I am going to write a rather long review and break into categories. I will also compare each to Carnival as that is the cruise line I have the most sailings with.
Food is interesting on this ship as Norwegian is FREESTYLE cruising. Here is how it works - The ship has several dining options that are FREE - Summer Palace (forward), Indigo (aft), Buffet, Outside Grills, 24/7 snack bar, and room service. In addition to the FREE dining options this ship has I believe 9 specialty restaurants such as Chinese, Sushi, Italian, Steakhouse, and more. The charge for the specialty restaurants varies from $15, $20 or $30 per adult, children are always half price.
There are TV screens on common floors of the ship showing what restaurant have availability daily. You make reservations by showing your room key to any restaurant, it is very easy.
After a week of freestyle cruising this is clearly the way to go. First it allows you to try different things and set your own pace (just like real life). Second it makes it so dining halls are not packed at set times, the ship feels less crowded as everyone is spread out. Reservations are easy and efficient we never waited more than 3 minutes - EVER.
Who wants SET TIME DINING every day at the same table with the same waiters? This is absurd. I also prefer not to see my waiters dancing like fools, or formal nights... If you want to dress up for photos - go for it, but do not push that on me, it is my cruise. NCL has no formal dress code other than no shorts or flip flops for dinner - common sense stuff.
Food quality is good, not perfect but good. The buffet is outstanding, way better than carnival. Indigo is great. The 24/7 snack bar needs work and the Lotus Garden Chinese is awful, but after I complained they waived all charges and even sent me a gift to my room.
Dining service was good but at times a tad slow.
Overall I am a huge fan of freestyle cruising, more on that later... Should be an industry standard!
FAR superior to Carnival.
El Groucho is awesome! Oh What a Night (like Jersey Boys) was REALLY good. They play Deal or No Deal, great lounge acts, performers were just top notch. Something for everyone and not your typical cheesy cruise ship performances
3. Kids Camp
Needs work. We had 3 children ages 5, 6, and 8. The 5 year old was in a different age category - where carnival this would not be a problem. We didn't get to use the kids camp much because the kids did not want to be separated - which is common sense. Kids camp was way to small and some of the staff was not friendly, without mentioning names attitudes could have been better. Kids did NOT like the camp at all.
Ship grew on me over the week.
Lots of little spaces to do things, never felt crowded and was a lot of fun. There is no multi story wow factor lobby, but that is a huge waste of space anyhow.
This ship has a bowling alley! $7 a game
Rock climbing, which was free but closed almost always on Alaska cruises.
Card Room stocked with board games
Much much more... tons to do!
Which brings us to the Casino.
If you gamble, this is your ship.
BEST GAMING AT SEA
BEST GAMING AT SEA
Slots - loose
Table games - fun and no scams like carnival fun 21
Craps is real 3 / 4 / 5 odds, just like EVERY Vegas strip hotel
LIVE POKER with tournaments
CASH BACK at end of cruise and FREE drinks with 1500 players points or higher
I had free drinks and $109 back at end of cruise on my portfolio
Casino is INCREDIBLE!
ROOMS ARE REALLY NICE and great use of space.
Overall much better than carnival.
Room staff was great.
Typical $12/day gratuity added to your bill there is no need to tip additional.
Staff is 60% Filipino, then Indian, then mixed - no communication issues at all.
Juneau was cool... nice stop lots to do
Skagway was cool... same
Ketchikan we did a plane ride and all you can eat crab fest was awesome
Victoria, this stop was weird we arrived after 6pm and back on ship at 11, not much time...I think they stop here because without an international stop they can not sell tax free goods or casino operations per law.
The other issue is about time the ship pulls out of Victoria there is no more shopping or Casino after 2pm on the last day - I really like to shop and play on the last night, which was weird as final night EVERYTHING was shut down and dead... Kind of a bummer on last day.
7. Embark / Debark
Every cruise line should see how they do this.
It is incredibly efficient compared to carnival.
Arrived at 11:30 was eating lunch on deck at 12:15, no problems.
Room was ready by 2pm tops...
When you Debark you pick what time you want to leave - again back to freestyle cruising!
Whey should they tell me when to eat or get off the ship? Works great... I was off ship in 15 minutes, Carnival needs to work on this!
The ship has a few issues...
-Carpet is a little worn in spots, needs a deep cleaning or replace
-Buffet is hard to find tables at times, it is a weird layout
-Spa should not charge $40 a day to use the Jacuzzi when I spent over $2000 at spa alone - seriously?
-Shopping could be better, nothing real exciting. Carnival has better shopping. Pricing could be better as well.
-The safety drill was a little odd, we met in the dining hall and they showed us how to put on a life jacket? Little light on the safety information.
-Ship reminds everyone in the daily newsletter to not shake hands onboard (I agree) yet the staff was constantly trying to shake my hand... bad bad bad idea onboard... washy washy happy happy (you will understand that after you sail)
-Top side was a little bland, lots of empty space - needs a big screen or something, not much going on topside.. granted it was also pretty cold, but nothing real thrilling topside.
-Cruise director could have been more visible and engaging
-Bathrooms are neglected in public areas... I saw puddles of urine at the casino bathroom at 5pm and by 2am it still was not cleaned, seriously? Also they do not have small tissues for opening and closing doors which carnival does standard everywhere. Be sure to use a tissue, I kept some in my pocket but should not have to do that.