March 2015 - Norwegian Spirit to Europe - Western Europe
Boarded ship, Spirit, in Barcelona after we had spent two days there on our own. Highly recommend at least two days to visit the city and see sights like Sagrada Familia. Use the Hop-on / Hop-off buses. There are two different companies which you can use. Both sell one or two day passes on the bus. We have stayed twice in two different hotels in Port Olympic area of Barcelona. Easy access to good restaurants and bus transportation to anywhere in the city. About 20 minutes to La Rambla on city busses.
Spirit is the oldest Norwegian Cruise ship, built in 1998. Refurbished in 2010, but still shows some age. Had an issue with room safe and toilet vacuum flush but quick response by ship maintenance both times fixed the issues.
Port visits were interesting. Casablanca definitely requires booking a shore excursion. Not much to do if you don't. Funchal was great and could be done on your own. Definitely ride the cable car up the hill and the toboggan down the hill. Great old town area to wander around. Tenerife is a good place to walk ashore and get a private cab / tour. For 20 Euros per person we went to the northern part of the island for some sightseeing and shopping. Prices are about half what they were in Funchal for ballcaps, beer, leather belts, etc. We spent approximately 5 hours touring in our private cab and were dropped off right in front of the ship exactly on time to board. The driver didn't even expect a tip for all he had shown us.
Arrecife was a walking port with a central shopping pedestrian street full of stores and cafés. All had WiFi with password protection if you bought a beer, coffee, or snack. Others told us they had hired a cab to see some of the black sand beaches of the island.
Malaga is beautiful and you could spend all day walking around the port area shopping and eating. We took a shore excursion to Grenada to see the inside of the Alhambra. We had been there before on our own 5 years earlier, but had missed being able to buy admission tickets by minutes after standing in line for over an hour. That's why we booked the excursion to ensure we would get inside the palaces this visit. It was worth it.
Back in Barcelona we walked off the ship and right into a pre-booked airport transfer van to the airport for a flight through Madrid to Paris. We found the van online at the Barcelona airport website. We were 10 total people and the price worked out to be 10 Euros per person. Taxis were also available for about 40 Euros per cab, but we would have had to take 4 to 5 cabs due to all the luggage and the size of the cabs.
We really enjoy the Norwegian Freestyle cruising. Dress casually and comfortably and go to dinner when you want to at the Windows or Garden Room restaurants. We avoid Raffle Court because of the noise and chaos of cafeteria style eating. We ate most meals in Windows and the Garden room without any reservation.
Good shows most nights. Good production singers and dancers. Also good special shows like 4ever,Cripton and Renata, etc.
Discovered a new offer in the bars. Since we don't drink enough to make the "drink packages"worthwhile, we were typically ordering our pre-dinner cocktails in the Champagne lounge. On day three one of the waiters suggested that if we were going to always have the same drinks we should buy a bottle of whiskey that they keep for you at the bar. Saved us about 20% on drinks for the cruise.
All told a good cruise. To be a great cruise, the ship needs another overhaul. Areas like the gym need to be updated and equipment in better working order.
Staff are all very helpful and friendly and go out of their way to make sure you are enjoying the ship. A little tip on top of the service charge for drinks seems to go a long ways.
We would definitely go on a fifth Norwegian Cruise if we see an itinerary we are interested in. We are planning to go to Hong Kong and SE Asia next. Unfortunately, Norwegian doesn't cruise there.