I took a very similar NCL cruise in 2009 and was so pleased that I wanted to do it again in order to see more of the Western Mediterranean. I also took a Southern Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean last year. I prefer NCL because of the meal situation. (I don't like being forced to have a dinner reservation, eat with strangers, or dress up while on vacation.) Apart from that, I would say the two cruise lines are quite similar in terms of quality and service. This cruise did not measure up to the 2009 NCL Western Mediterranean cruise we took on the Gem. NCL books three cruises in the space of two weeks now, with people embarking and debarking in both Rome and Barcelona. We embarked in Rome. There was no welcome drink because people coming from excursions were also re-boarding the ship. There was no one to tell us if our room was ready or where to have lunch. (We stayed the night before the cruise and the night after the cruise at the Rome Hilton Airport (booked the rooms and transfers through NCL) in order to have more time in Rome. The hotel was fine, and provided free transportation to and from the city center.) We finally found someone who told us we could go to our cabins, and we found the cabins to be fine. No one minded the split-up bathroom, in fact it seemed very reasonable to me.
The ship itself is so huge,crowded and loud, that I found myself preferring to remain in my room after dinner most nights. That's OK - I don't party much anymore but there seemed to be many people on the ship who did. The casino stretches through the entire sixth deck, and each night they served free champagne to people who would participate in an art auction. It was not possible to find a quiet place.
We ate at Le Bistro, which was very good and the Italian restaurant that was not very good. Other nights we ate at the regular dining rooms and found the food and service to be very good (none of us are picky eaters). My sense of direction is not great, but I never did learn my way around the huge ship - luckily, there were signs by each stairwell and elevator. Oh, forget about using the elevators unless you are very very patient.
The younger people in our group loved the Blue Men Group, which was a free show. We all really loved the La Cirque dinner show - the athletes were just incredible. It was well worth the admission price. The Ice Bar was smaller than I expected - kind of like a meat locker with a couple ice statues and bar. You get two free drinks for the admission price of $20, so it wasn't too bad. It looks like all the cruise lines are using their huge ships for the Western Mediterranean market. This must be why all of the ports are so crowded now. Next time in Europe, I'll stay out of the cruise ship ports.