After a direct flight from JFK we stayed at Petit Palace hotel prior to the cruise. It was centrally located steps off Las Ramblas and quiet. The room we had was called an apartment it was on 2 levels, slept 8 and had a small efficiency kitchen that allowed us to do some light cooking. This was great since the Bouqueria market was just across the street. We also stopped in Carrefours supermarket on Las Ramblas to pick up soda and juice to carry onto the ship.
Embarkation was very easy, even though our printed docs were in the checked baggage - somehow since they were called e-docs hubby figured he didnt need the paper :). We checked in separately from the kids and it took each of us about 20 minutes, vs about 5 minutes for those who had their documents. We were on the ship by noon and the rooms were ready at 12:30.
We had a mini-suite and 2 interior rooms on deck 9. The balcony was completely covered and easily fit all 6 of us. The sofa was near the window, which I prefer, as I like to sit and look out the balcony when it is windy. The stateroom had lots of storage and there were no issues with the bathrooms. The balcony room had a larger shower and more counter space, the interior rooms felt very spacious and no one felt crowded. Our rooms were near the aft elevators, but we never heard any elevator or hallway noise. One negative is that the TV options were horrible - MSNBC, CNBC, Nick in 4 languages and one channel that played the sitcoms.
Food and Drink
We ate at The Manhattan Room, Taste and the Garden Caf. (We have been on NCL before and did not think the extra cost restaurants provided value.) Most of the food was very good to excellent. There were a couple of entrees that were not up to par (lobster tail and a beef dish). Service was excellent when the restaurants werent busy, but spotty during prime time which usually occurred after 8:30 pm when the early shows were done. We ordered room service for port-day breakfast and they were so efficient they arrived early, accompanied by a phone call to let us know they were on their way.
We bought a wine package. It is available on embarkation day outside the garden caf and gives a 20% discount if you buy 6 to 8 bottles. Unlike previous cruises, they gave us a chit for that nights wine and delivered the rest to the cabin. We had ordered an NCL setup (brandy) a week before the cruise and were pleasantly surprised when the bottle of wine and vodka that we purchased in Barcelona and were prepared to leave in the naughty room was delivered to the cabin.
Steve Sorrentino was good but the venue Headliners was horrible and many of the seats had obstructed views. Legends was good. The Blue Man Group was mixed. Some skits were fun others seemed long and drawn out. Cirque Dreams was awesome, especially since there were 11 foot waves and the ship was moving around a lot during the performance. The view from the back seats was obstructed by the low ceiling. There was also music all around the ship at most times of the day.
The casino is huge, running half the length of deck 6. You could smell some smoke, but not bad, as you walked through. We are not gamblers but purchased slot play coupons for each room. We had so much fun we wished we had purchased one per person.
The deck chairs around the pool seemed to get crowded but there were always chairs available. The pools are a joke, as they are so small, but the water slides make up for it. I am not a sun lover and was concerned about finding a place to relax in the shade. It was not a problem. There is a covered area on deck 15 behind the video arcade that had oversized upholstered chairs that was great. It rained one day and we were totally dry in this area.
Getting off and on the ship was a breeze at all the ports. For the Italy ports we used a private car and driver from Limo In Rome for the 6 of us. We saw everything on our list and more. It was definitely the way to go. We took the HOHO bus right outside the port gates in Palma.
Three of our party also took a behind the scenes tour that is given on sea days. They show you laundry, kitchens, etc and provide you with lots of statistics. It was heaven for the techies in our group.
These people were friendly and efficient. If there was a long line, there was usually a guest services person working the line to answer quick questions. One of our bags somehow didn't make it fomr the cab onto the ship. The Guest services people were very helpful in trying to find it, phoning the cab company and the port agent, although the bag was not found.
I was a bit concerned with the size of the ship and its interior focus. It seldom felt crowded and you could always find a quiet corner. I did miss the ability to walk around the outside of the ship but you could walk either side of deck 7 and it was fairly easy to walk the interior length of the ship on the public decks. The crew was outstanding everyone was friendly and offered to assist in anything we needed. There are not as many of the grand public spaces and atriums as other NCL ships, but it is tastefully done and there are a couple of multi deck chandeliers. We would definetly consider another cruise on this ship.