The embarkation in Southampton was awful and when we eventually got on board our stress levels were very high.
The ship was much as we remembered it however it was soon apparent that there were hundred's of kids on board.
When we got to our cabin it was obvious that a smoker had had the room before us, it stank of stale smoke and we had to call to get something done, the general standard of the cleaning of the room was not great, the mirrors and windows were covered with finger prints etc. The cabin stewards never introduced themselves so no idea who they were!
Breakfast on the first morning in the Garden Cafe was stressful, the place was packed and virtually impossible to find somewhere to sit. When we have cruised with RCCL, their Windjammer restaurant is much bigger, and suited for the size of the ship.
We found the restaurants to be quite good, but we booked every night so no waiting for us! I would certainly recommend booking a table if you wish to eat in the "free" restaurants. We ate in Cagney's, Bistro, Teppanyaki, Asian Garden, Pannialo & the Italian, all were good although as a non-red meat eater the choice in Cagney's was limited.
We normally use the gym every day, although with the mix of passengers and large number of teenagers, this proved impossible in the late afternoon. We used the spa area for an extra fee but it was hardly used so not many opportunities to chat to fellow passengers.
To cope with the huge numbers, the ship had placed sofa beds in many of the cabins rather than the pullman bed (from the ceiling) arrangement they usually have. I cannot say how much the number of kids/teenagers spoilt the relaxation of the cruise we are used to, we will certainly use NCL again but never in the school holiday season, we have well and truly learnt our lesson.
We did mention the reduced service to the pursers desk but were told we had sailed in peak season - surely no reason for standards to fall, if there are more passengers should the staff ratio not be kept the same?
One great factor was that I never saw smoking inside the ship (apart from the casino), but better than our last experience on RCCL.
The trips were very expensive and we only did two organized trips.
We tipped ourselves and had the auto tips removed.
Will use again but can do better.