We (my adult daughter and I) were on the last sailing of the Spirit out of New Orleans in 2012. Before you start reading, you should know a little about us and cruising. First, we pick cruises based on the itinerary. Previously, I had cruised with Princess and we both had cruised with RCI. This time, we chose the NCL Spirit because we wanted to go to Belize, Roatan, and Costa Maya. Second, we prefer to cruise less often and enjoy all the amenities. Before we boarded, I knew what the costs would be for what we wanted to do and budgeted accordingly.
That being said, the weather was fabulous, our excursions were interesting and fun, and the ship amenities worked for us. While there were a few glitches (see entire review in following posts), we had such a good time that we booked the same itinerary on the Star next April.
Embarkation and Cabin
We left Memphis, TN, at 4:30 am on Easter Sunday morning, breaking the unbreakable rule of cruising: get to the port a day ahead. But there was no traffic and we arrived in New Orleans just before 11 am. We had prepaid at the Fulton Street Garage, which took charge of our luggage as soon as we pulled in and had us at the terminal before 11:30. Checking in was a breeze, but we had to wait about 45 minutes for boarding to start and another 15 for our turn to board. But once on board, we were seated in the Windows dining room within about 5 minutes and, when lunch was over, we were able to go to our cabin. We dumped our carry-ons and set out to explore the ship. When we returned, our luggage was waiting. We had unpacked by muster.
The cabin, Category BC 10668, as expected was small, but plenty big enough for the two of us. Our stuff fit into the drawers, closets, and cubbyholes. I don't see how a third person would fit in the room. The balcony held two chairs and a small table. We missed the lounges we had in our aft balcony on RCI during our last cruise. The best part of the cabin was the shower that was easy to control and had good flow. The two cons of the cabin were the thin walls (we could hear our neighbors and their tv set, which they left on well into the night) and the unpleasant odor in the toilet on the first two days and last two days of the trip.
As has been said many times before on these reviews, what you hate I love and vice-versa. That being said, after reading all the discussions about food on this site, we decided to avoid the main dining rooms for the most part. After eating in Windows for lunch the first day, our opinion was reinforced. The service was excellent; the choices were limited and what we ordered tasted just ok to us. We ate at the Gardens one night and felt the same way. The room was loud, the menu was limited to food we don't love, and the service was hurried. We used the buffet for breakfast and lunch most days and liked the food, particularly the fresh-cooked omlettes. We liked Le Bistro and La Trattoria so much we went there twice. We also went to Cagneys, which we also liked. The service in the specialty restaurants was excellent and the choices were to our liking. I liked the wings and tomato soup in Blue Lagoon and both the soft serve and hard ice cream in the buffet. The room service pizza was delivered hot and tasted good.
I am now a fan of freestyle dining. I liked being able to eat whenever from a choice of venues. I also loved not having to carry dress-up clothes.
Itinerary and Excursions
We chose the cruise for the ports and selected excursions early, mostly through Shoretrips.com. We were extremely pleased with our choices. I have reviewed each in the Western Caribbean Ports section of the site.
As many have said before, the crew was remarkable for being attentive and friendly. Our cabin steward greeted us the first day, brought us extra towels as requested, exchanged our wet beach towels for clean ones sometimes twice a day, and kept our ice bucket filled. Our waiters and other restaurant staff were attentive to our requests and frequently checked to see if we needed anything. Our questions were answered with a smile and whenever we encountered a crew member as we were wandering the ship, he or she smiled and greeted us.
The two shows we attended were the Broadway Production and Elements. The Broadway Production was my kind of show. I love Broadway musicals. Both my daughter and I found Elements that focused on magic and acrobatics not as entertaining. However, the hotel director explained that Elements was created for a European audience that speaks a variety of languages.
We loved the spa. The spa is always a treat when I go on a cruise. We attended a spa raffle the first night in the hopes of winning a spa treatment. We didn't win, but someone pointed us toward the art auction gift bag, which included a 20% coupon for a spa treatment. We used it for massages, which were heavenly. I was offered the opportunity to buy other products once, but no more was said when I refused.
DD had bought a $25 coupon that provided $50 worth of slot play. She ended up walking away with about $30 more than she had paid. If you like to play slots and don't like smoke, go to the casino early in the day. It is not as smoky then. We didn't spend much time there because we both have low tolerance for smoke.
On Friday, we went to a talk by the hotel director, chief engineer, and captain on "How to Run A Floating Hotel." It was fascinating.
Our Meet and Greet was also entertaining. There were about 30 people there. About a dozen of us participated in the gift exchange and most of us went on the cabin crawl, which showed us the inside of five different types of cabin from an inside to a suite.
We both thought the ship was great. We liked the Asian art that was all over. We found it easy to navigate and had no trouble finding the different activities. The Grand Centrum is impressive and truly the focal point of the ship. We liked and used the Deck 7 Promenade often and loved the jogging track, which I used as a walking track every morning. Even though there were 2300 people on the ship, we were always able to find a quiet place to hang out. We did avoid the pool area on sea days and only went to the hot tubs at late hours. When we wanted to hang, we generally used our balcony.
A day of vacation is better than a day of work. Each of our days on the Spirit was worth several days of vacation in relaxation and fun.