We're a family consisting of a couple in our late 30's and two kids girl age 9 and boy age 12. I've been on three previous cruises on NCL majesty (x 2 one time to Bermuda previously) and my husband and I took one Carnival cruise together. This was our first time with the kids, and it changed a LOT of things for us!
We embarked in Boston, got there about 12:30 and we were in the buffet at 1:45. The longest wait we had was for the porters to take our bags, there was some confusion in the lines, but once we handed off our bags we were only in the latitudes line for about 10 minutes, and we were on board quickly.
The ship is beautiful, and common areas were clean and fresh looking. Our room was small, but there was the best storage I've seen on a ship, 4 drawers, 5 deep shelves and plenty of hanger space. We brought two over the door shoe hangers, one fit on the bathroom door, and the other we hung on the shower door. Even with two pre-teens, we had enough space for everything. The room wasn't quite as new looking as the common areas, the bathroom in particular while very well laid out with separate shower with a door, needs to be redone... there was mildewed caulking peeling around the shower, cracked, chipped tile etc, and was just generally kind of grubby, but nothing that caused us any concern. We didn't have any odors in the bathroom as some other have mentioned, and the ventilation system worked great. Our ac worked great too, and that's a huge plus for us! Our stewards managed to find us egg crates for three of the 4 beds, even though we didn't see them to ask until about 7 the first night. We didn't see them too often, but they did a great job, and we had towel animals 5 nights, all but first and last. We chose the cheapest room available, so really, we got more than we paid for!
I can't rate the kids crew, ours refused to have anything to do with it. I think maybe they should give a little more description about what the activity actually is, some of the titles sounded baby-ish, and I couldn't get them to give it a chance... I swore we were going to have a No DS week, but it actually came in handy to let them eat dinner at the buffet, then bring them back to the room for some down time while we went to dinner, at their age they can be on their own and with all the stimulation I think they really needed the break.
The food was great overall, and here is where I'll say I vastly prefer NCL to Carnival... I feel the menu and presentation is pretty similar, but the quality of ingredients and preparation just seem far better on NCL. We ate in Raffles all but one morning and most lunches (and snacks), and we all had plenty of choices that appealed with plenty of fresh fruit and salad options. We ate dinner in the Garden room the first night, but it seemed cramped and loud, and we ate most other dinners in Windows. There was no sign about dress code at the door, and all the freestyle said was "resort casual welcome every where" with no definition of resort casual... shorts and t-shirts were everywhere, and I did in fact see adult men wearing swim suits and flip flops with a t-shirt, and women wearing a swim suit and cover up/flip flops, at dinner in Windows... kind of hard to enforce the dress code with the kids when NO ONE on the staff even blinked. We ate in Shogun one night, and we all loved it. They didn't charge me for the 9 yr old ordering off the kids menu, and only charged half price for the 12 year old because he only ordered an appetizer and lo mien. I know they've gotten some bad reviews, but this was far better than our local Chinese, and better than what I used to get living in San Francisco as well. The hot and sour soup was fantastic if a little different than "authentic". My husband and I ate at Le Bistro once, he had the fish soup and raved about it. I wasn't too thrilled with my tenderloin, the pepper sauce was far too strong, and just covered up the taste of the meat, the potatoes that came with it were to die for though, as was my chocolate hazelnut napoleon, absolutely fantastic... I had requested that they send it to my room, as I could only manage a few bites, and the waiter said that they would leave it for me if I wasn't there... but we went back for an hour before the show, and it never came... sad, it really was that good! One other food highlight was the grilled Mahi Mahi on Friday night/main dining room. Really delicious. We had late night snacks at Blue Lagoon several nights, the fish and chips were a little undercooked with the batter raw in the middle, but the chicken fingers were great, as was the artichoke/spinach dip (different from home, but very good!) and the 12 yr old loved the buffalo wings. We frequently stopped by the buffet in the evening to get a plate of cookies to have in the room which made for great snacking too.
Bermuda was HOT when we got there, in the mid 90's on Monday. Sunday we got 2 day bus/ferry passes and took the ferry to Hamilton and the bus to BAMZ. DO NOT J-WALK IN BERMUDA. BAMZ is a small, zoo/aquarium, but really nicely done and a good experience with the kids. We got snacks there which were pretty expensive and not that great so you might plan to have granola bars or something with you (NOT ship food) taking public transportation was a fun way to get around for the kids and get some local experience. We did have to do a lot of waiting for the bus and ferry on Sunday, just a heads up the bus gets to BAMZ about 1/2 hour after it leaves St Georges, and then gets to Hamilton in about 1/2 hour... the Ferry only runs on the hour on Sunday, so you want to try to get the right bus or you have a 45 minute wait in Hamilton and nothing is open... Monday we took the ferry to St Georges, and when I asked at the glass shop when the minibus was coming, she called someone... I didn't realise it was just a local, not a taxi or the mini bus, but he brought us to Tobacco bay for $6 rather than $16, so all's well that ends well! We snorkeled at Tobacco bay which was nice and pretty empty when we got there, then had lunch at the snack bar and changed. We walked over to Fort St Catherine which was another good excursion with the kids and made for some great photo ops, though it was HOT. The lady at the entrance called a mini bus for us, and we spent an hour or two walking around St Georges and souvenir shopped, then took the ferry back to the ship. Tuesday we spent a couple hours at the dockyard, took the trolley around then stopped at the glass blowing factory to collect my souvenir plate, stopped at the drugstore(note: make sure your sunscreen works before you leave, it was $22 to get oil free spray spf 50 and $12 to get Lidocaine/aloe gel needed 'cause I tried to save a buck and got ours at xmas tree shop and it had separated/didn't work and hubby got burned) we looked around the mall, and walked back to the ship, had lunch and met the one official ship excursion we took, Rising son catamaran. I wanted to make sure we were guaranteed to be on board when it left so we opted for the ships excursion! The weather had turned a bit, and the seas were rough so they had cancelled the other off shore snorkeling trip and combined it with ours. I don't know how crowded it usually is, but I felt it was a bit cramped. I hadn't realised based on the description (all it said was enjoy a complimentary rum swizzle on the way back) that this was a semi booze cruise, I wasn't expecting the Captain, Bees, to kind of go on and on about consuming copious amounts of rum etc, and I felt they were a little unprepared for kids, there was little for them to drink on the way back only pink lemonade which the 9 year old said was awful, or water, unless you wanted to buy soda... seems for the price they could have had something better ($250 for the 4 of us, and my husband doesn't drink at all), they didn't have kid size gear that fit, plus the snorkeling was far better at Tobacco bay... the first time I was in Bermuda I went on a similar excursion and the snorkeling was far better... I wonder if they purposefully bring the ship people to sites that are already pretty ruined because no one seems to be careful about what they're doing, waving sand all over the coral etc... not watching where their fins are etc... all in all we enjoyed the trip, but I don't think we'd book it again. I know that they get great reviews, I think I was just expecting something else. All of the staff was really nice though. One great point was that where they docked was a great sea glass beach! I had hoped to work that in, but hadn't been able so that was a nice surprise and we collected a ton really fast.
Entertainment. We LOVED the shows, even the 12 year old, who lives to complain these days, liked the evening entertainment. Highlights for us were Second City which was truly great (we went to all of their shows) and the Acrobats Roberto and Dorota who we truly amazing. Elements was fantastic, the only criticism I have at all about the entertainment was the magician was truly awful. We always got to the shows early, and if you go all the way to the left side of the stage, you can sit about three rows back and have a great view of everything. One note, though we LOVED second city, the first show had some adult references and I wish there had been some warning for that... try explaining a blow up doll joke to a 9 yr old! Paul Scally is the cruise director but also does a comedy show. He's not my favorite, but he entertained the kids well and parts of his show were really funny.
The crew was great, the 9 yr old loved "Naughty, the smile police",the happy happy, washy washy girls and Toe check guys outside Raffles, and we didn't have any bad experiences with crew. We didn't really have too many repeat servers etc, so we really didn't get to know many by name, though everyone was nice.
I completely missed that we were supposed to get NEW luggage tags for disembarkation, so we waited and waited for our color to be called, and finally just got off when they said "all colors" so about 10:15 AM. Once we were off our bags were all right upfront with the untagged luggage, so we were off and on our way. Parking at the garage across from Black Falcon came to $112, and they do take credit cards.
We all had a fantastic time, and I'm already busy scoping out our next adventure!