We arrived in Barcelona the day prior to embarking. Spending the day walking the streets staying at Hotel Do were the highlights of the entire trip!
Similar to security at an airport. Once you pass through there is a representative to direct you into line. Having upgraded to a Penthouse we were sent to a VIP line and from that point escorted to a waiting area. We then met our concierge and told we would be taken to the ship shortly. The first of many picture ops is taken at this point...very annoying. It should be an option if you want your picture taken, instead they harass you until you allow it to be done. I learned my lesson and from then on absolutely refused any further pictures. I know a lot of people enjoy this but for us it's just another way for the cruise line to make money and is irritating.
The first thing noticed when boarding was the smell of cigarette smoke. It smells of an old Vegas casino. The decor is dated but not gaudy as on other ships.
The cabin itself was in need of simple updates, paint etcetera. Overall it was such a relief that we upgraded given the amount of time we spent in the cabin. The extra living and bath area was wonderful. Our butler and steward were always smiling and helpful and met every need asked of them.
The ship hit 70 plus gale force winds making it impossible to wear heels and dress nicely for dinner so the relaxed dining options were much needed. We dined in Windows the first night - mediocre. We dined at the Sushi bar and it was good. Cagney's very good, dined there twice. La Bistro the best, also dined there twice and the steak was better than Cagneys. Raffles was a horrific show of people acting like they'd never seen food in their lifetime, pushing shoving absolutely disgusting. Manners simply did not exist. I would think NCL could resolve some of this by simple placing cue lines for the buffet.
Another great thing about booking a Penthouse is you get dining privileges at Cagney's for breakfast and lunch at no additional fee. This was such a relief, the food was so much better than the other options and the atmosphere a thousand times better!
Well considering most people on this cruise were Senior Citizens the pool area was comedic and somewhat disturbing. As cold as it was people were out in droves and I honestly have never seen so many seniors in speedos and bikinis in one place. Definitely tried to avoid the area. Kudos to them for not being body conscious...I think.
The evening entertainment we only went to twice. The Motown show was very good and we had a great time. The other show was supposed to be a comedic musical show. It was terrible. The lead an Irishman with old vulgar jokes who spent quite a bit of time hawking their CD to the crowd. After that show we decided we'd rather sit on our balcony checking out the waves and the stars with a glass of wine...much more fun!
Fuchal was absolutely beautiful and for us the highlight of all the excursions. Arrecife was amazing as well and we did the camel rides which were fun. We visited the caves of Nerja which was incredible. Malaga was too large of a city for me. We spent our afternoon on the pier drinking Sangria, shopping and people watching. The final excursion to Monserrat was a must do. Be aware however that the bus ride up the mountain is very curvy and very high! Would have loved to stay there overnight and gone hiking.
Fairly simple just know that if you have an excursion you have to lug your bags with you to the bus...the porters are non-existent as well as no baggage racks to help.
We stayed one additional night in Barcelona at the NCL suggested hotel Mont Blanc. I would never stay there again. The lobby looks nice however the rooms are worse than a shabby Best Western I would rate it a one and a half star. There was no air unless you wanted heat and was very stuffy. We had to keep the window open so basically did not sleep as the street in this part of Barcelona always have people out and about. I laid there wishing we had just left for the airport directly after our tour in Monserrat.
Overall I have to say without booking the Penthouse this would have turned into a horrible cruise for us. We relished the time in our cabin and personal balcony. Any time spent outside the cabin is going to cost you. They nickel and dime you for absolutely everything and the drinks are outrageously expensive. If you enjoy the "standard" cheap shows and silly games....that still cost money to participate in then this may be the ship for you.
On a brighter note I can say that the staff was very good. Always pleasant smiling, knew our names and greeted us cheerfully. They seem to take pride in trying to keep this old ship from going downhill too fast. There is always cleaning being done and I appreciated the hand sanitizers wherever we went.