My wife and I booked this cruise after sailing Carnival and Royal Caribbean. We have embarked from two different cities so we have an idea now what we want in a cruise!
Disembarkation was fast! We arrived at the port and parked our van in the garage. Since we were traveling with friends we meet on the Royal Caribbean cruise, we split the $98 fee for parking for seven days. We walked right up to the line and only waited for 5 minutes. We were aboard 5 minutes after getting our card. Our rooms were not ready until 2pm, so we had our first taste of NCL food. More on the food later.
The public rooms were all very nice. They were appointed with the appropriate decor given the many different rooms that were on this ship. We stayed mostly in Henry's Pub and Galaxy of the Stars. Henry's Pub was small and cozy, but during karaoke it was too small. Most of the time in the Galaxy of the Stars, it was not full. The exception was during The Quest, when it was also too small. The Quest should have been held in the Stardust Theater and the karaoke in the Galaxy of the Stars.
We had a balcony room which we were upgraded to. We purchased an inside room for $550 on the eighth deck. About two months before the cruise, they called and wanted to upgrade us for $125 per person to a BA balcony room on the eleventh deck. My wife and I talked about it and decided to try it out, since this was a good price. Our thoughts after the cruise was that unless we were traveling to Alaska, the Panama Canal or Hawaii, there is no need for a balcony as we were not in the room anytime during the day! At night you can't see a thing, and we think it's not worth the extra prices they ask. But it was a nice room, about 40 square feet larger than our inside room would have been. We loved the bathroom, with its separate compartment for the toilet and the shower. You could have one person on the toilet, with the glass sliding door closed of course, one in the shower, with it's own glass sliding door, an another person in front of the sink! Great job with that!
We walked in to the fitness room and it was of ok size. Smaller than the room on the Grander of the Seas, but larger than the Carnival Holiday. I walked on the treadmill for a while, but preferred to walk on the 7th deck, which gave a better view.
As I stated in the title, the food was by far the best of the two other cruise lines we sailed. I don't eat seafood, but my wife does. She enjoyed everything. My meat selections were great, except one night, and I asked for a sirloin steak and they made me one. The breakfast is my favorite meal, and there was way too much of it! The breakfast buffet had everything you needed. We had lunch mostly in the lunch buffet area and the selection was always great. The food was not as hot as I like it, but was not ever cool. We had dinner in the dining room and like I said earlier, selection was great, presented well and we actually got full.
Unfortunately, the entertainment was by far the worst. The acrobatic family was good, the NCL performers put me to sleep on their first night. I am not a Sammy Davis fan and left that show, which someone named Chantz performed. The Second City comedy people were pretty much funny, kinda like an improv group of four. The best part of the entertainment was the bands! Live music and dancing was excellent! Wish they could play every night! We caught them when they were playing and Glenn, a member of our group of four, was able to sing with the ban!
The service was worst than the two other cruise lines, but we had some servers who went beyond the call. We could not get refills most of the time. The bar servers would put their noses up when you asked only for water and showed them the soda card. One bar server, when asked to bring my wife water, never returned. Then there was one bar server that remembered me and always bought me a virgin pina colada, which I always order after dinner in the Galaxy of the Stars. Our room stewart always had our room set for us any time of the day. Since we were never in our room, we hardly saw him.
The shore excursions were great. We choose the tour around the island of Roatan and the Banana Plantation tour on Guatemala. We paid a taxi to drive us around Belize and hired a horse and carriage in Cozumel. We have been to Cozumel three times now and feel like we are citizens!
We felt that for what we paid for our balcony room, $650 this cruise was a great value. We would not upgrade again, unless it was free. Seven day cruise for our price was great.
Overall, we did not like the freestyle cruise NCL offers. We had on many occasions had to eat late to see the shows (which were not good, but we did not know that at the time). We prefer the assigned seating as they would set show times according to those. We did like the many restaurants on this ship. We did not pay to eat at any extra cost restaurants. We feel if we pay for a cruise, the food is included. We decided to save the $20 per person for the steakhouse and eat at Outback when we got home.
We probably will not book with NCL again. The ratings I gave were good, but the entertainment was horrible. The cruise director was on TV more than we saw him. The food was the best! The itinerary was also great. Don't let this review deter you from NCL. This is just my wife's and I's opinion on freestyle cruising and prefer assigned seating. However, they could improve entertainment!