Background Info: We are a married couple (15 years) ages 45 & 46. This was our 2nd cruise - but 1st w/ NCL.
Embarkation: We live about 55 miles from Boston so we decided to drive into the city & park in the nearby garage for the week (cost $112). Left home around 10:15am & arrived at the parking garage around 11:30am. After a brief walk to the cruise terminal, we got in a short line to drop our luggage w/ a porter, walked into the terminal, went through security, got into the check-in line & before we knew it we were on the ship & in Windows MDR enjoying lunch by 12:30pm.
After a tasty & quiet lunch, we explored the ship a little. We stopped in the Grand Centrum Atrium to check out the special dining options & signed up for the 2 for 1 dinner special at Le Bistro that night (cost $20). We also signed up for the 1st Martini Tasting for the next day (cost $15pp). Then, we located Henry's Pub, where our CC Meet & Greet was scheduled for the next morning, had a beer & sat out on the Promenade Deck while waiting for 2:00 to arrive so we could check out our cabin. Cabin: We had cabin #9611, an inside/sideways cabin located mid/forward on Deck 9 just around the corner from the Grand Centrum Atrium elevators. We had a balcony cabin on our previous cruise, which was wonderful, but decided to TRY an inside cabin this time since we could save a significant amount of money. Although we missed having the balcony & being able to see the light of day, our cabin was clean & cozy, and we did not regret the choice. The storage space was adequate w/ plenty of drawers, hangers & cubby holes/shelves in the closet. We loved the large shower stall w/ sliding glass door in the bathroom! We could not hear the elevators, or the people waiting by the elevators, but because of the cabin's location right next to the Grand Centrum Atrium & just a deck above & opposite Champagne Charlie's, we could clearly hear the music. BUT... it was the music/singing of Arvin & Emily, which actually lulled me to sleep one night -- or maybe it was one afternoon, after a Martini Tasting & maybe it was less like sleep & more like pass out. Anyway, it was not difficult to fall asleep listening to them, but those folks who hit the hay early & need complete silence to fall asleep might not enjoy this cabin's location. We cannot talk about our cabin w/out mentioning our stewards. They were two of THE most wonderful, attentive & personable staff members we encountered on this cruise. A BIG shout out to Richard & Dave! They addressed us by name each & every time we saw them, always asked how our day/evening was & often had suggestions or comments about certain activities we had planned. We LOVED them & those who get these two should be so lucky! The only complaints we'll make about the cabin/amenities are as follows: 1) There's only 1 outlet, so bring a power strip. 2) The TV is miniscule & you cannot lie back in the bed & use the clicker - you have to get close to the TV, hold the clicker up in the air & point it directly at the TV. But, then again, we didn't spend hundreds of dollars to go on a cruise to sit in the cabin & watch TV. 3) The blow dryer is old & weird. It was fine for hubby, but it took forever to dry MY long, thick hair. And, I had to use a towel or wash cloth to hold it because it got so hot!
All but one piece of luggage arrived promptly outside our cabin. There was a note stating that one of our bags was being held on Deck 5 & that we needed to go there between 5 - 8pm (I think) & open the suitcase in front of a staff member. Since we did not try to smuggle any alcohol on board we couldn't imagine why our bag was being held. In this particular suitcase we had packed a curling iron, a travel steamer, a power strip & all of the cords for our electronics (cell phone, iPod, Nook, etc.), as well as some shoes & sunblock. When we went to Deck 5 at the appointed time, I was brought down the stairs to Deck 4, just outside the elevators & was asked to open the suitcase. The gentleman explained that it could not be determined through Xray exactly what the luggage contained & for safety/security reasons it needed to be checked. After briefly checking its contents & discovering no contraband, he carried it up the stairs to the elevator for me & we were on our merry way. There were a couple of people there who stated they had tried to smuggle alcohol in their luggage & they knew that's why they were there. I have read a lot of posts by people complaining about their treatment during this process, but in my opinion, NCL's staff members were courteous and professional to each person - no matter the reason or need for further inspection of their luggage. And, it felt good knowing our safety & security were being taken seriously. Better to be safe than sorry.
Mandatory Life Boat Drill: This was held at 3:30 - ½ hr before sail away - it was a joke. Passengers didn't have to wear, or bring their life vests - that's fine, but nobody seemed to pay any attention to the instructions. There was A LOT of talking & the drill was pretty much over before it began. I wish people would take this drill seriously - yes, it's a bummer to have to stop in the middle of all the fun you're having, but I would not want to see the ensuing chaos should a REAL emergency occur at sea & half of the people (or more) have no idea where to go, or what to do.
Sail Away: We found two lounge chairs up on the sun deck overlooking the Tivoli Pool. It was a bit breezy & chilly at times, but when the sun was out & the wind died down it was actually nice & warm. A band was playing (Real Vibes?), there was a pool-side BBQ & the planes coming into Logan airport were flying right over our heads - very cool. The staff & some of the guests were dancing by the pool & people seemed to be having a VERY good time as we said "Goodbye" to Boston. Dining/Food: We ate breakfast in Raffles Court every day except disembarkation day. A variety of the usual breakfast buffet items could be found: Eggs, pancakes, French toast, sausage, bacon, hash brown patties, home-style potatoes, fruit, cereal, yogurt, toast, bagels, English muffins, coffee, juice, etc. The "Eggs to Order" station was MY favorite. You can order an omelet with any of the fixings, or eggs however you like them & they cook your order right in front of you! For lunch we usually grabbed something from the buffet in Raffles Court & either ate there, or brought it out to our chairs at the pool. There was a Deli section where you could order a sandwich, or grab a pre-made sandwich & there was a salad bar, pizza & a variety of entrees & side dishes as well. We mostly ate dinner in Windows MDR & were pleased w/ the food & service. We only tried two of the specialty restaurants - Le Bistro & Shogun (Asian Fusion) & we were, again, pleased w/ the food & service. We ate at the Blue Lagoon Cafe just one night - grabbed fish & chips for a quick supper, then went back later that night (around 1am, I think) & had chicken tenders & chicken wings. The chicken wings were awesome - a spicy/sweet combo that was finger-lickin' good. We had burgers & potato salad for lunch from the Bier Garten Grill one day & also tried some of the fare from the pool-side BBQ - the grilled salmon was terrific! We never tried The Garden Room MDR, but we heard others complain that service was slow. More than once, during dinner and/or lunch, the head Chef came to our table to check on our food/service. He was ever present around the ship's many dining venues, even the buffet & seemed to be on top of things. MY most memorable/enjoyed food items were the Beef Tenderloin & Crème BrûlEe at Le Bistro, the fish & chips & chicken wings at Blue Lagoon Cafe & from Windows MDR, the Pumpkin Ginger Soup w/ Lump Crab, the Tomato Bisque, the Prime Rib, the Escargot & the Coconut Rice Pudding. The Chocoholic Buffet was held in Windows MDR from 11pm - Midnight on the next-to-last night of the cruise & the line to get in was insanely long. We tried/shared a couple of desserts & we each had a white chocolate covered strawberry. There were so many decadent looking chocolate desserts, but we could only eat so much!
Showtime: Each evening at 7:15pm & 9:15pm there was a show in the Stardust Theater - nice theater w/ comfy seats & cocktail service prior to showtime. We saw the following shows: "On Broadway" - It featured song selections from a few different Broadway shows; Mamma Mia, Wicked & Movin' Out, for example. From the costumes, to the stage sets, to the talent of the singers/dancers, the show was very entertaining. "Duo Acrobatique" - This was our favorite! Roberto & Dorota, a husband/wife team show us the extraordinary strength & beauty of the human body through their athleticism. They exhibit elegance & grace w/ their artistic gymnastics & also perform a number of flying acrobatics/ballet w/ aerial hoops, ropes, & silks. They were extremely entertaining & their show is a MUST-see! "The Second City" - A medley of improv-based comedy sketches. The show was entertaining for the most part, but we weren't howling w/ laughter. There were SOME funny moments & the improv exercises using words/ideas from the audience were pretty good. Some of the material was inappropriate for kids, so parents beware - we did not see any kind of rating or warning in advance. "An Audience with Paul Scally" - This was the Cruise Director's comedy show. It was another "okay" comedy show. As the Cruise Director, Mr. Scally often cracked us up w/ his hilarious, off the cuff one liners, but during this, his one-man comedy show, that was not the case. Again, there were SOME funny moments & we did laugh, but there were also some not-so-funny moments. "Elements" - This was the final show of the cruise. Its theme encompassed the elements of Earth, Air, Water & Fire. All of the cruise ship's entertainers performed in this show - the singers/dancers, the magician & Roberto & Dorota. We really enjoyed this show & its spectacular ending! And, after the show ended, the Captain, Officers, Staff & Crew paraded onto the stage for a special "farewell." Other Entertainment: We enjoyed spending time in Galaxy of the Stars for music & dancing with Ironics, the 70's Groove Dance Party & NCL's White Hot Party, as well as the music/singing of Arvin & Emily, a lovely & entertaining couple who could be found in front of Champagne Charlie's. We also enjoyed listening to The Fat City Band (at the Bier Garten) & Real Vibes (at the Tivoli Pool). We participated in two NCL "U" Grey Goose Martini tastings (cost $15pp). For $15 you get to sample 5 different kinds of designer martinis & the serving size is darn close to a full-sized martini. The bartender talks about the history of the martini, explains the different types of vodka & how they're made, gives the recipe for each type of martini being made & even does a little flair bartending for the crowd. After the 1st tasting I was so schnockered I had to take a nap! So... for the 2nd tasting we paid $15 for one person & shared - this time I had a nice little buzz - no nap needed. MY favorites were the Espresso Martini & the Washington Apple Martini. I played Bingo once & thought it was very disorganized & confusing - people are CRAZY when it comes to Bingo - the cruise line must make gobs of money! I purchased the smallest package for $30 - 4 sheets of 6 cards each for 6 chances to win each of the 4 games played. Those who were willing/able to spend a lot more money had a lot more chances to win & obviously had an advantage. Even so, it was fun & entertaining.
The Ship: We found the ship's Asian dEcor, color schemes & woodwork aesthetically pleasing. The ship was clean & easy to navigate w/ ample signage to help us find our way. There were several different places to lounge about - either in the sun, or in the shade. Lounge chairs could be found on the pool deck, or above on the sun deck & not just above the Tivoli pool, but forward & aft as well. There were also several lounge chairs at the Buccaneer's Deck Amphitheater & a few here & there on the Promenade Deck. One of our favorite spots was the Buccaneer's Deck Amphitheater because it was somewhat quiet (except for the mostly delighted squeals of children below at Buccaneer's Wet & Wild) & because it offered a wonderful view of the ship's wake. There were also plenty of tables & chairs both port & starboard on the pool deck & at Raffles Terrace where one can eat, drink, read, play cards/games, or just sit & watch the view. The Tivoli pool is a salt water pool that is nicely sized so it was never too crowded. There are four hot tubs around the pool & we were able to use them when we wanted. We loved the atmosphere of Champagne Charlie's & took advantage of the 2-for-1 martini specials between 7pm - 9pm on many nights. There was a little alcove area just outside of Champagne Charlie's on the starboard side that had a couple of chairs & tables & it looked down on the Promenade Deck & the ocean beyond - it was a nice, quiet area during the day to sit & read. We also enjoyed the views from the Galaxy of the Stars Observation Lounge - check out the spiral staircase to The Captain's Bridge - very cool. According to my husband, the gym had some decent cardio equipment, dumbbells & some Nautilus-style machines. It was clean, in fine shape & served its purpose. The Staff: We received exceptional customer service from all NCL staff members starting w/ our personal cruise consultant, to the pier staff, the waiters/waitresses, the bartenders, the room stewards, the "WashyWashy, SmileySmiley, NaughtyNaughty" sanitizing police outside Raffles Court, the Guest Services staff, etc. We felt catered to & pampered from beginning to end!
Bermuda/Shore Excursions: This was our 1st trip to Bermuda, but it won't be the last. We loved it there! It was clean & the people were very friendly & helpful. We had terrific weather - sunny & hot. We bought the 3-day bus/ferry pass for $28 pp, although we only used it on 2 of the 3 days since we spent most of the 1st day in the Dockyard area. We checked out the Dockyard Glass Works & Bermuda Rum Cake shop, had a drink at the Frog & Onion Pub & walked around the immediate area. We didn't check out Snorkel Park because there was a $10 pp entry fee, which we later found out only applies on the weekend. On day 2 we went on the only shore excursion we had booked - Hartley's Helmet Dive ($100 pp.) We would highly recommend this excursion! Gregg Hartley & his son, Ben, picked us up in their boat right at the end of the dock & we enjoyed a nice ride to the dive site, some distance away. One to two at a time we walked down a short ladder to the ocean floor. We were in groups of 6 or 7 & we spent approx. 25 minutes under water where Mr. Hartley pointed out different fish, types of coral & other sea creatures. He photographed us individually & as couples in our Hartley Diving Helmets. The fish are like his pets & they swam all around us. There was one fish that even let each person hold him/her for a photo op. It was an amazing & wonderful experience & no snorkel or scuba gear was needed. Your head stays completely dry because the helmet works like a glass turned upside down in the water. It was very easy to do & all ages can participate - if you can walk down the ladder, you can participate. There was a 5 y.o. on our trip! Later that day we took the ferry to Hamilton & walked around, poking in a shop or two. We went into a bar called The New Captain's Lounge, where we encountered a group of locals who were drinking & watching The World Cup. We had a couple of drinks, watched some "football," & headed back to the ferry. The ferry ride to/from Hamilton was only about 25 minutes & the views of Bermuda's shoreline were lovely. On our last day in Bermuda we hopped on the bus for a 30 minute ride to Horseshoe Bay Beach. We paid $10 each (I think) + a $5 deposit to rent two beach chairs. They also rent umbrellas, but they weren't renting them that day because it was too windy. We didn't visit any other beach in Bermuda so we can't compare, but this beach was clean, had toilet/shower/changing facilities & food/drink (burgers, chips, beer, soda, water, etc.). At least we got to experience the pink sands & crystal clear waters of at least ONE Bermuda beach!
Overall Experience: We had a GREAT time on this 1st cruise w/ NCL! We thoroughly enjoyed "Freestyle" cruising - having the choice to eat, drink & be merry whenever & wherever. And, based on this experience, we will likely book our next cruise w/ NCL.