This was our first NCL cruise and lets get to the plusses and minuses.
Embarkation; Overall we were on the ship in just less than thirty minutes so thats OK but before embarking they wanted to inspect my wifes carry on and found some food we had which they said was not allowed. It was some cooked Indian snacks in a plastic bag and he said it had to be in a sealed bag. This was the first time this has ever happened to us and I must say this was not the way to start our cruise. It wasn't fruit or meat, it was akin to chips so that to us was ridiculous.
After got to our room I saw a large bin with luggage and went to see if ours was in it. It was right across from our cabin. Well the steward was pretty pissy about me being in a crew only area. The door was open and I did not see the sign but he wasn't too nice about it to me. Hmmm. Later an officer came by who said he was their supervisor so I told him what happened and he apologized and got our luggage in a timely manner and the next day we got some choco covered strawberries and a bottle of merlot. He cleaned up the mess very well which also included four calls over 6 hrs. for robes which we never got. Finally this same super solved that problem as well.
The life boat drill was next and this was frankly not well done. We went to our stations where some gal told us, about say 100 adults to be silent. Then did nothing for five minutes so by then people were talking so she repeated her announcement and again nothing happened for 5 mins. so of course people began to talk again. So now some officer said she wanted 'absolute silence! and she was very stern. Hey earth to you two. JUST START THE DRILL. By the time they did we all listened. Just make one announcement that silence is necessary when the drill starts, then start it. Period. So far it seems the crew we have encountered is not well trained in CS. But that changed.
Food: Overall I thought it was on a par with X and Princess. NCL does not have a lobster night but at O'Sheehans pub which is one of the 28 dining venues the Getaway has they at least twice had prime rib and we had it in the MDR so maybe nix it form a pub and use that $$ you save for one night of a lobster dinner. Just a thought. My wife always orders Indian food and here NCL was disappointing. They served it but it was basically what they had from lunch in the cafeteria whereas on our other 12 cruises which include X, Princess, RCL and CCL they mostly made something fresh every night and often took requests so this part was not on a par with what we have become used to. However we spoke to the Maitre'd who prepared a feast for us on the last night so that was very nice. The great thing here is that there are so many choices including a Japanese style noodle bar as well as 4 or 5 extra fee places which we did not try. Again overall the food was up to the standards I have noted on other lines.
The balconies are very small. Well at least we had one. The table on the balcony is basically big enough for one plate of food and cup of coffee. two people on the balcony was ok, albeit a bit snug.
The public areas were all very clean and there is plenty to do especially on sea days. However outside of the much more expensive Haven there is but on adult pool which is a joke to accommodate 4K passengers. On top of that there is a smoking section on the pool deck and that is not enclosed. I was especially bothered by that. NCL close that off. No non-smoker and most passengers are in this category want to be exposed to cig smoke, especially by the pool where you hang out for hours. They also had no indoor pool area as well. We missed that.
As time went by it became clear that the services glitches we first encountered are not the norm. Most of the crew work very hard to please you and it shows. Our cabin attendant was a bit lax and you realize just how important they are as ambassadors to the passengers as you see them most often usually and a friendly rapport goes a long way to make one feel welcome. We missed that with him. His cleaning of our room was ok but spotty. He would leave dirty dishes, forgot to replenish the coffee, and missed a few things like this consistently. it is very nice that NCL has tea and coffee makers in the room however. I have not encountered this before.
Entertainment: Well this is where NCL shines. The comedy club featured one of the actors from the movie "barbershop", Frank Townsend. He was a riot. The grammy show features someone who at the least has been nominated for a grammy and we had the pleasure of seeing Shannon McNally who was nominated in a country music category. Well she was a pro and you could see why she got a nod for this award. She put on the best cruise ship show we have seen and its in a club with about 15-20 tables and a small stage so you were up close to her performance.
NCL has an atrium with a huge screen and a stage for audience participation shows and the CD, Joel Sanchez MC'd most of them and wow he is fun and the shows were great. We loved just hanging out here watching the shows or listening to the reggae band, Groove International but the shows featuring the passengers were a riot. They had one similar to DWTS where you paired up a crew member with a passenger and man you should have seen them cut loose. The eventual winners who were both a bit large . and did a take off from that scene in Dirty Dancing where Baby runs and jumps into Johnnies arms and he lifts her. Well as they got ready to do this I though OMG! someone is gonna get hurt but they pulled it off and that was it! Winners!!
We saw a great song and dance show called Burn the floor and it was very high energy and very well done. We also saw the magic show at the Illusionarium and this too was good though the seating was not tiered so if you were in the back your view was somewhat blocked. However overall we saw well enough. it was a dinner show and the fee was about $25.00 pp and it was worth it IMHO. They served filet and prawns and it was pretty good.
There was a crew talent show which featured some surprisingly good singers and dancers and it too was very entertaining.
On the last night the crew performed a rousing final show which sent us off very happy to be so well entertained. Folks most of the crew are very hard workers but there are some who need more training and for this I think service its a notch below X and Princess. The guy running the internet cafe was frankly lazy. I did not purchase an internet package because he could not even look up from his pc to help me. He handed me a pamphlet and told me to follow the instructions. As this cafe is next to the atrium where we saw a lot of shows we saw him often and he was either on his pc or his phone. Once some people took chairs meant for the PC's and used them to watch the shows and people using the pc's had no where to sit. However I doubt he noticed this or of he did didn't care enough to intervene. This was a poor impression and from our experience the overall level of service was unfortunately not up to par with what we have seen on other ships. That being said would be cruise NCL again. Absolutely. They do put out a wonderful product and there are enough positives to win out the day. However we did miss one thing. Breakfast in the MDR on other lines would include a large table being filled so you had a chance to meet people. We requested shared tables on the Getaway but never got them for breakfast or dinner and we missed the opportunity to meet people this way and I think most folks like to meet new people too so I hope NCL could consider something to promote shared tables unless you prefer privacy which you can always ask for.
Unfortunately they had a fireworks which we missed but I hear it was awesome and we will be sure to see it again if available.
Disembarkation was a breeze and I like the that you can stay in your cabin until you have to leave to get your luggage. Their transfer to MIA was only $16.00 per person, very reasonable.
We had a fun time and someday will cruise NCL again given the right ship and itinerary. As I have always wanted to see the USS Missouri in pearl Harbor perhaps the POA cruise will be in our future. We have done land vacations on the major islands so hopefully a cruise will be in our future.
Any questions please ask and I will f/u with port reports, Tortola, St. Thomas and Nassau.
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This was our first NCL cruise and lets get to the plusses and minuses.