian). We were glad we did this, most of them were very good...We would rate Cagney's as number 1, followed by La Cucina, Ocean Blu, Moderno and lastly Tappenyaki. We did not dine at the Tropicana Room, though we should have instead of Moderno or Tappenyaki. We brought our own wine bottles for our dining reservations and the corkage fee of $15 per bottle was very reasonable. We also purchased a pass for The Vibe Beach Club for the entire cruise...suggest that you do this as soon as you board because the number of passes are very limited ($79.00 pp). This area is quieter, better quality chaise lounges and no children...has its own bar, 2 hot tubs and 5 cabanas...
The stateroom was a mini-suite, supposedly 3-4 can sleep in it...bathroom has a wide sink with two faucets and a full shower/tub...though the shower is a hand eld wand-type. Water pressure was very low, though if you use the wand, it does the job. The rest of the room has a couch, a closet and a large bed (close to a king size). The balcony was small in our view, room enough for 2 small chairs...but being on deck 12, mid-ship starboard made for a nice view. The amenities included a safe, a mini-bar and a TV. The bathroom offered hand soap, shower gel and shampoo containers, no conditioner, no bars of soap.
Getting acquainted with the ship led to the following negatives; the adult pool was absolutely, ridiculously small for a ship with 4600 passengers! Maybe it could accommodate 100 folks...the children's pool area was fairly close to this adult pool and was similarly small...in this particular cruise, the ship was carrying approximately 1000 children. The garden cafe and flamingo grill food was not very good, basically cafeteria grade. We had breakfast up in the main buffet once and then decided on the sit-down options at the Taste and Savor rooms for the rest of the cruise. The latter choices were much better than the "free-for-all" atmosphere of the garden cafe...picture kids running all around, dripping ice cream and spilling soda on floors and food that was pre-cooked and then served up maybe warm at best...I wasn't going to mention that the "glass protective" screens didn't prevent children from touching the food, picking it up and placing it back on the trays for the next unsuspecting cruise customers to sample their "unknown germs"...needless to say, last time we ate at the Garden Cafe...Did I mention only 1 very small pool for the entire ship! Maybe I should mention that there seem to be about 6-8 hot tubs at a temperature of 100+ each...never mind that the only place to cool off was a shower by the entry areas to the pool or the bathrooms under AC...NCL spent $1.2 BILLION on this ship and they built it with only one small pool, maybe they thought that the ship would be cruising to Alaska, instead of the Caribbean year-round.
The staff at the bars and the restaurants were friendly and absolutely tried to provide the best service. The staff for the rooms did not do anything at all to provide good service, just the minimums really. They did "step up" their service on the next to last day of the cruise (provided a bucket of ice and two chocolates on the bed)...an all too obvious attempt to lobby for an additional tip! Heck, they even recycled their "towel characters creations" for the bed! We found all of them underneath the bed!
The casino was very nice, though they allow smoking there...so if you play poker (like I do), you came back to the room stinking of smoke...had to segregate the clothes afterwards.
The shopping options on the ship were extremely disappointing and lacking really. We purchased some grey Goose vodka which they would deliver to our room on the last day, never showed up...had to call for a refund.
Easy-off exit option from the ship was great...basically you manage your own bags and exit the ship at around 7:30 am in miami...you beat the crowds at US Customs and Passport area as well as the ground transportation areas.
All in all, I will not cruise on NCL again, if I were to summarize our experience, specialty dining/service staff was above average to good, buffet was way below average, room service was not up to average, amenities in the stateroom was below average, pool area was completely unacceptable, shopping was basically non-existent, and if you consider that the total expense for my wife and I was about $3300.00 in total, basically not worth it at all...there are far better choices elsewhere!
Atlantis is worth visiting...large casino, shopping and nice choices for lunch...
Not a lot to see in this small island...shops are ok but they open at around 10 am...Visit the sunset bar by the international airport and watch the 747 come in for a landing just above the folks on the beach!
Larger island with some sightseeing to be done. Shopping is much better than St. Maarten. More choices of restaurants as well...