May 10 -22 Cruise on the NCL Spirit.
Venice to Barcelona
This was our third cruise with Norwegian. The long flight Austin to Detroit to Amsterdam to Venice was uneventful (thanks Delta) and we arrived about noon. We pre-booked 2 nights with Crown Plaza through NCL. The hotel's free shuttle delivered us to the hotel in a reasonable time. Had a bit of lunch at the hotel, service was very attentive and accommodating. We then ventured off to Venice.
The hotel is a 20 to 30 minute train ride to Venice proper. The train was convenient and even the early morning standing room only trip was fine.
We had purchased from Venice Connect a 48 transport pass for the public water ways. We used immediately and took a couple of hours riding the boats and getting a water view of Venice. This proved to be a pleasant and low stress way to unwind, see some sights and get one's bearings after a 20 hour plus plane ride. A quick train ride back to the hotel and a long night's rest.
The next morning we had the very nice buffet breakfast and set off on the train again to explore Venice for day. One excellent stop was the Leonardo da Vinci Museum, very cool. The next morning, before noon, NCL transferred us by bus to the Spirit. Embarkation was smooth and we were on board in time to have a nice lunch in the Main Dining room. Left the ship and after a short walk caught a water boat to Saint Mark's, where we learned that we were not early enough in the travel season to avoid oppressive crowds.
We did NCL excursions for Athens, Istanbul, and Izmir. They were very good tours on time, air conditioned buses, chatty tour guides, and as advertised. For Naples, Rome, and Florence we book through CrusingExcursions.com. In Naples we were waiting for about a half hour and two in the group had booked with these folks in Athens and their tour never happened. This made the half-hour wait for the tour buss a bit tense. All three tours were late to start and made them all unduly rushed and in Rome only time to grab and go for any lunch, a problem if you are diabetic. I strongly recommend booking with NCL or anyone other than these folks. (They are cheaper but the worry will quickly negate any savings, throw in buses with dirty windows and super rushed stops and you have an unsatisfactory experience.)
On board: We mostly ate in the Windows Main Dining Room with good food and with very attentive service. We did the Chef's Table dinner at $75 per person; this was worth twice the price, highlight of the vacation for excellent food. The Staff on the Spirit could not have been more pleasant and helpful. Exceptional service was enjoyed throughout the ship. We enjoyed our balcony cabin, 11050; kept clean and well supplied by an exceptional cabin steward (a mini-bar or refrig would have been nice.) The stops for this cruise involve extensive walking so we opted for early evenings and balcony time in lieu of the nightly entertainment but the reports of the evening activities was mostly very positive.
Debarkation in Barcelona was very efficient (we purchased NCL transfers) and we made the airport in plenty of time for our 11:50 am flight.
BEST TRAVEL TIP: First trip to take a couple of 3 oz bottles with one ounce of fabric softener two of water (just kept topping up with water after use.) worked amazingly to remove wrinkles (at least for the clothes no help for my face.)
We met lots of wonderful folks from the UK, Australia, Germany, France, Colorado Springs, Arkansas, Nebraska, Florida, Colorado, California, and yes even Texas.
Patrick , from Pflugerville, Texas.