Well we just got off the ship this morning. I thought it was a very beautiful ship and without a doubt the most friendly crew I have ever encountered. We had an AF mini suite and it was perfect for our family of four. Our room stewards did a fine job, and I am thrilled to report that we recieved many of the suite perks, including daily fruit, a free bottle of water, concierge service (which really was great) Embarcation and disembarcation went very smoothly. No problems getting on or off, which I think is a first for us in 7 cruises. We almost always have a problem with one or the other. But it was very streamlined and organized.
Food service across the board was excellent. We tried many of the speciality restaurants Le Bistro, Cagneys, Lotus Garden, Teppenyaki, and the main dining room for dinner. I only had the chance to have lunch and breakfast in Summer Palace once this cruise which is normally what I do to avoid the insanity of the cattle call people refer to as buffet dining. However, I found a welcome respite from the sea of humanity at "The Great Outdoors" on the back of the ship. It was hardly ever crowded and the view is marvelous. I found the food to be decent and I always found something I liked. The one day we were able to have lunch in Summer Palace we were treated to a terrific show. Our ship was being followed by a pod of dolphins and the beautiful arched windows provided a perfect view of the action as the leapt into air.
The pools were freshwater, and I thought they were wonderful. We enjoyed the waterslide and they provided floaties for the little ones to use in the pool, which was a welcome remedy to help little ones who couldn't quite keep their heads above water in the 5 foot deep pool. The hot tubs were a perfect temperature.
Teppanyaki was a treat for us, on this cruise. The quality of beef they offer on NCL has remained consistently good since we sailed onthe Sun in March.
Of course there are always a few flys in the ointment, and we did have a few minor irritations. The few things that really bugged me on this cruise was the kid's club hours on port days and to a degree on sea days as well. Generally the kid's club's are open from 9am-12, 2pm-5pm, 7pm-10pm. But on this ship they shortened the afternoon session to 2-3pm, This is not a huge deal but it was annoying never the less, since our kids like to sleep in and then go to the kid's club in the afternoon. I never was able to find the time to go to the thermal suite because of the weird afternoon hours.
The thing that was a bigger deal is that it is obvious camp workers I had to deal with didn't want to be bothered with working on port days and made it as difficult as possible to engage their services as possible. First of all realize NCL is the only mainstream line I know of that charges an hourly rate for the kid's club on port days. They require that you sign up for the service the day before. The staff also makes it clear when you try to sign upfor the service, that you will basically be interupting their social plans. My opinion is that if they really want to call this freestyle cruising, they should have a dedicated staff on hand for port days and work around our schedule. After all we are paying an hourly rate for this service.
I still strongly dislike the reservation policy, but it was much easier this time due to the concierge service. Otherwise I would be very frustrated. The only reason we were able to dine at as many speciality restaurants was due to the concierge. I loved this perk, and it made me happy that I made a good decision upgrading to the mini suite.
The only poor food service we received was in Blue Lagoon at 11:30 on the day we were in Grand Cayman, the wait staff was less than friendly, we were the only ones there, with only one other couple and many of the tables were dirty, there was a row of at least 4 stands holding large round trays still full of dirty breakfast dishes. The food took a long time to come and we were definitely unwelcome.
I strongly disliked the onboard Cruise Consultant and his assistant. They were like snake oil salesmen. They promise you the world and send you on your way knowing once you leave the ship they don't have to deliver anything they promise. Basically I signed up for a program called cruise rewards. You give them $250 and they give you a $100 onboard credit. Then $250 is deposited in your Latitudes account and that allows you to book any cruise, any stateroom except Villas for the $250/stateroom (not per person) I wanted to book a Transatlantic cruise for November 2008 on the Jade and was hoping to book prior to the end of this month to avoid the fuel surcharge. I asked if that was possible, and was told, oh yes! No problem, sign this paper and we'll post payment tonight and you can book this with NCL or your TA immediately. No problem!!! So while we were in Grand Cayman, due to issues with the Kid's Club I was on board longer than I had planned to be and got enough of a wifi signal to use my IP phone and call NCL who informed me the guy on board was wrong and it would take 30 days for it to hit my account. I went back to him and he didn't get back with me until last night and he told me to call a guy at the NCL 800# and he would help me. Well I called him today and he said he wasn't going to help me because he knows I will use a TA and after he booked it I would just move the res over to her. I said, so, people do that all the time, and NCL will profit from the booking either way? He basically was pretty rude and arrogant, so I told him to get his supervisor, and he then came back and and said he spoke to her and she instructed him to make the booking. So I now have the booking, we'll see what happens next with this mess. I like this program and it is a great deal, I just don't like dealing with individuals who don't care enough to represent their product honestly. It cheapens the promotion. If he simply said no you won;t see the credit hit for 30 days, I still would have bought it, but I would have felt better about the experience.
The only other less than stellar event that transpired was when I was awoken at 1:00 A.M. because about 20 NCL Pearl crew members were out playing basketball in the middle of the night, above my cabin. I couldn't figure out what was making such a racket and went up to check it out and there they were shootin hoops in the wee hours of the morning.
So in a nutshell it was a great cruise. We got to tour the Garden Villa's and Owner's Suite this morning and OMG you wouldn't believe them. Wow is all I can say!! The high points far outshined the low points. This class of ship is really stunning and has something for just about everyone. I really did enjoy it, in spite of the hiccups that are bound to find you on land or at sea.