NCL Spirit 12-Day Grand Mediterranean
Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
Norwegian Spirit 12 Night Grand Mediterranean May 10-22, 2012
There were 4 of us in our party. We flew from Minneapolis to Paris and then on to Venice. We upgraded to the economy comfort seats on Delta and they were well worth the extra money. Our flights were on time, but the walk between terminals in Paris (De Gaulle) was extremely long. We are all in our 50's and 60's but if we were in our 80's the walk would have been difficult.
The transfer to the ship and the embarkation went smoothly. We boarded the ship around 1pm and had planned to drop our carry-on luggage in our rooms and then see Venice. We were surprised to find out that there was a mandatory lifeboat drill scheduled for 4:30. This significantly impacted the amount of time that we had in Venice. I have Mediterranean Cruise Ports by Rick Steves and we used it extensively in all the ports we visited.
We liked the freestyle dining and ate most of our meals in the Windows Dining Room. We spent More
the sunny days at sea by the pool. It was nice to be able to still get sun loungers at 9am. The fitness center was fine and usually not too busy when we went to workout. We went to most of the nightly shows and they were entertaining. After the shows we went to the Galaxy Lounge for whatever silly game they were staging that night. Some of them were very funny. We cruised May 10-22 and on most days the weather was great.
Our cabin was fine, but the bathroom was great. The shower stall was twice the size you would normally see in standard cabins.
There is only room for 8 port reviews, so I'll put the others in here.
We stopped at Mykonos from 2pm to 9pm. There was already an NCL ship docked so we had to tender in. All the shore excursions booked through the ship got to leave first. At 2pm everyone else could send someone from their party to pick up tender numbers. We had #15 and our number got called about 4:30. Mykonos was cute and we walked around, took pictures of the windmills, shopped, and had a snack and beverage. If it had been warmer we would have gone to the beach.
It was raining for our stop in Toulon, France. There's not much to do in Toulon and we weren't interested in any of the excursions so we got off the ship and walked around for a short time. Less
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Cabin review: Norwegian Spirit Oceanview Stateroom with Balcony Deck Ten 9632
This cabin had a queen bed and one nightstand, small couch, desk and deskchair. It could be tight at times. The closet and storage shelves were ample. The balcony was fine and it sure made the room feel bigger. The bathroom was the best part. It was divided into 3 sections. One side was a tiled shower with removable showerhead and a sliding door to close it off from the center section that contained the sink and some shelving. The other side had the toilet with a sliding door. The shower section was much larger than the shower stalls you usually get in standard cabins.
Port and Shore Excursions
Day 3 of our cruise was the port of Piraeus and Athens. We had planned to walk to the train station and take the train into Monastiraki Station. We walked part of the way to the station and met a taxi driver who took us to Athens for 14 euro. We had set up a tour with George at Athens Free Walking Tour. George met us and 4 others from our ship at 9:30 and we had a 3 hour tour. The tour was great. George took us to Mars Hill, the Arch of Hadrian, the Panathenaic Stadium, the National Garden, and Parliament for the changing of the guard, and Syntagma Square. He's not allowed to give tours of the Acropolis so he dropped us off at the entrance and we spent some time up there and then met up with George to continue our tour. After our tour we had a lunch of gyros at a restaurant in Monastiraki Square and then took the train back to Piraeus and walked back to the ship. Rick Steve's book was great because he explains how long the walk is to the train station, which train to take into Athens, and how easy it is to walk around Athens and see the sights.
The last port of our cruise was Barcelona and we planned to spend 2 extra days there. We took a cab from the port to our hotel. We stayed at the AC Hotel Sants -- a Marriott. It is on the west side of Barcelona by the train station and Parc Espanya in a nice neighborhood (although there are some homeless people living in the parks nearby) and on the hop-on, hop-off Bus Turistic route. We bought the 2 day Bus Turistic tickets and took that everywhere. We visited the Ramblas, Par Guell, the Aquarium, Poble Espanyol, went to the beach and the Ice Bar, and rode the cable cars -- Teleferic de Montjuic. We managed to ride all three lines of the hop-on bus so we saw a lot of sights.
We ate our breakfasts at McDonalds in Estacio de Sants -- the train station close to our hotel. The first night we ate dinner at Fenicia, a Lebanese restaurant we found when walking around the neighborhood by our hotel. We were very early for dinner by Barcelona standards so we had the place to ourselves for awhile. Our waiter did his very best to explain the menu to us. The food was great and we enjoyed it. The next night we ate (early of course) at Tutu's Bar Restaurante which was recommended by the hotel staff. They were friendly and the food was good. We liked Barcelona. The weather was nice while we were there, the bus was an easy way to get around, a it is a very walkable city.
Field of Miracles
We took a bus to Pisa and walked around the Field of Miracles. It was interesting, but it was gray and rainy while we were there.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
It leans a lot more than I thought it would. We took a bus to Pisa and walked around the Field of Miracles.
We got some good pictures of the bridge and then walked across it to see the very expensive jewelry they sell there.
Statue of David
This is definitely something to see. It was crowded but you could easily see David and walk all around him.
Day 5 was Istanbul and we decided to use the Rick Steves' book and do it on our own. We purchased Turkish lira prior to our trip. The ship docked at Salipazari Terminal so it was a fairly boring 20 minute walk to the Galata Bridge. We took the top deck of the bridge on the way over and saw a lot of fishermen. We bought tokens for the tram and took it to the Sultanahmet stop where we went in the Blue Mosque and the Underground Cistern. Both the mosque and the cistern are definitely worth a visit. We were there on a Tuesday so Topkapi Palace was closed. After spending some time in this area we took the tram to the Beyazit stop and wandered in the Grand Bazaar. The Bazaar was interesting and it would be easy to get lost because everything looks the same. If you weren't going in circles you certainly would think you were. Once we emerged from the Bazaar we spent some time trying to figure out where we were and how to get to the Spice Market. We skirted the outside of the Spice Market but did manage to find the coffee vendor Mr. Mete recommended. It was a short walk back to the Bosphorus and we stopped for a nice lunch at Hamdi Restaurant. There were no shady places to eat outside and it was early for lunch (before 1pm) so we got a place in the glassed-in rooftop with the white tablecloths. I think we all had different kinds of kebabs and some baklava for dessert. We took the lower level of the bridge on our way back. It was mostly restaurants and they have a great view. We certainly felt safe walking around Istanbul on our own. The only place that vendors bothered us was outside the Blue Mosque where several men wanted us to come to their carpet shops.
The next day was Izmir, Turkey and we booked a tour to Ephesus with Melitour. Mr. Mete met the 4 of us at the port and we had a van and a driver for the day. Mr. Mete was very informative and we learned a lot about Turkey. He also gave us some tips about visiting Istanbul the next day. It takes about an hour to get to Ephesus. Ephesus was amazing, it definitely exceeded my expectations. We also visited the Terrace Houses at Ephesus. They are an additional cost and well worth it. After Ephesus we went to Melitour's family country house where we had snacks and beverages. They served us wine and beer with some fabulous appetizers. It was a really great day. We were running late but thankfully we passed a bus from the Spirit on our way back and we knew that the ship would wait for them so we were safe. It was a great tour and I would recommend it
In Naples we booked the Gastronomic Tour with AP Tours. Tony met us at the port and drove us to Sorrento. The coastline around Sorrento is beautiful. First we visited Gargiulo, an olive oil factory for a tour of the olive grove and an olive oil tasting. Our next stop was at a small farm to see mozzarella cheese being made, have a nice lunch and a Limoncello tasting. For lunch we had antipasto, 2 pastas, and cake for dessert. The lunch was great and so was the Limoncello. Then we went to a winery for a tour and tasting. Our last stop was at Gelateria David for a demonstration and tasting. We chose to take the ferry from Sorrento to Naples instead of driving back. Our guide Tony was excellent. He was knowledgeable and a lot of fun. He took us to the ferry terminal and helped us purchase our tickets and then walked us to the ferry. This tour was a needed change of pace from all the history and ruins we'd been touring for a week and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
Day 9 was the port of Civitavecchia for Rome. We walked from the port to the train station and took the train to the Termini station in Rome. We had booked a tour with Rome Walks and they have a video on their website that shows how to get from the port to the train station. We also purchased our tickets to the Vatican and Ancient City & Colosseum in advance through Rome Walks. This is important because it saves a lot of time and because we were a group with our own guide, we didn't have to wait in the long lines. Our tour guide Janet met us in the train station and we had a whirlwind walking tour of Rome. We saw the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, and the Colosseum. We had some gelato, but skipped lunch because we wanted to see everything we could during our short time in Rome. Janet took us back to the train station platform so we were all set for our train trip back to port. Rome was wonderful and we would like to go back again.
Because of the mandatory lifeboat drill at 4:30pm our time in Venice was very short. We used Rick Steve's Mediterranean Cruise Ports book to help us get to and from the ship and also to find our way around Venice. We took the People Mover to Piazzale Roma and then took a vaporetto to St. Mark's square. We walked around the square, took pictures on the Bridge of Sighs, took a gondola ride and had a drink at a restaurant on the square. We took the express boat back to the ship. It was a quick look at Venice,