We are a group of 7, ranging in age from 15 to mid-70s. Overall, this was a wonderful itinerary, with plenty of ports and activities for everyone in our group. It was the first time any of us had cruised with NCL and everyone was well satisfied, although I'd say that the average age of passenger on the ship skewed older - 50+.
Embarkation was NOT a wonderful process. NCL representatives had told us that we could check in and use the ship as a floating hotel, so we booked flights arriving around 9 a.m. and a shore excursion at 2:30. Everyone had suffered a poor night's sleep on the plane (expected), so we thought we'd have time to freshen up, eat, and maybe even nap before meeting our tour guide. WRONG! You are welcome to arrive anytime you want, but despite the fact that the ship will have been in port since early the day before, it will not be ready for boarding till noon or later. In our case, we were held in a large building beside the ship till around 12:15, so we were More
able to eat and make our shore excursion, but nobody could freshen up significantly and there was certainly NO time for napping.
Our group found that the food was good, albeit not always as warm as we would like, especially at Raffles for breakfast. Desserts were a major disappointment to our one chocoholic - expect them to lean toward the fruity.
Service was unobtrusive and pleasant, with some staff members being truly wonderful to encounter during your day. Our kids (ages 15, 17 and 21) even wanted a picture taken with one of the waiters on our last day, even though he'd waited on our table just once, early in the cruise. I know that some folks have commented about the open seating and automatic tipping causing indifferent service, but that was not our experience at all.
We attended most of the nightly shows and could enjoy all of it at some level, with the exception of an evening Rock & Roll show featuring the ship's entertainment staff. Every member of our group commented that while the performers were individually talented, this show was a huge exercise in poor harmonies and weak musical transitions. We wish we'd done something - anything! - else with that evening. In contrast, we nearly missed the hit performance of our cruise - String Fever - because it wasn't described nor much promoted. Our two youngest cruisers went to the early show and came back raving, causing all of us to attend the 9:30 show and end up buying both CD and DVD. Don't miss them if they perform on your cruise!!
The Spirit is rather a quiet ship. There are activities happening all the time, but the overall ambiance is relaxing rather than frantic. Casino gaming, drinking and smoking areas were all available, but not constantly in your face.
For shore excursions, we took 3 tours through NCL, 6 through Tours by Locals, and just walked around on our own in Mykonos. We give highest marks to our Tours by Locals guides, each one absolutely wonderful, and each experience causing us to change our "favorite" guide yet again. Our NCL tour guides were fine - especially for the small group tour we took in Ephesus, but they couldn't hold a candle to Tours by Locals. Admittedly, the Tours by Locals route would not have been affordable with a much smaller group, but by spreading the cost over 7 people, we paid a similar amount as for NCL tours, but saw more and traveled only in the company of our own group members. If you're still wondering about shore excursions, be sure and check out Tours by Locals. Every one of our guides has their own company and we could've booked somewhat less expensively directly with them if we'd been able to find them on the web, but Tours by Locals pre-screens everyone and with so many ports to book, we appreciated the fact that all their guides are vetted for high quality.
Our disembarkation process was relatively smooth, but we were held in a bus at the port for more than an hour while NCL searched for one client's missing luggage. We would all have preferred that they send it on to his hotel later, but instead they held us all on a bus while they searched. Not the most auspicious way to end our cruise, but acceptable when compared to our embarkation experience nearly 2 weeks earlier.
We spent an extra night in Barcelona, so as not to miss the port (or think we'd "seen" it by driving from port to airport.) We stayed at NCL's partner hotel, the Montblanc. Our kids were looking forward to finally having free wi-fi to check in with friends, only to discover that there were NO American-style plugs nor adapters at the hotel. The whole adapter issue was our final small issue on this cruise. Yes, you have an American-style plug in your cabin - but only ONE. My family of 4 (a subgroup of the 7 traveling together) had brought along 2 laptops, 2 i-pads and 3 smart phones, so a power strip would've come in SUPER handy. Instead we had to implement a complicated recharging schedule to carry us through the cruise with working electronics. Then we get to the hotel and discover that we should've brought along an adapter for that one extra day. ARGH! Not a major issue at all, but one I wish I'd known about in advance.
Overall, every member of our group felt that this Grand Mediterranean cruise was a bucket list experience - we'd change very little, if anything. Issues were small and mostly fleeting. The itinerary is very port-intensive and the ports are mostly the type requiring high activity levels to see even a decent sampling of what's available. If you really go for it, you will return home tired, but so, so happy with your experience. Less
Norwegian Spirit Cruises to the Western Mediterranean