Cruise Addict Kathryn Gardner has enjoyed an 11 day Mediterranean cruise on board the NCL Spirit and here’s her review of the experience.
Embarkation took place in the new cruise terminal in Civitavecchia, the process was smooth and comfortable taking a total of 40 minutes. Boardimg was simple however it lacked the welcome glass of bubbly but we didn’t mind. We were directed to Raffles, the main buffet for our lunch but we wanted a celebratory drink so we headed straight for the bar! It was here that I was surprised to learn that bottled water wasn’t included at the bars. Yes we allocated one litre per person a day in our cabin but we couldn’t get any in the bar areas. Water stations were easily available so that didn’t present too many concerns.
We had a short wait (with the option to drop off hand luggage) for our cabins to be released and then we were in! NCL Spirit is the smallest and oldest of the fleet so we weren’t expecting the height of luxury. Our cabin, 10036 balcony cabin, was impeccably clean and generally well appointed. A small sofa, seating area and mirror, 5 drawers within the tv and mini bar unit and the wardrobe was of a good size with plenty of hanging space and an inner shelving unit. Dressing gowns were also provided.
The bathroom was very spacious with an unusually large shower area – not dissimilar in size to an ordinary shower unit. Both the toilet and shower units had sliding doors for extra privacy and the vanity area included a large mirror, tier shelving to each side and a shelving unit below the sink.
The balcony, whilst wide enough to provide great views was a little narrow allowing you to sit comfortably at an angle but not forward facing. Again, only minor issues and nothing that impacted on the enjoyment of the space.
Our room steward, Sebastian was fabulous and kept the cabin immaculate and us entertained with his towel art.
Excursions and Ports of Call
We didn’t utilise the NCL cruise excursion service other than transfers to Dubrovnik and Venice as we found them very expensive and having visited a few places before, found our own way around.
Port disembarkation and embarkation was swift and easy. We felt that we were given plenty of time in each port and didn’t feel rushed. I was surprised that we didn’t receive a map of each location in our daily program and I know some guest found this a little frustrating.
The Spirit benefited from the usual mid-ship outdoor pool on deck 12 with five hot tubs. Seated dining areas were allocated under shelter along each side. Not being a great sun worshiper, I generally only used this area for an early morning swim and hot tub session, by mid afternoon and on sea days, this area became very busy and bed saving was commonplace.
We’d often head to the panoramic deck 13 for a drink in the Biergarten and watched the activities from above. We particularly enjoyed the ship’s band, ‘Souled Out’ and sail away was always fun.
If we fancied a spot of sunbathing we’d retreat to the back of the ship and the quiet zone which often had capacity. Here’s a selection. It’s also worth mentioning that children’s pool at the back of the ship have tiered sunbathing platforms to allow parents good opportunities for both supervision and relaxation.
Spirit had a good selection of bars, the Biergarten on deck 13, Raffles Bar and Tivoli pool bar on deck 12. Galaxy of the stars, also on deck 12 allowed for brilliant views from the front of the ship and a great evening spot for drinks and dancing Champagne Charlie’s on deck 8 offered a more relaxed and refined experience and the Shanghai Bar, Henry’s bar and the Maharajahs bar and night club on deck 7 were open until midnight and beyond. The cafe bar on deck 7 also provided another quiet spot for a coffee or drink.
Being on the premium all inclusive package allowed us to sample beers, wines and spirits up to a value of $15, this package was exceptional value and the range of drinks available was incredible value for money. As someone who enjoys a good glass of wine, I was particularly pleased with the options available.
Having previously been stung by the cost of the speciality restaurants, we refused to purchase addition dining options and stuck to the Windows main dining room for both breakfast and dinner. This was one of the nicest dining experiences we’ve had as the NCL Freestyle dining system allows great flexibility and the option to eat wherever (Garden Room is also a main dining room) and whenever we wanted.
A table for two was always available and the lovely window tables afforded great views – we even saw dolphins playing in the ocean at the side of our ship on the very last night!
The food options were fantastic, appetisers included French onion soup, mini sider burger and a range of fish/seafood options such as Crab soufflé. For entrees, the range was also fantastic, there were classic and always available options of steak and chips, lasagne, rotisserie chicken and the most delicious pesto pasta dish I’ve ever tasted.
An exceptional range of alternatives were offered every evening and my personal highlights were the cauliflower and potato curry, roast turkey dinner (complete with Brussel Sprouts) to name but a few! The desserts were also exceptional and the chocolate lava cake was to die for!!
Dining in the windows restaurant was a fabulous experience with waiting staff giving recommendations and always ensuring you had wonderful experience.
We used the Raffles buffet for lunches and the one evening we’d returned back to the ship late. This is never my favourite way of eating as it always feels a bit rushed and chaotic but again, the choices available was fantastic and for me, the added bonus was the food was always piping hot.
Later in the evening (after a few drinks) we’d sample the 24 hour restaurant which offered a good range of casual snacks cooked to order. In essence, as in most cruise ships, you will not struggle to find good food onboard the Spirit.
A good range of options were available throughout the day. We tended to stick to the evening entertainment as we were usually out exploring, but the daily programme offered something for everyone. The evening shows were a bit hit and miss if I’m honest but nonetheless enjoyable.
Live music onboard was of a really good standard; there was always something to listen to ranging from easy listening Champagne Charlie’s to dancing the night away to Souled Out in the Galaxy of the Stars bar. Entertainment staff were friendly and approachable but not demanding of your time and effort. If you didn’t want to take part and just watch the world go by, they were happy to let you do so.
I would go so far as to say the service is up there with the best I’ve experienced (in my limited cruise life) and the staff made this ship what it is. They’re always pleasant, ready to have a chat and a giggle, they really did hit the balance right. I genuinely cannot fault the staff and crew, in fact, I would say they were a credit to NCL.
A final point about this experience and it’s a thank you to everyone onboard. I’ve never chatted so frequently to ‘strangers’ on a cruise but there was something rather special about this trip, lots of lovely conversations and a few (too many) drinks with fellow passengers made this a fabulous experience.
Cruise Addicts Blog says:
“Thank you for a wonderful review of The Spirit Kathryn, so glad you enjoyed your time with NCL and were kind enough to share your experience with all us cruise addicts. We certainly look forward to hearing about your future voyages!”
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