I will start by saying that if you have not bought your cruise tickets for NCL yet - you are smart. Choose any other cruise line and you will have a great vacation. I am sorry I have to rate them as 1 star - they are NONE in everything. Our background: we have been on 18 cruises on all mass market cruise lines - NCL is by far the worst cruise line and the worst cruising experience ever. This was the last minute after Thanksgiving cruise that we purchased 4 days before we went on it. And we did not expect much from a 3 night cruise - some relaxing time, good food, show, dancing - regular cruising experience. I am 38, my husband is 46, kids are 14 and 7, and we live in Florida and try to take a cruise 2-3 times a year.
Embarkation: Was very slow, entrance was 5 miles away from ship, or it felt like 5 miles, there were no lines, but you had to go through the maze from person to person, next one worst then the one before. One was practicing how to say our last name letter by letter for 5 minutes; the other asked my 7 years old if she was a minor, third asked my husband if he wants to use his key card as credit card on the ship or have a kid card with one corner cut off. Finally we got to our cabins.
On the ship: After reading reviews, we decided that first thing we want to do is make reservation for the steakhouse for next day and then go explore the ship. There was a huge line at the reservation desk, 20 people, and she was also taking phone calls and placing reservations on both ends. It tool 45 minutes to get to reservationist to find out that all she had left for next night's dinner was 5:45 and 9:45seating and that we could not make reservations more then 24 hours ahead of time. Also, we could not reserve time at a regular restaurant because it is free style which means you can come any time you want and stay in line as long as you want. I asked her to call maitre d' and double check and I was not leaving until I got my dinner reservations made for 7:30 next night at the steakhouse. She called maitre d' and for sure he was able to find a table for 2 of us for dinner at 7: 30.
Deck 11 - buffet: Next we went to have lunch on deck 11. Nothing else was open and kids were hungry. However, this was the worst lunch I've had in my life - on or off ship. The temperature in the room was over 100F, it felt cool outside in the sun compared to the temperature inside. The selection was - hot dog, cheeseburgers, chips, fries, gumbo soup made of okra, yellow leaves that they called salad, roast pork so dry you can bend silverware with it and assortment of slimy looking deserts. This is the selection that they had throughout the cruise for lunch. One day they added over-fried rice with dried up fish, next day they had overcooked vegetables and over-salted stew. Finally I understood why every past cruiser in their reviews said that they liked French fries on the ship - there was nothing else to eat!!!
Kids Program: Next we decided to sign up kids for kid's program and then figure out where to eat and how to schedule our meals to avoid buffet. There was our next huge disappointment - there is NO KIDS PROGRAM per se - kids are in the program between 6 pm and 10 pm only, the rest of the time you have to pay per hour, they don't have program when you are in port and not when you are on a private island (more about that later). Also they do not have computers, Nintendo, games, or anything that kids enjoy doing - they play athletic games, do scavenger hunts, and color pictures. Between 6 pm and 10 pm is the time when we take kids to dinner and a show and after the show when adult games and dancing start is when we usually use kid's program on other cruise lines, as well as during the day. Our last cruise was Disney where kids were entertained between 7 am and 1 am none-stop and at no additional cost every day in or out of port. But this did not end there. Our older daughter has mild disability and we usually transfer her to 9-12 age group because the teen group has no supervision and older kids go in and out all the time. None of the other cruise lines ever had a problem with that. Disney this year was a delight, Carnival and RCCL last year were very accommodating, Celebrity and Princess year before had no problem at all. Not NCL!!! No, they cannot age bump, no they cannot have an extra person or an additional supervision in teen room, no they do not have computers and no they do not have games, and no they cannot provide a room where she can stay and play by herself or with others under any kind of adult supervision. And even if we pay, they cannot provide one-on-one service even for 2 hours while we go to dinner. We've got more "NO" answers in 10 minutes there then in all previous 18 cruises we took.
So we went and canceled our hard earned reservation for steakhouse the next night and said good bye to any time alone for my husband and I on this cruise.
We went on the deck and longingly looked at disappearing Miami skyline and said in unison: "Is it too late to get off this ship?"
Cabin: We went up to the cabin to change for dinner and I wanted to get a drink from mini-bar to unwind a little after the stress of last 3 hours on the ship. There was no ice in ice bucket. When I called room service I was told that I need to ask cabin steward who is outside in the hall to bring me ice. The hall was deserted. I called again and was told to wait and see if he will walk by. Then my husband called and someone came 5 minutes later to get an ice bucket. He did not introduce himself, so I still do not know who our cabin steward was. One guy picked up the bucket, another brought it back and asked if there was anything else I needed tonight (mind you it was 6 pm). I asked him to specify and he said, well, do you want a turn down service? So I've got a better idea of the kind of a La Cart service we've got.
Dinner: We went to a regular dining room where we were given a pager and told that wait time was about 20 minutes. 30 minutes later we were seated at the table. Dinner was not bad, at least not as bad as I was afraid of based on reviews and previous 4 hours on the ship. They use tiny salad shrimps for shrimp cocktail, there was lamb dish and beef dish on the menu, they had salmon, chicken and salad, soup and kids menu. Deserts were good. Server was good, water was re-filled regularly. As you can see we are not picky eaters and dining room dinner was just fine.
Show: Because we waited 30 minutes for dinner and service was a little long, or maybe kids took a little longer to eat, we missed the show. We then saw it on TV and we did not miss much. We actually were glad that we spent some time on open deck instead of that show.
Cabin: We had 2 balcony cabins, since it was last minute cruise there was nothing else available and no cabins to fit 4 of us. Cabin was furnished in thrift store fashion: scratched nightstand, dirty stained upholstery, dirty room (my younger kept on finding things that were left there by previous cruisers - pins, hair band, old receipts), piece of plywood instead of mattress, coffee table from last century that ended up on the balcony since room is so small there is no place for even small table.
Next morning: There is no clock in the room and no clock on TV, so after lying for 5 hours on plywood mattress my back hurt so much I had to get up and wait for sunset on the balcony to figure out the time of day.
Nassau: We were in Nassau so many times that we did not want to leave the ship. We stayed by the pool, the weather was gorgeous, there were very few people by the pool and I finally had one-on-one time with my book. My husband entertained kids - monopoly, chess, cards, and dominos. Water in the pool was below freezing, but the air was fresh. Of course, there was nothing else to do anyway - no music, no trivia, no activities by the pool. Makes you wonder if there was entertainment staff on board at all.
Lunch: Terrible selection, tasteless food, no service, close to the pool.
Dinner: 20 minutes wait, good menu, good service. So far the best experience on this cruise. The waiter Dennis was good. When my husband asked him his opinion about 2 dishes, a duck and beef Wellington, he just said that he will bring both dishes and let us decide. Both were good.
Show: After all, there was an entertainment staff on board. Show was not bad. 4 singers - only 2 could sing, 6 dancers, good choreography, and good music. Newlywed game after the show, but after so many cruises, same questions irritate you. Boring newlywed game was the main attraction of the cruise because they kept showing it on TV non-stop for next 2 days.
Dancing. NONE. There was big orchestra that played mix of new age and old jazz that you can listen but not dance to. There was Cuban band that played strictly Cuban music. There was Caribbean band on the deck once. Guitar player was good, but no place to dance; piano player was good, played in the bar, with no dance floor either.
Next day - Private Island. Where do I start? I guess line at breakfast that took 45 minutes to get an omelet and coffee. And then line to get on tender that started on deck 4 and went all the way to deck 3. And then island! We went to RCCL Private Island, Princess Private Island, Disney Private Island - so we had an idea what to expect - and we always enjoyed an itinerary that included private island. Not NCL!!!! Small, crowded, dirty, no fresh water shower, no empty chairs, no umbrellas, no towels exchange, no service, terrible lunch. We looked but did not eat. BBQ pit serves a gourmet grill compared to that lunch on the island. We stayed there for a short time until kids splashed in water and went back to the ship. On the way back there was a guy with the water hose to hose your legs off before getting on the ship. Ordered room service, which had very limited selection, but no greasy fries and burgers and no lines. Of course I had to call twice and wait for 50 minutes to get the delivery, but at least they had salad.
Last Evening: There was bingo and a comedian -no show. Same old quest game. The Park West gallery auction with cocky auctioneer who does not know names of the artists that gallery sells.
No dancing again. Dinner was uneventful and same as the other 2 nights.
Overall, in 3 days and 3 nights on the ship we did not get any service from anyone onboard the ship except in the dining room. To get drinks on the deck, we had to go to the bar, to get drinks in the bar, we had to go to the bartender, there was no drink service in the theater or any other public places on the ship. There is no wait staff during breakfast or lunch, if there was I did not see them. But I saw an old woman with cane carrying her own coffee on slippery deck, I saw another elderly person asking where she can get milk for her coffee and being told by the waiter to go back to the coffee stand and get it. I saw people leaving dining room after they were told that they have to pay $25 cork fee for the bottle of wine they brought with them. I saw a man asking line cook where he could get water and being told to go in an opposite direction from the refreshment stand. There was no hot cocoa or tea available after hours, there was no buffet on the deck, no d'oeuvres or finger foods in the evening. So when one night kids wanted to eat something around mid-night, we had to tell them to wait until breakfast because room service takes forever. There were kids ages 16 and 17 sitting on the stairs between dining room and teen program one evening for hours and laughing and swearing loudly. There were 4 kids 9-10 years old who rode in panoramic elevator between 5 and 9 pm one evening and then between 10 and 12 pm at night, cannot imagine what their parents did all that time, well I can imagine, but kids were nonsense. And lastly, we were told to carry our own luggage off the ship since no luggage tags were provided by room steward.
At the end of the cruise they do not ask you to fill out an evaluation or a survey form – after all, even they cannot ask you to rate the non-existent service they provide. Or may be they just do not care - they got your money already.