Getting on the ship was easy. Everything else was a hugh disappointment.
Service was slow in dining room.
Selection and food quality was poor.
Tender service was a disaster. Lines to re-enter the ship via tenders took over an hour in Bar Harbor.
Deserts were awful. We never saw a potatoe or tomatoe. The days of shrimp cocktail and escargo are gone; only in the "specialty restaurants" which you have to pay extra for.
This was our first NCL cruise and it will be our last.
The following is an honest review from someone who has previously cruised three times. My previous cruises were on Carnival's Destiny and Paradise, and Costa's Mediterranea. I've read many Norwegian Spirit cruise reviews and member comments prior to embarking on this cruise so I was somewhat worried about the rough seas, bad food, bed bugs, "tired" ship, etc. Hopefully, this review will help alleviate your concerns in these areas or reinforce prior cruiser's experiences. I'll try to keep things by topic but sometimes it's impossible to do. For example, comments about service may be in the dining, cabin or bar sections so please bear with me and read the entire posting.
Price: A "BC" balcony cabin on a 11 day cruise out of NYC with no airfare for two people for a little over $1900 = pretty good deal (additional $75 cabin credit)
Getting to NYC: We live a little above Albany, NY so traveling down the NYS Thruway and going across either the Tappanzee or George Washington bridge would have cost us about $12 in tolls alone. We've made many previous trips down the Taconic Parkway to NYC and it's almost thesame distance, a much nicer ride, and the total toll cost is a bridge on the Henry Hudson parkway ($2). Remember, Taconic Parkway south to exit for Saw Mill River Parkway, which turns into the Henry Hudson Parkway...couldn't be easier. Just go straight on HH Parkway to the Cruise port exit (around 56th st). Drop off your significant other and proceed to the parking garage (cost $180, but can be paid with CC). Take the elevator back down to your luggage/spouse and leave the luggage with the porter (take spouse with you though).
Cruise Port: Definitely not the prettiest but gets the job done. Lines moved quickly, and within 30 minutes we were on the ship. Tip: have a passport and have it (and any other paperwork) in hand as requested. Digging for it only annoys those waiting in line. You board the ship on deck 7, where the atrium is located and you can eat lunch while waiting for your cabin to be ready.
Tip: to not go completely broke while onboard you can sneak wine boxes/bags in your checked luggage. We bought four 500ml Vendange Pinot Grigio and four 500ml Chardonnay, which is the equivalent of 5 1/3 bottles of wine, and just packed them with our clothes. If you carry them you won't have them for long.
The Ship: Reports that the ship was "tired" or "worn" are grossly exaggerated. Maybe these reports were because of the maintenance/service they received in their cabin and not the overall condition of the ship??? I fully expected to see an older ship needing updating and/or repairs but was pleasantly surprised that it's easy to navigate the public areas and the crew is constantly maintaining/cleaning its exterior. Built for the Asian market, but I didn't notice handrails, beds, and chairs any shorter than on other ships. The elevators need tweaking…if you press up/down to get an elevator sometimes one will pass your deck and other times it will stop. The shops on board are terribly small. I blame this on the two large stores occupied by Tanzanite International, who advertise the same prices as their shops in the ports. First off, if they're the same prices then why waste the precious space? Secondly, this company (Tanzanite International, Diamonds International, et al) seem to have too close a connection to the cruise lines.
There's too much time dedicated to getting the cruisers to shop at only the cruise line's "recommended" stores. They're not recommending them for your sake, trust me. There has to be a huge financial reason. Tip: Use their recommended port shops for extra peace of mind but remember, you'll probably be paying extra for your jewelry and other items. Otherwise, find a deal on your own or from recommendations from other reviewers (i.e. Imperial Jewelers in St Thomas) but pay by credit card to give you recourse if there's a problem. By the way, from my experience you should get all of your shopping done in St Thomas as every other Western/Eastern/Southern Caribbean cruise port we've been to has not been anywhere near as good, price wise, and almost any shop there is reputable. This ship is also very stable. It was like riding in a limo. We never felt any of the rough seas, and we were told the waves were 12 feet at one point so all of those people that warn you the sky is falling if you cruise from NYC must have either been on another ship or a first time cruiser and underestimated any ship movement.Other cruisers:
As with every cruise we've been on, as US citizens we were in the minority.
Day one: Leaving NYC, even on a 55 degree December day can be nice…until the ship sails and the sun starts to go down. As you're on the upper decks watching the NYC skyline pass you by it can get pretty chilly so dress appropriately. If you're taking pictures, there will be low light so practice this at home so you know how to set up your camera and not be disappointed that the pictures didn't come out as you'd have liked (too dark). We went to the dinner reservations desk and made reservations for Teppanyaki (Japanese cooking table) that night and Cagney's Steakhouse the next night. We returned to our room and found two of the four bags had been delivered. The others arrived about 1/2 hour later.
We scanned that days FreeStyle Daily (FD) that outlined what was going on the first day as we dressed for dinner. Tip: read these carefully. I missed the part where the Captain's dinner (formal night) was the next night and we'd made reservations at Cagney's. I only found out three days later that this was the only night there would be broiled lobster tails on the menu in the main dining room and that's just one of the reasons I take cruises…multiple lobster tails! Boy was I bummed. We dined at Teppanyaki, which is a Japanese cooking table. The food was OK, but nothing special. Everything that was cooked was drenched in soy sauce as the chef cooked it so maybe if you asked the chef for less soy sauce it would be better???
Day two: At Sea. Too cold to tan (not even any water in the pool) so we slept late (my wife had a reaction to the Sake anyway) and I brought lunch back to the cabin from Raffles Buffet. We ate dinner at Cagney's. With this being one of the restaurants you have to pay extra for I'd have expected better cuts of meat served but my filet mignon was gamey tasting. They also cooked both of ours wrong not once, but twice.
Day three: At Sea. A little warmer (finally, we were near Florida now) but there was a storm somewhere close to us, which caused the winds to whip on the pool deck pretty good. We tried the hot tubs. It was nice to be in them but the winds blew the water out of the hot tub and into your face. If it's really windy and cold I'd recommend skipping the hot tub and find an art auction and free champagne instead.
Day four: Ahhhh, St. Thomas. Beautiful as always. This cruise didn't allow a full day in port. We booked the ship's Blackbeard's Experience tour which was very good. Tip: the FD and the shore excursion papers (EP) are poorly written and must be edited by the same person. When you look at the EP it isn't clear whether you stop and visit Megan's bay or stop there to sunbathe and swim for two hours. Lucky for us I did the research ahead of time and we brought our suits/towels but others complained they didn't know there would be swimming at the beach. As we had to be back on board at 5:30 we only had 1 ½ hours to shop. Tip: if you want to shop in St Thomas, taking this (or just about any of the tours) tour isn't recommended as I don't feel they leave you with enough time. St. Thomas is very safe and I'd recommend grabbing a taxi and having it drop you off at Megan's bay for a couple of hours and bring you back to the shopping district. Our ship docked at the secondary dock (Crown Bay) and the shops weren't completed yet. The main dock has a great shopping area called Havensight Mall. Tip: do all of your shopping in downtown St. Thomas and Havensight Mall. All of the other islands' prices don't compare (jewelry, clothing, liquor, etc.). Also, if you're a US resident, check the customs regulations as you're allowed extra liquor if it's purchased in St. Thomas. We didn't do it this trip but across the street from the main dock is the entrance to Paradise Point tramway (you can also get a cab but the ride up will scare the crap out of you). This is another thing you should try to do (maybe you can negotiate a package price with your cabbie for Megan's bay, Paradise Point, then back to shopping).
Day five: Antigua. We booked the ship's excursion called Antigua Island Escape. This actually brings you out to an island called Prickly Pear Island for a few hours. The taxi ride out there was quite the experience. The van driver backed into another van as we were leaving which caused a lot of shouting and the cops to show up but he just drove away anyway. We also had another near miss at a stop sign, which he must not have seen, or saw and didn't care. Once out on the island they serve unlimited rum punch, local beer and a hot lunch of chicken, fish, and salads. $89 per person was pretty steep but we tried to get our money's worth in rum punch. If you don't watch out you'll get zooted real quick.
Day six: Barbados. We booked the ship's excursion called Ultimate Beach Escape (at least I think that's what it was called). There are many beautiful beaches in Barbados so why they would waste 1 ½ hours on the bus getting to this one and back is beyond me. Tip: have a cabbie drop you off and pick you up at a beach much closer to the port. You'll have much more time to spend sunbathing and swimming. Tip: when on the beach (any beach) if approached by someone wanting to give you or your wife a foot rub don't assume there's a tip involved…there's a charge involved! Neither of us asked and the foot rub turned into a foot, leg, back rub. When he was done he said "who's paying?". I asked how much and he said $75. For 15 minutes??? I gave him $40 and still got ripped off.
Day seven: Grenada. We strolled to the local shops but decided to go back to the ship and enjoy the pool, hot tub, etc. There was a very good lunch barbecue near the pool. The pool was in good condition and size and never appeared to be crowded. We heard the band that played in the pool area quite a few times during our cruise and they were average, at best.
Day eight: Dominica. Rain, rain, rain, but I hear this is a tropical island and rains quite a lot. Most excursions were cancelled but we hadn't booked any. It was a Sunday so there weren't many shops open. We went back to the ship and tried the pool and hot tubs again.
Day nine: Tortola. This is a very beautiful island but, as with St Thomas, our stay there was shortened as we had to leave by 1PM. I wished we had more time as it had a nice, safe feeling to it, as opposed to the other islands. Maybe next time…
Day ten: At Sea. What can I say…enjoy the sun, the pool, the hot tubs, and the really good Mexican lunch served in the pool area. We had dinner at Shogun, which is the extra charge Asian restaurant. They only charge $12.50PP extra but this can be cut in half if you dine at 5:30 or 6:00. We didn't have a reservation but they took us right in at 6:00 (half price). Let me tell you, this was the best dinner we had on this cruise by far, and it was a bargain even if we paid full price. They have this tempura appetizer that's incredible. Tip: order extra Tempura shrimp…many of them if your wife let's you.
This restaurant was above and beyond the others as far as food quality and wait staff.
Day eleven: At Sea. We were only one of two couples brave enough to attempt sitting outside the pool area. We didn't stay for long though as you could tell we weren't in the Caribbean anymore. We dined in the main restaurant this evening and I got my lobster tails. I know what you're saying, "I thought you said they were only served at the Captain's dinner the second night?". Well, all it took was to explain to the matre'd how much I enjoy lobster tails and that I'd missed the Captains'dinner and he arranged to have the cook make them for us on the last night. Very nice of him to do that.
Day twelve: Back to NYC. Express disembarkation for US residents is a godsend. I never would have expected to be off the ship, through Customs, to the car and on the HH Parkway headed home in 20 minutes!!! (you have to carry your own luggage though)
11 nights is great. Not once did either of us say "oh crap, we're headed back now".
There are some things I wanted to talk about that happened across multiple days so it didn't make sense to keep repeating it so here goes:
There was a Norovirus on other ships/lines that returned to Florida so as a precaution, this crew took extraordinary measures. Normally they have this round ball that dispenses antibacterial lotion at the entrances to all restaurants. Now it was like the Gestapo boarded the ship! You couldn't take your own coffee cup, utensils, tray, etc. and they wouldn't seat you in the restaurant unless they saw you disinfect your hands. I understand why, but they took these measures and then yelled at you without informing you that things had changed. Imagine going up to the coffee area (as you had done multiple days before) and getting yelled at for taking a clean cup from the rack. Just tell us ahead of time and it would have been OK.
FOOD This was not the worst cruise food I've had (thanks to Costa) but they've taken portioning to a new level. One day I ordered a fried wonton appetizer. Can you believe two small morsels showed up on a 10" plate? I read NCL rolled out a new menu but it can't be a huge improvement over the old one. Previous posts complained about the food and it seems the new menu hasn't changed things. Small portions, none of the dishes were hot, very slow service. Why hasn't NCL read the reviews and done something to upgrade the food and service in their restaurants. There are too many eclectic food choices that the mainstream cruiser isn't interested in. How about a simple dish of chicken parmesan, lasagna, veal, etc.? I can honestly say in the eight nights we ate in the main dining rooms there may have been one or two dishes I wanted. The rest were chosen just out of necessity because none of them appealed to me. The desserts were pretty good though, and you could always get espresso with dessert. Breakfast food, regardless of whether you dined in the dining rooms or at Raffles buffet, was always cold. Service was slow, regardless of breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I feel this is a result of Freestyle Dining. Not only do they allow the passengers to dine when they want but you never get the same waiters because they're all rotated throughout the ship, even to the buffet. I now understand why our service was poor. If someone gives you good service it's impossible to tip them individually as you'd have to carry dollar bills with you all day every day, and just try finding them at the end of the cruise. If you think you've had good service and want to increase the $10pp/day tip then all cruise staff share in it so why bother going out of your way individually if you have to share it with 1000 people? If I've had good service at the excursion desk I know where to find them for their tip. Maybe they need to modify the Freestyle dining???
There's a small 24 hour (or so) "restaurant" near the dinner reservations desk (I can't remember the name) that serves a really good Shepherd's Pie (with lamb).
Drinks on board were only a little more expensive than on land but if you get a mixed drink don't hesitate to ask for more alcohol. They're trained to put the least amount in but will add more if asked.
The Casino seemed OK. I donated my usual $50.
We saw three shows. One was a Second City improve which was very funny. The second was comedy with Dave Heenan and not quite funny. The last was the farewell show with the NCL dancers/singers, followed by some crew members on stage singing "we are the world". It was really good up until that point but I give them credit for being up there.
Tip: order the honeymoon/anniversary package regardless of whether you're celebrating anything or not. At $79 it's a bargain. You get chocolate covered cherries and champagne in your room upon arrival, appetizers delivered to your room later in the week, a special cake and formal photo party (you keep the photo), and dinner for two in Cagney's.
Our cabin: On all of our previous cruises we almost never saw our room steward. It was like magic. You just turned you back for a second and there would be one of those towels on your bed in the shape of an animal, or your bed was freshly made, or the room was just straightened up a little. On this cruise I think I saw the room steward at least a half dozen times a day! Their cart was constantly in the hallway and they did a horrible job of cleaning the cabins. The last night I was getting the luggage and found someone's prescription pill under the bed! I don't know when the toilet area and shower were last cleaned. There was dust in the toilet area the whole trip (on the ceramic chair rail) and the mildew in the shower just kept getting worse. Also, I religiously locked the room and balcony doors when we left but would you believe the room steward would put the chair cushions out on the deck every day and take them in at night and leave the door unlocked? I felt I was following a toddler around closing things they had left open.
I honestly agree with reviews I read that stated they felt this ship was understaffed and those that remained were doing the best but were overworked. Hopefully, NCL will take note of this pennywise pound foolishness and staff this ship at the appropriate level. I feel that many of the things I've noted in this review would be corrected with more staff.
Finally, based on my experience, the cabin you book is crucial. I've been on ships where we've been more forward, more aft and the last one was just below the pool/sun deck. It seems the most perfect cabin is mid ship, with cabins above and below you. This avoids loud bands, crew dragging sunchairs out at 5AM, excessive wave rolling, etc. I did a little research when booking and was able to find a cabin that had a queen bed instead of the two twins pushed together. That was nice…but you have to see what's available online and then look at the deck plan to see what's what.
Tip: always get trip insurance because you never know...we saw a guy get taken off the ship and into an ambulance in St. Thomas.
Would I go on this ship again? Certainly, if I was able to get the same deal, different itinerary, and if I read that service and food had improved. Otherwise it'll be Royal Caribbean, Princess or Celebrity next time. You can contact me directly if you have any questions but please don't write me to complain about my review. As I said, it's just my opinion and if you go on this cruise you will have your own.
My husband and I cruised for the first time on the NCL Spirit and we had an amazing time! Our travel agent had given us information on a few different choices and I am so glad we went with the one we did. We LOVED the "freestyle" aspect of the cruise. Neither one of us could imagine having only 2 or 3 choices of where to eat each night and eating with the same people at the same time each night. We ate somewhere different every night, and we were on a 10 night cruise! Our favorites were Cagney's and Shogun. The main dining rooms were also good, just not as intimate.
We originally had booked an ocean view room, but at the last minute upgraded to a balconey room, and it was probably one of the best decisions we made. Cannot imagine not having our own personal outside space, as well as falling asleep each night to the sound of the ocean. The shows were all very good, some more to our taste and liking than others, but all were well-done. The crew were all very nice, especially thereception area people when we received some bad news on day 8 of our cruise. They allowed us to make several "courtesy" phone calls regarding a problem at home. They went above and beyond to help us feel comforted and cared about. We were very impressed.
All the ports we visited were also amazing! We had done a lot of research before we left on different boats and different excursions and it paid off! That is my best advice to anyone going on a cruise - research, research and more research! I would definitely cruise on the Spirit and/or NCL again!
This was our first cruise and we weren't sure what to expect, since a travel agent we consulted told us he hated everything about NCL- he disliked the food,the ships and the service. Despite this we booked anyway, since we had such a good deal and figured we had nothing to lose. He also said leaving out of NY we would encounter rough seas. Well, the trip was great in our opinion. The food was terrific, although the Raffles buffet was sometimes very hectic.
The seas were as calm as could be, the staff did everything they could to make us happy, constantly asking if we were pleased. We had medication that needed refrigeration, and the medical staff were very accomodating, even showing us their facilities which, we're happy to say, were surprisingly extensive.
The entertainment was about what you would expect, better than a small town theater group but by no means Broadway material. The decor was really beautiful, with the Asian influence, and we did not notice anything different about the scale of the ship as others had mentioned it was built for the smaller Asian market.
The freestyle dining wasa plus in our opinion, though some passengers didn't agree. If you wanted to be formal you certainly could, but we are casual people and we didn't have to bother dressing up if we didn't want to. There were many quiet places on board to get away from the crowds and just watch the water.
The port calls were so-so. We decided to spend a day at Disney when we docked in Port Canaveral, but we ended up leaving an hour late so only had maybe 6 hours in Disney all told, which made the day too hectic and too expensive. The private island was nice but too many people complained of jellyfish in the water (despite nets), and it was rather noisy for my taste. The ship was very international in crew and passengers, so there was always someone interesting to talk to. Our biggest complaint is that someone was always trying to sell us something, whether liquor, jewelry, bingo cards or shore excursions. We will definitly cruise NCL again, the experience was overwhelmingly positive.
The June 3rd cruise was one marvelous cruise. We have traveled on Carnival (3 times), Celebrity (2 times), RCCL (2 times) NCL (3 times) and even the Big Red Boat (the old Disney Cruise, for those of you who can remember it.) I probably missed some. After being on the Dawn twice (1/2005 & 1/2006), we didn't know what to expect of the Spirit. This was one of the best trips yet.
Embarkation and debarkation, were the fastest and smoothest I can remember.
The staff was the friendliest and most attentive.
From Captain Gunnar Hammerin, very witty and personable; the very special Hotel Director Hugo; Food & Beverage Manager Robb Brand; Excursion Desk Assistant, Brad (who spent much time with us discussing problems with the tours; CD Ricky Matthews; Assistant Cruise Director John; our old friend Marco from the Dawn; Lisa; the Casino staff, the stewards, the waiters and assistant waiters, and the very fine staff at the medical center (Dr. Adriaan Swart and Nurse Mabeth Malavenga (*yes my husband needed to visit the ships medical center); the reception staff; the security staff (we locked ourselves out of the safe 3 times duringour trip, I guess it was all the money that we won in the casino that blocked the safe door), just kidding. If I missed anyone, I'm sorry.
We ate in Le Bistro (chocolate fondue), not to be missed, Cagney's, La Trattoria, Shogun, Tapanaki (a show besides a dinner). Windows, the Garden Restaurant and the Buffet. Everything was wonderful. I enjoyed the stir fry and stir fry soup in the buffet for lunch. We did not have time to sample the Blue Lagoon or the fish and chips at Henry's Pub.
If you want to eat in the specialty restaurants, make your reservations for the whole week on day one, even before you go to lunch. The specialty restaurants were 1/2 price on day one and one other day. The restaurants, especially Tapenaki fill up quickly. You can cancel within 24 hours without being charged the $5 cancellation fee. Menus are available in the atrium even for the regular restaurants, so you can decide when and where to go.
We skipped the chocolate buffet but the casino had a mini chocolate buffet. In addition, there were late night snacks in the casino every night from about 11 - 1.
People were complaining that there were no trays in the buffet, but everyone managed.
The entertainment was good. We loved Ed Alonzo and our favorites were Seymour and Alfred. We had seen Second City twice before. The dancers were excellent.
There was so much entertainment and activity that it was hard to decide where to go first. Between the music, trivias, game shows, bingo, arts and crafts, food demonstrations, etc, never a dull moment.
We opted not to do the murder mystery since we had done it twice on the Dawn.
The Officer's Dinner is something new and we enjoyed it immensely. It is done by lottery, and each officer hosts a table of 4-6 people. We were very lucky to be invited to dine at Hugo's table. He made the whole trip very special for us. This is the third time we were traveling with him. Hugo, don't ever leave NCL. ****"TO NCL, HE'S A KEEPER."****
We visited St. Thomas, Tortola and Bermuda. In St. Thomas, we were there until 12:30 and the shops and restaurants all closed by 6 P.M. It appeared that everyone was back on board. St. Thomas Officials approved the opening of the Casino while in port and NCL is trying to get them to approve opening of the shops. I think the ship should leave St. Thomas earlier AND GIVE MORE TIME IN BERMUDA. Tortola was beautiful (short stay). We docked on the West end of Bermuda at the Naval Shipyard and had to take a ferry to Hamilton for our bus tour of St. George and Hamilton. It rained all day in Bermuda and we needed to be back on board at 4:30, no time for shopping. In order to visit Hamilton and St. George I think the itinerary should be 2 days instead of 1.
All in all we had a great trip.
HATS OFF TO THE OFFICERS AND CREW!!!!!
LOOKING FORWARD TO OUR NEXT CRUISE.
We have sailed more than 50 cruises since 1984 on multiple lines. Recent NCL sailings included Dawn from New York twice in 2003. Those two sailings were our first experience with Freestyle cruising, and although we admit a preference for traditional dining, we were happy with the Freestyle on those sailings. But on this sailing, not so much.
On this cruise we were joined by our friends Tom and Laurie from Long Island and happily surprised by our friends Len and Karen from Texas. Both couples had cruised with us before but Freestyle was new to both. All of us have sworn off NCL and Freestyle cruising in the future based on this sailing. That's not to say we didn't all have a great trip; we did. It's just that Freestyle was definitely a negative for us and something we have all decided to avoid in the future.
EMBARKATION: I knew it would be rough going in New York with three ships in port. Add a culinary event closing every other street, and it was chaos! It took us about 50 minutes to cover the first 40 miles from our house tothe pier. It took us an hour and a half to cover that last single mile!
When we finally arrived, things progressed smoothly. I dropped our luggage and proceeded to park. The rest of the embarkation was painless. On each of out voyages from New York, NCL has done an outstanding job of embarking passengers. We were through check-in and onboard within 15 minutes. We were able to go through a shorter Latitudes line (for past passengers), but I doubt other passengers spent more than 10 minutes longer getting on board.
THE SHIP: The ship is magnificent. We found Spirit to be every bit as - if not more - spectacular as the newer Dawn. It features lots of seating with tables by the pool deck area, great public rooms and lounges, a good sized casino, and a fantastic kids' area aft. The Beer Garden overlooking the pool is great. We were all more than satisfied with the ship. She also features a wonderful promenade deck, which many of today's ships do not -- a great place to stroll, sit, or read near the sea, away the hustle and bustle of the pool area. Lounge chairs are provided on the promenade, another great selling point.
CABINS: We had cabin 9658, Tom and Laurie 9662, balcony BD category, on Deck 9 aft. We are spoiled in that we usually book a suite category, and would have preferred to do so on this sailing. But there are a limited number of suites on the Spirit. The cabin was roomy enough, and the balcony comfortable enough, with a sliding glass door. Two plastic chairs and a small table are provided on the balcony, and the plastic chairs are far superior and more comfortable than the horrible ones provided by Carnival.
Storage space while adequate is somewhat annoying. There were only four drawers. The major storage space was a large closet with triangular open shelves in one corner, so it was hard to get stuff in and out neatly. The closet space itself is more than enough. There is a decent sized safe in the closet, but it was located on a floor shelf, so serious bending was required. The bathroom was adequate but the toilet area can be a bit claustrophobic. The shower was roomy enough, with plenty of hot water and pressure; soap and shampoo were provided in wall dispensers. The cabin had a small table and couch seat, and a cosmetic mirror and built-in table as well. The TV was adequate though not interactive as most are today. You cannot order room service or check your onboard balances like many of the systems now allow for.
Our Texas friends were able to get a suite that opened up close to sailing. They were in 10022 on Deck 10 forward. Basically it had the space of two cabins, one serving as a living and dining room area with a balcony (same size as ours) and the other a bedroom and bath. The bath area was gorgeous and roomy, featuring a garden style Jacuzzi tub.
DINING: The food on the Spirit was excellent. None of us had any complaints about food quality in either the dining rooms or buffets. The Blue Lagoon area, which features 24 hour service, hamburgers, chili, chicken wings, wonton soup and such, must be tried at least once. It is a small area but provides table service -- and the wings were excellent. (Note that you only get three, so request a double order at minimum.)
Although I had read some complaints about Raffles buffet, we had none. The food was very good and there was plenty of seating available most times. There were exits to the pool area mid-ship and to the aft area, with outside tables in both -- nice for those who wish to enjoy sea air while they eat. Trays are not provided, which I always find odd; but the plates are large, so you can fill one with a good amount to carry. Drink dispensers for iced tea, water, hot water and coffee are adequate and provided at two locations on each side. Curiously, the iced tea never seemed to run out, but the water was almost always empty.
At dinner in the dining rooms, free cappuccino is a coffee offering.
FREESTYLE DINING: We experienced two major problems created by staffing (or non-staffing) that were not encountered in our 2004 sailings: Long wait times and an unhappy-looking wait staff. On three evenings, we had wait times longer than 30 minutes. We were given beepers to summon us when a table was ready (oh boy, just like Outback Steakhouse). Upon entering the dining room, you could see that they were only using about half or less of the dining area. On two occasions after we were paged we headed toward a table, but it wasn't actually ready.
Once we were finally seated, the assistant waiter put out bread, poured water, and was pretty much never seen again. The waiter's first business was to take a bar order, next a wine order, and finally a dinner order. In between taking and fulfilling these orders for numerous tables, they would serve dinner. The dessert course would come, and then half an hour later, coffee. One evening, the waiter asked us to order dessert at the same time we ordered dinner. He told us that he wouldn't have time to come back and take a dessert order separately!
You can't blame the staff; they were obviously assigned too many jobs and too many tables. Gone are the bar servers, gone are the wine stewards, all but gone are the assistant waiters. It looked to me like the assistant waiters were assigned twice the number of tables as the waiters. There was only one night in the main dining room that we were seated promptly and service was very good. That was the evening where the ship's officers were in our area seated at tables with passengers.
Although I normally wouldn't pay additional fees for the alternative restaurants, I finally conceded on the request of my travel mates. So we went to Cagney's steak restaurant. We were astonished to find that the service there, despite a fee of $20 a person, was just about as non-existent as it was in regular dining. The food was again excellent. Despite three requests for sour cream for a potato, it didn't arrive until the entrée was finished. Dessert was excellent; but even in Cagney's, coffee was brought long after dessert. So my theory -- that service was deliberately bad in the main (free) dining rooms in order to encourage you to pay more -- went out the window. It was just as bad when you paid more.
Since enjoyable dining is such a big part of cruising for myself and our group, and since we consistently met with such mediocre service at dinner, we all decreed that this was our last NCL cruise. It is worth noting that for some reason, if you order the free cappuccino with dessert, it comes much faster than just coffee or tea. I have no idea why, but since it is hot and excellent, once we figured that out we all ordered it.
STAFF: In general, except for the waiters, most staff made time to smile and wish you a good morning or whatever, and were always cheerful and courteous. But again short staffing shows. Our cabin steward and assistant were very nice, and provided a couple of towel sculptures during the cruise. However, it looked like those two guys handled about a third of our side of the ship. They left a half-used container of milk lying open after cleaning up breakfast, and apparently never heard of vacuuming under the bed. Another couple found old underwear, not their own, under the bed. The cabin care wasn't horrible, but it was less than in the good old days. Could auto-tipping be taking its toll, or is it just a matter of less and less staff to do more and more?
One of my travel mates posed an interesting question: If there is less staff these days, do they all get more from dividing the tips, or is management keeping a percentage? Is this all corporate greed, or is it simply that they can't staff the ships adequately because so many new ships are coming out so fast? The bar waiters in lounges were few and far between most of the time too.
Another example: The coffee cafe in the lobby. Normally you would have one server for all the tables in the lobby area and another person making drinks and coffees behind coffee bar. Nope: The coffee maker was also the waiter. Hence the easiest way to get something is to get up and get it yourself at the counter. Doing two jobs at the same time doesn't make for great service no matter how hard they try.
Raffles has a rather nice free ice cream bar. Wireless Internet worked well, with locations in the lobby and Internet cafe only. The casino was not much for small hits on the slots, but we observed several large hits ($8,000, $12,000 and $6,000). Personally, I had an $800 hit, but naturally fed that back, stupid me.
The poolside barbecue had excellent ribs, burgers, chicken and so forth. There was a Chocoholic buffet, but we never saw it; the line was just far too long.
Staying late in St. Thomas was a nice new experience, letting us watch the sunset from atop Paradise Point. Tortola is great for beach people willing to take an excursion, a nice get-off-and-stretch-your-legs for others. There's not a lot there except for three jewelry stores and a nice little spice shop. The straw market at the pier is nice for souvenirs and T-shirts to take home. Bermuda was gorgeous as always but we had little time there to appreciate it. Still, it's a great stop to end the trip on.
Hair dryer and electric onboard. Cabin has a 110 outlet but 500w -- okay to recharge cell phone, use a laptop, razors and such, but it can't run 1500-1800w hairdryers. There is a hairdryer in the bathroom that seems adequate to me, but my wife would differ. The other outlets are 220, so knowing this from other reviews I bought a converter and plug kit from Brookstone, which worked well and saved me being harassed by my lovely bride.
When did the drink of the day go from a special at an inexpensive $3.25 to a special $9 or $11 drink in a genuine plastic souvenir cup? When did the $6.95 embarkation photo go to $14.95 because it includes a "free" second postcard-type picture with it? When did you suddenly have to report to a location to pick up liquor at the end of the cruise instead of them delivering it to your cabin on the last night?
SUMMARY: The cruise was excellent in many ways, and the staff more than friendly -- except for the waiters, who simply didn't have time to be so. The ship is excellent, but dining is just too much like a night out at Outback, complete with a cutesy flashing beeper. The resort casual dress policy means pretty much come as you are for the New York sailings. Forget tuxes; pretty soon they will be renting Dockers for formal night. Bring a suit if you wish to get a nice portrait shot. If you aren't having your picture taken, you probably wasted energy carrying the jacket onboard.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any specific questions or comments you might have. Please note "Spirit review" as the subject, lest your email be dumped as spam. Photos will be available soon at http://members.verizon.net/~georgeny/spirit.htm for a couple of months.
SAIL DATE: February 26, 2006 from New York
ITINERARY: Sunday - sail, Monday - at sea, Tuesday - Port Canaveral, Wednesday - Miami, Thursday - Nassau, Friday - Great Stirrup Cay, Saturday - at sea, Sunday - back to NYC
PRELIMINARIES: We drove our own car to the NY Ship Passenger Terminal where I dropped my family off (second level) and parked (third level). TIP: have them get a porter and go in rather than hang out in the cold. Check in was a little confused because I had not received luggage tags, tickets, etc. I had booked through Travelocity and and called them several times but they assured me that it "was all done by e-mail." I did pre-register with NCL. After being given some blank tags and writing in my cabin number and giving the bags to the porter, we got through security checkpoints by having them refer to passenger manifest. TIP: make sure you have a pen with you in line to fill in forms, etc. Lines looked long but moved very efficiently and we actually didn't mind since we were having fun.
Embarkation was very smooth and wewent right to our room. First order of business was checking out various areas and then going to emergency drill. It was frigid and although we were prepared, others weren't very happy at all.
PORTS OF CALL: Port Canaveral: have always wanted to see Kennedy Space Center and this was perfect opportunity. AVIS bus picked us up at ship (there are other rental car agencies but they were further from port and didn't stay open as late) and I picked up our pre-reserved car. We were in KSC in 20 minutes. Family all had a great time and could have stayed second day (they will validate your ticket for next day but we of course had to leave). Highlights were CLOSE-UP tour (worth the extra money), Apollo Center and IMAX.
Miami: old home week for my wife and I since we lived in Florida for 2 years. TIP: if you are not doing an excursion, sign up for $18 BusHopper to South Beach/Bayside/Port. We went to South Beach, walked around surf, sightsaw, went to Bayside (great band by water with tropical drink bar right there and shops).
Itinerary had changed (we weren't aware of it although others had been). Nassau went from Friday to Thursday and GSC from Thursday to Friday. This turned out to be disappointing (see below).
Nassau: Kind of a dud stop in our opinion. We thought about going to beach, etc. and that would not have been a bad option (despite a brief shower in the AM, afternoon was not bad). We ended up browsing through shops in the kind of run-down area near port, buying some Bahama Mama fixin's and then considered going to see Atlantis but changed our minds and went back to ship to hang out by pool, drink beer and win the trivia contest. This turned out to be a real good decision since we avoided taxi/ferry fare, weren't that interested in seeing Atlantis (aquarium, big resort, look but can't use pool/beach) and the pool on board was not crowded and the weather was just right. Friends got referred to Cabbage Beach but found no food, no bathrooms and left after 15 minutes since they have younger kids and that wasn't going to work for them.
GSC: Had a great time. Lots of people but just enough room, lines weren't too long, weather was great, etc. Older son parasailed, younger son swam/floated, wife hung out/hammocked, friends snorkeled. Tenders were adequate with some waiting but not objectionable. Only regret is that it didn't last longer. I have seen a couple of posts saying that this switch had happened to them. Most credible but unsubstantiated reason I heard is that 5 ships were scheduled for Nassau and they can only handle 4 so some switching was done. TIP: Do a little exploring away from main area and you will find some solitude if you are looking for that. TIP: Souvenir market only takes cash. NCL stuff is OK with card.
SHIP EXPERIENCE: VERY NICE! Comments I have read about nice decor, etc. are right on. Very classy ship and we had EXCELLENT service - very friendly, attentive, etc. Ellen Guhring's review (see below) was from the cabin right next to ours and we had the same stewards (Myrna, Harrod) with the same results - very clean rooms with nice towel sculptures (NCL staff shows you how to do that during the week) and very friendly.
We had four in one room (one upper bunk, two lower beds, one rollout bed between lower beds) and it was fine. As is typical, we spent little time in room, went right to sleep when we were there and found the beds adequate. The duvet covers were actually very nice and much improved over many places I have slept while on business trips. Bathroom was spacious in my view and shower was GREAT, even by my wife's high standards. There was no odor problem from the bathroom. TIP: Bring your own soap, shampoo, etc. since what they give you is fluid in dispensers. Towels were nice and water was very hot with good pressure.
We were on Deck 11 (inside stateroom since we booked kind of late). No noise problems at all from Raffles, etc. which other reviewers had mentioned. Engine noise, rocking, etc. not an issue at that level. Others have mentioned smaller furniture due to Asian history but I would not have noticed it if someone hadn't told me and I didn't find it to be a problem at all (I am 6 feet tall, 190 pounds) but rather consistent with a cruise ship cabin expectation. Storage was not abundant but we piled four suitcases on the sitting chair/ottoman, used the closet and drawers and found it to be fine. Room safe and lots of hangers were in closet, ice bucket was always full, there was a coffee maker/coffee/cups/glasses at all times. TV was small and not a great picture (dark) and there were some good movies on but again, this was a minor item for us. Location of our cabin was perfect since we could go right down the stairs to the arcade where our younger son spent most of his time and right up the stairs to the Raffles buffet for food/top deck access. NOTE ON ELECTRICAL SITUATION - one 110V outlet in room (500W) and two 220V outlets (one Type F "Schuko" plug and receptable with side grounding contacts, one Type G rectangular blade plug). The Type F plug will work with Type C and Type E plugs as well. For more information, go to this website: http://kropla.com/electric.htm#plugs. I charged digital cameras batteries, GameBoy, etc. with my 220V gear/plug converters/adapters and had no problems.
Balcony rooms looked GREAT! I tried to get one and there weren't any available but if you can get one on this ship, go for it. You can also sign up for wireless computer access as well as onboard cellular service using your own cell phone. You will pay pretty stiff rates compared to land but for those who need it, it is available. I chose to go no e-mail/no phone for a week and loved it.
FOOD: We did not try any of the speciality restaurants (although we talked about it and others told me they were very pleased with them). RAFFLES was good, especially at breakfast. Lunches/dinners were OK - food was hot, variety adequate although by end week you will be somewhat tired of it, table cleanup was OK (better at some times, slower at others) but overall you could pretty much find something you liked, have a good meal and move on to your next activity. Lines did get a little crowded/confused at times but again, nothing you couldn't deal with.
WINDOWS was our main dining establishment and we found it very nice. Engine noise was higher closer to the big windows and the ceiling was lower in the part nearer to the entrance as others have noted but neither were objectionable. In fact, we liked both experiences (near entrance and near window) and found the GARDEN ROOM which we tried once to not be as enjoyable (same menus).
BLUE LAGOON was a BIG favorite with my wife and younger son especially, although we all ate there at various times, especially late night. TIP: Wonton soup, hot dogs and fries were all great.
CHOCOHOLIC BUFFET was outstanding with ice sculptures, "sushi" made of chocolate and candies, fruit, etc. Try to come early and take some pictures before you eat it because it was something very special.
ACTIVITIES: Tivoli pool was fun but could get crowded. It is salt water, heated (84 deg F) and chairs were never a huge problem. All of the positive comments about Buccaneer's Wet and Wild are true although definitely for younger crowd/parents with children. Arcade (Deck 10) was great and very convenient. Kid's activities were uneven (teen stuff was OK for 14 yr. old, 10-12 program was weak for my 11 yr. old). I felt that the younger kids activities were stronger and the teen program (contests, video games, hanging out, etc.) was OK, not great. 10-12 yr. old program seemed a little childish for that age group. I would like to see ship "insider" tours, maybe some fun language lessons, some free arcade time, etc. to make these programs stronger. I suspect that the weeks with more children (the following week had 700 kids coming onboard) might be better since there weren't that many children in either program during our week.
Entertainment was actually a big disappointment. On our previous NCL cruise, shows were lots of fun even though talent level (singing, dancing) was only OK. Talent here was much better but productions were boring. We heard this comment a lot. I kind of felt bad since the performers were pouring their heart and souls into the show and they all seemed to be very talented but the overall effect fell flat. The Second City Improv group I didn't find all that funny, both in their main show and in their "adult" appearance. I prefer standup so maybe it is me but it just didn't rate highly with me.
We didn't play but the casino looks new, has lots of games, slots, etc. There is a library, internet cafe, game rooms that were all very nice. We went to German class, napkin and towel folding, etc. and found them to be fun. Bingo was standard. Game shows were not as good as we remembered them, particularly "Newlywed game," but OK.
Bars/nightclubs were good. Galaxy of the Stars was nicest, I like Maharini's (inside casino) as well as Henry's Pub. Champagne Charlie's and Shanghai Bar (sports on TV) are in high traffic areas. Sitting by the pool and ordering Foster's was perfect.
We didn't really like the cruise director (Julie Valeriote) - she came across as forced and not really natural. While I am sure this is a tough job, our last cruise director was cynical and kind of a wiseguy but it actually played better than her attempts at being cheery.
DEBARKATION: Very smooth except for some glitches with getting the gangway lined up as we docked and people who refused to listen to directions and clogged the exit areas, which prevented the customs officials from coming on board as quickly as they otherwise would. TIP: We bought liquor over the exemption limit and thought it would be 10-15% duty but it turned out to be $3 per bottle flat. Remember that as you compare prices. We got off on Pier 92 which was much less fancy than the not-very-fancy Pier 88 we had embarked from. It was kind of chaotic but we got our bags, paid our duty, got a porter to take the baggage to the third level where our car was parked and got out very easily.
SUMMARY: great vacation, very enjoyable cruise, special ship. We are "Freestyle Cruising" fans and love to be able to eat when/where/with who we choose. Resort casual is more our style as well. People we met were great (ranged from high powered lawyers to software company owners to mechanics and computer technicians, lots of NJ/NY and quite a few other VTers!). Itinerary fit us very well, especially Canaveral, less so Nassau. Already looking at other NCL cruises for next time!
We had never been on a cruise so when my husband had asked about this I was a little nervous. Since we live in BC the short three night repositioning cruise from LA to Vancouver BC seemd like a good way to get our feet wet. We combined 7 days at Disneyland then did the cruise and after seven days of heavy walking the cruise was a godsend.
The arrival went smoothly, we got there at 12:30 and had boarded by 1:30 ...keep your ID and NCL card out they ask for it continely. I was very aware of the rule of not bringing your own liquor on board however we always bring back at least four bottles of wine to put in our collection. I phoned NCL and they said to wrap it carefully and put it into it's own bag and give it to them when we arrive at San Pedro and they would return it when we arrived back in Vancouver. I pack it away with all of our trickets that we had bought, it would make it easier to go through customs, but when we arrivedthey wrisked away our all of our luggage so quickly bag of wines included. I was thinking ...oh no they are going to mistakenly think I am trying to smuggle wine on board..when we got to back to our room late afternoon our all bags were there untouched. the wine was still there.
We had a inside room on the tenth floor, there were myself, husband and two boys. When we walked inot the very small room we were shocked to see how small it was....there was not no way it could sleep four people. My husband asked the room stewert who smiled and said "Go enjoy yourself, you see tonight what we do"......She was incredible the whole trip and the room did indeed sleep four..tightly yes but ..it more then worked.
The bathroom was larger then we expected and the shower was GREAT, loved the shower. The cabin had more then enough storage space and shelves and such. I had read about the lack of hangers so I bought my own.
We explored the huge ((to us))) ship it was very pretty, with an asian influence. WE first ate at Raffles....lots of food, great selection, at first we were impressed but after day three it had lost it's charm, that said, it did make a good snack or carry through until the next meal. My youngest son and I got up every morning for their waffle and Omlet bar, walked around the ship for a few hours and then had a small breakfast with the rest of the family in Windows.
The food ranged from ok ((raffles))) to better ((window) to great ((La Bristo, great dinner, wonderful server 4 stars there and Shoguns, good but not as good as bistro , kids loved the sushi)) The fish and chips at Henry's pup were awsome and the Blue lagoon's food looked, smelled, and tasted incredible. Their hamburgers rocked!!!!
The bar-b-ques were going on alot and we loved the ribs and chicken but the burgers were dry and we found Blue Lagoon's better.
Drinks were good and HUGE ..we got the boys soda cards $15.00 each ((stickers they pasted on the their room cards ))and they never had any problems using them. GREAT deal..
The show we saw were a comedy act, kind of a Rodney Dangerfield but alright. A juggler who was very good and a cooking lesson which rocked. We ended up booking into Shogun the next night and ordering what they had made ...YUMMY.
The hot tubs were very cold.. which was too bad because the weather was quite windy and cold, the Alaskian cruise they surely turn the heat up??? the pool was warmer. Nevr had any problem getting deck chairs or towels.
The woman's bathrooms, especially by the casino, were disgusting they were not maintained well at all. YUCH...Whicj surprised me since the rest of the ship was kept very very clean.
The Kids program was a joke....the 13 year olds only had a few kids sign up so the crew did not bother showing up to all of the events they has scheduled, which was concerning to say the least. The events they did hold , my son loved but many times he was disappointed when he would arrive with the other young teens and they would wait and wait and wait for the organizers to arrive and they didn't. I was not aware of this until the last night when I walked him down for the last event ((which started at 11:30 PM) and waited until 12 and no crew member showed up....what a joke...that is when the other parents told me about what was going on.
Would I cruise again???? YES but I would try another cruise line and it would have to be somewhere warm. Did I enjoy this cruise??? Yes, the crew was incredible, kids program not included. The entertainment was good the food was better then I expected for most part. I would like to try another higher grade of cruiseline. Am I hooked??? I am already wondering where to go next. This website was a greta help in planning this cruise thank you
This was our tenth cruise on five different lines. It reinforced several views of the cruise industry in general. This was our second cruise with NCL.
Embarkation: Despite the total madness one finds at pier 90 in NYC, after unloading at the terminal there was only a 15 minute wait to get to the sign in desk (thanks to our Latitude membership). First timers were treated to an hours wait.
Ship: I've seen reports that the ship was a bit worn after 9 years of service. Either NCL did a quick refurbish job before we boarded or the reviewers were very picky. We found the ship to be in very good shape and clean with the exception of some stained rugs. The décor was pleasingly oriental and the atrium quite spectacular considering when the vessel was built. As ships go it was logically laid out and easy to navigate. Although we opt for lower decks, we had a cabin on the tenth deck which proved to be very stable motion wise. The inside room itself was very small and not well laid out. Storage space was at a minimum with onlyfour drawers. The staff were friendly and always available. Just a word about cruise lines incessant sales pitches. We are not interested in the following-gold chains, tanzanite, emeralds, art auctions et al. Judging by the response, neither are the rest of the passengers. And please deliver us from the port shopping talks. Yes, we all know the cruise lines are getting a cut by steering us to particular shops. We are adult enough to make our own decisions once ashore. The time would be better spent giving us background on the port and its history.
Food: I've read reader reviews complaining about both the quality and portion size (in the dining rooms) of the food. Quality wise we found the food to be good in the buffet and good to very good in the dining rooms. The buffet can be hectic during prime time and the layout does not improve traffic flow. The most egregious bottleneck is by the omelet station which in the morning is located across the way from the coffee station totally obstructing entry into the buffet line. The dining room was always available without a wait before 6PM. Concerning portion size, I not sure what the problem is since one can order as many portions as one wants. The choices were eclectic with many cuisines represented as well as standard American fare. My observation would be that if you don't want to gain the 8 pounds that seems usual for a 6 to 7 day cruise, stick with one portion of each course.
Entertainment: The shows were quite good with the NCL entertainment group featuring a talented bunch of high energy singers and dancers. Especially good was the "Second City Comedy Group" which did comedy improv. The cruise director did a good job although we only saw her a few times when not on stage.
Casino: Altho I am not crazy about casinos at sea, the slots on this ship were quite generous. Also, this was one of the largest casinos I've seen on a cruise ship (more about that under ports).
Ports: NCL really missed the boat on this one. One of this nice things about Nassau is the shopping (straw market etc). We were only in port a few hours which meant after our land excursion we had no time for shopping because the Spirit was headed for Stirrip Cay, NCLs private "island". In actuality, this island is a sand bar a few hundred yards across with virtually no facilities. Cruise lines have come up with the idea of private "islands" for several reasons: 1.The ship stands still for a day without paying port charges 2.Adding a day to the cruise without burning off bunker adds to the bottom line. 3.Being anchored at sea, out of any countries' jurisdiction, the casino can remain open. While at the cay, the casino was doing a brisk business.
Disembarkation: NCL has a new policy where you can carry off your own luggage and not have to wait for deck call. They went off first about 30 minutes after docking. Even though we did not opt for this we were off the ship with our luggage waiting for our ride an hour after docking.
Summary: It was a good cruise despite some shortcomings. NCL has some nice ships operating out of NYC. Unfortunately, NCL will be pulling out its current ships, the Dawn (my personal favorite) and the Spirit the end of this year. They will be replaced by one new ship, The Gem. This creates two problems: the stated prices are higher for the new ship and the itineraries will be restricted. The 10 and 11 day southern Caribbean cruises will be restricted to 5 weeks in January instead of the current three month schedule and the Bahamas may be dropped in favor of Key West. Too bad since we cruise almost exclusively out of NYC. Fortunately, there are many other lines to take up the slack.
I had gone on several cruises "back in the day" when cruise ships were "ocean liners" so when I booked this cruise on the Spirit I had my fears. I did not really pick this ship as it was chosen because my family and I wanted to travel with my wife's sister and her family. I did what I consider exhaustive research on this ship from its beginnings as the SuperStar Leo for NCL parent company Star cruises to the what appeared to be MANY negative reviews by posters on this an other web sites. I became terrified but was calmed after I read the review from George N.Y. as well as personally communicated with him by email before the trip. I am one who adores cruising so I took a deep breath and went with an open mind along with my wife and first time cruising 13 and 15 year old kids.
Embarkation- Considering that NCL is moving 2000 passengers onto the Spirit, they did a nice job. Juices, cookies and cake were available in the pier as we waited although the juice was so watered down it was horrible-apreview to the OJ on the ship!!!. Our pictures were taken for our Embarkation cards.... this is your room key, credit card, and security access on an off the ship for the cruise. We were on board relatively quickly.
Room: WAY smaller than I imagined. We were in an inside room deck 10, 4 people. The room steward magically transformed the room to 4 beds every night although I DID have issues with him. He did not introduce himself until day 5 of the cruise (unacceptable to me); he recycled towels that we clearly left on the floor to be replaced necessitating a call to the chief steward; and my toilet had a constant odor of urine despite what appeared to be a very satisfactory job cleaning the room every day. Beds were small but comfy. Reasonable closet space even for 4 people but BRING HANGERS. We asked for several more and got them. Bathroom was a very nice size with a great shower but very dimly lit.
The Ship: I personally loved the décor of the Spirit. Its Asian origins made it very pretty and almost classy in appearance. The center atrium was beautiful!! It appeared very clean. Carpets were always vacuumed, decks were clean although it seemed that all of the pretty brass had fingerprints on it especially in the elevators (not a surprise due to the traffic). The staff always encouraged us to squirt alcohol hand gel to clean our hands-dispensers were all over the ship. The public rooms were pretty and nicely done.
The pool area was very nice however way too few chairs for the amount of passengers. It seemed that half the 2000 passengers wanted to hang out by the pool. If you did not get out by early am (8:00) no chairs for you, although there were available chairs forward and aft away from the pools. Pool was nice-mixture of salt and fresh water. The hot tubs were kept not too hot as to keep the folks who spent hours in them with their drinks did not pass out!! A reggae style band played out there daily and although they were pretty good, they wear on you after the first few days.
The casino was the largest of any ship I personally have been on. Plenty of tables and slots, but be prepared, IT STUNK OF CIGARETTE SMOKE AT ALL TIMES!!
DINING: The freestyle experience was not as bas as I expected from someone who has always dined with a fixed schedule. My party was able to secure fixed reservations for dinner every night although not fixed seating, which I actually enjoyed meeting different waiters every evening in the Windows restaurant, which was very nice. The food ranged from mediocre to very good but it was consistently presented nicely. Service was slow but you are at dinner on a cruise-. what's the rush!!
Reviews I read of Raffles Buffet before I went on my cruise scared the heck out of me. horrible food etc. Regarding Raffles, keep this in mind; it is a BUFFET. For a buffet the food was good to very good. Fresh made omelets, eggs, waffles for breakfast. Fresh stir fry for lunch, and a nice selection of other entrees. One criticism is that it can be VERY crowded during peak times. My wife had hot coffee knocked out of her hand by someone who appeared to be quite hungry!
Another common complaint I have read is of the burgers by the pool as being "dry" and people tossing them "after one bite". During my cruise I found out WHY. A chef both on deck and in the Blue Lagoon grill told me the burgers HAD to be cooked well done for health code purposes. No choice there!!!
The entertainment was great with terrific shows in the theater every night.
Overall I had a very nice trip, as did my 13 and 15-year-old boys. My wife was disappointed mainly due to the lack of space by the pool to just sit and chill without music blaring. Would I travel on NCL again?? Possibly, but I would like to try RCL or even some lines with smaller ships. Keep in mind that with newer and more massive ships being put into service that bigger is NOT always better!! Give me a 20,000-ton ship with 300 passengers any day.