We just returned from our very first cruise, which we had booked a year ago and had researched thoroughly. I'm glad that we did our homework before we left...it made the trip that much more pleasant!
Our family of four (myself and my husband, and our two boys ages 13 and 9) traveled with our good friends and their 8 year old daughter. We had booked an inside cabin for the four of us, on deck 6, cabin number 6065. The cabin was small, which I had expected, but I've since decided that I would never cruise in one inside cabin for all four of us ever again. We were on top of each other all the time, which made for shredded nerves sometimes! The location was under the Blue Lagoon, and surprisingly enough, was pretty quiet. The only noise we heard was the creaking of the walls of the cabin, which was enough to drive me crazy some nights! Our room stewards were FANTASTIC, and it totally amazed us how they knew all of our names within 15 minutes of our arriving on board. They kept the room clean and well stocked with fresh towels and ice every day. We got four towel animals throughout the week: a bunny, a mouse, a monkey, and an elephant. My kids thought this was great!
FOOD: We thought the food was really good! We had read a lot of negative reviews before we left and were a bit nervous, but we had no reason to be. We ate in Windows a few times for dinner (and for lunch on the first day), Shogun Asian Fusion for dinner (EXCELLENT!), La Trattoria (not worth the cover charge, in my opinion), the Blue Lagoon (the kids loved this), The Beirgarten (just OK)and Raffles for lunch and breakfast. Although I didn't like the crowds and "feed bag" mentality of Raffles, I enjoyed eating here for breakfast and lunch because I could get my yogurt with berries and granola made to order for breakfast, and I could make a great salad for lunch. We also loved the dessert crepes at dinner (although we didn't eat dinner here, we just came up for the crepes!) We never went hungry and everyone always found something to eat that they enjoyed. We bought my oldest son a Teen Passport, which he shared with his brother and my friend's daughter. 20 coupons for smoothies/soda, and we ended up coming home with three coupons. I even used a coupon or two, and we still couldn't use them all. I would buy this again though, because my son enjoyed being able to order whatever he wanted whenever he wanted.
KIDS CREW: The younger kids loved this and went several times. One night, they even complained about leaving! The counselors were great with the kids and kept them busy. My oldest son went to the teen club a few times, in the Celebrity Disco. My biggest complaint was that there never seemed to be counselors there, even when events were planned. My son was disappointed a few times because many of the amenities in the club were broken (juke box, no ball for the foosball table, no controllers for the Wii, etc.) and there were a few "rowdy" kids who broke a t.v. screen and trashed the room because there was no supervision. Seems to me that NCL would want to supervise these older kids a bit better, since they could do some serious damage. Aside from a game of "sardines", my son said they mostly they sat around and talked.
SHOWS: They were all pretty good. We saw Chantz, On Broadway, and Second City. The last night, we saw the "adult" version of Second City and the Quest show. The Quest show was interesting, to say the least. It amazes me what people will do when they are drunk! We didn't participate, we just watched other people act like idiots!
EXCURSIONS: We did the Kennedy Space Center in Port Canaveral. The only complaint I have is that we didn't have enough time. We got there around 2pm and had to be back for the bus at 6 pm. We did the tour first, which took a lot of time away from the rest of the park. In Nassau, we walked off the pier and went to the British Colonial Hilton. We bought day passes to use the beach and pool. $20 for adults, $10 for my 13 year old, and the two younger ones were free. We had a fantastic day there. The beach was clean, water was clear and warm. Nice view of the cruise ships in port. The pool water was very warm, and not refreshing at all. We got a few drinks here and the drink prices were reasonable, but the food prices were high. $15 for a hamburger...we passed! My family decided to stay on board when we docked in Freeport. We sat by the pool and hung out. We were only docked there from 7-1, so it was a short day there anyway.
MEDICAL CENTER: Unfortunately, we had to use it! My 13 year old made a bad decision to jump from the top bunk instead of using the ladder. He lost his footing and fell face first into the bunk across the room. He split his gum and slightly loosened a front tooth. We took him down to the medical center, where they cleaned him up. He needed two stitches in his gum. The doctor was WONDERFUL. My son was not calm (ok, he was freaking out!), but she handled him so well. I can't say enough about how well they treated us. This was the beginning of our cruise, and it could have ruined it, but everything worked out well and we went on to enjoy the rest of our cruise.
Other random thoughts: The best money my friend and I spent all week was the $15 for the Martini Clinic in Champagne Charlies. We got six good sized martinis and had a blast. We were able to meet and talk with some nice people while we were there. It was a lot of fun!
The next time we sail, we'll choose an earlier disembarkation time. Everything literally shut down by 10 am. We couldn't even find a place to get a soda. They were supposed to have Wii time in Galaxy of the Stars, but nobody ever showed up with the equipment. We ended up sitting around for an hour and a half with three bored kids until it was our time to go.
The pools fill up fast, and the floors surrounding the pools are slippery and HOT. You need flip flops for sure.
The best purchase I made ahead of time was the $5 shoe bag from Target. I hung it on the outside of the bathroom door, and it held everything from shoes to toiletries, to sunglasses, iPods, cameras, etc. Everything had a place and everyone was able to find what they wanted without searching for it.
The worst purchase I made ahead of time was the electrical converter/adapter kit. It was a waste of money. My hairdryer had absolutely no power and I couldn't use it. I ended up using the hairdryer in the bathroom, which was odd and took some getting used to, but all in all, worked O.K.
I should have brought: Spray on Sunscreen!!!! This would have saved us so much time. I was too cheap to buy it and bought the lotion kind. Never again!! Bathroom Spray! No need to explain why!! An alarm clock. Inside cabin, no clock. We woke up every so many hours wondering what time it was.
All in all, this was a great cruise, and we are all now sold on cruising! My kids can't wait to do it again!