Some of you may have been scared to death by reviews you have read online. This will be a long review because I want to address some of the comments and issues I've seen in postings, and add my personal experience. This is my 12th cruise and my fourth with NCL.
RUST:This ship has sailed to Bermuda for the last 13 years (even before NCL bought her). This part of the Atlantic is really rough on these ships; we had sea spray as high as Deck 9 on our return (hence the dirty windows). For those of you concerned about the windows, they were cleaned in Bermuda and in Boston (while people were on shore). I personally observed five workers painting the ship just about every day (including the lifeboats). If you look closely on the Sun and Pool decks, you will see new paint at the bow and stern sections. I also witnessed two painters at the top of the stack, stripping paint for a new coat needed there. Basically some 511 crew members are hotel staff, which leaves about 100+ for maintenance and everything else. This ship is in pretty good shape for such a small staff and considering its age. People who mention a rust problem are basically talking about the top two decks, where it is more noticeable. The rest of the ship looks fine, and painting is something ships do all the time. What really matters is that the ship is very clean and has good CDC ratings. The hand-sanitizing that NCL does should be done on every line to prevent virus outbreaks.
CREW: Excellent! This is one of the friendliest and happiest crews I have ever seen. This is a small ship by today’s standards, and the crew is like a family. I didn’t find one crew member who wouldn't try to help or please you. Here is an example: The longshoreman damaged a new suitcase of mine during the loading process. I told a nice young woman named Carolene at the Pursers Desk, and she said “let me see what I can do." Within 24 hours, the suitcase was back in my cabin, repaired to its original condition. I asked if I could pay for the repair and was told it was not necessary. I was then told by Carolene: “We on the ship try very hard to make things right for our guest”. This was the total attitude from the Hotel Manager Alexandra down though her staff.
POOL DECK:Yes, this ship has a narrow pool deck, and the pool area gets a bit crowed during sea days. However, I never had a problem finding a deck chair, and there's a great sun deck on the stern, on Deck 8 under the pizza and burger area. The deck above the pool also had plenty of chairs. I didn’t find much of a problem with people trying to “save" deck chairs, because this was addressed during the “rules” presentation. Late one night, I saw the pool staff inside the empty pool and hot tubs, cleaning them with brushes. I have no clue where the "dirty pool" comments came from in other reviews. These pools were cleaner than my community pool.
KIDS: Considering this was a July 23rd cruise, a lot of kids were onboard. During the lifeboat drill, the “rules” about children were explained to everyone. On the first day, each passenger received a copy in writing, and we had no problems with kids. Whatever issues occurred with kids in the past were nonexistent on our cruise.
FOOD & SERVICE: The food was good on the buffet and pretty good to very good in the dining room. The deck barbeques were very good. This ship is not a five-star restaurant, and if you want one, you should pay for it. Most people will find the food to be fine, and eating in the dining room is always better. They have good prime rib and fish, and the fresh breads are very good. The glasses for the iced tea and juice are small on the buffet, but not in the dining room. You can take several glasses, or some people brought large glasses for the buffet area.
The mixed drinks are more pricey than usual and not a lot of specials were offered. I think it is because the casino and shops are only open for a few days during the Bermuda cruises (NCL has to make money somewhere). They did have all-you-can-drink rum punch for free (one hour), and the normal past-cruisers cocktail party (Latitudes). The beer selection is very good, including Kirin and Fosters. Beer runs $4-$5 depending upon brand and includes tip.
Pasta Café (no extra charge) was better than on other NCL ships and is a nice change of pace. Le Bistro (extra cost) is always good and is a higher-dollar meal. We had the surf and turf and paid $20 each. It was our anniversary and we didn’t mind paying for higher-end food. The buffet area has limited seating (fewer than 200 seats); the Royal Observatory (Pasta Café) is open for overflow (use the stairs at the end of the buffet on the port/left side) and they have plenty of tables. Something I hadn’t seen before was that the dining room (Seven Seas) opened at noon during embarkation. Usually, you have to eat on deck and the dining rooms don’t open until the first night.
The service in the dining room was excellent, with plenty of staff on hand, so I never waited at all. I only saw one time were people waited and that was because they were trying to seat everyone on formal night during prime time. If you don’t like something or want something in the dining room, ask for it, or say "I don't like it" and it will be fixed. Also, some tables have cards on them; these are to rate your server. I used them several times as the cards help the crew get promotions and cash service awards. They can also be used to make other comments for improving food or service.
BERMUDA: This is why you take this cruise! This place is beautiful and very quiet. You have no street vendors, no hassles, and everyone is friendly. The Majesty docks at the best spot in St. Georges and everything is right there. Three beaches are within a 10-minute walk or a $3 minibus ride. If you want to eat ashore, use the lunch voucher that NCL provides. You can get $25 per person for lunch and you will use it all. We ate at the Carriage House for lunch, around the corner from the ship. The bill for three at lunch was $78 plus tip. We used the $75 from NCL and paid the difference.
Bermuda is expensive, but you can eat all your meals on the ship. The transportation system is very good, and you can go all over the island using buses or ferries. The helmet dive is excellent, and so is Captain Jerry’s Sail and Swim. The cove for swimming is really cool and Jerry will give you a lot of info. To get to Tobacco Bay Beach, go straight off the ship north, though the middle of town, to Coot Pond Road (up over the top of the hill). This is a very nice place, with several beach areas and a beach bar and bathroom (busy in the mornings); it's great for an evening swim before dinner. If you continue to the right, go about another 100 yards and you hit Fort St. Catherine Beach (if you take the bus, you get dropped here). This is on the northeast corner of the town of St. George (below the old Club Med hotel). This is very nice spot, with Fort St. Catherine dominating the skyline behind the beach. This beach has banana boats, a bar, and a dirty bathroom (the only bad thing). In front of this beach is Black Beards Restaurant on the hill. If you walk about 10 yards you will see a sign for Achilles Bay Beach (between the restaurant and the fort). This is a small but nice beach that is hidden from most people. The water is really nice and it has beach chairs for rent. I couldn’t believe people missed this great spot.
My advice is to take reviews with a grain of salt. If you go planning to have a good time, you will. This ship is perfect for Bermuda and saves you a lot because you don’t pay the high costs of food and lodging on the island.