My wife and two sons have been on two other cruises and decided this time to take my mother and cruise on Christmas, the other cruises were both Thanksgiving week.
The nightmare started as soon as we entered the cruise terminal, we were waiting in line to check our bags, then again to check our tickets, then again to pass through security and finally to check in and get our ship cards. The process took in excess of ninety minutes, and involved several non friendly NCL employees. We finally boarded the ship, and were able to get into our cabins relatively soon after.
We chose Windows, the "nice" dining room for our dinner, we were surprised that the menu and the service was like that of a cheap banquet hall,(canned shrimp cocktail) .Nothing close to Royal Caribbean or Carnival. This experience was repeated for the first two nights when on the second night we were seated and the server was trying his best, but obviously overloaded. I got up from the table three times to pour water for our table, and missing plates, we ate our bread off of the table cloth. After this experience, I spoke to the Maitre'd, he listened to my concerns and was very apologetic.He asked us to come back and try them again. We did so the very next evening. The service was somewhat better and the Maitre'd personally came to the table and offered a bottle of wine as his apology. He also checked on our table repeatedly. But even for his efforts, we chose to eat the rest of our evening meals in the Garden Room(the "informal dining room), The food was still not up to expectations but the service was better.
We chose the buffet dining in Raffles for Breakfast and lunch, and found it to be enjoyable, and the greeters were probably the only cheerful employees on the ship. We ate breakfast in the Garden Room on Christmas morning and the food was cold and service was slow. As for dining with NCL I guess you have to pay to eat in one of the "premium" dining rooms to get good food and service, although some of the people we met were disappointed in them as well.
Dining on NCL, prepare to be hounded to pay to eat in the premium dining rooms and forget about getting a second cup of coffee after dinner.
As for the cabins, we had one balcony and the inside cabin across the hall. Both were clean but smaller than what we have had in the past.Our cabin steward was basically invisible, and we had to come back to the cabin at night and lower the wall bunk for our ten year old. The other cruise lines did this for you, as well as turning down the beds and leaving tasty little chocolates.
As for activities, dodge ball and ping pong were about as active as it got. The "parties" were barely attended by the activity staff and just offered music and drinks for sale, no lavish buffets as were offered on the other cruise lines. Even the signature "White Hot Party" was nothing more than an entertaining display put on the bartenders and dancing.
The bar staff was persistent to say the least even to the point of repeatedly interrupting my wife while she was reading by the pool.
The fitness center was fairly well equipped, however it was cramped into an extremely small area, as was the casino.
It was apparent that the drinking age was not enforced, as we witnessed several under aged young people drinking in the bars. I overheard a group of young teens talking about drinking for the first time.
The shows were OK, but not as professional as what we have experienced on other cruise lines or even Disney World. Even the "adult" shows were over run with the under aged drinking crowd and there was insufficient seating available for everyone else. Karaoke was fun, but again there was no activity personnel in sight, they were over crowded and seating was extremely limited. The people in charge didn't seem to be in control at all.