I spoke to two NCL reps and have confirmed that their cruise program has been expanded to two year olds. This is quite significant since only Princess and Carnival have this option. However, there was no other information. They haven't advertised this or updated their website. I wish I could find out the particulars (diapers and all), but apparently it's so new that no one sems to know. Anyone have a good contact at NCL to get the scoop?.
I'm the family cruise editor at CruiseMates.com and was recently on the Norwegian Star and Sun -- both great ships for families. I spoke with the youth counselors at length and as you stated, NCL now accepts children as young as two years in their youth program. However, the counselors do not change diapers (like Princess -- only Carnival and the QE2's professional nannies do) and thus parents of non-potty trained tots get beepers so they can come do the honors when necessary. This means, though, that parents cannot get off the ship if their diapered little one is aboard ship in the youth program. (For those parents trying to sneak off, NCL has them covered in that security is alerted via their i.d/key card of the fact that they cannot leave the ship.) The Norwegian Star is perfect for little ones in that there is a separate nap room with cribs and little beds. We were on the Norwegian Wind many years ago which has a very small dedicated youth room which would make it very difficult for pre-schoolers to take a nap if needed.
One of the drawbacks, in my view, is that with this lowered age NCL no longer offers private baby-sitting. Only group baby-sitting is offered in the youth rooms for all ages after 10 p.m. We had wonderful private baby-sitting experiences on NCL and since our daughter was an early-to-rise and early-to-bed kid, we found that the group baby-sitting just didn't work for us. Alas, there are only a few lines left offering private baby-sitting, among them Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises.
If you do go aboard NCL with a little one, I'd love to hear about your experiences.
Luisa Frey Gaynor