This was our fifth cruise on NCL. We've been to Bermuda, the Baltic, and the Caribbean (twice). To be fair, we've been to all the ports listed except Charlottetown and Sept Isles before. We love all the stops except Sept Isles which I think was included to make the schedule work. Charlottetown was delightful. A charming, walkable city albeit with a touristy emphasis on Anne or Green Gables, we enjoyed the shops and a wonderful deli for lunch. Halifax and Portland are fun places to wander. Great shops, better restaurants and friendly people. Boston, of course, is a place everyone should visit. It's our home port, so I can't single out anything that isn't spectacular.
Now for the ship...Our cabin on the eleventh deck was small, but adequate. The one thing I hadn't counted on (and I should have known better); it was directly below the Spa and fitness center....directly below TREADMILLS which start at some ungodly hour and are in use far into the evening. At first I thought it was a very badly tuned engine on the ship until I realized the din was intermittent. Reason enough to select a cabin a few doors away from 11538. In addition, the crew was preparing the ship for the Caribbean since this was the last NE/Canada voyage. In replacing the glass seals on the 12th deck, our balcony was showered daily with shards of glass; rail, deck, table and chairs. We both cut ourselves on the shards. The cabin stewards cleaned the glass up ONCE during the week. the rest of the time the glass remained. This particular cabin evidenced how tired the ships decor has become. Damaged furniture, a TV from somewhere in the 1970's without a workable remote (ignored by the stewards) and dingy surroundings. The bathroom wasn't clean..not filthy, but I dirtied a washcloth just wiping off the fixtures and tile. Cleaning is not a strong point with the cabin staff; perhaps they spend too much time creating those annoying towel creations. Ice was delivered three times during the trip, otherwise the bucket remained empty. Haphazard service at best.
Food service on this ship runs the gamut from attentive to surly. In the Raffles buffet the staff tend to be very casual in their service. During this cruise the policy switched from "serve yourself" to the supposedly safer "someone puts food on your plate". Problem with this approach is that many stations are unattended and those that are staffed are served by people who do not listen to requests or do not understand. The Windows dining room is pleasant and the food seems a bit better than the buffet. Service is slow. The Garden dining room is much smaller with less attentive staff. I waited ten minutes for requested water ("I'll be right back", then disappeared). Food is the same as Windows. We only ate in two of the specialty restaurants; Le Bistro and Trattoria. Both were better than any of the regular options. The food in Le Bistro is outstanding. Service is outstanding as well. The only downside was the wandering water person twice refilled our San Pelegrino with tap water. However, the regular waiter was quick to resupply the bubbly water with a new bottle, gratis. We enjoyed the Trattoria a little bit less. For started, the restaurant is just a curtained off area of the buffet, not a separate room. Even hanging an Italian flag could not disguise this fact. The food was worthy of a Florentine trattoria. Be warned, however, that all courses are served as entree sized portions. We ordered both a pasta course and a main course only to find that the portions were enormous. The food was so good that we couldn't help ourselves and ate more than was discrete. We couldn't order desert as much as we would have liked. Both restaurants are well worth the surcharge.
Entertainment is cruise standard. We liked the music in the lounges better than the offerings in the theatre. Second City was the best of the bunch. Drinks are cruise standard, pricey, but not outrageous. Wine is probably the best buy.
Embarkation and debarkation were without incident; smooth and without problems. This being our fifth cruise with NCL we've decided it will probably be our last. The "Latitudes" program offers little incentive to re-book. A free drink and a meeting with the ships leadership doesn't really work for us. The discount in the shops lacks appeal for those of us who don't buy emeralds or overpriced knock off clothing. We're looking forward to trying another line where more attention is paid to service to the customers. One final comment. This ship was designed for warm weather travel, consequently, even though there were 600 empty berths, the ship seemed crowded due to the lack of warm, indoor space. With temperatures in the 40's for most of the cruise, the indoor spaces get very congested. On "at sea" days some people stake out their space and never move.
Every cruise is a joy. This one is lower on the joy continuum that most.