We were a party of 6 including 3 children 16,14 and 4 and a grandmother! Travelling from UK. We arrived having booked our own flights. I had asked NCL UK if it was possible to book a transfer through them from the airport but was told no, but maybe on the way back check on board ,at shore excursions. However,I approached the NCL rep at baggage retrieval and was told we could at $20 per person. A bit steep but we decided it was worth it as they took all our luggage. We arrived at 1p.m and went straight on ,very small wait in Latitudes line. Usual onboard photo and then straight on to ship via the FYZZ lounge probably the brightest thing on board and you hit it first! But it was fine by me. My teenage daughter has been on a few cruises and generally is unimpressed by most things but she did say wow the first time she saw the ship which I think says it all. The ship is very clean and I was very impressed by the constant levels of cleaning. We were in KK grade inside staterooms,deck 10,small but adequate apart from drawer space. Shower excellent. Service was excellent only encountered slow service once at Tsar's but service at Azura's and in particular Mama's was excellent. Almost all staff were friendly and polite too. Food was good too buffet was very impressed by choice and quality. In main restaurants we only had a couple of average meals most were excellent especially Mama's and 32 nights at Azura. The crepe souffle is a must. The best meals were definitely good restaurant standard.
Entertainment was excellent I would say the Jean Ann Ryan Company are the best troupe I've ever seen on a cruise ship. Cirque Bijou is spellbinding. Children's club was the only real disappointment. My daughter is 4 and goes 4 days a week to nursery so she is used to a similar experience. However,when we went to register she saw all the play equipment but was told no you can't use it except at special times. We then took her for our first visit and wanted to stay a little while but were told under no circumstances was this possible as it unsettled the other kids.Yes I can understand this to a point, but the net effect was that Rachel got very upset as we didn't even get to say goodbye properly and she refused to go back. That was poorly handled for me. Disembarkation-we opted for Express carrying our own luggage. Express it wasn't. There is a separate gangway on Deck 4 for people carrying their own luggage,but because you could come to it via 2 main stairways and lift blocks proper queuing went out of the window and it became a pushing and shoving routine. Needs better organizing. We decided to get a taxi back the queue was large but moved quickly but we had to get 2 taxis because we were 6 it was still cheaper than NCL transfer though which doesn't seem right.
This was my first cruise on NCL (my Mum had been before on the Norway twice). Cruising is something I love and have been on 20 odd with Cunard, RCCL, P&O, Princess. I can honestly say it's one of the best I've been on,pluses and minuses. Cunard has the best food by far but is a little stuffy. I love the freestyle concept and would have tried more of the speciality restaurants if the kids hadn't been with us. The food may not have been quite as good in the main restaurants as Princess but it wasn't far off. however,the shows were MUCH better more professional and fun. The staff were almost all friendly and very polite the only exception being reception but even there some of the staff were nice others just seemed too harassed. I think the biggest complaint would be alcohol prices. The bars were empty surely they must know by now why and need to do something.