After several cruises on Celebrity we decided to try NCL for my wifes birthday. We had just sailed a very similar itinerary on X Millenium for Xmas and NYE.
Our concerns started several weeks before the cruise when we read about the azipod/propulsion issues. The cruises before ours were also affected and those passengers received compensation of 150% and then 100% (in various formats) while ours only received 20% with NO option to cancel. The 2 Thailand stops were removed and an extra Vietnam stop was added.The most concerning issue was the way NCL handled this, they refused to provide any information about the ship problems, no option to cancel, refused to give updated information and even worse were usually hostile and downright rude on both the telephone and on email.
In the week leading up to the cruise we received 3 different itinerary changes from our TA and all of these differed to what other passengers were reporting on our Rollcall.
On embarkation our itinerary changed again and this had a major bearing on our plans to see more of Singapore and be able to contact relatives about an operation one was having.
Our TA (the largest online) called us as we were boarding the ship to tell us of the new itinerary - they were clearly embarrassed with what NCL was doing.
Interestingly, the captain joined the ship on our cruise and was quite forthright in stating the ship should have been dry docked.
Embarkation was average, it took about an hour or so. I am not sure how much of this is NCL and how much is the Singapore port. The ridiculous water policy of NCL was also causing havoc as people were buying 1 or 2 bottles at the port (it is over 30c in Singapore) only for it to be confiscated.
Once onboard we went straight to guest relations and they were great, they let us call our relatives to get an update and took a record of what had happened with head office.
We decided to move on from the problems and have a good time and this is exactly what we had while onboard. We decided to not go ashore at any port as we had cancelled all our private arrangements with the itinerary problems and refused to give NCL anymore money especially as they would not give the partial refund until post cruise.
The ship is quite old but a good size, it takes a bit of getting used to in terms of navigating as it does not flow smoothly, you often have to change floors and then return to your original floor in a different location to get to your destination. Most passengers referred to it as a maze. The decor reminded us of Las Vegas, it is a bit gaudy but it matches the fun, freestyle atmosphere they are trying for. It was very different to the classical designs we have found on most other ships.
We loved the promenade deck, the atrium, all the little seats in the public areas, the various bars and activities but did not like the pool area (too smoky and not enough loungers in shady areas) especially all the slides (made it feel cramped and they have a kids pool anyway). We hated the uncomfortable theatre.
Our cabin was an OV with picture window. It was a different layout then normal and felt cramped with the 2 desks and the extra bed mount. The bed was great and very comfortable. There was plenty of storage but don't like the shelves hidden in the closet. Loved the shower and bathroom design.
Dining - large amount of options. Loved the casual atmosphere of Aqua (and the ship in general), liked the design of Versailles. There was a lot of meal choices but the food quality was average at best. Service was very good. The best aspect of the ship is the choice and we loved dining in Osheehans especially for breakfast and lunch; Ginza was a nice alternative as well. The buffet feels like a school canteen and we don't like the lack of an outdoor area adjoining the buffet. Food was reasonable with plenty of choice.
Bars - we had the UBP which was great from an alcohol perspective but terrible for anything else, this is the most expensive package we have seen and it doesn't include water, coffee, canned soft drinks, juices etc. We felt it was poor value overall.
Bar service was mostly excellent with plenty of table service in most venues, I don't like the concept of pre made cocktails but they were always prepared to make fresh ones when we asked. There was a good selection of most alcoholic beverages with the exception of wine which was very limited and of a very low level the ones that were included.
Entertainment - we loved all the activities and the staff who ran them (special shout out to Tiara and Natasha). We did them all, trivia, puzzles, shuffleboard, wii games, game shows etc ... it was a lot of fun.
Shows - we hated the theatre, it was cramped and difficult to get seats with everyone on the aisles and there is nowhere to put your drinks. The stage was clearly too small for the production shows with the dancers lacking space. The productions singers were the worst we have heard. The production shows were average (with the exception of the last one). We loved the crew talent show. The professional acts were mostly good with the comedian a standout, the one singer was average and the rest were circus style acts mostly of good quality.
Service on the ship was mostly outstanding which is impressive considering all the problems the ship has had.
We were disappointed that they wanted money for upgrades considering the ship was only 3/4 full and with the itinerary problems and poor compensation they could have used this better in these one off circumstances.
Ports - we have been to all these places before and chose to not get off. Most of our friends were disappointed as places like Sanya and Nah Trang have little to offer; Saigon and Danang ports are miles from the port. We only heard negative feedback relating to NCL shore excursions with buses breaking down, lack of time at venues, poor seating at shows etc being regular feedback - not to mention the high prices.
Overall, it felt like NCL was going out of their way to nickel and dime to try and recuperate their losses from the recent sailings. There were no onboard discounts to try and make up for all the problems.
We still had a good time and enjoyed trying a different cruise line. We would consider using NCL again due to the onboard experience but their head office behaviour certainly doesn't help so it will more than likely come down to price compared to our usual lines.
Loved the bathroom design and functionality. Hated the shampoo and soap. Bed was huge and comfortable. Window was large. Sound proofing was average. Main cabin space was limited due to extra bed on the wall. TV system was ok.