Number of Cruises: 20+
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Spirit
Sailing Date: September 11th, 2004
I had a great time. The staff was incredible. Very friendly and accommodating. They really work their tails off, especially in Raffles and Blue Lagoon. The ship was immaculate too. They are making an extra effort to avoid Norovirus. Now if only passengers would too (one used his menu to cover his sneeze). Food was very good for the most part. Raffles for breakfast worked better for me than the dining room. Excellent selection. And the desserts at lunch outshined the ones for dinner in the dining room. Some of my favorites were the chocolae and pecan torte, guava cheesecake and linzer torte. The barbecue out by the aft deck was a favorite too. Real charcoal grilling and more than just burgers and hotdogs. Dinners were the most inconsistant meals. Sometimes the menu was excellent from start to finish (most notably the President's Dinner and the Farewell Dinner). I also had a terrific dinner at Maxim's if it weren't for the drunken boors making a racket at the next table. The other alternative restauarant I tried was the Teppanyaki Room in the Shogun. I was the only diner that evening which in a way was sad but I had the full attention of the staff which made it a fun and personal experience. As for freestyle dining, I found it had its' advantages (dining where, when and with whom you chose) and its' disadvantages (waiting for a table). If it was handled like Princess where you can reserve a specific time it would be better IMHO.
I was very happy with my cabin 11050 which is an outside with balcony. Very comfortable and the coffee maker came in handy, especially when I wanted to use the balcony and it was a bit chilly. I was able to brew herb teas and also make hot chocolate from the packets from the buffet. The balcony door can be locked in place so if you want a little air and ocean sound while you sleep that is possible. I suggest taking in the pads for the chairs when you aren't using the balcony. Not only is rain a threat at night but the window washers may also arrive unexpectedly and drench them. Inadequate drawer space is the only negative I found with the cabin. I did manage to find a place for everything but I was by myself after all. I did ask for a mattress pad and I had no problems with the bed and the duvet was very comfortable. In fact, the bed linens were the softest I've ever had on a cruise. The towel animals were fun. I liked the way they either held out the pillow chocolates or else the chocolates were used for eyes. There was one every night except the first. Richard and Gladys were my stewards and they were as nice as can be.
For the most part, the ship's decor was beautiful. The artwork in the stairway landings was lovely and the use of mirrors gave them a spacious look. I liked the atrium very much. Lots of natural light from above. The best way to appreciate its decor is the view from the glass elevators. Speaking of which, I very rarely had to wait for an elevator.
There seemed to be a lot of entertainment and activity options, although very little devoted to the Alaska experience. The emphasis was more on bingo, crackits and sales pitches. I attended one show in the Moulin Rouge which is the main theatre. No poles, so no obstructions and the seating is raked so the view of the stage was excellent.
I found the shore excursion dept. to be run very well and I enjoyed the one shore excursion I booked with them (Taku Glacier Lodge and Flightseeing). I had booked a different excursion ahead but it was easy to return the ticket which was in my cabin upon my arrival and I had no problems with the price being removed from my onboard charge account.
The ports of call were all good. I even liked Prince Rupert. I went to the Museum of Northern British Columbia which has a beautiful collection of First Nations arts and crafts and also attended a performance of stories and songs presented in the long house across the street from the museum. The town is presently working on upgrading the cruiseship terminal facilities and there was a bit of construction but nothing that really inconvenienced anyone.
I had been to all of the other ports before but found new places to visit. I already mentioned my shore excursion to Taku Glacier Lodge which was out of Juneau. In Ketchikan I took a walk to the salmon hatchery, which was very interesting and also features 2 live bald eagles which were rescued and aren't able to be released. It's a great opportunity to take some up close photos of these magnificent birds. It's very difficult to get that close to an eagle in the wild. Most come out like white dots in snapshots. Across the creek from the hatchery is the Totem Heritage Center, which although was smaller than expected, does have a beautiful display of old, preserved totem poles. Also, outside there is a shed where a new totem pole was being carved and painted. The City Park is also right there which contains the ponds from the original fish hatchery.
In Skagway I visited the National Parks Visitor Center and saw a film about women during the goldrush who mined their fortunes from the prospectors' trousers, if you know what I mean.
Although the ship visited Tracy Arm which words can not do justice to, we had to turn around before arriving at Sawyer Glacier due to the amount of ice in the water. There was this enormous blue iceberg which looked as though it was saying to the captain, "Want a piece of me?" So we had to settle for the magnificent views of waterfalls, icebergs and hanging glaciers. As for sea life, there was a nice bit of it. The captain gave advance notice of where whales had been spotted on previous sailings, and there they were (this was after we left Ketchikan, at about 7 pm). Just before that I spotted one of the most incredible rainbows which I captured on film (actually digitally). Another exciting wildlife spotting was a huge group of dolphins while we were cruising through British Columbia. I actually saw this twice and someone told me that they saw this at a third location. At first I thought it was wavelets. Then I thought perhaps flying fish. But as they got close to the ship it turned out to be something like 30 or more dolphins. They got close enough to the ship to see while they were under water. The other location which took my breath away was after we left Skagway and passed the town of Haines on the Lynn Canal. There were beautiful snow capped mountains, hanging glaciers and on an island, one of the most beautiful lighthouses I've ever seen. I was a bit disappointed that our final day would not be cruising the Inside Passage but out in the Pacific instead. As it turned out, the seas calmed down by noon and we had a beautiful, sunny afternoon which I enjoyed from my balcony. Fortunately I had a starboard cabin so the sun was facing it. I ran upstairs to Raffles at 4pm to bring back some smoked salmon sandwiches, scones, whipped cream and strawberry jam for a nice al fresco afternoon tea.
Was there anything I really disliked about the cruise? Just the tedious embarkation and the slow reboarding at the ports of call. You forget about those very quickly when you're having a good time and I wouldn't say it spoiled the cruise in any way.