This was our 3rd cruise, our first with NCL. (We have previously sailed with Celebrity and Carnival.) We booked the cruise directly through NCL and we booked during their "Kids Cruise Free" promotion. This made this trip EXTREMELY affordable for our family of 3. If I had paid paid more for this trip I would be extremely ticked. I hardly feel as if we got a value as it is.
EMBARKATION: Very smooth, probably the quickest and easiest I have experienced. We arrived at the port at approximately 11:15 am, did not wait in a line to check in and only waited in line about five minutes to start boarding the boat. Once onboard we went to the Palace dining room for lunch and then found our room. It took a while for our luggage to arrive.
ROOM: We stayed in a balcony room, which was offered as a very affordable upgrade by NCL about 6 weeks prior to our trip. This was our first time staying in a balcony room and while it was nice, I don't think we utilized it enough to pay full price for one in the future. The room was nice though. The bed was not comfortable at all (I have been spoiled by the Carnival Comfort Collection). The temperature was nice. I don't know what was located above our room but at all hours there were constant thuds and thumps (very loud) from overhead. I did not get a good night sleep the entire time on board.
ROOM STEWARDS: Our room stewards were excellent. This was about the only good service we received on the boat. I will get to that later. Anyway, Jimmy would make a point to ask my four year old daughter every night what type of animal she wanted and sure enough, it would be there on her little pull out bed at the end of the evening. That was very nice!
ROOM SERVICE: Simply put, it was awful. It took at least an hour to get anything and what we got was usually not exactly what we ordered or it was just plain awful. I was not impressed.
DINING (No Additional Fees): The "free" dining was AWFUL. I was seriously disappointed. The breakfast was hideous. The menu selections were lacking creativity and selection. The food that was delivered was just bad. Very bland. Not what is expected of a cruise. The casual buffets were beyond awful. Waiting in lines for 20 minutes for stale bread and bad fruit is not my idea of fun.
DINING (Additional Cost): Our dinner at Cagney's Steakhouse was a highlight of our trip. The meal was MAGNIFICENT and the service was what I was use to receiving while on a cruise. (More on that later.) One of the best meals I have ever had. The Italian place...not so much. Poor service, poor selection, terrible quality. I ordered the Chicken Parmigiana and it was very ordinary...like something that I would have received at Fazolli's. Very ordinary and I was disappointed.
DINING ROOM SERVICE: I have to say that this was one of the most disappointing parts of the cruise. When we cruised on Celebrity and Carnival, our wait staff got to know us and the service was excellent day after day. Not so much with NCL. I think the whole "Freestyle" method has something to do with it. Because you dine when you want (which was cool) you are not likely to have the same server twice. Why do they care if they impress you? Seriously every member of the wait staff that I encountered seemed to be put out by the fact that they were even having to help me. Just not the service that I had experienced on other cruise lines. The service at Cagney's was AWESOME, I joked to my husband that Cagney's was were they hid all of the good waitstaff.
PORTS OF CALL: We were suppose to go to the Bahamas but due to Hurricane Hanna we were re-routed to Cozumel, Mexico and Key West, FL. I had been to the Bahamas before so I wasn't terribly disappointed. I was really looking forward to seeing their private island there. We had been to Cozumel the year before with Carnival so I had an idea of what to expect. We signed up for the Playa Mia Deluxe Beach Break and really enjoyed it. Free drinks and food, use of non-motorized equipment, use of the beach chairs and umbrellas...it was a really good deal. The only bad part about Cozumel was the fact that we were tendered. I had never left a boat by tender before. The process of getting back on the boat took FOREVER. We waited in line about 45 minutes. It was just terrible. We were looking forward to Key West but got very little time there. We did the trolley tour of the city and really enjoyed that.
KIDS KORNER: EXCELLENT! The staff was very nice, they had good activities for my daughter, who is 4. They knew her by name by the 2nd day and she had fun. What more can you ask for?
DEBARKATION: Again, very easy. From the time we left our room to the time that we got our luggage and were on our way was about 15 minutes. Not bad at all.
All in all, I was not impressed with NCL. I definitely will not be cruising with them again due to the poor service that we received onboard and the quality of the food and facilities overall. NCL has a lot to improve on, at least on the Sky.