This was our third cruise together with NCL (my wife had sailed on NCL with her family in the 1970's) and our fifth cruise overall, having also sailed Carnival twice. Overall, this was a very pleasant cruise with a few disappointments.
We arrived at the port at about 1:00 pm (thanks to Delta for a 90 minute delayed departure) and NCL had us checked in and on board in about twenty minutes. We used the Latitudes line, the regular line was longer but not too bad. There was no escort to our cabin but OJ and water and baked goods available in the terminal before boarding (on a table after check-in) and both champagne and OJ were offered upon boarding. Our cabin was not as clean as it should have been (used straw and other trash on balcony, slippers from a previous guest under the bed and scraps of paper on the floor) and no robes or fruit menu were available in the cabin (and this was a balcony). Cabin was turned down only two of four nights and ice was not kept replenished very well. The hand soap dispenser in the bathroom remained empty the entire cruise. Unlike other previous cruisers, we did have sufficient towels.
The cabin is really small but okay for two. Three would be challenging. The cabin is about 9ft wide and about 17ft long. The living area (excluding bath, closet and hall) is about 9ft by 11ft. Three very small drawers and one small shelf in the closet, one small drawer in desk and one night table with two small shelves. One small corner shelf available above the TV. Cabin is about 150 sq. ft. (Category BB) with a 9ft by 5 ft (approx) balcony. Cabin was on starboard (right) side with view in Miami of the cruise terminal and Miami skyline, view in Freeport of dock and marketplace, view in Nassau would have been of sea but blocked by RCCI Majesty of the Seas, and view at Great Stirrup Cay of the island. Frequent noise seemed to come from use of stairs near cabin (particularly unsupervised adolescents chasing each other up and down late at night). The balcony door can be held open with the hook provided and the sound of the water at night is wonderful. A/C kept the cabin cool but a magnetic sensor on the door turns it off if the balcony door is open.
Service in all dining venues was very good to excellent. Some servers were clearly more service oriented (offering to pour cream in coffee or get juice from cold foods buffet at morning breakfast in Palace) while others seemed less eager to please. Service as a whole was well timed and orders were always correct. Selections for dinner were good but we ate at all three specialty restaurants, finding them all excellent, both service and the quality of the food. Well worth the minimal cover charge for the quality of the meal. Menu selections for lunch, however, were not as varied and on days 2 and 3 were particularly poor. Food was always at the proper temperature in the dining rooms. Food was generally excellent in the specialty restaurants ($20 pp for Cagney's, $15 pp for Le Bistro and $10 pp at Il Adagio) and very good in the dining room. Ate at the buffet two days for lunch and found the food quality to be average and the service fair to poor. Did not use room service on this cruise.
Purchased the anniversary package which was an excellent value. Received an anniversary cake at dinner two nights with the wait staff singing. The only issue was that the canapes were not delivered the evening scheduled but a call to room service resulted in their delivery the following afternoon exactly when requested.
Other than the cabin, the ship was very clean to spotless with many workers evident throughout the day painting, replacing carpet and performing other maintenance tasks. The hot tubs and pool were almost always operational (unlike my experience on Carnival when they were frequently closed) and the gym was very well equipped with all of the machines in good working order. Most of the crew that we met or encountered were friendly and personable.
Entertainment was very enjoyable, including the Broadway song and dance production, the comedian (Rich Purpura) and the NCL Sky showband which was spectacular. I was going to try my luck in the Casino but after standing in line for twenty minutes to sign up for the Casino at Sea program for some promotional play, I gave up. I took that as a sign that the casino on this trip was not going to be good to me!
Tendering to GSC was quick and smooth and getting on and off the ship at each port was easy. Disembarkation was great, carried our own luggage off at 8am with no line whatsoever and had cleared customs and were in a taxi to MIA less than fifteen minutes later. Despite chaos at the American Airlines counters at MIA, they were able to move us to the 9:50am flight instead of the 4:00pm flight we had booked. Saved us a six hour wait in the airport. Thanks, American!
A few areas where NCL fell down on the job: Both the Martini tasting and Margarita tasting were canceled on Day 2 since they said they needed a minimum of six. The Latitudes lounge never had snacks and the coffee and hot water for tea available in the attached library were generally lukewarm to cold. Despite what the Latitudes benefits say, there is no Latitudes party on the Sky for either the four or three night cruises. No robe or fruit menu in the cabin.
For the price paid ($149 pp for a four night cruise in a balcony cabin, including fees, fuel surcharge and service charge, it came to $600 total for both of us) it was well worth it. However, in the interest in retaining loyal customers, NCL would be well advised to deliver on their promises. Much better to under promise and over deliver than to do as NCL on this cruise. It won't keep me from sailing NCL again as it is an good value but it does reduce the satisfaction of my experience and my willingness to recommend NCL to friends and family.