Went on this cruise with wife and 9 month old baby. Other family went as well in separate cabins. Been on only 1 other cruise before, years ago. After reading all the reviews before going on this cruise I thought I'd give my 2 cents, maybe it will be beneficial to others going on this cruise.
My wife and I are laid back and just go with the flow and we figure you can either have a great time or horrible time depending on your mood and your perspective in the exact same situation. Having a baby, we decided to get a balcony room since there would be more time than normal spent in it. So, the cost was justified in our opinion. For what we paid, we didn't expect anything extravagant.
PARKING: We drove in since we live in Florida. We stayed at the Embassy Suites near the airport and parked the car there for $6 a day and took a $25 cab to the port.
EMBARKATION: Couldn't be easier or quicker. Got through security and everything else very smoothly. More
ONBOARD: Champagne (or O.J.), got on around noon. Ate pizza at Il Adagio (have had much better and much worse pizza, about a 5 out of 10 for me). Rooms ready at 2pm, safety drill at 4:30pm (only lasts about 15 minutes), some luggage arrived at 4pm, some at 6pm.
BABY/KID TIP: If I could do it all over again, I would have gotten on around 2pm instead of noon, this way could have gone straight to room. There are no changing tables for babies on the ship. Not really expecting it as not many babies travel on cruises comparatively, just an FYI.
ROOM: Rear balcony room, WELL worth the cost in my opinion. Others in our party had inside cabins - if you are only going to sleep there, then great. But, we really enjoyed sitting on our balcony watching the sky and water and pulling into/out of the ports. Will definitely get balcony rooms from now on. Water, toilette, and overall everything in room worked well. No funny smells and bed was on the hard side, but neither of us complained (and we have a pillowtop mattress at home). Also, when we went to sit down restaurants they always got our room number and we always got a window table - don't really know if the room got us these upgrades or just luck.
FOOD: Did NOT eat at any paying restaurants - I've got plenty of good restaurants that will happily take my money near me, and I know all of their levels of service and food quality, so I just went with what was free (actually what I already paid for in the cost of the trip). The buffets were not as good as the sit down restaurants (Crossings and Palace). The sit down restaurants took about 90 minutes to get through dinner - no matter when you get there. On the first night, we were the 3rd party to get in Crossings for dinner, still took 90 minutes from start to finish. Anyway, Crossings and Palace both had good food in my opinion. Could it have been better - YES, could it have been worse - YES. Was it edible and at least some variety for buffets and sit down restaurants - YES. Desserts in Crossings and Palace were very good.
ROOM SERVICE: Took anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour in general. Food was worse than buffet, so stuck with pot of coffee and juice in the mornings. Also, the breakfast fruit was good - just avoid lunch and dinner unless you have no other option.
ALCOHOL/DRINKS: I smuggled on some alcohol - don't really care if others agree or not (still contributed plenty to my on board bar tab, so it's a win-win). Got it on EASILY. As long as you don't bring on bottles of liquor you should be good. Just use some common sense and put it in different containers in different luggage (carry on and check in) and you should be good to go. I even brought on a case of water - no one even blinked an eye at it. Biggest issue is ice and mixers. You have to get ice either from your cabin steward or from one of the buffets - there are no simple ice machines. Mixers - either bring your own, or pay for them. Or, you can get some basic free juices from the buffet and room service in the mornings.
CABIN STEWARD: She was AWESOME. No, no funny little towel animals, but that's not why I booked this trip. She was very efficient and seemed to be around when we needed her. Was awesome at getting us whatever was needed, couldn't be happier with her.
ENTERTAINMENT: No idea, didn't do anything - baby keeps us busy enough. Did hear that the shows were good and game shows were funny. Didn't do any night parties or any other activities, including excursions. Sounds dull I know, but we still felt that we had plenty to do and never felt we needed entertained at all.
CASINO: Did spend some time in the casino. It was larger than I expected - it's a ship, it's gonna be somewhat small, if you want large then go to Vegas. It was clean, machines new, and decently laid out. I don't play slots so no info there. I do play Video Poker, of course no full pay machines and payouts were dismal, but what do you expect? All table games were $10, except I think Roulette was $5 maybe, and craps was $5. Played craps mostly. Also, if you are going to gamble, then sign up for their onboard card and ask about their specials - you can get some free play on tables and slots. If you go early in night you won't have much smoke, later in night you'll get plenty of smokers.
POOLS: Went to baby pool at front of boat, very quiet there and water about 1-1.5 feet deep, nice area. Also hit adult pool, it's just over 6 feet with no shallow side, did not find any kids there when I went. Plenty of cocktail servers for drinks if you like. If you go when most everyone else is in port, then you will have a relatively quiet pool area.
FITNESS CENTER: Adequate and nice. Plenty of elliptical trainers and equipment. The have some basic weight machines and a full set of dumbbells. They have t.v. screens on each piece of cardio equipment (but thought just looking at the water and port would have been nicer), and have wet cold towels for you to use. Thumbs up.
TRACK: On deck 6 there is the walking/jogging track. There are signs saying you can't jog before 8am, fair enough, don't want to wake others. But, you can walk anytime. 3.5 laps = 1 mile. I walked a few times around, but it just wasn't my cup of tea.
PORTS: Freeport - kind of industrial, right next to the container ship area. There is a straw market right outside the ship, which would be good enough for me looking back. Decided to go into town and took $5 shuttle to it. Freeport seemed dirty, small, and really isolated with nothing much to do except hit a couple of shops. Prices seemed somewhat high. Overall, knowing what I know now, I wouldn't have gotten off the ship to see it. Better use of time would have been hitting the pool area onboard.
Nassau - kind of like a run down, smaller version of Key West, Florida. I like the fact that you don't have to take a taxi to see anything. Instead you get off the ship and the straw market is a short walk. Plenty of shops to choose whatever you want. Went to Senor Frogs and had fun there. Took a water taxi for $3 to Paradise Island/Atlantis - (they leave every 30 minutes, so wait until about 10 minutes before they leave to get on, us dummies spent about 25 minutes just sitting on that thing waiting to leave). BEST DRINK OF TRIP - as soon as get off of water taxi there is a stand on the dock with fresh fruit and small bottles of rum - drinks are like $12, which are blended fresh fruit and rum - WELL WORTH IT.
The free parts of Atlantis seemed okay, I've seen much nicer places but it's probably the best place in Nassau. If you aren't paying to use their pool or anything else, then the staff is very stand offish to you. They really won't help you find the free aquarium or to view the pool area - if you aren't paying then just get out was the feeling we got from a variety of staff. Guess I can't blame them too much. We got out of there after only about 30 minutes and took a $4 taxi back to the straw market.
Cheap(er) Beer in Nassau - looking at front of straw market, go around right side and look for a tiny place called Junkanoo. You'll see some locals there, Heineken are $3.
Great Stirrup Cay - the tender ride takes about 10 minutes to get there. We only went for about 2 hours. If you've been to a few caribbean beaches before then it's the same thing, you could probably skip it an be alright. It was nice and water felt great, although waves were a tad strong. Many people were either playing volleyball, or snorkeling, or just lounging in the water on a rental raft. Overall it would be a nice place to relax if you enjoy the beach - but of course it will be crowded. We came back about an hour before departure and just hit the pool - everyone else seemed to go to their rooms, so this was another uncrowded time to hit the pools.
TAXI/SHUTTLE: We ran into this repeatedly at the ports (including Miami) - they use shuttles - and they will wait until the shuttles are FULL before leaving. So, if you want to get somewhere quickly, then make sure you find out if you have to wait for others first. Our baby was breaking down when for $10 more we rented the entire shuttle instead of waiting for who knows how long to get another 6 people onboard a shuttle in Freeport. Well worth the money if you are on any kind of time frame.
DISEMBARKING: Couldn't be easier or quicker. Everyone was friendly, we simply walked off with our bags after breakfast about 8am.
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: I would DEFINITELY cruise with NCL again, and I would DEFINITELY get another rear balcony. For the money I really wasn't expecting anything outstanding, instead I was just expecting something average, but I'm impressed with how great everything was. The entire staff (except for 1 person) was very friendly, the food was okay to good, the service was great, and the room was excellent. If you are trying to get champagne on a beer budget then you are going to be disappointed. If you want something extravagant and are expecting high class standards on everything, then go elsewhere and pay what you should be paying, but if you want a great value for the money then you've found your ship.
I personally would not go to the bahamas again, but that's a personal choice. Some may like them. I've been to the Florida Keys tons of times and you'll find the same things there - but nicer. This is not a reflection on NCL, I'd like to cruise with them again somewhere else next time. Less
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