We have been on 3 previous cruises before, all on Royal Caribbean. We decided to give Norwegian a try due in part to their advertising, pricing and Kidz Korner activities for our 6 year old twins.
Upon our arrival at the port, we were greeted by friendly NCL staff and checked in quickly. So far, so good. We then proceed to the waiting area to board the ship. Boarding was delayed 30 minutes and we were held in the waiting area where they were blasting loud music.
Finally NCL starts boarding at 12pm and we are greeted at the end of the gangway with festive music and the offer of a bubbly drink. As we are trying to marshal two boys and a carry on bag, we decline and proceed to deck 11 for the buffet.
The food selection was underwhelming and the taste was very bland. My boys are very picky eaters and we had a hard time finding food to their liking. They also almost drink milk exclusively (white and chocolate). The only milk we could find was the white in the dispenser and my white milk drinking son indicated that it tasted funny. Chocolate milk could not be found and I inquired to be told that it was not available yet. What?!? More on the milk situation later.
We hear over the ship speakers that the cabins would not be available until 2pm. Thinking to myself, what have they been doing between 9am and the time we boarded to get the rooms turned over? Finally tired of dragging the carry on bag any longer, we go to the cabin and ask the steward if it would be ok to leave the bag. We are told yes, so the bag is dropped off. We decide to explore the ship and check out the sites. Checked bags don't arrive until 6pm.
For the evening meal, we attend the barbeque on the pool deck. While I am beginning to eat, my wife gets up with the boys to get ice cream. Seconds later, my son runs back to our table screaming "mommy fell and is hurt!". I hurry to where my wife has slipped and fell on the pool deck. She is quickly surrounded by NCL staff. My wife is complaining that her knee is hurting and that she felt her kneecap move. NCL staff summons a wheelchair and medic who both arrive quickly. We are then introduced to the NCL medical staff, not exactly how we wanted to meet them. They are very competent, although a bit on the slow side. X-rays are taken, leg splint applied, medications dispensed.
I filled out the accident form with the specifics of what happened. The NCL Security officer went with myself and my son who witnessed my wife falling to the scene and took pictures of the deck. I am still unsure of what my wife slipped on as the deck was dry when we went back later. The pool deck is wood and not textured to give great traction. She was wearing flip flops and she does not have a habit of her feet just flying out from under her. After checking out of the medical office, she is taken back to our cabin where she rests for the remainder of the night.
The boys and I are on our own for the evening and we attend the show in the Stardust lounge. I am pleasantly surprised with entertainment and we enjoyed the show. After the show, we turn in for the night.
Next morning, get the wife up on her crutches and head to deck 11 for breakfast. What is that I see? White and chocolate milk in cartons! I should have stocked up right then, because it would be one of the last times we would see it. Again the food is uninspiring. As my wife is in no condition to go on the excursion to discover Atlantis, I proceed to the excursions desk to cancel her ticket. They did so without issue.
The boys and I had a great time discovering Atlantis. The guide was very knowledgeable and had the boys at the front of the group as her special helpers. We hit up the Del Sol store after we get off of the bus and then head back to the ship. Very pleased with this excursion!
Wife's leg was feeling a little better, so dinner that night as in the Crossing's dining room. Food was good, but chocolate milk was missing in action... we've run out. Huh?, run out?? You mean you don't have any Hershey's chocolate syrup anywhere on this ship to make some?? While we are eating, the Hotel Manager and assistant come up to us and indicate that they want to comp us dinner at one of the specialty restaurants. We chose El Adagio for the following night.
After dinner, we attend the comedy/magic show with Rich Purtura. We were sitting up in the balcony and he asked if there were any first time cruisers in the audience. My boys both raised their hands and announced for the whole lounge to hear that they were. Rich later calls them down to help with a magic trick and they both brought the audience to laughter with the corrections of Rich when he purposely got their names wrong. They finally gave up correcting him. When the card trick messes up, my one son looks at the card and then at Rich and gives him a "say what" look and shrug. For the remainder of the cruise, other guests come up to us and the boys to say how great they were!
Day three. Time to get up early for the Dolphin Encounter. Breakfast at the buffet. Again, no chocolate milk. This is really getting old for my one son... We ride the boat out to the encounter and the boys really enjoyed getting splashed, kissed and touching the dolphins. Very worthwhile and enjoyable excursion! We grab lunch back on the ship, the boys and I do some swimming in the afternoon while the wife relaxes on deck. Knee is still bothering her, but not as bad.
Dinner at El Adagio is good and somehow they were able to procure chocolate milk that the ship was out of previously. I may be mistaken, but I don't recall the ship pulling over and restocking during any of the previous 2 days. After dinner, it is off to the show in the Stardust Lounge for Broadway songs. Again, the entertainment was very good. Turned in for the night after the show.
Day four. Great Stirrup Cay. There is nothing great about this private island as most of it is under construction! $30 to rent a cabana was outrageous and should have been included. The water slide had a 48" height restriction. Funny how my sons measured over 48" at their most recent pediatrician visits, but came up a 1/2" short on the high tech 2 x 4 with a piece of plywood on top measuring device at the slide. Very disappointed in the island and ended up leaving after about an hour. Gave our cabana to another guest who was also noting that the island was a mess.
Dinner in the Palace dining room. Service slow, staff forgetful. If you have read through all of this, you know what is coming next. Chocolate milk! Oh boy, here we go. We place our requests for a white milk and a chocolate milk. The white milk arrives and the waiter informs that they are out of chocolate milk and they are checking with room service for it. Appetizers are brought to the table from the assistant and we request two Pepsi's from him. He proceeds to not tell anyone and no Pepsi's arrive. 20 minutes later, waiter comes with food and still no chocolate milk or Pepsi's. Inform him of desire for Pepsi's and he indicates that the bar is making the chocolate milk. Finally after nearly 45 minutes after arrival for dinner, the chocolate milk arrives! Food was ok, not great. Head waiter comes around to the tables and I give her an earful about the week long ordeal with the milk... how can this be called a kid friendly cruise line if you don't have the drinks that kids like to drink? She make a note of it.
After dinner, we attend the final show in the lounge and sat in the front row. Again, the entertainment was very good. Returned to the room to prepare to leave the next morning.
We chose to keep all of our bags and do the early disembarkation. Very easy to do it this way.
At this point in time, I don't think I would go on another NCL cruise in the near future as I felt it was an impersonal experience. I suppose we are just spoiled by Royal Caribbean.