I chose this cruise because it fitted in with when my twin sister could take time off work and was a reasonable price (it was a birthday treat for her). I also liked the fact that tips and service charges are included in the price - I've been on other cruise lines where they haven't and it all adds up. I also liked the intinerary. Marella offer flights from a number of different UK airports but that wasn't a factor for me as I live in London.
I was a little worried about the cruise before I went having read some reviews that were pretty bad, especially as it was my sister's and my niece's first cruise experience and I didn't want it to be a bad one. However, I'm happy to say that the ship was pretty good. It's not the smartest one I've been on but everything was clean and well maintained as far as I saw. It's the smallest cruise ship I've been on and I agree that the sun loungers get occupied pretty quickly. The bars fill up pretty quickly at night too. In fact, we started going to dinner earlier so we could make sure we got a seat at the 8.30 performance. You need to be there at least twenty minutes before the show starts. The other one is at 10.30 p.m.
The ship's vibrations were pretty noticeable a lot of the time and that was the thing my sister and my niece disliked most about the ship.
I’m gluten free and hadn’t mentioned it when I booked but I told the maître d’ the first night and it was fine. You get the menu the night before from the assistant maître d’ and choose your selection. They even have a small selection of gluten free goodies in the afternoon tea although the gluten free scones weren’t that great. I thought the food in the Compass Rose and the Lido was fine. Occasionally, things weren’t quite as hot as they should have been.
Our first breakfast in the Compass Rose, I wasn’t impressed because we declined to share a table and wanted to sit by the window. Perhaps the long wait we then had to get asked about tea or coffee or to be offered a juice was a co-incidence. But the service was better after that meal. I was surprised that breakfast in the Compass Rose is buffet apart from tea or coffee and juice. I’ve not had that on any of the other cruise ships I’ve been on. My niece preferred the Lido because of the outdoor Chef’s Corner where you can get omelettes at breakfast, but I preferred the Compass Rose because it was easier to get gluten free toast there. (I say toast, but it looked like it had been waved under the grill – this applied to both restaurants.)
We went to Sirocco’s one night, which was amazing value for good food. A 7-course meal for £20.00. It’s a nice restaurant with very attentive, friendly waiters. And offers gluten free food. We took advantage of the VIP offer, for about £5 more, you got a reserved seat at the show and a glass of champagne. I was most impressed that because my sister ended up not coming to the show, they refunded the money without us asking.
I read somewhere in the reviews that the shows are like West End productions. I think that’s exaggerating although the very young cast are talented and have fantastic voices. The stage is very small so it’s impressive they can manage to dance their routines on them. The other bands and singers were almost all very good. We didn’t watch the comedian, so I can’t comment on him.
I was pleased that the Spirit has a cinema and looking forward to seeing a film or two. Be warned that most of the films on the schedule are pretty old – Big, 9 to 5, Romeo and Juliet, Moulin Rouge, etc. All the more recent films are shown on TV for some reason. We tried to go and see The Secret Life of Bees but when we arrived just before it was due to start, we found the film was half way through. We complained at Reception and the woman apologised and then told us the reason was the change to the clocks and that the same thing had happened yesterday as a passenger had complained then too. I wasn’t impressed that they knew there was a problem but had done nothing about it. We didn’t bother to try and see any films after that. By the way, no films are shown in the cinema on Sunday as it’s used as a storage space for carry-on luggage for departing passengers.
The shore excursions were very good. We went on the panoramic plus river cruise in Porto, the tuk tuk tour in Lisbon and my sister and niece went on the Dolphin Watch in Gibraltar. My favourite was the tuk tuk, which was great fun but they liked the Dolphin one best as they saw lots of dolphins.
One great thing about the Spirit was that you had until 2.00 in the morning to put your hold luggage out. That means you can pack your evening clothes and don’t have to put them in your carry-on unlike other cruise lines where you have to put your bag outside your cabin by 10.00. You can also stay on the ship even if you have a late flight as we did – 7.30 in the evening and still eat in the restaurants and use the facilities. You do have to pay for your drinks, of course. This is unlike other cruise lines where you get kicked off fairly early in the day.
Overall, I enjoyed the cruise and my sister and niece did too although, as mentioned, they hated the vibration. Would I cruise with Marella again? I’m not entirely sure. There were many good things about the cruise. There is a good atmosphere on board and all the passengers are very friendly and I loved that usually, you got a full day in port unlike some other lines. I think I’d want a better cabin although the price for an inside cabin in August is very good value. And knowing that taxes and service charges are included is a big bonus. But the swimming pools are tiny even for a cruise ship. I know the Spirit is going out of service in October, but I’d want to do a lot more research about what the other ships offer before booking.
We were in an inside cabin, which was better than I expected. The top bunk bed is pretty close to the ceiling and the lights. And if you sit on the bottom bunk bed, your head will touch the bottom of the one above and we're about 5"5'. If I went again with 3 adults sharing, I'd want a better cabin. But there was a lot of storage space and the suitcases fit under the beds. The bathroom was very clean and adequate. In fact, the shower was bigger than the one I had on a P&O ship. There was a tiny crack in the basin but that was the only sign of wear and tear I spotted. We were on Deck 3. My real bugbear was the fact that there were only 2 sockets in the room, one 110 and one 220 volt but they were just above the dressing table so you could only put a standard size plug and adaptor in. I'd brought an adaptor that has 4 USB sockets so you can charge up more than one device at a time but I couldn't use it. I'd suggest anyone going gets an adaptor for both voltages as we only had an adaptor for one. Our stewards, Raquel and Edmund did a great job and learnt our names the first day.
Our guide gave us loads of information, clearly very proud of Porto although her English was slightly unusual but hey her English is 1000% better than my Portuguese! I loved the cathedral, which was beautiful. Shame the silver altar and main altar are having works done at the moment so partially obscured but not the tour's fault.View All 45 City Tour Reviews
Went to the Calem Port Lodge as part of our tour including river cruise. Very entertaining and informative guide called Lorenzo. Enjoyed the samples of port we were given.View All 34 Port Wine Tasting Reviews
I really enjoyed this tour. Our guide, a young German called Dennis was very informative and took up the narrow, hilly streets to some great sights. He even made sure we got some pastels de nana as we particularly asked for these. We also had a short walk around some of the streets and saw the plaques of local people and the actual people in their shops. You don't see the major sites but a great way to get up the steep hills.View All undefined undefined Reviews