I'll cover some of the basic review items plus some tips I had questions about before we left. 10 of us in total (5 kids) all inside cabins. 10th cruise for me - 4th on NCL.
June 8 Gem cruise from BCN. Cab from airport to port was about $35 Euros for four of us with luggage (there are extra surcharges for luggage and people). You can exchange money right by luggage pick-up. An ATM is supposedly outside airport but didn't look for it. Have address of port ready as first cab driver didn't know - good thing we showed him before getting in cab. Had no problem getting cab back to airport at end. Plan 30 minutes.
Easy embarkation and luggage arrived by 3pm. Room was nice as was the refer. Overall, I thought the food was good and variety was fine, but the opinion varied among our group. Service overall was good-excellent for food and beverage. Cagney's and Mexican restaurant were both very good.
Main dining room food is still just o.k. - not too impressive. Why can't they give you a good steak? Did room service for kids once. Quick delivery but only some of the items ordered were actually delivered. One note about trays - I did have a waitress help take our breakfast when I was with my kids. She took us to the Italian restaurant which is used for overflow and was very nice.
As compared to other NCL cruises, the overall service was excellent. I seemed to notice the presence of officers in key areas which I didn't remember too much of on the other NCL ships. I believe this is part of the difference. The pick-up of dirty plates was also excellent as compared to other NCL.
The area where I never saw an officer and where we had issues was in the room. Yes, the staff worked hard, but they miss some very obvious issues that I then had to call and get resolved.
Obvious #1 - toilet seat not tight and wiggles - this was like this as soon as we got in room. Had to call to get fixed which it was quickly. Obvious #2 - soap in shower dispenser runs out. Go 1.5 days (3 clean-ups) and never filled. Have to call to get fixed. Obvious #3 - come back from excursion and toilet seat hinge clearly broken after room had been cleaned up. Had to call to get fixed.
Asked for bar soap (I hate liquid soap in the shower) and told not available - something to do with "PH". I asked and got bar soap on the Spirit 12 months ago! TV also intermittently not working over the trip. Had to call 3 times (I was always told a "network" problem). I also noticed several pieces of tape on the ceiling from a prior cruise that weren't removed and not noticed by crew the whole trip.
Yes, these are trivial things, but the crew should notice these things and I haven't ever had to call about more than one issue on any other cruise. These "little" things leave you frustrated. You would think that they would have a system that if you have to contact them for more than x times, an officer would contact you to see what is going on (i.e. Are we just complainers or is the staff not on their toes).
Malta - If you do on your own, get off ship and go up the hill then to the right to see the "tourist" part town. We accidentally went left and ended up in the more residential part of town. This was o.k. though and was interesting to see with stores and churches. We did make it to the other area, but could be too much walking for some. Two ATMs are located right by dock if you need EUROs (one was Bank of Valetta).
Pompeii - Nothing much else to add from previous reviewers other than I was under the impression that you went to Pompeii and a Cameo factory at two different stops. We actually were dropped off at the Cameo factory for the obligatory tour and then given 15 minutes free time and then walked a few feet to the start of the Pompeii tour (the 3.75 hour tour).
Rome - As others have said, be careful with valuables. Will need to take passport with you on this stop (but not the others).
Pisa - We did the shorter afternoon tour and found it perfect.
Nice - We went on our own. In Villefrance, get off the ship and they give you maps of the town (in the little building right by the tenders) and directions to the bus stop. To find it can be confusing, but we did and you can take the #100 bus to Nice for $1 euro each one way. This bus ends in Nice at the bus terminal and then goes back to Villefrance. It appears to run every 15-30 minutes???
Shows - Second City was funny. I didn't like the magician, but as you'll see from other reviews, much is of personal taste/opinion when it comes to food, service, entertainment.
Our youngest - 5 - did go to Kid's Crew most nights. The best thing is that they extended the pickup from what used to be 10pm to 10:30pm. Kid's Crew has always been great for the kids. Don't forget to tip these people if you do use.
At first I thought that NCL was cutting themselves short when they were calling it "Freestyle 2.0" and should probably have called it "Freestyle 3.0" due to improvement from my prior NCL experiences.
I was very impressed by the improved service, bedding, champagne, pagers for main restaurants, cruise terminal, etc. But as the cruise went on, I did realize they had not made the jump from 1.0 to 3.0 and that 2.0 was appropriate.
Overall, a great cruise and very reasonable when you consider the price (even the nickel & diming) to see some of the wonderful sites.