On June 4-16, 2013, my wife, 7 year old daughter, 4 year old son and I sailed on NCL Spirit. This was my 13th cruise, and I have sailed on RCCL, Princess, Disney, NCL and Carnival previously. The 12 day itinerary was our longest cruise yet. We have been to most of these ports previously, but this time we brought my mother in law to celebrate her 70th birthday.
Barcelona- We arrived 2 days early in Barcelona. Good parks for the kids and no issues with pick pockets. Took the subway too. We stayed in 2 rooms at the Renaissance, and found the hotel and its location very good. Rooms seemed large for Europe, but typical for an American hotel. One room had a balcony but no real view though. Quiet, and a good breakfast buffet. A portable bed was provided for the 3rd child in one room. Baths redone in marble, and rooms modern in decor. A business hotel, and noticed United pilots staying there.
Embarkation/Disembarkation: Easy, and organized for arrival but we were early. Others said the line was very long for those who arrived later. Disembarking was delayed/behind an hour, and the area where you pick up your luggage is small and very crowded. My wife commented that NCL could have done a better job there. We transferred to the Alliguana water bus which departs close by but too far to walk with all our luggage and the children. The first stop is at the Hilton where we stayed the next night. Pricey but highly recommended. Pre Order the transfer to the Hilton through NCL which we didn’t realize they had until we which we were off the ship.
Ship: Be aware that they take and hold your passports until the end of the cruise! First time on the Spirit and she was fine. She is not new nor the biggest, and to compare her to the Allure of the Seas- which we took last year- is not a fair comparison. We took this trip for the itinerary not the ship, but overall the ship was clean, maintained and had the amenities we wanted.
The Raffles buffet- I could always find something I liked, and always found a seat in spite of crowds. Great idea to put the silverware and napkin on the table so you don’t have to carry it with you as you serve yourself. We ate breakfast and lunch here every day. Soft serve available, but my usual choice was the regular ice cream with my choice of toppings. Burgers, chicken nuggets and Cookies were found in the Blue Lagoon Café- cookies were very good!
Windows Main Dining Room- My wife and I ate here just about every night. The food and service were good. We like freestyle dining since this gives up the flexibility we need with our small children. We never felt the need to try any of the specialty restaurants.
Kids Club- They divide the kids by age, but not for every activity. So our kids were separated some but together as a group at other times. They did not just babysit the kids but actively played with and engaged them. The face painting was great, and both of them loved it! They even had the whole club perform one night on stage which was a treat for all the parents. The kids club is very flexible- their hours are not the same every day so check the schedule. There were not a lot of small children on the ship- we heard about a 100- but most often there were only a handful to be watched when our kids were there. For the first time after 4 previous cruises with our kids- including Disney last year- our kids loved the club! They asked to go so often we really felt like we had a vacation. Our kids are still talking about some of the workers there, and we tipped them at the end of the trip since they are not included in the automatic tipping so be informed! Since our kids did not come to dinner with us usually, we deducted their dinner tip and gave it to the kids club workers.
What to do with the kids when you go ashore- Contrary to the literature, you can leave your kids at the kids club while you go ashore. This was a huge unexpected benefit for us, especially since we were worried about how our kids would do on the long days such as Florence and Rome. We were able to leave the kids at the club and then go on our excursions. The club workers will take them to breakfast/lunch/ dinner as needed but there is a $6 per child charge for each meal time babysitting if you will. On longer port days we would take our kids to breakfast early, and then drop them off at the club. Since the club was taking all the kids to breakfast at say 9 am our kids would then have another breakfast if they wanted- what we really needed was the flexibility to drop them off so we could take our excursion. So you have to pay the meal time fee if the club is taking the kids to a meal whether or not your kids eat. The kids club itself closes during that mealtime since they take all the kids to the meal. On longer days our kids would have lunch and dinner with the club so that was $12 per child for the day. What really helped us was this was the first time we could leave the ship without one adult staying behind. Maybe because our youngest was potty trained? I am not sure, but I reread the NCL literature again and it says one adult must stay behind when you leave a kid at the club.
Rooms- First time we have had inside cabins and we realized we could do inside cabins again. Ours had some noise from the shows but otherwise were quiet. As another has posted there were small mechanical issues like the sliding door on the shower was sticking, and the soap dispenser fell off. No one fixed them despite a request. Larger shower than usual. Beds comfortable. Hair dryer in room. Closet typical in size but I brought extra hangers which came in handy. Thanks to another post where they requested more hangers upon arrival- great idea! No clock in the room so glad I brought my own. There is just one 110 outlet in the room and a 220 as well. I brought my travel iron, but hid it in my carryon as previous post said NCL was removing them from luggage.
Pools- Our kids loved the kids pool and we played in it every day. Although the air temperature was cool at times, the pool was heated so the water was never too cold for them. I was concerned pre-cruise that the water would be too cold. There are 2 short slides into the pool, and the kids had so much fun. There is also a hot tub next to this pool, which also really helped keep the kids warm. Never too crowded but again this cruise was early June before the rush of children.
Internet-The ship charges 75 cents a minute, or 55 cents if you buy $100. We found much better rates in port in Naples, Mykonos and Dubrovnik. We merely were cleaning out personal email.
Photos- We bought the package which included 18 photos plus a disc with a license for $200.
Overall - We really enjoyed our trip on the Spirit. We were very fortunate to have great sunny weather our entire cruise. By allowing us to leave the kids while we toured ashore, the kids club workers gave us a break we never expected. Because of a strike, we had to skip Athens but stopped in Dubrovnik instead- what a prize! This itinerary is the best, and for over 12 days we really disconnected from work and home. Leave your phone and laptop behind, and enjoy the experience! Now that is a vacation, and I hope to repeat this sooner not later.