I read a lot of reviews on this cruise before we went and was a bit worried about the negative ones. We are in our 40s and have cruised 3 times. Basically, NCL nickel and dimes you for everything but if you read reviews in advance and prepare to take care of some things yourself you can have a wonderful cruise experience with the.
First thing - embarkation. I had read it was a nightmare. We had no trouble. Because most of the Mexican R. cruises are 7 days and NCL is 8 we were not embarking on a "mass" day with more than one ship. You may wish to check this before you book. With only 1 ship in port the process was as easy as could be (we've sailed with RC out of Harwich England and Disney out of Port Canaveral and this one was the easiest by far). We flew to LA that morning and were on the ship so early that our room wasn't even ready yet. you cannot complain about that. Be prepared, with any cruise you usually have to wait a half hour or more for your "boarding number" to be called.
Our room (inside): We were not travelling with our kids so we took an inside stateroom. I sure was glad I had read in advance to bring a power cord and digital clock (also bring conditioner - the hair dryer is better than my professional one at home so don't bring one of those). The room was really small and, it's funny to say, but the drawer squeaked so badly that I could hear the people next door and I'm sure they could here us each time we opened a drawer. We brought a sound soother (white noise maker) and I'm glad we did because the walls were not very soundproof. Also, the cabin is very small. It had no sitting area (but I think the balcony cabins do have a sitting area) so we sat on the bed when we watched TV in the room). There is only one power outlet and hence the need for a power bar. The room steward was nice and emptied the mini-bar for us and also did not unplug our clock.
The muster drill was different in that our group was inside the theatre - it was over before we knew it and they cracked a bunch of jokes during it to keep the mood light.
On the ship, I have to say even after 8 days I was still getting lost on it. Other passengers were also saying the same thing. It was kind of funny. The nice part about the odd layout of this ship was that it did not get boring. We took the stairs the whole cruise and I think I actually lost a few pounds from all that walking (this from a person who bikes to work 6 months a year).
I read complaints about their only being one pool. While it's true there is only one publicly accessible, it was fine for us most days. There was always room in the hot tub and we avoided the pool during busy times on the sea days. There was never a problem with it being too packed. On the first sea day we also paid to use the spa pool for the day. A good value because you also get to use the steam room, therapy pool, hydra spa and regular spa. We just lounged on the deck chairs there and watched the ocean trail - it was lovely.
Dining: We really liked freestyle. You know, you're on holiday and what's better than doing what you want? We tried a bunch of the restaurants. Our favorite was Soho. Aqua was fine for dinner and Versailles was excellent for breakfast and lunch (order cappuccino at breakfast - it's very good and one of the only no charge luxuries on the boat). Endless summer has excellent fajitas and Ginza was OK. All in all the food was nothing to write home about but certainly acceptable and we never went hungry. If you order fish and chips in Blue Lagoon be forewarned you can order a double size (it's really a snack size) and also they always have fresh fruit and cookies for the taking.
Shopping: the ship shopping is quite poor. It's nice they have lancome on board but that's it. They mostly push jewelry and liquor and the store is pretty inadequate other than that (both RC and Disney are much better).
Quiet Lounge Areas: I don't love sitting in the sun so we went to deck 7 and deck 13 for lounge chairs outside out of the sun. Both were nice and way quieter than the main pool which is all in the sun.
Other Ship Tips: The fitness centre is open 24 hours which is great. We went after dinner and that worked well because no one else was in there. We decided where we wanted dinner and made reservations for the following night. Two nights we didn't go to a formal dinner and that worked perfectly well. The beer helmet (6 for the price of 5) was a good deal and we just returned the helmet (the credit never did show up on our bill but eventually they cleared it off when only 5 dollars was left unpaid). We brought water bottles and a container of ice tea powder and rather than spending $50 each for a soft drink refill cup we just had water and ice tea (the water is in the buffet - it says no filling water bottles but everyone does). It was hot down there (we went in March) and so we were drinking lots of water - the water on the ship was fine. The spa has daily specials in the "Freestyle Daily". As for alcoholic drinks be sure to ask for what you want "not in a souvenir glass" because they tack on $3.00 for the glass. Drinks were reasonably priced if they were not in the glass $5.50.
Ports of Call: Don't book the dolphin experience as you can just walk to the dolphin centre in Cabos from the tender pier and go in. NCL has been regularly selling passengers Acapulco and Ixtapa and then changing to Manzanilla and Mazatlan at the last minute. Manzanilla they will take you to the shopping area for $5 round trip per person. The shopping area there is not very exciting. Manzanilla would be a good place to take a shore excursion if one interests you. In PV and Mazatlan it is easy to get a cab to downtown. In PV they drop you at the start of a long walking strip (shops on one side and beach on the other). Keep going past the river to Old Town if you really want to see a lot. Mazatlan they take you to the Golden Zone and it's easy to get through to the beach and you can parasail from the beach if you want (or rend skidos). There are lots of beach peddlers but they just leave you alone if you say no thanks. Cabos there is a walkway all around the marina with lots of restaurants. If you go left at the windmill you will be in a good shopping district. There was a jewelry store there with good quality and reasonable prices (Linda's I think). We did not take any excursions as we really wanted to walk around. Next time I'd take the zip line out of PV and dolphin in Cabos.
All in all we were very happy with this cruise despite the very small room and NCL's charging for every little thing possible. I would recommend NCL for the following reasons: price point is hard to beat, freestyle is easy and relaxing, ship is big with lots of amenities and staff is very polite. All the negative reviews seem to me to be perfectionist nitpicking but what do I know.