This was our first cruising experience with NCL, formerly we sailed mainly with Royal Caribbean. Although we were a bit afraid that the Freestyle concept would be not our thing, we did like it. Surprisingly there was another unexpected problem: it turned out taht our cabin was extremely noisy. It was situated above the Champagne Charlie Piano bar, but as tat has its loudspeakers fixed to the ceiling we could understand everyword that was either sang or spoken in the bar. From 4 in the afternoon until midnight. When we complained about this and asked to be relocated, the customer service representative turned down our request as they said "we knew the location of the room when we booked it and it is well advertised as such". When we explained that we read nowhere that the room was noisy, and that the NCL-sales representative that we booked with also did not warn us, customer service said that it is a problem with the sales representative and that we should complain to her. As if they are not colleagues and as if it is not one big company....
Also she said that the Norwegian Spirit is an older ship and that it is much more noisy that other NCL ships. We asked to speak to the customer service responsible but she also would not give in. After another difficult night we went again to customer service and insisted that someone would go with us that afternoon (when there was a quiz in the bar) to hear and understand what we were complaining about. It seems that then our luck changed. An officer responsible for embarkation overheard our request, came with us himself, and got us another cabin. After that, we had a great cruise. Remarkably we learned a few days after the incident form a nice waiter that the ship was only 70% booked and that there were dozens of empty rooms. So everybody be warned: pick your cabin very well with NCL because some ships are noisy by nature, and once on board you can expect little cooperation.
For the rest the cruise was OK, ncie ports, ncie staff. We do notice that in everything NCL is just one tad less than in Royal Caribbean (our obvious reference). Not that it is bad, they just cut some more corners, staff is just a bit more occupied, entertainment just a bit more worn/boring. Vaue for money was OK though. Interesting detail: one of the shop sales ladies did not speak English, seems she was there just for the Russian customers. I've met staff of lots of different nationalities on cruises, but this was the first one that did not speak any English. I hope that this does not become a new standard in the cruising industry.
Not our first time on Madeira but what a pleasant surprise again. Beautiful weather in January, lively atmosphere in town, people eating and drinking outside on terraces, streets green and lush with flowers. We took a hop-on-hop-off bus that shows in 2 hours quite something of Funchal and surroundings and is in fact a bargain for the 12 euros they charge. As are drinks and food on the island. If in any way possible, we'll come back here (again) !