This was our second cruise with NCL; my husband, daughter, son-in-law, two-year old granddaughter and me. Since the cruise was relatively inexpensive we splurged on two balcony cabins. We found the cabins to be a reasonable and comfortable size and the bathroom was bigger than the Majesty so we were quite happy. Our room stewards took good care of us with no problems. The 2-yr old had the towel animals every night. These are not important to me but I think doing it for the kids is nice. Based on previous reviews, we checked A/C, toilets, etc and all worked fine and the only nasty scents we smelled was the cigar smoker below us.
The embarkation process is as good as everyone has noted so there is nothing to add there; however, I was less than happy with the ports of Miami, air as well as sea. Before leaving home I checked to ensure that a car seat would not be necessary in a taxi ride from the airport to the seaport. We did not want to lug and store a carseat in a cabin that would not be used for anything other than a brief taxi ride. Upon arriving at the taxi stand I was informed that children between 2-4 could not ride in a taxi without a car seat. I had a brief argument with the person organizing the taxis and was forced to use Super Shuttle which was twice the price. They seem to have no such rule which made no sense. So, tip #1, if you are traveling with a 2-4 year old, you can try for the taxi but be prepared to use super shuttle or some other means of transport to the ship.
Once we arrived at the seaport, we deposited our luggage for transfer to our rooms and proceeded to the security area where I was told I could not carry on my bag as it was too large. Mind you, this is the same bag that went through airport security as a carry on. I am a frequent air traveler and know what size a carry on bag should be. Again I argued with the agent that I had seen larger bags than mine go through to security. I was forced to get out of line, take out my valuables and transfer them to my husband's smaller bag and bring my bag back to the luggage transfer area. This meant I had absolutely no change of clothes. And, my bag would have fit with absolutely no problem as the machine is the same size as an airport security machine. So far this trip was not starting well.
Now out of the clutches of the Miami port authority things began to pick up. After embarking on the ship, we deposited the rest of our carry on articles in a holding area and went to the Garden Cafe for lunch. The food is typical of a buffet. We found it perfectly edible. There's enough selection that you should be able to find something you can eat.
I did get all my luggage before the ship sailed which was a pleasant surprise. We decided on an early night as we had been up since 3 am with a toddler and we were all pretty tired.
Tuesday: Our plan was to drive to Gold Rock Beach, part of the Lucayan National Park. Our weather was not great, overcast and drizzly but I had already reserved a rental car so we decided to brave it out and hope it wasn't raining on that side of the island. I called Avis and they came to pick us up. They had everything ready for us including a car seat that I had requested in my reservation (no need to bring one from home). We got a map and the agent gave us directions but they were a bit convoluted and took us through the shopping district so we used the map. We got a little lost a few times (remember, drive on the left in the Bahamas) because roads ended but we finally got to the park. Admission is $3 per person and you are able to tour the park on one side and/or go to the beach on the other. It was still drizzling but we decided to try the beach. It is a 15 minute walk through jungle-like foliage. Wear shoes you don't mind getting wet. As it had been raining we trudged through a lot of deep, large puddles; I had on flip flops so it wasn't a problem for me. If it isn't raining there may be no puddles but be prepared.
Once we finally got the the beach the rain had stopped. The sun came in and out but with no rain the beach was great. There were a few other people there but it's big enough that everyone had their own private spot. No snorkeling, food, or anything in the way of amenities but we enjoyed it. The one restroom is in the parking lot so use it before you make the trek to the beach. Cost $85 for rental car; $11 for gas.
Wednesday: Plan for the day was to go to Atlantis for the water park. Again it was overcast but no real rain until late afternoon shortly after we reboarded the ship. Based on other reviews I rented a room at the Comfort Suites. We took a taxi over to the hotel which cost $4 a person plus tip; however, the taxis won't leave until they are filled and that can mean waiting for up to 10 people. We had nine. We "checked" in at Comfort Suites, got our admission card and headed across the street to Atlantis. Once at the pool/water park area we got 4 wristbands that let us roam the grounds at will. You don't need to bring the ship towels; towels are supplied at the pool area. Cost $296 for four people, the two-year old was free. Half the price of the shore excursion. Bonus tip: the water ferry shuttle back to the ship (leaves every 30 minutes) was free if you had your wristband on.
Thursday: This was Great Stirrup Cay day. We took a reasonably early tender 9:30 ish. We sat at the far end of the beach; there is no shade here but it seemed to me there were plenty of umbrellas for those that wanted them. Perhaps they have been replacing those lost in a hurricane but it didn't seem to be a problem. We brought our own sun tents just in case which worked very well for us. We also used them at Gold Rock beach. If you want shade on this beach go straight or right off the tender. The beach was nice but it is a little small for so many people. The BBQ was good. The 2-yr old and parents left early; we stayed until about 3:00.
As we had balcony rooms, we took advantage of breakfast in the Palace and ate dinner at night in Crossings. We found the food and service to be quite good in both restaurants. My husband and daughter are pretty fussy and they always found something to eat even if it was the steak every night (daughter). We never had a problem with service, they were all very good and no sooner were we done with a course, then the next one arrived. Dinner took no more than an hour. We also had no problem with substitutions. We never waited to get in but we did tend to go about 7:30 - 8:00 for dinner. We didn't do the specialty restaurants. Seems stupid to me to pay extra for food when there is no need.
We didn't do any shows so I can't comment on those. We didn't use the kids programs although my daughter signed up grandchild just in case.
We had a good time. Wherever we went staff was pleasant, courteous and helpful. We like the freestyle cruising and will continue with NCL.