Where to start? We boarded in Barcelona.
Arrived at 11.30 and was onboard by 12.15. Super quick check-in just a little bump in the process as we wanted to pay cash and chose to sort it out before getting onboard. The queue had 4 people and us when we joined it. Then a large tour group kept jumping from check-in queues to our cash only queue so there a little bit of chaos until an NCL staff member informed them to make up their minds and get to the end of the queue!. Minimum cash deposit is $300.
I was surprised to see no staff selling their services in the terminal. Very strange. There was a stand with all the menus on it, no staff. The spa had leaflets of offers. No beverage packs anywhere. So off we went t get onboard. They took the usual photo. Then we were directed down deck 7 I think it was, along the shuffleboard deck and in through a fire exit door. They spared no expense on the welcome wagon that's for sure!! No greeters, no free cocktail type drink, nothing...nada...zip. So we wandered around for a bit ourselves. Ended up in O Sheehans and was disappointed in the tiny menu (more about this later) so ordered a drink and then headed to the cabin.
We had a balcony on deck 9. Nice size and functional. Don't know why there is a fuss about the bathroom layout. Its fine. If you are so embarrassed of doing what you do in a bathroom with somebody you are going to share a room with for a week then go Solo!! Jeez! The glass is frosted. Sure you can hear noises so turn on the tv or sit outside. The shower is big and offers shower gel and shampoo. I was afraid a big girl like me wouldn't squeeze in going by some reviews, I could have hosted a foam party in there!! Granted the drain did give me a few panic attacks when it was a bit slow draining but it never overflowed or drenched the floor at anytime. The handbasin is small, so keep the tap on low and it doesn't splash about. The lights are far too dim. The lights over the mirror near the tv were better so I had to move all my makeup there instead and it was fine. I had no hairdryer for the entire trip. I did let housekeeping know and left a post-it for our 'Ghost' of a cabin Steward (random creepy towel animals on the bed signaled he/she? was around) but it was never sorted. We did get a lounger for the balcony which was great, had a few post lunch snoozes out there! The bed was ok, not the most comfortable and the pillows left me with a neck ache but you can't please everybody!
Casino: pre-ordered the $10 slot play offer so we had $20 each to go mad with :) Spent an hour each evening on our lucky machines. We came away with $30 more overall. Not bad for us really as we do it for the fun more than anything. It does get smokey late at night but the walkways are reasonable with the air purifiers going so it wasn't really an issue.
Food: We mostly ate breakfast in the buffet, eggs whatever way you wanted, cereal, hot food, fruit, juices, breads (toasters are slow) if you say you can't eat there, then you are just weird!
We had maybe the odd snack in the Garden Cafe for lunch. (burgers, chicken, curries, paninis, muffins, cakes, breads, fruits, yoghurts and of course, ice cream cones :) ) We did try Taste twice. Food was great. I had the special of the sun-dried tomato and onion quiche OMG!! nothing was as tasty as this and as it was a special, it wasn't there for long :( Mahanttan was too strict on dress code to try the same menu in a different place so we skipped.
Teppanyaki was excellent. Ronaldo, our chef, was fun even if a bit scripted. Portions were huge on the mains. We had the shogun combo and I couldn't finish it. The rice was to die for but the starters I didn't care for and I was too full to appreciate the dessert. Thumbs up.
Moderno disappointing. Having read reviews I was looking forward to this and had starved all day to be hungry but it was just a constant flow of sausages and bits of steak or a lamb chop. At one stage I had 6 different meats on the plate and turned my card to red to eat and they skipped my husband (his was clearly green) so I had to keep mine green so they'd approach the table and serve him. The waitress got rude to the table next to us when they forgot to turn their card so she could serve them dessert. That's why I was flipping cards like I was a casino host all night!! Their cheese bread is spectacular! Salad bar ok but leave room! Overall not as great as it could've been. Feeling worn out from eating fast is not my idea of a great night out!!
Shanghai's was a pleasant surprise on one occasion only. We hadn't intended on going here but we fancied Asian food and as we were walking past said what the heck! We were seated by the window and had Josephine serve us. She was very helpful and the best server on the cruise. I ordered the calamari for starter and scallops for mains. Both beautifully cooked. We were informed that we also needed to order a rice/noodle dish as a side so I chose the chicken and the husband the beef. No plain rice/noodles but maybe you could ask for it. Our entire table was full of food. The portions are immense. We could've fed a family of 6. Apparently they don't mind how many dishes you order either. So for the $15 charge you sure get what you pay for. I managed to squeeze in the triple creme brulee dessert too. The second time we went it wasn't as good. We had some tall girl as a server who was a bit of a smart ass and not very good at her job. First I said to make sure there were no mushrooms for me as I'm not keen on them, oh is it an allergy she asks, no they just don't agree with me (major stomach cramps but I'm not going to die if I eat them) the husband wanted the combo without shrimp as he doesn't like their texture, again she asks is it an allergy, no he doesn't like them. Then as she puts the prawn crisps on the table made a smart comment and a grin, they are made from shrimp you know, eh, yes, we do know but they don't have the texture of the bloody thing do they?? Uncalled for comments. Then we felt rushed as it was 9.30pm and they were clearing the tables and the manager was barking out rotas to them. Not conducive to customer satisfaction. If this happened the first night I wouldn't recommend but we know there is a high standard to be had, just go early enough in the evening.
O'Sheehans: Ok. They have 2 menus. If you sit in the bar area near the pool tables ($1.50 per game) you get a very small menu to choose from, If you sit in the dining area near the bowling lane the menu is bigger. I wanted chicken tenders and a vodka mudslide one night and was refused as these were only available in the seated area. A bit mad as its the same bar!! We tried the tenders, shepherds pie special, soup, corned beef sandwich and wings over the week, all very good. Just a bit depressing you can't get it everywhere in O'Sheehans. No milkshakes:( Staff hit and miss for service. One night we sat on the bar stools for 30mins and then left. 2 bar staff and manager were talking away as we walked off and they realised they'd forgotten we were there waiting...very poor.
Pizza: had pizza delivered to the room one night. Not bad at all, a bit heavy on the cheese but the pepperoni was what I call proper pepperoni and not the little pepperami type stuff that just is wrong on a pizza! great for a late night snack to ward off a hangover:)
Entertainment: so/so. Blue Man Group was waaaayyyy too long. I got bored after 30mins. My Blue Man Experience cocktail was blue ice cream, yaaayyy!!(can you tell I'm being sarcastic) Never again. Legend were ok. The only one I liked was Tina Turner. Tom Jones tried too much and failed miserably and Adele couldn't hold her notes so it wasn't pleasant some lower slow songs she was ok with. The Manzara? Ballet wasn't a ballet it was flameco dancing in headliners, entertaining but not a must do. (had to pre-book seats for this) Headliners and Fat Cats are just too small and having bar stools to sit on for 30mins is not great for watching shows. Howl at the Moon was ok, a bit too American in that they played dueling University tunes until somebody paid them to stop and they only seemed to play if you paid them. Not a great night out that one. We kept missing the Beatles tribute Act who sounded brilliant and they should be made a permanent act so cut out a day of Blue Man and have them in the theatre, NCL!! No Jazz that we could hear. We went up every nigh to see what was on and it was either the Manhattan Band or private party. I was looking forward to Slam Allen or some Jazz. Manhattan band was not impressive. They played like they were being forced at gunpoint to perform. The keyboard player looked bored, and the main singer couldn't sing he whispered.....what's up with that?
We missed the cosy bars of MSC and the ballroom of Costa where you could sit in large comfy chairs and people watch over a drink. The bars all had those uncomfortable wooden seats so you never felt you could stay too long in one spot or suffer lack of circulation. Bliss only seemed to have karaoke. Any time we went up there it was nearly empty and people looked fed up. I think the nightclub started after 11.30 but we never hung around that long. I think they could put a warm up act in there and get the party going long before the nightclub got going so for us early birds we could get to party too.
Spa: didn't go. too expensive and specials not very special.
Gym: about 6 people in there anytime I went up
Activities: didn't use the slides but the few kids seemed to enjoy them. Pools are very small more water fountains and walkways than actual pool. The kids area is a joke, far too small and shoved in as an after thought. Aerobics or napkin folding were some of the delights on offer. The rapelling wall closes in port as does everything except the slides, not good for people staying onboard. The chess game was always closed off as they stored the equipment there too. Arcade small but we spent a few hours during the week in there like big kids!! more adults used it than kids.
Shops are ok, they are laid out well but prices are mad even for a cruise ship. Duty free was sparse. Pringles were 5.99 and a bag of Maltesers was 6.99...sweets were not priced but we said we try once. once was enough!
Overall, NCL is not for us. The ship was too small in layout and so we had seen everything on the first day. The rest of the week felt like walking around a hotel lobby. There are places to view the sea from: O Sheehans, Taste, Shanghais to name a few so for people feeling closed in, try there. I think the ship was half full because lines were ok and sun loungers plentiful. We never waited more than 5mins for an elevator and even walking from front to back only took about 15mins anyway. All I can say I would hate to see it as a full ship as there are very few quiet spaces.
Our holiday ended with a bang, I fell down the stairs in Spice H20 nobody helped me, ( a kind waiter in Shanghais offered to get me ice but he never returned after we saw a manager speak with him,) and then I left my jewellery in the cabin and NCL haven't responded to my calls or emails yet a week later.
This is a holiday I'd rather forget. Maybe yours will turn out better. Give a try.