This was considered a bonus cruise as we usually cruise once a year. With our daughters each bringing a friend and cramming them in an inside room for 4, and without airfare (we drove from Maine), the cruise was a reasonable way to visit Bermuda. My wife and I cruised to Bermuda 17 years ago on RCCL's Song of America so we looked forward to revisiting the island.
Our drive from home to Boston's port took just under 2 hours. The friend traveling with our youngest daughter flew in from Montana, but had left her passport back home. Thank God she was born in Maine so we were able to secure her birth certificate as we left for Boston. It proved to be fortunate we were departing on a Friday or the town hall would have been closed.
Embarkation was fairly quick. Left luggage with a porter and waited in line for about 30 minutes. On board within 45 minutes of arriving. Parked at cruise port garage. Easy.
As with all lunches, food was available in the buffet line in Raffles or on deck, where there was always a noon-time bbque of some sort. The buffet food was about the same as any other cruise we've been on. No real complaints. Loved the pool deck bbque each day, and the food at the Bier Garten and Blue Lagoon wwas always good.
We ate dinner the first 2 nights in Windows Dining Room. Ricky was our first waiter and he was quite fun. The view is amazing but the food was so-so. The second night we had terrible service as the server just didn't seem pleasant or that she even wanted to be there. This prompted one of the few complaints I have made on a cruise. Felix, the Maitre D, was willing to do anything to address our concern, but we ended up trying The Garden Dining Room the next night. There we met Chuna, who was our server for the rest of the cruise. What a delight. In fact, we found every staff member in the Garden Dining Room to be professional, polite, and fun. Our girls even commented on the difference between the 2 dining rooms.
While I admit it was nice not having to get dressed up each night, with a party of 6, we chose to make reservations for the dining rooms. We could only choose from 2 times: 5:30 or 8:30, or we could wait in line for other times, and the lines were long much of the time. We felt the food quality was pretty consistent and good in The Garden Room. We did not venture into any of the specialty restaurants.
The ship is clean and modest. It is small compared to the last few ships we have been on, thus pool space is a little tight on sea days and the kids programs did not have lots of space or the modern toys other ships have. The front desk staff, the cruise director staff, and the hotel staff were excellent. Paul, the CD, was energetic and present. He happens to have a great singing voice as well.
The night time entertainment was quite good on most counts. Only the magician seemed lack luster but Jane Powell, a singer, was just amazing, and the ship's dance troupe did an excellent job as well. We also enjoyed the Second City Troupe that was on board. The last night was the crew talent show and should not be missed. Awesome talent by the 'regular' staff.
Bermuda. Get the 3 day bus/ferry pass. We went to Tobacco Bay - AWESOME, tranquil, good snorkeling, and food available. We went to Horseshoe Bay - pretty but crowded and expensive treats. We also went to Snorkel Park, where the snorkeling is best just to the left of the rocks by the yellow pole. We also did Church Bay, where the snorkeling (try left side) was superb, but seas of little rough. Beach had some sea glass. Next time, based on passenger feedback, we'll try St Catherine's beach (next to Tobacco) and Warwick Beach (next to Horseshoe) and Shelly Beach. Shopping is high end mostly and we did not try any island eateries.
Would we do this cruise again? YES. Would we try NCL again? YES. But we prefer the traditional type of dining, where you really get to know your wait staff. Is RCCL still our favorite cruise line? YES, but every cruise we have taken, including this one, has its good points, and we really don't have any major complaints.