First of all a little info. My girlfriend and I are both in our mid-60s and have cruised multiple times before. This was our first cruise together and our first cruise on NCL. We drove to Port Canaveral where the cruise left from.
EMBARKATION. We arrived at the terminal at 12:30 pm. We walked right into the terminal. From the time we walked into the terminal until we were on the ship was 12 minutes tops.
STATEROOM SERVICE. When the stateroom was available, about 30 minutes ahead of schedule, we found it perfectly set up and ready to go. Our stateroom steward introduced himself later that afternoon. Our bags arrived just before dinner, around 5:30 pm. During the whole cruise our stateroom steward did a great job. Everything was done when it was supposed to be done and we even had towel animals four nights. One of those hokey cruise treats that makes it special.
DINNING. BUFFETS. We usually ate a very full breakfast so we usually skipped lunch. The Garden Cafe tended to be a little crowded and jammed up a bit from people waiting for omelets. So we usually went to the rear buffet by the Great Outdoors for faster service. Weather permitting we ate outside. There are a lot of inside tables in that general area if the weather does not co-operate. MAIN DINING ROOM. We had four dinners at the Sevens Seas MDR at the very rear of the ship. In this dining room, of the two, they require at least long pants: say less casual. We liked it because it just seemed a little more civilized. The service was usually very good. We were always seated right away. Only on the last night was the service poor. That night everything went well until it was desert time. Then it took 20 minutes for them to take our order and another 30 minutes to get the deserts. There were three men waiting about three tables of 6 people each, not to many. It seems the servers lost focus at the end. We could see the sectional maitre'd trying to get them going. SPECIALTY RESTAURANTS. IL ADAGIO Very good service. I thought the menu somewhat limited. I was hoping for fancy traditional Italian. EAST MEETS WEST STEAKHOUSE. Great service, great food. Well worth the price. LE BISTRO. Great service, great food and wonderful ambiance. I love the onion soup; my girlfriend thought it was to salty.
ENTERTAINMENT. STARDUST LOUNGE. We took in four shows there. The first night welcome aboard was so-so. The second time was a juggler who had been on "America's Got Talent". I would never thought a juggler could have held my attention for 45 minutes but he was great. Next night was "Shout". This was music from the 60s, mostly British music; very good. Finally we saw "We Will Rock You". High energy also very good. I have to also mention an afternoon show we took in which was a crew talent show. Outstanding. The last skit was strange, but just great. Right out of Monty Python. DAZZLES NIGHTCLUB. We took in "Dancing with the Crew". Very good, very funny, very well done. WINDJAMMER LOUNGE. Our favorite place to unwind with a little piano bar music. One night they had a jazz quintet. Excellent.
PORTS AND SHORE EXCURSIONS. COZUMEL, MEXICO. We took the island tour and downtown shopping. We enjoyed the tour and got to see a lot of the island. Lots of shopping opportunities, hint, hint. That was okay. You could see that the island vegetation has not fully recovered from Hurricane Wilma a few years back. GEORGETOWN, GRAND CAYMEN ISLAND. We had to tender in. I thought NCL did a good job with tender organization. We did not do a shore excursion so we just walked around and shopped a bit. OCHO RIOS, JAMAICA. We did the "Bamboo Rafting on the Martha Brae". It was raining that day. My girlfriend brought along her collapsable umbrella. Rained the first half of the trip, then the sun came out. I held the umbrella while my girlfriend took pictures. We got a little damp around the edges but had a great time. You cannot let a little rain stop you. A bonus was that it took about an hour to get from the port to the rafting site. So we got very good tour guide commentary as we went along. PRIVATE ISALND, GREAT STIRRUP CAY. Had a lot of fun. Plenty of lounges for the sun worshipers. Some shady areas for people like me. Very good lunch buffet.
EMBARKATION. We used the traditional, leave your suitcase out at mid-night, see it in the terminal technique. Everything worked great. We waited in a public lounge area until our "color" was called and then off we went, From being called to clearing customs was about 20 minutes.
OBSERVATIONS. I had been reading a lot of reviews, many negative, about this ship. I found the crew to be friendly and upbeat. Yes the main dining room food is a little bland, but that is what it is, unless you go on a more expensive cruise. Remember the stateroom only has one outlet, bring a small power strip with you to recharge all that stuff. I have to give special kudos to the Hotel Manager, Steve Jacobson. He is the guy who is really responsible for most of what the guests see, do, taste, sleep on, etc. I saw him all the time on this cruise, not just standing around and observing, but pitching in when required. I would also like to thank Jan, a.k.a. "STARFISH-4", for organizing our Cruise Critic "Meet and Greet".
PARKING. Since we drove, we decided to try parking the car, not at the terminal, at about $120 a week, but to a new place called "Park n' Cruise", $67 for the week. They did a great job getting us to the ship. From the terminal to the parking lot was another story. They need to have a representative at the terminal making sure everything goes smoothly. They seem to rely on the terminal personnel to sort things out and that doesn't work well. The couple in front of us waited an hour to get picked up. We were there 40 minutes, unacceptable. Hopefully they will get their act together, I think they are just having growing pains.
SUGGESTION. Someone at NCL note this. It would really help with cruise planning if they would post on their web site the menus for the specialty restaurants. I don't want to hear about that they change each week, etc. I know it can be done and it should be done.
OVERALL EXPERIENCE. I and my girlfriend were both very happy with this cruise. This was truly an excellent cruise and we enjoyed it very much. Would most definitely cruise with NCL again.