We are a couple in our fifties, and we live in South America. This was our sixth cruise, and we weren't very sure about it because of bad reviews about NCL we found in Internet. But the itinerary and the prices were good, and we decided to take the risk. We chose a balcony cabin.
The ship seemed to be cleaned and well maintained. It is new (christened in 2001). The room also was clean and well equipped, with plenty of room. The bathroom was smaller than others, and the same happened with the terrace. But the room itself seemed to be bigger, and the window was ceiling to floor , and wall to wall.
Housekeeping was very good.
NCL has two kinds of restaurant: 2 main restaurants, and the so called specialty restaurant. In the latter you have to pay a nominal fee (20 or 15 dollars per person). We decided to try first the main restaurants, and in the first and the second days food was good. But in the following days, quality of food in these restaurants dropped completely, and was below average. So we decided to try others: Le Bistrot and Il Addagio, paying the extra. Both were excellent.
In the last day we discovered another specialty restaurant, in which you donít have to pay extra: Pacific Heights, with lighter meals. It was extremely good.
NCL works with the system called Free Style. You donít have a fixed time to lunch or dinner. You go when you want (obviously, in the specialty restaurant a reservation is highly recommended), and you dress as you like. When we heard about that system, we didn't think it was going to be fine. But after seeing it in action before in a Princess cruise and now in NCL, we have to accept it: it really works. As we said, there was a big difference in the food of the main restaurants and the others, but in all of them service was outstanding, with well trained and very nice employees. We always had a perfect attention, and got very good tables. One remarkable thing is that the ship has a lot of tables for two persons, and it is not difficult to be alone with your couple if you don't want to share part of your vacation with other persons. And that is not all: the tables for two were very well placed, close to the windows, so you could watch the sea while having lunch or dinner.
For lunch, we went to the buffet Garden Café. The food was only average, but is was good to control weight. Our "real meal" was dinner.
We like to up dress, and in the called formal night we found a lot of people well dressed (dark suites and ties, and dresses, though no tuxedos). But we found that even in smart casual way, people was properly dressed.
We saw a lot of children, but practically all of them were well behaved. Some babies were always crying (we can't understand parents who take a cruise with babies). The atmosphere was relaxed and quiet, and during the night the ship was silent.
In what seems to be a universal rule in cruises nowadays, NCL charges you $ 10 per person and per day, for tipping. We don't like this practice, more similar to a tax than to a tip. But we have to accept that, in this cruise, everybody made his job in order to deserve it.
There was a company of dancers and singers that performed three times. For us were the best shows we have seen in Caribbean cruises for many years.
Other points of entertainment were good, but we found that there were not properly placed. For instance, there was a good pianist but placed in a miserable corner in the Atrium , close to the Reception and Information desk, with a lot of people and noise. We found another pianist and singer placed close to the pub, so any time the connecting door opened, the noise of the pub came and you couldn't listen to him.
We missed the string quartet found in other cruises.
Any time we could, we went to cybercafes in the port of calls But we also bought a card for $ 55, allowing you 110 minutes from the computers of the ship cybercafe. In this ship, and for the same fee, you could connect our own computer from your cabin. The connection was fast.
Ports of call:
- Samana, Dominican Republic. It is a new destination. The only tour attractive for us was to Cayo Levantado, a beach with good reputation. But the tour was unavailable. So we wander in the waterfront, went to a market and to a cybercafe to keep in touch. This place didn't seem to be completely safe, though in a few years can be a real fine destination (we know another beaches of the Dominican Republic, and for us are among the best of the world).
Tortola: Wonderful destination. A sleepy town , a very nice island, and a superb beach (Cane Garden).
St. Thomas. Well, its good reputation is well deserved. This was our third time here, so we only did some shopping, went to Paradise Point (a high point reached through
a tramway, similar to the one used in sky resorts, giving you the best view of the harbor and the cruises docking there), and went to a beach we didn't yet know (Morningstar beach), that was outstanding.
Stirrup Key: is a private NCL island, similar to the ones owned by other cruises lines. Excellent water and fine beach.
The schedule: on time (a strange thing in cruises according to our experience so far).
In Samana the ship arrived with a two hours delay. But in the rest of the trip, it was always just
Very well organized and swift. It took us half an hour since we were called.
We liked the cruise. We are not sure we would repeat it, because of the food. It is not fair to make you pay more if you want to eat well. But if price and itinerary are good, perhaps we would chose NCL again, accepting from the beginning that we will have to pay an extra for the good restaurants. With that exception, the rest of the many things you have in a cruise were fine for us, if we considered what we paid for them.
Roberto and Graciela.