I have been loyal to Royal (and Celebrity) for over 20 cruises. It was definitely time to try something else, because I was sick and tired of the never changing food and the never changing entertainment on RCCL. In addition I was angry at RCCL´s extremely lousy customer service in Europe. So I decided to give NCL a try. The price was right so I decided book a penthouse suite, facing the front of the ship with a giant balcony. Not sure if I would be able to use it on the transatlantic portion but was looking forward to NCL´s Suite Service. What a great choice! From start to finish NCL did everything right. Embarkation was easy and quick. Escorted to the cabin before all other passengers were allowed to board, lunch in a special restaurant, only for suite guests. Fabulous way to start a cruise. Here is where NCL really does it right, much better and much more efficient than RCCL /Celebrity. I was very impressed during the whole cruise with all the extras I received.
The ship is beautiful and extremely well mainained. It still looks brand new EVERYWHERE! Furniture is very cool and stylish. It does take a little to find everything but once you get used to the layout it works great. Freestyle worked excellent on this cruise. The main and free dining rooms were always busy but even if you had to wait a little it was no big deal and very well organized. They handed out little beepers which gave you 2for1 drinks at the bars during your waiting time. Great! The special restaurants were never full on our cruise and you could get a table easily on every night at any time. My favourite restaurant was definitely the Asian restaurant Orchid Garden. Excellent food and sushi. Well worth the extra money. Cagney´s steakhouse was the only disappointment. Tex/Mex was quite good and so was the Italian restaurant. Did not try the others. The buffet was very very good. I usually do not like buffets, also for health reasons (NORO is the word here..), but I have to say that NCL did a great job here. Excellent selection at all times, plenty of space to sit inside and outside. Perfect!
The ship has the best spa I have ever seen on any ship, well worth the extra money for the pass. Staff was extremely nice there. Overall staff seemed happy on the ship, some more some less but in general I was very pleased with them. The DJ could have been better, but after 22 cruises I finally gave up thinking that cruise lines undertsand that you can make a lot of money if you have a good DJ that "rocks the house". No, they couldn´t care less unfortunately. Bowling at Bliss nightclub however was a lot of fun, even when the ship was rockin and rollin which happened only for 2 days after we passed the Azores. Weather was mostly good, I was able to use my front balcony with its fabulous furniture every single day ! Shows were OK. Did not see them all. Cruise director was OK. Not the best not the worse I ever had. Nice guy but coudl have had a bit more energy for my taste.
Overall a fantastic cruise with great ports, a great ship and a rocket high onboard bill at the end. Yes you might pay a tad bit more on NCL, but it was worth it. My next cruise on the Pearl is already booked!