The following letter was sent to NCL ... I might add I did not include any comments about the cold food at the Market Cafe breakfast buffet. They were serving cold hashbrowns, scrambled eggs that were more like soup, and cartons of sour milk. If they were to be inspected by the USA health department the buffet lines would have been shut down in my and others opinion.
Let me start my trip review by saying that overall this is a very beautiful ship and we went on the trip knowing this was an Inaugural Voyage, or first time with paying passengers. The ship was full; the Captain stated we had 2240 passengers when he notified the passengers we would be late leaving the Miami port. We were scheduled to leave port at 4:00 PM and finally got underway at midnight. Many people said this set the tone of the trip, I don't quite agree with that opinion, but they did have a point.
It would appear, that loading of provisions took 8 hours more than scheduled. Not sure if NCL's concentration was more to provide the hundreds of Travel Agents tours / overnighters and trip provisions took a back seat to that PR event or what. But it should not have happen, at least not 8 hours late. For the many first time cruisers wanting pictures of leaving the port of Miami it was a great disappointment.
Our cabin was quite nice, decor very pleasing. We were on deck 9, cabin # 9572, Group BB. Some what forward of mid ship, portside. The cabin layout was comfortable and adequate even for a 14-day cruise. I had read many reviews that mentioned lack of clothes hangers, laundry line, shelf space, etc. We found that those concerns were no longer valid for our cabin. We had brought along clothes hangers, laundry line, and etc. but they were not needed. The cabin is 171 sq. feet, excluding the small balcony. They advertised coffee pots in the cabins, but this is not really true. Our cabin had a pot which you could heat water in for tea or instant coffee or whatever. Only problem was that the power cord was too short to reach the electrical outlet in back of the TV. If it is placed on the shelf above the TV the power cord just reaches the outlet. But this is not really a very safe place to use it; a person could easily spill the scalding water on himself or herself. I was rather surprised that they had not removed the Pots from the cabins until they had extensions cords made up or at least notified the passengers of the design deficiency. But sorry to say that was not done. Maybe they were over whelmed by passenger concerns by this time, but safety concerns should be in the forefront of any business.
Another cabin problem, at least with many cabins on deck 9 was the cabin noise ... ceiling / wall panels creaking and rubbing together. Now it came across the Atlantic Ocean so you think they had somewhat a handle on this type of condition. Even in light seas it was hard to sleep and when we had a little sea swell you could really hear the noise. Others stated they had chirping birds in their cabin. What was rather insulting was when they sent a Security person to investigate the complaint. Now really, it was more than obvious this was not his field of knowledge. I finally put paper wedges in the ceiling panels / lavatory wall panel where most of the noise was coming from and was able to bring the noise level down to were it was tolerable.
Our cabin steward and helper were very good. He was an old hand at his job and did it very well. By the end of the cruise he had his helper well trained and were working as a team.
The pool area, Deck 12, is very nice and well laid out. Lots of sunning areas, which was laid out in layers overlooking the pool area. I used it almost daily that is until the afternoon music started. It was so loud that you had to move well away from the pool area to not be overwhelmed by it. This was a problem that lasted through out the trip. Many, many people would not use the area because of the assault to one's hearing. The music content was quite good, but just to darn loud. For some reason, they could not get the music level to a reasonable level. Maybe the market they think they are targeting will enjoy it. Not so with many of the people I talked to on the ship. And I did talk to many people; I really wanted to be sure it wasn't just me. I would suggest that they provide earplugs for those that loudness offends. They did not have any on the ship when I inquired. The ear plugs could even be similar to those we used at work when running up a jet engine. And yes my hearing is poor.
The evening dinning experience, which one looks forward to, was more a dreaded event than an enjoyment More on why will come a little later in my review.
The main restaurant, Versailles, is really beautifully done. The Versailles, with out a question is the show case restaurant on the ship. The decor is very pleasing with out being too gaudy. Service was broken, which was understanding with so many new people trying to do their best and really unprepared to serve so many Americans / English / Canadians passengers. One problem that was constant through the trip was the time lag between finishing your entree to ordering your dessert / coffee. It was at least 30 minutes or more. Needless to say the waiters were in such a rush the service was very broken. I would think after a number of months of working together these areas should show a great improvement. The food, taste and presentation, was not what you would write home to mother about. Really needs some professional attention.
I tried most of the restaurants, missed the SoHo, Las Ramblas and Endless Summer. We had tried to get into the Endless Summer the 3rd or 4th night out but were told it would be at least ½ hour or more. This was rather concerning when there was only about 50 people being served. This is a very large restaurant. We were then told that they could only handle 50 people at one time! Too bad they did not have the consideration to say that upfront. Made for very poor customer relations.
Le Bistro was good, the Dinning Room Hostess, little Romanian lady by the name of Reka Varada, really made the place sparkle with her ready smile, helpful, positive attitude. That really could not be said for the Maître. I think our best meal was here. The Ginza was fairly good. I had Sukiyaki, which was cooked at your table in the Japanese style. Very enjoyable. They even had Kirn beer, even though it was not brewed in Japan.
One last truly negative comment, which was the talk of the ship, "Free-Style Dinning" is so much hype. In theory it sounds great and even works if you want to eat after 9 - 9:30 PM. It was obvious this group of passengers were not that type that liked to eat that late. It was so bad one night at the showpiece Verailles restaurant, they had a 1 -2 hour wait. Not much fun standing for a couple of hours with about 75 - 100 people waiting to eat dinner.
One evening, the line was so bad, and they were going to let some other passengers in front of the line, a shouting match occurred. The only thing that saved the day was the professional, dynamic personality, smiling face of the Dinning Room Hostess, Florentna Popa. A young Romanian lady, that handle the stress (nightly), angry and frustrated passengers for 14 days with a wonderful pleasing attitude and always with a smile. The type of person everyone would like on his or her team.
I could go on and on, but this is not a review of why not to go on NCL, but to beware this ship has a huge learning curve to go through before you get the reasonable serve a cruise person is accustom to.
I would suggest anyone interested in a evenly written ship board review that they go to http://www.cruise-forums.com/read.php?f=16&i=1363&t=1363 and read Ernie's review, dated 11/19/2001.