Ypu provide a well written, thoughtful post.
We cruised NCL in Feb of 07 and HAL in Dec of 07.
I'll make MY opinion short and sweet:
Stick with HAL. The quality and choice of food blows NCL away.
"Freestyle" cruising on NCL is a joke. We got into ONE specialty restaraunt (Cagney's) and though the food there was tasty, the portions were embarassingly miniscule.
The rest of the restaurants were either always booked or so under staffed they seemed closed.
The main negative of our cruise with NCL was the food.
Check out my review.