NCL Spirit, awesome, great, the best ever !
Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
Having sailed on NCL before we knew what to expect. A great time. And we weren't disappointed. I would go so far as to say this was possibly our best cruise ever. The ship is excellent, if a little tired, the crew great and the company for this trip, outstanding. Ports and itinerary, well that is why we chose this sailing. Superb.
Embarkation at Venice was the usual, lots of people hanging about but fine. First impressions of the ship were that the cabin was a little ' tired ' but I mean, how much time do you actually spend in there ? It was fine and by day two we hardly noticed again.
The ship herself has an Asian theme as she was formerly the Superstar Leo and sailed Asia before NCL bought her.
I am going to keep this review with regards the ship very short, suffice to say she had all the amenities one would expect on a ship, theatre, restaurants, ( extremely small ) gym, library, card room, spa, shops, bars, the list goes on..
I believe that a cruise More
is what you make of it, if you wish to stay isolated as a cruiser and keep yourselves to yourselves, you can certainly do so. If however you wish to gain some great new friends then you can also do that. We chose the latter and with the help of the roll call on cruise critic we met so many new friends it is quite unbelievable. Some I really believe could turn out to be lifelong. THAT is what made this cruise so special for us. My advice is this : talk to people ! Share a dining table with strangers, participate in cruise activities. You wont regret it.
I have reviewed the ports that are listed on cruise critic in their relevant sections, however I cannot find a section for Toulon, so here is my review :
A tender port for us, a military port in France. Entirely forgettable. I have no idea why any cruiseline would bother with Toulon.The town itself is nothing to write home about and there is nothing to do there really.
Next time we are staying onboard ! Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
I organised a tour with Private Greece Tours for 12 people on a cruise, Nikos the owner was helpful ahead of time with queries and calmed fears of mine as we were in Athens on OCHI day, a day of national celebration with military parades etc..
Frank our driver was waiting for us at the port and gave us a whistle stop tour of Athens, changing itinerary according to the challenge of the days events... absolutely excellent as we saw a lot more than we would normally have done as the city was closed in a lot of places to traffic because of the celebrations.
The price was very cost effective for a party of 12.
I would recommend this company in a heartbeat and they are worthy of their top ranking on tripadvisor.
The port of ' Florence ' is actually Livorno, over an hour drive to Florence itself. We have done Florence / Pisa before so opted for a tour with a company called smartcruisetours.com to Le Cinque Terre, The Five Towns.
These five towns are precariously set on mountainsides, bounded by the sea. They are a true sight to behold, absolutely stunning.
The area itself is difficult to get to, 1 and 1/2 hours drive so I caution anyone about this.
The tour itself was well organised and extremely good, the guide was knowledgeable and took us to places that we simply would not have seen, and for a fraction of the cost of the ships excursion.
We organised a tour ahead of time with Istanbul Walks. When we arrived at the meeting place we found that there were only two of us on the entire tour !
We met our guide, Emir, a young man in his early twenties outside Hagia Sophia. The line was large, VERY large....we needn't have worried though as he went straight to the front and got us passed everyone as he had already got our tickets !
We had Emir all to ourselves, what a bonus. He was knowledgable and his English was good. We had a comprehensive tour of Hagia Sophia, then into the Blue Mosque and finally the Hippodrome.
I could not fault this tour and especially Emir, what a great guy and a great guide.
Archaeological Site of Ephesus
We were a party of 15, booked independently after arranging on cruise critic and unfortunately only had a half day, arriving 7.15am and needing to be back on board no later than 12.30pm.
The guide was excellent indeed and gave us a detailed description of Ephesus and some information en route.
The person who organised our tour specifically asked for no shopping trips to carpet or leather stores as we felt we did not have enough time and that proved the correct decision as the site is a long way from the port itself, some 1 and 1/2 hours drive. Having said that we made a bathroom stop... at a shop. No matter though, it was fine.
Basically we managed a whistle stop tour of the site itself before leaving.
Ephesus is an excellent archaeological site and highly recommended. Be aware though, it is a long drive from Izmir and you always run the risk of being delayed and missing your ship if you arrange to do it yourselves.
Mykonos was a tender port and I must say that despite the weather being absolutely gorgeous for the time of year and the town itself being very pretty, there really wasn't much there.
Half a day to see it, tops.
Beer was possibly the most expensive I have ever encountered ! 5 Euro for a small glass. Robbery.
Naples, well we have visited there several times before and been to Pompeii, Herculaneum, the Amalfi coast, etc etc...
So, this time we decided on the hop on hop off bus. It has 4 routes and is comprehensive in its coverage of the city, 22 euro for an adult.
Must say we thought the town itself was grotty, dirty and we wont do that again !
We have been to Rome many many times before and so we wanted something entirely different to do. With the help of a new company, smartcruisetours.com, we settled on a trip to Orvieto and Civita di Bagnoregio.
Orvieto is a city in the Province of Terni, southwestern Umbria, Italy situated on the flat summit of a large butte of volcanic tuff. The site of the city is among the most dramatic in Europe, rising above the almost-vertical faces of tuff cliffs that are completed by defensive walls built of the same stone called Tufa.
Civita di Bagnoregio, sometimes called the ' dying town ' I think, was founded 2500 years ago and now has little or no population despite it being intact. Its positioning takes some getting used to and some understanding, basically it is at the top of a cliff, surrounded by cliffs, perching there. looking like it will fall down at any given moment ! Quite extraordinary.
The tour itself was out of this world, a real gem and rivalled Rome, certainly for the traveller who has been to Rome before.