Embarkation: We flew to Miami on Saturday, 2/7 to enjoy some fun in SOBE before the cruise on Monday, 2/9. Upon arriving at the port we were cleared and boarding in 15 minutes. No hassles or issues at all. Boarding the ship, we were greeted by friendly crew and cruise ship performers and offered champagne. I saw one restaurant represented by a waiter offering samples but I did not choose take one - it was a nice presentation though. We found our way through the lobby to the pool deck and grabbed 5 lounge chairs on the upper deck to take advantage of the bright sun and sights below. The pool deck is nicely laid out with plenty of chairs and the friendly waiters were quick to take our orders, (look for Gilbert - very cool and excellent at his job!). Drinks are pricey - $10 - $12 for frozen drinks, $5 for Coronas. We collected many souvenir drink cups by the end of this voyage! Gratuity is included on all bar orders - good to know in advance.
Cabins: Our cabins were ready by 2:00pm and our luggage for the most part was waiting for us in the hallway, except for 1 piece which arrived shortly after. We had cabins 0203, 0204, 0205 on the 10th level forward. Overall the cabins are very nicely decorated but VERY small. There were 2 people total in my cabin and we did not have enough room to put our clothes away in the closet or drawers so we lived out of our suitcases on the floor. In an attempt to find more floor space we moved out couch out to the balcony but it was returned inside the following day by the room stewards (fire hazard?). The balconies are very nice and well worth the extra cost. The bathrooms are clean and small but the water pressure and the toiletry items are fantastic which is very nice for a change!! We were also provided with 2 robes per cabin.
Food: We really liked the "Freestyle" choices as far as dining times and locations and the food was better than the Carnival and Celebrity lines. We choose to forgo the cover charge restaurants and stick with the Palace for breakfast and Crossings for dinner largely impart to I Gede the dining room captain who made our trip extra special. One person in our group has a serious gluten allergy and I Gede went totally above and beyond to ensure the safety and enjoyment of our friend. The other wait staff was fine for the most part but not as friendly or attentive as those on other cruise lines. I think it is mostly because of the $12 pp per day service fee that is automatically tacked on to your bill. I definitely noticed a difference except for a handful of standout crew members. We also ate at the aft buffet every afternoon for lunch. Very good bbq and fries!
Entertainment: We attended 3 shows on our 4 night trip. The opening night show was ok - the dancers were GREAT. The cruise director is a lunatic and the comic is not our type of humor but other people loved him. The other 2 shows were Broadway Style and Rock and Roll. Again the dancers were fantastic but the singers were average. The theater fills up quickly so you have to get there about 25 minutes before show time for a good seat. This ship does not offer the daytime deck entertainment that some other ships offer. It was fine for us because we didn't care about ice carving and belly flop contests. The "White Hot Party" is a lot of hype and you do not have to dress all in white to partake. It was fun but not extra special. Karaoke was fun but Dazzles night club was not consistently "dazzling" because of the music choices.
Ports: We did not buy any excursion packages on board the ship and we saved a bundle!! I would advise doing some research online before you sail and just walk off the ship and finding you own way around. We hired taxi drives in Freeport and Nassau for very little money. We went to the beach and town in Freeport for $10.00 round trip. In Nassau we paid $20 pp for a 2 hour tour of the island with stops and shopping and a drop off at Atlantis to hit the beach. The last full day was Great Stirrup Cay which is a lot of fun and included in the cruise price except for raft and equipment rentals. The beach lounge chairs are taken up early so be forewarned. The snorkel equipment is $30.00 to rent ont he island for the day. Three of us bought the equipment on the cruise ship before we got to the island for $15 each.
In Closing: We left the ship a little late because of last minute packing. The last call is 10am and we pushed it to 10:30am. We did receive a call asking us to hurry up which is understandable because of the 1 hour turnaround time the staff has before the next group boards at 11am. We walked right off the ship with luggage in hand with no issues and no lines.
Overall I would definitely sail with NCL again!