This was our first NCL cruise and we were a bit apprehensive at first because we had heard some negative things about NCL. Let me say that nothing we heard was true and, in fact, this was one of the best cruises we have taken.
We flew into LGA on Friday and used Dial7 car service to pick us up. (http://www.dial7.com) I found an internet coupon and the cost of a private car was the same as a taxi. We stayed at the Fitzpatrick Grand Central (141 East 44th Street, New York City, NY 10017.) This is a quaint, quiet hotel. We took cab to the pier on Saturday morning and completed the check-in process in less than 30 minutes.
The cabins were not available until 2 p.m. so we walked around the ship and sat on one of the upper decks and watch the boats and activity on the water. We were docked at Pier 88 (next to the Intrepid).
The rooms were done early so we found our room (10022). The room was small but efficient. The balcony does help make the room seem larger and not so cramped. Our luggage arrived by 5 p.m. No kidding!! We originally had not booked a balcony cabin, but with the itinerary changes, we moved to a balcony.
We signed up for the Thermal Spa pass for the week. This gave us access to the spa facilities (sauna, steam room, hot tub, and heated ceramic chairs). Best money we spent all week. The relaxation room was quiet and is the right up front of the ship with a wonderful view.
I needed this cruise for the downtime to rest and relax from a busy and chaotic year. The extra sea days allowed me to take time for myself and relax. Type A people will not like all the sea days in this itinerary. Having the balcony to sit and watch the sea was wonderful.
The food was good -- both in the general dining rooms and in the specialty restaurants. The two speciality restaurants we visited were Chin Chin (Asian) twice and Tapas (Tex-Mex) once. I had a seafood dish at each dinner.
The entertainment was great. Cirque Bijou was phenomenal. Lynn Trefzger, ventriloquist, had great audience participation. The Second City shows were funny and the cast showed up at other ship-sponsored events which allowed them to showcase their talents.
The entire crew was friendly -- even the guys doing maintenance. Our cabin stewards (Umberto and Myrna) were fantastic. We asked for an extra pillow and it arrived in seconds (I kid you not!).
Because of the itinerary and length of cruise, this tended to draw an older crowd. There were few children on board (at one time, I heard a count of 6). We never had to wait for an elevator (unless it was after a show). The passengers were pleasant and friendly.
The highlight of the cruise was having the captain invite the Cruise Critic members to visit the bridge during a sea day. I encourage you to sign up for your cruise's roll call on Cruise Critic and go to the meet and greet. We met the captain and his officers and this is where the bridge invitation came from. Overall, the captain was really involved with the ship's activities.
Shona (cruise director) and Sinan (assistant cruise director) were fantastic.
We lucked out and had excellent weather for the entire cruise. Sun, 60s, and smooth sailing was the norm. The last day was windy and rocky but it was a sea day and there was packing to do!
Things to know before taking this cruise: 1. This is not a large ship so there are not a lot of activities taking place. We heard several people complaining that they did not have enough to do as they were used to being on the larger cruise ships. We went for rest and relaxation and this ship was perfect for this. 2. Plan to pack clothes that can worn in layers. The weather would be cool in the mornings (high 50s) and warmer in the afternoons (middle 60s). It can also be windy. 3. If you're looking to see the leaves changing, take this cruise on a later date. The leaves were just beginning to turn colors when we were there. 4. If you use a wheelchair, take the handicapped accessible tours. Both Halifax and Quebec City are on steep hills and it would be difficult for companions to push the chair. Also Quebec City, in the areas we were, were full of steps and I saw few ramps. 5. The ship offered two laundry specials which meant we didn't need to pack as many clothes since we could send them out. There are no public laundry facilities on board.
We were disappointed by the itinerary changes but would take this cruise again in hopes of getting to the other ports.
We arrived at 8 a.m. in NYC. We elected to carry off our own luggage and sailed through customs. We walked across the street for a taxi and there was a large line waiting for taxis. An event at the United Nations had forced a lot of street closings so there was a lot of chaos at the taxi stand. At one point, a private car driver asked if we needed a ride and jumped at this opportunity to get out of the taxi line. We found two other ladies to ride with us to LGA and we arrived at the airport way before some people found a cab. Next time, I would arrange for transportation to pick us up.
To sum it up, we enjoyed our first NCL cruise and this will not be our last.