Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Spirit
Sailing Date: July 16th, 2006
Norwegian Cruise Lines
Norwegian Spirit Cruise Review
I went on this cruise with my girlfriend, Michelle, and two
friends of ours. I have only been on one other cruise aboard the Carnival
Victory, but I will provide a detailed account of my experiences for both people
who are considering a cruise aboard the Norwegian Spirit, as well as for people
who have already booked the cruise, and are interested in learning a bit more
about what to expect. Before continuing, the most important thing I want to
emphasize is that PRICE is very relevant. I paid $1600 for my Carnival cruise,
and less than $800 for NCL, so keep in mind that everything I say is relative.
Embarkation – I arrived at the port early and expected to beat the crowds, but despite getting there at around 12:30, it took about 45 minutes to an hour to board the ship. If you are getting dropped off at the port, you can drive right up to the drop-off point. However, beware of the PARKING sign that leads you to a lot that costs $22, even if you are only there for 5 minutes.
Rooms – We got a basic cabin with a small window (not a porthole) on the 5th floor. The cabin was pretty tight, but you can’t really expect a huge room on any ship unless you pay for the suite. Our room stewards were great and the room was always spotless. I have no complaints about anything involving our room, and can’t recall a single steward who did not greet me with a smile or a hello each morning.
Dining – NCL features a unique Freestyle Cruising that allows you to eat your dinner at different times and different places each night. Raffles Buffet (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner), Windows (B,L,D), The Garden Room, Trattoria, and The Blue Lagoon Cafe were the eating venues available to all free of charge. The “Specialty Restaurants” included Cagney’s Steakhouse, Teppanyaki, Shogun’s, Le Bistro, and a Sushi Bar.
Raffles – This was a buffet-style cafeteria, similar to a college dining hall. I read many reviews about the food before my cruise and so many complained about how bad Raffles was. IT’S A BUFFET, so you can’t expect the greatest food in the world, and quite frankly its not. However, for breakfast they have made to order omelets and waffles which were VERY good. I also enjoyed the croissants and fresh fruit. For lunch there was a wide array of foods. Again they had made to order stations for sandwiches, pasta, and Caesar salad, which were all very good. The last day there was a Fajita/Quesadilla station, which was very good. The rest of the food was mediocre at best. We never dined here for dinner.
Windows/Garden Room – These two restaurants were the two main dinner venues. They serve the EXACT same menu, however, there are some significant differences. Windows is located directly above the engine and there is lots of engine noise and even some vibration through the floor that makes your dining experience a little more unpleasant than it should be. The Garden Room seems to be the more popular of the two places (we had to wait approximately 20 minutes to be seated one night). We never ate lunch at either place, but this was our usually where we went for dinner. The food was OK. You could order as many appetizers as you wanted, and even multiple entrees if you so desired, and if you are the least bit hungry, you will. If you are a shrimp lover like myself, you will be extremely disappointed, and maybe even humored if you order the shrimp cocktail the first night. What they serve you if a plate of about 10-12 baby shrimp (yes the TINY ones you sometimes find atop a salad). I read this in a review before the cruise and wondered if it was an exaggeration. It’s not. If you read this review, and then order it on the first night, you too will laugh when the waiter brings your “shrimp cocktail” out. Beware, the portions are small for most appetizers, but again, you can order several each night. The main entrees were not very good in my opinion. I had prime rib one night, which was definitely more like a pot roast and some other inferior cut of thin meat that certainly would not qualify as a prime rib. The lobster was rubbery and didn’t taste like real lobster. I love lobster and I raved to Michelle about how good it is (she had never had it before), but she was not very impressed when I gave her a taste. I also ordered a steak one night, medium, and when I got it, it wasn’t red or juicy at all, but instead, very dry.
Blue Lagoon – This is a 24-hour café, and serves some decent snack foods including burgers, dogs, fries, potato skins, wings, chili, shepherds pie, won ton soup, and fried rice to name most. Again, this is free and you can order as much as you want, which you will want to do because an order of wings consists of 3 small wings. However, it’s not a problem to order 2, 3, or 4 orders. This place was typically crowded from 10-12 every night and the waits were between 10-20 minutes for food.
Specialty Restaurants – The menu at Windows one night looked really bad (French themed night) so we decided to try Cagney’s Steakhouse ($20 cover charge) and this was the best decision we made all cruise. I ordered the lobster and Michelle had the 24-oz Porterhouse steak. Michelle summed it up best when we were eating and she said, “I feel like we are on a different ship.” This food was excellent. My 1 ½ lb lobster was superb and I also ordered crab cakes, shrimp cocktail (actual large shrimp cocktail), and clam chowder for appetizers. All were fantastic. On the final night, we ate at the Sushi bar. This is a must for any sushi lover. Although it requires and extra charge, it is extremely cheap ($2 for a 6 piece sushi roll – the cost of a Coke). If I could do it all over again, I probably would have done more of the Specialty restaurants. In retrospect, I could have spent an additional $100 dollars and spent $885 for the cruise instead of $775 and ate great dinners each and every night.
Drinks/Alcohol – At the buffet, for breakfast there is water, and juices (Orange, Apple, and Cranberry). For lunch and dinner, there is only water and iced tea. Also, there is Milk, Tea and Coffee. Soda and alcohol are at an additional cost. I only drank beer, so I can only comment on that, although Michelle did order a $9 specialty drink (Bahama Mama) that she said contained little or no alcohol (and that’s saying a lot considering she is a lightweight). The beers were about 5 dollars apiece, but the best deal was to get a bucket of 6 beers for about 20 dollars. I have mixed feelings about the bar staff. Some were nice and friendly and asked me politely if I wanted a drink or if they could fill my bucket. Others pestered me continuously and I felt like I had a target on my back when I was carrying an empty yellow bucket around (presumably this is where they get their biggest gratuity, which is factored in to your bill). If you are curious about bringing alcohol aboard, you can’t. They will remove any glass bottles of liquor from your bag and return them to you at the end of the cruise. However, it is very, very, very easy to bring water bottles of liquor on board.
Fitness/Recreation - The Tivoli pool is filled with salt water and is small and usually very crowded. There were 4 hot tubs at each corner of the pool, but more often than not they were filled with young children. Additionally, the 13th deck had a basketball court as well as 3 golf cages, both which were usually littered with young children. The gym was small and contained a half dozen or so treadmills and elliptical machines and only a few free weights. It did have 2 endless pools (swim treadmills).
Ports of Call
Port Canaveral Florida – We went to Cocoa Beach for the day, and they must have brought us to the dirtiest part of the beach. Disappointing to say the least.
Nassau, Bahamas – We were only here for 5 hours, which was not a lot of time, but we did manage to go on a Sail and Snorkel, which was amazing. A catamaran took us out to a coral reef and we swam with hundreds and hundreds of gorgeous fish that would swim literally within inches of your body. On the return trip, they put the sail up and we cruised back, enjoying free rum punch. Definitely a worthwhile trip, although it was a shame we were on the island for such a short time afterwards.
Great Stirrup Cay (Private Island) – We were arrived here at 7pm on Wednesday and left at 1 pm on Thursday. It’s a nice little island, but its gets absolutely packed. If you don’t get on one of the first few tenders, you won’t have a chair as they go fast. Just a heads up, the “snorkeling” on the island that cost $30 consists of them giving you a mask and fins and pointing to an area about 30 yards from the beach where 100s of other people are snorkeling.
Chocoholic Buffet – This is apparently an NCL trademark and they tell you to go to the showing of the buffet before it begins to take pictures and to marvel at it. We never did this because the line was up the stairs and a deck long just to get in to see it. We did, however, go to the buffet after it had been opened for a while. By the time we arrived, there was nothing spectacular to see, mainly because of the disgusting amounts of food that people were taking. We did eat a few things, but nothing was spectacular and it all seemed to taste the same.
Maharajas Casino – It’s a pretty decent size casino for a ship with tons of slot machines ranging from 1 cent to 100 dollars, as well as Blackjack, craps, roulette, and even a 5/10 Limit Holdem table. HINT: (This is mainly for any novices) If you go to the casino when it opens on the first day, each dealer will teach you how to play each game. Additionally, at the end of each demo, they will give you a coupon for 5 free dollars to bet with for each game you “learn.”
Entertainment/Shows – I’ll keep this short. Dr. Trance was a hypnotist who had a two shows (one PG, one adult) and they were both very funny and a hit with the crowd. Seymour and Alfred were a comic duo who were absolutely hilarious. I don’t know of a single person who disliked them and their shows were clean for the kids (although I think some jokes may go over their heads). The Broadway type shows were eh. The actors seemed to be trying hard, but they just weren’t very talented. The “Second City” comic group wasn’t bad…they were HORRIBLE. I read a review before my cruise that said they were bad and that was an understatement. So many people walked out on them, it was embarrassing. Do NOT waste your time. I didn’t stay until the end, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had told me they were booed off the stage.
Customer Service – First off, NCL includes a $10/day/person fee in your bill that covers food and room service tipping. Apparently this could be adjusted either way, but we didn’t bother. I’m still torn about my opinion of the staff. It’s very difficult to judge them as a whole because some were extremely friendly, while others seemed impatient, unfriendly, and annoying. The reception desk was particularly unfriendly as one lady even snapped at Michelle for asking a question.
Disembarkation – We chose “Express Disembarkation” which meant that we carried our own bags off the ship. It was a matter of minutes between the time we left our room with our luggage, and the time we were on the road heading home.
Overall opinion – Like I said before, it’s important to keep one thing in mind, and that’s the fact that we booked this cruise for a pretty cheap price. This price of the cruise was a good value, and the cruise itself was just that – good. Not awesome, not great, not horrible, just good. If I had paid a ton of money for this cruise, I probably would upset at what I got, but very simply, you get what you pay for, and all in all, I did have fun.