Our first open sea cruise having only experienced European river cruises previously. However the timing was right and friends who have done multiple cruises before (although not with Norwegian) highly recommended them.
On the plus side, if we had sailed the scheduled cruise, we would have run through storms and high seas so the line (or perhaps the skipper) decided to run the cruise in reverse order. That must have required a huge logistical effort to rearrange berthing dates, excursion dates and supplies but it was handled extremely well and appreciated by most.
As we were travelling through Christmas and were actually scheduled for a day at sea on Christmas Day, this did mean some places were not open or were not as active on the new dates of call and some excursions were cancelled or shortened but this was understandable in the circumstances.
The quality of the excursions was very good - our only suggestion is that the Avignon & Marseille tour have less free time in Avignon where there was not a lot to do and spend that time in Old Marseille which we did not have time to stop at.
But for the ship and on board portion of the cruise, we were not satisfied. Most of the staff were pleasant and capable - there were some notable exceptions. The proficiency levels were mixed with some outstanding members of the crew and some mediocre.
The food - we had 4 nights in specialty restaurants and 3 nights in the general restaurants. Of the 4 specialty restaurants, all were excellent with the exception of the Italian restaurant which had a mediocre menu selection and the food quality was just ok - 2 of us selected the Osso Bucco and although it looked great when served, was dry and over cooked inside. No one raved about their dinner. Of the general restaurants, Windows,was the a la carte option. The restaurant presents very well. The head staff were very proficient. The wait staff were a lucky dip. Some were fantastic whilst others were perhaps in training or if not, were in need of retraining. The food selection was much better than we expected. The issue was getting a hot meal and/or hot tea and coffee. It seems the galley for this restaurant is located elsewhere and all meals come in with a warming cover to retain the heat - not successfully. This process added to the time taken to deliver meals. If at breakfast you were unlucky enough to get an inept wait person along with the delay in delivery of the meal, you had to decide whether you were going to wait or going to leave so you could get to your excursion (excursions leave around 8am and we thought getting there for 6:30 would give ample time for a standard breakfast with tea and coffee - wrong - so we ended up having breakfasts at the buffet from day 3 on. The buffet selections were very good and the food was at least what you would expect from a buffet.
The entertainment - our river cruises all had excellent entertainment and our friends having travelled on other cruises all spoke in glowing terms of onboard entertainment and shows. Unfortunately that was not the case with Spirit. Our first experience was a duo who performed nightly in the Galaxy of the Stars lounge around departure time each night. Their bracket selection was "varied" to say the least and they were often off key. It got to the point we would head off to dinner when they came on. The "shows" were definitely sub standard. The "production team" were either over choreographed or under rehearsed as you could almost see them counting 1 2 3 4 as they performed their routines. The quality of the sound system did not help them and they were often missing notes. The off-broadway show they did (and granted it was at short notice) was ample reason to confirm why they were not actually on broadway. The acrobatic show was a couple who had been very good at one time but are now living off that reputation. We had wanted to go to some of the themed entertainments advertised prior to departure but these were all around 10 or 11pm which when you have to get up at 6 to get to breakfast at 6:30 so you can get to your excursion on time was just not feasible.
Bar staff were either very good or very bad - getting 2 cocktails the same was a challenge - even the cocktails of the day.
The accomodation - we selected the 11th floor (top accomodation floor) midship balcony staterooms. They were smallish but quite adequate and very acceptable. Our steward was exceptional. Every night around 10:30pm there was the sound of running on our roof. We can only assume that there was a fitness class at that time of night and they were using the pool area rather than the running track on the 13th floor. But then every morning between 5:30am and 6:30 am there was a scraping and banging on the roof. We couldn't figure out what it was and after 5 days I went upstairs to find that the staff were putting out the deck chairs. They had a big stack which they dragged around making the scraping noise. They would then take a chair off and plonk it on the ground and then another and then another and then drag the stack along further. I couldn't blame the staff as they were only doing as ordered. But who in their right mind would schedule that for that time - people arent going to be using them (if at all in winter) until at least 8 in summer and no sooner than 9 in winter. We were not the only ones to experience this - every cabin below the pool area had the same issue. We did not pay the additional cost for this standard of stateroom to be woken every morning to that.
Our tour ended with receiving the account. Because of the excursion downgrades and cancellations, we had a credit balance (and once again, we have no criticism of why these occurred). We expected this to be credited to our card which Norwegian hold on file for settlement of their invoice. However we were told this was not so and that Norwegian would send us a cheque for that amount in due course. That was unsatisfactory - if we owed them money for additional items, they would deduct immediately from our credit card so it is a blatant rort for them to "put a cheque in the mail" in USD which we would then have to pay a minimum $25 clearance/exchange fee to get our own funds. We have communicated with them via the only means they provide (with the exception of a USA phone call) through their web site and have a standard response that someone will look at the email within 28 days - again unsatisfactory. As we bought our tickets through an Australian Travel agent and paid in AUD, our contract with Norwegian is subject to Australian law and we will be lodging a formal complaint to the Australian Government Fair Trade to resolve this promptly.
Would we go on another open sea cruise - probably. Would we use Norwegian again - MOST DEFINITELY NOT.
Don't get under the pool area - see note about noisy 12th floor activities
Was raining heavily so that affects the rating - Believe Valledemossa would have been very pretty in finer weather
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