Just returned from a wonderfully relaxing cruise on Norwegian Spirit from October 1st to 13th. Although we have cruised a few times with NCL this was the first time on this ship. We found her to be very friendly, warm, beautifully decorated and a manageable size.
The 12 day itinerary was well balanced between port days and relaxing days at sea. Leaving Venice the ship called at Piraeus, (Athens), Izmir,(for visits to Ephesus), Istanbul, Mykonos, Naples, Civitavecchia,(Rome), Livorno, (Florence/Pisa), Toulon and Barcelona. So five countries but nicely balanced with three full sea days and two half days. A cruise that gave the opportunity to visit some of the classic cities and sights of Southern Europe.
We flew to Venice Treviso from Leeds/Bradford and took the regular shuttle coach into Venice for 7 euro each. The journey took about 50 minutes and dropped us off at the main arrivals area in Venice the Piazzale Roma. A minutes walk across the parking area takes you to Grand Canal. Nothing quite prepares you for that first sight of the canals of Venice. Breathtaking. A 5 minute walk hauling two suitcases and over two bridges got us to our hotel, Antiche Figure. We found this highly rated hotel on Trip Advisor and we were not disappointed. A former palace situated on the side of the Grand Canal. Superb location, lovely reception and staff, well appointed rooms, a great breakfast which could be taken outside overlooking the canal, and a bar.
We enjoyed two great days exploring Venice, mainly on foot but also bought a 24 hour pass for the vaporetto, cost 18 euro each, giving unlimited access to the extensive water bus network from the first time you use it. The main stop for the system was just 5 minutes from the hotel at the Piazzale Roma. Highlights include several night time cruises down the Grand Canal to St Mark's Square, and visits to the islands of Burano and Murano, using this pass.
On the Monday afternoon at 2pm we made our way back to Piazzale Roma and located the People Mover, a rapid transit system that took you into the docks area. Cost 1 euro from the machine. Quite a queue here as there were several cruise ships in port. The transit deposited us about a third of a mile into the dock area and then we walked for 10 minutes with our cases as the terminal building for the Spirit was some distance. Didn't see any shuttle buses and no one to guide us, just some signage and seeing the ship in the distance.
Checking in took no time at all, and within 10 minutes we were walking up the ramp and onto the ship. The usual warm welcome and into the atrium area on deck 7 and then up the lifts to find our stateroom, located on 11, and well forward on the starboard side.
First impressions was that the cabin was a little smaller than we were used to, but well fitted with plenty of storage space. A flatscreen TV, coffee maker, small desk and chair, minibar, balcony with two chairs and a small table, plus the bathroom with 3 units, the WC, shower and washbasin. Two dressing gowns were provided and the wine we had been promised was in the room chilling, as well as a complimentary box of chocolates as gold latitude members. The decoration was relaxing with soft colours and pictures. It became our home for 12 nights. We were well looked after by our attendant and only had to ask and it was done for us. The room was kept spotlessly clean and cared for twice a day. The bed was very comfortable. Each night on returning to the room there would be a towel animal and two mints. Nice touch.
The ship is easy to get round with lifts and stairs forward, midships and aft. On deck 7 & 8 were located the shops, Guest Services, excursion desk, bars, and all the speciality restaurants except La Trattoria, plus a coffee bar and Blue Lagoon cafe. The atrium is quite impressive with waterfalls, greenery and a grand piano. From deck 7 you could access the promenade. Great for the views and of course getting that all important exercise. It ran right round the ship. Henry's Pub also had outside tables on the promenade deck a nice touch and popular. The happy hour helped, with 2 for I drinks each afternoon between 4 and 6pm.
The two main dining rooms were on deck 6. Windows was at the stern and was very pleasant with huge windows overlooking the wake. The Garden Room was midships on 6.
The main theatre, Stardust is at the stern, accessed from decks 7 or 8, with plenty of seating and good vantage points.
On deck 12 is Raffles Court a vast buffet, with seating port and starboard, and outside on two decks at the stern. If you like to eat outside there is plenty of space with great views, plus a bar. Part of the seating area inside is converted into La Trattoria for evening Italian speciality dining.
Also on deck 12 is the Spa & Fitness centre, a very nice library & book exchange, internet cafe, and a forward lounge, Galaxy of the Stars, with a bar & very comfortable seating and great views of the ocean. Also on 12 is the pool and spa pools and lots of sunbeds. Deck 13 had more sunbeds, a bar, basketball court, golf nets and great views.
I liked this ship for various reasons. A very friendly crew, easy layout, warm soft relaxing colours, and so many vantage points for viewing the ocean or watching the arrival or departure from port.
Food, well so much choice. No one will go hungry and the choice is vast. How anyone could complain is beyond me. Breakfast we normally took in the buffet on deck 12. Selecting our food then heading outside. The usual huge choice but I particularly love the pineapple, the station that mixed granola, yoghurt and summer fruits together, yum, and the egg station for bespoke omelettes or eggs to order. We also had breakfast one lazy morning in Windows and overlooking the wake we enjoyed superb service and a huge tasty breakfast.
Lunch for us was a choice between the buffet, or the barbecue on deck 12 if a sea day. Good ribs, burgers, etc and salad washed down with a bottle of cold grolsch beer.
Also had one of my favourite treats several times after time ashore. Coming back on board and heading for the Blue Lagoon for a serving of hot chicken wings and dip with celery, plus a beer of course.
Dinner took on a ritual of a pre dinner drink in the champagne bar, enjoying a variety of music. Classical guitar, soft rock, or piano.
We like the choice of evening dining places on Norwegian Spirit is no exception. We ate in Windows a couple of times and enjoyed friendly prompt service, a menu that had half its choice changed daily, and a pretty decent wine list. The prices of all drinks we had budgeted for and were not dissimilar to prices in land based restaurants.
We also dined in four speciality restaurants. The service is more personable, it's a little more special, the number of tables is smaller and so feels more intimate. I like this choice and paying a smallsupplement is fine. The speciality restaurants do not suit everyone but there is still a good choice of venues and food available as part of the overall cruise cost.
Our favourite this time round was La Trattoria. It was intimate, nicely lit, we had a window seat and the menu and food was excellent. A carafe of Chianti helped. Service was very good. Cagney' Steakhouse was also very good. Had a superbly cooked steak with all the trimmings. Service was slower here though it was busy. What I was not keen on was the close proximity of the next table. We seemed very bunched. The same thing happened in Le Bistro. Again, superb service and menu, however we were too close to the table next to us. We would prefer a little more of an intimate atmosphere, not having to listen to someone else's conversation. We are not anti social, far from it, but there is a time and a place. Finally, Shogun Asian restaurant. Virtually empty on this occasion though the Teppanyki & Sushi Bar were popular. Good food but the service was lacking. Slow, not so warm and not offered second drinks.
Raffles Court had a huge choice for dinner. Again we ate outside a few times or on the port side indoors which seemed the quieter of the two sides. I love the curries, served with chapatis and papadoms. The beef wellington was also good. The crepe station served up crepes to order, try them with strawberries and chocolate. Nice !! Tables were cleared quickly and staff were friendly.
The Cruise Director offered a varied entertainment's programme. Something for everyone. We enjoyed three productions in the main theatre, and the variety of musicians around the ship.
Talking of the crew. With the odd exception we found them friendly, good at their work, big smiles and willing to engage in conversation if you showed interest. I have a tremendous respect for what they do in making a cruise memorable. We met the officers at a Q&A session, several Latitudes receptions and again found them approachable and friendly. The captain won many friends with his daily announcements about the weather and lost passengers. (chicken's) What I particularly liked was the welcome home each port day. At the gangway were offered cold facecloths and chilled water. On our final departure from the ship passengers were thanked and applauded by several officers and staff, including the Hotel Director & senior chefs. Lots of attention to detail and it showed.
As already mentioned the itinerary was superb. Plenty of time at sea to unwind, enjoy the sunny weather, and explore the ship. Arriving or departing from Venice is always a highlight of any cruise. Spirit left at 1am. The city was quiet but still beautifully lit as we glided down the Guidecca Canal towering above the buildings. When leaving for a great view try the port side on deck 12 or 13 at the stern.
Piraeus. Walked to the metro station, about 20 minutes from port gate keeping left all the way. About 25 minutes on the metro and 1.40 euro single ticket to the city centre and all the historic sights. Metro easy to use and understand.
Izmir. Stayed on board this time but the city has a lovely promenade, if you are not visiting Ephesus.
Istanbul. Walked to the city centre, left out of gate and follow the tram lines. About 35 minutes to the historic centre. Otherwise a tram for 2TL. Plenty of ATMs on this main road, but also found euro's widely accepted. An amazing city. The departure at night was impressive with all the historic buildings floodlit. Europe one side Asia the other.
Mykonos. Tendered to the town quay. Great to just wander round the narrow streets and shops, cafes, etc Just a bit touristy for us. Nevertheless found a lovely taverna on the quayside, enjoyed wine and bread and olives and watched the sun go down. Tip walk round the quayside away from the town about 200 metres.
Naples. Got a public bus to Pompeii for under 3euro one way. Out the port gate, turn right, about 200 metres. Buses leave every 30 minutes. Took 40 minutes and dropped off outside the entrance to the ruins. On return took the train for the same price to the centre of Naples and had a leisurely walk back to the port gate through the city. Also took a bus to Vesuvius. Leaves from Pompeii station and costs 20euro, including entrance to the national park. Thought well we have seen the ruins lets see what caused it. The bus drops you just short of the summit so there is a relatively easy 20 minute walk up a cinderpath to the top. The view out across the bay is amazing as is the view into the crater. Surreal.
Civitavecchia. Explored the town this time. Very pleasant with a nice promenade, street market and churches. For those getting the train to Rome, the station is 10 minutes walk along the promenade from the port gate.
Livorno. Again explored the city on foot. Walked from the ship and in 10 minutes you are there. Nice to be in a real living city. Good shops, nice cafes, friendly people, and an historic waterfront.
Toulon. The ship docked virtually in the city centre. 2 minutes walk into a very pleasant navy town. Markets, fantastic shops, narrow streets, lots of cafes, beautiful churches, an impressive naval museum, and tours of the harbour to see the warships.
Finally, into Barcelona. Easy disembarkation. Long queue for taxis as several ships in port. Waited about 15 minutes, and 35 euro later after a 20 minute drive, we were at the airport.
A great cruise, thoroughly enjoyed it. Minor niggles but overall superb. A good ship, made better by the attention to detail from its crew, a good bunch of international fellow passengers and a fabulous itinerary. We will be back.