We are a fairly new couple to cruising and have fallen in love with the luxury and ease of travel. Our first cruise was a 3 night test cruise out of our home port in San Francisco, which was very romantic. But it was just too short. This time around we decided to do a 10 day cruise with our 3 year old son. It was great! We loved that we were able to see so many ports on one cruise. However it was a bit long for our son, as he got a bit homesick. For future cruises, we will stick to a 5-7 day itinerary until he is older.
Our previous cruise on Princess, for some reason seemed to be more of a party boat. I really enjoyed that this cruise on NCL was a bit more tame. There were fewer kids than I expected and older passengers. But it was perfect for our style. We never had to fight over space at the pool or jacuzzi. A bonus for us, was that the kids pool and jacuzzi are in a sheltered glass area. It was perfect for the colder weather up north. Our son had a great time at Kid's Club, even though it seemed to be low on kids most of the time. He loved hanging out with the counselors, playing games, and painting faces. Every day we'd ask him, if he wanted to go in the pool with us or go to Kid's Club. Kid's Club won every time.
We didn't really partake in the activities and entertainment on board all that much. Perhaps it's because we were toting around a kid and trying to make sure he was taken care of, or maybe it's because we just needed to chill and relax. Most of my time was spent reading or knitting in the windowed lounge areas near the bars, running on the great outdoor track, sitting in the jacuzzi, playing Wii golf, and sleeping. I never made it to any of the dance classes. I was looking forward to those, and wish I had brought some good dance shoes. However I did make it to a few group workouts in the exercise area. The instructor was excellent and very motivational. And I have a few exercises now added to my workout to get myself in better shape.
The dining for us seemed to be hit or miss. I suppose with so many passengers from different backgrounds and tastes, it must be hard to please everyone. As well being from San Francisco, I have to admit that I'm very picky. However I do have to say the wait staff everywhere were excellent. Garden cafe, the anytime buffet, was great for convenience. But some dishes, like the eggs benedict and the gelatin-based bavarian creams, should be taken off the menu. I loved the bangers and roasted tomatoes however, and these became my staple breakfast for the trip. Next time I will make use of the rear seating area, called Great Outdoors, for breakfasts, as this seemed a wonderful place to eat and less crowded. For lunches we really enjoyed Tsar's Palace. The food here can be excellent and often better than the paid restaurants if you order right. My best meal on the ship was a beef curry, in an over-sized fried papadam, on top of rice, with a bit of mango chutney on the side. Wonderful! Also there was an opener another lunch which was a port sauce, over vanilla cream/gelatin combo, with fresh grapes. Great! We tried Asura's for dinner once, and never went back. The tastes did not seem to be as creative as Tsar's, and we didn't see the reason to wait for a spot. For paid dining options we tried Chin Chin's, Mama's Italian, and Le Bistro. Le Bistro was the best experience we had. All the food we tried here was excellent. Chin Chin was good as well, but it threw me off a bit not knowing what to expect from fusion Asian. Mama's was slow and just not worth the wait or the money. As well we tried the Indian buffet special lunch one day. It was great. I especially enjoyed the lassi, kheer, and chai but wish there had been more vegetarian options and served instead of buffet.
Other general hits or misses: I loved how you could travel around the ship and hear different music in various areas around the ship based on the time of day. I especially loved the electronic, trance-ish music near the pool area late evenings and early mornings. And the jazz music in the bar areas in the early mornings was a great way to wake up. The chocolate buffet the last night of the trip and ice sculptures at bars on party nights were amazing. I didn't partake in any of these, as we were usually trudging our kid off to bed. But it was still nice to see. On the negative side, I wish the water slide had been a bit steeper. We tried it once at the beginning of the cruise, and it seemed to be really slow. I also wish there were more free interior seating areas on the port side of the ship. Most of this space deck 7/8 was dedicated to paid restaurant views.
All in all, from my experience on this cruise I will be a repeat customer on NCL. What has won me over are the staterooms, which were well-decorated, colorful, clean, and perfectly sized and the Kid's Club programs and counselors. I only wish they sailed out of my home port of San Francisco.