We have been on quite a few cruises, mostly Caribbean, Bermuda, etc but never to the Europe. Have traveled with Norwegian many times, mainly due to the costs per itineraries- we find they seem to offer as good a deal as anyone else and better than most. Lots of stops on this cruise.
First the positives- Great deal, around 50 bucks per night base price. Great ports. Less structured freestyle dining equals more flexibility in most cases.
Crew was excellent for the most part ( some exceptions noted later ), Helpful and Friendly. Check in at Venice was a breeze compared to some other embarkation points we have visited.
The Spirit is the oldest ship Norwegian has but is in great shape for her age.
Next the Negatives- The food in the main dining rooms(once again Norwegian) was not really up to par. It sees as if they are trying to steer you to their pay, specialty restaurant options which are all very good. We did have dinner in the Bistro, Cagney's and The Italian place on board. All very good- VERY good. Food in the main dining rooms was average at best. Food on the buffet, average at best. Next Negative - On several occasions I felt like some ships personnel had lied to me from the shore excursion desk. We rarely use the ship's shore excursions but since we had never ventured into this part of the world we were curious about getting back safely. We had already made arrangements for some off ship activities (not through the ship) but were still curious about our options. So I stopped in the shore excursion desk on two different occasion to ask some questions. Was told by one young lady on the shore ex desk that Athens Greece had no public transportation available on the days we would be in port so if we wanted to get around, we had to buy their shore excursion. We had heard of similar experiences from other cruisers. Also, on our trip, we had to verify our time many times- for some reason some of the ships people couldn't get the time right. Had this same story again a few days later for a stop in Turkey, shore ex desk people told some areas were not open for tourists unless we booked passage from them as it was a holiday.
Perhaps I misunderstood, but we did talk to some other couples with similar stories. I hate to just make the statement that we were intentionally lied to, but it sure seemed that way. After we actually got ashore, a nice 10-12 min walk to the public train station and a 4 euro pp ticket ( all day ) got us easily to the Acropolis sites and back ( this versus 149 pp for a Norwegian tour of the same ). Summary of my story, do your research first, for each and every port, days you will be there, bus & train schedules, locations, etc. and do not completely 'trust' the ship's people to give you advice. Compare notes and ask for second opinions. Now if you have an extra thousand dollars just laying around and don't want to go to the trouble to do an hour of research, then the ship's sponsored shore excursions are for you. Once again about the time, as this cruise does cross a time zone you must triple check your time before you leave the ship and with more than one source. We had a printed daily newsletter stating the ships time change and a loudspeaker announcement with an update and a clock at the front desk showing another time. PLEASE verify the time. On our cruise some passengers were left behind at each and every port ! The time confused staff and announcements may have played a small part.
OK next negative- The ports, all are very historic with a lot to see and do. Having this said you should not try to see or do it all. That is not possible and you will stress yourself out. Most of the ports are not exactly close to the sights that most came to see- so a lengthy ride on a bus or train is needed. Example, Florence Italy is a great, MUST SEE city, but it is about 1 HR 20 mins by train from the port. OK - that is 3 hours travel time taken away from your in port time. so don't be fooled by the time in port listed on the itinerary. This is not Norwegians fault that they cant drive the boat that far inland but it must be taken into consideration when you book this cruise. Florence has many beautiful and historic sites so my suggestion is pick one or two must see places and stick to those and spend the appropriate amount of time to enjoy them. Another example is Rome, over an hour inland by train from the port. Rome is a really big city with too much to see in 6 hours, so once again pick one or two things, don't pressure yourself to do it all, because you cant see it all in a week. This is not the fault of the cruise line that the ports are not very close to the sites, but the way it is advertised it can be a little misleading. Please take into account the travel time, distance and costs for these ports before you book this cruise. you will find that you have about half the time available that you think you have.
A little tip about money, most European countries use the EURO, Turkey still uses the Turkish Lira. Most places in Turkey will accept Euros or even US dollars but you can usually make a better deal if you travel with the correct local currency. We exchanged money at our home bank BEFORE we left getting EUROS and LIRA. We got a better exchange rate doing it this way versus using the ship or a port side agency. Then when we did make local purchases we were able to negotiate a better price. I estimate we saved about 20% doing it this way. Just watch the exchange rates to make sure the vendors don't un-do your savings.
Another tip, I think the Turkish government requires that all ship shore excursions must include a portion of that tour for a hard sell. In IZMIR we were required to sit through a leather fashion show and sales pitch at a leather store- about 40-50 mins of the sore excursion.
In ISTANBUL we were required to sit through a carpet demonstration and sales pitch at a carpet store.( once again 40 mins or so ) Purchases are not required but participation is required if you book the shore excursion from the ship.
So be prepared if you book an excursion from the ship.
Getting off the ship in Barcelona- easy, smooth, trouble free. Plenty of available taxis. We had a taxi for 4 from the port to the airport for 36 EU .
The Barcelona is beautiful and wished we had most time to explore.
We did arrive 3 days prior to the cruise in Venice and spent a few days getting acclimated to the weather and time change. 3 days in Venice was wonderful.
Overall, Norwegian cruises did a good job, We will probably go with them again.
If we ever do Italy again it probably will not be on a cruise as the ships cant get too close to the good stuff and you need more time to see it than a one day stop can provide.