This was our first experience at cruising and we were not disappointed. The boarding procedure was incredibly smooth and painless (much less painful than most airline flights) and in no time we were able to embark the most beautiful ship we could have imagined.
The main lobby area was breathtaking to say the least. Spacious and tastefully decorated, it gave the feel of a 5 star hotel lobby. And the big screen to watch Monday Night Football or Wii was most impressive.
Not sure what to expect in our room, we were pleased that it offered as much storage space as it did. While not spacious, every single inch of space is maximized. We were glad we had a full window which made the room feel a bit bigger. The service in the rooms was beyond what we could have hoped for. To have your room attended to twice a day with fresh towels, coffee, and cleaning as necessary was greatly appreciated.
We took advantage of the restaurants and found each of them to offer good quality food with great service. The buffet offered great selection and variety and the quality was always excellent. Summer Palace and Indigo's offered great menu selections without long waits to get service. Mambos, La Cucina, and Lotus Gardens were all excellent experiences for us. While other reviews comment on the difficulty to get reservations, we had not problems getting a reservation that fit our schedule and eating preference.
The entertainment on the ship provided good variety with a generally high level of performance. To walk in and see the Stardust Theatre was quite impressive! Sharkbait provided excellent entertainment value - probably one of the best shows we saw. The geisha show by the Jean Ann Ryan dancers was also excellent.
We only took one excursion - Flavors of Barbados - but we felt we got good value for our money. It was just long enough to give us a good overview of the island and yet still gave us time to sit and soak up the Caribbean sun.
The only drawback for us was the gastrointestinal virus that hit the ship, but from what we've heard from others, we were lucky to be back on our feet in two days. The credit on our account for the inconvenience was greatly appreciated.
We specifically chose NCL because of the freestyle element and we were not disappointed. For us, we would never do it any other way.
All in all, it was a great first experience of cruising. We saw 7 great ports of call, enjoyed a beautiful ship, were served by a great staff team, and we came back to snow on ground back home in Canada, sporting a fantastic tan and a ton of good memories!