I recently sailed on the Norwegian Sun with my wife and another couple. This was my first cruise with NCL since September 1990. I had sailed with NCL seven times between 1985 and 1990, and had found the line to provide good value for cost.
The "Freestyle Cruising" concept adopted by NCL seems to have resulted in a serious decline in quality of service, in my opinion. The flexibility of "Freestyle Cruising" is touted as a great advantage by NCL. There is, however, a trade-off. Since you can eat in any number of locations, at any time, you rarely encounter the same dining room staff, unless you make the choice to eat in the same dining room repeatedly, and request to be seated in a a specific waiter or waitress's section. The relationship that is often established between passenger and a good dining room staff is absent in this environment. In my opinion, this has led to mediocre service, at best. There is no incentive for dining room staff to try to excel. The cruise line adds a set daily gratuity to your account for dining room staff and cabin stewards. The staff is likely to get pretty much the same amount in gratuities no matter how poor the service. Unless you fill out a form at the customer service desk at the end of the cruise to have these charges removed from your account you are tipping for unacceptable service. We tipped only the few people who actually provided good service during the cruise. They were few and far between. I realize that the people in these jobs are generally hard-working people, who are trying their best to provide form themselves and their family. But NCL has set them up to function like the class of people in the U.S. who choose to live on welfare when they are capable of more.
Dining room service was exceptionally slow. The food was, more often that not, cold when it should have been hot. The portions were downright stingy. The quality was sub-standard. (I've never had rubbery lobster on any cruise line before this cruise.) And most of the dining room staff exhibited no personality at all.
Bar service was unbelievably slow and even non-existent, at times.
Our cabin steward was also about as bad as I have ever experienced. The mini-bar in the room was never restocked. One night, after the linens were changed, I found blood on one of the pillowcases that had been put on the bed. On another night, we returned to find one of those "cute towel animals" on the bed. Unfortunately, the cabin steward had used a dirty, soaking wet towel when making this figure. Disgusting.
It will be a long, long time before I return to NCL again.