My husband & I took our 2 year old daughter with us on our cruise this year. This was my second cruise ever (first was in 2001 on Carnival), and it was a first for my husband and daughter.
First, the positives: * The ship is BEAUTIFUL! Very tastefully decorated, colorful without being tacky. * The entertainment was very very good. We saw the Second City Comedy Troop one night (hysterical) and an amazing Cirque d'Soleil Show another night. That show absolutely blew us away.. the talent was on par with a high quality Vegas show * There were a million things to do! The list of activities each day was endless, although with a 2 year old in tow I can't say we were able to experience nearly what was offered. * The kids club was fantastic. The caregivers were young and very involved.. they knew how to sooth a screaming 2 year old, and although she cried when we dropped her off each day - she also cried when we picked her up because she didn't want to leave * Our cabin was fantastic. We upgraded to a Jr. Suite that was located on the Aft of the ship. The bathrooms were VERY large for a ship - with full size bathtubs and wonderful decor. The room was quite large as well, and had a King bed plus a full size pull out sofa that was turned down each night for our daughter. * Our cabin Steward was fantastic as well, he was very attentive and went out of his way to help us with strollers and suitcases, as well as bringing "towel animals" to my 2 year old just to see her smile! * One of the two excursions was great - the one on Cozumel. We did the deluxe beach break and it was great. We went to a private club with plenty of beach chairs, free (non alcoholic) drinks and lunch included. It also included transportation from the cruise ship to the club (about 10 miles away). The other was not so good - and i'll get into that in a minute.
Now for the Negatives:
* With the exception of the Kids club staff and our Cabin Steward... the rest of the staff seemed completely un-interested in the guests. * The "Pre-Paid Soda" program was a complete scam. My husband & I paid $7.50 per day (so about $45 total for our 5 day cruise) to participate in the "drink all you want soda program). The first day we were there we each ordered a diet coke - and were served cold 12 oz cans. That evening we signed up for the program - and they put a sticker on your room key to indicate you're a participant. You ordered the soda from a bar tender or a waiter in restaurants. Well, first - you get small cups full of ice and watered down fountain soda - NOT CANS. Second, the waitstaff was far less then thrilled everytime we chased someone down for our sodas.. and it typically took 15 minutes for them to return with the soda. No one ever came to see if we wanted a refill - although our water glasses were filled 3 or 4 times. We probably drank 3 sodas each day at the most because it was so difficult to get one. At $1.75 per CAN - it would have been cheaper (and better) if we had just done that instead. * Wait staff was HORRIBLE with the exception of the staff at Chin-Chin (but that is a restaurant where you pay an additional $10 per person for dinner). In the grand buffet we spent at least 10 - 15 minutes each time searching for a high chair. Only once did anyone come over to ask us if we wanted anything to drink... and as stated above with the soda program, things weren't great. NO ONE ever smiled.. they just wrote down our order.. walked away. Came back dropped off our food and walked away again. Not once did anyone check to see how our meals were, and at the end - no one ever asked if we enjoyed it.. we were just expected to leave and make room for the next guests waiting for a table. I believe a large reason for this is because of the JOINT TIPS program. We are all billed $10 per day for tips automatically... you don't get to choose how much to tip. So what motivation does any of the staff have? NONE! They get paid the same no matter what kind of service they offer - and that was evident. * The Grand Cayman 7 Mile Beach Excursion was a rip-off. After waiting 45 minutes after debarking the ship, a guy shows up and walks us to our bus... that was built in 1951 (i'm guessing) and had rust almost through the walls. It was FILTHY. We then get to the "beach" and are offered a tiny cup of fruit punch and a beach chair. For the cost of $39 per adult- this is a total rip-off. We should have just hopped in a air conditioned cab and had it take us to the beach for the afternoon at a cost of $10 each way. I recommend this for future - don't do this beach break!
Finally... throwing in the towel!
My review headline has to do with the most frustrating situation we encountered on the ship - and probably the reason we won't cruise with NCL ever again.
When you get into your cabin on the first day - there is a pool towel for everyone in the room. There is a note that says not to steal the towels or you will be billed $25 for your "purchase". These towels are thin and well worn - so I can't imagine anyone wanting to purchase them.. and they probably cost $3 at Wal-Mart.
Anyway.. On our last sea day my husband and I took our daughter to the pool, where she totally enjoyed going on the "big" waterslide with both of us. We took turns taking her down the slide, and finally decided to towel off prior to lunch. We went to our beach chairs right next to the pool, and someone had swiped one of our towels. I was MAD! Dripping wet I went over to the towel exchange and told the towel boy what had happened. He said "Go to customer service down on level 7, they take care of that". I looked at him and said.. "Am I suppose to go soaking wet? Can I have a towel to dry off?" He said "That's not my problem" and looked back down at whatever he was reading. WHAT???? So, I go back to my husband, use his wet towel to dry off somewhat, and then go down to customer service.
The woman in customer service tells me that she'll fill out a Lost & Found ticket for the missing towel. Umm.. it's blue & white and looks just like all of the OTHER towels on the pool deck. I ask her what happens in the likely event that it's not returned to customer service. She said "We'll be billing you $25 for the missing towel". I asked her if there was anyway around that and she said "Miss, it's your job to look after your towel, not mine". I was horrified. I then got a bit snippy and asked her if I was suppose to SWIM with my towel, and she said "You just needed to take care of it". I was (and still am) furious. Had I been less the honest, I could have just stolen someone elses towel, and when I pointed that out to her she said "Well, we appreciate your honesty - but this is our policy".
So, because of a $25 towel charge, and the absolute lack of customer service and overall service skills - my family will not be traveling on NCL again. It's unfortunate... we really enjoyed the "Freestyle" cruising, and the ship is beautiful. But, i've learned the hard way that service really does make or brake a vacation - and this company has a long way to go in that regard.