My family went on the Nickelodeon cruise July 24, 2011, and while the ship was impressive, I wouldn't recommend this cruise to others. Most of the staff seems to have been taught the importance of doing their jobs, but do so at the expense of passenger comfort and enjoyment.
First, let me say, the Kids Club was amazing and they did such a great job with entertaining our 3 year old. She never wanted to leave "Nickelodeon School" as she called it. The character meet and greets were well organized and fun. The actors from the Nickelodeon shows were personable, and seemed to be having a good time on board and in the ports as well.
We booked the 2-bedroom Courtyard Villa, and it was ideal for our family of five. The balcony is enclosed because the cabin is in the front of the ship, but that was a plus, as it was a quiet and private solarium. Hallway noise was at a minimum, but we could hear quite a bit of noise from the sundeck above.
The Courtyard staff was eager to attend to us, perhaps a little too eager. If the do not disturb sign was up, the Butler would call the room and ask to come in. Once, they saw me in the hallway and wanted to make up the room. I told them my husband wasn’t feeling well and was napping, but they didn't take the hint and followed me in anyway. We never ate in the private Courtyard dining room because it never appeared to be open. The private pool was a definite plus, though, as it was never a problem to find a comfy lounge chair or space in the hot tub.
The ship was beautiful. Even though it is one of the largest ships, it is easy to navigate. Touch screens at every elevator show the easiest way to get to where you're going. They also list day's activities and even restaurant availability.
The number of activities seemed very limited, probably due to the fact that they would be repeated in English and Spanish. The only “enrichment” available was liquor tasting. I had hoped they would offer historical talks, due the fact that our itinerary included such amazing ports of call as Pisa, Rome and Naples. The comedy group unfortunately doesn't go on Mediterranean cruises, and the ship seemed to be lacking family-friendly dance clubs. The dueling pianos were fun for the whole family.
All the specialty restaurants were worth every penny of the surcharge. Those were the only dining experiences that offered good food in a relaxing and enjoyable atmosphere. Kids were 1/2 price and didn’t feel out of place. O’Sheehans was overlooking the bowling lanes and the food was about what you would expect for a bowling alley. Eating in the buffet was stressful. It was crowded and often only half of it was open. The staff was overly eager to clear plates, and literally hovered over you waiting to take your plate (I thought we were being "punked"). My son put his plate down to go get a drink (this service was done by the wait staff on every other cruise we've been on but only offered once on this cruise) and came back to find it gone and different people at the freshly cleaned table.
At the Spa, my husband and I decided to try the bamboo massage. We had never had one, and thought it would be a unique experience. We have had stone massages before, but even the masseuses said (after the fact) the bamboo massage was not recommended. I was so bruised and sore the next day that I had to cancel my treatments. As with most cruise line spas, there was the obligatory sales pitch for the products, though not a high-pressure one.
The photo staff were the largely reason we have no purchased pictures from the cruise. We went to get pictures the day of departure (as is our custom to make sure we don't miss any from the last night) and waited in two of the four lines (only one line was actually moving) only to be told that we had to order the pictures the day before. Had we known, we would have done so, but all the announcements said was that the photo place was open, not only order for pick-ups. When we told them that, they just said we should have come earlier. As we were disembarking the ship, the Concierge told us that we COULD have gotten pictures and even spoke to the photo shop manager on our behalf, but at that point it was too late. We tried to ask if she could mail them to us, but she cut us off and said she couldn't.
Over all, the ship, specialty dining and kid's club impressive, but the "free" dining and customer service were disappointing.