We had not sailed NCL for some years, the last time was in the Caribbean on Seaward (Norwegian Sea) so we decided to try a short 2 day cruise to try our the new Freestyle concept. We arrived at the port of Southampton at around 11.00am and although we had reserved parking the compound was a long way from the departure lounge so it was a good job it was not raining. The lounge was already crowded with few seats and although we were given a colored embarkation card there was still a lot of "push and shove" in the line to get on board, once the color was called. There was then quite a long walk to the ship, and in the slow moving queue it was very hot and one lady fainted.
Once on board we were left to find our own cabin after being asked to go to deck 12 where food was available as the cabins were not ready The self service restaurant is very badly designed and always full. Job to find any seats at busy times, especially at breakfast. The food and choice is limited and seems to still be catering for the American market. We were very disappointed in the Freestyle restaurant policy and hope that NCL will eventually have the option of fixed dining twice a night for those passengers who prefer this. We found, as did many other passengers, that it is hard and time consuming to try and get tables at the time you want and there are long lines to do this. We were told that there was nothing available in the two main restaurants between 7.00pm and 10.00pm. However this was not entirely so and we were left to wonder if it is a ploy to get customers into the other outlets where a supplement is payable. The quality of the food is just acceptable and nothing special and it seems that the chefs still think that they are cooking for the American/Asia clients. This ship is two years old and although the "flowers" have been removed from the hull paintings, the interior is still very Hawaiian and very common. Our cabin on deck 4 was adequate with a nice shower but not much room to sit on the toilet !!!.
The entertainment in the main theatre was terrible and we did not stay until the end. It was loud and just not the type of entertainment British passengers expect. If NCL intend to stay in Europe they need to address this. We were also concerned at the limited security measures whilst docked in Zeebrugge. There was no exclusion zone set up around the ship and only one person at the foot of the gangway. It might have been just acceptable but only just. The waiters and bar staff were very poorly dressed. T shirts and those dreadful imitation black "bow tie" shirts look dreadful. They were however very polity and helpful. All in all it was an experience, but one that we are not in a hurry to repeat. Was there a Cruise Director on board?