My husband and I and our 5 children ages, 10,10,12,17,19 took this cruise on the Norwegian Jewel as a winter getaway. We have cruised before, but never on NCL. Truthfully, we enjoyed our Carnival cruises more, mostly because of the better adult entertainment at night. I found myself bored by 10 pm on NCL. Yes, the dance parties are fun, but we love the adult comedy shows on other cruise lines and NCL didn't offer any! It was just a different dance party night after night.
The balcony cabins are much smaller than those on the Carnival ships we've sailed also. We had 2 adjoining balcony cabins, which was very convenient for our large family. Our cabin steward was nice enough, but he was not very good. He never left beach towels and each day we would have to go and hunt them down before we could leave for our excursion. My kids had top berths, which he would set up without ladders for them to get up there. Our towel animals never had "eyes" and weren't very creative. It seemed that he was throwing them together as quickly as possible. Yes, he would do anything we asked of him, but some things you shouldn't have to ask for.
While the food in the dining room was good, unless you had 2 hours to waste eating, they could never get it to you. The service was sooo slow! The other thing I hated about the restaurants was that they would serve you as your meal was ready instead of serving your whole party together. Several times one of us would be completely finished with our meal while someone else in our family was still waiting to get their food. If you asked for it to be served together, the dishes came out in various stages of hot and cold. So we ventured to the buffet because it was always quicker, but the food up there is TERRIBLE. It's more or less the same every night. The food is left to sit so it is often cold, dried out and over done. The coffee machines were often empty in the morning and you had to walk around to find one that wasn't. Tables weren't cleared as quickly and it was difficult to find silverware and cups. Not the service we've experienced before on our other Carnival cruises. Most annoying was the girl that stood outside the buffet with a spray bottle of Purell chasing your hands and yelling "WASHY WASHY, HAPPY HAPPY" at you every single time you walked through or even walked by. I am not in Kindergarten and found this totally annoying!
About the entertainment, well, that was about 50/50. Do not miss the Cirque de Bijou show, or the Duo Elagia. They are both fantastic. The comedic/magician, Jean Pierre was also terrific. He's funny and talented and really took time to talk to my 10 year old son who is an aspiring magician himself. In fact, I would say JP is the best thing NCL has going for it. They should hang onto him. The dance numbers were your common cruiseship type show. Not too flashy, no real interesting back sets, just singing and dancing. If they offer a "variety show" while you are onboard...RUN! It is the most horribly painful experience. It seemed that they threw it together in 10 mins bringing out all of the lounge singers that sing around the ship to do a stage production and they failed miserably. I have never seen a theater empty out so quickly! People were truthfully jumping over the rows behind them to get out midway through the show (myself included). Find something else to do with your time. Lounge singers are fine in the lounges, they are NOT entertainment on stage.
The itinerary was also kind of a let down. I tried to remind myself that you can only get so far into the tropics when you leave from NY, but the Eastern Caribbean is definitely not as nice as the Western side.
Unless you run to Orlando to one of the theme parks (and in my opinion the 5 hours you might have to spend there is not worth the cost to get in), the Port Canaveral stop is horrible. There is nothing fun to do there. We rented a car and went to visit my inlaws who live closeby. Ron Jons is an boring clothing store and not much else. The NASA space center is an overpriced museum that has a bunch of photos to read. Not much fun for the younger kids, and the NASA program is now obsolete so your chance for seeing a space shuttle launch is ZERO! I would suggest the airboat alligator tour. My mom and step dad enjoyed that very much.
Great Stirrup Cay is merely a large sandbar in the middle of the ocean. The water was a gorgeous color, but still chilly in February. It was nice to see the fish swimming all around you. They are doing construction there and our "relaxing beach day" was filled with beeping, buzzing, men yelling back and forth and constant crashing of cranes and dumptrucks. I could have stayed home and heard that. The Bahama Mammas helped me get over that noise! :-)
In Nassau, we chose to go to Atlantis...Ahhhhh Atlantis...There is the one true bright spot in this whole cruise! Atlantis is totally and completely amazing. Like nothing I have ever seen before! We spent the day at Aquaventure and although it was another $933 for my family to get in, we loved it and didn't want to leave. The pools are tropical and inviting and the waterslides are spectacular. The "dig" is really cool too. The lines were not bad at all. Just a word of caution, the "lazy river" is ANYTHING but "lazy". It is full of waves, rapids and drops that had people flipping over and getting thrown against the sides and many people came out battered, bruised and bloody (my child included), still we enjoyed it once we knew what to expect. I'm guessing this is why you sign a release form to get into the park! In my opinion, NCL should cancel Port Canaveral altogether and stay in Nassau overnight. I would have loved another day in Atlantis just to sit on their beach which is the exact definition of tropical and relaxing!
On the positive side, we did enjoy the cruise staff. The Cruise Director, Richard, was upbeat and pleasant. We saw him many times on the decks mingling with cruisers. The Captain is adorable and also friendly and approachable. George, Nacho and Chris on the cruise staff were always smiling, dancing and shaking hands. Ours was a Nickelodeon themed cruise and while it was not in your face (actually, you had to go and look for the Nick events), the Nick crew leader, Izak, was full of energy and kept my kids entertained. They loved Izak. We really enjoyed the Slime Time Live show. Also, on the last night, do not leave when you think the last night's show is over. There is a very special treat waiting for you. A hysterical "waterful" experience with the entire Cruise staff. I haven't laughed that hard in a long time! Don't miss it!
Overall, I'm glad we went. It was a great way to escape the New Hampshire snow. We met some nice people and had a lot of fun despite the lower quality food and service.