My husband and I are in our 30's and we included our 3 teenagers 15-14-12 on our recent trip. We spent 4 days prior to the cruise in NYC seeing all the necessary sites. Honestly, the cruise was more like a vacation from NY after spending the previous 4 days running around like crazy through NY trying to absorb it all. We were exhausted!
Our itinerary was originally Florida and Bahamas, but Hanna shook things up a bit in the Bahamas so we went to Bermuda instead.
Having been on 4 previous cruises, my husband and I had an idea of what to expect during embarkation and so forth, although this was our first cruise with NCL. We arrived to the pier at 12pm and actually stepped foot onboard at approximately 2:45pm. A very long process compared to what we have experienced previously. We grabbed a quick bite to eat in Raffles and started taking the kids around to get familiar with the boat. We were due to leave the pier at 5pm, however, we never left until after 7pm due to some sort of engine problem.
The cabins are average and similar to other cruise lines. We elected outside cabins with windows as oppose to a balcony for obvious reasons with the teenagers. We had 2 cabins right next to one another. The bathroom was actually larger and had two sliding glass doors between the shower, vanity and the toilet. We were disappointed with the 13" TV and quality of the bed mattresses. Additionally, you can hear most everything taking place overhead and next to you during the night.
We were also disappointed with the overall quality of the ship, taking into consideration the age of the ship. The first few nights we ate in Windows. The freestyle is nice and we never had a significant wait. Reservations are only required for large parties of 10 or more. They claim resort casual as the dress code, although we did discover there truly was no adherent dress code. Windows is designated their only "dress up" dining room but also required pants according to the newsletter. We followed the dresscode only to be seated next to people in their shorts and tank tops. The food was not exceptional. They offered a variety, however, I did not expect artificial crab in the hot and sour crab soup. After being disappointed the first couple nights we elected to dine at Le Bistro requiring an additional $15 cover charge per person. It was not mentioned that there is an additional charge ontop of the cover charge for certain food items on the menu, such as lobster. This was an additional $10.
Bermuda is beautiful. We had a wonderful time and were able to book an excursion despite everyone racing to book all their excursions at the same time because we didn't know where we were going until the morning of the cruise. I do recommend booking through the cruise line as oppose to independently, because if it does get cancelled you are not scrambling for refunds from varies shore excursion providers. We chose this particular cruise due to the stop in Florida to take the kids to Universal Studios. The excursion was cancelled but I didn't have to take care of anything for a refund because NCL handled it for us. I do recommend the snorkeling excursion we took with the Restless Native Catamaran crew...honestly one of the best excursions we have taken over the years. The water was crystal clear and 80 degrees...perfect! The following day was horrible weather with Hanna stretching to the east. The route home also came with bad weather and a rough ride.
The teenagers actually enjoyed their activities with the other kids in their age groups. No real complaints there.
NCL also automatically charge you $10 per person, per day for gratuities to be split with the entire staff. I felt this to be a disservice to their employees. While others excelled, their coworkers who didn't are receiving the same benefits. It was also interesting that most of the staff didn't start to pay attention to the passengers until the last day at sea. Our cabin steward was the only person I felt obligated to acknowledge his efforts to make out stay more comfortable.
We concluded that we will not be cruising with NCL in the future despite the convenience of the freestyle cruising.