This was my first cruise and I had read mixed reviews so I didn't know what to expect. Because I've never sailed on another line, this review is best taken by others looking for a reaction to a first time cruise.
Embarkation: We took a water taxi in Venice from our hotel to the port. Picked up at 10:30, we were taken straight to the ships dock and our luggage was handled and checked by NCL porters immediately. Contrary to other reviews, I was not able to check a bag of sodas and water we purchased at a local market. We were told that liquids and/or the open bag couldn't be checked.
It was a long walk from the pier to the building for check in. Maybe it felt longer than it was because we'd been walking around Venice for 4 days. Once in the building I finally found where to check in and we had our Sign & Sail card in a matter of minutes. After whisking through security we were on board and headed straight to the Garden Buffet. It was busy as usual, but we did immediately find a table. At 12:30 it was announced our rooms were ready.
The Stateroom: I had originally booked a balcony room but by continually watch for price drops I was able to upgrade to a mini-suite. We ended up in room 11636. This is the very last room on port side. I was thrilled to find that because it was the room at the end of the hall, we had a much larger balcony. It did make getting to anything at the front of the ship a trek, but it was worth it.
The storage in the room was plenty for 3 people. 4 large drawers and two smaller ones plus a large closet. Only 3 small shelves in the bathroom did not provide enough space for 3 women's beauty products, but I had taken the advice of other cc.com members and brought an over-the-door shoe storage that held everything we needed. It hung on the shower door nicely.
The beds were amazingly comfortable, pillows very fluffy. I am 5'10" and my feet did hang over the edge, but I felt it was a small price to pay. My 16 year old daughter slept on the convertible couch, which pulled out to a full-sized bed. I tried it once and it was very hard and uncomfortable.
The safe in the room was plenty large enough to hold all three travel wallets, two phones and my ipad. With lots of room to spare. It did quit locking at one point but was immediately repaired by maintenance.
We emptied the minfridge and it held 24 cans of soda and 3 bottled water (1ltr. Sized). It kept the drinks relatively cold, though we did ice our drinks so it didn't matter much.
The bathroom was separated into three sections. There are glass sliding doors that part the tub and toilet from the sink area. The shower head was not tall enough for me but I made due. The sink was ample size for face and teeth washing. There was a nice lip all the way around the tub for bottles and such. The water temp and pressure was great.
The toilet is very loud and vacuums like an airplane toilet.
The balcony was the most amazing part of this room. It was extra large due to the placement on the ship, and our room steward was more than happy to snag us a lounge chair from the pool deck. It fit perfectly with plenty of room for the small table and other chair. We even put the coffee table from the sitting area out there and could still move around with no space issues.
I specifically chose NCL and a balcony room so I could smoke on my balcony. There were no other rooms behind us, so no one was bothered by smoke wafting back as the ship cruised. NCL provided me with a very nicely designed ashtray that prevented ashes from blowing around or spilling out.
While we could keep our curtains open and enjoy the beautiful Medeterrainian sun, it was also very easy to make the room nearly pitch black for sleeping.
We never once heard any noise from any other rooms or the hallway. Only on the balcony were we able to hear or feel anything from the restaurants one floor above.
THE FOOD: we frequented the Garden Cafe buffet as it was most convenient to our room and we preferred the more casual atmosphere. The buffet easily accommodated a variety of cultures while giving ample choices to all. I had an omelet every morning and with 3-4 omelette stations there was never a long wait. Fresh fruit was readily available.
We also often had the buffet for lunch/dinner as I love a good salad bar. Amazing choices. I never had to wait or go hungry. Only on disembarkation day did we have trouble finding a table.
The MDR was a bit too formal for my taste, though it was fun too feel like I was on The Love Boat for a meal. Plenty of variety on the menu. We preferred the smaller Alizar room atmosphere.
We only attended one pay restaurant, Moderno. It was amazing, from the service to the desserts.
I hit the Blue Lagoon often, as it offered the best French Fries on the ship.
THE CASINO: this is where I spent the majority of my time. It was small with about 20 table games and 200 machines, but it was not a busy place so I always had a seat where I wanted to play. The dealers were wonderful. Very friendly and called me by name. When a table was having a good time, the casino host bought drinks. There was always someone offering to refresh your drink and they would change your ashtray after every cigarette. The whole casino was kept amazingly clean and orderly
There were 3 poker tourneys on this cruise, I only played the first one. They are structured as a rebuy tourney and add-ons, so it was really only about who wanted to spend the most money.
I also played the slots tournament, won the second round and won the finals. There were only 4 of us in the finals, but I still won $125, a t-shirt and a bottle of wine.
I attempted the blackjack tournament, but after 6 tries I gave up. For $15 a pop, it's worth taking a shot.
This was the area I was most impress with. They would also allow me to come in and smoke even if they were closed.
THE REST OF THE SHIP: honestly i didn't spend much time anywhere else. I did a self guided tour with my mother one evening and it was pleasant to see all the ship had to offer.
My daughter (16) loved the teen club and I didn't see her much unless we were in port. She made many friends that she is still in contact with. I had no concerns with her running around the ship til 1am. Never once was there any safety or security concerns.
CORFU: my favorite of all, I had pre-booked a speedboat rental with Nissaki Boat Rentals. A taxi took us to the rental shop for 45 euro. The boat itself was 65 euro and 10 for fuel. We putted around the island enjoying the peace and quite of secluded beaches and hardly any other boat traffic.
SANTORINI: the island I had booked the entire cruise for. We took the donkeys up the cliff, which really only takes you about 1/2 way up and you are forced to walk the rest of the way, which in the 85 degree weather was exhausting. My 60 year old mother swims a mile a day and she was close to a heart attack after that walk. We then met a privately booked tour guide at the top who walked us another mile to where he was able to park. This tour cost 375 euros for 7 people. And excellent price we felt. We got him for 5 hours to show us the island. He took us to the most picturesque places, and the black sand beach on the other side of the island. It was an exhausting day but a beautiful island. We returned to the ship in time to see the most famous sunset in the world from our balcony.
MYKONOS: this was the most relaxing island for us. We choose just to browse the town and shop. Spent a few hours walking around, enjoyed a Greek appetizer sampler, and returned to the ship. We were still recovering from the rough day on Santorini the day before.
KATAKOLON: We had a surprisingly hot day for mid June at almost 100 degrees, so we barely made it into town before we grabbed a table for a lemonade and free wifi before returning to the ship. Thank goodness we didn't attempt a tour to Olympia.
DISEMBARKATION: On the last sea day we went down early in the morning to find that the luggage tags for disembarkation times was almost empty. We still got close to the time we needed. On the day of, we disembarked with ease after only a short wait. About 10-15 minutes later than scheduled. We easily found a cab to the airport.
All in all I would recommend this cruise, this ship, and NCL to anyone I know. I already have 3 more cruises in the works within the next year, all with NCL.