We pick our cruises by the ports and cruise date. In the past we have cruised with Princess but decided to try Freestyle cruising with NCL because the sailing date fit our schedule.
The ports and shore excursions on this cruise were comparable to Princess. We were happy with the excursions. Most of the tour guides were very interesting except for Cartegena, Columbia. The organization of meeting your tour, disembarking, and finding your bus worked but felt like chaos.
Our stateroom was clean and comfortable. The room steward and helper were friendly. We really enjoyed the towel animals. The coffee maker was a nice touch and we put it to good use. There was only one American electric outlet in the main cabin and it wasn't in a very useful location. There was a curtain between the bed and couch. Princess didn't provide that in their mini-suites. The cabin was mainly wood paneling and creaked all the time.
The public areas of this ship feel very crowded and cramped. Even the main atrium felt closed in. If you wanted to find a place to read or play cards, almost your only option was a table in one of the restaurants that was closed during the day. I checked out some books from the library but it was very small with very little seating. We did use the exercise room equipment and most of the time the room was mainly empty. We went to several shows in the main theater. There seemed to be quite a few broken seats during the entire time of the cruise.
We usually eat all of our meals at the buffet. We like the convenience of picking exactly what we want to eat and when we want to eat it. The buffet food on all of our 6 Princess cruises was very good and most of the time almost the same selection as the dining rooms. The Princess buffet was also open 24 hours a day. The food at the Market Cafe (buffet) on NCL was boring and not kept real hot. There was a whole section devoted to pasta and Indian food. Our observation was that this section was basically ignored by most diners. In the main section of the buffet, it seemed like basically the same selection every night with different sauces on some of the mystery meat(which was always dry and overcooked). Topsiders Grill served fresh hot food for breakfast and lunch. Unfortunately, Topsiders Grill was closed at dinner time. Blue Lagoon had really good food, but the extremely limited menu became tiresome. We became so bored and disgusted with the buffet food that we started ordering many of our meals from Room Service. Room Service also had a limited menu, but the food was fresh and very good. We thought that the best complimentary food on board was Topsiders Grill, Blue Lagoon, and Room Service. We also ate at Endless Summer Restaurant (Tex-Mex, extra charge) where the food was good and came in large portions. We ate at Cagney's Steakhouse (extra charge) one night for a special meal. The meal was nicely served and delicious, but we didn't like paying $25/each for the meal; since we felt forced to eat at the "extra charge" restaurants to get a satisfactory meal. People who love pasta and oriental food probably think the food is fine. We, however, feel that we should have had a better selection of included free meals. We are not overweight and don't spend all of our time eating, but food is an important part of the cruise experience.