We have traveled on Royal Caribbean before and chose this cruise on NCL due to its itinerary. We also wanted to try out free style cruising. We booked through our travel agent. Before the cruise we were all speculating and worrying about hurricane Danielle and Earl and were not sure if there would be any changes to the itinerary. Then someone on cc posted that the Dawn had blown an engine on the prior cruise to Bermuda, so amidst all that we set sail on August 29, on time. It was beautiful weather in NY and the captain announced that we will set sail but not sure where, till we get all the info regarding weather and waters. So we kept our fingers crossed for Bermuda.
As soon as we were on the ship, we were greeted by the utter chaos of around 900 yelling, screaming, running kids wherever I looked. It seemed like an infestation of kids kids and kids. My first reaction was OH NO! It was crazy!
Our room was on deck 10. It was an inside cabin, good enough for the two of us. Had just enough storage and fine enough bathroom space. Our room steward was wonderful and saw to our every comfort. No complaints about the room or its amenities. However, the kids in the rooms next to us made us miserable........thumping on the walls, yelling and screaming, running in the hallways like lunatics. If the kids are like this, I wonder how wild the parents must be!
The buffet areas were the same...........yelling, crying kids everywhere. Not one quiet table where you can eat in peace. The buffet had good choice of items and a good variety of food. Plenty of food. The area however was very small and the lines were very long especially at meal times and with kids running around with drinks and plates in their hands, it was disaster. The staff was very hardworking and friendly. I must hand it to them to be kind and patient with so many children and parents growling at them to pick up plates or bring them any thing. I could barely walk through the area without stepping into dropped ice cream or juice or bumping into a kid with his plate full of fries! The dining rooms were a better choice to eat in. They had specials daily and the usual menu. Lunch in the dining room was not bad either. For breakfast we used the buffet since they had nice omelet stations and a variety of breads and fruits. There are several specialty restaurants with a cover charge. Other places to grab a bite are the Blue lagoon and the Bimini grill. Pool area was a disaster! Never had a chance to use the pool due to the crazy kids. Hot tubs with "adults only" signs were full of kids too........I think people need a thorough lesson in English before boarding. What part of "adults only" is hard to understand???
We purchased the weekly spa passes so that we can have a lounge chair and some peace. The thermal suite as they call it is nice. It is peaceful, has a heated pool, a hot tub a therapy tub and lounge chairs, sauna, steam rooms, lockers and other facilities. The gym is nice. It is an adult only facility, but several times I saw small kids having a bicycle race on the stationary bikes, with parents looking on and cheering and other customers waiting their turn to work out on the bikes. Ridiculous! NCL does not know how to enforce of the "adults only" policy.
We thought we would be kid free in the restaurants, but NO. NCL had advertised that kids will eat free in specialty restaurants for that week. However, we were lucky enough to encounter none in Le Bistro or Salsa! The common areas on the ship were hangouts for most young teens and tweens. They lay sprawled on the floors preventing people from moving in the hallways. None of them understood the meaning of "excuse me please I need to pass by". It was a rowdy bunch! Several of them we saw smoking on the pool deck late at night. One of them was seen filling up a coke bottle with clear liquid from a bottle in a brown paper bag. It seemed that the parents had abandoned these kids to do whatever they pleased on the ship.
Then there were the nice kids too. Very normal, going about their own business, enjoying their vacation and not being a menace or nuisance.
Entertainment on the ship was great. The game shows were good, the comedian Dave Heenan was funny, the cruise director Matt Baker rocked! His staff was great. The entertainment on the last night, Bollywood was excellent! The Stardust Theater was a nice place, so was the Spinnaker Lounge where most of the game shows were held. The ship has quiet rooms up on deck 12, where one can go read or play cards or games. There is also a small library on deck 12 and a beautiful chapel for some serene moments. The internet cafe is on deck 9 and had a good number of computers to use. It looks down upon the java bar and the central atrium.
The staff in the dining rooms and buffet is wonderful. Always ready to help and constantly working hard, preparing and cleaning. Most of them are from the Philippines and some from India. Very hard working people. I had no complaints about them at all.
We had a cruise critics meet and greet on board on the first sea day. The captain and some crew members and the cruise director Matt, introduced themselves to our group. They had arranged for coffee, juice and pastries and we had a nice time meeting those we chatted with online before the cruise.
We will most certainly cruise on NCL again, and I am sure there will be nice kids and nicer kids, but we will not choose school vacation time when we are inundated with too many kids to handle.
Bermuda was great. We had excellent weather. We left two hours early because the captain wanted to keep us as far ahead of Hurricane Fiona as possible. Captain Sven was wonderful and very communicating. It was great to hear his voice over the PA system every morning briefing us on the storm and sea situations and other things. And, in his words, overall, we had a SMASHINGLY wonderful journey!