This was a classic 3 night cruise to the Bahamas for 2 during Spring Break last year; nothing too extravagant. Considering we stayed in an inside cabin, the price was quite fair. As far as embarkation went, we arrived at the port at about 12:00 P.M, passed through all the paperwork components, and I would say we were on board by 2:00 P.M (NCL has a history with quick embarkation). If you check in online (NCL highly recommends you do so four days before your embarkation date), embarkation is even easier. As first time cruisers on NCL at the time, we had no idea it would be this quick; we had always gone through hell and high water on other cruise lines just to embark.
As soon as we got on the ship, we were told our rooms would not be ready until just before 3:00 P.M(the departure time was 4:00 P.M), which we found great, being that we had some time to explore the ship before departure. Luckily, the weather was great and we were able to go up to the pool deck and look out towards Downtown. As soon as we were out of port, our cruise director Carry (Anyone know her? She looks and sounds a bit like Cat Deeley from So You Think You Can Dance.), came on the loudspeaker and announced the departure. Once we were able to get settled in our room (which was quite roomy considering it was an inside cabin), we ate at the buffet.
Now, this is my main problem with the ship. NCL has a reputation for offering their "Freestyle Cruising", meaning there is no specific time or date at which you have to have your formal dinner. Heck, a formal dinner isn't even required. "Freestyle Cruising" also implies that formal attire while dining is not required either. HOWEVER, the food variation at the buffet was terrible: they served the exact same food everyday. I have read a couple of other reviews on this cruise and other NCL cruises, and have also found other people who have had the same issue with the food. As someone who has been on 4 cruises (RCCI, NCL,and Carnival twice), never have I experienced such lack in variation of food. I do give them props for the Italian restaurant on board (highly recommended), which had the best Margarita pizza I have ever tasted in my entire life.
After dinner and a quick change of clothes, we went to catch two shows, both extremely entertaining, and walked around a bit. Our first Port Of Call was Nassau, and as someone who has been there 3 times, I can tell you I am starting to get a little tired of it, but pish posh. We got off at about 10 A.M (we overslept a bit) and left at about 5 P.M (very rough estimate). Nassau was great as usual, and once again the weather conditions really added to the tropical feel of it. This was the night which we chose to have our formal dinner, and we ate at the Italian bistro. Once again, after dinner and a quick change of clothes, we caught another show. The next Port Of Call was Great Stirrup Cay, NCL's private island.
Folks, let me tell you that Great Stirrup Cay is one of the most beautiful islands I have ever seen. Even though the water was freezing, it was the most beautiful water I have encountered so far. Tender boats took us from the ship to the island and back. The cruise provides an in-island buffet open at all times while the cruise is docked on the island. As usual, the food variation was not too great; they served the exact same thing as on the cruise. However, I think out of all the Ports Of Call I have been to, it has been among the top in beauty. Unfortunately, Monday was our disembarkation date.
Disembarking took a bit longer than embarking because of U.S Customs and Boarder Patrol. Once that was cleared, baggage claim was not too much of a hassle, and we were out pretty quickly after that. Overall, the cruise was great. The food, not so much. However, I will say with confidence that I have never met nicer crew members on any other cruise line. At this point, I cannot seem to remember what night of the cruise the White Hot Party took place. The White Hot Party is pretty much a celebration of I don't know what, where everyone gets together on the pool deck and dances to a couple of lights and quite enjoyable music. I personally think it is an excuse to drink and party all night (as if you needed an excuse), but whatever. I enjoyed it, because the crew was very interactive with the crowd during the party, which caused roars of laughter once in a while.
I am returning this year during Spring Break, but on a different cruise and to different destinations. I will most probably be boarding the Epic to USVI, and I am beyond excited. Shout out to NCL for launching the Norwegian Epic to compete with other cruise lines in the big leagues.