We weren't sure what to expect with NCL, especially an older ship heading to drydock soon after our cruise. We went in with low expectations knowing we would have a great time just because we were meeting up with a bunch of CC'ers. NCL excelled in many areas and before the end of our cruise we had put down a deposit for a future cruise (who can resist their generous offer of $100 obc for your current cruise?)
We got to the port a little too early (just before 11am) and they weren't quite ready for us, which was ok with most of our group. They had a nice comfy waiting area, where you could book reservations for the specialty restaurants or purchase your soda card. They also had juice,water and cookies available, something I have never seen on Princess, Carnival or RCL. We were on board by a little after 12, our staterooms were already ready, which was really nice to get rid of carryons before having lunch! We went to the Main dining room, which was virtually empty and had a tasty lunch.
We then went off to explore the ship before our informal CC Roll call meeting at the Biergarten at sail away. I booked 6536, an inside cabin, after research on CC showed it to be a large cabin. We were the envy of all of our balcony friends. Their rooms and balcony were quite small. We could easily fit all 10 of us in our room but then who stays in the room anyway?? We also didn't have the weird door that closes the toilet off from the rest of the bathroom. I LOVED our room. It is right below LeBistro so you do hear some cleanup some nights til 11 or 12, we were usually out late so this didn't present a problem for us.
Our formal CC Meet and Greet at Henry's Pub was the first sea day and we were all impressed by the staff turnout. Prem, the hotel director, is incredible. You really feel like he wants to know your opinion and will do whatever it takes for your vacation to be perfect. We felt kinda special due to our Cruise Critic status!! (he says they really read the boards!)
The thing that struck all of us the most was how happy the staff is. Whether it is genuine or they are just really good at acting, who knows but you really felt the difference in how you were treated. If you looked lost, even days into the cruise, someone would stop and offer you assistance. It was truly amazing how happy and friendly everyone was. The wishy washy people at the buffet, especially! If you aren't a morning person you still couldn't help smiling when Horace (or Horatio?) would yell "Good Morning, Good Morning, Good Morning, time to wakey wakey, get your eggs and bakey!"
The food was delicious. I would say the buffet may not offer the variety of some other cruise lines but what they do offer tastes good. I especially loved my omelets and because there were several Eggs to Order stations, I never waited in line. The dining room menu again may not have the same fancy offerings of other lines but everything I had was delicious. We tried both Cagney's and the Asian dining room (not Teppanyaki, the other one Shogun, I think it's called). I was equally impressed with both.
Loved the personally made crepes at the dinner buffet, as well as chocolate fondue!! You definitely need to stop up there after dinner in the MDR for some more dessert! Which reminds me...we had the best Maitre de ever!! I have never seen one actually work, they usually show up the last night with their hand out for their tip. Not Melroy(?) he was there assisting our waiter, one night he even bombarded us with desserts when he heard we were in a hurry to get to a show and were going to skip dessert...he just kept bringing a couple of everything, we all ended up eating about 3 desserts and we still had plenty of time to get to the show. And I discovered a dessert I probably would have never ordered on my own and it was YUMMY!! (I think it was called a Trifle?)
My friends really love the 24 hour Blue Lagoon, we only made it there once, but the panini was really good. We never did get a chance to try the $5 pizza, there's was always food to be had somewhere, it just didn't seem necessary.
Any minor faults paled in comparison to the excellent service we received. I found the entertaining to be sub par, but it just didn't matter. Luckily I missed the magician because he was apparently so bad you could actually "see" the magic....the girl walking down stairs to disappear, a malfunctioning fan, etc.
We have already started planning our next NCL cruise,on the Epic, and from what I have read review wise, the staff sounds just as friendly and happy. We can't wait!!