I took a chartered cruise on Norwegian (Oct. 23- 30, 2016) and while I found the ship to be large with many convenient little places to stop/sit/enjoy which equated to options but not exactly what was needed for the large group expected or the activities planned for this trip. It was my first time cruising with Norwegian so I'm doing my best to be fair in separating the problems that the trip sponsor would be responsible for and my opinion of the ship and amenities. I am an experienced cruiser (previously with Carnival and Royal Caribbean) and here is my feedback on Norwegian based on other cruise experiences:
Food: I loved the variety of the buffet food on the upper deck (particularly breakfast which was always fresh and well stocked thus not a lot of waiting. Even the omelet line flowed quickly). However, the food in the complimentary restaurants was mundane. Pretty much the same stuff night after night and I was not happy that lobster and prime rib were not offered on the "included" menu as with other cruises. Those items were always offered on the pay side of the menu. Service in the Taste and Savor was slow and inconsistent. One bright spot was a server (Nadia) who was ultra-responsive and bubbly and made one night very pleasurable. Otherwise, it was not uncommon to wait for food for 40-45 minutes.
Staff: 90% of the staff was not friendly or inviting. They operate in the "let me just do my job" mode which is a stark contrast to what I experienced on both other cruise lines that I have used. While they diligently went about their work, very few even smiled except when trying to "sell" something. The greeters at the restaurants as well as the guest services staff were almost curt in their demeanor which was quite off-putting.
Ship: While beautiful, I felt like they crammed too much in, so spaces were small and insufficient.
Party deck: Small and not nearly enough space for the various activities that took place there.
Cabin: Bed/closet area: VERY TIGHT. Cabin doors open out which caused a number of "accidents" when people would open their doors and someone was passing in the narrow hallways.
Cabin balcony - why bother? It was so narrow that the chairs only orient in one direction (facing each other).
Bathrooms - Smelly on day one (and I know that can happen over the course of the cruise but NOT day one!)
Cabin steward: Now here is where we hit the jackpot!! Elan was the BEST! Although we never asked for anything special he was responsive, attentive, always greeted us cheerfully and by name. We were all over the place the first day or so of our trip and had not met him. He made a point to stop by to ensure that he could introduce himself which my husband and I both appreciated.
Specialty restaurants: were your best option! Staff and service and food in MargaritaVille and Teppanyaki were VERY GOOD!! That cupcake place was GREAT as well.
The NCL booking app failed during our trip which caused a lot of but not all of our displeasure along with the fact that guest services never answered to phone. I always had to go stand in line. The room service line was also slow to pick up as well.
Overall, I did not enjoy Norwegian as I did Carnival or even Royal. One other thing that I must share: A colleague ordered an NCL gift card for me a month before my trip and even paid for expedited shipping. Online promises 7 days for an expedited order. The amount of calls it took to track down the gift card and determine why it was taking so long to be delivered was excruciating. After a number of updates on the card it finally arrived the day I left so I was unable to use it for the trip. I now have a NCL gift card that I can’t use because with all the better cruise options I will NOT likely cruise with them again.