This was our 6th cruise, second on Norwegian, first with the "Freestyle" concept. Traveled on our own to Boston and embarkation took over an hour- not a pleasant start. It looked like the first time cruisers line was actually moving faster then the Latitudes member line. Had a regular window room on Deck 5. The room was clean but showed some signs of wear, especially the bathroom. The finish on the mirror was coming off on the bottom and the toilet room reeked of urine the entire trip. We've had friendlier and better room stewards. Everyday there was something that wasn't done- a glass missing, no ice, no coffee, coffee pot wasn't clean, etc.
The entertainment was excellent throughout the cruise. The cruise director Paul was great and the "game" shows were good. We only ate embarkation lunch and breakfasts at Raffles and it was fine. The appetizer selection and quality at Windows/Garden rooms was very good, but the entree selections were few and not too great. Lamb came almost raw once and the lobster tails were like rubber. Ate at La Bistro (French) once and at Shogun (Asian fusion) once and both were very good, especially Shogun. Service was good everywhere we ate.
All the public rooms were very nice and tastefully done (not the garish variety).
Now the problems. Getting a table for dinner at Windows or Garden dining rooms was kind of ridiculous. If you only had a party of 2 and tried to eat anytime between 6 and 8, you always had at least a 30 minute wait. Everyone that had to wait was always sitting on the stairs in the main stairwell by the entrance to the dining rooms, impeding the progress of anyone who was actually using the stairs to get from one floor to another. It just felt and looked bad. And every single person who was waiting always had the same comment: that this "Freestyle" dining concept should be called "Free-for-all" instead, and that it was just a ploy by NCL to get people to use (and pay for, obviously) the specialty restaurants so that they didn't have to put up with the long waits. What bugs me about the specialty restaurants, is that in addition to the $15-25 cover charge, you have to pay an additional $10 to get some of the "special" item on the menu. Sheesh.
We did not take any NCL shore excursions, choosing to go it alone and rent cars at every port to greatly reduce the cost and avoid the bus crowds and travel at our own pace. Be forewarned though if you plan on going off on your own. In the 2 cities where you had to be tendered in (Bar Harbor and La Baie), if you weren't on the very first tender, you had to wait for the NCL tour groups to be tendered in first. In La Baie, we had to wait over 30 minutes for a tender and lost our car rental at the dock and luckily were able to get a rental from another company.
Disembarkation in Quebec was a glorious mess, another example of "Free-for-all" instead of "Freestyle". You could chose to either pick a specific time window to disembark or do it free style, and get off when you wanted. We picked the latter and that was a mistake. We waited over 30 minutes, just being in line on the ship itself, and our cabin was only a few feet from the gangway! The line full of people dragging their luggage wrapped around like a snake near the stairwell, and woe to anyone trying to merge into that line from an upper floor via the stairwell or from the cabin hallway on our floor. People were angrily yelling at others to go to the end of the line. There were no NCL crew around to assist. And whose bright idea was it to take one of the 3 elevators out of service for cleaning when people are trying to disembark?? Once we actually got off the ship, clearing customs went fairly quickly, for us, who had our luggage, but those who had a set time to get off and left their luggage for pickup by staff, had to go elsewhere to retrieve their bags, adding to the the time. And I don't know why this happened, but apparently there weren't enough taxis to handle everyone, so the line to get a taxi was at least another 30 minutes long. We didn't want to wait, so we started walking to the city and eventually flagged a cab outside the port.
One note about the age of the average passenger on this cruise. We're in our mid 50's, so we are no spring chickens, but we felt like we were one of the youngest couples on the cruise. The average age seemed to be in the mid 60's. Most were experienced cruisers (half the ship were Latitudes members). It wasn't a problem for us, but after about 11 PM, the ship was sort of dead. Nobody hanging out at the late night dance bar and even the casino was mostly empty, with the tables closed due to the lack of activity and only a few slots players around. Definitely not a "party" ship.