Enticed by a price that fit all pocketbooks (wrong, more later!) and the proximity of a Seattle round-trip, I booked the family on NCL for Pop-Pops 75th birthday cruise. We went to Alaska trailing 3 groups of novice cruisers. While a wonderful time was had by all, we are not inclined to repeat our NCL experience.
We had a mini-suite with other family in inside cabins across the hall. The insiders were moved to other cabins by the second day due to overhead noise. They had no available place to move us from the mini-suite class. The noise and construction were obvious negatives. They do have excellent bathrooms on NCL. Econo lodge style toiletries, but a superfunctional bathroom layout.
The "free-style" dining experience was interesting. It was difficult to get a hot meal in any of the included restaurants and the wait staff tended to be the most inexperienced. Main dining venues suffer from lack of supervision and organization.Dining room dress codes appear to be nonexistent. (somebody please tell me the need for a cowboy hat, at dinner, at sea?) We quickly gave up and booked the specialty restaurants for the rest of the cruise. We got great food (best escargot I have ever had) and great service thereafter. But we had to pay for it.
That's NCL's dirty little secret...everything is cost plus. I can estimate my ships account to about $50, but it was instructive to note the looks on the faces of less experienced guests waiting in line to settle accounts. The add ons on this cruise line are egregious and priced above the more expensive cruise lines. Perhaps it is better to pay the higher fares with better food and service. Novice cruisers should also note that with "free-style" dining the tipping is mandatory and added daily. It is also interesting to note that the specialty waitstaff are part of this shared pool yet present bills with lines for addition gratuities.
Cabin service is impersonal at best unless you happen to be the employer of some of their friends working stateside, then attention levels alter rapidly. To be fair, the cabin to employee ration is very high and the rooms are kept very clean. They work very hard. I have to say that the hygiene standards are very high and the standards are enforced. They have an outstanding Executive Housekeeper and the commitment to the environment dictates that over 8000 napkins a day are laundered and folded.
The cruise did offer something for everyone and Alaska is spectacular no matter how one gets there. It was a memorable trip, but NCL's contribution to the memories was limited.