This was our 8th cruise, in 3 years, I have aimed to try a variety of Cruise Lines including P&O,Thomson, RCL, Celebrity, Princess, Costa and now NCL.
My partner and I went with out mothers, having booked two balcony cabins (our first), and it came with the ultimate drinks packages and $100 on board spend.
Embarkation was the easiest I have ever experienced we arrived at the Barcelona cruise port at about 11.30am and were on board by 12.15pm, virtually no queues, went straight to our cabins which were ready although the mothers cabin must have still being prepared but the steward let them in without any issues at all.
Ship was a true giant of the seas, felt very proud when in ports to be on her. Maybe the flow of the ship was not fantastic but okay. Just so much to do on her, would like to do a repositioning cruise on her so that we fully explore all the activities
The cabins were good (both on deck 13) , possibly a little cramped but for the first time we had the balcony, Wow, funny enough that gave us some extra space. Our balcony near the front of the ship was a good size with 2 chairs, small table and 2 sun loungers behind. The mothers cabin balcony, mid ship was about half the size but they were really happy with theirs as well as we are not really the sun loungers type of people..
The bathrooms in my opinion were fine, no complaints at all, the added bonus is that one person could use the shower while the other could use the loo, if needed. Also as mentioned previous there was a curtain divider so you could have some privacy if required.
The storage space in out forward cabin was fine although we could have done with some more drawer space.
However our mothers cabin had a joining door to the next cabin so they were missing a small wardrobe (not the main one) and 4 drawers which meant they had virtually none, but they managed and it didn't spoil their holiday one bit..
The beds were great and really comfortable if you like them on the firmish side (which we do).
Both our cabin stewards were excellent and could not do enough for us. In fact all the crew on the ship were top notch, to such an extent that when I spoke to the mums cabin steward about a few things, he travelled halfway up the ship to our cabin to advise the situation. Fantastic service!!
We had most of our meals in the buffet restaurant (Garden Cafe). The meals were all excellent, if I was being picky I do not think the variety at each meal was as good as NCL (the buffet champions IMHO). But was still great.
There did not seem to be as many drinks servers on this cruise as others we have been on which was slightly annoying as this was the first cruise that we had the included drinks package, however it meant we are not interrupted so much.. On the plus side you could just go to the dining room bar and get drinks there. In fact a special mention to the Bar Lady there, she was the best on the ship. Friendly but up for a laugh, always anticipated (correctly) what I wanted and the best service I have ever received on a cruise ship.
We also had a meal in the Circus night which was excellent although only one choice, although alternatives were offered if requested.
We also eat once at the Pub style restaurant which was a little disappointing as in pub style restaurants you would expect generous portions but not the case here...
On the penultimate night we eat in the Taste restaurant which was also disappointing because it was fantastic! Why did we leave it to almost the end of the cruise :(. I had a mixed grill and it was excellent! :)
We never eat in the main dining room, so cannot comment, also we were going to eat in the now complimentary Shanghais Chinese restaurant, but my partner is a bit fussy, especially with seafood so we gave it a miss.
One of the reasons is because there was just so much to do on this ship.
A mention of the NCL freestyle concept, it was fantastic, I do not like to dress up, i.e. Tux or Suit and although there were people that did, the vast majority didn't and I just felt so comfortable with this...
On to the shows, in a word brilliant, Burn the Floor were incredible I have to say it was one of the best shows I have seen at see!! Wish I'd seen them earlier in the cruise so that I could have seen them again.
Howl at the Moon though were on a another level, in case you do not know they are dueling pianists with drums at the back, they sing/play requests from the crowd and also do jokes which was absolutely fantastic, my partner and I saw them 3 times.. And they also got my mum on the small stage to sing her happy 83rd birthday..
We also saw a Beetle tribute band which Carolines (my partner)s mum thought were very authentic and very good.
I think possibly the worst show was Legends, they had Sting, Rod Stuart and Gloria Estifan. (sure there was one more but cannot remember), however they were also very good, but the best at what they do, I am not sure...
We also went to see an Il Divo band which were good but not really my cup of tea, however the three ladies in my group loved them :).
There was just so much you could see or do, entertainment was fantastic, something for everyone.
One of the other things I liked was we had a quite diverse range of passengers, young, old, families, Singles, lots of different Nationalities, it was great and NCL catered for all of them , with Spanish act..
Ports, all the ports were great, we went to Naples (or is it Napoli, can never remember), port for Rome, port for Pisa and Florence, Cannes and Palma Mallorca. I was a little disappointed that a map and brief guide was not left in the cabin each night. Also in Palma that although they did lay on shuttles to the centre there was a cost of $12 per person which I thought was pretty steep, although to be fair there was plenty of taxis about which if there were 4 of you would have worked out much cheaper.
We did our own thing at each port and booked a guided trip with Cruise Excursions for Pisa and Florence which was far cheaper then the NCL equivalent.
I also went on the waterslides which were great especially because you were 15 floors up.
We do not really do sun bathing so I cannot comment on this aspect but everybody seemed to be having a good time.
We went to All White Party on the H20 deck which was well attended and was really good fun with plenty of participation by the entertainment team.
The Gym was another excellent area, I did not go as much as I would have liked, but it was quite big with plenty of running and cycling machines, and weight equipment. I cannot comment on activities because I never stayed long enough find out.
Disembarkation was a breeze, just remember to get your coloured tags from near customer services (from 4pm on the Friday) and out put your cases out by 11pm. All carry of your own cases, whichever is best for you. A nice touch is that you did not have to vacate your cabin at a ridiculous early time, so you could go for breakfast and come back for your hand luggage.
Downsides, you can only use your On Board Credit for purchases on the ship and not use it to pay for the service charges (although those purchases do include the shops and duty free). If i had known this I would have paid for the tips pre cruise before the service charges went up.
I wish they could have made clearer what was included in the Ultimate Beverage Packages, as I did not know fully until half way through the cruise what you could have, i.e. Any drink up to $11.00, excluding coffees (which I did know about) and fresh squeezed juices. Also I wish they had a full cocktail menu as all the menus only had about 10 cocktails on and they were the same ones).
Pre Cruise I expected Headliners which was supposed to be a comedy club to be purely for comedy, but it showed a variety of shows.. (small gripe)
My only big negative about the whole cruise was an incident in the Garden Cafe where we did not have much time, we got a table, and I put my insulin pen (I'm a diabetic) and Caroline put her sunglasses on a table so I could get the drinks while the ladies were getting their meals. Some elderly couple came along and removed them and (to their credit gave them to a steward). When I came back obviously I couldn't find the table I had reserved. In the end this couple asked if I had lost something and told me they gave them to this steward. I was fuming I wanted to hit them but didn't.. Obviously, I felt a bit sorry (not at the time) because what could she do.. It really put a dampening on my holiday and the worst part was on ship of 4000 people we h=bumped into them twice more.. Not Happy!! Although please note this is not a complaint against NCL.
For our travel to and from the airport I used pre booked taxi's, via viva transfers) they were far cheaper then the transfers with NCL (if you have 4 people). And I think they were cheaper then the taxi's outside the airport, based on the 39 Euro standard charge that I think someone advised on here previously. They were very good, sent reminders close to the pickup times, our flight was late on arrival and they were still there, on the return they were about 5 minutes late, but did apologise.. Very happy with the service provided.
Anyway my party had a fantastic cruise, and I would highly recommend NCL to anyone, I cannot understand the negative comments, I think it all depends on personal tastes and you should bear in mind how much you paid for the cruise.
Not enough storage.
Toilet and shower fine.
Entertainment on TV bit limited, but I do not watch TV so not a problem
Cabin steward was brilliant.