Yes we are going with Pied Piper in Feb ( couldnt resist the price ). I cannot compare group vs. non group, as this will be the first gay cruise for us. I know that we felt very well taken care of in July, on a mainstream (straight) cruise. I am excited to see what will be offered. I will attempt to answer your questions ...
1. It is possible to eat in Le Bistro every night, but you must call daily for reservations. I only ate there once, and it was great. Many people complain that the service is slow, but I dont think that they realize that Le Bistro is cook to order, so your food must actually be prepared at that time rather than ahead of time like in the dining rooms. There is a fee ( "cover" ), it was $5 when I went in July, but I here that it is $10 pp now. I also am under the impression that the menu does not change thru the week, so there would probably be only 3-4 choices on the menu, so that would not last the week. The dining rooms are just as good as Le Bistro, and the menu changes. Le Bistro, is an alternative, and more intimate. I would strongly suggest going once or twice, but the whole week, I personally would not. Plus there is so many choices, you may have a hard time deciding.
2. I did not get the Spa pass, but from what I hear, it is sooo worth it. I may do it in Feb. From what I understand, you get use of the hot tub ( w/ no kids ), sauna and a few other perks I cannot think of. I did not know about it on our last trip, so I will be looking into specifics when we go back.
3. I was prepared for the worst when it came to tendering, so I was unfazed. Again some people complained, but then again, if they were served fruit on a gold platter, they would complain if the gold wasnt shiny enough, you know??? It is not THAT bad. Your best bet is to get to the North Cape Lounge 15-30 mins before they hand out the tender tickets. Sit at the end of the dance floor on the corner, that is where they hand out the tickets. The tickets are coded by NCL ship names (ie Sky, Dream etc) then whent they call your ticket, you go down whichever stairtower to the tenders... ( sometimes it is better to go down an adjacent stairtower and go down the hall ie if you are called to go down stairtower 6, go down 5 instead and proceed aft and join the line.) But it dont matter if you are the first on the tender or the last, you will all leave at the same time. At St Maarten and St Thomas, try to get on the top level of the tender, they get off first. At Great Stirrup Cay, get on the bottom level of the tender, that is where you exit. Another way to get an early tender is to purchase excursions for the morning, then you get to be on the first one! We did that in St John, (got up at 5:30!)
4. Liqour prices - well it depends on what you are used to.... ( some say they are high others dont ) I found them quite reasonable... I live in Baltimore, so my usual drink prices may be higher than say, Keokuk Iowa.... Drinks averaged 3.00-3.50. I got a bucket o' beer (Coors Light) 4 beers and a bottle koozie for $10, I know I cant buy a bottle of beer in B'more for 2.50! Now there are some more expensive things like Fosters Lager, and Top Shelf Drinks... and of course there are the drinks in Souvenier glasses that are pricey. And I am sure you know, you gotta sign for everything.... The wine stewards are basically drink stewards in the dining rooms, they get all drinks that are purchased. Their tips are included in the drink price.
I Bought liqour on St Maarten and St Thomas ( very cheap!!). At St Maarten, I willingly gave it to them at the pier. In St Thomas, AH Riise will ship them to the ship for you. All those purchases are held until Fri night... I have heard that it is very easy to sneak stuff on board, they do not scan your bags at the islands, nor do they frisk you ( stick it in your beach bag or wrap it in a towel). If you wanna get some in Miami, pack it well, (in bubble wrap) and put in your checked luggage, they WILL Xray your carry on and could take it. Knowing what I know now, I will be bringing liqour with me from Miami, and possibly from St Maarten (Guavaberry!!!!). On our last cruise we won these big sport bottles, so I will bring them back ( you can buy them too) and mix drinks in my room, then sip on my bottle, and save some dough.... well it will help a little bit....
5. Cabins - Again wildly differing opinions... I look at is as, I spend about 20% of my time there ( if that )... I was in a smaller cabin in July, our steward was fantastic. ( Funny story - we had not even seen him, and on the 2nd morning of the cruise, he was to deliver something to our room, and he saw Tony in the hall and stopped him and gave it to him... at first Tony did not even know who he was... I found that pretty impressive.) I hear that the rooms you got are still very nice, though I did not see them myself. They are supposed to be in pretty good shape. In my opinion, my cabin was small, but more than sufficient for what I needed it for. It was alway kept very clean and neat. The cabin steward was great. What else can you ask for? The AC is generally good... in my room, I thought it was a little too warm for me, but that may have been the room, or the location. I was never sweating, but I didnt need a blanket either... in the public areas it varies, tending more on the cool side. A few rooms can get warm ie North Cape (big windows open all day) the disco can get warm, but what good club doesnt?
Well, I hope I was not toooooo verbose... I hope this is helpful. Any other questions, I will gladly answer.... ( puts me in the mood to cruise )
Take care, and I will check back for any other questions....