We have taken several NCL cruises in the last few years, and all were excellent.This cruise, although satisfactory, was poorer in comparison to the others.
As usual, our cabin was clean snd well appointed. Our cabin stewards did an excellent job. I was impressed that they learned our names immediately - no mean feat considering the number of people they serve. I would suggest that you take your own shampoo and conditioner, as the former is of poor quality and the latter is non-existent.
Dining on this ship is problematic, unless you want to pay extra. The main Versailles dining room was our restuarant of choice. The food is excellent, and service is generally very good, although there were some exceptions. It is the first time we have experienced problems with Freestyle dining. There were frequently long lineups, despite the fact that there were many free tables. I don't know if this was because of poor planning or lack of staff. The Aqua was smaller and noisy, probably because of the lower ceilings. The so-called Market Cafe is a glorified cafeteria, and not well -appointed. On other NCL cruises there was a station, where you could have a made-to-order omelette. On this ship the eggs were cooked and put in a tray. Usually your food was cold by the time you found a place to sit.
Entertainment was generally good, and there was lots of variety. The Jean Ann Ryan company was excellent, as always. We enjoyed the ventriloquist, the flautist and the Franki Valli tribute. I have seen Juan Carlo, a pianist from Cuba, on another cruise, and he was excellent. However, he seems to have sacrificed technique for speed and inaccuracy, so he disappointed this time around.
Activites were limited, but some we really enjoyed were Daily trivia, and the Art talks. Entertainment staff were helpful and friendly - especially Christina. Our cruise director was good, although his daily reminders to thank all the people serving us became a little monotonous. In-House entertainment was very enjoyable, especially the trio that played nightly in the beautiful Grand Atrium.
We only took two Shore Excursions from the ship - one in Cartagena, which was excellent, and the other in Miami - a trip on an airboat through the Everglades, which was fun. It also dropped us at the airport, which was a bonus. Victoria is a fun city to visit. A shuttle will take you into town. You would only need an excursion if you want to visit Butchart Gardens or a winery - both worth seeing, if you haven't been there. Astoria has a shuttle which will take you into a small town - not much to see, but up at the tower there is a spectacular view of the Columbia river. San Francisco is fun, and the are many opportunities when you dock to explore.
In Los Angeles we were obliged to get off the ship because this was a repo cruise,despite the fact that we had no plans to leave the area. We have been to Mexico and Costa Rica before, so we just went ashore and wandered around, which was enjoyable. Take care in Costa Rica to take a ship excursion, because they will wait for you if the trip is delayed.
Our trip through the Canal was fascinating, and they had an expert giving an on-going lecture the whole day.
Embarkation and Disembarkation were handled well.
To summarise = we enjoyed this cruise, but noticed several deficiencies with NCL that prompt us to try another line in the future.
Desk staff were routinely ill-informed and unhelpful
Coffee was dreadful. Good cappuccino, free before in the dining room, now has to be paid for. Tea was made with hot, not boiling water.
The pool was tiny, especially given the number of people on the ship.
The Spinnaker lounge, previously on deck 12, with comfortable chairs, and windows, is no more. It has been converted into luxury suites.The lounge
has been relegated to deck six, and has no windows. We tried in vain to find a comfortable place to sit on the ship and watch the world go by.
All in all, we feel that NCL has taken penny-pinching a little too far. The constant push to get you to part with money - cappuccino, liquor, food,bingo, art, and jewelry was finally too much for us