We were a group of 7 friends and family. My recommendation is to spend time in Spain 1 week before cruise. Drop off luggage at cruise terminal around 12pm. Have to check-in on ship by 4pm. If arriving early morning same day as cruise departure do the hop on hop off city tour (4 hours for 2 routes if you don't get off to walk around). Take cab to Columbus Monument at foot of Las Ramblas to catch the tour bus. Pay for tour bus on the bus 21â‚¬ for 1 day, 2 routes or book online before trip. There are 2 hop on hop off bus companies, Bus touristica (blue bus) and Bacelona City Tour (red bus). We did bus Touristica in Barcelona and Madrid City tour (red bus) in Madrid. Both were good. If you have time have lunch on Las Ramblas. Buy souvenirs and art work on Las Ramblas. Or stay an extra day after the cruise and do the above tour.
Ok back to the cruise: I was worried about free style cruising but prices were the same for services and eateries my husband and I frequent at home.
Spa-Sign up for the spa raffle on the first day. Everyone in our group got a spa coupon. Get the spa packages- it's worth it at the end of the day, especially excursion days. Go to free seminars but don't buy the products. I had hair, cut, and style with a coupon-- had a little makeover done. Stylist are hesitant to do anything dramatic to your hair. Facial was so relaxing I fell asleep.
Discos- The best music for dancing-popular dance music. Great djs no need to make requests, they play everything. Bring a white outfit for white party-- it was a blast. Enjoyed that the clubs were non-smoking. Even the senior citizens were dancing. I saw one elderly lady on the dance floor with her cane having a grand time line dancing.
Food- Mediocre but still good. We cook a lot of gourmet meals at home so it's hard for us to like other people's cooking. If you don't typically eat out or cook at home, you'll enjoy the food. If you don't want to pay extra for food the buffet line is satisfying and the pub food at O'Shehans is good. Buy the coffee at the coffee shop, the brewed coffee served elsewhere on the ship is vey weak and horrible- prices comparative to Starbucks. We did specialty dining at the steak place. I don't know of a fine dining place you can get a 3 course steak dinner meal for $20.00. It was a deal. One person in our group had a mild food allergy to dairy and the restaurant staff were accommodating. I wouldn't recommend cruise dining if you have a serious food allergies, like gluten allergy. I just can't see how they can keep gluten products/cooking utensils separate from gluten free areas.
Excursions- Pre-purchase on your own if want more personalized service. The excursion prices from ship were reasonable if you don't want to purchase on your own. Recommend excursions for Italy, especially a shopping excursion in Florence. For Italy tours we used yourtourinitaly Company owned by Aldo-excellent service. No need for excursions in France. Access to Cannes port is by tender boat and will need to make reservation for early tender boat departure a couple days before Cannes/Nice stop or the day before on TV menu in state room. If leaving on late tender boat (after 10-11am) then no need for reservation. For Cannes, relax laying out on small sandy beach at port entrance and walk around or take the Little Train Tours of Cannes. Or start out early and walk 15 minutes to train station to take train to Nice Ville (10 euros) and tram rail (2-3 Euros, 5 minute walk from train station) to city center to get to market areas. Don't eat in plaza at Nice across from beach; eat on side streets. Wear bathing suit to layout on rocky beach (no sand). Waves crashing against rocks is very soothing in Nice. Need 2 hours to return to ship from Nice on train. Beaches in France are topless (yay). In Marseille take ship shuttle ($12 USD round trip) to Veux Port town early (8am). Then take the Little Train Tours to Notre Dame (7 Euros) then have lunch around plaza with carousel or go shopping at designer stores. In Marseille port you only have until 3pm to see the attractions. Souvenir shop at end of strip to get back to port shuttle or around plaza with carousel.
Take non-drowsy motion sickness medicine if prone to car sickness because there's lots of winey roads and sudden stops. People in Italy are crazy drivers.
Staff: is very busy and efficient; smiles are only given to pleasant, non-needy, and non conplaining customers. Our room steward was excellent. He was very personable and easy to find when we needed assistance or had questions. I never tip room stewards and I did this time.
Entertainment: Las Vegas style shows Cirque and Blue Man group were of good quality. Legends show was mediocre. Flamenco Show was entertaining but not like what you would see in a traditional Flamenco Show on land.
I would cruise Norwegian again. It was a younger, less trashy crowd than other major lines I've cruised on (Carnival and Princess). They didn't follow us with cameras or push us to play silly games to have fun. It was just fun and relaxing. Would have liked more days at sea to enjoy the ship activities.