This was my second cruise experience and I have to say that overall, I was very disappointed. A few years ago I cruised through the Panama Canal with Celebrity, and I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed it. This cruise, by comparison was a real let down.
The Baltic ports were wonderful, but the atmosphere and service aboard the ship was poor. Most of the staff seemed fairly jaded, tired and impatient, as though they had seen one cruise to many. On several occasions, I was addressed incredibly rudely by customer-facing staff. In the duty free, I waited for over 15 minutes while the shop assistant chatted to the only person before me in the queue. She made no recognition that I was waiting, no eye-contact and no acknowledgement (which is all it takes). Eventually, I left without buying my perfume. Smiles were very sparse indeed and every request seemed like too much trouble. This was the polar opposite of my Celebrity experience.
The shore excursions were very pricey indeed and there were no practical lectures aboard the ship to inform you about the forthcoming destinations. Nobody wished to help you work out how to explore the ports independently. If there wasn't a big handful of bucks in it, nobody was interested in helping. Even a galley tour to the kitchens and the laundry cost $79 per person, which is pretty inexcusable I feel. Everything combined to make me feel as though I was part of a battery tourist operation that was interested solely in the size of my wallet.
The food aboard the ship was also very inconsistent and, on occasion, completely uncooked. I ordered the cod on the final night, but it arrived so raw that it was almost jelly-like. I can understand that the 'free-style' cruising approach can mean very hectic times in the kitchen, but uncooked fish is a serious illness waiting to happen. The specialty restaurants had cover chargers reaching up to $25 per person, which seemed further evidence of the emphasis on money-spinning aboard the ship.
The strangest thing about it is the feedback system. Rather than inviting every client to complete a survey about their experiences on board, only a handful that have provided their email addresses on embarkation are sent a link to comment on their holiday. Leaving an email address at the time of embarkation isn't obligatory and nobody explains why it would be handy to provide those details in case you wish to comment later. This, again, serves to make me believe that NCL doesn't care about its customers - only their credit cards.
I really don't wish to dramatise by leaving an unreasonable or lopsided review, because I used to run a travel company myself and I know a theatrical review when I see one. Overall, I had a good holiday, but this was despite the cruise ship rather than because of it. Most of all, I was glad to leave an attitude nearing disdain for the guests, where I dreaded making a request in case I was made to feel both stupid and small. This is an awful way to feel while you're on holiday. If I had ever caught a member of my own staff treating a customer the way that I was consistently treated aboard the ship, they would have faced an immediate disciplinary.