I live in Long Island, so getting to the ship in NYC is pretty easy. Embarkation, however, took a very long time and was poorly organized. It was only later that I found out the computers were down. Disembarkation, however was VERY well organized and smooth, except for not enough porters.
Overall, the cruise was 'okay', but not really great. This was my fourth cruise - 2 on Celebrity, and my second cruise on NCL. My son loved the kids program. The cabin was certainly sufficient - we had an inside lower stateroom, which is fine for me since I don't do much more than sleep and shower in the room.
The spa was nice. On the dawn I believe the spa had it's own pool, which was nice to get away from kids. I went to the spa for the Thelassotherapy pool every day. However, the spa was poorly heated. Once you got out of the whirlpools or whatever, if you wanted to take a nap on one of the loungers you really couldn't, because it was too chilly, unless you piled up a bunch of More
towels on you. I had a really nice facial and massage, and didn't feel as if they pushed their products on me once I told them to forget it.
The food was overall okay - I only had one meat dish (lamb chops in Cagney's) and the rest of the time had mostly chicken, fish or vegetarian dishes. I found the buffet food was okay, but the desserts in the buffet were not very good. There were no trays in the buffet and it was VERY difficult to find a seat. If you are eating alone, there is no way to comfortably get a soup, salad and a glass to your table, and you are forced to eat your meal in shifts, since by the time you get back to your table, it's been cleared and someone else is eating at your table. The dining room was excellent, and I enjoyed the restaurants (Teppanyaki nothing special, Asian Garden, Cagney's and Tequila were all very good). Several people got sick after the chocoholics buffet. Again, none of the desserts at the buffet were appealing. The desserts in Cagney's were AWESOME (I ordered three and had a little taste of each)
Many people on this cruise had trouble getting their dinner reservations. Fortunately for me, my friend had concierge service, so I piggybacked onto her dinner reservations. It's not 'freestyle' if you have to wake up at 7 am to get a reservation, although I've found the food in the dining rooms, where no reservations are necessary, to be excellent.
The private island was a disaster. The tenders took an incredibly long time to load up and to unload. When I got to the island I asked my bar waiter what time the buffet closed, and was told 4 pm. I got to the buffet a few minutes after 2, and barely got to feed my kid. Then, once the buffet was closed, there were no free drinks (all I wanted was a glass of water) available. Only bottled water or drinks you had to pay for. I felt this was really cheesy.
The rock climbing wall was not well run. There was only one staff person available. By the time he got the release forms signed, and got the kids harnessed and helmeted, it was 45 minutes before the first kid got on the wall. There should be at least two people assigned to a rock wall. To add insult to injury, they were BLASTING some hip hop music that had some really, really nasty inappropriate lyrics.
In the atrium, there was a giant (two story) screen that they sometimes had nintendo WII available. This was also poorly run when it was the kids turn to use it. The staff member showed up late and took quite a bit of time to set it up and get it working properly. There was no sign up list and there was alot of fighting over whose turn it was to go first. The kids were practically frothing at the mouth. Finally, I got the guy running the activity to get a piece of paper and a pen so I could make a list, and then I became the 'list master'.
It also ticked me off that there were no movies available unless you paid $11.95 a movie. This is outrageous. On all my previous cruises they had an in cabin movie channel that had a schedule of movies on it that you could watch for free. There was also no cinema, which I missed. So, no movies available unless you either paid for it, or you were able to find a movie on the one movie channel (turner classic movies?) that you wanted to watch and were able to figure out the time. At the very least, they could have printed off a schedule of the movies being shown on the movie channel (of course this is assuming that you could actually get the channel, which didn't seem to work all the time).
I can't comment on the art auction or the casino. The exercise area was almost always crowded - I'm not sure if this is because the ship was crowded, or the room was designed with insufficient capacity.
The production show (something about the 70s) was nicely done, and the magician was very good (I'm the wife of a magician and have seen alot of magic, so I know what I'm talking about). The comedian, however, was nothing special.
Overall, I would go on NCL again, but it would not be my first choice. I like the concept of freestyle cruising, but I just felt that NCL was spending the bare minimum on guest comfort and convenience. I would also probably not go on NCL again unless I could afford a room with concierge service, since it's so difficult to get reservations. Less