Me and my husband chose to sail NCL to celebrate our Honeymoon. We were both first-time cruisers and had never been to Europe before.
We booked through NCL and stayed in Montblanc the day before embarkation and Hesperia Towers the day after disembarkation.
We loved Montblanc for the fact that it's close to a lot of things...restaurants, Las Ramblas, Gothic Quarter, shopping, etc. The room itself appeared outdated and the bed was 2 twin beds pushed together (how romantic for our honeymoon! lol) but it was clean and comfortable. Beware of the shower/tub...very slippery! DH had a nasty spill and was left with a huge bruise.
Hesperia Towers was OK. The room itself was very nice and updated. Not close by to anything! Which was a total let down for us.
Keep in mind, we're first time cruisers so we have nothing to compare it to, but we loved the ship. New, clean, easy to find your way around. A lot to do (if you want). Plenty of food options. The only downside is the wait for elevators. But in all reality, taking the stairs wasn't a bad thing (somehow need to work off all those extra calories!!)
Everyone staff member we came in contact with was super friendly. Our steward Guillermo (sp?) was great. He even introduced himself in the hallway and already knew our names and which room we were in!
Ports and Shore Excursions:
We chose to book all of our excursions through NCL. We know you can do it cheaper elsewhere, but we liked the comfort of knowing the ship can't leave without us if we're not back in time. And being in a foreign country is already overwhelming enough, we prefer all of the extra details to be handled by NCL.
That being said, our favorite port was Pisa/Florence (it was clean and for being touristy, it wasn't too overcrowded) and we chose the Pisa & a Taste of Tuscany; we give it two big thumbs up! Rome was great just because it has all the must-see landmarks you always hear about. Very very crowded though and traffic is crazy! Naples to me seemed very dirty and unkempt, but Pompeii was awesome to see. Marseille and Palma de Majorca were just OK for me. I wasn't really looking forward to these ports just because I don't know too much about them (I had actually never heard of them before the trip). If I ever took this trip again, I'd probably just spend these days on the ship.
We opted to upgrade to a balcony and we are SO glad we did! If you're even slightly thinking about it, I highly recommend it. It was awesome to watch the city come into view as we cruised into the port. We loved sleeping with the door open as well.
In regards to the "bathroom controversy": it didn't bother us one bit. Yes the doors are see-through, but its not crystal clear and you basically see just a blob. As a married couple, not a big deal. I could see if you were traveling with a friend or with kids, but there is a curtain that you can close across the bathroom area. We never had an issue with the sink being in the room. Water pressure wasn't even enough to splash onto things like others have mentioned.
Plenty of storage room. We had 4 suitcases between the both of us and we had plenty of room to put clothes away and store extra baggage under the bed.
Tons of dining options, we of course didn't have time to try them all out. We did however try the following:
- Garden Cafe (buffet) - we ate here for breakfast every morning (the waffles with banana compote were my favorite!!), and a few lunches if we were on the ship. Definitely crowded, but if you dine here for breakfast or lunch, grab your food and head down to La Cucina to eat. So much quieter and calmer and pretty easy to find a window seat.
- Taste & Manhattan (free) - Both were good. Taste was more modern, and Manhattan was more classy. Be forewarned if they have a wait, you may be sharing your table with another couple.
- O'Sheehans - We at here for late night snacks. I ordered the wings, which were pretty good. The last night we ate here we had horrible service. They sat us in front of the bowling alley at the eating bar and it took nearly 15-20 minutes for a server to even greet us. A manager finally found us a server and we had food within 5 minutes of ordering, but we never did see our waiter again before we left.
- Speciality Restaurants (aka, cover charge): Cagney's Steakhouse (my favorite of the 3), La Cucina (great!), and Le Bistro (good)
- The Cirque Show - Great show (be prepared that you MAY be asked to participate in the show like I did! lol). The food was decent. Dinner was a Surf n' Turf (steak with "coconut" shrimp...which really just tasted breaded).
- Noodle Bar (ala Carte) - I ordered the dumplings and Shanghai noodles which were good. Service was a little lacking...I went when the restaurant was pretty empty and food took a little longer than I expected. The noodles were spicy and my water glass sat empty for way too long. It only got refilled once which was right before I paid and left.
We went to the following -
Blue Man Group - I had never seen a performance so I was prepared for just a bunch of banging on unconventional instruments. It far exceeded my expectations! It was energetic, funny, involved the audience and left me wanting more! Its weird and quirky though, so if that's not your thing be forewarned.
Cirque du Soleil - We are huge Cirque fans so we were really looking forward to this. It wasn't the best show we've seen, but still fun and entertaining (hard to do some things with such space restraint). Be prepared to possibly be IN the show...I was asked to stand up and shake a cowbell. I think there were 2 or 3 other times when people were called on stage.
Legends in Concert - It was just so-so. I'm glad it was free because I wouldn't pay money to see it again. The performers were Tom Jones, Adele and Tina Turner. They were all good, it was just a little too cheesy for me. Worth seeing if you're just looking to kill some time or get out of your room.
We had an amazing time and we would definitely do this trip all over again. We give NCL Epic two thumbs up!!