We selected this cruise without realizing it was going to be a Halloween cruise. Big mistake. We’ve been on the NCL Getaway before and loved it - great layout, lovely “waterfront” options.... a very nice, well-designed ship.
Well, for this cruise, many groups (of all ages) happily used the “Free 3rd & 4th guests” promo to pack their cabins with 4 people - it was like a spring break cruise and this ship was truly designed for a max of 2 people in every cabin... This meant that all ‘public’ areas had about 2x the number passengers that the ship was designed to hold.
...The one (small) pool was ridiculously overpacked on all the Sea Days. Every inch PACKED. Pool seating: JAMMED, in part because groups rudely sent a person to reserve clusters of lounge chairs before breakfast and only 1 or 2 people would occassionally stop by during the then depart, and each time we tried 16, there were no shaded spaces at Spice H2O.
Some of the groups were nice at times, but most were just big herds of people who paid no attention to how they were affecting the people around them (yelling in hallways and playing loud music on balconies, standing in front of entertainers and yelling to friends, etc.). Same issue when people sat around having cocktails and letting kids/grandkids jump/run/dance/slide around while pianist was playing in the Atrium - he was great but it was like being at the circus rather than pre- or post-dinner cocktails on a nice cruise ship.
...Worst way to start a day: Every morning, the crush of people trying to grab food without waiting in lines at buffets was stunning.... granted, the ship made it very hard to even guess what was being offered within each section of the buffet (all the hot soups were in-between the ice cream and the pastries at lunch - very weird!). Because some items were offered in just one place, it really was necessary to walk all 4 sides of the entire buffet in order to know what was being offered, and yes, the lines were slow, but that was no excuse for people just walking up and pushing in front of you when they spotted an item they wanted... At first, I tried saying “Please - there is a line...” but heard “whatever” or “so?”, rather than “sorry” . So everyone got ruder. So we started avoiding this area....
... Unfortunately, there was no food service around the pool except for hot dogs and chips with melted orange cheese but that was just for a few hours on one day. Never saw it again, so that meant traipsing into the irritating buffet again... Most ships offer pizza or burgers and dogs “outside” so people in swimsuits or someone wanting a quick snack have an option. This ship needs this.
Warning: each bottle of generic water costs $6.60.
Interesting Note: because all the specialty dining venues (Cagneys, Cucina, Bistro, etc.) and the two small dining rooms (Taste & Savor) only have so many tables/seats and the hostesses totally control access to every seat, those dining options were never overcrowded. We also noted that people who had totally ignored the dress code were offered pagers told it would be a VERY long time before they could be seated, especially if they were rowdy/loud. We get pagers at times but were seated at the next available table, 5 minutes or less. Those hosts & hostesses are very good at their jobs!
So... we are thinking that NCL is treating the non-Haven areas of this nice ship as “economy”, “intro to cruising” travel (i.e., stuff two buddies or two grandkids in your room and split the cost), And, by putting as many “heads in beds” as possible, NCL can greatly increase ancillary income... so, passengers are no longer to experience NCL as valued GUESTS, but Customers. Examples: $6.60 for each platic bottle of generic water? Pay for food in room AND $7.95 to have Room Service delivered?? Are they kidding? NCL is no longer the kind of experience we want.
We will watch Cruise Critic to see if NCL is also permittitng overcrowding of longer cruises (one management person in the Buffet area said that the next voyage, also only 7 days, was going to have a record number of pax, >5000, and clearly she found this distressing. The poor crew works so hard, this seems very unfair to them...). We know 3 & 4 day trips to the Bahamas or Cozumel are floating cattle cars, didn't expect this experience from NCL.
Cabin was very nice, well laid out and in excellent condition. Tons of extra storage areas (2 huge drawers under the sofa, etc). This is a nicer ship than most. The Mixx bar between Taste and Savor is a great concept, having outdoor sections of certain restaurants is really special. But the ONLY pool is very very small because they have the big kid area, and they created Spice H2O up on 16 - a nice venue when the ship isn’t overcrowded, but not good enough to make up for the fact there is no pool in H2O when the ship is overcrowded. (For families- the kids pool complex and slides and stuff takes up a lot of space on this ship...)