May 2015 - 12 Night Grand Mediterranean (Venice To Barcelona) Cruise on Norwegian Spirit
Main issue was a lack of transparency/clear communication. It wasn't a good start when staff told us we wouldn't be allowed off the ship until after the safety drill, meaning we were held on the ship for 5 hours for a 3 minute "presentation" which meant we lost our day in Venice because everything was closed once we were allowed off. We weren't informed of this situation in NCL materials or prior to boarding the ship. Had we known we could have stored our luggage, and spent the day in Venice before checking in. Also the check-in was slow, and I was the unlucky one given a yellow sticker & told I was a VIP and should go to the VIP line, which I wasted time looking for b/c it doesn't exist. Apparently, all the yellow sticker meant was I was randomly selected to have the time it took for check-in recorded; however, since the paper was never completely filled in before taken, I'm guessing it was trashed b/c it wasn't a good reflection. It was hard to find info. about restaurant and pool times, which typically easily found at any hotel, but maybe it wasn't provided b/c it varies. Sometimes it was difficult to tell if staff was uninformed or deceptive, but it was easy to get different answers from 2 or more people.
Some of the wait staff had a concern for excellence, but as anywhere, at least as many didn't. The food was timed perfectly on the first day and seemed to get slower every day afterwards. We realized Windows served nearly the same menu as the buffet, but sometimes it was nice not to face the crowds, though eating outside near the pool was a favorite place. There was always a fish choice and the food often seemed better than what we saw on shore. At the end, the shrimp seemed a bit old, but thankfully no resulting illness. Hand sanitizer was required when returning to the ship & always offered at buffet.
Our cabin steward was a really nice kid but without attention to detail, knocking over my eye drops daily & putting our custom pillow on the opposite side from where it was left. Balcony room was nice to get fresh air and ocean sound and clean enough, but the carpet was so worn I wouldn't walk on it with bare feet.
The entertainment was very dance oriented. After attending the attempt to cover songs, it was hard to go back. I understand that it's people who didn't make the cut in LA, NYC, or Vegas, but wasn't something to look forward to.
I choose this cruise for the itinerary, the major ancient capitals, and that was good, but I didn't realize that Rome (and other stops) was so far from the port. Getting to places we wanted to see from the port often cost more time than a well located hotel. We always felt a time pressure to get back to the boat & one day took a taxi to the ship after not making the train we wanted, to then find that the ship was waiting for others until departure time (one day even later) instead of really having to be on board 30 minutes prior. Good for the late people, bad for us to spend extra money to get back at the listed time. As some fellow cruisers pointed out, cruising is more about getting a quick sample of places.
We did 2 NCL excursions, and one prior scheduled. We much preferred the smaller one. The first NCL excursion in Istanbul had a good guide and we weren't forced to watch a carpet demo, though the visit to the Blue Mosque could have been timed better so we didn't have to wait from the time it reopened, but the guide for Marsielle/Aix was so lame that several people left her early & she mostly pointed out the obvious such as what you could purchase at shops as we passed by.
We did make all our ports and most as scheduled. Early in the trip the boat glided, and it was mostly smooth sailing until the last day, when it got a bit nauseating. It's been too long between cruises to really compare NCL with another.