We chose this cruise because of the itinerary. The opportunity to go to the Baltic Sea and visit 13 countries in 15 days was extraordinary. Aside from the rather whirlwind aspect of this type of schedule, we still view the chance to see ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary. The opportunity to go to the Baltic Sea and visit 13 countries in 15 days was extraordinary. Aside from the rather whirlwind aspect of this type of schedule, we still view the chance to see these amazing historical countries as incredibly unique. For this, the captain's finesse with driving the ship, Ella, our patient steward, and Willie, the Raffles Terrace bartender, we would do it all again.
The ship is tired and in need of refurbishment. I know it is difficult to take new trendy practices from recently-built ships and try to make them work on an older one. For example, the ship's toilet areas are in need of more stalls - and sometimes bigger ones, the theater seats are small and difficult to get up from (and the main entrances to the theater are from the floor directly in front of the stage making early exits uncomfortable), people flow in the buffet restaurant is challenging (and why is there only one place to get a spoon? you have to get your yogurt at one spot then brave the crowd traffic to get to the oatmeal area for the spoon), there is no direct entrance to the fitness room so you have to walk through the spa front desk area and get asked every time if you can be helped, the hair dryer in our cabin was straight out of the 60's with its long tubular hose, and the popular specialty restaurants had to be placed wherever room could be found (resulting in part of the buffet area being turned into La Trattoria in the evening and an open noisy kitchen in Le Bistro).
Our cabin was fine and what we expected for a mid-ship interior stateroom. We brought our own magnet hooks to maximize wall use and that worked well for us. The steward obliged us by removing 2 of the 4 life preservers, as well as the bedding for the additional bed (how in the world 4 could fit in there, we have no idea), to provide us extra space. The bathroom had been caulked multiple times, clearly visible along the wall. One of four little glass shelves had a worn-out clasp so everything slid off into the sink - not unmanageable but annoying. Plenty of closet space for the 2 of us, ample drawer space, a safe. Our steward brought in, at our request, a second side table so we could each have one. Overall, it served its purpose.
Our dining experience had a few good moments but more often than not the food was just ok. Even the specialty restaurants were not up to the standard we expected. When we visited Iceland last year on the Norwegian Jade, we were thrilled with Le Bistro and couldn't wait to eat there again. We liked the lamb but, after eating there twice this trip, can't recall anything else that stood out. Our experiences in the dining areas, Windows and Garden, were less than satisfactory to pretty good. The lunchtime burgers in Windows were really good and we had those twice, but the Alaskan fish in Garden was tasteless and the pecan-encrusted turkey medallions too hard to eat. Frankly, I was rather relieved the food on this cruise was not very good because I ate less as a result. Actually, I think my favorite thing on this whole cruise was the tomato soup served in Blue Lagoon's 24-hour cafe.
The entertainment was ok. I have to admit we only went to about four things. I really liked the man/woman/child acrobatic evening - they were personable and talented. The comedy juggler performed twice - the first time he was very good but the second time he seemed unprepared, as if he hadn't known he was going to do a second night. The four women sopranos were obviously quite talented but the sound was so loud on their microphones, and their voices operatic and solid, I had to hold my ears. The hypnotist was interesting but we only saw him in his first performance. We did attend a few game shows in the Galaxy bar but only to watch, a pleasant thing to do following a meal. The observation ring around the Galaxy bar on the front of the ship made for wonderful viewing as we sailed, a very nice feature indeed.
We went on a river cruise earlier this year and were so impressed with the ship's staff. They knew each other, worked as a team and their willingness to assist their other staff in need was apparent and created a well-oiled working machine. On the Spirit, we got the feeling it was every man for himself. It may have been just our interactions with various members but only two stood out to us this cruise and I mentioned them in the first paragraph. We did have very satisfactory interactions with Guest Services, Shore Excursions and the host/hostess and waiters/waitresses who interacted with us at each of the specialty restaurants. [This is just me talking but I really didn't care for the "Washy Washy" greetings every time I entered the buffet area. The staff were nice and doing their jobs of attempting to spread hand sanitizer (I'll write more about this later) but "Good Morning" or "Good Evening" would have felt less childish.]
Ports and shore excursions is where this cruise excelled. What a journey this was - the countries were fascinating and we were so fortunate to have good weather throughout. The shore excursions were well organized and our guides knowledgeable and personable. I'm very impressed with the excursions offered and we have wonderful memories of the places we visited. [On the subject of shore excursions, I want to add a staff comment: the theater was the place to meet for the excursions so a staff member was on hand with a microphone to let people know when it was time to go and to apprise them of things like the weather, time changes, etc. We knew, if the woman was there, we would get all the information we needed and it would be delivered in a way we could understand. However, if the man was there, his inability to speak clearly and make sense was difficult. We were always relieved when it was the woman.]
We did not travel with children - it was just the two of us, ages 62 and 67.
We thought embarkation and disembarkation went very smoothly.
We did not explore the departure city much before the cruise (arrived the day before) but we did stay in the disembarkation city for an additional five days on our own.
Now back to the hand sanitizer... As a retired health director, I am acutely aware of the need for hand sanitizer to prevent the fast spread of viruses in a heavily populated and relatively small ship area. I was relieved to see all the Germstar units close to the entrances of all of the dining areas. When these have proper batteries and a full bladder (the plastic unit that sits on top), they are programmed to deliver the right amount of hand sanitizer into your palm. However, during the cruise many of these ran out of solution, or needed batteries replaced, rendering them unusable. That meant you had to depend on getting your hand sanitizer from the Washy Washy staff but no one had trained them that you need to squirt at least 2-3 times what they were giving to provide the right amount to fight infection. They would point the nozzle into one palm, give it a half thrust and you'd have barely enough to cover one hand - as a result, you had people going into a public food area believing they had cleaned their hands when it was far from it. So I commend NCL for going with Germstar but they require regular maintenance and the staff needs appropriate training.
So would we go with NCL again? It would only be if the itinerary was as stellar as this one and NCL is the only cruise line going there. AND it would have to be a very new ship.
Re-reading this, I want to add that I don't mean to sound negative. There was a lot to like about this cruise. We really enjoyed our encounters with the staff overall - people were very.nice. Everything was clean and we appreciated their attempts to keep it that way. There were a lot of buffet choices and it was fun to see what kind of "night" they were offering ... "Norwegian Night," "Mexican Night," etc. We are happy to take responsibility for our own disappointments - I think perhaps we set our expectations too high. Read Less