I booked a "last minute" cruise about 2 weeks prior to sailing - had some time off work and wanted an easy vacation that didn't require a flight with my 2 toddlers. We live in New England, and the weather was turning, so I started to look into cruises out of Boston. Found a great deal on NCL Dawn to Bermuda. Booked the 2 bedroom family suite for myself, my 2 toddlers, and my parents. This was the first cruise I had been on in almost 20 years, and the first on NCL. I was excited, and then I got "the call"! About 5 days prior to departure, I got an e-mail from the upsell desk offering upsell to the Garden Villa! Fantasatic! We had 5 already in our cabin, but with the upsell we had room for 7. Made some calls, and was able to talk some more family into coming along at the last minute (thank goodness for flexible work schedules!). There was a family of 3 who wished to join us, and even though one was just 2 years old and would not use a bed, they would not allow us to book more than 7 in the 3 bedroom villa (mind you, this cabin is over 5000 square feet!). SO, one person booked the least expensive room on the ship and stayed in the villa with his family. This was completely fine with the butler and everyone else involved, they totally understood the situation and he was allowed every amenity that the rest of us received (3 of the Garden Villa passengers were toddlers, so they obviously weren't making use of such amenities as the lunch and dinner at Cagney's, etc).
This room is AWESOME. We actually were led first into 14500, then the butler realized his mistake and took us to 14000. The rooms are almost identical except for some differences in the decor, carpet color in one room, etc. The only noticeable difference is that where 14500 has a very posh bar area with stools next to it, room 14000 has a small mini-bar area (still very posh and with all the fine glassware and bar tools you could need). Instead of a larger bar, 14000 has a small kitchenette with door, it has tile floor and floor-to-ceiling stainless steel, including 2 sinks, 2 refrigerators, cappucino machine with K-cups for coffee or tea, an industrial microwave, and TONS of storage cabinets (for what? I don't know). It looks and functions like a small professional prep kitchen. This was great for us because of the kids - plenty of room for storing milk and for warming bottles in the microwave. Also there was a big cooler of ice that was continuously refilled in there. The Garden Villa includes 6 complementary bottles of liquor or wine, a menu is provided on arrival. We got Gin, Tequila, Kahlua, Vodka, and a red and white wine. They were good brands. Fresh fruit and snacks brought daily in the afternoon by our butler. A fresh flower arrangement was provided on day 1 only but lasted the week.
The living room (huge!) included dining table for 8, player piano, flat screen tv, desk with laptop, large cabinet with huge array of glassware (wine, champagne glasses, etc), VCR, video library menu (not much for kids so bring your own if you have kids with you). Large leather couch, 3 comfortable lounge chairs, wild patterned carpet. The whole villa had gorgeous wood panelling. Floor to ceiling windows run the entire length of the living room (half the width of deck 14!) and overlook the pool area. Mirrored, so no one can see in during the day, however it is possible to see in at night if lights are on in the villa (including bathrooms!). There are mechanized wooden window blinds on all windows operated by a wall switch as well as rich fabric draperies. The valet closes all the drapes with the turn down service each night. A long hall leads to the courtyard with bedrooms on one side - master is huge with walk in closet and the most beautiful bathroom I've ever seen - floor to ceiling window with ocean and pool views, big steam shower, separate toilet area, 3 person (?) jetted bath, double basin sinks on a glass vanity. Six huge floor to ceiling windows with king (I think) bed facing windows. Small bar area with ice bucket (always filled), each room has this and a small fridge. 2 small safes in each room, too. 2nd room is smallest, has a queen bed and a velvet chair that folds out into a twin bed (comfortable!). There is a thick drape that can be pulled around the bed to provide privacy between the bed and the pull out couch. Floor to ceiling windows, table and 4 chairs (the only bedroom with this - it is just like the SE class suite). Vanity area outside of a bathroom with single sink and small bathtub/shower, and toilet room, no windows, the bath is on the interior part of the room. Large closet, but not a walk-in like the other rooms. Third bedroom is another very nice one with a fantastic bathroom - shower and jetted tub, floor to ceiling ocean view windows, huge walk in closet, queen bed, wall of windows. All with great lighting that gradually fades on when you flip the switch, lovely decor, great art (greco-roman nudes and near-nudes, mainly), luxury linens and beautiful wood and upholstery everywhere. This 3rd room has a sliding glass door to the garden area. Finally, the garden area - there is a private hot tub, steam shower in a small hut enclosure, 2 covered dining areas (one seats 8, the other 4), many deck chairs with thick pads, plenty of towels, a fountain, greenery (fake but attractive), a garden bench or two, covered lounge area with bench and table, and a wonderful staircase to the top level deck. This deck is absolutely huge (like a tennis court!) and empty except for a few deck chairs that are securely lashed. Great views in all directions. A few times, engineers would come through an emergency exit in the back of the garden area and go up to the top deck to work on the elevators (the gear room is accessed from this deck) or to do other maintenance. They were friendly and kept to their business. The basketball court is just on the other side of the garden wall, sometimes you hear a bit of noise from that but not bad. The walls are painted with a mural to resemble the italian countryside, and there are numerous statues of scantily clad greek ladies that were fantastic for hanging wet suits to dry. The butler was always easy to reach by cell phone and would bring our dinners to us most nights, setting up the dining room table inside or outside with tablecloths, etc. Valet always supplied fresh towels and turn down service, and made sure we had everything we needed. Concierge was wonderful and helpful. Cagneys is right below the Garden Villa on deck 13, and you could just go down one flight of stairs from the private lobby shared by the 2 Garden Villas (and accessed only by key card) to go to breakfast and lunch at Cagneys (which is usually an extra-fee dinner venue, and open just to suite guests for breakfast and lunch). There is a small, wonderful buffet of fresh juice, fruit, baked items, etc, as well as a delicious menu of hot items. Table service, coffee press. Fantastic.
All in all, we had a blast, felt like royalty, and thoroughly enjoyed it, knowing we will never be able to afford this kind of trip again (unless we win the lottery or the upsale fairy godmother visits us again!). THE TRIP OF A LIFETIME! At the end of the week, I spent a grand total of $10 (above and beyond the cruise fare and $12/day tip per person). With excellent in-room dining free of charge, and 6 bottles of booze, and soft drinks of your choice delivered daily, there was nothing left to buy! Of course, we did tip the butler, concierge, and valet individually, cash, with the envelopes provided.