Cruise Goal: Get away from the brutal Chicago winter in an active way
Embarkation/Disembarkation: As others have mentioned, we got on and off the ship in a hurry. Our shuttle (SAS) arrived at the port at 12:30 pm, after waiting in terrible traffic. Everyone was really friendly at the port and after going through the porters and security, we were on board within 20 minutes. We tried and enjoyed the champagne, OJ, and some of the desserts from Le Bistro. We chose to carry our own luggage off the ship and we had no problems getting off in 20-25 min. Most of the delay came at customs where people were trying to sneak buffet fruit off the ship.
Oceanview Stateroom: Room 7205 was wonderful. The rooms are a tad larger than on the MSC, so that was a pleasant surprise. The beds are comfortable, but every night before we jumped into bed, we had to push the beds together or one of us would fall into the crevice. We didn't meet our cabin steward, but they did leave a couple of towel animals for us. Unfortunately, we did have to call on two separate occasions to get beach towels. The cabin steward took our dirty ones and never replaced them! FYI: NCL has a ~$25 missing towel fee, so make sure you keep track of them. Also, there was no iron in our stateroom and none to check-out, so we had to pay for the pressing charges. There is a dry cleaning/laundry special on embarkation day for 50% your total, but there is a 10 piece minimum.
Fitness Center: Every morning, my GF and I would go workout and we enjoyed their fitness center. We tried to time it so that we could watch from the yoga center or on the treadmill as the ship cruised into port. The machines aren't brand new, but they aren't antiques either. The Pilates and yoga classes are $12 each + gratuity. We passed on those as we found plenty of equipment to use. One negative thing to report here is that the bald yoga instructor at GSC was extremely rude to my GF when she wanted to do yoga on the GSC beach. She waited and took one of the first tenders to the island, arrived on time, and was told that yoga was delayed and then eventually canceled since she was the only one there. The yogi did give her an option of doing the class with him but behind a building in the muddy grass! She was obviously not thrilled about this counter proposal, so she declined and had to wait again for the next tender back to the boat. Also, she wants to mention that during the encounter with the yogi, he seemed more interested in flirting with a masseuse instead of caring for the passenger. He lost major "S.T.Y.L.E." points there!
Dining: We had breakfast at the outdoor cafe every day. We enjoyed their fresh fruit selection, scrambled eggs, and sausage. There is a big selection here and a couple of omelet stations nearby. My GF did have an omelet and she thought it was quite good. Please be careful when having breakfast outdoors when in Nassau. There are fearless sea gulls that will swoop in for a piece of your breakfast as soon as you turn your back. We dined at Crossings for dinner twice and we were severely disappointed. We couldn't eat anything there. The tilapia on the first night was passable. Meanwhile the lobster night fell short. I've had gulf coast shrimp that were almost as large as these lobster tails.
We did dine at the specialty restaurants on our final 2 nights. The first, we tried the Italian and were pleasantly surprised. For $10/head, the food and service were so much better than at Crossings. We are picky Italian eaters (She is an Italian citizen) and we gave 2 thumbs up to this restaurant. The Italian isn't as good as MSC, but it certainly made us very happy. On the final night, we dined at Le Bistro and it was by far the best meal of the entire cruise. I can't stop thinking about my GF's Rack of Lamb. I had an excellent Beef Tenderloin, but her entree was so good. The French onion soup was good and we both enjoyed our respective desserts (flourless chocolate Neapolitan cake and crème Brule)
I will add that there was a large group of 10+ people that wanted to go to Crossings and were declined admittance because 1 man in their party had shorts on. I was happy to see the rules being adhered to as they are clearly stated on the entrance sign. There also seemed to be a lack of servers for all of the empty Crossing tables. People begrudgingly had to wait 15-20 minutes, even though there were empty tables. To them I ask, what good is it to sit down when there isn't anyone to serve you?
Please note that in regards to food, everyone has different tastes so we encourage you to take our review with a grain of salt. As a barometer, we avoid large chain restaurants like Olive Garden, Maggianos, Ruth Chris, Melting Pot, Cheesecake Factory, etc. because we find their offerings not to our taste. This isn't to say we are foodies, as we enjoy Chicago style Hot Dogs and deep dish pizza all the time. I recommend you try Crossings/Palace and if they suit your needs, great, if not, try a specialty restaurant.
Bars: Drinks can get expensive and we did our best to take advantage of the drink specials (2-for-1 martinis/mojitos and drink of the day). We bumped into a few people that brought spirits onboard and I now understand why.
Small Entertainment: We saw Couples Challenge and the Gender Battle. We thoroughly enjoyed these competitions and we were happy to see some ship friends participating.
Big Entertainment: We saw the Variety Show, Broadway, and Newlywed/Not So Newlywed. We thought the Variety show was good and the comedian, Tim K, was funny. He uses the audience and crowd participation instead of stand-up, so it was a roar seeing some of the participants around the ship. Broadway was expectedly a disappointment. We have seen shows in New York and Chicago and even though it isn't fair to compare million dollar productions to on-ship entertainment, we think any seasoned Broadway viewer may come away with a sour taste in the mouth. The N/NSN game was very funny and we loved the fact that there was a nice range of marriage lengths on stage. I believe they ranged from 7 hours to 50+ years!
Theme Nights: Monte Carlo was cramped in the casino, so we decided to go to the craps table instead. White Hot Night was a bunch of euro techno music and overall a downer. Top 40 hits soon came around, but we were already techno'd out. There were some pub crawlers having too much of a good time as they scared the NCL dancers off the stage and into the bar. There should have been some security there to control the heavily inebriated. We went to the toga party, but it didn't seem like there were any more than 50-75 people there so we left.
Ports: We went to Paradise Cove in Freeport and we really enjoyed snorkeling there. A 3rd party operator took us to this beautiful beach where we had the place practically to ourselves. I believe there were only 10 other people on the beach with us.
In Nassau, we did an introductory scuba dive with Stuart Cove's Diving group. They had some great customer service and I would highly recommend this operation. On our intro dive group there were 3 instructors and only 4 clients! A 3-to-4 ratio meant a lot of personalized attention. The dive itself was poor. There aren't too many interesting things to see, especially compared to the sting rays and barracuda I ran into at Paradise Cove. The highlight was a staged plane wreck for James Bond Thunderball.
In GSC, we played and won the beach volleyball tournament. Dined on some tasty burgers and really enjoyed the sunshine. Tendering there and back was a tremendous task as we had to wait for every boat to fill. Please be aware that lounge chairs do go fast, but they opened up as the sun sent many home early. We didn't snorkel as we had too much fun playing volleyball with others.
Romance Package: Well worth it! We enjoyed the strawberries as soon as we unpacked. The canapEs were not that good. With a little bit of persuasion, the sparkling wine was traded in for a delicious red at Crossings. The dinner at Le Bistro as mentioned was excellent. We had the sweetheart song sung to us and I even joined in at the end. The cake was very good. I definitely think we got much more than our money's worth on the package.
Overall: We achieved our goal of getting away and having a really active time on vacation. We are both under 30 so keeping active, even on vacation, was really important to us and NCL gave us ways to do that. I would definitely recommend this ship to my friends and family because it provides a tremendous value. Even though the traditional restaurants are terrible in our eyes, the upgrade to specialty is a relatively small price to pay. The boat is in very good condition and we didn't notice any smells at all. The staff overall is very friendly and informative. I will consider NCL in the future.