First off, although this review is going to come out negative, I want to start by saying the staff, the facilities, shows, etc were all pretty much flawless for us. We had no problems with anyone and enjoyed ourselves on our 7 day Bermuda cruise on the Dawn. Our problem all relate to NCL and maybe the whole "freestyle cruising" concept as it relates to us. That and the nitpicking extra fees they hit you with everywhere. It really did get to the point where my wife & I had running jokes about what extra things they'd charge you for next.
As for background, this was my 3rd cruise (RC & a small local outfit in South America a few years back). My wife had also gone on a Holland America cruise and another NCL with her family prior to us getting married. We had wanted to go to Bermuda and had considered flying but liked we could take one locally without having to book airline fares and could just take a train to NYC to catch it. We weren't overly particular about when we went and booked online about a month prior after having considered the RC one out of Bayonne. We liked the extra day this one offered in Bermuda and were actually as equally curious about trying a different linenot to say we had any problems with RC which was my first cruise about 3 years ago and I loved. We booked a balcony and ended up on the 10th floor.
Others have commented that the shows hadn't been updated or whatever. We hadn't seen them so they were all new to us. They were very good in our opinion. Our room was always clean and our room steward couldn't have been friendlier. The tours we took were fine (maybe pricey but we knew that when we booked). Generally speaking the staff were friendly. But that's about where the good really ends.
As I said, we wanted the extra day in Bermuda so took NCL's trip vs the RC which only gave 2 days in Bermuda. But why does this ship deliberately take an extra day to get there? Out of Boston, they give 4 days in Bermuda on a 7 day trip. And seeing as they return a day quicker than to get there, it's not an issue of distance to get there. Do they just want you in their casinos an extra day? Is it getting the docking at King's Wharf an extra day? I really don't know, but is annoying. But at least we knew this was the case up front. But the things we didn't know all started to add up such that the "nit picks" became irritating. Biggest on this list is the food. If your a vegetarian like my wife, don't even consider this boat. Unless you like buffet dining, you'll go away hungry. She's no fanatic about pushing her views on others, but because the 2 general dining rooms have fixed menus every day of the week, she had one choice each on each of those menusand one was macaroni & cheese!!!! Now they claim you can go to all the special restaurants but in checking the menu's on them, unless she wanted spaghetti (italian restaurant) or a vegetarian burrioto (tex mex), those were about the only other things she could get. And you have to pay extra for that right!!! No offense but vegetarian food is dirt cheap. And you really don't have to be that creative to come up with some options. She ended up eating appetizers for her ontray. Put another way, on our 50 person cruise in south america, she had more choices than on this boat. They said they just expanded the menus to be different at the 2 free restaurants. Imagine having but one choice! The buffet did offer more options but we aren't exactly the kind of people who want to eat in a buffet all the time. I guess we are the kinds who do like to get dressed up for dinner from time to time. But it was strange how half of the buffet was generally closed creating lines longer than need be. And why they had to stick meat in things like hash browns was beyond her. As I said, she's not pushy about those who eat meat with the exception of foir grois which she believes should be outlawed entirely as many places do. Decide for yourself if you'll eat it, but as expected, this cruise line serves it.
On the first day, we walked around the ship and got the tour of the gym, spa, etc. Never saw such a hard sell to sign up for a spa/gym packages in our life. Was probably the first hint of things to come. Maybe the extra day at sea is to get you into the spa? Or to buy a detox, botox, or accupuncture sessions. As for the gym, we learned riding stationary bikes was extra, treadmills and elipticals free. What's special about exercise bikes? And organized classes were extra. Later in the week she went to a "doctor run" program for toning trouble spots and it was another hard sell for detox sessions!
Walking around the ship we found that table tennis was free (if the wind tunnel location allowed you to play), while billiards was pay. Luckily the walking track (though funneled down at one end) and the jogging track (goes through the pool area so problem during crowded times) weren't something they could charge for. And speaking of ship tours, they had a sign posted to "sign up for the backstage ship tour before it fills (extra fees apply)". There were no fees for this on RC and they seemed proud to show off their ship. How's giving a ship tour costing NCL anything??? On the first day they also try to sell you overpriced bottles of wine to drink on the cruise. We passed and bought the wine by the glass method. We preferred the RC method of buying a bottle off the menu (I think they had up front packages as well) and them holding leftovers for the next meal. Maybe NCL does let you take the leftover bottles out with you, but if they don't, that's kind of screwy. But since you don't know what "restaurant" you'll be in the next night, not sure how it would work if they don't.
The next day was a rainout (maybe they were happy getting people into the casino). We showed up at Bingo. Now maybe we haven't kept up with technology but we kind of like the "joy" of punching the holes and getting one number away. Well, what a shock when Bingo Boy basically told people, that you won't win if you get the paper cards and really need to buy the "show me the money" package. Well, considering that paying double gets you some electronic gizmo that gets preloaded with like 100 electronic cards compared to the paper version of 6 punchout games, I can see why he would say that. Your almost throwing away your money not upgrading (aka spending more). But what's the fun in just sitting there watching a machine play? Maybe that's how true gamblers do it, but frankly, they ruined the fun in even bingo for us. The art "auction" was similar to what we had seen on RC. Give you booze and hope you buy something. Claim your getting a great deal. Some of the art was even the same prints as on Royal Carribbean (Max, etc). Later in the cruise, the "deals" became better and more freebies given away (free until you learn about outrageous framing and shipping costs). Anyway, I know that's a separate company doing it but still... Just kind of falls in the same category. Just like when we found out that the cruise line gets kickbacks by recommending certain island shops to buy at. So much for claiming these are stores where we guarantee the quality (we found this out when we got the "register your purchases form" from NCL on the last day of the cruise and saw how they get promotional payments from the stores.) Geez... They also do the portrait thing. The one we liked the best unfortunately was a cruise line advertisement. We did end up taking our 2nd choice and the welcome aboard prints. We just happened to luck out in buying them on the "sale day". We didn't know that up front but as we should have expected, the longer you wait, the cheaper the pictures get as they try to get anything for them.
The 2nd day at sea was bright and sunny and everyone grabbed seats by the pool. Would have been nice if they enforced their rules about not allowing people to just hold chairs forever but they didn't. We ended up being to late to get anything in viewing area of the pool area. They did have the lunch "bbq" but nothing vegetarian. I ate it, but we headed to the buffet yet again for my wife.
One extreme positive was the embarkation in Bermuda. Couldn't have been quicker. Only complaint is the lack of warning that another big ship was coming into the dock the last day which created massive congestion trying to catch ferry & bus. But did give us opportunity to talk to the people on the other boat. Princess line. Of course our interest was meals and they assured us their choices were way better for vegetarians and these people weren't even vegetarian.
We did like the shows but my wife isn't much into improv so the 2nd city thing wasn't up her ally. But the fact that part of the show was a "cutdown" sketch of Carnival Cruise was something really not needed. It was nice deciding when you wanted to eat to decide on a day to day basis on what show to go to. I'll give free styling that much.
On the last day, they hit you for the gratuity bill. We aren't cheap by any means but it still is resentful for them to decide how much they deserve. We would have preferred to give our room stewards more and the restaurant staff less. There's apparently no way to do this.
Anyway, it's sad that things like this are the things I remember. And it really wouldn't be that hard for them to fix. But until they do, we really can't see us going on NCL again.