This is not our first cruise (11 prior)but it was our first NCL.
We usually come to town a day early and fly into Fort Lauderdale. We stayed at the Cambria Suites which is a new hotel in Dania Beach. The hotel shuttle was timely and we quickly arrived. The hotel is very nice. Our room had a comfortable bed and two flat screen TV's. The staff was very pleasant. After settling in, we took a cab ($20.00 with tip)to the Hard Rock Resort and Casino. This is a stop we have made at least four times before. They have a mexican restaurant that we keep coming back to. After sitting down and sipping our margarita's, it hits us...we are on vacation!!
The next morning we planned on going back to the airport to catch our shuttle company QLS ($15.00 per person)to the Miami pier. An hour before we were scheduled to meet them, they called us and upon hearing that we were at a hotel, they offered to pick us up there. This is usually a couple dollars more, but they did not charge us. This was our first time using this company (heard about it on the boards), but it won't be our last. They were fantastic. The shuttle arrived to pick us up, stopped at two more hotels in the area to pick up other passengers and then off to Miami. We arrived at the pier close to 11:00 and walked right in and began the embarking process. This took maybe 15 minutes. The ship was not boarding as of yet, so we were given a boarding number (4) and sent to a waiting area. Within 15 minutes the boarding began and we were on the ship in no time. This was by far one of the easiest embarkings we have ever had. FYI, after reading the warnings on the boards regarding NCL's alcohol policy, we did not attempt to take any liquor with us. But we did see several people coming out of a room pulling their luggage....the "bad boy" room looked to be in full swing.
We had planned on going to Tsars for the lunch, but after walking around the ship, perusing the buffet and liking what we saw, we ate there and were pleasantly surprised. The food was good. We were allowed to go to our rooms around 2.
We had a balcony on the 8th floor. The room was smaller than any prior cruise balcony we had experienced, but the sliding door was a big plus as well as the bathrooms that are divided into three sections including a real door on the shower!!! The muster drill was a breeze as you don't have to wear your life jackets. After the drill which lasted maybe 10 minutes, we went back to our room and our luggage had arrived. To wind up the room information, we only saw our steward two times the whole cruise. The room and bathroom were always cleaned, the only issue we had was that the first night when we came back to the room around 9:30 the rubber mat placed on the bed for unpacking was still there and the bed had not been turned down. The ice bucket was empty (as it was one other night)and only 2 nights out of the whole cruise were there towel animals. Now while this was not that big of a deal for us and didn't affect our cruise, it needs to be commented on.
The first night(and two other nights) we ate in Tsars (one night in Azura)at all different times. We absolutely loved the anytime dining and the fact that we were able to eat at a table for two. We really liked the fact that if you didn't finish your bottle of wine, they would hold it for you and we were able to have it brought to us no matter what dining room we were eating in. We ate one lunch at Blue Lagoon and enjoyed the wings that people were raving about. Two nights we went to Tangos, the Tex-Mex restaurant. The lobster tacos were wonderful as well as the fajitas. I have to say we did not have a bad meal the whole trip. Some were definitely better than others, but we enjoyed most of them. We only had to wait(25 minutes, they give you a pager) for dinner one time. But the plus to this is that you can get discounted drinks at a couple of the bars while you are waiting.
The entertainment was some of the best we have seen in awhile. The Broadway-like shows were really good and the Cirque was amazing. The juggler, which is usually a bust, was very entertaining also. The lounge acts, Angel and Amigos, were very good also. We spent a few hours in the Casino and ended up winning a few times. I also heard several other people talking about winning. We also enjoyed the wine tasting class.
We used NCL for our port tours and will describe each one below. Disembarkment was a little slow, but nothing we havn't dealt with on other cruise lines. We were scheduled to meet our shuttle (QLS) at 11:00 and once again they called us an hour before and since we were already off the ship, they worked to have us picked up earlier (once again, this company is wonderful).
I used the gym one day around 10:00 AM and it was not crowded at all. I ran on the outside track three days and it was not the best. It is small and very curvy and of course even though I was running at 8:00 AM or so, there were always people walking in the area that you had to run around.
All in all, we really enjoyed NCL and had one of the most relaxing cruises. We will definitely plan another cruise with this cruise line, if we can find the right price.