This was our first and probably last cruise with NCL. Booked in sheer desperation to escape wet, soggy England and attracted by the itinerary, it proved to be an important lesson in how not to choose a cruise.
Some bits were quite impressive and perhaps even more enjoyable than the more formal types of cruises we??ve done recently. For example, the food really was extremely good and we couldn??t fault the range of options, presentation or service in both the restaurants and the buffet. We also welcomed the freestyle, open-seated dining and the relaxed dress-code but I??m afraid we didn??t find much else to recommend this ship or this cruise line.
Embarkation was smooth and efficient following a wait at Barcelona airport for passengers from later flights to join us for the journey to the port. Our stateroom (balcony, mid-ship, deck 10) was disappointingly small and cramped, short on drawer and shelf space ?? even though it was designed to accommodate 3 passengers if necessary. The balcony was very narrow with only just enough space for 2 seats. The bathroom was probably the surprise part ?? arranged in 3 separate sections (toilet, wash-basin and shower cubicle) all prettily tiled with adequate shelf space and good lighting. Soap and shampoo were dispensed from wall-mounted units, no shower cap supplied. Our steward was completely cheerless, seemed under great pressure and rarely smiled. Servicing of the rooms ran very late and on some days our room wasn??t made up until after 2pm. The bed was a hard as a rock.
We enjoyed eating at the Garden Room and Windows restaurants in the evening but why were they termed ??complimentary? when we??d already paid for them! In the Raffles Court buffet the food was also good with plenty of choice and healthy options. There were hand-sanitisers everywhere and people were using them ?? a good sign. On the last evening we dined at Cagney??s Steakhouse ?? a restaurant that carries an additional $30pp cover charge ?? the steaks weren??t anything like the quality of those in the ??complimentary? restaurants and the portion size of starters and desserts very mean. We were also quite horrified when a waiter apparently knocked over a pot of hot coffee over a diner at another table.
The evening theatre entertainment was very poor but we enjoyed the pianist Ian West in the Champagne Charlie??s bar. As always, the price of drinks onboard attracted an additional 15% service charge whether you like it or not.
There were 4 ports of call on this 9 night cruise ?? Casablanca, Funchal, Arrecife and Malaga. I was looking forward to Casablanca most of all ?? but now I wonder why as it was such a disappointment. For a start there is no proper cruise terminal, just a quayside with a skyline of cranes and containers. And it stinks!!!! Gulls and pigeons hover and swoop around the ship, dive-bombing everyone and making a dreadful mess. We were there from early morning until about 11pm ?? perhaps because it??s a cheap place to dock and unload refuse from the ship. Of the other 3 ports, Malaga was the most interesting and well worth the 4euro bus fare from ship to town. In Funchal the bus from the ship cost $8 for a distance that most reasonably fit people would be able to walk.
Debarkation was a very smooth, seamless operation – perhaps too efficient as it meant we were dropped at Barcelona airport about 4 hours ahead of our flight time.
If you??re one of those cruisers who prefers to adjust or perhaps remove the onboard daily gratuities on your account you??ll have to wait until the last day of the cruise ??. and then you??ll have to justify why you wish to do so, despite the fact that they are discretionary.
So, great food and a very laid-back atmosphere but nothing that said ??Must do this again!?