We thought it would be a great idea to try a mainstream cruise line after hearing good things about NCL from others. We usually choose Windstar or Star Clippers or other small ship, but I've been on a dozen cruises, including Holland America.
Ship information - the ship is big and crowded. Finding a lounge chair remained largely elusive for the week as scores of passengers threw their towel on a chair in the morning and sometimes didn't show up until late afternoon. Pools were insanely crowded as were hot pools.
Activities - trivia was meh. Activity cards are a pain to remember, and prizes are pretty lame - had we known, we wouldn't have bothered.
Service - Cabin service may have been really late in the day, but super nice stewards. The washy washy guys were amusing - at first.
Port & shore excursions - we booked independently.
Embarkation - took nearly 3 hours. In a word: Ugh.
Cabin - Our cabin was clean and small, but, we didn't spend much time there. Very personable cabin crew.
Dining - Hit and miss. The MDR ranged from barely edible to pretty good. Lunch was very average, 80% the same stuff every day. Hit and miss service in Azura. Excellent service from Isabel and Putu. Meh from everyone else. Did not find the food at the premium restaurants worth the cover.
Entertainment - Comedian started out well, but, mostly a sales job, hawking his books and pitching his TV show. Magician JP was excellent. Rest of shows -meh.
Disembarkation - fine
Summary - Pluses: Lots of nice people working on the ship. The magician. The clothes line in the shower.
Minuses: First, the smoke from the casino wafting up to 7 and down to 5 so you practically asphyxiate if you are a stair climbing person. Second, the crowds of ill mannered people. Do you ever say please or thank you? Lots of grunting, overfilling plates and jockeying for position in the many lines for food in the Lido. Also, lots of Daisy Dukes, bathing suit tops, wifebeaters, flip flops and dirty / torn clothing in the MDR everywhere.
Our biggest takeaway? You get what you pay for. The smaller ships may be more expensive, but, to us, very worth it.