Truth in advertising: I went into this cruise with a fairly negative attitude toward NCL based on problems with essentially this same cruise last year. I still have tried to make this as honest a review as possible, not letting my previous ... Read More
Truth in advertising: I went into this cruise with a fairly negative attitude toward NCL based on problems with essentially this same cruise last year. I still have tried to make this as honest a review as possible, not letting my previous concerns influence me.
As with any cruise, there are some things that went well, some that didn’t. The ship is certainly attractive and still manages to handle the large number of passengers very well, with only a few times that we ever had lines or crowds. The balcony is small compared to other ships, and the room is sometimes difficult to navigate with the couch making access to the closet a challenge, but the shower size in a regular balcony is reasonable.
Perhaps the best aspect of the cruise was the almost always excellent entertainment. Certainly the marquee events were first-rate, but the smaller venues were often more than enjoyable, too. We especially enjoyed Howl at the Moon dueling pianos, Second City shows, and the various atrium musicians (although we wish that the latter weren’t so loud).
The food remains overall very good, although with more disappointments than last year and often over-salted for my tastes (and health). One positive point: it was our first time dining in Ocean Blue and, as in our previous experiences, the food and service were excellent, although the otherwise excellent potatoes au gratin were very salty.
One concern about NCL’s commitment to passenger satisfaction: last year I put in a comment on board saying that 3 crackers on the cheese plate is inadequate when they’re giving you 5 pieces of cheese. Afterwards, whenever I ordered the cheese plate, it had more crackers. Now the plate is again delivered with 3 crackers. Are crackers that expensive that a special request to get one per chunk of cheese is needed?
Speaking of expensive, the cost of almost everything on the ship appears significantly overpriced. As a few examples:
- Without a two bottle discount, Johnnie Walker Blue is $207 (more than in NJ). At most ports it is $135 - $150. Yes, they will price match, but why not give the business to the place that priced it best initially?
- A Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon was $40 a bottle in the restaurants. It retails for $7.95 in NYC, for a 400% markup.
- A tour going only to a 2 hour stop Balata Gardens in Martinique was (I believe) $83 pp from NCL. Doing an identical tour for 3 people, using the (unusually expensive) taxis lining the street by the port, would be about $50 pp, $20 pp if you know how to find the bus to the gardens. Similarly, in Tortola we took an island tour from the taxis lining the street by the port for $20 pp. Similar tours, except for an hour at a beach stop (short for a beach stop), were about $69+ pp from NCL.
- On board, there were watches were for sale with discounts “up to 75%.” On Groupon the same watches are available with better discounts, some of 90% and more!
- According to a recent CruiseCritic article, only 3 ships charge 18% gratuity instead of 15%. NCL and its sister line, Oceania, are 2 of them.
- In a brief search, NCL appears to have by far the most expensive cost for its beverage package, and is the only one I saw that did not include specialty coffees and water, which is $5.50 a bottle.
One very upsetting difference between this year and last year starts with the 23.4% increase (!!) in the price of the “Ultimate Beverage Package.” Yes, this can usually be had as a bonus, but you will always pay NCL’s 18% gratuity on the “cost,” unlike lines where free means free. In any case, the cost went up dramatically, the cost of the beverages went up somewhat, but the cost of the beverages allowed under the plan stayed the same. This meant that the few single malts and cognac I enjoy the most were no longer available. And unlike at least one other cruise I’ve taken with a competitor, if you want a higher priced option you pay the full price, not the difference.
The selection of wines available by the glass is very limited and not especially exciting.
The service was always pleasant and friendly, but not always accurate. At many meals we were served the wrong dish or (more commonly) a requested dish was never brought to the table until a second request was made. Other areas also had uncertain service.
Probably the most constantly annoying part of the cruise was the constant effort by NCL to extract more money from their passengers, instead of trying to maximize the passenger’s experience. This includes not only added cost dining venues but extra cost options at the “free” restaurants, constant “sales” that weren’t any bargain as previously noted, extra cost entertainment (like shows and games), art sales masquerading as auctions, selling raffle tickets at the start of shows, and more than I cared to remember.
They charge solo passengers a substantial premium yet, unlike most of the competition we’ve used, they offer no benefit like double the Latitudes points. Our friend is unlikely to return to NCL for this alone, as she is platinum on Princess but only silver on NCL, yet with more cruises on NCL. In any case, the “frequent cruiser” rewards are not very meaningful, especially at the lower levels.
This ship has what must be the world’s largest collection of uncomfortable chairs, especially those on the outside decks and in the Atrium.
My bottom line: NCL often advertises what appear to be unbeatable deals on their cruises, but unless you work at avoiding their extra and/or overly high charges, you might do better monetarily, and have a less stressful time, with the competition. Read Less