Cabin: Set up as twin beds but was quickly converted to a queen bed on request. Inside cabin was quite small but sufficient as we didn't spend too much time there. Good storage space and bathroom tidy with good sized shower.
Public Rooms: Being a relatively new vessel it is in very good condition with lots of nice public areas and spaces for some quiet hideaway. Try the big loungers in the Spinnaker lounge for a peaceful rest. The bars (which we used quite a bit!) were mostly very good with each set up in a different style to suit most tastes and give a bit of variety.
I've got to say that some of the furnishings are quite gaudy and over the top but you quickly get used to it.
Dining: Now this is where I believe Norwegian have hit on the secret of really making your cruise. Freestyle dining is great. Dine where you like, when you like. Previous cruise we went on we had to commit to a dining time which at times was inconvenient - like dining as the ship left port. With freestyle you could get back on the ship after a day on shore and have some lunch at 2 or 3 pm and not have to worry that you were booked in for dinner at 6pm. Flexibility to eat at 6pm or 9pm, if you wished was great. The only risk associated with this is you may find a queue at the particular restaurant you wish to dine at, particularly if a lot of excursion buses arrive back at the same time. We had 2 waits (they give you a pager), where they told us 30-40 minute delays but they turned out to be 10 & 15 minutes. No problem at all.
All of the restaurant we used were very good - whether it was the standard (but very nice) dining room (Alizar), the more up-market dining room (Grand Pacific), the Tapas restaurant or any of the others. We did not use the surcharge restaurants, as we found the fare in the main restaurants to be very good. Don't miss the lobster night, check the menus each day! Grand Pacific was our favorite - very classy and special if you get a window seat.
The Grand Cafe breakfast was a bit repetitive after 12 days and being a buffet at times was cold and unappetizing. Get up early and use the Grand Pacific.
One thing NCL could improve on is being clear on what dress standard is required in each restaurants. Jeans are not allowed in the Grand Pacific but was not mentioned in any of the information sheets early on. I saw people being turned away because they had jeans on which could have been avoided if they had given better advice. It suddenly appeared in the daily newsletters near the end of the cruise so perhaps they learnt from it.
Shore Excursions: We only did one Ship organized excursion, which was to Cairo. Whilst it was great to get to the pyramids and museums etc it was all a bit rushed. The reason became clear when we were taken to the "cruise - approved" shops where we were allowed as much time as we liked to buy over-priced souvenirs, which were obviously supplying a kick-back to our tour host. This time would have been much better spent at the sights that we had all come to see. This experience put us off later organized cruise excursions and I would highly recommend that you do your homework and do your own thing, especially if you are mobile.
Ports of Call: Corfu - easy walk to town and takes not much longer than the bus trips, due to traffic congestion.
Crete - Palace of Knossos is one place to see. Be careful of the taxis at the terminal. They want to charge you 50 Euros+. Go out of the terminal and turn right. About 50 meters away there is a bus terminal with buses going every 10 minutes for 1.20 Euros per person. Get the bus back to town and go the Archaeological museum. It is only very small but if you know your history they have some very significant pieces in there (although got to admit that I was all "historied" out by the end of the trip!).
Santorini - now this place is special and probably my favorite on the cruise. Take the donkey to the top for 5 Euros. It may sound touristy but you don't get many chances to do this and it is fun. Fira is very nice but find the bus depot and go to Oia (about 3 Euros). This place is breathtaking. You could spend all day here taking photos. Buggy and 4 wheel drive hire was also very cheap and a good way to get around.
Mykonos - similar to Santorini except not on a cliff face. Enjoy a traditional lunch in one of the many restaurants on the waterfront.
Izmir - we were very keen to go to Ephesus (1 hour drive away) but reluctant to pay the US$129 each for the cruise organized one, with shopping included! So we took the risk of being able to find our own way there. Right outside the terminal there is a taxi stand with a range of set tourist routes with set prices. A visit to Ephesus and the Virgin Mary's house was 90 Euros (US$140) for the taxi. We shared this with another couple from the cruise so only had to pay US$35 each. We did have to pay the entrance fees on top of this but we were on our own time (the taxi driver just waits for you) and we didn't have to endure the shopping!
Istanbul - get a taxi to the Blue Mosque and work your way back to the ship (as long as you have a good sense of direction) taking in all of the must-see sites. Be sure to get a price in advance for the taxi and for any restaurant, as they will ramp up the price if they can. We got fleeced at a restaurant for lunch but took it as a lesson.
Last day of the cruise and we had to be off the ship by around 10.30am but our flight didn't leave until 7.30pm. We did a deal with a taxi driver to spend 3-4 hours to take us to the Grand Bazaar and a couple of other sites (which he recommended and were good) and then the airport. We were a bit concerned about leaving our bags in the taxi, but the driver walked everywhere with us so was quite safe.
Service: I had read prior to the cruise that there were some service issues with the ship when it was the Pride of Hawaii. They have had a complete crew make-over and the service on this cruise was very good, from quick make-up of cabins to friendly efficient service in the bars and restaurants. Really hard to fault it.
Entertainment: The entertainment was ok. Nothing outstanding but mostly a good way to spend an hour or so. I guess cruise ship shows are renowned for being average but I think if you don't have too higher an expectation then you will enjoy it.
The casino is fun and the staff there very good. Make sure you join the Casino Club to get plenty of benefits.
Complaints: Firstly I'll say that this was a very enjoyable cruise and it shouldn't be taken that the following should suggest otherwise but I think prospective cruisers like to know what the issues are and the cruise line needs the feedback too.
- No self-serve laundry. Small issue but it was listed in the ship specs but they took it out during the refit. We bit the bullet and send a load to the laundry about day 7 only to have a note in the daily newsletter that night to say that there was a bag-load deal the following day for $20. This was somewhat annoying given that we had paid double that for only a few articles to be laundered. Advance notice of the special would have been good.
- We couldn't find anywhere on the website what the currency on board was and our enquiry wasn't answered. We assumed that it would be Euros given it was the currency of the area but it turned out to be US$ and there exchange rates were ridiculous. Although you don't use much cash on board except for he casino....
- Information on things to do on shore and how to get there. I realize that they want you to use their organized excursions but the information they give you on the Ports of call is poor. Make sure that you do your research before arriving.
Summary: Overall this was a great cruise experience with the freestyle the big hit with us. For this reason NCL will be high on our list for our next cruise, which hopefully won't be too far away! Happy cruising.Read Less