we chose this cruise because of the open dining options and the houston departure; as some family members are based there. we had 1 balcony and 2 inside staterooms, 2 across from one-another which made the time spent in our rooms very comfortable for all. the majority of our meals were spent in the garden cafe, as we always found table room for the 6 of us and the 3 year-old didn't have the patience to wait for food. the shows were all excellent and we usually napped mid-day so we had no trouble finding seating for the later shows. we did one excursion with the ship, but found them to be overpriced and had pre-researched the private hires>this was definitely the best decision. no waiting for crowds, no time wasted gathering the troops (beside ourselves). we hired the photography people (the ones with their own office) and they took us to a private beach in honduras-van included-to do family pictures...this was the best day ever!!!! the pix were excellent, we ordered special pkg canvases, and they made for a lifetime of memories...aside from a day spent at a great private beach. houston was an easy-albeit ugly-departure point, and we will definitely do ncl again. only negative: our little one was turning 3 that week and they were very strict about age requirements for kids club-if we had it to do over again we would have waited till after her birthday. don't expect them to be flexible!!