The Spirit is one of the older ships in the NCL fleet, but it's clean and well-maintained. It doesn't have all the fancy bells and whistles that the newer mega-ships have, but the smaller capacity means the ship is easier to get around and feels more intimate. The staff was fabulous; everyone was friendly, helpful, and did their best to make our vacation fantastic. The food and drink were perfectly fine, and so were the activities. We really appreciated the Freestyle Cruising concept, and were happy we weren't forced to eat at assigned times, sitting with strangers. We very much enjoyed the itinerary; every port was different, and with the exception of the massive issues with returning to the ship in Santorini, all the ports were really wonderful. Overall this was a fantastic vacation, and we definitely look forward to Cruising like a Norwegian again in the future :)
5 out of 5
We got to the port early and were one of the first groups to check in, then were allowed to board a little early. Very easy!
Food and Dining
5 out of 5
Everyone seems to complain about cruise ship food, which is about as useful as complaining about airline food. They do the best they can in serving a variety of options in mass quantities to thousands of people, and overall it was pretty good. Some places were better than others, but we enjoyed having many options, and we LOVED the Freestyle Cruising where we didn't have to dress up if we didn't want to, and we weren't forced to sit with strangers at specific times. Perfect for us! The bars and lounges were also great - many choices, and we had the Ultimate Beverage Package, so it was all free!
4 out of 5
We didn't partake in too many of the activities, but we enjoyed the pool and hot tubs. There are stacks of empty chairs on the forward deck, but it was a challenge to find non-windy spots sometimes. Other times, the pool and hot tub were practically empty (like during one of the nightly shows) - so you just need to be flexible.
Service and Staff
5 out of 5
Others have complained about the staff, but we thought they were excellent. We had absolutely no problems, and in fact had quite a few Vacation Heroes that we recognized. for their service. The staff was kind, friendly, helpful, and went out of their way to make our vacation special.
4 out of 5
The Spirit is an older ship, but it's clean and maintained well. No, it doesn't have all the fancy bells and whistles that the newer mega-ships have, but we didn't need any of that, and we sure didn't need the couple thousand extra guests. I'm only giving this 4 stars instead of 5 because the layout was a bit strange in certain places. For example, the photo shop and gift shop really should've been built in/around the main atrium, with Guest Services and the Shore Excursion Desk, and it was a little tricky to get to the Windows or Garden dining rooms. But it really wasn't that big of a deal - we enjoyed the ship!
If you're self-touring, the port is a little confusing in terms of finding a taxi for a ride into the city (most will only accept you if you want a taxi-tour), and it's WAY too far to walk to the metro station. Otherwise, expect crowds and traffic around the main tourist areas like the Acropolis and Plaka. Allow plenty of time to return to the port - not only for traffic, but also because you may have a long line to get through security at the cruise terminal, depending on how many other ships are in port.
I'll preface this by saying that I love Santorini - it's one of my favorite places in the world. But visiting Santorini on a cruise is a TERRIBLE experience. There were FOUR ships in port, which is potentially 5-6 thousand tourists converging on this little island at once. And there is just NO easy way to get off and back on the ship. There is no pier large enough for cruise ships, so you must tender in and out. The problem is the return - there are literally only 2 ways to return to the ship, and both of them are from the main town of Fira. You can wait in line for the cable car, or you can hike down the donkey trail. The cable car takes 36 people at a time. You do the math. People waited 1.5 to 2 HOURS IN LINE. For those who are physically fit, the 600+ steps down the donkey trail seem easy - but they're really not. They're slippery, steep, and numerous people were hurt on our cruise. It's no joke. The cruise lines really MUST put pressure on the Greeks to find a better solution, such as buses back down to the new port of Athinios, and additional boats from there back to the ships. I guarantee people would pay if that was an option - but there MUST be some other option than the cable car or the donkey trail. It actually hurts business on the island if all the visitors spend hours standing in line, rather than shopping or eating and spending money. Please, someone do something to try and fix this.
We only had 4 hours in port, which was a complete shame as the island is so big and there are so many things to see. But, I'd rather have seen just a bit of it, than nothing at all! Instead of just going to the old town, we did a tour Agia Triada monastery and some viewpoints over the city, along with the old town. It was great!
We really loved Malta! We didn't like any of the conventional tours on offer, so we booked a private guide and got to see everything on the island we wanted - it was awesome! We visited the Blue Grotto, the Dingli Cliffs, the medieval town of Mdina, Golden Bay (beaches on the northwest coast), and Valletta. What a lovely day learning about this fascinating island and culture!
I didn't have many expectations for this port, but ended up really enjoying the tour we booked to Castelmola, Taormina, and the Greek Theater. Charming towns, lovely views, yummy food. And the ship was easy to get to in Messina, so it was an enjoyable port!
Naples itself is a big busy city, so not sure I would've wanted to spend much time there. We did an NCL small-group tour to the Amalfi coast where we visited Positano (not just a photo, we actually went down to the village), then Sorrento for lunch, then a guided tour of Pompeii. It was a great tour - but I'm giving it 4 stars instead of 5 because of the traffic on the Amalfi coast and the unfortunate overcrowding in Positano and Sorrento. Still a lovely place to visit, though.
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