My husband and I chose this cruise as the first part of a back-to-back cruise because of its price and itinerary. We enjoy having sea days so the first and last days as sea days were quite relaxing.
Because the price was so low, we had a forward-facing suite. It was perfect! Because we were in a suite, we got concierge and butler service. Though we didn't use the concierge or butler for anything special, we enjoyed the embarkation/debarkation process and the contact point should we run into any issues. Sumedh (concierge) and Lucas (his assistant) were very friendly and helpful. We were able to meet in a small location (as opposed to the theatre) when we were on excursions and made it to the bus first. We also skipped much of the hassle in debarkation, where the queue was madness. Another perk was lunch at Cagney's. Normally, we opt for O'Sheehans and have a small lunch of soup or wings. But, I always ordered the half portion of fettuccini. The servers got to know my order and were always so friendly.
The entertainment was meh. But, what do you expect for the price we paid? The magician was clumsy, the dancing put us to sleep, and while the acrobats were good, nothing was memorable. The cruise director staff was amazing thought! We participated in the Newlywed, Not So Newlywed Game for the first time (and won)! Jerry (cruise director) and Jonny (asst. cruise director) were amazing! They were entertaining, constantly visible, and greeted us.
I would have preferred more trivia and activities. I get that the ship passengers weren't much on joining in, but I wanted to join in more and wanted more activities.
On the downside, because the cruise was so cheap, most people that chose to cruise didn't have the drinks package and didn't really leave their cabins. This made the ship feel quite empty and I felt bad for the bored bar staff. On the plus side, this made the ship feel very uncrowded. In fact, the specialty restaurants were never hard to get into and I don't think reservations were required. The only packed restaurant was Jasmine's.
We also loved the time in ports and the quality of the ports. There was only one tender (Phuket) and that seemed to run very smoothly. Langkawi was beautiful just for its nature and scenery. We encountered many monkeys who tried to steal from us. We went on the nature boat ride and saw many otters, monkeys, bats, eagles, fish, and even a viper. In Phuket, we did the Phang Na Bay excursion which felt a bit crowded (would have preferred half the excursion size) but was breathtaking. In Penang, we chose the temple and hill excursion, but could have done so much more. We loved Penang.
The restaurants were all very nice, including the main dining restaurants. Granted, this was my 9th NCL cruise and the only other cruise line I've taken was Carnival, I don't have a lot to compare to. However, I'm a huge foodie whose lived in France, the US, and the UK now and I do enjoy a good Michelin star dining. I would have to say that the food was quite good. There were some dishes that were overly salted and others we didn't care for. But, you can tell the servers that you didn't like it and order something else. I've found that Le Bistro isn't the best. The veal is one of the best menu options and I recently ordered the lamb, which now is a new favourite. Cagney's never disappoints. Sometimes I feel like we have too much food! Teppanyaki is more about the entertainment than the food and sometimes I need to say rare rather than medium rare to achieve a medium rare cook. But, I love teppanyaki and always make it a stop every time (just for the novelty). We tried La Cucina for the first time on this cruise and wow were amazed in a positive way. If you expect the American version of Italian food, then maybe it's not for you. It truly is more Italian because of the way they cook the pasta. Though, some of the preparations seem geared toward an American palate.
I couldn't believe how spacious the cabin was. We had more storage than we required and loved how the makeup/blow dry hair area was away from the main cabin. We had a table, that we only seemed to used for the snacks the butler brought. The balcony had so much space! We were out on the balcony a few times. I enjoyed taking my morning coffee outside and enjoyed the views.
Wow! While it takes a bit to ride to the actual boat departure point, the ride is worth it. We divided our 30-something group into 2 smaller groups for the boat ride and I liked that because it meant you were able to see much more. There was so much wildlife and the bat cave was a nice bonus. We saw monkeys, bats, and even a viper in the cave. The mudskippers made an appearance at the base of the cave. Then, we took the boat at full speed through the mangroves. As we boarded, monkeys tried to steal our belongings but I used my umbrella to keep them away. While boarding, we saw otters playing along the river and made our way to the hawk area- we saw both the brown kite eagle and the sea eagle! Overall, the excursion was thrilling and beautiful!View All 10 Mangrove Cruise Reviews
This tour was good because it was nice and short, easy to reach. The guide was informative and kept us laughing. Though, we spent a long time at the hill just wandering around. The pagoda was nice as the guide took us to the main areas. I was disappointed that we had to pay extra to go to the main parts as I thought this was included in the excursion. We didn't have too much time to do both the pagoda and the buddha. We opted for the pagoda, which had nice views. Then, we went back to the ship. It was a nice, short excursion.View All undefined undefined Reviews
We took the Phang Na Bay excursion with NCL. It did take us over an hour to get there (and an hour back) but it was worth it for the beautiful bay views. I felt that the group size should have been smaller as we were constantly waiting on the people who wanted to use the restroom AND go to buy candy from the store. Similarly, at the end when we were promised a visit to a local market to buy souvenirs, they took us to a high-end jewelry store and trapped us there for 40 minutes. What a rip off! Then, we had no time to buy actual souvenirs at the port.
The long tail boat trip was the highlight as we saw many of the islands, mangroves, and the caves in the boat. The floating island (Koh Pan Yee) was also very nice. It's where we ate a buffet style lunch (so many good options) and walked around.
Singapore was very clean and easy to get around in. We spent 3 days in Singapore prior to our cruise and had the day after. All in all, we went to the zoo experiences (all 4 parks) which even my husband enjoyed (and he's not a zoo person). Out of all 4, the night safari was the best because you could walk through exhibits and see nocturnal animals in their element. We also took a cooking class with Food Playground which was such a fun and engaging experience! Must do. Our last day in Singapore we did a food tour With Locals (Hawker stalls) and really learned so much about the city as well as the food culture.
I always felt safe here and the Grabs were very easy take (and cheap). Love this city!!!