Our cruise group consisted of 6 women varying in ages from mid thirties to early seventies. Everyone got along fine and we had a blast. Two of us flew into Fort Lauderdale the night before the other four drove from Orlando the day of. Embarkation was a breeze we arrived at the port about 11:30 and we were on the ship in under 15 minutes. I did get a bit confused at the terminal dropping of luggage. I've sailed from Port of Miami before but never as a driver and Norwegians port (IMO) wasn't clearly marked so I drove past it twice to drop of the luggage, the same thing to park...but that was just the day I was having. Once on the ship though you are escorted to an area to leave any carry on baggage, this is certainly a plus.
I went on the cruise with very low expectations after reading several bad reviews. I am a RCCL lover, but I thought I would give NCL a try since they opened these short getaways and the rates were great. I am glad I did, there were areas where NCL surpassed RCCL (not many), but I would definitely sail on them again.
The ship, the layout is absolute horrible,there is no flow to the ship. I didn't find the gift shops until late in the afternoon the second day. You have to go up sometimes to go over. The rooms were incredibly small no moving around room, and unlike a lot of cruisers I do spend quite a bit of time in my room, that's why I book balconies, I love to hang out there.
We headed to the pool deck once on the ship and I ordered my first drink of the cruise, not very exciting...drinkology turned out not to be their strong suit. They were more interested in pushing those souvenir glasses than making good drinks..So I didn't do a lot of drinking, except for in the Plantation club (a must visit) Tito and Ed are absolutely wonderful.
I didn't think I would like Freestyle dining. It's still not my favorite, but it certainly isn't the horrible experience I thought it would be. The food in all dining areas was good, average cruise food. Nothing too disappointing. We did try Cagney's, the service was long but the company was good so we didn't mind. We had a reservation for Le Bistro but attempted to change it to Il Adagio, but it was booked so we ate in the Palace once again.
The staff was wonderful they didn't seem to have forced smiles they seemed to genuinely want to please. We didn't encounter any ship problems, as a matter of fact our room was quite cool. There was a short time on the last day (I believe) that some of the common areas got warm but only for a short time.
We didn't make any shows, as we spent all of our time between napping, chilling on the pool, hanging out with Paul, Tito and Ed in the Plantation club and eating. Probably one of the biggest drawbacks of Freestyle dining is that the services are long and you will miss events and shows.
I kind of rushed through this review, all in all it was a great cruise, with good people. I would do it again, perhaps even a longer cruise next time. The beat RCCL for the price of a balcony on the short cruises...do I still love Royal for sure, but I now have an option I can live with (because Carnival certainly didn't do it).
Debarkation was the best I've every experience we were off the ship within minutes of deciding to leave.