There were (10) of us total. My wife, I and our (3) daughters (ages 11, 7 and 7) and our good friends (2 adults and 3 children as well).
Embarking the Ship was no problem. Yes, it was very crowded, but it looked worse than it was. We arrived at the pier at 11:30, and were on the ship by 12:30.
One suggestion: Bring a carry-on bag with everything you may want/need until dinner time (bathing suits, sun screen, etc). Our luggage did not arrive to our cabin until 4:30 pm.
We had (4) cabins total.
(2) outside cabins with balconies on the 9th floor and 2 inside cabins across the hall. I thought the inside cabins were suitable to (2) adults of (3) kids...which is what we used it for.
The outside cabins were very nice...small walking areas between the bed and wall, but you make due. The balcony was awesome to watch sunrises, and just to relax..
We all really disliked most of the dining experiences, and I let NCL know it on the ship and through the comment cards.
There were many complaints I had...but the main one was this. The QUALITY of food in the pay restaurants, along with the quality of service, was far better than the main dining areas (Aqua, Impressions and Venetian).
Let me add too...that Venetian was ALWAYS a nightmare because of the extremely slow service, and mistakes on food orders.
The Garden Cafe for breakfast was LOUD, cramped, annoying and sub-par in food quality..IMO...
In fact, when we arrived home yesterday and ate lunch...we felt like we were missing something...it was the NOISE.
We have all cruised many times....and none of us enjoyed the dining experiences EXCEPT for La Trottoria (which we all thought was very very good).
BUT...We were not please with the fact that we had to pay EXTRA for the quality of food and service on Le Bistro...which, for the same quality and service was always offered for free on past cruises.....yes, the difference between the pay and non-pay restaurants were that much.
In addition, Friday was lobster night (well, if you want to call them lobsters...more like jumbo shrimp sized lobsters)....and an announcement was made over the intercomm which indicated that lobster was free in every restaurant on the ship, including the speciality restaurants, except for Cagneys.
So...we walked into Le Bistro and asked if they had the free Lobster...and the hostess indicated YES
Now...we already had reservations at Le Bistro for SATURDAY night...but figured we'll sit in nice restaurant, quieter restaurant and eat for free (well, not really free....we already paid for the food when we purchased our cruise tickets).
So..We went in...sat down..ordered our wine, the kids ordered from the kids menu...and we placed our lobster order. I asked the waiter what came with the lobster...and he said we can pick an appetizer, soup or salad from the main menu...I asked him "at no charge?"...he said "yes"..
So...we all orderd escargots...and salads and soups....
A few minutes later he returns, obviously sensing a misunderstanding, and told us that there will be a $15 charge per person for the orders..
We explained to him the announcement, the discussion with the hostess and my question to him about the charges for soups, escargots, etc..
They huddled for about 15 minutes...making phone call after phone call...finally, the head cheese comes over and says it was a misunderstanding, and there is nothing he can do about it..we have to be charged....
We told him that we can walk 25 feet over to Impressions and get the same thing for free...we never expected to order from the main menu...and we were told we could at NO CHARGE.....we said cancel our order and we will go to Impressions...he said to wait....then came back 5 minutes later and said we can stay and eat for free....
Obviously because the order was already being filled...not out of courtesy, or else he would have not tried to charge us first..
Dinners came....and when we were finished...no offer for dessert OR coffee...
The following night we returned and paid to eat...we got dessert and coffee.
Now...another issue with the freestyling is making reservations. You cannot make a reservation until 8:00 am, and only for the same day or the next day.
Let me assure you...unless you are in a suite, or unless you are a party of 4 or less...you will not get a decent time reservation.
We never ate before 8:00 pm at La Trottoria, Salsas or Bamboo...
So..we decided on Thursday morning that Saturday would be our Le Bistro night...however we wanted an early dinner time..6-7 pm..
I knew I could not call until 8:00 am on Friday...
So Thursday evening when we returned to our room and saw the freestyle daily...there was going to be a problem.
Our excerssion for Friday was at 7:55 am. Which means I would not be able to make a dinner reservation for saturday night until we returned friday afternnon.
That was unacceptable to me.....I did not chose the 7:55 am excersion time..NCL did.
So...I went to the front desk..and explained the situation...after about 15 minutes and numerous phone calls...they were able to "bend the rules" and get me a 7:00 pm reservation for saturday night.
When we sailed the Ecstasy and Fantasy years ago...the quality of food was awesome...our friends sailed Royal Carribean and Carnival cruises..and also raved about quality of food..INCLUDED IN YOUR CRUISE...not extra.
Yes...I knew the Dawn had some restaurants that were fee-based...but the difference in quality and service was too much.....
We had a great time because of who we were with...and because we made the best out of it....we loved the Star Bar....and found ourselves there nightly for martinis.
One added note....
The kids club....we brought our kids there for one hour, the first day at sea....picked them up an hour later...all four of them said "Please do not ever bring us back there again".....we didn't.
Apparantly...it was not fun...nor were the counselers interacting much with the kids.
I never wanted to bring them at all....The kids wanted to try it...so we let them.
Later in the week I saw about (25) 5-7 years olds marching in a pirate parade out by the pool....I saw 3-4 with smiles on their faces...the rest looked miserable...hope their parents were having a good time.
Our kids had the best time...mostly because they did not have to deal with the same things the adults did....we made sure this was a memorable cruise for them...
The adults had a niec time when we weren't trying to find a seat in the garden cafe, or spending 2 hours for lunch in the venetian, or paying extra for food that should be part of the main dining ares (example...the cheesecakes in the main dining areas...just awful....the cheesecake in the pay restaurants...FABULOUS).
I personally do not think this type of cruise is for everyone....and we (10) will not be booking another one with NCL.
As I said...there were many other annoyances...and some to be expected.
Our group always has a good time..and are very easy going....but some things cannot be overlooked.