Background We are from WI, in our mid 30s and cruised with my sister and her husband, who are in their mid 40s. We like to drink, explore and relax on our vacations. This was our 4th cruise. All have been with NCL (Majesty, Spirit, and Star previously) and have been 7 days. We chose this cruise because it was very inexpensive, and it was this or no winter vacation.
Pre-cruise We flew into Miami on Saturday to spend a few days unwinding before embarkation. I find this really helps me make the most of the cruise. We spent Saturday night on the outskirts of Miami. Sunday we drove the southern route through the Everglades (Hwy 41). We saw a TON of gators literally right on the swamp next to the road. A much better drive than "Alligator Alley" on the tollway. There are some good "nature center" stops along the way. We spent Sunday afternoon in Marco Island and Naples. Marco Island was a lot of fun.
Embarkation We had a rental car, so my husband dropped three of us at the pier (it was fairly easy to find and signs were well marked to get to the right ship) and he went to return the car at the airport. My sister and her husband entered around noon and had about a 20 minute wait to even start check in (they were handing out numbers). Not bad, really. I waited outside the terminal on a bench for my husband to return in a cab. He was back in about 45 minutes and we were able to check in quickly in the Latitudes line. Staff was very friendly. NCL crew on board put on a good "welcome aboard" greeting. I didn't really miss the "welcome aboard bubbly" they are no longer doing.
Drinking We spent afternoons drinking buckets of beers at Champs bar, the outdoor bar that overlooks the pool deck. Beers were 4.95 each, but if you buy a bucket of five, you get a sixth free. On this sailing (I've heard some ships don't charge a deposit) there was a 4.95 deposit on the bucket you could return and get refunded if you saved your receipt. There was a bottle opener zip-stripped to the bucket. Victor and Davie Marie were are our favorite pool area drink servers (this was our third cruise with Davie Marie-she's great!).
The best deal of the cruise for drinkers are the 2-for-1 martinis from 6-8 in the Plantation Club. The martini menu is extensive and manhattans are also included. Prices for single martinis ranged from 7.95-9.95. You must get the same kind of martini and the come all at once, so if you are wanting to split one with your mate/friend, just have one of you order. The first night we ended up with 8 martinis between the four of us, all served at once. It was a long night. :-) Elizabeth is a great server in the Plantation Club.
For beer drinkers that like better beers, head to Longboards. They have better beers on tap and in bottles.
Then there was the pub crawl. We signed up the first day, as we'd heard on cruise critic it can fill up. We didn't really know what to expect, as descriptions here have been vague and the guy signing people up at embarkation wasn't really able to describe it. But we like to drink, so we gave it a shot at $25/pp. The crawl took place on the night of our Nassau stop. We met in Dazzles night club. There were about 30 of us, spanning in ages from 20s to 40s. Everybody checked in and we had to wear glow necklaces to identify us as crawlers. We had a feeling this wasn't a good sign. Turns out, we'd be getting either a shot or mixed drink that would be waiting for us at five bars (so you don't get to choose your drink). This turned us off, as we aren't shot drinkers and only two of us were even remotely interested in fruity mixed drinks. The first shot was in Dazzles, then we quickly moved along to the next bar. The leader insisted we move as a group and screamed "pub crawl" along the way. It was embarrassing. Even the young 20-somethings bedgrudgingly participated in the yelling. In the Outrigger Lounge, a music show was going on with a band and the place was full. I felt like we crashed a wedding reception. People actually got up and left that were near the bar and trying to enjoy the show. In the Plantation Club we were promised "beer games," so the guys were excited we might actually get beer. Instead, the leader asked for 3 male and 3 female volunteers to chug beers from the crotch area of men and then another set of volunteers to do balloon pop games with beer chugging. At this point, we lost most of the older pub crawlers. We stuck it out, and I decided I was interested in learning the "flip the cup" drinking game at the end, as hey, I paid $25 and wanted some entertainment. We lined up in teams (at this point it was only the 20-somethings and me left) along the ping pong tables on the pool deck and played a few rounds. Then we were done. All and all, a real disappointment and I only recommend for people that are fans of making a spectacle of themselves and are fruity and shot drinkers.
Other entertainment We only went to the comedy show of Joe Bronzi in the main theatre. We didn't find him that funny. The worst comedy experience we'd had on NCL.
Watched "The Perfect Couple" in Dazzles one night. It was kind of cute. It's a couple challenge (three volunteer couples) based on physical competitions (dancing, balloon popping, blindfold games, etc.)
The White Hot Party was kind of cool. The staff get to participate a little more and seem to have a good time. It's very high energy and worth hanging out for, particularly if you like to dance or just want to hang out and drink and watch dancers in a non-crowded atmosphere.
Afternoon pool games were fun to watch. There were some for kids and some for adults. There weren't many kids at all on this cruise. Less than 200 total, one server said. We saw very few.
We love to sit in bars/lounges and listen to entertainers after dinner. This cruise, all the entertainers sounded the same. Piano and acoustic guitar players with a mellow tone. That's a fine option, but would've been nice if there was SOMETHING more unique and upbeat.
Food A very average experience with food. The menus haven't really changed in at least two years. I found myself completely familiar with the items in the main dining room. Dress in the dining rooms was more casual than I was used to on NCL. Probably the result of it being a short Bahamas cruise and some relaxed dress guides on NCL (Daily stated jeans ok at any dining room, shorts only ok for dinner in the Palace). Food highlights in the dining room were: Strawberry Souffle, English strip loin, bay scallops with coconut milk appetizer, cold duck salad appetizer, double beef broth soup, sweet potato bisque, german chocolate cake and the chilled avocado soup. Disappointments in the dining room were the prime rib, farfalle pasta with sausage (literally one sliver of sausage and bland flavor), coconut souffle, blackberry cheesecake, turkey scallopini, and pork medallions.
The buffet was pretty standard. It was basically two carbon copy lines in the Garden Cafe and it flowed ok, but not great. Lunch was very good. Great rolls, cheeses (the blue cheese is fantastic), sandwiches (chicken ceasar wrap and tuna croissants good), fish entrees. Burgers were pretty good. There is a stir fry station that was good. The Great Outdoors is another buffet area outside, and is open during breakfast (the waffle station was there) and during the "down" time of the other buffet in the afternoon (2:30-5:30). The selection outside during that afternoon period is terrible (burgers, dogs, really boring premade sub sandwich wedges, cookies and bars, fruit and rolls).
Il Adagio, connected to the Garden Cafe, was open for lunch, but only had a pasta station and pre-made pizza. Not bad, a decent alternative.
We did not visit the specialty restaurants on this cruise, but if you want better food and it's in your budget, I recommend it. I've been to a few on other NCL ships and they are good.
Waiting was not an issue. Only one night did we wait, and it was for less than five minutes.
We did not eat lunch on the ship, but I've always enjoyed NCL lunches in the dining room.
Breakfast in the main dining room was spotty. It's the same menu each day. Our first morning was great. The eggs benedict and omelets were tasty. Another day, they were overcooked and the service was bad.
Staterooms We had an oceanview. The porthole was large and the room was adequate. Bedding was a little worn in my sister's room a few nights (pilly pillowcase). The shower was the smaller than ours on the Spirit and Star in inside staterooms. FYI, there is a blowdryer in the desk drawer. There was enough storage for our things in the room. Stewards were not great (didn't introduce themselves until we requested a laundry bag that wasn't in the room, didn't turn down bed first night and thus didn't pick up our ironing until next day, was late returning ironing-had to call and inquire, didn't leave washcloths one day), but I've had great stewards in the past, so I think it was luck of the draw. They did replace a burned out light bulb in our bathroom right away, though. Had a few towel animals, which I know some people think is important.
The electric outlet in our bathroom didn't work, so we were stuck with only one outlet. I've previously brought power strips but didn't this time. Wish I would have.
Other There is a nice adult only hot-tub and shallow wading area (only a bit larger than a hot tub) behind Champs and the sundeck on deck 12. It wasn't that busy, but there were always a few people there.
Weather was perfect. High 70s, low 80s and sunny to partly sunny each day. Got hot walking around Nassau. GSC had full sun all day.
Lots of weddings on board!
Disembarkation We opted to take our time and do the "anytime" walk off with our luggage. We thought we could stay in our rooms until 10, but they announced they wanted us out of staterooms by 9 (could go to public rooms, though). Had breakfast in the Palace main dining room, but it was a shortened menu and I couldn't have my last chance at eggs benedict! When we got off, there was a bit of a line, but it moved right along. Customs was super, super quick. Cabs are $24 to airport, no matter how many people.