Number of Cruises: 18
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Spirit
Sailing Date: November 19th, 2004
Itinerary: Southern Caribbean
First let me say that a cruise is generally what you make it... good or bad. This is a visually beautiful ship with an Asian theme. If this was your first cruise, you probably would have thought it was wonderful, but if you have been on as many as I have you probably would try another line. With that said here is my experience.
Embarkation: This was very easy, if you drive to the port like we do, Port of Miami makes it easy to pull up to the drop off in front of the pier (we got on at pier three), drop off your luggage and go and park in the parking garage. We arrived at about 1:00 p.m. and went right in. We did not wait in line at all. Our only complaint here was that the person directing traffic at the counter seemed to think it was more important to have no line than to have people backed up at the counter. So instead of waiting for people to be finished at the counter, he was stacking them up two deep. It would have been much easier just to wait for an open counter.
Cabin: This was our first MAJOR problem. We got on this cruise last minute and took an inside cabin. When we got into the cabin it smelled of smoke like you would not believe. Now I'm not a super picky person, but this cabin was not livable, the stench was terrible. SO the first thing we did was go down to the reception desk and try to get moved. No Go, they were booked solid. I told them that I did not want to spend my vacation going from one asthma attack to another. They said that they would "sanitze the room". I don't know what this entailed, but it included an air cleaner that they put under the desk in the room. This helped, and they were quick to do it, but the room still smelled and if you used the hair dryer in the room, you would swear someone was blowing smoke in your face. Again, if you are a smoker, this may not be a problem for you, but it was a big problem for us. Otherwise, the room was a standard inside. The bathroom was bigger than most and the shower was very large with a sliding glass door which was nice. The beds were awful, but when they pushed them together to make a queen, they put a pad on top of them to make them softer. This helped, but it was still a standard cruise bed. The cabin stewards were courteous and made every effort to help, but they were not as friendly as I've had on other crews. I feel that this is because of the "automated tipping" process. With that said, they were still very competent.
Crew: For the most part I found the crew on the Spirit very nice. Most were very friendly and truly seemed to enjoy their jobs. The cruise directors staff was friendly and made an extra effort to get to know everyone by name. Waitstaff would be the one exception to this. Again I think this is because of Freestyle dining and the automated tipping. I have never been on a cruise where the waitstaff was so unfriendly. Actually, the people that worked the buffet were the nicest, which is unusual.
Dining: MAJOR PROBLEM #2 - We've decided freestyle dining is not for us. The Spirit has two main dining rooms, Windows and The Garden Room. Since The Garden Room was directly under our cabin, we ate there most often. The dining rooms opened for dinner at 5:30. If you were not in line at 4:45, you were going to wait an hour or more to sit and eat. This caused a huge tie up near the dining room with people sitting on the stairs and blocking elevators. We ended up eating at the buffett just to avoid standing on line. If you wanted a table for two, the wait was worse. There were no reservations for the main dining rooms. However.... if you wanted to pay for the alternative dining rooms they were happy to take your reservation. My husband and I tried Maxims one night as we had heard good things in other reviews. It was excellent, and it was very quiet and romantic. It also cost $50.00. The quality of the food was just slightly better than the main dining room. We didn't try any others. The food in all the venues was good, average cruise fare. BY FAR THE BEST HAMBURGER YOU WILL HAVE ON THE SHIP IS IN THE BLUE LAGOON DON'T MISS IT. We have decided that we enjoy traditional dining much more and it will be a driving force behind the choice of our next cruise.
Entertainment: The production shows were AWFUL with the exception of the broadway show which was the last of the cruise. Two singers out of the four made your ears hurt. The guest entertainers were wonderful, we had two comedians on the nine day cruise and they were fantastic. They also had an impressionist/singer who was good, but really related to the older people in the audience as the youngest person he did an impression of was michael jackson. The cruise bands were fantastic and well worth seeing.
Ports of Call - This was a relaxation cruise for us to de-stress after having been hit by Hurricane Charley. We had no set plans for the islands and booked no shore excursions. I suggest you spend the most time seeing Barbados, it was very beautiful and the people were very friendly. Grenada was terrible and I would not get off the boat if we were to go again. Especially if you are from the Port Charlotte/Punta Gorda area of Florida that was hit by Charley, it looks exactly like what we see here, blue roofs and total destruction. It is very poor and while I'm sure it used to be a beautiful place before the hurricane, it was not a choice I would have made for a cruise stop. St. Lucia and Antigua were roughly the same, we didn't do much there. In fact a friend of ours that we met on the cruise was mugged out in front of the craft market in St. Lucia. By far the best stop was Tortola, and here is the rub with that. We were there from 7:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. 4 and a half hours is not nearly enough for this beautiful place. I suggest ditching Grenada on this cruise and spending more time in Tortola.
General: We spent more money on this cruise than we ever have before and I can't tell you where it went. They nickled and dimed you every chance they could get and it adds up. My husband gambles quite a bit and he enjoyed the casino. I like to play bingo, but the average cost of bingo is $49.00 and it goes up to $149.00 on the last day. They payouts are very small compared to other cruises, so I recommend that you only play the last day. Drinks are what they are on other cruises, though on other cruises there are several occasions where drinks are free (Captains reception, etc.), the only free drinks on this cruise were at the very expensive art auction. There is one large pool on this ship, but it is not usually filled with kids because the children have a WONDERFUL childrens pool with slides and fountains. The childrens pool is by far the best one I've ever seen at sea. There is also a lap pool in the spa where you can swim against the current. Galaxy of the Stars lounge is where they have a lot of the late night shows and it is a very nice venue, but gets croweded quickly when there is something fun going on. The main theatre is very nice and the layout is one of the best I've seen, There is not a bad seat in the house and the view even from the back rows is fantastic. The spa is tiny, a wash cut and blow dry in the salon is $60.00 so you can figure out other services from there. They have a very nice library and internet cafe. The internet cafe is .75 per minute if you don't buy a package or you can get 100 minutes for $55.00, but you lose your minutes if you don't use them all. They also offer wireless internet access. The onboard shops are TINY. There is a movie theatre on board, but the one time we went it was full. The bars are all very nice and the little nooks and crannies are fun to find.
Tipping: This was another major problem for us. This was a nine day cruise and the cruise line recommends $10.00 per person per day, for a total of $180.00 for the whole cruise that is automatically added to your bill. WHERE DOES THAT GO? We were never told how that money is distributed. I can tell you for sure that some deserved it more than others and I would have much preferred to hand the cash to those who did a really great job. The cruise line says that you can remove the tips from your account, but they make it so difficult to do so that it wasn't worth standing in line (again) to do it. This is not just an NCL thing though... all cruise lines are doing this, but others have given me a breakdown of the tips, I did not receive that here.
Disembarkation: If your cruise returns to the same pier that you left on you should not have a problem. We did not get that lucky. We returned to Miami pier number 10. There is no terminal there, just a big warehouse where you get to hunt for your luggage. Getting off the ship was a relatively easy process. It was getting your luggage and finding your car that was the problem. Since we were half a mile away from the pier that we left from, we had to shuttle with ALL OF OUR LUGGAGE to that parking garage. So after picking up our luggage from the warehouse, we had to drag it to a bus, have it loaded on the bus, drive the half mile to the parking garge, have the luggage unloaded and find it again. There was long lines and mass confusion and it was not a fun end to a cruise.
All in all, we had a far better time on this cruise than we would have had at home. We relaxed and enjoyed ourselves. I will not, though, go on another NCL cruise. I hope this helps, please feel free to email me if you have any questions.