BOOKING - I booked our cruise last minute by calling Norwegian the day before we departed. The process was a bit confusing. The booking agent said that the oceanview cabins were unavailable even though I had seen rooms offered on the Norwegian website. We went back and forth a bit before she saw the rooms offered on the screen. She told me that the rooms were oversubscribed but that the worse scenario would be an upgrade to a balcony room. The transaction went smoothly and, once I checked in online, I had all the necessarily information I needed.
EMBARKATION - We got to the cruise terminal at 10am, got our luggage tags, checked in our bags, and sat at the waiting area before going through the embarkation procedures. I can't remember when we boarded, around noon I believe, but the boarding process was smooth and easy. Our rooms weren't immediately available so we had lunch. Our ship's departure time to set sail was also delayed by two hours so we just walked around the ship and took pictures before checking out our room.
CABIN - We didn't get an upgrade but got a partially obstructed oceanview room on level 4. The room seemed clean and was generally comfortable. I liked the cozy bathroom, particularly the shower partition. We got our luggage around 3 pm. We only had a small rolling carry-on and a weekender bag so we were able to pack everything into the cabinets and shelves in our room.
FOOD AND DINING - Since I had read previous reviews on this board, I expected the food to be mediocre. Despite the low expectations and generally easy palates, my sister and I were really disappointed by the quality of food on the ship. We ate at Tsar for lunch right when we arrived and found that our meal tasted a bit frozened-and-microwaved. The subsequent meals at Tsar and Azure, despite one with lobster tail, were lackluster in terms of taste though the portion sizes were generally fine. We ate a couple of times at Garden Bistro and found that the food there was also mediocre (and haphazard depending on how crowded and wild the dining room can get). We did like the Indian food and french fries though - they tasted like McDonald's french fries. Since we were a bit skeptical about the food onboard, we decided to skip the restaurants with cover charges and opted instead to eat at restaurants at the port destinations.
ENTERTAINMENT - We went to a few shows - the opening night show, magician Jean- Pierre, Second City Comedy Troupe, and Cirque Bijou. We found all the shows very entertaining and fun to attend, particularly the shows by the Second City Comedy Troupe. To get decent seats (center seats in center section), we generally got to the theater at least 15 minutes before show times.
EXCURSIONS - This was our first cruise on the East Coast so we wanted to spend as much time as possible in each port just getting to know the different locales. At Cape Canaveral, we took the Cocoa Beach Shuttle, which was only $10 for unlimited rides for each of us. We went to the mall and then to the beach. The mall isn't really worth a visit but the beach was a nice place to sunbathe, particularly since we didn't get to enjoy the pools onboard the ship (they were often really crowded). I regretted not going to the Kennedy Space Center and would recommend that to cruisers, particularly since the Center will be closing. Great Stirrup Cay was very very pretty. We had rented a clam the first day we got aboard the ship and was glad that we had. The beach was terribly hot and the clams were sold out for those looking to purchase. We got on the 2nd tender and got a clam in the middle of row. For those who want beach views, I'd recommend getting on the first tender to shore. We both got drinks on the beach and purchased NCL cups. I didn't have a problem with paying for the cups but I found them a bit defective - the lids don't close tightly on the cups so liquid spills out. At Nassau, we walked around on our own. We took a shared cab for $8 each to Atlantis and walked around as well as saw the dig. We then took a cab back to the main street to shop and spent some time at Cable Beach (via $1.25 bus ticket each way and each person). Because we wanted to maximize our time seeing Nassau, we also walked a little way to see the Fort. It was a good introduction to Nassau and a very enjoyable experience.
SERVICE - The facilities and port destinations were perfectly satisfactory and the trip, even with the mediocre food, would have been a success if we had better service throughout. For our first lunch, we deliberately sought out Tsar because we had read that Garden Bistro would be crowded. We asked the greeter where Tsar is and whether it was open and were disappointed that he flat out lied about Tsar being closed. We went anyway because we had read it was open and found it empty but ready to serve. The cleaning service for our room was spotty and inconsistent even though we paid additional tip each day just to be nice. One day, the steward didn't come until a little after 2 pm for the morning cleaning. Since we were out at sea, we had wanted to stay in our rooms to relax. We may not have noted the situation if the steward did not clean our room and set the room up for the new passengers before 7 am while we were at breakfast the last day. He had taken all our toiletries out of the bathroom shelves and thrown everything into a pile on the room. We still had 2 hours until we disembarked so we unfortunately had to use the towels in the room and sit on the beds (which is too bad for whomever had the room after us if they are germaphobes). We also had spotty service in the dining rooms. At a pasta station at the Garden Bistro, for example, a chef allowed a person in front of us to order for her boyfriend who came into line last minute. He also gave them extra sauce upon request. Because of this, the chef then didn't have enough sauce to give us, a major blow considering we had limited food we liked (we ended up having Indian again). The worst was feeling nickeled and dimed about things deliberately and deceptively. We had expected some of this by reading the boards and avoided things like the drinks given out upon boarding. One unexpected example though was internet service. We paid $100 for a 250 minute plan, which was fine, but paid an additional $4.00 just for activation service, which wasn't listed on the initial description. When we used up our minutes, we didn't get a popup notifying us of this, despite the fact that this popup exits in almost all internet cafes. My sister laughed when I told her that it is a bit ridiculous when you think about how a $12 charge may cost NCL at least $1400 in potential repeat business if someone (such as me) was angry about it enough. The level and quality of service really affects my future decision-making - rather than go with or even recommend another NCL cruise, I'm probably going to explore another cruiseline or a resort for this type of vacation.