Arrival: We flew through Heathrow from the west coast of the US. The flight allowed us to arrive the evening before the cruise which helped with jet lag. Pre-cruise stay was at Hotel Amister. When we arrived we were told the hotel was overbooked and we would be transferred to their apartments by Plaza Catalonia. While a pain at first the apartment met our needs and was in a good location. Cost of a taxi from airport to the hotel was about 20 Euros and Hotel Amister paid for the cab from the hotel to their apartments. We had dinner at Cata 1.81 in Barcelona that night. Great tapas and wine. We decided to sleep in the next day and go straight to the ship. Took a cab which cost about 13 Euros, based on other reviews I was surprised at the low cost. Even speaking some Spanish it took a minute to explain to the driver where we wanted to go. Luckily there is a picture of the port (Moll Adossat) on the taxi rate sheet on the window of all taxis. When in doubt just point.
Embarkation: The computer system was down, which caused long lines and delays. Took us about an hour and a half to get on board from when we arrived. Once the computers where up things moved quickly.
Cabin: We stayed in a mini-suite which met our needs. No real perks for being a “suite” other than a larger cabin size. Room stewards were good, but failed to meet our requests to convert the third bed into a couch during the day.
Ship: The ship layout was good and everything seemed to be well maintained. I was pleasantly surprised with the size of the pools and they did not feel overcrowded. It was tough getting deck chairs by the pool (not so much of an issue in other areas), but I am not much of a sunbather, so it did not bother me. I had gotten the soda package with my booking and used it throughout the cruise. There were enough bars that getting refills was not an issue. Casino was nice and never crowded. Played in one poker tournament (during the day at sea) and one Blackjack tournament. I enjoyed the poker tournament, but the structure of the Blackjack tournament (7 total hands) was weird. We did not see any of the shows as they were not of interest to our family. My wife went to a wine tasting, which she enjoyed. My daughter enjoyed the kids’ area (included in the cruise price until 10:30 pm).
Ports: We did all ports on our own using public transportation. More info on each port is available in my port reviews.
Restaurants: We ate in specialty restaurants 6 of the 7 nights for dinner. The food was good overall and I have no complaints about quality. Le Bistro and sushi at Jasmine Garden were my personal favorites. Cagney’s was also very good. We had sub-par service at Jasmine Garden for the regular menu, but good service with the sushi. Tex-mex was not bad, but not worth the cover charge in my opinion. We ate in Alizar one night and the food was good, but below the quality of the cover charge restaurants. I will say however, that the best service we received other than at Le Bistro was at Alizar. We had the teppanyaki one night food and show were good, but not as good as land based teppanyaki restaurants (they cannot use fire). We ate at the buffet for breakfast every morning. I actually really liked the food and selection at the breakfast buffet. Getting a table was tough at times.
Debarkation: Was a pretty simple process. We chose to walk off the ship with our bags which made everything easier. There was a long line for cabs, so you may want to consider getting off as early as possible if you have to make a flight. We stayed in Barcelona for 3 days (details in my port review below), so there was no pressure for us.
Overall this was a good cruise with great ports. I did not mind the Hawaiian décor and did not feel nickled and dimed, although I went into the cruise with my eyes open on how NCL makes money. The service was hit or miss. Where good, it was excellent. However, there were others that did not care and just went through the motions. With the auto-tip policy this can be expected. I did appreciate those people that went out of there way to provide good service knowing that they would pool their tips with others that were not trying at all.