About a year ago, I asked my active, healthy 80-year-old parents, "What haven't you seen yet that you would like to see?" My mom immediately answered, "The pyramids in Egypt." She added it would be nice to have seen the Colosseum, Acropolis, and other famous sites as well. I found this cruise and knew we just had to go. They agreed, and we looked forward to it and planned for it for a year! It was well worth the wait.
THE SHIP: We are not particularly fussy people, so the ship was fine. Nothing super fancy, but it does the job. Of course, it was designed to be sailing the Hawaiian Islands, so the decor has a bit to be desired. I think NCL should spend the money and re-decorate the darn ship. It really wouldn't cost that much, and it would add to the wonder and excitement of being in the Mediterranean. That being said, the ship was very clean and the crew went to great lengths to make sure there were no outbreaks of any kind on board. The first couple of days, we were served everything by the crew for this very reason. I am not sure why people are put out by this (the crew mentioned that some people complained), since it helps to ensure fewer people get sick. Once we came back from our first port of call, everything was back to normal. No outbreaks occurred on a large scale anyway. The crew was friendly and polite and very helpful. I did run into one young woman at the main desk who was a bit unfriendly, even though I was putting money down on my next cruise with NCL. I was expecting a warm and friendly "thank you," but she just pointed to the other side of the long counter and said, "Drop it in the box over there." When I couldn't really tell which box she was talking about, she rolled her eyes and walked over to show me it was the small plastic box with no sign on it. Okay... Our stateroom (inside, Deck 9, midship) was just fine. We spend the money on the ports instead of the room and it always seems to be a good decision. It was too cold to sit out on a balcony anyway. Others complained that their neighbors would smoke constantly out on the balcony and they couldn't enjoy their balcony or even open their window. That would be disappointing. Anyway, the room was fine, we loved the towel animals, and our cabin steward was great. All three of us were in one room and I have to say the pull-down bed was very comfortable. I was pleasantly surprised! Don't get me wrong--I would love a balcony or suite or villa...maybe some day.
THE FOOD: Again, we are not fussy where food is concerned. For us the cruise is about the ports of call and meeting great people, and the food is simply a necessity. I love going to the main dining room for dinner, but I always overeat there...the bread with butter is so good and I love the cold fruit soups and entrees and desserts. It's hard to not eat too much! We usually head to the buffet or the Blue Lagoon (I love the tomato soup there!) and eat light. So many choices, and most of them are really very good. I have worked hard to keep my weight down for many years now, so eating healthy and light are really important. I love freestyle dining where you can relax and don't have to dress up if you don't want to. We always looked nice, but I didn't bring anything super formal to wear and neither did my parents. We even skipped lobster night because we just weren't hungry!
ENTERTAINMENT: My mom and I went to almost all the shows and really enjoyd them. Some were better than others, of course; but overall, they were entertaining. It's fun to go for dinner and then head to the Stardust Theater and watch a show. You feel like you have had a full day and are getting your money's worth on the ship. This is only my second cruise and both have been with NCL, so I have nothing to compare it to.
CASINO: I mention this because I would never go to the casino except my parents enjoy gambling and wanted to try it out. I had heard how tight the machines were and how it's nothing but a money maker for the cruise line, so I was very wary about spending much time there. However, that wasn't the case. The machines were fun and usually we could walk away a few bucks ahead (if we quit when we were supposed to), they had new machines, and even the blackjack was not bad. Of course it's a continuous shuffle which gives the edge to the casino; but we won enough to play throughout the cruise. I even won the blackjack tournament and took away $335!! So for us it was a fun place to spend some time and win a little money. Of course that was all luck, so it could be very different next time. Proceed with caution.
ACTIVITIES: There are always things to do onboard and NCL does a good job of providing a variety of activities for all ages. We loved the trivia and that was our main activity (besides the casino!). We met others from CC for trivia every sea day and that was really fun. I wish I would have done more of the line dancing and things like that too. Next time...
KIDS: Apparently there were lots of kids on this cruise (week before Easter), but you would never know it. The ones we did see were well behaved and looked like they were having a great time. I heard one parent complain that their kids were bored and they would never sail with NCL again. I talked to other parents who hadn't really seen their kids since sail-away because they (the kids) were having so much fun and had met so many new friends. I guess it depends on who you talk to!
ITINERARY: You can't beat this itinerary if you want to see the highlights of the Mediterranean. Whether you do a private tour or one sponsored by NCL, you will have the time of your life. We did all private tours and it was incredible. Do your research, go with a flexible attitude, and you will have memories to last a lifetime. I can't wait for my next cruise!