This cruise makes the 5th time my husband and I have cruised - and the second time using NCL. This is my first review for Cruise Critic.
Embarkation and Day 1 We arrived in Boston the night before just to hedge our bets against any airline delays. Although we knew we would not be allowed to check in or get on the ship until at least noon, we decided to get to the Terminal somewhat early. Thank goodness we did - we were able to hand over our bags and get in line pretty quickly (around 10:15am) despite the fact we had no idea where the line really was (nothing was marked and the representatives standing around were not much help - I think we ended up in the crew's line at first...). Once we secured our place in line, it became obvious as time went on that the line became a crowd - not terribly organized. However, once we made it in and checked in, the rest was pretty smooth. We were on board by noon.
First impression of the ship was that it's very beautiful - the Japanese art and decor were lovely. Once on board we were handed a glass of champagne (nice touch) and we went immediately to the "alternate dining" counter because we intended to dine at several of the cover-charge restaurants during the trip. The young ladies behind the counter were more interested in talking among themselves than being attentive to us. We made our selections, dropped our carry-on bags in our room and went on our way exploring the ship. By 4pm we settled ourselves inside in the Galaxy of the Stars so we could watch the ship leave. Sadly, several of the huge windows were completely damaged by water intrusion between the panes - you couldn't see out of them. Given the recent time in dry-dock for the ship's refit, I'm surprised there were so many bad windows on the ship. In Galaxy, you can take the stairs down to an observation area to watch what's going on on the Bridge.
Once we pulled away, we decided to take the spa tour and were escorted around the spa by a member of the spa staff. This is where the hard-selling began. My husband and I were both interested in making appointments, but we had not had a chance to look over the services menu long enough or finished the tour without being badgered over and over about booking something right then.
Cabin The room was smaller than I remembered other balcony staterooms being on other ships. The color scheme of the carpet and decor was really ugly - not in keeping with how nice the public areas were. Our bed was a good size, but very, very hard. The bathroom had a persistent sewer-gas smell to it so we kept the door closed at all times. The shower was a decent size and had a sliding door, which is appreciated instead of dealing with billowing shower curtains and wet floors. The lighting in the bathroom was not good, and yellowish, so ladies will appreciate it when I say - don't try and do your makeup in there! The balcony was standard in width, but in depth, it was very narrow. Still - comfortable for two to sit outside. We rarely saw our cabin steward unless we passed him in the hall, and it was impossible to reach him when attempting to dial him on the phone. It would simply ring busy.
The weather was very rough that evening and all the next day - the "Report form the Bridge" on the TV showed us in 18 foot seas - many around the ship were seasick - luckily my husband and I don't mind rough seas. We had dinner in the Gardens dining room. The food was quite good. Got pitched to buy roses every time we sat down to eat in any restaurant.
Day 2 This was a sea day. We decided to go with the spa treatments - I got a hot stone massage and my husband a mani-pedi. Again - the hard sell was on. No sooner had my masseuse started my massage before she was pitching me on other spa services. I politely declined. The massage continued, I was relaxing and enjoying it very much until...she pitched me again. Have I ever had a facial? Again, I declined. I was very uncomfortable being put in this position - I'm used to the pitch at the end of the treatment for the various creams and such, but during? By the time I was done she'd already rushed out to the acupucturist to set me up with a consultation I didn't ask for. Pretty awkward. As it turned out, my husband was pitched during his services too, so I guess that's what NCL wants them to do.
Most of our lunches were in Raffles and the food was quite good. My husband visited Raffles often for the corned beef hash and chicken! Went to the Martini Tasting ($15 per person) which was fun.
We ate dinner in Shogun that evening. The food was ok, but the service was somewhat dismissive. I was a bit disappointed.
Days 3, 4, 5 Bermuda We arrived in Bermuda about 11AM and given the weather was still a little dicey, we took our time and had a late breakfast in Windows (wonderful salmon eggs benedict!). We were off the ship by 1:00 and explored the Dockyard area including the Maritime Museum and the Clocktower Mall. Topped off with a mid-day snack at the Frog and Onion Pub and cocktail at the beachside Hammerhead Bar.
With no pressure to be back to the ship by a certain time, we felt no need to book shore excursions in Bermuda though the ship. There's plenty to do and see on your own and transportation is easy.
The next day we bought the 2-day Ferry/Bus pass (absolute bargain) and set out on the ferry for St. George. The public transportation is run very efficiently and the busses and ferries are neat as a pin. We explored St. George a while then headed on the bus to the Crystal Caves then to the Bermuda Aquarium and Zoo. The Caves were very interesting - be prepared to climb a lot of stairs! The Aquarium and Zoo were ok.
That evening we ate in Windows and dressed a little better since we understood the main dining room was not casual during dinner service. We had to be put on a waiting list (one of the few drawbacks to Freestyle dining is occasionally you have to wait for a table). As we were waiting, we realized the dress code isn't enforced. Many were seated in t-shirts, shorts, or swimsuit cover-ups with flip flops. I was very surprised they were not turned away to the Garden restaurant since that is supposed to be the more casual of the two. Service in Windows was a bit chaotic.
We caught the magic show that evening. At best it was ok. It was the only show we saw on the trip.
The next day we spent in Hamilton and walked down Front Street to the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute which had a cool Titanic display. After lunch at the Hog Penny (get the Bermuda Fish Chowder!) the weather began to turn so we headed back to the ship on the Ferry.
That evening we treated ourselves to the Enchanted Evening Dinner. It's worth every penny of the $65 per person. Tables are set up in the Art Gallery among all the beautiful art pieces, and it's limited to a small number of couples (no more than 30, I think). The setting is very intimate and the 5-course meal comes complete with wine for each course and a visit from the Executive Chef. The meal was spectacular and the chosen wines for each course were all very good. The service was impeccable (thanks, Kelton!).
The next two days were sea days that we spent in the casino, hitting the bingo games, or outside by the pool. Of note is that even though Bermuda had passed legislation recently to allow cruise ships to open their casinos after 10:30 PM while docked in port, this cruise closed the casino completely throughout the entire visit to Bermuda. Bingo can get pretty expensive - they spend at least 30 minutes going through the numerous packages you can buy before you get to play. One of the packages was $129!
We had dinner in Le Bistro - the food was excellent, service decent. Le Bistro is pretty small and has an "open kitchen" which tended to be pretty noisy if you're seated close to it as we were. On our last night we ate at Cagney's - the best of the specialty restaurants in my opinion. The setting was quiet, the service very good, and the food was terrific.
Disembarkation We chose to take our luggage off ourselves, so it was a snap. We were able to leave along with the first group off and we were through customs by 10AM.
Overall, the cruise was quite nice. I just wish there was more to do that doesn't cost extra. We expected to pay for the specialty restaurants, but stuff to keep you busy or entertained generally had a price tag on it too.