Very busy cruise- 4 ports followed by a sea day, twice, so an exhausting schedule, but great excursions. Great service and attitude of crew, really impressed. Loved Captain Lars and his announcements- very chatty and humorous. Unfortunately he left at end of cruise to transfer to the Jade.
Cabin was fine. Noticed smell in bathroom commented on by someone else, and husband added water to the drain and with some air freshener, was fine. Location very good for getting around the ship.
Did discount package of 3 specialty restaurants offered in last month before cruise (with wine); enjoyed the french restaurant the most; also did Cagney's and Italian.
Bought inexpensive great quality wine in Spain and Italy and payed corkage fee of $15/bottle; saved a lot of money vs. buying wine on ship. At the terminal we left from, didn't have very good selection of wine; other terminal had more choice. Did 2 spa visits when they had specials running; good job by staff.
Did half excursions on own or with private company; half with boat.
Toulon- on our own; went to funicular and walked around town, had lunch at seaside cafe. Went to mall near port exit to get electronics (adapters/converters/extension cords) we needed; very handy.
Florence- did "Florence on your own" bus thru NCL; guide did a great job of orienting us, but a lot of walking to get from bus by river to meeting spot near Santa Maria church. Visited Accademia and Uffizi museums (made reservations at 11:30 and 2:30) and ate lunch at cafe behind the Duomo, very good.
Rome- arranged private tour for 4 with Maurizio, Rome In Limo, excellent. Visited a ton of sites (Trevi Fountain, Navarro Square, Pantheon, Coliseum, Vatican and St. Peter's with guide). He even fit in a quick trip to Hard Rock Cafe to pick up t-shirts, at our request. Two of the group had bad knees and walked with canes- this tour helped us cover a lot of ground and minimized walking. Only bad part of this- how crowded the Vatican/Sistine was- was just packed, and was hard to appreciate the Sistine Chapel when it is filled body to body. Our private Vatican guide was excellent- really helped us appreciate what we were seeing, and knowing what to look for. In future, I'd try to do Vatican in early morning or late afternoon to get best chance of lower crowds.
Naples- in morning we went to famous Naples Archaeology Museum on local bus (took a lot of time to wait for bus but taxi's at port exit wanted $25 euro to go 1 mile) Were waiting for a specific bus to go to that location (based on internet info) but later found out multiple buses go right across another street from museum, so should have been able to get there sooner- check out the bus schedule/map better for future. Wonderful museum, but after paying 26 euro for entrance and audio guid, found out that the entire second floor (with the Pompei exhibit) was closed due to staff meeting and couldn't get a refund. Be careful to check the signs at the entrance and ask the ticket staff before buying your ticket. They wanted us to come back at 4, but we couldn't due to cruise/excursion schedule. In afternoon, scheduled NCL excursion Herculaneum since had done Pompei before. Waste of time to go to cameo factory (but could use bathroom), but Herculaneum was fantastic. Much better condition than Pompei, and wonderful guide.
Mykonos- tendered into port and then took a boat to Delos on NCL excursion. Wonderful site, but be sure to bring water, hat, sunscreen, walking stick, very hot. Great museum and cafe to get a drink and snack; then boat back to Mykonos. Didn't have much time on Mykonos; had a beer and did a little shopping near the port.
Istanbul- booked a private tour for 6 through VIP Ephesus. Guide was excellent. Visited Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, Underground Cisterns, Carpet store where we had a demonstration of how carpets are made. Excellent lunch. Highly recommend this group. Our guide was very professional and in religious settings (mosque) gave us input outside and then sent us in. Was disappointed in other groups treating mosque as a museum and doing their tour spiels in the mosque where signs asked for respect and silence.
Izmir/Ephesus- private tour for 6 through VIP Ephesus. Guide Anil was excellent. Did Ancient Ephesus, House of Diana, Terrace Houses. Highly recommend Terrace Houses (extra fee).
Athens- did NCL excursion- Acropolis and Athens Leisure time. This was our only bad NCL excursion experience, and we complained to NCL Spirit excursion desk afterward and got a partial refund for our group of 6. I had called ahead of time on each excursion to make sure I knew how much time it took to get to site, how much time at site, etc. The guide Olga was very disorganized and took too much time to get to Acropolis, and lost control of group (instead of being up front and asking us to stay to right or left when it was crowded, went behind group to look for stragglers- a complete mess). She also didn't let us know what would happen next. Long story short we only had 1 hour at the Plaka for shopping and meal instead of 2 1/2 hours, so we had to take taxis back to boat at #30 euro for our group to get the full 2 1/2 hours we wanted at the Plaka. NCL kindly refunded 30% of cost of excursion to satisfy us on this, very appreciated.
Venice- worst port ever. In exiting ship, there were no signs, or confusing signs, and no port or NCL personnel to help. Tons of people ended going the wrong way, then doubling back, very confusing. Seems like the port wasn't ready for us, or organized to help people. We didn't have this in any other port.
Took People Mover and water taxi to San Marcos; then walked around, had great wine and snacks at a wine cafe (part of a hotel), shopped, took water taxi and people mover back to boat.
Highly recommend you book boat transport to airport; some in our group didn't want to do this, but there were few taxis and they are very expensive, and limos were all fully booked in advance and unavailable for our group with a lot of luggage. Luckily the NCL allowed us to book on their transport that morning; made it much easier.
Some additional comments:
-boat offered Italian lessons last day before Venice; wish they had offered Italian lessons earlier. It was very helpful and enjoyable.
-other cruises offered port maps at each port; this one didn't have these until late in the cruise; at other ports they wanted you to go to tourist info office in port terminal; these were often with long lines. wish they had given out port maps for each port. They said they didn't have this because most boats have shopping experts who do the maps and Spirit didn't have one.
-entertainment we went to was good, but we were often too tired to go to entertainment.
-food overall was good.
-pool water was very cold, so people tended to hog hot tubs, but if you were patient, you could get in for a time.
-wonderful service by staff- very friendly and helpful. very impressed vs. my other NCL experience (Alaska cruise 2011)
-didn't like passports being taken away at beginning of cruise (due to going to Turkey), and some staff said you couldn't get them back to go to shore. Be prepared for this. Talk to Katerina and tell her you need it to do banking and you can get it back. Some of the other staff at guest services aren't as knowledgeable. Was interesting that Venice required you to have passports on you after all the other ports didn't need it.
Overall great trip, great ship, great crew. would highly recommend this to anyone, but exercise and get in shape for walking first- it is very strenuous.