The best part of the suite is that you can go to Cagney's for breakfast or lunch. No line ups and the food was good. Plus it was quiet there and made for a peaceful and relaxing dining experience.
I had read many negative reports about the food so was not expecting much but have to say overall most of our meals were good. We only ate the the Pacific Grand dining room 3 times and never did make it to the Alizar. Our favorite speciality dining experience was the Teppanyaki. We ate there twice and both times I had the lobster, scallops and prawn combo...really good. We also ate twice at the Italian restaurant and have great food there too. Our big disappointment was the suchi restaurant. We ate there the first night as we are both sushi lovers and were so disappointed we never returned. The fish was excellent but the rice was like eating glue. Sushi lovers know that the rice is the secret ingredient to good sushi so if you are like us and love sushi, just order the sashimi to avoid the rice.
The entertainment was good...not Broadway good but again we didn't have high expectations. Our one disappointment was the murder mystery dinner. We had signed up with 4 other friends but when we arrived to get our instructions, we were put with another table. Not that that was so bad but the murder mystery was totally lame. It was written in 1996 and based in Hawaii. Apparently they are working on a new murder mystery and they need it. There was alot of hype about getting a booking for this dinner but I would not recommend it at all. They even said that there was a free dinner provided but being that it was in the Pacific Grand Dining Room, I wasn't sure how they justified that as being free, when there is no cost to eat there. The other 4 people were lots of fun so we enjoyed the evening but it was not what we expected.
The internet was wireless in our cabin. The cheapest package that they have is 40 cents per minute. I can't compare to other cruise lines but it seems really expensive. They had a couple of bonus plans available during our 12 nights so watch your daily programs.
Also, be aware that if you want to change currency, they charge $10USD to do this. They even wanted to charge us $10 to break a 200 Eurpo note to smaller bills. This was a blatant cash grab...shame on NCL for this!!!!!
So, the best parts of our cruise were: 1. the ports of call and 2. the new friends we met
We joined cruise critic about 45 days prior to our sailing and that was a bonus. We attended the meet and great on Day 2 and connected with lots of fun people. We also offered our cabin on the cabin call so got to see lots of different cabins.
We didn't do any of the NCL shore excursions. They were all very expensive and the thought of travelling with a group of 50 was not appealing. There small groups were so pricey that I ended up researching local tour operators and found some great tours that I booked direct. The only downside of doing this is that if you are late returning to the ship, you might miss the boat, so to speak. We did have 1 close call in Egypt when we got stuck in a huge traffic jam and arrived to the ship 10 minutes before we were supposed to be back on board. It caused a bit of stress. In the end the ship was delayed by 1.5 hours as an NCL bus was late arriving back so all that worry was for not.
We also loved the Freedom concept. I never did wear my dressy outfits, which I was happy about. It was more of a smart casual experience. I heard some people complaining that they thought people should have dressed up more but we loved the less formal atmosphere. We also loved the fact that we didn't have to eat at the same time each night and at the same table. The average age was also lower than what we expected so maybe the Freedom concept appeals to a younger clientele.
I would have liked more 'educational' type seminars offered. They are still offering napkin folding which I think could be replaced with something more interesting. How about some digital photography or more info on the ports.
Make sure to go to the Dancing with the Stars night in the Spinakker Lounge. We laughed so hard that night. It was serious competition and very entertaining! The karaoke was fun too.
On some previous departures there were lots of people sick but that didn't seem to be a problem on the Feb. 14th departure. They even allowed passengers to serve themselves from the buffets for the last few days so hopefully the norovirus (or whatever it was) that was so serious on the previous departures is now a thing of the past. There were sanitary hand washing stations set up everywhere so use them often.
Although we didn't carry on any alcohol on board we talked to many that did and it was not taken away when they boarded. I did see lots of wine being confiscated when returning from shore excursions though.
Overall, I'd say our experience was very good on NCL but again that might have been in part to the Suite we had. Alot of people felt NCL nickled and dimed them to death but other than the currency exchange charge we didn't feel like that. I will say that their shore excursions are ridiculously priced so maybe they are making up for the lower priced cabins (compared to other cruise lines).
We spent an hour around Alexandria before leaving for Cairo and in hindsight that was unnecessary. Spend all your time in Cairo if possible. The pyramids were bigger and much more impressive that what we expected...but didn't have enough time there. The Egyptian Museum was also excellent but you probably need a whole day there, not just an hour or 2. We insisted that we go to the Cairo Bazaar and were very glad we did, if only for 30 minutes. It doesn't open until 1100AM and I think stays open until the wee hours of the morning. Lots of interesting stuff to buy but more impressive were all the local people. We did abit of shopping and took tons of photos.
We also did the Sound and Light Show...the 930PM show. Some that went earlier said it wasn't dark enough to get the full benefit of the lights so chose a later show. It was quite cold at 930PM (Feb 21st) so dress warm.
We also upgraded to the Mena Oberoi Hotel and loved it!!!!!! The fancier dining room (the only place that we could get a table) was excellent and reasonably priced. They had a fantastic singer as well as a whirling dervish and a belly dancer...both excellent! Couldn't believe that I got to see a whirling dervish. The Oberoi is over 100 years old and they have just completed a new wing. The new pool area just opened 3 days before we arrived. Although we didn't get to swim (or even relax around it) it was beautiful to look at from our balcony. Our room was totally soundproof too even though we faced a major street. I would stay there again in a heartbeat.
Give yourself lots of time to get back to Alexandria. We got stuck in a traffic jam so had some tense moments wondering if we'd make it back on time.
Also, be prepared to see lots of filth in Egypt. Lots of people commented that they hated Egypt because of the poverty and the kids selling stuff around the pyramids. I guess if you have never experienced this it would be shocking but isn't that the reason we travel, to see things that we wouldn't see at home???? At least by going to places like Egypt, we are supporting the local economy. If you are really appalled by 3rd world countries don't leave the ship in Egypt. For us it was a highlight and more than ever now I want to do a 2 week tour of Egypt.
Finally the sun came out in Athens and we had a wonderful day. We spent the morning at the Acropolis and the museum. Both were amazing. I still cannot believe the historical places we visited on the cruise. The museum was well worth wandering around, even though we got stuck in the elevator. There are security guards everywhere there and I'm sure our shrieking from the locked elevator could be heard throughout the museum!!!
We had a late lunch at the Plaka. The food was amazing. I was alittle disappointed that the shopping was so touristy at the Plaka but I guess that was to be expected.
We avoided the carpet factory but did go to a leather shop where they put on a fashion show for us, complete with disco balls and dimmed lighting!! Also went to pottery factory. Our friends bought some beautiful plates and bowls that they had shipped back.
The tour operator was Rome in Limo and they were excellent.
I heard that there were 6 or 7 passengers left behind in Italy as they missed the ship. The port is at least an hour away from Rome so be sure to calculate that time into your return to the ship.