Please note that if you are a person who tends to complain about the smallest things that have little or no consequence, then there is no need to read on. This was a fantastic cruise and I will explain why.
First off, my fiancee and I are in our mid-20s but there were people of all age on the ship. It was a 7 night cruise (Saturday to Saturday) out of New York City's west side pier. Here's a breakdown of the week from each day.
Saturday Embarkation - We got to the pier around 11:30AM (The ship was due to depart at 4PM). The second you get to the pier, people take your bags and you don't see them again until later on when you get to the room. At first, the line seems intimidating but it actually moves fairly quickly. There are 3 separate stages of the line - passport/identification -->bag check--> registration (where you get your key card). From that point on we were free to do whatever once we got on the boat. We purchased soda cards (around $60 for the week) More
in the grand atrium, made our specialty dinner reservations for the week, and then headed to lunch. Make sure to go to the Venetian for lunch on the first day. It is one of the two, 5 course, no charge restaurants. The service is great, the food is extremely good, and the decor is beautiful. After lunch, we went back to our stateroom (inside cabin) where our bags were waiting for us. The location was perfect (cabin 8097). It was located midship, a couple steps away from the grand atrium. The room didn't have a ton of space but we were able to put our luggage out of the way and still comfortably move around. The bathroom is surprisingly big and all the extras are taken care of (towels, hairdryer, tissues, etc). TV has ESPN, CNN, and about 6 NCL channels that give you everything you need to know about the boat. It even has a camera at the forward (front) of the ship so you can see the weather before you go outside. For dinner we ate at Cagneys steakhouse ($20 extra per person). The main courses were excellent, although the sides could have been better. I got the surf and turf which costs you an extra $10 on top of the other charge. I'd say it was worth it considering what you would normally pay for surf and turf. We capped off the night with the opening show in the Stardust Theater. Most of the shows for the week were good, not great, but worth checking out.
Sunday Day at sea. Woke up early enough and got breakfast at the Venetian then headed out to the pool area. I suggest getting to the pool before 11AM on most days to get a chair. Most times of the day you can layout practically anywhere on the ship, but if you want to be by the pool, be there early. Most days for lunch we either ate by the pool or at the garden cafe which is the buffet on deck 12 (right inside from the pool). The food is typical buffet food so I wouldn't have any grand expectations for lunch. For dinner we ate at Le Bistro, the french restaurant (also a $20 cover). From appetizers to desert, this was probably the best restaurant of the week. That night we got engaged, woohoo. If you are looking for a romantic spot at night, go to the helipad at the aft (back) of the ship. It's right above the kids T-Rex area. It worked for us :)
Monday Laid out in the pool area until we started to approach Nassau, Bahamas around 1PM. We did the Dolphin Encounter Excursion which was really fun. You go about waist deep in a pool with a dolphin who becomes very friendly with you upon the trainers request. We have a great picture of a dolphin kissing my fiancee while I'm holding her. Besides that, Nassau is a little sketchy so we avoided walking around the island too much. I hear if you go to Atlantis that's also a good time. That evening we went to Aqua for dinner. Aqua and the Venetian have the same menus and cost nothing, the only difference is that Aqua is much smaller. At night there was a party by the pool. Best part of it was the drinks carved out of pineapples. The Miss Norwegian Dawn competition (guys dressed up like women) was interesting to say the least.
Tuesday Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas. This is NCL's private island. You have to take a tender boat out to the island because the ship doesn't dock there. The island was gorgeous and there are enough chairs to lay on if you walk around. One piece of advice - don't put on sunscreen then lay in a hammock. That is unless you think the waffle look is a good one for your back. We went parasailing which was extremely cool. If you are afraid of heights, its really not as bad as it seems. Lunch was the same as what you get poolside. All and all, if the weather is good, look forward to this island.
Wednesday Day at sea. Our first day of bad weather so we spent the day inside the ship. We tried to send an email in the internet cafe which was a total rip off. We got charged about $15 for using internet for 5 minutes. It was probably the only time all week that I felt I was getting a raw deal. For dinner, we ate at the Teppanyaki ($15 cover) and it was well worth it. The chef was entertaining and the food was excellent. There is only one hibachi room so make sure you reserve early. After dinner we went to the Second City comedy show. It was definitely funny so I recommend seeing it.
Thursday King's Wharf, Bermuda Much nicer than the Bahamas. There are a ton of excursions on the island but we chose the bus tour to Horseshoe Bay, known for its pink sand beaches. The weather wasn't great but the beach was really nice nonetheless. Driving around the island on the bus was almost as cool. We ate at Aqua again for dinner.
Friday Day at sea The weather was really strange that day so we spent some time at the pool and some time inside. That afternoon was the Chocolate Buffet in the Venetian. Honestly, by the end of the week you will have already eaten so much that this isn't THAT great. The setup is amazing and the chocolate is really good, but like I said, maybe would be better to do this on Sunday.
Saturday Debarkation wasn't bad at all. If you do the express check out you leave earlier than most and all you have to do is carry your own bags. If you are unable or have kids/elderly the regular check out is fine. They do it by cabin section.
There's a ton I didn't cover so I'll just touch on a few things here;
Drinks - Actually not that expensive. $5.50 for most cocktails and $4 for a domestic beer.
Service - Excellent. Even though tips are included ($10 a day), it's always a good idea to tip those who serve with a smile. We were worried about the automatic tipping because we thought it might make people slack off but they really didn't at all.
Bars - Pearly Kings Pub is good for a beer. We did the trivia on most nights before dinner there. spinnaker lounge - Most of the evening events took place there. Really cool looking bar. Star bar - we did the martini tasting there but its also a good spot just to hang out and have a drink with friends if you want a classier feel to it. Dazzles Lounge - aka the Karaoke bar. If you can handle people singing horribly, then its a good time.
Casino - Good selection of games and slots and there is a bar also. Dealers are hit or miss just like anywhere else. Make sure to take advantage of the 3 for 2 chips and the free Aces for blackjack. Don't expect to rack up casino points though, which are used for comps. I played Let it Ride for 6 hrs one night and came away with 1 point.
Director - Matt Baker is insane but he did a great job with the entertainment. Wikiwikiwa.
Other guests - Like i prefaced this review, you will always encounter people who suck the life out of any situation. Just do your best to ignore them and you'll have a great time. For the most part, everyone seemed to have a great time.
Gym - Fitness center was excellent. We didn't try the spa but it looked really good.
Cost - Expect to pay double the cost of your room for the trip if you go on excursions, drink alcohol, go to specialty restaurants.
7 nights was plenty of time so we were ready to get off by the end. Now that almost a month has passed we can't wait to do it again. We will definitely do NCL in the future. The freestyle experience really allows you to make the most of your time. The boat was gorgeous, the staff was friendly, and the food rocked.
Feel free to check out our pictures on snapfish to get an idea of what I'm talking about;