We took a Canary Island cruise on Norwegian Spirit (NCL Cruise Lines) late February 2018 and want to share our experiences with anyone who is thinking of booking a cruise with this organisation which cares little about its customers but does care about making as much money as possible from them. My main headline is that if you wish to be an independent traveller (ie you want to explore the ports of call mainly by yourselves and not on very expensive ship-run excursions) then this Cruise line is definitely not for you. In fact, they actively discourage those options for travel which don’t include them making a profit from it.
Now for the pros and cons which relate to our experiences onboard ship compared with all other cruise lines I have sailed with.
Overall the majority of customer-facing staff (except for all those behind the Reception Desks - who need replacing or retraining because they were very unhelpful) gave punctual service with a smile with the odd hiccup (amusing in hindsight) and they met my expectations. Also, the food in the main restaurants and buffet areas was generally very good despite it getting a little boring towards the end of the ten day cruise. The nightly entertainment was reasonably good on some days to downright spectacular on others. The daytime and early evening entertainment was puerile and juvenile in nature except for the bands with music and songs and the odd trivia quiz. However, there were a number of things which disappointed us, each by itself trivial in nature but collectively made us decide never again to use this Cruise Line because it fell way below our expectations.
The transfer between airport and ship was diabolical. Despite being told by our meeter-and-greeter that there were regular shuttle buses to the ship and the next one was in 15 minutes it was well over an hour of standing around (seats were very limited) before she decided that two people she was waiting for were not going to turn up and only then did we leave the airport. Consequently, when we did arrive at the embarkation desks the queues were long and the scene chaotic because the staff wanted a break for their lunch.
We were informed for the first time at the embarkation desk that the ship was not sailing to the Canary Isles as planned but was going around the Western Mediterranean instead because of heavy seas in the Atlantic. Although disappointing for us we fully understood the decision taken and accepted our fate. What was not acceptable is that prior warning was not given because that would have allowed us to do some quick research on each of the new destinations prior to travelling and change our detailed plans. It was very difficult to rearrange our plans on the ship because the Reception Staff (again long queues meant half hour waits) absolutely refused to give out maps, or any other information, on the new ports we were visiting on the basis that “it would breach copyright laws”. This was incorrect since we found out later that one way to get these maps was to pay an extortionate fare for their shuttle bus on which maps were handed out freely. Clearly, this must have been a policy decision by the Cruise Line to encourage people to use their expensive shuttle services or go on their excursions instead. This policy was taken to extremes by not providing free travellers with any information on the free shuttles that were available and once we stepped foot off the ship there were no signs at all of where to go next. “Follow the herd” was the general rule. To combat this we would go up to the top deck each morning and survey the port area and the town looking for distinguishing features (immigration posts, port entries, shuttle bus stops, cathedrals, castles, etc) and then get off the ship.
Restaurant availability boards around the ship were inconsistent. The Shogun restaurant was shown daily to be available at most times but on enquiry we found that it was fully booked the day we wanted (and every other day except the very last night, for that matter!).
The drinks packages bought on board were extremely expensive as was pay-as-you go drinks. Also, we found out from all-inclusive customers (drink, tax, gratuities all included in the cost of the cruise), who thought that their bar bill would come to zero, were having gratuities and tax (about 20%) added to their invoices at the end of the cruise.
The final nail in the Norwegian Spirit coffin came on disembarkation at 0845 on the final day when our flight from the airport (20 minutes away) was at 1800. Despite repeated attempts to get the reception staff on the ship to give us another option from the one of being taken directly to the airport and then having to wait nine hours for our flight they had no answer. We found out much later that day that there was a facility (clearly nothing to do with Norwegian Cruise Lines) within a hundred yards of the luggage pick-up area at the disembarkation point which handled exactly the problem we were facing. That facility enabled the luggage to be locked up while the customers were shuttled to the centre of Barcelona where they spent a few hours sightseeing without the shackles of luggage and then shuttled back to be reunited with their luggage. I can never forgive NCL for its total incompetence in this matter and it simply confirmed that NCL doesn’t really want customers it just wants their money.
Well sited for getting to promenade and main dining areas without using lifts. Noise from engines but didn't interrupt sleeping hours. Comfortable bed and well laid out with plenty of wardrobe and cupboard space. Cabin steward was friendly.
Didn't get to see Barcelona due to incompetence of NCL staff on disembarkation.
The large mosque built by the sea is a must to visit. Walk through the medina on the way back to the ship to fully experience local customs.
Both the cathedral (outside) and palace (inside) were next door to each other and were well worth a visit as were the mediaeval arab baths. Also take time to wakk through the narrow streets behind these huge buildings to take in the ambience of old Las Palmas.
Roman amphitheatre , a fort and a castle worth a visit. Good views from the top. The walk between was invigorating (steep uphill) not for the faint hearted or in hot weather.
Good castle views and a nice walk down from there into the city.