I typically cruise on Celebrity but wanted to give NCL a try since the sailing date for this particular itinerary worked best for the group. The ship was newer so I figured I could not go wrong.
First the PROS. I stayed on a Spa Mini Suite cabin on deck 14 middle, which was excellent. It was just the right size but the bathroom really impressed me, particularly the size and amenities of the shower. The cabin attendant was excellent and worked around our schedule. Storage in the cabin was nice and the room was always immaculate even after we left it a mess. The food (both quality and offerings) in some of the restaurants was great, particularly Cagney's (specialty), Taste and Tropicana (general dining). And service at Cagney's was incomparable, especially in light of the horrible service at another specialty restaurant Le Bistro. The professional nightly shows were amazing, whether Burn the Floor or the Cirque or the Magician. The staff throughout the entire ship was very friendly and knowledgeable with the exception of some folks down on the deck 6 customer service. There were plenty of bars throughout the ship, which when combined with the ultimate drink package made it for a very enjoyable experience. The tours were pretty good and the tour guides pretty knowledgeable with the exception of Finland. Overall, the ship was very clean across all public areas.
Now the CONS, and there were plenty of those. For a 4000 passenger ship that often sails the Caribbean, the pool deck was tiny. Not sure how they would accommodate those many passengers in sunny/pool weather days. Thank God it was chilly during this voyage so I was able to pretty much stayed out of the pool deck. There were too many kids on this cruise, which when coupled with the lack of rules enforcement by both crew members and parents made it the whole experience excruciating. Kids were in the adult pool, jacuzzis, bars etc. For a 4000 passenger ship, the fitness center was a fraction of the size found in similarly sized Celebrity cruise with far fewer passengers. Compounding the problem was the # of KIDs under 16 years old that were allowed to come into the gym and get in the way of people actually trying to work out in an already overcrowded facility. Food (quality and service) at some restaurants was pretty bad, including Savor, Le Bristro, O'Sheehan's, Garden Cafe and a couple of others.
And speaking of the Garden Cafe, or as we often referred to it THE ZOO, it was the worst set up of any cruises I have been on. First of all, the Garden Cafe was too small, again for a 4000 passenger ship, particularly when compared to Celebrity. The setup of the cafe was linear/aisle so people had to walk and bump into each other to get to a station even if they had no interest in the to the other 3 stations in between. In some other ships, the main breakfast cafe is set up via stations in a circular format so that folks that are vegetarian, for example, do not have to bump into people waiting at the meat section. The food at the Garden Cafe, both quality and offerings, wasn't great particularly for folks living a healthier lifestyle, or folks that do not consume meats. Also, some of the cafe attendants (again given the setup of the room and # of folks trying to squeeze into the stations) could not act fast enough to address issues with spoons falling into the food and passengers putting their hands all over the food to grab the spoon. I also observed a couple of cooks in the Garden Cafe sneezing all over the food being cooked. The dinner theater at the Cirque was pretty awful; food was bad and service was worse. Thank Goodness for the actual show. The embarkation process on day 1 and disembarkation process on the last day went pretty smoothly but the embarkation during the tours was painful in some instances. Not enough scanners available to quickly move thousands of passengers through the line. Getting back to kids, my group was unlucky enough to end up with the same family and kids on a couple of tours. The infant kid was screaming the entire bus ride and during most of the actual tour. The cruise line should able to coordinate kids free tours for those passengers interested in a more relaxed experience. Entertainment during the day, particularly the days at sea was pretty mediocre and so was the White-themed party on the next to last night. Heavy smoking fumes where all around most of the middle section of decks 7 & 8.
Fantastic cabin, situated close enough to the stairs on deck 14 but within direct vision of people going up and down the stairs. Only problem with location was it being directly below the outside sitting area coming out of the spa. You could hear crew members in the early morning moving lounge chairs around and the noise was pretty loud. Cabin was clean and roomy but, more importantly, the bathroom was great. Big shower with dual sinks.