Background: This was my third time cruising (but first time with NCL). In my party of 9, my bf and I were the only experienced cruisers. We picked this ship because of its price and also the itinerary where we had never been before. Freestyle Cruising was another reason why we picked this cruise (my dad hated to wear suits). I had 3 seniors in my party and 4 young adults.
Embarkation: Well, among my experiences, this was not the worst but it was not nice neither. I took 2 taxis to get to the pier from the LAX airport. It was quite freaky that the taxis went on different ways on the highway. My taxi driver told me that the other one went on the wrong way, but actually, he was the one heading to the Long Beach pier (I saw the Long Beach road sign, but I didn't know the road in LA). After we struggled a little and called my bf (he was on another taxi) back and forth, we were back on track. Not to mention his driving style, I would thank god for arriving the pier all in one piece. We arrived at 1:30pm and spent about an hour for the line-up. I guess it was normal. The only complaint I had at this point was there was NO air circulation (I am not asking for air conditioning) in the hall at all. And later on, we found that there was a couple in our party got their pictures switched on their sea pass and it created quite a bit trouble when it got to the port-of-calls.
Dining: I would say it was the WORST out of my travel experience (even worse than those all-inclusive resorts). From the service to the appearance of the food and to the taste, it was the WORST! The service was extremely slow, which made us missed 2 shows. We went down to the AQUA at 5:30pm (once it opens) and we were still waiting for our desserts at 7:40pm. When we mentioned (not complaint) to our server, she told us that if we were rushing for a show, we should inform them in advance. After I informed her that we were in a hurry, she brought us our desserts in 10 minutes. My grandpa ordered a chocolate ice-cream and it was ALL melted. I am not exaggerating it and I really hope that I can post a picture here. I took a picture of it and showed it to the front desk staffs, they all guessed it was a mousse or milk shake. It really ruined our appetite and it might cause sickness with melted ice-cream. On the other day, we had breakfast in the main dining, we were left alone for more than 1 hour after we placed the order, with no coffee, no tea, no bread at all. We did not say anything to them until we got our first dish which was a WRONG order. The server ran away after he put down the first 2 dishes. We stared at the plates and another server came over to ask us if we needed help. I told him that those were not our order. Then he took them away, actually aside, to the dirty dish table. We were left alone again for another 30 minutes and we were unattended at all. I tried call our server and he looked away and pretended he did not see me. After the second server talked to their supervisor, we finally got our order and they sent 3 servers to serve our table (but the first one disappeared!) I didn't complain about it right away since I did not want to ruin our day. Blue Lagoon was great but the oil got old and dark after the 4th day. Market Cafe was a bit smelly and we did not visit too much. I wanted to try the Sushi bar but after I tried the so-called "hand-roll" at the main dining, I would save my money for a real Japanese meal when I come back to Toronto. I think it is a problem created by the freestyle cruising. In the traditional cruise trip, servers always know that customers need to attend to the show and the time management should be well controlled.
Cabin: Our room steward was nice and hard working but the equipment in the room were aging. There were marks on the blankets and beach towels. That was pretty nasty. It was weird that they did not put away the ladder of the upper bunk for us when they cleaned the room (Royal and Carnival did). That was not a big deal anyways.
Entertainment: I would just say it was okay. You cannot compare the shows with Royal Caribbean's (I think I just got spoiled). Paul played the same jokes in the "Quest" show as the cruise director from RC Mariner and it did not get the same funny results. The rest of my party who went to the show were happy about it since they did not have any comparisons.
Excursions: The excursions really saved this trip, we enjoyed them the most. The prices were reasonable (when comparing with other cruise line). The tour buses were well equipped and new. The guides were professional and friendly. Just beware of the flea market right off the pier at PV. They really tried hard to scam the tourists. That was the worst flea markets I'd visited in Mexico.
Public Rooms: Well, as a lot of other members mentioned, this ship is aging. And we knew that at the beginning, so we did not expect too much from it. Just the poolside area was really slippery, I worried about my 90 grandpa everyday onboard since he liked to swim at 5am in the morning.
Service: I would say not bad at all. Crews were pretty friendly and smiled a lot (when comparing with Royal Caribbean). Surprising, a lot of staffs could speak English fluently and that was out of my expectation. I tipped my room steward extra and he refused to take it at the beginning and I saw that he was honest enough to share with his assistant right away (which I saw the others just put it in their own pocket).
Conclusion: You will get what you pay for. Everybody in my party said it was worthy, but, all of us agreed that next time we would pay a bit more to get a better cruise. Except my bf and I, no one complaint about this trip (besides that ice-cream and breakfast incidents). I am glad that nobody in my family was scared away from cruise trips in the future, but most likely, we won't go back to NCL anymore. Happy Cruising!!!