Date: 13-24 March 2015
Modes of Travel: British Airways, Norwegian Spirit, and Gatwick Express
Cities/Ports Visited – Malaga, Barcelona, Casablanca, Funchal, Santa Cruz (Tenerife), Arrecife (Lanzarote),
Cast of Characters: Dan, Bruce, and Cruise Mates
Hotel: ibis Gatwick Airport
So this will not be a day by day blog as it was a long trip, but I will cover all I can and share some pictures along the way.
We booked this trip in Jan 2014, you know we are planners, originally it was booked as an outside cabin, but after final payment date the prices dropped and the amazing Ricky at Vacations to Go scored us an upgrade at no charge to a Balcony on deck 9.
Our original flight was due to leave at 6am from Gatwick so we booked the ibis at Gatwick so we would not have to get up as early. Our flight was later changed (both ways thanks BA) to 7 but as we prepaid we said would still head down the night before.
I took Gatwick express and met Bruce. The journey was ok, but not really sure how express it was.
We headed to the hotel and about half way there Bruce felt that we had in his words been “f’ing Ryanair’ed” as the hotel was miles from Gatwick. After a short journey we arrived checked in and had an ok (for a budgetish hotel) dinner in the bar. As Accor Silver, I get a free drink and on check-in they gave us both one so it was a nice surprise.
So we had a decent night sleep and headed over to Gatwick. Check-in was very easy but even though we were directed to Fast Track Security, it hadn’t opened yet so we had to chill in a massive queue with people who did not fully understand how airport security works. We made it through after about 20 min and we were off to the lounge. The BA lounge at Gatwick is more like an outstation lounge and has no hot offerings. Our time in the lounge was ok, but I miss my bacon roll with my Jameson and Ginger at 6am.
Our flight to Malaga was uneventful. We did however have a Bus Gate, which brought Bruce great joy, as he loves the free bus tour provided from bus gates. We did however leave 10 min early, and arrived 25 min early and our bags took 45 min from the time we left the plane to arrive on the belt, I am pretty sure they were the last ones off.
We hopped in a taxi and headed to the pier and were on board within 20 minutes of arrival.
First Impressions of the NCL Spirit were good, we liked the layout and the ship seemed pretty nice. We enjoyed our glass of welcome aboard Prosecco and some food at the Blue Lagoon. The menu at the blue Lagoon is limited and we really did not like the location, but it is always good for a snack.
For this cruise, we purchased the Ultimate Beverage Package, which was $1200usd for the both of us. It covers all drinks under $11 except Red Bull, Speciality Coffees and Bottled Water. We made good use of the package, we kept track of all that we purchased and our total purchased under the plan was over $1900usd so we defo made out.
After the Prosecco we headed to our cabin and were very happy with it, the cabin was bigger than we are used to and the balcony was really nice. My only complaint(s) about the cabin were the shower pressure was not good as we are used too and the cabin door had a whistle if we left the balcony open and it was windy out. However it did not ruin our experience at all. It was really nice to leave our balcony door open as much as we could and was nice to wake up to the sound of the sea.
For the rest of the trip we did our normal cruise stuff, lots of drink, lots of eating and lots of chilling. On the Barcelona night, which was the first night for most people on the cruise we met up with the Friends of Dorothy group. Mark was the first we met and the rest of the nights we met the rest of the group that we spent most of our time with. So Mark is from Near Gatwick and was on his own (no one wanted to come with him on this one), Wouter and Harro from Amsterdam, and Peter and Joe from Scotland. We ended up meeting every night and had a great time!
If you want to see what was available to do on the NCL Spirit each day, click here.
I have decided to include some more pictures in this update, so each day in port I took a panoramic from our balcony.
Our first stop was Barcelona. We have been before and decided to keep it low key.
We took the local bus to Las Ramblas and just walked around. We did a little bit of shopping and a little bit of drinking.
Next up was Casablanca. We have been here before and were not impressed. I did get up early for the docking as it was supposed to be super rough as we came into port, but it really was not too bad.
We decided our goal for this port was to go to Starbucks and get the Morocco mug because we felt we had seen it all last time. We took the free shuttle to town as we did not realise how close the train station was to the port. The bus dropped us off in UN Square and other than the people trying to sell us stuff and harassing us it seemed better than last time.
We walked back to the train station, which was about a 5 min walk and went to the Starbucks (thanks Krusty for the final directions). We had a coffee and bought a few mugs and then it was time to hit up Mc Donalds so I could have my Moroccan double cheese burger (I cheated had a Big Mac) We were all ready to head back to the ship and it started chucking it down not just outside but also inside.
So we waited the rain out in he Mc Café as they gave us a free coffee with our purchase. After about 20 min it was all clear and we headed back to the ship.
We left Casablanca for our next port of Funchal. Not really sure why but the journey was NOT smooth and the boat was a rocking for 36 hours until we arrived at Funchal. It did not really affect me, but Bruce, Wouter and Mark were feeling it.
We have been to Funchal many times and whilst it was nice the firs few times, we are kinda over it. So for this trip we decided we would do a tasting and tour at Blandy’s. We invited Mark to join us and he accepted so the three of us headed to Blandy’s for a tour and a tasting which was very nice and then to a little bar for some beers. Since we were in Funchal last a Mc Donalds opened so again I needed a Double Cheese Burger to see if it was different. Other than Israel all have tasted the same.
Our next stop was Tenerife.
We had booked a wine tasting, but it was cancelled so we were on our own here. We waked off the ship and walked around and I found a shop that had some shirts in the window I liked and they had my size so I went home with a few.
We wanted some Tapas so stopped off for Tapas and Wifi. We chose very poorly (the place whilst nice looking the Tapas were disgusting). If you are in Tenerife I suggest you stay away from Lizarran.
After that we stopped off at a place by the port called Manhattan for some Sangria and then headed back to the ship.
After a night at sea we made it to Lanzarote where we had a wine tasting booked through NCL.
We stopped off at 3 places.
La Geria – Nice small winery. Provided a tasting of two wines that were typical of the area.
El Grifo – They have a great museum and did a full tutored tasting of four different wines.
Monumento al Campesino – Had a beer not quite sure why we stopped here.
Lanzarote marked our final port on this cruise and after this was a day at sea and then the end of the cruise in Malaga.
Lanzarote night we met up with all of the guys and Wouter brought his selfie stick so we could try to get a group shot. Now all of us are not the selfie stick types but as he had one (he got for free) we put it to good use:
A brief summary of our onboard experience:
La Trattoria – Nice Italian food with a good menu to choose from.
Cagney’s – This is NCL’s steak house had some great steaks but the sides could be improved.
Shogun – We went for lunch. It’s a good value noodle bar at lunch
The Garden Room – We had dinner here all but two nights. Staff was hit or miss, but Nivea was a great server and Lilbeth always made sure we never waited for a table.
Raffles Buffet – Pretty good buffet with great omelettes in the morning and goof Chinese and Indian at lunch.
Blue Lagoon – Poor Location but same quality that we are used to. However, NCL could use a better hot wing sauce.
Shanghai Bar – Nice Location and Jocelyn made sure our Prosecco was always cold and never empty!
Maharani’s – FOD was here a few of the nights. Great lounge and the bar staff took great care of us.
Champagne Charlie’s – My least favourite due to location, but enjoyed Ian who was the Pianist.
Casino Bar – Not too sure if anyone actually worked there as we always had to wait for drinks.
Was not the best at sea, but the staff were friendly especially a guy called Danilo. We have the same surname and his son and I share the same first and last name.
Towel Animals of note…
So that was the cruise…..
Thanks to a schedule change on our flight home we had many hours to kill in Malaga. We got off the ship and headed to the train station and left our bags. We had planned to visit the Wine Museum. We made it there after about a 15 min walk to find it was not fully open. So we visited the ground floor and had a tasting of the local wines, which were pretty good.
The guys had said they may meet us in town if the weather was nice and it was so we had a text from Mark that he Wouter and Harro were chilling at a coffee shop near by. We headed their way and hung out the rest of the day stopping off for some tapas and sangria at a place called La Taberna Gallega, which was inexpensive and tasty.
It was time for us to head to the Airport, so we said our good byes and headed back to the train station with a lil detour a Taco Bell. It was just as I remembered it except they serve beer 🙂
We took the train back to the airport for an amazing €1.80 per person and the journey took roughly 10 minutes. We found the check in counter and found a massive queue waiting to check in. Luckily they opened a priority queue and as soon as check-in opened we were checked in and through security in under 10 min. We chilled in the lounge until boarding time and that was our hols over.
So over all we really enjoyed the cruise and are looking forward to our next one!