I must say, I was quite disappointed with this cruise, after all the hype I heard about it. I travelled with my husband and 18 other people, including my 2 nieces (ages 3 years old and 6 months old), sister and brother-in-law, parents, 2 friends of my parents with their 14-year-old daughter and her friend, aunt, uncle and cousins (23 years old and 17 years old), and our 2 neighbors with their 2 children (ages 9 years old and 10 months old). So, we had a variety of ages in our group.
The ship itself was beautiful and not too difficult to get around. The artwork was nice and the ship was not overdone or too loud. The Venetian Dining Room was the most elegant looking restaurant we ate in, and the Pearly Kings Pub was the nicest looking bar in my opinion. Most of the food tasted good, but much of it was way too salty. In the Italian restaurant my mother had to send back the chicken parmigiana because it just tasted like salt. Salsas was a really good restaurant, as far as food goes. Service on this ship was another story...
The service was terrible everywhere we went, except for the room steward who was excellent. It took us about 3 hours each night to eat dinner, whether all 20 of us ate together or just a few of us (2 or 4) ate together at a time. The service was way too slow. Bar service was much quicker, but of course it was...we have to pay extra for it!!! At breakfast on the last morning, it took them 10-15 minutes just to give us menus after we sat down! And the table next to us, who sat down after us, had already gotten menus and ordered their breakfast at that time! We were told on the first day of the cruise (by the Maitre D') that you cannot reserve a table in the Venetian dining room, but you can only reserve in Aqua (another dining room). So we reserved for Aqua each night for 20 of us, and cancelled early in the day if we did not plan to eat altogether. The last night of the cruise, we decided to try out the Venetian (slightly different menu), so we got there at 5:30 when it opened to assure getting a table or even 2 or 3 tables to accommodate all of us. When we got to the Venetian, we were told that we should have made a reservation in advance! But we were told that we could not make reservations!!! Too much inconsistency on this ship. The crew should all get together and get their "facts" straight. Even in Salsa restaurant, where the food was great, the service was poor. It took 3 and a half hours for 6 of us to eat dinner. We arrived at 6:30 and got out of there at 10:00! Way too long for dinner.
We ate breakfast at the buffet one morning and it was terrible. Even the made-to-order waffles were like rubber! And the pancakes were even worse! I was sorry we did that on the one morning, and we went back to the dining room the following morning and continued eating breakfast there everyday.
I wonder if the service was any better in the restaurants with a cover charge. I am starting to wonder if that is the gimmick Norwegian Cruise Line has going here with this "freestyle" cruising they have...perhaps if I paid extra each night to eat in one of the three specialty restaurants with a cover charge, I would have been treated better? We opted not to eat at those places since we had so many other choices. But they tell you that you cannot make reservations in advance for the specialty restaurants (including Italian and Mexican, with no cover charge), unless it is the day of the reservation or the day before. And reservations began at 8AM. Then how come when I went to reserve the Italian restaurant at 8AM when the reservation desk opened, I was told it was booked up for the next day? I thought you couldn't make reservations more than a day in advance...hmm, another thing gone wrong. Again, they need to get their facts straight.
Now we come to the entertainment. Overall, very good. The cruise director was excellent, nice and really funny. The bands were all really good. I also like it that they had karaoke every night and that you had to be over 21 after 11PM. That seemed fair to me, and kids got to do karaoke earlier in the evening, from 8PM. 70s/80s night was really good, as was the deck party on Caribbean night.
I had one problem with the entertainment...the Star Seeker Talent Show. I participated in this. It is like any other cruise talent show (which I do on every cruise we go on), but this one is a contest. Three or 4 judges (employees on board the ship) choose a winner from up to 10 people performing, any talent basically. Most people sang. I did not participate in this to win, just for fun like on the other cruises I was on. The prize for the winner was a chance to win a free cruise for 2 and perform in the shows on that same cruise, ship and sail date to be determined by NCL. Basically, the show is videotaped by NCL and the video portion of the winner's performance is sent to NCL, along with winners on every NCL ship. The final winner of the free cruise and chance to perform on a ship is chosen from those videos. It said specifically in the "Freestyle Daily" activity sheet that all participants must be at least 18 years of age in order to participate. However, a couple of girls (teenagers under 18) showed up to the rehearsal and basically made a big stink about the age requirement and asked to speak to the person in charge. The girl with the loudest mouth claimed that she was 18. They let he in the show. Another girl also got into the show (could not have been more than 14 if even that old!).
So, we get to rehearsal, and the girl that made the big stink about the age requirement practices second, after this one man that sang. Now they told us we can just go after we rehearse, and they told us where to meet for the show that night. This girl decided to stay, sat down with her mother in the front row and laughed at every person that performed (about 2 or 3 more before I rehearsed). I thought that was really rude, and it was obvious enough where they could have stopped them from doing it but no one said anything to them. I left after I rehearsed (I was 5th to rehearse or so). We get to the show, and 7 of us performed. Everyone did very well. I thought for sure the last woman that sang should win. She has the nicest voice, great stage presence, she was gorgeous and the audience absolutely loved her and gave her a standing ovation. We all thought (for the most part except for a certain someone) that she should win and that she would be the winner. They announced the winner, and it was the girl that made a big stink about the age requirement and laughed at everyone. I know she is not 18 years old because my husband was sitting right next to her grandmother, and she told the judges (after the fact) that the girl is only 14!! What kind of cruise line doesn't check for the age of the people in the show, when they are supposedly trying to hire someone to perform on a cruise ship? In my opinion, they chose her as the winner because they knew from the original signing up that she was underage and they don't have to give her a free cruise. I am assuming that due to the fact that she is only 14, she cannot work on a ship and therefore is disqualified. And they let her ruin it for the rest of the people that were legitimately in the show. I felt bad particularly for the one that should have won.
Overall, I was disappointed with this cruise, to put it mildly. I do not want to ever cruise with NCL again, as this was my second experience with them, and the first one was basically the same. I think freestyle cruising is good because you can sit down to dinner anytime, but bad for that reason also. Too long a wait if you did not have a nightly reservation for the same time or get there at 5:30 when the dining room opens. And they claim you can stay in your cabin until you leave the ship on the last morning, but my cousins were kicked out of their cabin long before anyone was able to leave the ship. Not fair. I will definitely go back to either Royal Caribbean or Carnival next time. Better food, better service, better age regulations, better cruise.