The ship was full which is unusual for repositioning cruises.
Pre-Cruise. We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott Brickell the night before the cruise. It is about 10 minutes to the cruise port. It is near shops and restaurants in Brickell. They have a shuttle to the port for $5 per person. You need to sign up for the shuttle the night before. The shuttle ride went smoothly.
Epic Check In. We arrived about 11:30. You immediately hand over your checked luggage to the porter. We then proceeded to the check in area. There were no lines. We showed our passport and cruise documents and then proceeded inside the terminal where we went through security and received a health questionnaire. We filled out the questionnaire immediately and proceeded to the check in desks. They take a credit card to secure onboard purchases and take your picture. (I believe they immediately put a hold charge on your credit card for $300. If you want to use cash or a debit card you have to go to guest services to get that worked out.) You are given your access key card that is to be used for everything you do on board. We then proceeded to a terminal waiting area where you are put in groups to board the boat. By 12:30 we were sitting in a restaurant having lunch. At 1:00 you can put your carry on in your stateroom. If you need to do anything at guest services on Deck 5, they are open. We didn’t need anything, but it is the place to upgrade your cabin, handle your onboard credit, get posh passes, etc. We then walked around the ship to get oriented. Most of the common areas are on Decks 5, 6, 7.
Internet/Messaging Access. We were given flyers at guest services with instructions on how to get access to the internet and/or the onboard texting/messaging/information service. You can also get instructions on your room TV. You can download iConcierge app anytime before or after arrival. Once onboard you register on the app with your stateroom number. The app is $7.95 and has several features. One is the ability to text others onboard. It worked pretty good. It’s important to keep the app open in order to get messages. If you close it, you may not get them. Internet access is available in the internet café or by wireless in your cabin. It is about .70 per minute or you can buy packages. We bought the 250 minute package for $100. It came with 20 free minutes. It never worked. We believe they were having technical difficulties on board. We were charged 25 minutes and never got beyond a spinning wheel. We asked for and received a refund. I don’t know if this was an issue because this was a transatlantic trip or whether they were just having problems. As we got within a couple of days of Barcelona, it worked much better.
TV. TV channels are sketchy. They have MSNBC, FOX news, BBC, Nickelodeon in several languages, ESPN (rarely saw the actual ESPN. They lost the signal after a couple of days and they aired soccer from another channel.) There is also a TV and Movie Channel that show recent shows and movies. Unfortunately, we never found a TV/Movie schedule. They also have a pay-per-view Movie Channel. I believe the movies were about $10 each. We downloaded some movies onto our computer before we left. On bad weather days they came in handy.
Cabin. We were in 13289, an aft-balcony cabin. They are much smaller than they appear. We chose one with the bed near balcony. You can differentiate where the bed is by looking at the floor plan online and noting where the curve in the wavy wall is. The wall will be curving out from the room and the bed fits in that curve. We didn’t want the bed near the door, because the toilet is literally beside your head. The bathroom setup is as weird as reported. Both the shower and the toilet have semi-opaque doors and there is a curtain separating them from the rest of the cabin. The sink is small, but we didn’t have any problems with it. There is a lot of storage. A decent sized closet, drawers underneath the couch, several cabinets and shelves, storage above the bed and storage behind the upper couch cushions and suitcase storage underneath the bed. There is only one electrical outlet with 2 plugs. We brought a plug-in that expands one plug in to three. The balcony is spacious enough for a lounge chair, two regular chairs and a small table. The bed is a queen size, firm and pretty comfortable, although very short. The cons of this particular part of the ship is when people smoke on their own balconies, the smoke comes right back at all the balconies. Norwegian needs to look at putting all the smokers on one side of the ship. Also, we were 2 decks below the outdoor Spice Dance floor. A couple of nights they played music that vibrated the cabin until 2 am. Take some time to really look at all the deck plans and what might be over or under you in terms of noise.
Weather and movement. You can almost always feel the ship’s vibration in this cabin. We had some poor weather and rough seas for a few days. I believe that is typical for a transatlantic cruise. I understand this May 2013 cruise experienced 50ft waves. So it could have been worse. You can feel the rocking everywhere on the ship. It might have been slightly better in the middle of the ship a few decks down. The rough seas made it very difficult to sleep a few nights. Some motion sickness aids will be needed if you are prone to that. The weather gets cooler as you go east, so your Caribbean resort wear will not be worn a lot after the first couple of days. You do need a jacket and pants.
Food. The food is just okay. And I am by no means a foodie or picky. I was a little disappointed. One caveat though, we ate only in the free restaurants (Taste, Manhattan, O’Sheehan’s and Garden Café) so I can’t say whether the food in pay restaurants was any better. Taste and Manhattan are waiter service. The food was okay, the food-to-table service a little slow, but the waiters were helpful and professional. Taste and Manhattan fill up at 6:00, so if you have an early show, you need to get in to those restaurants early. If you wait until 6:00 to eat, you won’t make it to your show. The Garden Café is a buffet and probably had the best, most consistent food and the greatest variety. O’Sheehans is a waiter and bar service. The food here was better than Taste and Manhattan. Try the Chicken Pot Pie. The 24/7 $5.00 pizza was barely okay. We did room service a few times and it was pretty fast and decent. The room service menu has 4 or 5 breakfast, lunch and dinner items. By all means, bring water and soda with you. We brought a 12-pack of water and a 6-pack of soda. (They only serve Pepsi products). Buying a 6-pack of water onboard will cost you a whopping $22! We wrapped our water and soda together with clear shipping tape and then printed out an extra luggage tag and securely taped that on to the water/soda package. Hand that over with your checked baggage and it will make it to your room.
Entertainment. We made reservations before we left for all the shows we wanted to see. All except the comedy show had empty seats. We saw Legends in Concert featuring Elvis, Katy Perry and Steven Tyler. Elvis was very good, Katy Perry was awful and didn’t fit in and Steven Tyler was very good. Next, we saw Blue Man Group. We’ve seen them before and loved them. They did not disappoint and their show transfers to this small stage very nicely. We also saw the Second City Comedy show. It was probably the best show of them all and they do different shows every few nights. We dropped by Fat Cats a few times and the music was good. There was always something going on onboard, music, trivia, bingo, game shows, lectures, art auctions, a bowling alley, etc. It got too cold too quickly to try any of the outdoor activities. The gym is spacious and has every type of equipment and class imaginable. We did not use the spa. The library was not good as it had hardly any books.
Time change. They turned the clocks forward 1 hour everyday for the middle 6 days.
Port Call. Our one port call was Funchal, Madeira. We signed up for the shuttle ride into town for $8 each. After seeing where we ended up, we could’ve walked from the ship. It’s probably a 20-30 minute walk. There were a lot of wifi spots in town, but they seemed to be bogged down by all the visitors. We had a problem getting cash with our debit card. Everyone had problems at first, but the further they went down the street, some people were successful. We never did and haven’t figured out why yet. It seemed to have an issue with the fact that it was a Mastercard debit card. Also, our bank had us list the countries we would be in, and I’m not certain we listed Portugal. We ended up getting cash with a credit card and will figure out the why later. (Once we got to Barcelona, we did not have any debit card issues.)
Disembarkation. We arrived in Barcelona around 4 am. You must get off the ship by 9 am. Breakfast is available. There are specific times to disembark for those who are flying out, depending on when your flight leaves. There is also a specific time for those who have made arrangements through Norwegian to stay in Barcelona. Independent travelers (those with no arrangements through Norwegian) can get off at any time between 5:30 and 9 am. You can have your bags tagged and taken from your room by the steward the night before or you can take them with you when you leave in the morning. Unless you are physically unable or have a lot of luggage, it’s easier to just take them with you. Going through customs was very quick. Once outside, there were numerous options for transportation.