10-DAY SPAIN AND MOROCCO
JANUARY 4 TO 14, 2018
We have taken over 30 cruises on various cruise lines, the majority of them with Norwegian Cruise Line. We choose NCL because we like their freestyle approach since ... Read More
10-DAY SPAIN AND MOROCCO
JANUARY 4 TO 14, 2018
We have taken over 30 cruises on various cruise lines, the majority of them with Norwegian Cruise Line. We choose NCL because we like their freestyle approach since it means we don’t have to carry suits and ties for formal evenings. It also means that we are free to dine at the time of our choice and we can have a table for two or share with others if we choose to do so. The other cruise lines offer similar, but cannot deliver as easily as NCL because a freestyle approach is difficult for them to manage as they prefer two fixed services where guests always have the same table and the same wait-staff.
Norwegian Spirit is the smallest and oldest ship in the NCL fleet. The ship was originally part of Star Cruises and operated under the name Star Leo. It was a gift from the then CEO of Star Cruises to his wife and served its early years on itineraries in Asia. This explains the decor. On boarding the ship, we saw life-size terra cotta warriors and gold dragons as well as oriental panels in black or gold with flower motifs. Until we learned its history, we thought Norwegian Spirit had been decorated in Asian fashion because it was scheduled to go to Asia. Not so, and in my opinion the ship should be dry-docked to have its decor and carpetting updated to something more modern and much more neutral.
We had a balcony stateroom (11630) with one of the smallest balconies I have ever seen on a ship. It was impossible to sit comfortably to watch the sea sail by. The chairs had to be placed to face each other, which meant turning your head to look out at the sea. This was not very comfortable.
The room was smaller than we expected. It was decorated well enough. The bed was comfortable and we had a sofa. There was a table with one chair opposite the sofa. The table was held a tray containing a small coffee maker, 2 cups and a supply of coffee and tea, sugar and powder creamers. The table was too crowded by the tray to be used for writing or any other function. Instead, it became extra storage space for wallets, watches and coins. I suppose the original function of this furnitre was a make-up table. There was also one night table on which the phone, which took up most of the table space, was placed. A drawer and a shelf in the night table housed my book, tablet, and mobile phone.
There was a shelf unit containing a mini-bar and another with a flat screen TV in a wall-unit type furniture. Between the two is where the ice bucket was placed, and the heat from the mini-bar melted most of the ice. The unit also contained 4 small drawers that did not hold much. We used them to store small items of clothing like socks and underwear. The closet had an adequate supply of hangers and had 5 shelves which were rather awkward to access. It had sliding doors which often became stuck and would not open or close. It was a challenging job to move them. I gave up and asked our stateroom attendant to fix it. The doors were held closed by magents, but in rough seas, teh doors simply slid open and closed while we tried to get clothes out. Our neighbours, who must have been partying all night, surely did not know to close the doors correctly because their closet doors slid back and forth all night. Quite annoying.
The bathroom was a self-contained unit with separate shower unit and toilet unit on each side of the sink. Our stateroom attendant maade sure it was well-stocked with shower gel, hand soap and conditioning shampoo. The floors were non-slip yellow tile and the walls were tiled. It was nice, but dated. It could have used a modern touch. We had fresh towels every day.
We had several dining options, but we had most of our meals in Windows, one of the complimentary restaurants. On ports days, Windows was closed for lunch so we went to Raffles, the buffet restaurant. The food in each of these venues was well-prepared and tasty. There were always sufficient choices, even for a choosy eater like me.
We have reached the Platinum Plus Latitudes Rewards level. This awarded us two complimentary dinners for two at the specialty restaurants with a main meal that cost up to $20US; if the main you choose if more expensive the upcharge is charged to your onboard account. The first ticket allowed us to dine at Le Bistro or Cagney’s and to have a bottle of wine with the meal. The second ticket permitted us to dine at La Trattoria or Moderno Churrascaria (but Moderno does not exist on the Spirit). We chose Le Bistro and La Trattoria.
Everything we ordered at Le Bistro was excellent, and the service was top-notch. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same of La Trattoria. I ordered the penne appetizer. The pasta was overcooked, to the point of falling apart. The sauce was too salt, even though I had requested no salt through my special diet order. While the appetizer was too hot, the main was too cold. But the bread and the coffee were perfect! Service was adequate.
We were quite surprised at the limitations on the specialty restaurants awarded to Platinum Plus members. On previous sailings with Norwegian, we had a wider choice of specialty restaurants. We could go to any of the restaurants for our meal and order any main on the menu, and any item with an extra charge was posted to our stateroom account. With each retaurant we had a bottle of wine from the complimentary selection. We found the change from this practice to be rather restrictive. I do not care for Cagney’s; it is a steakhouse. Moderno serves meat dishes mainly, and as I do not eat any red meats both of these venues are out if the question for me. Besides, my partner and I both like Le Bistro for the food and the atmosphere.
You do not have to have a Latitudes status to try the specialtyrestaurants. The are open to all guests and willincur a charge per person that is charged to your onboard account. You can also reserve them through your MyNCL account or wait till you are on board to do so. You may purchase the Ultimate Dining Package (UDP) when you book your cruise. The UDP allows you to dine at a specific number of restaurants during the length of your cruise, and the number is determined by the length of your cruise.
If you enjoy alcoholic beverage or sodas, you can also purchase the Ultimate Beverage Package (UBP) or the Ultimate Soda Package (USP). These packages allow to enjoy the drinks of your choice, served one at a time per person, at any venue where alcohol or sodas are served. We have never purchased either of these packages because we do not drink enough of either one to say itis a benefit. Those people we know who enjoy imbibing during vacation have told us it a real benefit for them. Since you cannot purchase alcohol on shore to bring onto the ship for your personal consumption, and now you can no longer bring sodas back on board, these packages seem to be the best way to enjoy your favourite drinks.
NCL has even cracked down on passengers bringing back bottles of water from shore purchases. Not knowing the regulation about water (we knew about alcohol and sodas), we purchase bottles on shore. They were taken from us, even though we had drunk from them, and thrown into the trash. Instead, NCL wants you to purchase 1-liter bottles of water on board at a cost of about $4US per bottle. I absolutely refuse to pay this outrageous amount when I can buy a 2-liter bottle for less than 1 euro in some places. This is a wholely ridiculous practice. I understand about alcohol and soda, but water? It’s insane.
When we first qualified for any Latitudes Rewards, one of the things we enjoyed was the free laundry service added to our level. It is a small thing, but it is important. Originally, we were told we could send laundry as often as we liked and that meant we could bring fewer clothes which translated into carrying a smaller suitcase. Now, we are permitted one bag per Platinum Plus member and only once during the cruise. This means carrying a few more clothes in a larger suitcase, and timing the wash so that it is done near the end of the cruise so that we have clean clothes to take home or for our stay in the city after disembarkation.
Things have changed at NCL. It seems like NCL has cut back on its rewards programmes to loyal guests, and that makes the company appear cheap to me.
Gone are the days when a box of Godiva chocolates containing 8 pieces was part of the rewards. That was cut to a box half the size, and now it has disappeared altogether. These were nice gestures from the company to welcome loyal guests back onboard another cruise, and it is sad that they have been stopped.
We will consider NCL as an option for a future cruise, but they may not be the final choice. The staff are the main reason we return. They are wonderful, friendly and hard-working people. Other considerations, such as itinerary and costs, will go into the mix. And if we cannot have freestyle on another line, there is always the buffet for our meals. Read Less