The Pier & Check-in
Getting to the pier is very easy. My brother was kind enough to drop us off, but it is just as feasible to park at the pier (just expensive) or take the train down and get a cab over (much less expensive). We arrived super-early (around 9:30am) in an attempt to beat Saint Patrick's Day parade traffic for my brother, who had to get to the other side of Manhattan near the end of the parade route. Boarding started around 11:30am and we were in the third group on board.
We stayed in room 11062 on the Jewel, which is a mid-ship mini-suite with balcony. The room was actually bigger than I expected and our steward, Alfi, was very nice and on top of things (we loved the towel animals every night). There were only two American outlets (one European) in the room (both at the desk), so we brought a surge protector and two extension cords, which absolutely came in handy.
The problem with the room
On the second to last day of the cruise, Mr. D. went to get something out of the closet and found his clothes were wet and everything smelled like mold.
NCL responded very quickly (someone was up at our room before I even got back from the service desk) and washed all of his clothes that were wet and/or stained from the carpet in the room. They asked us if we wanted to move our room, but only for that night (and without any of our things), so we declined. The following day, they sprinkled odor-stopping stuff on the carpet (remember that stuff the janitor in grade school would sprinkle over vomit and then it would smell like vomit and deodorizer?) and put the dryer on it...and it was awful - loud and smelly to the point where we had to leave the room.
The food on board was alright. We found the portions in to be oddly smaller than expected (eight rings of calamari in Tsars? 3 spears of asparagus constitute a side of vegetables at Cagney's?), though I suppose you could always request more. I initially avoided the buffet at all costs, but once we ventured up to the buffet, it really was not bad. They had an awesome salad bar, daily hot features, grill food (burgers, hot dogs, etc), rotating Indian and Asian dishes, dessert, and ice cream stations. It could get pretty busy during peak times and we sometimes had to walk into some of the other rooms for seating, but never had trouble getting a table. We did dine at several specialty restaurants (Moderno, Cagney's, Le Bistro, and Chin-Chin), all of which were good.
Right - Cagney's appetizers (shrimp cocktail and crab cakes), filet, and creme brule
Activities on Board
Some other activities included demonstrations (towel animals, ice carving, fruit sculpting), trivia, late night games and parties. You'll never get to all of the activities you mean to, but there's always something going on.
You'll also want to check out the evening entertainment on board. We saw a hilarious comedian/magician (Jean-Pierre), shows with singing and dancing, and a Cirque inspired show - all of which were very fun. The game shows just seemed to be passenger money drains and, really, the casino is a much more fun money drainer.
Pro tip #1: Figure out which side of the ship you are on and pay attention to the sunrise/sunset times. You should absolutely plan on waking up early to watch the sun rise one morning (Even this face appreciated the sunrise), but it helps if your room is facing the right way.
Pro tip #2: If there is a Spongebob movie playing (NCL has an agreement with Nickelodeon), there will not be other goofy, young at heart thirty year olds there...just a few confused eight year olds. Go to the bar instead.
Pro tip #3: During sail away, you can get some really nice views of the Statue of Liberty (and get to go under the Verrazano Bridge), so hang out on the top deck.
Port of Call: Orlando
We both love Disney and there was no question that we would be spending the day there. There's not a lot of time; figure on a 1.5 hour bus ride to and from the transportation center plus the time to queue and take transportation to your park of choice. Plus you're paying for a full price Disney ticket when you're really only getting approximately 6 hours in the park. A great value? Not so much. Appropriate for a first time Disney trip? Don't even think about it. We got about 7 rides in (aka the only time Mr. D. has managed to get through the Magic Kingdom with only one visit to the Haunted Mansion), gawked at the new Fantasyland work, and shoved Dole Pineapple Whip in our faces. If you want to do Disney the right way, plan a trip to Disney. If you want a fun revisit to a favorite park, spend the day there on your cruise.
Port of Call: Great Stirrup Cay
So, Great Stirrup Cay will get you a good spot to take photos of the boat and a BBQ lunch buffet, but it left me with a very unfavorable impression of NCL; they could have done much better here (Seriously! I wanted to give them money for alcohol and tip their employees to bring it to me...how do you screw this up?).
Port of Call: Nassau, Bahamas
The resort itself is huge, so expect to do a bit of walking and do check out the several aquariums there.
We headed back to the ship a little early so we could do some shopping downtown (read: buy rum). Here's another reason you'll want to get to Atlantis ASAP - more time to shop!
Would I go again?