My wife and I decided to do a quick 1 week cruise out of New York and traveled with my daughter and 11 month old grandson in a separate cabin. We had sailed the S.S. Norway and had such a bad experience we stayed away from NCL. We have 34 cruises under our belts so it was NCL, not cruising, we avoided. This was our least favorite of 13 cruise lines. I know they have their loyal following and it may be like preferring vanilla over chocolate ice cream but this was not what we have experienced on any other cruise line.
Embarkation was a long and tedious process but I don't blame NCL and the fault lies mainly with the company they contract with for the whole process. This was on me but I have always brought the usual one bottle of wine per adult for cabin consumption allowed on every other line we sailed. Not this one but, again, that is their policy and I didn't do my homework. I had to pay a corkage fee for each bottle. It didn't matter that I had the beverage package. It made no sense. As soon as we boarded we headed to the Lido as all of the other lunch venues were packed. But I'll discuss dining later.
The ship is older but we have sailed several old ships that have been maintained. This has not been maintained. We stayed in a mini-suite that was spacious enough but very worn. The AC was great and responded to changes very quickly. It also had a very musty odor like old sneakers. The cabin was well located mid-ship and was relatively quiet. The balcony was the standard size. What I was pleased with was the number of outlets it had if you knew enough to bring European and UK adapters which we did. Some of the outlets we located where a piece of furniture must have been since they were in the middle of the wall over an empty space and there were severe rub marks counter height. We had a full length sofa and the seating area was separated from the sleeping area by a curtain. The mattress was very hard for my taste and, by the end of the week, my back was sore. The bathroom was fine although I prefer a shower stall to a tub/shower. Water pressure was great. Generic soap dispensers and hand soap were plentiful. Now, for the musty odor, there was a major leak from the tub that saturated the carpet in the closet and soaked all of our clothes in our hamper.
Our daughter had a balcony cabin that we found to be very small. We had a pack-n-play for the baby that took up all of the available floor space in front of the loveseat. The door to the balcony was almost frozen shut but was eventually able to be repaired by maintenance. She too had a major leak in the bathroom with standing water. Another call to maintenance. So, two cabins with leaks should not happen. We found out later that we were not alone with this problem.
There were several great bars located throughout the ship and they all had a good vibe. Drink service was excellent. I also liked the fact that you could order top shelf alcohol and only pay the difference above the drink allowance. Out favorite bar was Gatsby's but it always smelled of smoke because of the adjacent smoking room. Other areas seemed smokey as well but couldn't find the source. The casino was another area that had a lot of smoke was the casino where it was permitted and we had to pass through it to get to the show lounge or go to a different deck. The layout of the ship is very poor. We ran into several dead ends until we learned the lay of the land and also discovered which elevator went to where you wanted to go. However, only on elevator went down to the Venetian Dining Room which was a challenge for all of the wheelchairs and strollers. With a ship of such poor design we should have been given maps. Not a good ship for newbies. The elevators did come quickly which was a big plus.
Another big issue I had was the nickel and dining that went on. I should have anticipated this since we had to pay gratuities on our "Free" perks. There were non-stop announcements for every thing imaginable they were selling. Even returning to the ship after tendering we were greeted with raffle ticket sales after security. Before the shows the cruise staff was also selling raffle tickets. This I did not like one bit. Constant photographers greeted us at every meal. Enough is enough.
Getting to the food, this was a major disappointment. The Garden Cafe was worse than my hospital cafeteria and I was turned off by people grabbing food with their bare hands. Again, this is not the fault of NCL. The layout also didn't allow for a good flow since it was U shaped and you couldn't go around in a circle. And, seating was difficult to get. Our only MDR experience was The Venetian since we preferred the ocean views. Breakfast and lunches were best in the Venetian. Dinner was nothing special. Most nights we dined in specialty restaurants. Believe it or not, we loved Los Cabos. The food reminded me of when I lived in Mexico. The queso fundido was delish as were the guacamole, chips and our main courses. A spicy Margarita is not to be missed. La Cucina turned out to be a big disappointment. Service was terrible. We waited 45 minutes for appetizers. The fish was awful (a repeating theme on this ship), my risotto was very undercooked but my osso buco was good. Cagneys was also good if you like a steak house. Good food and service. Two nights we dined in Le Bistro and enjoyed them both. The Maitre 'd was exceptional and very accommodating. My grandson dined there and was an angel. Food was also very well done with fancy French service.
One thing I found lacking was a good observation lounge or someplace quiet to read. Even the library seemed to be very busy. Maybe I wasn't looking in the right places but that was something my wife and I missed.
We did no cruise ship excursions which, if you have tender ports, I recommend you do since they had the worst tendering service. Our first tender port was Bar Harbor which was also where we had to clear immigration. We cleared early but we weren't able to get to port until 1 PM. I would book the cheapest excursion and bail just to get off the ship at a reasonable time. The line went all the way up to Deck 7 and almost down to the show lounge. This was the worst. It was slightly better in Newport but tendering is never fun.
Debarkation was a breeze. You essentially get off when you want. we were in the first group but all of the luggage was already on the dock. It was strange that you don't get debarkation instructions ahead. This is also Free Style. The luggage tags are at guest relations and you just pick what you want and leave when you want. There were no crowds and we just walked off.
What did I like. The crew. I found them to be extremely friendly and efficient. They were always willing to help. Guest relations was efficient and well staffed. As mentioned before bar service was excellent.
Did I have a good time? How could I not with my grandson in tow. The itinerary was great. Would I sail NCL again? No. The competition has a much better product.
I have been in larger mini-suites. The cabin and furniture were worn. I loved the shelf near the door for cabin cards. The small make-up area was convenient for charging things and additional storage. The closet was large enough but the shelves were difficult to access. The mattress was too hard for me. The bathroom was typical with a tub/shower. Convenient location. Adequate seating on the full length sofa.