If you've sailed other cruise lines, make sure you lower your expectations ... and then lower them more. We arrived at 10:30 for embarkation with the hope of getting on early ... to check the ship out, get the lay out, etc. Don't bother ... they don't let you go on until 12:00 and then by numbers ... until they started doing that and then 'someone in authority' said that all could go aboard, and then everyone there did. Our advice would be not to go to the buffet that they push, rather, go to the Versailles Dining room. Although there are fewer choices, the food is better ... just don't get your hopes up. We received a call from NCL on Thursday night that our ports had been changed. Mazatlan has been removed from the itinary for the rest of the season and you now have 2 days in Cabo ... tendering doesn't cost as much rather than adding a different port and Puerto Vallarta. I'm a Caribbean guy, so the western coast of Mexico just doesn't do it for me!!
Embarkation was hectic. We tried to get into the 'Latitudes' line (NCL's former cruiser line), but it was blocked. On the other side of the terminal, which wasn't being used yet, had passengers embarking based on their cabin type. There were many of us there early, 10:00-10:15, but they had us sit after checking in until 12:00 before we could get onboard ... so don't bother getting there until 11:45 or so as those that came late tended to get on before those of us who had been waiting.
Food ... lower your expectations if you've been on other cruise lines. The chilled soups stand out along with the 'Best of Brunch' on Friday. Other than that, we were disappointed. Freestyle doesn't work for us and we much prefer having our set time, set table with our set wait staff. After a night or two, they know what your preferences are. We had to ask for coffee every lunch or night rather than having it delivered or at least asked if we wanted it. We brought 6 bottles of wine aboard and paid the $15 corkage fee that allowed us to bring it to the dining room ... now if you could only get a 'wine steward' to come by. We had to ask at a minimum of 3 times to get glasses and our wine opened each night. That wouldn't happen in a traditional setting. I gotta compliment NCL in that in the Red Lion Pub, they had popcorn!!
The nightly show entertainment was really quite good, especially 'Elements' on Thursday night! Just make sure you're sitting about a third of the way back to be able to experience everything going on!!
We had an medical emergency our week and had to turn back to Encenada which caused us to miss one of your port days. This was not a big deal for us as we appreciated NCL's concern for the safety of the passenger rather than for the convenience of the masses.
Having sailed on Celebrity in early November, it was very apparent that personal contact with the passengers was not a priority on NCL. On Celebrity, all the staff made eye contact with you and initiated conversation. On our NCL cruise, for the most part, if you didn't say something, they walked right by and didn't say anything ... making contact wasn't an overall priority.
Fitness center/spa ... we each bought the $119 spa package which let us use the spa facilities and reading area since it was often too cold for 4 days to use our balcony. The fitness center needs to be bigger and equipment upgraded to handle the demand of the passengers. I did appreciate that the cardio machines had TVs.
Would we sail NCL again? If we hadn't sailed other cruise lines and didn't know better, who knows, but we've sailed the others ... Carnival, Holland, Princess, RCCL and Celebrity and know that it can be better, so we probably won't be back. That's not a threat ... rather it's reality.