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NCL Spirit Review - December 13-23, 2018

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We are a mid sixty couple, I am retired and my husband is still working.  This was our 26th cruise, mostly on Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Holland America.  This is our 3rd NCL cruise.  We don't normally like cruising Norwegian because we are not a fan of the Freestyle Cruising.  This cruise was a smaller ship, which we prefer, and the price and itinerary were what we were looking for.  

 

We stayed in a small hotel, Hotel Condel, in the El Gotic area before the cruise for one night.  We figured we were going to be spending most of the time in bed so a clean, comfortable bed close to port was all we were looking to pay for, our hotel fit that request.  We really enjoyed that location and were very grateful they were able to let us in our room the morning we arrived so we could get some much needed sleep.  That evening we enjoyed the Ramblas and the narrow streets of El Gotic.  Hearing about the pick pocket problems in Barcelona we took precautions but we never felt in danger.

 

The next morning we had a late breakfast at the hotel and the desk clerk arranged a cab for us. The port was just a short ride away, with tip I don't think we paid more than 20 Euro.

 

Boarding was a breeze, because we had cruised NCL before we went right through the line for returning guests and we were on the ship in no time at all. We were on the ship and in our cabin by noon.

 

The ship was in great shape, I had read on line that it was showing it's age but I never saw that. Our balcony cabin was a little smaller than usual, probably because it is an older ship.   We never felt cramped, we had plenty of storage and we were very comfortable.

 

The ship was decorated beautifully for Christmas and as the cruise progressed more Christmas decor was added.  We felt very festive!  The only thing lacking was Christmas music, except for the last night when they put on a spectacular Christmas show!  Something I love about NCL is the fish swimming upstream on the carpet, I always knew where forward was!

 

Aside from a few times we had to wait in line to dine...really a pet peeve of ours, we really enjoyed the Freestyle this time.  Our cruise was very port intensive, in fact we were even in port for the last day (packing day) which was a first for us.  Because we were so busy it was nice having the flexibility to dine when we wanted.  We still think NCL needs to improve the whole waiting in line thing and I REALLY do not like having pagers on a ship.  The way I think they could improve this is to offer reservations in the "free" dining venues for those that prefer not to wait in lines.  The food was good, not great but good.

 

This cruise was much more casual than we are used to, which worked out better for us this time since we were going to be packing for over three weeks.  We spent the week after the cruise in an apartment we rented after the cruise for Christmas with our son from New York City.  Since the cruise was more casual my husband left his tux home. He brought a dark blue suit but in hindsight he could have left that at home too and saved room in our luggage. There were not very many men dressing up more than a shirt and tie or polo shirt for the entire cruise.  I brought two cocktail dresses I never wore, we only dressed up once.  

 

The entertainment on this ship was wonderful!  There was plenty of variety in the theater and the venues around the ship.  We have noticed other lines are starting to cut corners in the entertainment budget but did not feel NCL had done that at all.

 

Our first port was supposed to be Casablanca, Morocco but we were told as we boarded they were replacing it with Tangiers, Morocco.  We were disappointed because Casablanca was one of the reasons we booked this cruise. After talking with people that have been to both ports we were very happy with the change.  In Tangiers we booked a ship tour that took us to the ancient Medina (walled city) of Tetouan.  It was well worth the trip!  

 

Our second port was our favorite, Funchal, Madeira, Portugal.  We took a ship tour that took us to a small fishing village, a Madeira Wine shop, tasted Madeira wine and the local drink, Poncha, visited another small village, drive through the countryside to see all the farmlands and we went to Cabo Girau and walked on the glass viewing platform high above the cliffs.  A new addition to our "bucket list" is to spend New Years in Funchal!

 

Our third port was Santa Cruz, Tenerife and our fourth port Las Palmas, Canary Island, we were on our own and used the Hop on Hop off bus.  I had read on line that this is a very good way to see these ports and we were not disappointed.

 

Our fifth port was Malaga, Spain.  This is a very walkable city once you are in the city.  It is a very long way into the city from the port.  We purchased tickets on the "train" to get into town because this is what the visitor center person in the port suggested.  It was only around 5 Euro each round trip so we thought, sure, why not?  She pointed us in the direction of the train, we ended up walking all the way into town to find the "train" only to find out it was really just a little shuttle car pulling what looked like a toy train.  So much for needing a ride into town!  We enjoyed the park, visiting the Cathedral and walking around town.  If it had been warm, there was a nice beach close to the ship.

 

Our last port was Alicante, Spain.  This is a beautiful port with a very nice beach right by the port/ship.  We rode the free shuttle into town and we headed straight to the Castell de Santa Barbara to stand in line and purchase the tickets to take the elevator up, well worth it.  However, we were told by the elevator operator that you have to walk down...wrong!  We ended up walking all the way around the mountain on the road down which was MILES and totally a waste of our time and energy.  Buy the ticket and take the elevator DOWN as well.  Bring your passport to prove you are 65 and you ride free. I guess we were getting tired because we also got a little lost trying to find our way back to the ship. Alicante is a great port for walking but walking you will do!

 

Over all it was a great cruise! We are looking forward to cruising this ship again on a different itinerary.  

 

Our after cruise week in Barcelona was for Christmas.  We had a wonderful time in Barcelona and this review is about the cruise so I will leave it there, except...to tell you about our apartment.  We rented through Air BnB and the company that provided our apartment was Friendly Rentals.  My advice...stay away from Friendly Rentals.  The apartment and location in El Born were perfect but they were WORSE than bad to deal with.  We were not the only ones to say this, we ran into several other customers of Friendly Rentals while we were in Barcelona and if you use them, I warned you.

 

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Thanks for posting your review!  We will be boarding the Spirit soon.  Did NCL give a reason why they replaced the Casablanca stop with Tangier?  We've been to Casablanca before so would be happy to have another place to explore.  Do you happen to know who the Executive Chef and Restaurant Manager were during your cruise?  Thanks.

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Posted (edited)

Thank you for your review!  We also love the Spirit, even though it is a smaller ship!

 

My daughter Air BnB'd an apartment in Barcelona a few years ago.  When they got to the apartment, the family who lived in it was eating dinner.  They got up, grabbed their coats and left - leaving the dishes on the table, beds unmade and laundry on the floor!  My daughter's group spoke limited Spanish, so they were unable to effectively communicate their displeasure with the condition of the rental.  They ended up in a hotel and filed a claim with Air BnB and got their money back.

Edited by momofmab

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11 hours ago, TerryAndDoug said:

Thanks for posting your review!  We will be boarding the Spirit soon.  Did NCL give a reason why they replaced the Casablanca stop with Tangier?  We've been to Casablanca before so would be happy to have another place to explore.  Do you happen to know who the Executive Chef and Restaurant Manager were during your cruise?  Thanks.

They said it was wind.  As for the Executive Chef and Restaurant Manager, sorry, I looked through my Freestyle Dailies and didn't see it anywhere.

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4 hours ago, momofmab said:

Thank you for your review!  We also love the Spirit, even though it is a smaller ship!

 

My daughter Air BnB'd an apartment in Barcelona a few years ago.  When they got to the apartment, the family who lived in it was eating dinner.  They got up, grabbed their coats and left - leaving the dishes on the table, beds unmade and laundry on the floor!  My daughter's group spoke limited Spanish, so they were unable to effectively communicate their displeasure with the condition of the rental.  They ended up in a hotel and filed a claim with Air BnB and got their money back.

That is horrible!

 

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Thanks for sharing your review! It’s been a long time since anyone has posted a Spirit review.  We will be on the ship next month and hope to be diverted to Tangiers as well!

I am going to have to rethink my packing plan, I was hoping for a dressier experience since it is a European cruise. I miss the old days of cruising with formal and semi formal nights!  I also miss the seating times for dinner, it was always exciting to meet your table mates for the duration of the cruise.

 

Lisa

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56 minutes ago, lisajltx said:

Thanks for sharing your review! It’s been a long time since anyone has posted a Spirit review.  We will be on the ship next month and hope to be diverted to Tangiers as well!

I am going to have to rethink my packing plan, I was hoping for a dressier experience since it is a European cruise. I miss the old days of cruising with formal and semi formal nights!  I also miss the seating times for dinner, it was always exciting to meet your table mates for the duration of the cruise.

 

Lisa

I agree.  However, we really did adjust well.  We talked with some of the crew and they all seem to love working on the Spirit, that means better service in my opinion.  We do like catching up every evening with our table mates, this was our first cruise we ate alone.  Like I said in my review, the only negative for us was waiting in lines for dinner.

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Thank you for your review. You can make reservations for the included main dining rooms online 120 days prior to sailing. 

 

lisajltx - my experience of freestyle in Europe is to wear what makes you happy. You will see everything from shorts & t-shirts to beautiful dresses. For me the joy of NCL is that I never feel over or under dresssed. 

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16 hours ago, lisajltx said:

Thanks for sharing your review! It’s been a long time since anyone has posted a Spirit review.  We will be on the ship next month and hope to be diverted to Tangiers as well!

I am going to have to rethink my packing plan, I was hoping for a dressier experience since it is a European cruise. I miss the old days of cruising with formal and semi formal nights!  I also miss the seating times for dinner, it was always exciting to meet your table mates for the duration of the cruise.

 

Lisa

we actually like freestyle because we can choose when and who we dine with

via the roll call we have met lots of people on our cruises either at meet and greet or because we have arranged private tours with them

if we get on particularly well we arrange to share a table with them on one or more nights and just walk up to hostdesk as a group and request a table for that number

if not immediately available they give you a pager and we go to a nearby bar to chat more-never had to wait long before pager goes off

you will see people dressed in a variety of ways including men in tux and women in long dresses particularly if they are taking opportunity of getting a formal photo taken

we usually prefer to change for dinner particularly if been out in sun all day -hubby wears chinos and collared shirt and I in pretty dress ,however its up to you how much luggage you want to take with you

We have sailed on the Spirit twice and will again this year

It's one of our favourite ships having a pretty soaring atrium and a good size to get around  

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How was the weather? We have booked the Spirit for Christmas 2019 and want an idea of what we will need to pack.

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Glad to hear you enjoyed the Spirit.  Our family took out first NCL cruise last January and we were on the Spirit on a 10 day Canary Islands cruise.  We have done many Princess cruises along with MSC, Costa and RCCL and we enjoyed NCL as much as any of the ones mentioned.  I really like the Freestyle cruising.  I got tired of the tux on formal nights on Princess and eventually stepped down to a suit and then just smart casual.  There are no pretenses on NCL.  Casual all the way and I love it.

 

We went to Tangiers instead of Casablanca (because of the rough weather) and I am glad we did.  Had a great time and tour in Tangiers.  The Spirit is an older ship but we enjoyed it thoroughly.  So much so that we are on the Spirit again this October.  Our family is doing a 15 day cruise from Southampton, England to Venice.  Every stop (Normandy, Barcelona, Florence, Rome, Naples Athens Split, etc) is truly a highlight stop.  And the UBP that NCL offers is the single best  perk I have ever gotten on any cruise anywhere.

 

Paul

 

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We enjoyed this cruise on the Spirit last March. You didn't miss much in Casablanca. We took a 5 hour tour that seemed more like 8 hours. Unfortunately we had to miss Funchal because of rough seas, but it was replaced with a stop at Gibraltar with a wonderful selection of tours. 

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It isn't unusual to have problems getting into Casablanca. There are apparently some odd tides which mean that weather can make things difficult getting into the port. Even in good weather it can be quite bumpy. I would always recommend to people doing this itinerary to be prepared for problems with the Casablanca stop.

 

Having said that, it usually does make it there. I'd guess that it gets missed three or four times each winter.

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We will be on the Spirit in just over a week to do this itinerary. We attempted to do this itinerary last year but the Canary Islands and Funchal were cancelled due to weather before we boarded. The replacement ports were Tangier’s, Cartagena, Mallorca, and Marseille. We were not disappointed in the changes as it allowed us to come back this year. I look forward to visiting and appreciate the tips for the Canary Islands and Funchal. Weather won’t bother me as we currently have snow on the ground.

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On ‎1‎/‎5‎/‎2019 at 2:11 PM, lisajltx said:

Thanks for sharing your review! It’s been a long time since anyone has posted a Spirit review.  We will be on the ship next month and hope to be diverted to Tangiers as well!

I am going to have to rethink my packing plan, I was hoping for a dressier experience since it is a European cruise. I miss the old days of cruising with formal and semi formal nights!  I also miss the seating times for dinner, it was always exciting to meet your table mates for the duration of the cruise.

 

Lisa

Are you on the March 17th sailing?  That's the one I'm on and my family and I are getting so excited!  It's great to read a Spirit review so close to our sailing - thanks OP!  I'm glad I have an NCL excursion booked for Casablanca in case we get diverted too.

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On ‎2‎/‎14‎/‎2019 at 12:40 PM, jenf22 said:

Are you on the March 17th sailing?  That's the one I'm on and my family and I are getting so excited!  It's great to read a Spirit review so close to our sailing - thanks OP!  I'm glad I have an NCL excursion booked for Casablanca in case we get diverted too.

No we were on the Feb 14 sailing, had a great time! 

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