Mark & Joanne
Number of Cruises: 35
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Spirit
Sailing Date: June 17th, 2006
Itinerary: Cruise to Nowhere
Norwegian Cruise Lines
Norwegian Spirit Cruise Review
MARK M. RUBIN AND JOANNE SCHEIDT
I purchased this overnight cruise to "Nowhere"
as a birthday gift for Joanne. At least, she thought it was a novel idea. Also,
we were considering booking a January, 2007 cruise on NCL on a new ship to the
southern Caribbean and wanted to try out NCL and see how we liked it. I have
sailed with NCL before, to the western Caribbean, and was not greatly impressed.
But that was four years ago and I thought they might have improved their
As "west siders" (NYC), it was easy to hail a taxi and take a short ride to the west side cruise terminal where a huge traffic jam was awaiting us at the entrance to the piers. Two other ships were parked there so there was a lot of activity. We later learned that the Spirit had arrived in New York late, that morning, and was still trying to off load passengers. Off loading couldn't have been to swift because passengers were still coming out at noon. Our cab driver was smart. He turned into a side street and apologized for making us walk across the street where we entered the piers quite easily.
There we encountered a long, slow moving line for check in. Eventually we made it to a counter where a pleasant young man checked our tickets and issued us plastic, on board, room key/credit cards. We had to sit and watch the disembarking passengers for a while. Finally, at twelve thirty P.M., they lead the "Latittude Club" passengers to the front of the line and let them board followed by the rest of us, many of whom had not yet checked in and had to stay on a long line to get to the check in desks. Having cruised with Celebrity, Holland America, Princess and Royal Caribbean (among others) over many years, already we were not impressed.
On board, at last, we found that cabins were not ready, not even to drop off luggage. Because this was a simple overnight cruise, people were using carry on bags and didn't have to submit to any baggage handling.
No, there was no tray of cold champagne awaiting us at the top of the boarding ramp, or should I have said the "plank". No stewards to help you find your cabin which mattered not because you couldn't get into it anyway. We took our carry-on's and went up a spacious elevator to the Raffles buffet. For new or unfamiliar new "cruisers" this buffet may have been O.K. but for those of us who have used quality cruise lines, it was like school cafeteria food. Can't NCL figure out how to make a hot cup of coffee? There was some beef stew, possibly canned, and fried fish left over from the night before. Other treats at the buffet included Kraft macaroni and cheese (much loved by someone's grandchild) and little else. Your could get a cheese sandwich, a ham sandwich, a ham and cheese sandwich or a cheese and ham sandwich. Salad bar was available featuring some cubed feta cheese and wilted olives. A dessert choice of different flavors of Jello that looked like what is served in nursing homes. There was a burger and chicken bar-b-que in the process of set up by pool side but nothing was ready yet. That means that the burgers were not yet totally black in color and cooked to death. The chef must have worked in a crematorium.
At two P.M. the cabins were made available although they were clearly ready much earlier. We were tired from schlepping around our carry-on bags and went to 5072 to drop off the bags. The cabin had two smallish beds and an overhead pull down bed for a third person. The beds were not together, as we had asked. The rest of the cabin was comfortable with adequate, if not impressive, space. No refrigerator bar (which I never use anyway) a small T.V. The Air Conditioning was turned off as though they thought that no one was going to use that cabin but it quickly cooled when we turned it on.
We washed up and went "up top" for the sailing out of New York harbor. It's a great sight to see the skyline and the Statue Of Liberty and sail under the Verazzano Bridge into the calm Atlantic.
A walk around the ship revealed a well appointed, clean, attractive vessel with attractive facilities, clubs and decoration. Nothing like the classic beauty of a Celebrity or Holland America ship, but reasonable.
Time for a quick dip in the undersized, overheated pool. Un-shaded jacuzzi were too hot and not busy. The pool was salt water and already occupied by lots of people with bottles of beer in their hands although the NCL announcement pleaded with the passengers to not bring glass objects to poolside. The request was universally ignored and there was no crew member to enforce the rule.
I had an overpriced, but tasty, Pina Colada even though my gastroenterologist said to keep off alcohol. It came in a "souvenir" glass that will be moved from the cupboard when the painters next come.
Dinner: "Foodies" must avoid NCL. The dinner reminded me of something my Grandmother would have served. Bad food and small portions. The Caesar salad? Et Tu Brute? Where were the anchovies? The Caesar dressing was either Kraft or some supermarket brand. I had the flank steak. I think it was out-flanked by the enemy and soundly defeated. At least the "medium rare" request was honored. The waiter, Nelson, was good and attentive but the buss girl was as lost as a deer in the headlights. The chocolate souffle dessert reminded me of the Drakes Devil Dogs I liked as a kid.
Show Time: The 7:30 show was a full dancer and singer production show. Actually well done, if you don't mind canned music and lip sincing. Nice costumes and a sincere effort. Why do some people knock cruise ship entertainment so?
After the show I spent about six minutes in the crowded casino where I won $10 on a slot. Noisy craps shooters were arguing with the table pit boss over not paying "fair" odds on winning dice tosses. Shame on the gamblers if they didn't know that cruise ship casinos are no match for Las Vegas for true gamblers. I later heard that there were some "comp" deals for the high rollers. That means a free cruise if they spend a certain number of hours in the never closing casino. Also, some others got "comp" deals. Probably they were travel agents or otherwise in the business.
Then it was the second show. It featured Al Alonso, a magician who appeared on some dismal T.V. sitcom that was his greatest claim to fame. The magic was so much cards and cloths with few props or any large scale props. Some "shills" in the audience called out some cards that Alonso pulled from the deck. All he left out was to thank the audience participant by saying, "Thanks Mom".
By this time the display of heavy drinking was in high gear. I'm surprised that more people don't fall off cruise ships.
So we went to the front nightclub/lounge where a really good band of hard working musicians (called FUSION) played nonstop music so we could dance, have a drink, a have a "pretend" New Year's Eve Party.
The concept of "Freestyle" dining translates this way. Better to pay extra to make a reservation at a specialty restaurant for, up to, $20 per person (plus extra tip) in the hopes of getting a dinner of the quality that a really good cruise line gives to everyone in the main dining room. Cute. Space that might have been a piano bar (they have none) or a cozy club with a duo singing Cole Porter or Gershwin is given over to an extra charge restaurant. Even the bottled water in your cabin is for sale.
Well, it's bedtime. No chocolates on the pillow that you find stuck in your ear in the morning. No cutesy animals fashioned from the towel by the cabin steward. No way to get a wake up call on the room telephone.
Sunday Morning Breakfast:
Went to the attractive rear dining room for breakfast. Because there are no serving stations, the waiters come directly to the table with the orders. Slow and inefficient. No Eggs Benedict (they can't afford the Hollandaise sauce) just the usual pastries, bacon and eggs. More cold coffee and slow on the refills. No whole wheat toast. At least they didn't count the silverware when we left.
Again, a nice view of New York harbor and the city as we pulled in, actually a little earlier than scheduled.
When some blind pier worker managed to get the gang plank into position, we just walked off (no customs) and got into a cab at the pier. Home in ten minutes and relieved to learn that the Publisher's Clearing House Prize Patrol didn't arrive, with Ed McMahon, the cameras, and a big check, in our absence only to find that we were not at home. Maybe they'll come this week.
The crowd NCL attracted for this cruise was a big turn off. Noisy, heavy drinkers. Lots of kids (you can't throw them over board) and an offering of food, music and entertainment that anyone with an I.Q. over Tiger Woods golf score average would be critical of. NCL has a lot to do if they want to sustain against the competition. Carnival will probably buy them out within two years.
So, what to do about the January, 2007 cruise to the Southern Caribbean? Book the Celebrity Constellation out of Fort Lauderdale. Yes, it's about the same price as an NCL offering but the Constellation is getting exceptional ratings. Besides, I'm no longer mad at Celebrity for crushing my suitcase on a Bermuda cruise last year.