This was our first NCL cruise as well as our first trip to Europe. My husband and I are both 50, and the trip was a 25th anniversary celebration. I will make a few general comments first and then give a day-by-day rundown. I will only include photos from the cruise itself. I have a zillion amazing photos from all of our excursions (plus we spent 5 days in Italy post-cruise), but I will focus on the NCL photos for this trip report.
We had a balcony cabin (#9165) and while the layout of the room was unusual (as I had read repeatedly on these boards), we had no issues. Hubby is tall (6’2”) but managed to fit in the bed. Suitcases easily fit under the bed and we had plenty of storage space. Loved the balcony. You need to put your key card in the slot by the door to keep the lights on, and some of the switches may take you a little while to find. The light above the sink has a switch under the mirror.
There are no midship elevators so the hallways seem very long, but this wasn’t an issue, just an observation. A common complaint about the ship is that the elevators are very slow. We just factored some travel time in when we were going up to the higher decks. We usually took the stairs when going down to save time waiting. The ship is really big but it didn't take too long to figure out what was where. It only seemed super crowded during breakfast at the buffet on port days.
We basically treated the ship like a floating hotel since the ports were the main attraction. But we did eat in 3 of the specialty restaurants, saw one show, and hung out at a few different bars in the evenings (more on all of that on the day by day review). I booked all specialty and MDR reservations as well as show reservations when we were 90 days out (or whatever the date was that allowed us to make reservations-I can't remember!). The crew was attentive but with one or two exceptions, no one seemed to be particularly happy to be there. Felt like across the board, no one really made any effort to get to know us, but that did not detract from our cruise in any way, it was just different than what we had experienced on Celebrity and Disney. Anyway, here's my day by day...
Day 1, Rome to Embarkation in Civitavecchia:
We flew into Rome on the redeye from Washington DC and arrived around 8:30 am. We had prearranged private transfer via Mary Roma (Rome Cab Transfer) and he was there waiting for us when we exited baggage claim/passport control. We arrived at the Civitavecchia port reallllyyy early but we were on the ship by noon! Bags arrived by around 2pm I think. Had my first of many, many Aperol Spritzes. Dinner that night was at La Cucina. We had a table window which was great because we had a wonderful view of sunset. The food was great.
Day 2, Livorno:
Breakfast in the buffet was your typical cruise buffet food. Decent assortment, good fruit, I loved the hash browns. The omelet station lines (there were several) were always really long and I never felt like waiting. There are multiple stations with the same food at the buffet so don't feel like you need to get on the first line you see, there will be another station around the corner. I had read here that during breakfast and lunch you can go down with your buffet food to eat in La Cucina but we never did that.
We got off the ship early to meet our driver for our excursion “Best of Florence & Pisa” (booked thru ItalyTours.EU). Our driver and guide were great. We included the skip-the-line tickets to see David at L’Accademia and I was so glad we did. He was magnificent. The views from Piazze de Michelangelo after our time within Florence were incredible. Then we headed to Pisa. Didn't climb the tower but it was so cool to see in person. It was a long but fun day. We would be returning to Florence after the cruise, so I wasn't too upset that our time there was short. That evening we ate in the Manhattan MDR. The food was pretty good. My favorite part was the fig apple cobbler dessert.
That night I went to the 10 pm Priscilla Queen of the Desert show. I had booked us to both go, but hubby was too tired. I was SO glad I went. It was one of the best shows I have ever seen on a cruise ship. The performers, the costumes, makeup, sets...it was excellent. If you are homophobic or not a fan of drag queens, don't go, but otherwise, don't miss it!! This was the only show I saw on board and I highly recommend it.
Day 3, Cannes:
I booked an NCL excursion for this port so we wouldn't have to worry about tender schedules, and because we had the $50 per port excursion perk and I didn't want it all to go to waste since I booked external excursions in other ports. We booked "Highlights of Monaco & Nice." We tendered without issue and by 8 am we were on our tour bus en route to Nice. We spent some time in Nice, then in Monaco, and briefly in Monte Carlo. Would have preferred more time in each place, but that's the price you pay when seeing these places while cruising. The tour guide was lovely and we had a great day in these beautiful areas. The tender procedure when we returned to the port was a complete cluster. It seemed ALL the tour buses got back at the same time, so we waited in line for at least an hour before boarding our tender. It was hot. Then when we finally got on a tender and were near the Epic, the water got a little rough and it took a long time before it was safe for us to get off the tender. By that point it had been about 90 minutes from start to finish and everyone was irritable. Since we got back much later than anticipated, we tried to switch our Teppanyaki reservations to later (they were for 7:30) but there was no availability so we skipped a nap and went to dinner. We have done the Japanese steakhouse thing many times in many places so there was no novelty factor for us; the food was pretty good, drinks were great, and the chef's performance was OK...he was not the most enthusiastic, but he was fine. Met some nice people at our table.
Tip: If you want to use the ship's bus into town the next day in Palma de Mallorca, you can book it at the Shore Ex desk this evening and avoid the lines...it is $15/pp round trip and you can use your $50 shore excursion credit and that makes it "free!"
Day 4, Palma de Mallorca:
We got to sleep in-yay! Had brunch on the pool deck and spent some time on the adult-only area on Deck 18.
We had not booked anything for this port except the round trip bus. We got off the ship around 2:30 pm and took the shuttle bus into town. We spontaneously took a horse and carriage ride around the old city (very fun!) and then had tapas and sangria at an outdoor cafe. Got back on the ship around 5 pm. Took a lovely nap and didn't go to dinner til around 8:40 at Taste. Food was just OK. Had cocktails at the Cascades bar and fries on the pool deck before turning in. This drink was the "Rebellious Fish" but I way preferred my Aperol Spritzes.
Day 5, Barcelona:
Had breakfast at the buffet and then met our tour guide outside the ship. We had booked a half-day tour "Barcelona Highlights" (with Barcelona Day Tours) which included Skip-The-Line tickets @ Park Guell and Sagrada Familia (after the group tour, with an audio guide). Park Guell was very cool, and La Sagrada Familia is amazing. You *need* to go inside. Don't miss it...it is breathtaking and any photos you might see of it will not do it justice. Loved it. Ate a late "pinxos" lunch at a bar/restaurant called Aitor that was yummy. Got back to the ship late in the afternoon. We had planned to have dinner in one of the MDRs but the menu looked super boring and we weren't that hungry so for the first time ever (for us) on a cruise, we had dinner at the buffet. It was perfect because I got to have exactly what I wanted. We were exhausted and in bed fairly early that night.
Day 6, at Sea:
Enjoyed coffee on the balcony after my failed attempt at sleeping late. The coffee in our stateroom, made with the in-room coffee maker, was actually way better than the coffee at the buffet. It was relaxing and peaceful to drink coffee while sitting out there. We had a late breakfast at the buffet and then hung out at the adults area on Deck 18 for a couple of hours. It was sunny, warm, and delightful!
Tip: If you don't love orange juice, get a mimosa with grapefruit juice. Delicious (I happen to love grapefruit juice).
Had a lovely and relaxing day, saw a beautiful sunset from our balcony as we got ready for our 7:30 pm reservations at Cagney's.
Hands down, our best meal of the cruise was at Cagney's and I am not even much of a meat person (hubby had filet and lobster, I had lamb chops). Service was terrific and they poured HUGE glasses of wine. Wish all of our meals on board were this good!
This was the "OMG Caramel-Butterscotch Cheesecake, next pic is the Warm Apple Cardamom Crisp-both were outrageous:
After a leisurely dinner, we went to Cascades bar and then heard a guy sing Cher songs at Shaker's bar. He was great and it was fun.
Day 7, Naples:
Up early, breakfast at buffet, you know the routine. Had booked "Pompeii-Sorrento-Positano" with ItalyTours.EU and met our wonderful driver and guide right at the port. First stop was Pompeii which was so cool. Then on to Sorrento which is beautiful and quaint. Had the best pizza I have ever tasted there. Wish we could've stayed longer (well, we did stay 45 minutes longer than expected, in the van, waiting for the couple who got lost/had their watches set incorrectly). It was not fun to wait/waste time but such is life. The delay caused us to miss our opportunity to drive all the way to Positano (so bummed) but we did go to a beautiful scenic overlook and had delicious fresh lemon granitas. And now we HAVE to come back to the Amalfi Coast!! So stunning. Got back to the ship and had dinner at Taste MDR. Again, it was just OK. Went to Cascades and Shaker bars for a while and then back to the room.
Aside from Aperol Spritzes, I also had many of my own version of a grapefruit crush (Grey Goose vodka, grapefruit juice, and a splash of seltzer). We had opted to handle our own luggage for disembarking so we packed a little and planned to finish in the morning.
Day 8, disembarkation in Civitavecchia and on to Rome:
Since we opted to handle our own luggage, we had some flexibility on timing in the morning. Had breakfast at the buffet and then got off the ship by around 8:15 am. Disembarking was super quick (longest part was waiting for an elevator) and very very easy. We had prearranged a private car, again with Mary Roma/Rome Cab Transfer, to take us from Civitavecchia port to our hotel in Rome (we would be in Rome Weds and Thurs nites at Hotel Campo de Fiori, then took train to Florence on Friday afternoon and stayed thru Monday at the Grand Hotel Cavour, with a day trip by train to Venice on Saturday).
All in all, we had a great time. The cruise was a good way to get a taste of all of these fabulous places but we were left wanting more! We have been on 2 Celebrity and 2 Disney cruises in the past decade and while there were many areas where I felt NCL was lacking, it really did not affect our good time! We had the Premium beverage package which was basically a waste for my husband who doesn't drink alcohol, but we didn't pick that perk, it was one of the ones automatically given to us and I tried to drink enough for the both of us (just kidding, sort of).
Hope this report is helpful to someone doing planning. I did tons of research here on Cruise Critic and got so much good info!