We just literally got off the ship just a few hours ago. This is not a comprehensive day by day review but rather a summary of lasting impressions, good and bad, from this particular cruise experience. We are first time NCL cruisers though have cruised in the past with Disney (recently) and Carnival (a few years ago).
Our experience was made better by:
a) People : The ship's crew were both friendly, courteous and industrious from our cabin stewards (Jacinto Anion and Ambari team), the bartenders, the pool deck staff, the cleaning crew, and the garden cafe staff (we're amazed at the temperament of the garden cafe staff as we've witnessed them being unfairly abused by a few rude and obnoxious passengers). The results of the ship's crew efforts is shown by how clean and nice the ship is, inside and out.However, This applies for the crew on the ship only. In the NY port, some people we encountered during embarkation were rude & incompetent but not sure if they are NCL employees or if NCL has direct management control over them.
b) Entertainment : Excellent shows (the performers and the production band was awesome), excellent music performers (notably Randon & Kenosis) and a variety of entertainment programs available for all ages and taste (kudos to Jamie & team).
Our experience was not made better by :
a) So-So kids club: Our 3 Kids were in 3 programs (6-9, 10-12, and teen). The problems were more structural than people or execution. The counselors were lively and good with the kids. The problem was that they have to work on very confined places (except for the teen lounge), don't have hours beyond 10:30pm without having to pay extra, and the scarcity of technology options (computers, wii, xbox 360 etc). Our point of reference for this assessment for full disclosure is the Disney cruise line which we have recently sailed on over the past 2 years. This however is not a major negative as we can reset our expectations for this service the next time around and organize our kid's activities accordingly.
b) Inefficient process : If there was anything that bothered us greatly on this cruise is having to be inconvenienced because of inefficient processes and procedures. I think this cruise can benefit by looking at its processes and procedures (LEAN, Six Sigma, 5S) leading to better productivity (lower cost) and higher customer satisfaction (higher revenue). This is very evident in the magenta and great pacific dining rooms. There seem to be a lot of restaurant staff moving around like headless chickens. Again, they are very industrious and friendly but that is not enough to have a seamless operation. The checkin/checkout process for the kids club and towels need to be automated (use the key card rather than manually signing in) and needs better queue management (removal of non-value added process and procedures).
In summary, while the cruise is not perfect (not sure if one really is), this cruise is definitely a great value. The negatives mentioned above can easily be addressed through lowering expectations and working around it. The positives however definitely outweigh all of this. As long as NCL maintains its price point, it's friendly and industrious crew, keep its freestyle concept and continue to have NY as its port, we would likely be long time and repeat NCL cruisers.