Getting to the ship: We checked out of the Tritone hotel the morning of embarkation but left our luggage to be picked up later while we did some sightseeing in Venice. I understand there is a luggage check at the Piazelle Roma also, but it costs $7 Euros per bag and our hotel was free.
I had read all the instructions on how to get to the ship via the train, the bridge over the canal, and the people mover. After we had navigated Venice for two days I was not looking forward to the hassle of all this or the distance we'd have to walk which Id already paid particular attention to while on our bus rides in and out of the city. I knew I'd have a difficult time managing my bag from start to finish and my husband would find it hard to handle his and help me too. In the end, we gave in and asked the desk at the Tritone Hotel to call us a cab. By the time we collected our luggage and got to the street, the cab had arrived. Let me just say, this was the best 38 Euros we spent on our trip. The driver took us right to the luggage drop off for the Spirit. From there we walked around the building to the next yellow building. Boarding had began at noon and when we arrived at about 3:00 p.m. all of the early boarders were now on the ship and there was no line to check-in. We walked right up to the desk. The entire process took less than 10 minutes and we were walking up the gankplank and onto the ship. We went immediately to our room. Our luggage was delivered an hour or so later.
Our Balcony Room: We were on Deck 11 in room 11116. The room was always quiet and the location was great, mid-ship toward aft. I didn't find the room to be particularly attractive with its bland white walls and white bedding. Aside from the red/gold carpet and a yellow/red desk chair there is little color in the room and it seems a bit dull. The curtains are a muted gold and the "sofa" a dull yellowish beige. The decoration didn't affect the function of the room however and the room was adequately sized for two and quite functional.
There is plenty of storage space beneath the bed for luggage or anything else you might want to stash there. There is a large closet with both hanging space and corner shelving. There are many hangers already and a call to guests services brought us 15 more within a 1/2 hour. A wooden unit holds the flat screen TV above the refrigerator/mini bar and beneath that are 4 very small drawers. We found the storage space for clothing to be adequate for a 12 day cruise. Inside the closet is a safe that was just large enough to hold my netbook or an ipad.
There is a small desk and a chair and this is where the one electrical outlet in the room is located. It will accomodate US 110 volt items but only up to 500 watts which is why there is a sticker that says "no hairdryers." Another outlet next to it, I believe, is for European plugs. If you plan to plug in more than one thing at a time you will need a power strip of some sort. The desk is located right next to the balcony door and my computer cord was long enough for me to sit on the balcony with my computer while it was still plugged into the wall.
The bathroom is divided into three sections with the sink in the open center and the toilet and shower on each side enclosed with a sliding glass door. While the toilet door is frosted glass, the bathroom still remains more or less a one-person-at-a-time space as the shower door is clear and gives no privacy. Bathroom storage is adequate with shelving on both sides of the mirror to hold lots of toiletries. There is also a shelf beneath the sink where I stashed my toiletry bag and taller toiletry items.
You probably arent going to want to watch much TV and that is just as well because there isnt much to watch. There are a bunch of NCL informational channels. There is also an English, German and French movie channel. The same movies ran every day and always at the same time each day so that every single night of the cruise we could watch The Hobbit at 8 p.m. We never watched a movie. There was a Sky News Channel which seemed to be Europes version of sensational news that focused mostly on murder trials and sports scandals. I think there was a sports channel that always seemed to be playing a soccer game. I was just glad to find that there was the BBC news channel. That was the only thing we ever watched. There was no U.S. news or channels of any kind. The only news we got from the U.S. throughout our entire cruise was whatever the BBC found important enough to report on.
There is WiFi throughout the ship but it is expensive. If you are going to use the internet, buy a package. I had decided that Id pay by the minute since I didnt intend to use it much. We logged on the first time and checked my husband's baseball scores and I sent our daughter a quick 2 line message to tell her wed arrived on the ship. The internet connection is so slow that it took 7 ½ minutes to do those two things. It cost 75 cents per minute plus a $3.95 activation fee the first time you log on.
Why a hanging organizer really is needed: I thought it might be going a little overboard when I read all the recommendations from people to pack a hanging door organizer but then I got into my cabin and was glad that I had packed an organizer of my own. There is plenty of storage space for clothing in the cabin but no room for anything like cameras, battery chargers, books, or any of the other extra "stuff" that is always lying around the room. Other than the bed, sofa, and the tiniest nightstand ever built, the only other furniture in the room is a chair and the small desk. A tray holding the coffee pot and supplies takes up almost half the desk top leaving just enough room to set up a lap top. There is little room for "extra stuff" if you plan to use the desk top for a computer or writing. I did use a 4" x 4" cardboard tray on the desk to hold small items like loose change and my lipstick and earrings when I removed them. But I was glad I'd brought the hanging organizer that came with my luggage which I hung on the door hinge for the adjoining room to stash all of the other extra stuff in.
Service: All the workers we met on the ship were warm and friendly. They went out of their way to make sure we were happy with every aspect of our cruise. Anytime I didnt finish my dinner someone would notice and rush over to ask me what was wrong. The only thing ever wrong was that the portions were too big and I couldnt finish them. After ordering room service someone would always call to make sure I had enjoyed my meal.
Windows and The Garden Room: We never had any problem getting a table anytime we wanted. My husband ordered a bottle of wine the first evening and had one glass. The bottle was stored and brought to him whenever he asked for it throughout the rest of the cruise. We ate in Windows or the Garden Room almost every night. One side of the menu is similar all the time (it did change some) but I didn't find that to be limiting since it has numerous choices. I rarely chose anything from that side of the menu though because the other side of the menu, the daily specials (usually 3 appetizers, 4 or 5 entrees and 3 desserts to choose from each day), were always so wonderful that I nearly always chose from those. My only complaint was that the portions were too big. I could never completely finish a meal and often ate more than I should have because I felt guilty about throwing out so much food.
Raffles Buffet: The buffet was usually quite busy and chaotic. We could often get a quiet breakfast at the buffet but only because we ate when they first opened at 6:30 or 7 a.m. We did have dinner in the Buffet once. Most of the food was good but it didn't compare to the MDR. It was okay for a quick meal.
Blue Lagoon: We ate lunch here only once sharing a plate of wings and ordering fish and chips. The wing were only lukewarm. I think they'd probably been sitting around awhile under a not-too-hot heat lamp for awhile before we ordered them. Had they been hot, they'd have been very good. The fish however wasn't that great. It was a big piece of breading surrounding a miniscule piece of fish. If you ever want cookies, this is the only place I ever saw any. There is very limited seating here. Maybe a half dozen tables. After that first experience, we never went back.
Room Service: I loved being able to use room service the mornings we had shore excursions. It was so convenient not to have to get dressed to go to the buffet and then fight the crowds as everyone tried to grab something to eat at the same time before leaving the ship. I could breakfast in my pajamas on my own balcony in peace and quiet.
Entertainment: Shows are generally at 7:30 and 9:30. The first nights show was only at 9 and was 35 minutes long. It was a sample of a few of shows to come later in the trip. The opening dance number was okay. The Motown group was fabulous. The illusionist was not so hot. The illusionists sample act made me NOT want to see the full show. It was both cheesy and boring. We did not see the show every night but the shows we did see were all very good or great.
Activities: This, in my opinion, is the weakest aspect of this cruise. Even on "at Sea" days there is no increase or variety of activities. Activities are always the same or similar and range from game shows such as "Deal or No Deal" and Bingo to "Family Lego Building" and a "Napkin Folding Class." There was a shuffleboard tournament, a Ping Pong Tournament and some other group sports. The casino is open around the clock. For those not interested in games, gambling or group activities however, there is little to do. We did enjoy two presentations about the ships shore excursions but wished there had been more lectures about the ports we were to visit. There were other "talks" as well but they were all about buying gemstones or are spa related (such as "Back Pain Relief with Acupuncture" and "Love your Lips") or art auction related. The cruise we were on was made up of a middle aged to older crowd who would, in all likelihood, have been interested in port history lectures. One night in the theater the cruise director asked if everyone was looking forward to the 10:30 p.m. toga party and about two people let out a whoop while the rest of the huge audience remained silent. That should tell the activities planners something. Older people arent going to be interested in a 10:30 toga party after a long day in port or the night before they have to get up early to leave the ship at 7 or 8 a.m. On the other hand, the Galaxy of the Stars was crowded with lots of people on the dance floor the evening that the Spirit Showband did a Big Band Tribute. There was little live music scheduled before 6 p.m. even on at sea days except for an hour by the pool at noon or an hour or so of polka tunes in the Bier Garten during lunch one day. We would have gladly sat in a lounge and listened all afternoon had music been available. The only movies scheduled in the Clipper Room were on port days when most people were off the ship.
We chose to disembark in Barcelona on our own. At about 7 a.m. we simply walked off the ship and got in the first available cab which were lined up right outside. It took about 20 minutes to get to the airport and cost us 38 Euros. The one bit of confusion happened when the cab driver asked us if we needed terminal one or terminal two. We had no idea. He had a list of the airlines and where they were located but United wasn't on the list. Eventually I found Continental and knowing that they had recently merged with United I guessed that that is where we should go, and lucky for us, it was correct. You should know what terminal you airline is located at before getting into the cab.