We arrived in Long Beach the day before our cruise and stayed at the Double Tree in San Pedro. The hotel was great and gave us a chance to relax and sign up for the shuttle to the cruise terminal. The hotel is set up for cruisers and they know what they are doing. We stayed there one night after our return too. Flying in a day early and leaving a day later saved a lot of stress. We rented a car from Enterprise Rentals after our return - be forewarned the rental office in San Pedro is small and the line was long. Get there early!
We arrived at the cruise terminal at the time recommended by NCL and the line to enter the terminal was incredibly long. There was some confusion on our part as to what to do with our luggage. We finally flagged down a porter and he loaded it on a cart. Most people were getting in line to drop off their luggage but then had to get in line to enter the terminal. Using the porter service is the way to go. It seemed to take forever to get in the terminal. I think we were in line without moving at least an hour if not more. It turned out the ship was being inspected by customs and it delayed the cleaning and boarding for departure. It would have been helpful if they would have announced that over a PA system. Next time we will be more prepared with water, snacks, sunscreen, etc. Once we were inside the process was smooth and we boarded the ship. Make sure you know the rules for what you can bring on the ship.
We had a balcony room and it was great. I can't think of anything that wasn't awesome. The balcony had 2 chairs and was a great spot for relaxing. The bed was comfortable, and it was great having a coffee maker and fridge. We had a little trouble with housekeeping, mostly things were not replaced. The dirty towels would be taken but not all of them replaced. One time the supplied robes were taken but not returned. The same with the breakfast order form you can complete and hang on the door if you want room service, and items we used from the mini bar. We had to keep calling and asking for the items. Overall the room was spotless and a great place to just hang out. We loved the TV and the ship info provided on it. We wondered about the water on the ship but it tasted just fine. We had packed water bottles and we just filled them from the sink.
We thought the food was awesome and we loved that we could eat anytime and sit a our own table if we wanted. We never had to wait more than a few minutes. We didn't try any of the specialty (extra cost) restaurants because the food was so good in the regular ones. The buffet was a little crowded at times but manageable. The buffets at the pool area were the best and a great spot to people watch. We loved the bars, especially the one at the top of the ship and the service was excellent. We wished we could have brought our own liquor - our bar tab was pretty steep by the end of the cruise.
We never attended any shows other than the presentations on the ports, which turned out to be a sales pitch for all the shops that are associated with NCL. They announced they would provide maps but they turned out to only show NCL's partner vendors. We had done a little homework and had a travel guide with us so we were fine. We really tired of the pitches to but diamonds.
We loved the areas outside and enjoyed sitting on the chairs by the pool and just watching the sea. The running track on top was great. We had a great time in the casino and my wife actually won a fair amount there.
The employees at the customer service desk could have been better informed about the services available on the ship. We were given incorrect information a number of times and learned to hunt down other staff on the ship to get the real story.
Overall the staff was great. When returning to Long Beach, you have several options to disembark. The night before you arrive, you place your luggage in the hall. There is a ticket system and you select the time you want to get off the ship. You pick up the tickets in the lobby. Because we were in no hurry, we picked the last time to leave and just relaxed. It was a great process.