My wife and I flew to Miami the night before and stayed at the Hilton on Biscayne Blvd. No shuttle, total cost of taxis from MIA-Hilton-Cruise terminal approximately $50.00. Traveling the day before greatly reduces the stresses of flight delays lost luggage etc. We were meeting some friends and family for this cruise. This was our 1st NCL cruise.
Embarkation: We arrived at the terminal shortly before noon. The line was already long. We waited in line for 45 minutes before making it to the counter. The time spent at the counter was less than 5 minutes. We headed up the escalator looking forward to boarding. We were herded to seats and asked to wait. We sat for another 30 minutes. Boarding was in groups of around 25 at a time. When we finally made some progress toward the ship we were again stopped, this time for pictures. Are you kidding me? I have never seen anything like this. We bypassed the photo-op and headed for the ship. I understand trying to prevent everyone from boarding the ship at once but this is ridiculous. We made our way up to the Waves bar and order a bucket of beer and relaxed until our cabin was ready. The cabin was ready at 2:00 as promised.
Cabin: Wow were we disappointed with the cabin. I have read lots of complaints about the cabins and they were right. We had a balcony cabin on the stern of the ship. The bathroom-shower setup is a joke. They work fine individually but the layout leaves much to be desired. The infamous sink was a non-issue. Worked fine no water splashing. The cabin was very small, smaller than any inside cabin we have ever stayed in. I'm no architect but it seems like all the curves take away space in the cabin. There is plenty of storage. Four small drawers (6" deep), two hanging closets, two drawers under the couch, a cabinet under the TV and storage space above the bed. There is a coffee pot in the cabin. It's located directly below the TV. NCL will be replacing the TVs if the don't find a new place for the coffee pots. The bed/pillows were comfortable. Our cabin steward (Bruno) was very good. Thanks Bruno!
Public Rooms: While the public rooms are attractive they are way too small for the number of passengers on board. Every room seems crowded. The escalator between the casino and the 5th deck quit working day one and didn't work the rest of the cruise. The pools are tiny. I usually spend some time in the pool but neither my wife or I got in the pool. I will say they play great music (classic rock) on the pool deck.
Dining: We didn't eat in any of the pay venues. For most meals we ate the buffet in the Garden Cafe (try the macadamia nut cookies). While the food is fine there is nowhere near enough seating. We also ate a couple dinners in Taste & O'Sheehans. Good food and good service. No complaints.
Entertainment: Blue Man Group was good. We didn't care for Howl at the Moon. We had VIP seats for the Cirque Dreams/Dinner. The show was very good, some amazing entertainment. The dinner wasn't bad. Eating during the show causes you to miss some of the show. It's impossible to look up and down at the same time. By far the best entertainment on the ship was the magician/comedian Jeff Hobson. We actually went 2 nights in a row. He did different tricks and told different jokes.
Service: We were pleased with all the service we received. I'm not sure if this belongs here but while on the cruise we took advantage of putting down a $250 deposit on a future cruise (within 4 years) and received a $100 credit on this cruise. Instead of adding the $250 to my ship bill I payed with a different credit card. When I checked my card this morning I discovered they charged me the day I purchased and again yesterday. I called to resolve this and was told I had to call accounting Monday morning. Fingers crossed.
Disembarkation: We walked off with our own luggage. What a great concept. Wish all cruise lines offered this option. We jumped in a van back to the airport which cost $20 total.
We like the free style concept so while we would not cruise on this ship again we will be giving NCL another try.