Have been on 11 NCL cruises and this was the worst. NCL keeps deteriorating, and the overcrowding of this ship just made things worse. Public areas have been replaced by too many restaurants (29 of which 5 are free!), so there is no ... Read More
Have been on 11 NCL cruises and this was the worst. NCL keeps deteriorating, and the overcrowding of this ship just made things worse. Public areas have been replaced by too many restaurants (29 of which 5 are free!), so there is no where to sit and enjoy reading a book or staring at the ocean except your own room. My big complaint: the Atrium is used for noisy shows and games like Deal or No Deal and even karaoke (so that we could all hear the bad singers, whether we wanted to or not). Atrium is packed when these activities occur, so not only is every chair taken, a whole bunch of people stand around watching, and if you are not seated you cannot see what is going on. The loud sound system and yelling carries throughout the area, which is also where the information deck, computer area, and shore excursion desk are located, so at times you can hardly hear if you need to go to one of these areas. Activities like the Not so Newleywed game, Thriller Dance Class, Big Pyramid Game show, line dancing, etc., might be fun in smaller rooms with plenty of seating, but here they are loud and impossible to see unless you are one of the lucky ones who arrive early. The whole idea of a warm and welcoming Atrium area is destroyed. Further, the sounds carry upward into the casino (already a noisy area) and O’Sheehan’s Bar and Grill. O’Sheehan’s (free) was one of our favorite places to eat on other ships like the NCL Pearl, where we could enjoy quiet breakfasts, snacks, or off-normal-time lunches with a sea view. Here it is constantly crowded and noisy, often with a long wait line for seats. The whole ambience and greatness of the place is ruined by the noise (no sea view either). Not enough lounge areas meant that even trivia ended up in the Atrium. And because of the crowds, if you sat there, bar service was very very slow.
Crowding because of over 5000 guests extended to the pool areas, where lounge chairs were put into every available space and walkway, even lying side by side without space between chairs, so if you lay down it seemed like you were in one giant lounge bed for 6 people (your new best friends). Only the waterfront deck outside had good places to sit and watch the view and maybe play cards or talk with friends, but in inclement weather it was useless (and when a ship is moving during Dec. the cold air and wind make this area unusable for a lot of time).
Reservations were usually needed for all the shows and specialty restaurants, and sometimes even main (free) dining rooms. (Freestyle my eye!!) Upon boarding we booked the shows for the week and found many were already marked Sold Out. Fortunately you often could arrive at showtime and get in to Headlines and Main Escape Theater shows, but for the Supper Club the non-reserve wait line started an HOUR early, and not everyone got in. The 6 pm Supper Club made little sense to me, since different acts showed there, but the (free) set meal was always the same, so would you want to eat there twice? Some shows without food were at 9 pm. Generally the shows were free there and good (Ben Zemzer Comedy Magic was so intriguing my friends went twice; and The Flyboys 4 piece singing group was great, though a short show at 45minues). But why was Jalynn Steele’s Supper Club cabaret show an extra $29.95 plus gratuity? (Sorry, I had never heard of her so didn’t pay for that one!) There were two big production shows — AFTER MIDNIGHT based on the Cotton Club was FANTASTIC, a great show, Broadway quality, excellent tap dancers, singers, dancers (highlight of the trip for me, and the best show I have seen at sea), and THE BRAT CLUB, energetic singers and dancers and a horrible plot that made no sense —some people liked it, I didn’t, and do not sit in the first few rows or people will be dancing behind you. Levity Entertainment group provided comedians....they got better in “adult” sessions. Some of the smaller acts had poor singers — the dueling pianists in Howl at the Moon could play really well but were not great singers, for example, and the singalong pianist wasn’t very funny and was not a good singer (at least to me).
Food in the specialty restaurants was excellent and service there better than normal for NCL. Moderno great, Teppanyaki lots of food and entertaining, La Bistro best of cruise (dover sole to die for). Breakfast in the free Savor and Taste very good, with a large menu and excellent service. Service there better than the free Manhattan room (which sometimes has a singer or pianist). The buffet food good, but very similar night to night, and like on many NCL ships, too crowded so you normally had to hunt for seats. In the search for more profit, NCL has added more Ala Carte restaurants and even some of the normal specialty ones like Cagney’s is ala carte pricing unless you book a specialty package. If you have specialty package you generally were limited to one appetizer, main course, and desert (entree worth under $20), but that did not bother us, If all you want to do on a cruise is eat, this is the ship for you— unfortunately we like to do other stuff too! Bar goers may like the Cellars wine bar and beer-loving Distict Brew House, but be prepared to pay the high prices and automatic gratuities.
There are the usual constant calls to buy stuff, and almost all daily activities are really promotions to buy things, from the Fly Boys CD to spa treatments to art [check Ebay prices before buying] to watches and bingo. The casino is the biggest on an NCL ship, but do not expect loose machines. The good news is there was a nonsmoking area. There are all kinds of ad-on charges for stuff that used to be free, like room service. You have to pay for a special spa package or there is no access to the snow room they tout, even if you buy a regular spa treatment. One good deck area had a fee, and some ship areas were relegated to those people in First Class (that is, Haven Rooms). Yoga has a charge, slow internet gets more and more expensive, duty free liquor not much of a bargain, etc. Constant announcements tell you what is happening (even if you can read like I can and get the daily newsletters!)
Good news is that handicapped folks have cabins with wider doors and can open them with a button. The theater had a couple of rows roped off for handicapped folks, but strangely they put chairs in the handicapped area that should be for wheelchairs. Overall getting around in my scooter was easier than in the badly designed Epic, but the elevators seemed small and fast.
Best thing onboard, comfortable beds. The rooms had a very large amount of storage. The ship was extremely stable, even in rough weather — better than most ships.
Kids had their own area on Deck 5, and seemed happy with all the activities. The library is tiny, as is the card room. NCL constantly tries to sell you certificates to be used on another cruise (and I do mean constantly). The captain will wake you up daily at 10 am to tell you the latitude and longitude (available on the TV...), so much for relaxing and sleeping late... Muzak is constantly going in every bar and hallway. There is a jogging track, but with all the people, don’t expect to run very fast if at all.... Kids will enjoy a bunch of slides, aqua area, and rope area (if weather is good...it wasn’t on much of our December trip). The Tv basically has about 5 real channels [thank goodness for MSNBC, Fox News, and CNBC- I was sick part of the time], including a movie channel (ask front desk for a schedule), plus ship’s channels which run the same stuff over and over including the Not so Newleywed Game (why do’t they run more of their games?), plus newer movies you can pay for on another channel.
The overall design of the ship should have been good, but because there were fewer lounges or lounge areas, the crowding in the Atrium area often made the activities there unbearable. Be prepared to be nickel, dimed, and now dollared to death on this big NCL ship. Bring your earplugs for the Atrium, spend quiet time in your room or on your own balcony, and pray for good weather so some of the people go outside (and so you do not miss ports as we did for more sea days).
Finally, do NOT buy port to airport transfers from NCL as we did, or you could find yourself waiting for two hours in the Miami sun (or rain) without cover or chairs for nonexistent buses! (and do not exit the dock without a bathroom break because once outside they will not let you back in and the only “facility” is a filthy portable type shed with rickety stairs and rails and no wheelchair access) - shame on Port of Miami! Read Less