My wife and I are avid cruisers. We're usually among the younger couples on a cruise, but we've literally cruise around the world on many cruise lines and many many ships. But, I had never cruised on NCL. After hearing some good NCL reviews from my inlaws, we all planned a family trip together and off we went...
Let me start by saying our first day started with car troubles. It happens. But on our ride down to Miami we read our cruise documents and were a bit concerned with the 2pm deadline to be on the ship. The ship wasn't scheduled to leave until 4:30pm and having been on many cruises, we know some people take their sweet time getting on last minute. Still, we called NCL to be cautious (car issues we had made it a tight window to get there by 2). The NCL rep on the phone said 2:30pm was the cut off. Our in laws, who had boarded, asked and were told 3:30pm. It would be nice for NCL just to be honest and clear with this information. Despite best efforts, emergencies do occur and people need to know the honest time. If they cant make it, let them know and they can turn around before driving all the way there just to be turned around.
The embarkation process was smooth as people mentioned. But no, there's no excitement, dancing or extreme friendliness. In fact, the security at the metal detector consists mainly of a group of gril gossiping about their lives and not really caring about the guests. I actually tried to make friendly comments and was ignored because they were too busy with non work related drama talk. But got on board quickly and our room was ready. It's true there was no guidance or assistance, just hop on and go find your room.
Room: The room was a balcony and nice size. Plenty of shelf space. My wife LOVED the dryer in the room next to the TV as it actually warmed up and worked. Many cruises we've been on, she's left with wet hair as you cant bring one on board and well...cruise ships are notorious for weak hairdryers in the bathroom. Bathroom was larger than we're used to with plenty of storage. Shower was larger than normal and I liked the glass enclosure so you dont have to worry about water getting outside of the shower curtain because all is enclosed. Balcony was nice sized although I did have to make 3 requests which took 4 or 5 days to have the balcony sliding glass door tracks greased (it made loud squealing noises while being opened/closed which would wake the dead).
Steward: a bit weird that he never came and enthusiastically introduced himself. I actually never met him but went looking for him about day 4 about the balcony door and I spoke into an opened room and he was in there cleaning. My wife said he DID check that we got all of our luggage on the first day but I guess we're just used to a formal "Hi my name is ... I'll be taking care of your room." We never had a talk, etc. But our room care was fine.
Food: I researched a lot and we chose this for food quality. We were not disappointed. I never ate at the buffet (I'm over cruise buffets). Each night we went to either Taste, Savor, or Manhattan. Food was good and servers were friendly, good, and generally fast. We LOVED Manhattan. All 3 are free but Manhattan clearly shines with decor and dance floor with live music. I had some memorable deserts there. But memories of dancing with my wife were best. Taste and Savor have the exact same menus as Manhattan. Savor and Taste are the same, but across from each other. But are good.
O'Sheehans: food was good. SERVICE IS HORRIBLE. I'd try to each lunch here as the menu is tasty, it's not a buffet, and it's free. First day...fine. Second day: I waited an hour and a half and never got my food. People in all tables around me would get up and complain to matrade in white uniform about not getting food, no service, not getting meals although others at table were done already, etc. But there was no look of concern on the guy's face. I sat there and attempted to not add to the drama. He never checked on me once or asked how I was. Eventually I left hungry. I order a chicken sandwich which is all I ordered. Apparently an hour and a half for a chicken sandwich isnt long enough. I went to the hostess stand and asked to talk to him. She called him and asked me to wait. After waiting 30 minutes for a seat and an hour and a half for food that never came, I waited 5 minutes and he never showed. I asked that he called my room. I walked away and a server chased me and said my food was almost ready. I refused to return after 2 hours of being ignored. Btw: I'm 6'4"...I stand out. I didn't think I'd get a call so I called guests services. He returned my call and offered to treat my wife and I to dinner at La Cucina the following night, which sounded good. But the main thing is I wanted service at O'sheehans to improve and be acknowledged. I returned the next day and he was working hard to correct the issue. Seems it took this to get things turned around. Unfortunately, the service at La Cucina the following night was horrible. We never saw our server after our order. People around us left without ordering desert although they were still hungry. Our food was "ok" but not great. My wife thought the salmon was salty. My meal was cold. We weren't offered desert under the "apologized arrangement " so we left and went downstairs to another restaurant. While there we ran into the original matrade who was wondering why we had not had desert at La Cucina. We informed him that we weren't offered it. He insisted on bringing my wife tiramisu from the restaurant and she enjoyed it. Apparently there was another misunderstanding and we should have been offered desert. Anyways, his efforts were appreciated. But bare in mind that that meal would have costs us $120 had we paid (it's an ala carte restaurant) and all meals in free Taste, Savor and Manhattan were better. O'Sheehans is definitely a sore spot regarding service on this ship.
Excursions: didn't do any. We've been to these ports many times and opted for walks or beach days.
Pool area: full of all sorts of people who never get out of the pool yet drink all day. HMMM...pool was always packed never got near it.
SHOWS: Saw Burn the Floor and Rock the Ages. Loved both. Also see Burn the Floor at Manhattan dinner one night. They're very talented.
BANDS: Jamaican band in atrium and in Manhattan played hits from many groups like The Righteous Brothers and are great.
Activities: didnt do many. The "escape room" isn't really an escape room. Its disorganized and doesn't make sense. We did mini gulf upstairs and it was fun. People did rope course and rock wall and seemed to enjoy. There's 4 water slides. Didn't do casino or bingo but theatre seemed full of bingo players. If you eat at the Noodle Restaurant prepare to SMELL LIKE SMOKE due to casino smokers sharing the space.
DISEMBARKING: Great and quick. Inlaws got stuck for nearly 2 hours though. Guess its luck of the draw.
Fitness Center: big for a cruise. Tons of cardio equipment. Dumbbells but no barbells. 2 Smith machines. A stretching room and a spin cycle room. I liked how they didnt try to jam spa packages down your throat like most cruises.
Comedies: weren't very funny.
Photographs: photographers seemed inexperienced and unsure of angles, people arrangement or what to do with rude guests who walk in front of their shots. But I do like how they don't annoy you with photo attempts the entire cruise. Also, the photo area is VERY organized with photos in individual cases, not laid out everywhere.
Stores: same ole same ship stores with cheap invicta watches thatv you've seen on ALL CRUISES.
Gave cruise 4 out of 5. Would have been 5 if not for O'Sheehans service and watching many people experience what I did many times and on many different days. It's an issue.
Clean. Nice balcony. No balcony has an obstructed view from what I could see. Wife loves functional hair dryer. Plenty of storage space. Coffee in room included pot isn't good. Large shower. Larger than average bathroom. Sounds like people are sliding furniture above you upstairs at random times. Went up there and this is where the "Haven" is located. Maybe people slide chairs around.
Clean. Very nicely done by NCL. Fake beach? Yes, but if you want a beach day. This is your place!
Shops with the same stuff you see at every port. Gets old.
You're constantly harrassed by people begging for business. All at once and they don't care if you feel uncomfortable. Then you'll have people come up and tell you that they don't know better and how THEY won't harass you but are there to take you on a tour if you want but they won't pressure you. They'll do this constantly and then you'll do what every body else did and turn around and get right back on the ship. I watched hundreds have this exact experience.
Miami cruise parking...is all downtown and you better leave some extra time. Those entrance and exits in parking garages get BUSY.