We wanted a cruise that included the Panama Canal. The trip though the canal was amazing and more exciting than I anticipated. Overall the shore excursions were excellent and that includes the itinerary, the bus, and the guides.
We hesitated to tour Nicaragua since we had to fill out a health form for that country.
The entertainment was better than I expected as well. However, each entertainer sold their CD, book, etc. and I would have thought the pay by NCL sufficient. We did a couple of cruises on Royal Caribbean and did not experience this.
We did not opt for the internet on principle. It should have been free. I had a phone plan but it would not work on the ship. I had to go onto the pier in order to use my iPhone.
We were pleased with our cabin and out attendant, Julius. He provided great travel tips and service. However, the rest rooms in the public areas needed more attention. The one on the 12th floor in the area of the buffet smelled of urine and had trash on the floor. The corners had built up filth.
I cannot say the same for some of the Guest Services personnel. They had to "check with their superior" too frequently. They apologized profusely if something went wrong and said it was because they had never been in that port before. Not an excuse. NCL should have provided orientation. I got conflicting information between them and the Shore Excursion personnel.
The specialty restaurants were outstanding. However, the two main dining rooms and the buffet left a lot to be desired. We, fortunately, are not drinkers but do enjoy an occasional one. The drinks were very expensive and included a tip and another charge of some kind. Needless to say, as with the internet, we opted out.
There were a lot of activities but many of the programs tried to sell special offers after a presentation. It seemed as if every time we wanted to do something extra, there was a hand holding out for more money.
I even learned that we could have had the $14.50 charge pp per day removed!!!! Didn't do this because I think the crew who don't deal directly with passengers should be rewarded as well. But, why put this on if it is more or less optional.
Frankly, we have been spoiled by Viking river and ocean cruises. The initial price may be higher; but, as you know, very little is extra. Free water, WiFi, included excursion at every port, free wine, beer, soda with meals, umbrellas, robes, listening devices so that all can hear the guide, etc. The personnel treat guests with kid gloves and we are never left to wander around having to ask where we should be for an excursion. I have not yet totaled up our trip but it will be equal to or more than Viking.
Also, the location of the Guest Services and Shore excursions were right off of the Atrium where there were activities and music and a noisy bar. I felt I had to shout to be heard and had to ask for things to be repeated. On Viking, the staff had desks and passengers were able to sit down and have a decent discussion. On our last trip, we left an iPad at a hotel in Madrid. They bent over backwards to get it returned to us.
Embarkation was speedy and rooms ready in a timely manner. However, disembarkation was not. The line to get off the ship was stalled and an announcement was made that they would not be calling any color categories for a while. Our tour of LA was supposed to start at 9 o'clock. We did not leave the terminal until 10 and our excellent guide had to cut corners to be able to see what she thought was most important. I noticed that she did not receive many tips which was a disservice to her because this was not her fault.
Overall, we enjoyed the cruise because we made up our minds not to let the above get to us. But, no, I would not choose NCL again.