We were offered a "Free" cruise from NCL through our local casino. First and foremost, it is not FREE. Having worked in the maritime business for almost 30 years including with cruise, we knew that we would be responsible for the port charges and taxes which we had no issue paying. However, there was a $20 per person, per day "administrative" charge which is not something you pay on a regularly booked cruise. That being said, we booked to give another try to the Canada/New England itinerary which we took on another line last year ~ we missed two ports of call due to weather so thought it would be a good way to try again, AND we were celebrating our anniversary. It was still a significant savings over booking regularly so we figured we'd go with it.
We feel that NCL should NOT use the term FREE since you have to pay a fee as noted above, and if you choose one of the five FREE items, you still have to pay gratuities, therefore it is not FREE. Perhaps using the terms "reduced cost" would be a better option.
Embarkation was smooth. We knew from experience that the buffet would be mobbed, so we chose to try the Venetian Dining Room for lunch. We were greeted fairly quickly and seated, but after 20 minutes with no acknowledgment by anyone we left.
Our second major issue was the next evening for dinner. We went to the Venetian again and the hostess remarked that shorts were not permitted in the dining room. She was very rude about it when we mentioned that we reviewed the dining information and there was only one dining venue that did not permit shorts; subsequently we spoke with the maitre'd who was also very rude and condescending. We showed her the daily activity sheet showing only one restaurant, but she continue her rude behavior and blamed it on the department that puts out the activity sheet. It was very embarrassing to be treated that way. We never returned to the Venetian.
We tried Aqua one night since you can wear shorts, but the service was very lacking. The staff was not friendly in the least. To top it off, my husband's chicken picatta was grossly undercooked. We didn't eat in the dining rooms for the rmainder of the cruise.
The flexible dining could be a good thing, but NCL doesn't seem to handle it well. The idea is to go to dinner when it works for you, but when you are told that there is a 45-60 minute wait, what is the point? We have sailed on Carnival who offers both seated times and "my time dining" and it works much better.
The Garden Cafe buffet was usually a cluster, and it was the same food day in and day out; very little change at all, maybe one dish per day. They really need to learn how to cook bacon; it was extremely undercooked, almost raw some days. If you dug to the bottom of the heap you could find some that was somewhat cooked.
I will say that the Crispy Crab and Cream Cheese Wontons on our one day in the main restaurant were very good, otherwise, the best food on the ship was at O'Sheehan's Pub.
The Norwegian app could be helpful, but they did not list the dining room menus (which ended up not being an issue for us afterall) but other cruise lines do list the choices each day on the app and that is certainly helpful.
Another issue is in the Garden Cafe when the staff practically hovers over you waiting to take your used plates. One evening late, three staff members were milling around just waiting to pounce on our used plates ~ it's not comfortable having people hang over you.
The entertainment on the ship was very good. "Soul Rocking Nights" was a fabulous show. The theater performers were great, although the seating in the theater was very tight. I'm only 5'5" and my knees were into the seat in front of me. The only thing that was strange was during the "elements" show where there were three people in long black hooded robes hanging around in the state props ~ made no sense with the rest of the show. Just thought this was strange.
The musicians throughout the ship were also very entertaining.
The ship is tough to navigate as not all decks go through so it takes some time to figure things out.
We love to play trivia, but the lounge where they hold the trivia is directly next to the cigar bar where everyone hung out to smoke. While it is enclosed, unfortunately, the smoke permeated the entire area. I'm asthmatic so I couldn't sit there. Only went into the casino two times at the beginning of the cruise before that became too smoky as well.
On our last port day which we were looking forward to in Newport, Rhode Island, we went to get our tender tickets and the staff member said we would be delayed due to weather and the captain would let us know. One and one-half hours after we should have arrived the captain finally announced that we would miss the port due to winds which would be too rough for tendering. I get that and totally understand that safety is first, but why so late with the announcement?
Most of the staff we saw throughout the ship was friendly with the exception of the dining staff as noted above.
We have sailed Carnival, Celebrity, Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Disney and have never had such a disappointing sailing as we did with NCL. With so many other choices we will probably not sail NCL again.
Our casino offer was for an inside cabin only. I tried to upgrade but there was nothing available. Our cabin had plenty of storage space. We loved the size of the shower with the sliding door. The bed was comfortable, but there was very little room to get around the bottom of the bed. I feel like NCL inside cabins are smaller than other cruise line inside cabins. Our cabin steward did move the table that was under the t.v. to underneath the triangle counter on the opposite side which gave my husband a little more room to maneuver but it took away valuable table space. It did the trick for this cruise, but we prefer a balcony cabin.
Bar Harbor is a beautiful, quaint little town. We enjoyed exploring the shops, and walking the Shore Path. We also walked to Bar Island while the tide was out.