We travelled as a family of 3 from London to Barcelona on easyjet. We stayed at Barcelona Princess which is in the diagonal Mar area of Barcelona near the beach. Loved the area and loved the hotel too. We were given rooms on the 14th floor facing the ocean. The rooms were not too big but were adequate for 2 people with electric black out blinds, flat screen TV and a funky bathroom area with separate shower and toilet. We had breakfast included which was OK however didn't like the coffee from the machine.
Barcelona is a great city with lots to do. We spent 4 nights pre-cruise at this hotel which was close to metro, beach, shopping centre next door with many restaurants, next to tram stop. So highly convenient to get to and from centre of Barcelona and the las ramblas area. Over the 4 days, we did the hop on hop off bus tour which had a stop right next to the hotel. We also visited the sagrada familia (Gaudi's famous church) which is a must visit. Top tip is to go early in the morning and queue up for tickets. Use the vouchers from hop on hop off bus tour for discounts to entrance to this attraction and many more. We also took a cable car to a mountain which had a cathedral at the top which was very pretty. Also visited Casa mila which was another super attraction. So lots to do and I think to do everything in Barcelona, I would recommend a full week prior to or post cruise.
On the day of embarkation we took a taxi from the hotel which cost us nearly 30 euros. Embarkation was a breeze but then I wanted to use my credit card to pay for my mum's spending on board. However for that I had to join a separate queue whereby there was only one member of staff and there were nearly 10 people before me. This took nearly half an hour and everyone in the queue was complaining. Not sure why they can't have 2 to 3 people serving here when they have lots of staff in normal check-in areas.
Anyway we decided to forget and hoped that it was a slight hitch which would not be repeated again. Got in the ship by 1pm and went straight to the garden cafe for lunch. Plenty of tables everywhere and the lunch was pretty good. Service was good and unlike other ships whereby it was almost impossible to find a table, this ship had no such issue. After lunch went straight to the cabins which were ready. We had 2 balcony cabins next to each other. The rooms were narrow but very trendy with a wave like feature. The balconies were huge. The toilet and shower were separate but my biggest disappointment was the tiny sink in the bedroom area. Not sure why they ever designed it this way.
Anyway, baggage arrived soon after and after unpacking we decided to take a tour round the ship which was very elegant from inside (quite ugly from outside). It had plenty of bars, restaurants, entertainment venues, 3 pools, loved the aqua park which had 3 water slides and also loved the O2 zone which was adults only area during the day and had its own bar, lounge beds and giant screen towards the back of the ship. We did spend quite a bit of time on sea days and after tours on port days in this area.
Our cabin steward Michael was excellent and attended to every small need of ours. He called us by our first names and always greeted us in the mornings and evenings. Other staff in other communal areas like garden cafe, bars etc. were very good.
Fire drill was supposed to be at 4.30 but we completely were unaware about it. The problem is that when announcements are made, you can't hear them if you are in your cabin. So we missed that and no one came to look for us. Apparently later I found out that every one's cabin key cards were scanned at the drill but they still were not aware whether we attended or not as no one came asking about it.
On the first night we went for a meal at the Taste restaurant at 7.30pm. We were given a table straight away. However when we were given the menu there were very limited choices (compared to the previous ships I have been on). Also there was only 1 veg starter and 1 veg main meal. Since we were all vegetarians we had no choice whatsoever. We did ask the waiter but were told that we had to choose the only veg dish on the menu. We spoke to the assistant maitre d who said we had to request it in advance but later came back with a whole load of Indian veg dishes together with our main veg dish which we had ordered. Food was not bad but not in the class of royal Caribbean or Princess. The waiter was not attentive and never poured our wine and didn't serve promptly.
Hence the next day we went to Manhattan dining room which was much better than Taste in terms of decor and the staff who served us that night were very attentive. Once again there was only 1 choice of veg starter and main meal but as we all liked the sound of the dishes we ordered them and enjoyed the meal.
Thus we thought we would come to the manhattan dining room every evening due to good service. How wrong we were. The next evening we went again and there was no choice in the veg section so we asked if could have the indian veg meal which we got on the first night in taste however the waiter said it had to be ordered in advance so we could order for next day by talking to the Maitre D. We were fine with that. So after a below average meal we talked to the assistant maitre D and then to the maitre D himself who both refused to take our special order and said we had to go to Taste or Garden restauarant if we wanted indian veg meals. We also talked to the restaurant manager who was no help whatsoever and refused to serve indian veg food in this restaurant despite all the food being prepared in one kitchen. We were disgusted by everyone's answers as they didn't pay heed to our requests.
Thus after that episode we dined mainly at Taste or Garden restaurant even though we preferred manhattan. However as customers we were not given the expected service and the answers the maitre d and restaurant manager came up with were not satisfactory at all. In fact the restaurant manager went on to say that she had 4000 people to satisfy on board. However she forgot that we were 3 of the 4000 people she had to satisfy as well. Anyway to cut a long story short we didn't want this to affect rest of our cruise so we decided to stay away from this restaurant.
We didn't go to any of the speciality restaurants but heard from others that they were not really worth the extra money. In fact lots of things in the ship had extra charges eg. ice bar ($20 each with 2 drinks), bowling ($5 each), circus show ($20 standard and $30 for premium), photos were very expensive too. We did attend the circus show which was very good but food was below par for all (even meat eaters were not impressed as it was a set menu with no choice). Hence it would have been better to reduce entry fee and not serve a meal. Also not worth paying extra $10 for premium seating.
Other shows like Blue man group and Legends in concert were good and had to be booked. Le coco ole was also good.
Went to bingo a few times but the bingo cards were very expensive ($39 was the cheapest going up to $69). Spent a few dollars in the casino too which was quite nice. One of the largest casinos I have seen on a ship. Shops were good with a good selection of stuff.
Used the water slides daily and had a lot of fun there. Never went to the spa or gym apart from the day of boarding. Both looked good.
Hence on the whole facilities were brilliant with excellent service in most areas. Shame that we had a bitter experience in the Manhattan dining room.
Ports of call were all very good. Did Pisa and Florence tour at Livorno, did Vatican and Colosseum tour in Rome, went to Pompeii in Naples followed by city tour, did northern coastal tour in Majorca which was excellent. On the debarkation day did the Montserrat tour followed by airport drop off. This tour was very good too. Out of the 5 tours we did, we only booked the latter 2 through the ship. The other 3 were very expensive with the ship hence we booked those separately through another online company. They were all good value for money.
Disembarkation was a breeze and we were out of the ship by 8am.
On the whole loved the ship and the facilities and service on board. Didn't like paying extra for lots of things on board. However most of all I do hope I didn't have that experience in the manhattan dining room. Saying that most would have a good time on this ship but if you are a food lover don't expect much from your dining. Enjoy the breakfast and lunches at Garden cafe though!
Would I go on NCL again? Only if I got a very good deal otherwise would certainly choose another cruise line like Royal Caribbean, Princess or Holland America.