Prior to booking the Norwegian Barcelona to Venice cruise, we had a similar itinerary booked on Disney. When I saw that the Norwegian Spirit was going to Istanbul, Ephesus and Athens, three exciting ports that the Disney itinerary did not include, I cancelled the Disney cruise and booked with Norwegian. The cost was just about half of what the Disney cruise cost. In fact, by the time I paid for the cruise, bought air fare and paid for great shore excursions in every port, my costs were just about what the cruise alone cost on Disney.
Having cruised a Disney Mediterranean itinerary before, I knew what to expect. With Norwegian being so much less expensive, I set my expectations a bit lower and I have to say, we were not disappointed with any aspect of the cruise. Yes, the cabin was smaller than a Disney cabin. No, there was not as much storage space, but for the price, we felt the cruise was absolutely wonderful and a total bargain.
Embarkation in Barcelona was smooth and easy. We were surprised that we had to surrender our passports since we were traveling to non-European Union countries. We were glad we had color copies of our passports with us, although the cruise check-in folks offered to make black/whiter copies for us.
We stayed the night before the cruise at the Hilton Diagonal Mar in Barcelona. The hotel was lovely, but it was not what I'd consider a great location. It was right across the street from a huge indoor shopping center, but it was a taxi ride away from the Rambla and the Gothic district. Personally, I would have preferred something closer to the Rambla.
We had read reviews that the food on the ship was not very good. That was not our experience at all. The buffet was maybe a bit more limited than some of the other ships we've been on, but the food was very good. We were quite pleased. The little Blue Lagoon on Deck 7 was excellent for a quick bite 24 hours a day. Try their won ton soup! We only ate in the main dining room three nights, but each time was excellent with excellent service. We ate at Cagney's, Le Bistro and Shogun, all worth the upcharge, although we did it more to avoid crowds and have a quieter meal than because the dining room food was lacking (because it definitely was not).
We only went to the main shows three nights. All were enjoyable and good, but if you miss something, oh well, you miss something. Other than Elements (their signature show), nothing was so totally memorable that it would be a shame to miss it.
This cruise was so port-intensive that, by the time we got back from our all-day shore excursions, all we wanted was a hot shower and a good bed ;-) so we really didn't take advantage of much other entertainment on the ship.
Disembarkation was easy and smooth. Our post-cruise stay was at Hotel Papadopoli in Venice. Transfer there was easy and efficient. I can't recommend this hotel highly enough. It was absolutely beautiful, totally luxurious and the breakfast buffer (included in price of room) was really lovely in a beautiful dining room. Stay here if you can. You won't regret it.
In summary, our cruise was wonderful, much nicer than expected and a total bargain for the price. The only things we missed were (1) bar soap, (2) hair conditioner and (3) body lotion. So, if you book Norwegian Spirit, bring your own ;-) On the plus side, our room had a 4-Cup coffee maker and coffee packets, etc. right in the room. The crew was efficient and friendly and the towel animals came to visit each night. Don't hesitate to book this cruise. Just understand that you'll be getting a smaller cabin and you won't be disappointed.