In general I was disappointed with the ship. There were some high points, but lots of lows and left a lot to be desired in several different areas. This cruise typically has a lot of passengers around retirement age, so don’t expect any wild pool parties, etc. We had a stateroom with a balcony, and it was very nice. There was adequate closet space & hangers and you can store most of your luggage under the bed. The shower curtain in our bathroom was too short and every time you took a shower you had a small flood on the bathroom floor. The bed was very hard and the pillows flat. We doubled up on the pillows, but I still never really got comfortable and didn’t sleep very well. We had to leave the cabin attendant notes to have him refill things that got used up, but otherwise, I was very pleased with the room. The balcony was a nice touch.
As you probably know by now, this ship does what NCL calls ‘freestyle’ cruising. They have restaurants that are included in the price of the cruise, and ‘specialty’ restaurants where you have to pay a cover charge in order to eat there. I personally disagree with the concept of having to pay an additional cover charge to get ‘better’ food. This cruise is expensive enough and I feel it is another way for NCL to squeeze more money out of you. The two included restaurants are the Crossings and the Palace, and there is also the buffet. We were very happy with both of these restaurants and the food was excellent.
The menus in both restaurants are the same, so if you don’t particularly care who your server is, it doesn’t matter which restaurant you eat in. Each night three (3) entrees changed in these restaurants menus and the rest of the menu was basically the same night to night. The ‘specialty’ restaurants have different menus in each restaurant, but don’t change from night to night. We tried to get a reservation for the ‘specialty’ restaurants (any of them) on Wednesday and were told they were all booked up. We were told they close the ‘specialty’ restaurants down from 7:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. to give the employees a break. Who ever heard of such a thing? That’s the busiest time for a restaurant. Apparently if you didn’t make reservations on the first day, then you were out of luck. The lines on the first day for the reservations were extremely long. It would be nice if you could make reservations over the internet in advance (I mentioned this to the restaurant manager). The only problem we had with the ‘freestyle’ dinners was that if you want the same servers each night, then you have to wait for a bit to get a table. I personally liked it better when you had an early and a late seating and you had an assigned table that was ready when you walked in. The buffet was bland and very crowded. The coffee & juice station are in the beginning of the buffet line and you typically have to backtrack to use them. The waffle & omelet stations on the pool deck in the mornings are nice, but you still have to go back inside to get coffee & juice. I don’t know why they couldn’t put a coffee & juice station outside by the pool deck.
Most of the staff was very cordial and helpful. The ones I found least friendly were surprisingly the officers. If you passed them in a hallway, they would walk right past you without saying hello or acknowledging your presence. What happened to ‘lead by example’? There have been a lot of problems with the staff since this ship began sailing around Hawaii, but most of the problems have been resolved, although there was always the occasional bartender that looked/acted like they would rather be somewhere else. Ironically, the poolside breakfast manager would discourage his staff from chatting with the guests. Several times they throw a barbecue on the pool deck. This is nothing to write home about. The rolls are typically stale and the ribs had little meat and were very fatty.
The entertainment in the Stardust lounge was excellent but geared for an older crowd. The poolside entertainment during the afternoon was lame. Most of the excursions were excellent, but I wouldn’t recommend the Glass Bottom Boat in Kona. We made all our excursion reservations in advance and I would highly recommend this. You can avoid a lot of waiting at the excursion desk to make reservations by doing this a month or so before the cruise. There were always people polishing the brass around the ship, but 3 out of 5 Jacuzzi’s were inoperable thru much of the cruise. Most of the time it is hard to find a clean towel by the pool. People take the towels and ‘mark their spot’ by placing towels on the lounge chairs around the pool, then disappear. Traveling from the Maryland, it seemed a very long way to go for a mediocre ship.