This was our first freestyle cruise (first time Norwegian Cruise travelers). I had previously been on Royal Caribbean but it was my boyfriend's first cruise. We both have small children but we traveled without them this time to get an idea of whether or not it would be suitable to travel with them on the next cruise. So, essentially, this was sort of a romantic, short getaway.
We booked an inside stateroom at an excellent price, for a 4 day, 3 night trip to the Bahamas (Nassau, and Great Stirrup Cay).The stateroom was clean, well kept. It was small, but sufficient for a short trip where you hardly stay in the room anyway. The bathroom was sufficient. Our luggage arrived at around 6:00pm, but we had brought a small backpack with our bathing suits and change of clothes.
Food Garden Cafe (buffet style)- pretty good selection of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We ate at least one time for each different meal. Breakfast was very good and filling with all the basics (eggs, sausage, potatoes, danish, breads, fruit, cereals, etc..). Lunch had meats, vegetables, salads and desserts, and dinner was the same as lunch except for some slightly upgraded meats (pork chops, chicken Marsala etc.)
Palace/Crossings- the palace had a pretty good selection of slightly premium fare. We had lobster, scallops, duck, pork chops, some premium salads, etc. Portions are smaller, but you can always request another place. Dessert is average, nothing special. Dining is casual and there always seemed to be a seat available.
Great Outdoor Cafe- mostly the same as garden cafe, sometimes with less options. Coffee Bar- average premium coffee drinks, I wouldn't recommend it. For the price you pay, you are better off just drinking regular free coffee.
BBQ at Great Stirrup- average at best. Mainly just burgers, hot dogs, chicken and slaw. It's sufficient for lunch at the beach.
Duty Free Shops
We purchased some liquor with specials at Dufrys. Service was good.
Service definitely cannot compare to that of other cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean. The barhops felt a bit pushy and unfriendly when you declined their offer for drinks. However, I guess that goes in line with the whole concept of Freestyle Cruising and paying for service in advance.However, the waiters at Crossings and Palace were all nice and efficient. The steward was friendly, although we rarely saw him. Our stateroom was constantly kept clean, which was good. However, we tried several times to get an iron from the receptionist which proved impossible! There was no answer to any of our calls, which was a bit disappointing since we were not able to iron any of the clothes we brought with us.
Another item to take note of was while we were at Great Stirrup Cay, we were charged incorrectly for a snorkel combo we did not use at the dive in. At checkout, I disputed the charge and after some investigation, they removed it. However, had I not looked closely at the bill, I would have paid for something I never used.
Considering the value, we thought the entertainment was pretty good. We saw most of the shows, which included the following:
Rock and Roll Show- this was mediocre at best, and our least favorite. The singers were not that good and it was sort of cheesy with the costumes and the dancing.
Comedy show featuring Rich Purpura- this was excellent! Rich Purpura was absolutely hilarious and very entertaining. He engaged the audience and we found his humour to be witty and creative, yet still appropriate for most kids. This was one of the best shows we saw and not to be missed!
Farewell Variety Show-- although somewhat short, this was also very good. Matt Baker and Rich Purpura both were excellent and entertaining.
Newlywed Show- this was highly entertaining. Matt was a great host and the cruisers enjoyed it just as much as the audience!
Comic Open Mic- this gave the cruisers a chance to tell their own jokes and it was pretty good.
White Hot Party- the music was pretty good and modern. The guests really seemed to enjoy it and we danced for a while. The party went late into the night, well after 12:00AM.
Casino- Casino was good for some slot play. We are not really gamblers, so we can't really comment on that, but we had fun on the slots and the quarter machines.
Pools/Jacuzzi-- the pools are jacuzzi were constantly packed, so we spent more time at the ports of call beaches than in the pools. However, during mornings and evening and on the days we were at port, the pool was usually empty, so that may have been a good time to take advantage of it.
There are other areas that we didn't go into specific detail. We played some boardgames at the library, which was nice and quiet. We also enjoyed the fitness center and ran on the jogging track which was (unsurprisingly) always empty :). We also played one night of Bingo which was fun.
I also wanted to mention that we actually signed up for their Cruise Reward. This is a program in which you pay a $250 deposit, which is applied to your next NCL cruise. We usually wouldn't do something like this, but since we enjoyed our short cruise, we felt it was highly probably that we would book another again at the same price. Additionally, by booking the reward, you get a $100 credit to your account, which can be used for anything you paid for on the cruise (casino, duty free, drinks, etc..). So, essentially, you are getting a $250 credit, for only $150. We applied the credit to our account and it worked out great! It paid for most of the drinks we spent. It's something to look into if you are going on the cruise and think you will go again on NCL within the next 4 years (valid for 4 years).
Overall, we though for the very low price we paid, the cruise met our expectations. The ship, although a bit older, was still well maintained and impressive for its class.Embarkation and Disembarkation was very fast (faster than RCL). Although service was a bit shady during certain times, we also met plenty of great staff members that made up for it. Matt was an excellent Cruise Director and he was very entertaining. We give him two thumbs up! For the amount of food and entertainment you get, it's a good deal!