Now that Summer is over, I've found the time to review the Mediterranean cruise we took last April.
In a nutshell, this was our best cruise ever.
We booked the cruise to celebrate my wife's 55 birthday and what a cruise it was. The itinerary was perfect for what we hadn't seen before and allowed us to visit museums in Florence, Rome, and Venice that we did not visit on a previous trip to Europe 5 years earlier.
Embarkation was a breeze. Suite guests have a special check in line so there was no wait getting checked in. After check in we were escorted to a special room for suite guests stocked with beverages and snacks while we waited for our escort to our cabin. She arrived in short order and we quickly passed through security, boarded the ship, and was escorted to our suite.
We booked the "Libra" Suite (9710) and it was worth the money. Booking a suite includes a number of perks that are worth the cost. Our butler Achmad was great. We only asked 3 things of him during the trip. First was a different hair dryer as my wife thought the built in one was "wimpy" . He got her a regular one immediately. Second was a fresh bucket of ice each evening at 5:00 p.m. It was there every night when we got back to the ship and I never had to remind him during the rest of the trip. Lastly, a glass of apple juice and cranberry juice be delivered with the ice. The apple juice was for me to have first thing in the morning and the cranberry for my wife's cocktail mixer. Again, it was in the fridge each evening like clockwork. We both appreciated that he would check with us each evening just to see if we needed anything and ask us how our day had gone.
Our concierge was Karabi. She was wonderful. Suite guests have access to Cagney's restaurant for breakfast and lunch. Each morning, Karabi would bring us our shore excursion tickets there and give us our bus numbers. She then told us what time to be back a Cagney's to escort us to our busses. She would gather all of us up at the appointed time, take us through crew only passageways to the crew only exit from the ship, and escort us to our busses. This was great as we always were the first to arrive therefore we would get the front row on the busses. We knew that suite guests get priority embarkation and debarkation, but did not know about this perk. It was a wonderful surprise.
Our cabin steward was Michael and he was also wonderful. The suite was spotless each day when we returned. He was also very talented in making towel animals. Our favorite was the monkey hanging from the curtains. We asked him to leave it for the remainder of the cruise. Not sure how he did it, but he made a birthday cake for my wife, with a candle, entirely out of towels. He even put some confetti on it.
Food on board was very good. On the first day of the cruise, all guests who wished to dine with the ships officers or senior staff were asked to submit their name and cabin number and a drawing would be held to determine who gets to dine with one them in the main dining room. I didn't think our chances were very good as there were 2000+ passengers on board. Lo and behold we were picked. Along with two other couples who happened to be suite guests. Coincidence? I think not. In any case, we had dinner with hotel director, Orazio Caci, and restaurant director, Mihaela Mocan. Needless to say, service was excellent and the wine was plentiful.
I had read about The Chef's Table before we left and thought it would be perfect for my wife's birthday dinner if it happened to be on her birthday. The dinner is to 12 people and costs $89 PP. Based on what I've read on CC, it always sells out fast so I made sure beforehand that they knew we were interested. It turns out that on this cruise they have two of them on back to back nights. One of them was on her birthday and the next day was a sea day so we could sleep in. I booked it and it was a great experience. We are not "foodies" but do enjoy a good meal. The dinner consists of 9 courses with 5 wine pairings. Our group of 12 met at Champagne Charlie's at 5:30 p.m. for a glass of champagne and to get to know the other diners before dinner at 6:00 p.m. At 6:00 p.m. we were escorted to a private dining room located next to Cagney's restaurant. The executive chef described each course as it was presented and the wine sommelier described each wine. The food was excellent and the wine flowed freely. Service was excellent and, if I remember correctly, there was one waiter per 2 guests - never did a wine glass go empty unless you said no thanks. Dinner finished around 10:00 p.m. but then we were escorted back to Champagne Charlie's for a night cap. I would recommend this if you really want to celebrate a special occasion.
We mostly had dinner in the main dining room and the food was fine. The menu seemed to have some local entrée from the port we just visited and were always very good. I mostly stuck with those entree's rather than the fixed menu options. My wife ordered prime rib one evening against my advice. Too often when prime rib is cooked for large groups it ends up tasting "steamed" rather than "roasted". I was right as she only ate a couple of bites before digging into my Paella. We did go to "Le Bistro" one evening and the "Filet du Boeuf Grille" was one of the best steaks I've had in a restaurant in a long, long, time.
The fitness area was fine but the Spa area is quite small. It just can't compete with the larger ones like the one on the Pearl or any other newer, larger ship. Not an issue with us as we were very busy each day with shore excursions.
We enjoyed all of our shore excursions. In Florence, Naples, Istanbul, and Athens we booked the smaller, "exclusive" ones, as they are described. They are more expensive, but they can go some places that the big busses can't and you're not waiting around for every one to get back on the larger busses before going to your next stop on the tour. Our largest group on the small tours was 14. Traffic in Istanbul is horrible so it really doesn't matter if you're on a large or small bus - you will waste at least an hour or more of your time trying to get from one point to another.
There was a different show each night and all were enjoyable. Suite guests have a reserved area in the balcony and Karabi was there to greet us each evening.
The pool and deck lounging areas are more than adequate to accommodate guests during sea days. There was always a lounge available for us somewhere on the sun decks.
The Casino will take your money but it's still fun to play the slots on occasion. Maharni's Lounge and Nightclub, and the White Hot party were a lots of fun.
It's funny to me that the Spirit is referred to as a "smaller ship" even though it holds 2,018 passengers. We really enjoyed this sized ship.
Our next big "milestone birthday" trip is going to be a Panama Canal cruise. If the Spirit did this route we would book it in a New York Minute.
Hope this review helps some of you.