My wife and I, a 40-something couple with no kids, cruised with eight other family members (including nephews ages 1 and 5) to celebrate her parents 50th anniversary on the Spirit from Boston. We have cruised before (on RCI Majesty), so we are not experts but do have a point of comparison. The check-in experience at Boston was dreadful, very disorganized and crowded. It doesn't appear Boston is accustomed to handling cruise traffic compared to our experience in Miami. WE chose Boston because it provided the most convenience for the most family members.
While the ship itself was nice, relatively clean and not hard to navigate, we were somewhat disappointed with certain aspects for NCL's heavily promoted "free style cruising." The problems started when they did not have the large cups for the soda card (buy it at the start and have soda whenever you want at all restaurants and bars). I was told they would be available next week (like that would do us any good). The server seemed more interested in pushing the drink of the day than explaining the drink card, and often during the cruise, servers seemed almost offended when we only requested a soft drink. And many times, we only got a six ounce glass of soda.
One of the other mixed results came from the food. We're not big fans of the big buffet, so we used the dining rooms most of the time and occasionally the short order Blue Lagoon cafe (which has good pub fare). The service in dining rooms was just OK, sometimes we would go long periods without follow up requests being honored. One time, my wife had to ask three times for tea. This may be a downside to "freestyle" since at dinner you don't have the same servers every day, who get to know your needs and are working hard for their own tip, not just a group "service charge." Several times the food was cold, or at least at room temp.
We will give the one special restaurant we attended, Cagney's steak house, high marks. The quantity and quality of food there was good, but I did have to send my steak back because it was undercooked. But, they handled that properly and even brought a second potato out when the steak was redone. The breakfast buffet was quite plentiful and had lots of variety, but the same could not be said of the late night buffet.
But there is some good news, we attended every evening show in the Stardust Lounge and enjoyed them all. My wife especially got a kick out of the Cats Pajamas Vocal Band. Alas, they were transferring out with our cruise, but I think they cycle through various cruises so look for them. The in-house company and the Second City comedy team performed well and we even met some of the players of each in their off hours and they were very friendly and enjoyed what they were doing and meeting with passengers. The magician did a lot of traditional tricks, but was also enjoyable.
One problem was there were only a certain number of events at a given time, making for large crowds in the Galaxy of the Stars lounge. The biggest madhouse was the chocolate buffet, which may have been done better on deck than in one of the dining rooms.
The front desk service was top notch, providing us with updated bills when we needed, but the photo department folks had a hard time going "off script" when we wanted to be creative in our photo packages to maximize savings for our large group.
Another positive, one member of our group had a service dog and the ship crew was very helpful and accommodating. The children in our group also enjoyed some of the services provided them, the adventure themed children's pool area and the meet and greet with the captain come to mind.
So, all in all, if you like flexibility, you could give NCL's freestyle a try, but just bear in mind that may also reduce the accountability of service.