We sailed Back to Back and did both the Eastern and Western Caribbean. Since this was our 9th and 10th NCL cruise we felt as though we would be valued customers. Although the boarding and disembarkation were exceptionally quick every time, there was no special area for Latitude members. The crew told us that the Latitude Members were just mixed in with all the passengers. There was a "Meet and Greet" with the Latitudes Staff. That is all it was.. a handshake and introduction. They told us that there were too many Latitude Members to have the normal cocktail party. There were 4,100 passengers and more than 1,900 of them were Latitude Members. However, because we were Silver Members (the 10th cruise moved us to Gold) we would be invited to an Exclusive Gathering (cocktail party) for Silver, Gold and Bronze Latitude Members later in the week. Other than that, the only advantage to being a Latitude Members was that you got a little bonus if you bought something. It was a real disappointment because we always thought being a Latitude Member was something special.
Kudos to NCL for the efficient way they got people off the ship and back on. There wasn't any of the waiting in line that you would expect with a ship that large. We did have to get off the ship after the first cruise for customs (but did not have to pack our bags). We were the last ones off the ship and the first ones back onboard. The only glitch was that the announcement for the Back to Back Group was made very quietly and not over the intercom system and hardly anyone heard it. Fortunately the other cruisers recruited each other and, other than worrying that we were in the wrong spot, all went well.
The design of the ship was almost perfect. Our inside cabin had a king size bed and more than enough storage space for 2 weeks worth of luggage. The separate shower, commode, and sink made it possible for more than one person to use the facilities. No waiting for someone to use the commode before you could take your shower. We did not feel crowded at all. We heard many complaints about the balcony rooms. People said that there was no room for them to walk at all. If they had to pass each other in the room they had to climb over the bed. Our room steward (Esther on Deck 11 midship) was wonderful!! Other passengers told us that it was often dinner time before their room was made up but we had no problem with that. There were plenty of "quiet spots" where you could relax, read or just enjoy the sailing the seas. It took awhile to find them but they were very comfortable with couches as well as deck chairs. There were also couches and quiet spots on the inside deck. However, the smell of smoke from the Casino was always there. To get to the Manhattan Dining Room you must walk through the Casino. There were 400 children on our cruise and they should not have to walk through 2nd hand smoke to go to dinner. They did have air filters all along the walls but the smoke was still there. I missed the Promenade Deck. You can go out on Deck 7 on both sides of the ship but you cannot walk around the ship. You can go to one end, turn around, and walk back, but not all the way around the ship. The large screen televisions are awesome. However, if you are watching in the Atrium, the noise from the air hockey game on Deck 6 is very loud and annoying. It was almost the end of the 2nd week before we figured out that we could use the elevator to go to deck 16 and 17. This is another quiet area with lots of deck chairs. The is a "freestyle" sun deck (clothing optional) as well. It is small and secluded so you don't have to walk by it to get somewhere.
I really disliked the "nickel and dime" attitude on the ship. There are bowling alleys but it is $5 a pop to play. There is a wonderful arcade for the teens but the games are $1.50 to $4.50 a pop. I thought at first what a wonderful cruise this would be for my grandchildren but I could go broke very quickly with arcade games. There is an Ice Bar but there is a $20 cover charge. That does entitle you to 2 drinks. If you don't drink and just want to see the bar, $20 will get you a Dreamcycle and a smoothie! That's a pretty expensive Ice Cream Bar!! The windows are covered and the door is locked and you cannot even get a peek without the cover charge. The restaurants mostly open at 5:30 and the first show is at 7pm with "line up" time at 6:15. There is no way that you can make it and you must eat at the Garden Buffet to make the shows. Bad timing!! At least open one a little earlier!! I was shocked that to get a tour of the ship (behind the scene) there was a charge. Cheez Louise!!!
The food on the cruise was a HUGE disappointment. There was plenty of volume and very little flavor. Most of the food was beyond bland. This was in both of the dining rooms and the Garden Buffet. I mentioned it to our waiter and he sent over the Maitre De. He actually agreed with us and said that it was a common complaint. He said that he had tried working with the chef but that he was not open to feedback. He arranged a special dessert for us the next night to make up for it and I really appreciated that. We ate at the Cirque show and the food was just as bad. The beef was over tenderized and mushy. After that experience, we did not go to the other "cover charge" restaurants. Many of the cruisers described the food as "okay" but nothing else. The staff at Cirque told us that the best seats were on the coaches (unless you had premium seats). They said that you could see the most from the couch. There is absolutely no truth in that statement. The room has a built out ceiling to look like a tent and so you could see nothing that went on in the air. There were people sitting in front of you so that you could not see anything that happened on the floor. The folks that went upstairs (which the staff did not recommend) could see the entire show. I almost went to find the cruise director after that. We didn't even ask where to sit. The staff just pushed us to sit on the couches!!
The Blue Man Group was terrific as was the Legends in Concert. We may have enjoyed the Cirque if we could have seen it and the food was better. The highlight of the entertainment was Roadside Louie and The Dusters in Fat Cats Lounge. This is a high energy professional group that is so much fun. We went every night!! Kudos to Louie, Bill, Carmen and TJ! I'm sorry I can't remember the drummer's name but he was really good too! On top of all that talent they are genuinely nice people. I miss you guys!!!!