We just got back from a cruise to the Bahamas with my 90 year old grandmother and her 88 year old sister. It was a birthday present to them. So, I guess I'll start with that. The staff was very respectful of them and their age and made a big deal out of their birthdays, which made them feel special. And the ship was small, so walking wasn't too hard on them.
This was my 4th cruise. I've had 2 on Carnival and 1 on RCCL. It was, by far, the worst.
The food: Bad. Very few selections on the menu. It tasted bland. My steak was tough. I am typically not critical about food because I have a food allergy so if I find stuff I can eat, I'm happy, no matter what...but this food was clearly sub par. No one in our party was happy with it. My husband usually choses multiple meals to have tastes of it all, but there was nothing on the menu that made him want to order two things or a second helping. Sometimes the selections were so bad we had a hard time picking what we wanted to eat and we did it by picking the "least bad" option.
The room: To be fair, we chose an inside room this time, and I'd much prefer a balcony room, so maybe that's part of what bothered me. But it was aged looking. The towels were faded and stained. I don't think the room was cleaned very well, in comparison to the other ships I've been on.
The excursions: I did the tour of Freeport where they brought you around the town...absolutely the worst tour I've ever done. It was a dirty town. The bus actually drove through residential areas and told you how much the houses cost. I don't really care, to be honest. Then we stopped at this little "fruit market". It sounded so quaint on the brochure...it was really one row of 4 dollar t-shirt stands, very much like Tiajuana. Having said all that, our driver was super nice and funny.
The second day we went to Blue Lagoon Beach Day. Another waste of money. The water was beautiful (but looking at the water is free! :)). The lagoon was sooooo over crowded. The food was hamburgers, fries and lemonade. And I paid 50 dollars a person for that? We stayed for two hours and left. The best parts of it, though, were the dolphins...beautiful, and the mango daquiris.
Third day we went to the private island. It was free. It, too, was very over crowded, but at least it was free. The water was beautiful, the food was better than the day before, but still nothing to write home about.
On board entertainment: Very good. The singers/actors were very talented. However the shows were almost identical to other shows I've seen on other ships. I was very disappointed there was no piano bar with sing-a-longs. The casino was small, but ok. Comedian was ok...not great, but not horrible, either. Bingo was fun.
The staff: with a few great execptions, I was actually not impressed with the staff at all. As I stated before, I have a food allergy. When I've let the maitre d' on the other ships I've been on know about my allery, they've come to my table each night and helped me know what had dairy products in it and how they could change it up for me. This time, she did offer to have the chef make a different dessert, but that happened just one time. I never saw her again. To be fair, that could be because of the "free-style" nature of NCL. She may not have been able to find me. They did, however, have my room number and could have contacted me in other ways. In the buffet style restaurant, the staff were very unhelpful (with the exception of a lovely young lady named Isha.) In the main dining rooms, I was not impressed with the wait staff either, with the exception of Antonio Moore. He was fantastic.
The thing I really hated about the staff was when you asked for a soda (having bought the soda card), they either ignored you or were very rude to you. I find that unacceptable...sadly, however,I also found that on the other ships I've been on.
Over all, I was ready to swear off of NCL forever. I feel like there are so many options out there for cruising, why settle for something that is soso. However, a few guests I've spoken with told me that other NCL ships are great, like the Jewel, so I might give it one more shot, but, never on the Sky again.