We've been on 12 cruises with 4 different cruise lines and Norwegian was tied with Royal Caribbean as our favorite, but now they're down a notch or two. We've never been on a cruise we didn't enjoy including this one, but NCL has made some disappointing changes.
The ship is very big, but many features are too limited for the number of guests on board. For example there are very slow, small, crowded elevators, cramped buffet facilities, a single very small adult pool, a single level theater, etc. More people, but the same amount of space allocated is a lousy equation. Going the week before Labor Day out of New York translates to a lot of kids burning their last days of summer with their folks. A LOT of kids. LOTS. So beware.
No towel animals by the room stewards anymore? Really? My wife was disappointed by this lost little touch. No bottled water with the Drink Package? Martini - no problem.
A bottle of water, well that's extra above the cost of the Drink Package. That's ridiculous. Why use the Atrium with limited seating and poor viewing for popular game shows and activities? If you're not the first 100 or so, you stand and probably can't see through the crowd. Why not use the theater? We also missed the elegance of a main dining room vs, the Freestyle venues.
It's not something NCL can do much about, but several guests really need a refresher to Basic Manners 101. Even with all this we'd still sail NCL again without hesitation, but it may not be our first choice.
As far as the port goes, Bermuda is a beautiful island. It's clean, safe, friendly, and civilized. Norwegian now also has a free ferry from the dockyard to St. George, which is a beautiful little town and a nice ferry ride. I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed by NCL this time, but not enough to scare me away for good.
4 out of 5
Organized well with the space available. Excellent parking by the ship.
Food and Dining
4 out of 5
The main dining rooms are nice with very good service. The buffet was always crowded and a bit difficult to maneuver with identical entrees down both sides. We prefer stations with specialties as opposed to walking the entire length of the buffet lines. It's not the fault of NCL, but some guests were very short on manners. Note that the Drink Package does NOT include bottled water on NCL. I could get a martini at the bar for no charge, but a bottle of water was extra. All I could get was a glass of water at the bar for no charge. The Japanese Restaurant was very entertaining with excellent food, but the $10 per head extra charge above the dining package was not explained by customer service or removed as they had promised. Cagney's Steakhouse was very good, but the frankly the meats served in the Manhattan Room were just as good. The Italian restaurant was good, but not really all that special for a specialty restaurant. Other lines do most of the specialty restaurants better.
4 out of 5
A lot to do, but almost always a long wait. A single, noisy, very small adult swimming pool gets very crowded.
4 out of 5
The Choir of Man was one of the best shows I've seen on a cruise ship (this was our 12th cruise). The other shows were good as well. Very good comedians and musicians. The venues were poorly planned. Our experience is that the Newlywed Game is always very popular and fun game. Instead of having it in the theater with plenty of seating, it was held in the Escape's Atrium area. If you're not one of the first 100 or so there, you won't get a seat and you probably can't see through the standing crown watching the show. Other popular events were held there as well with the same unfortunate results. The DJ's at Spice H2O late night were pretty good, but way too loud to speak to anyone more than a foot or two away.
Service and Staff
5 out of 5
Outstanding service throughout the ship.
3 out of 5
The ship was very clean and well maintained by the staff, but the design of the ship makes a crowded ship feel even more crowded with many low ceilings and limited seating areas. A single very small pool for 4,000+ guests just doesn't cut it. There are too few elevator that were very slow and almost always packed. On many occasions we had to wait for another (taking the steps was rarely an option as one of us was recovering from a knee replacement). No Smoking signs should be on each balcony and the policy enforced. Our room filled with smoke a few times as our neighbors sat outside blowing smoke our way.
Cabin / Stateroom
4 out of 5
Very nice, clean room with an odd layout. The closet is only about a foot or so from the side of bed. Other ships have the closet on the side of the entry and out of the way with the bed by the door, a layout we prefer. The room steward was very good, although we never saw or met him. One irritation that may sound petty, is the discontinuing of the towel animals by the room stewards. Saving the environment was the reason given, but I suggest just placing fewer towels in the bathroom and asking guests to use their towel animals. We always get a kick out of them and our kids would always ask others what kind of animal they had in their room. It's disappointing to lose that nice touch.
Have patience or go off season. The ship is crowded and there are many children everywhere.
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