Southern Caribbean Cruise NCL Spirit Ports of Call: Barbados, Grenada, St. Lucia, Antigua, Tortola April 15-24, 2005 Larry, Dana and Natalie Mudd
Background: We are in our early thirties with a 3 year. This is our third cruise, all of which were with NCL.
Pre-cruise: We used our Delta Skymiles to fly the three of us into Miami Thursday evening. The taxi from the airport to the hotel was about $40. We used Priority Club Points to stay at Port of Miami Holiday Inn. The taxi to Port was about $6. I believe the Holiday Inn at the airport has a free shuttle from the airport to the hotel and then to the pier. However, I did not have enough points for that hotel. Gorgeous hotel-very clean. The rooms were nice and large. King bed and a queen sofa bed. Complimentary snacks were left for us. Nice touch. We were on the tenth floor and had an amazing view of Miami and the port. We woke up Friday morning to see the Spirit in Port. I definitely recommend this hotel.
Embarkation: Easy! Arrived at the port around noon. Tickets were e-tickets so luggage tags were not mailed to us. Not a problem, they had tags at check in for us. Just know your room number. Luggage was taken from us and we proceeded to check-in. No one in the Latitudes line, we were done in 5 minutes and proceeded to the next station to obtain our key cards. Then, on to the next room where we sat for about 5 minutes till our row was called for boarding. Right through security and we were onboard! We found our room and dropped off our carry on, then on to Windows for lunch.
Cabin: 9021-inside, category JJ. This was our first time in an inside cabin, we really did not know what to expect. It was great! Tons of storage space. I hung up all my clothes and all the daughter's clothes. I actually packed them with the hangers. Unpacking was so easy! My husband lived out of his suitcase the entire week. More drawer space in the inside cabin that in a balcony cabin. We had one big bed and an upper bed. I think there was also a trundle bed under the big bed. The bathroom was great-best shower on any ship. Sliding glass door instead of a shower curtain. As well as lots of shelves for storage. We kept the TV on the bridgecam channel so that we could see what was going on outside. We also spent a lot of time at Galaxy of the Stars. It was never crowded and it was a great place to view the world. If you wanted to get out of the sun for a while, Deck 7 was a great place to pull up a chair and enjoy food from the Blue Lagoon. So, we did not feel that we were trapped with no place to enjoy the scenery.
Food: Let me preface this by saying we eat out a lot! Not just fast food but sit-down types. From Applebee's to Ruths' Chris. We know good food and NCL has it! Awesome! We never had a bad meal. Service was good. Occasionally, we would have slow service but nothing to complain about. We tried Le Bistro for the first time and it was ok, not spectacular. We thought the food in the main dining rooms was just as good. Although the chocolate fondue was incredible. Service was very slow for us the night we went. We had reservation but still waited 20 minutes for a table and then another ten for our waiter. This was also lobster night, we didn't want to miss the lobster but this was the best night for us to do Le Bistro (2 for 1). The Freestyle Daily said that lobster was available in all the specialty restaurants. Well, it was but for a higher per person charge and it was not covered by the 2 for 1. We were not happy with this but oh well. We also tried the free specialty restaurant, Trattoria. We love Italian food! A bit of a disappointment. No real Italian dishes, except for your basic pasta with different sauces. They did not even have chicken for the alfredo. The Raffles pasts station did! Oh well, we still did not leave hungry! We never had to wait in the main dining room. The new reservation system worked really well. It seems there was sometimes a wait for 4, larger parties got in quicker. You could always speed up your wait by dining with another party. Our favorite dinner is always the President's dinner. Most people forget that Windows is open for lunch. We love going there! So relaxing. It is a must do for us on the first day. Raffles was always had a good breakfast and lunch. We never found it too crowded, as people would eat outside and inside. The BBQ's they did were really good! Our favorite place to eat lunch was on the Raffles Terrace. Blue Lagoon has French fries that are better than most fast food places. Room service was always quick and efficient. My daughter had pizza 3 times a day! I enjoyed the vegetable platter. I would also order PB and J's for shore excursions. Don't forget to bring sandwich bags!
Ship: Beautiful! They are always, cleaning and painting. The staff is always nice. We did have one person that was rather rude as we were coming back from a shore excursion but it was not entirely his fault. The best place to get some sun was by the kid's pool. Less crowded and an amazing view from the back of the ship. Galaxy of the Stars was our favorite hang out spot. We loved going downstairs to view the Captain's bridge. There is a need for a bigger ship store and I think that is being taken care of during the next dry dock. On the Thursday of our cruise they offered a $25 bag of laundry deal. This was great! We actually came home with clean clothes.
Kid's Crew: My daughter loved going on our cruise last year to Alaska. However, this time she went once and did not want to go back. Not sure what happened. I don't think it was anything the staff did. They were so friendly, every time we saw one of them out and about, they remembered her and called to her by name. I think she is going through a phase because she did not want to stay in nursery at church either. I do highly recommend Kid's Crew. I think my daughter missed out on a wonderful time. I did pack dinner clothes for her "just in case", I was glad I did!
Seas: We did have a very rough night leaving Miami heading to Barbados. My sister-in-law and I were both sick. Sometime in the middle of the night, the seas improved and we never had any other issues.
Shore excursions: This was the first time we booked all our excursions independently. The ship just didn't offer the exact combination of activities. We like to do tours and see the islands that we visit. All of our excursions were recommended through Cruise Critic members. We have a toddler and my husband has leg problems, so we chose excursions that accommodate their abilities.
Barbados: We used Cameron Reid (email@example.com) for a tour of the island. The two main things we wanted to see were Harrison's Cave and the Wildlife Reserve. We saw those and much more. Cameron was wonderful! We learned so much about the island and it's history. I would definitely recommend him to anyone. Nice new Toyota Camry, with great a/c! The cost of the tour was $100 plus admissions to the cave ($16) and reserve ($12). This tour was worth every penny. He knew when the tour buses would be at each stop and we avoided them all day. The cave was neat-lots of dripping water, so be prepared. We saw lots of monkeys and turtles at the reserve. Nice display of other animals as well. No problems getting back to the ship on time.
Grenada: We used Pete's Mystique Tours (firstname.lastname@example.org). Our tour guides were Eric and Michelle. They were fantastic! We wanted to see Grand Etang Lake, Concorde waterfalls and Douglaston Plantation. We also toured a nutmeg processing plant. We learned so much about spices! We had lunch at a wonderful lunch at the Flamboyant Hotel. The beach here is beautiful! For 5 of us it was around $50 including tip. This island sustained so much damage from Hurricane Ivan. My toddler kept saying "Mommie, that house is broken." There are some parts of the island that do not have electricity. The people are so nice and so grateful. We had already decided that this was the island where we would spend our souvenir dollars. We bought lots of spices-great prices. The best prices we found were at Concorde falls. We truly enjoyed our time on the island. The cost of this tour for 5 was $140. Brand new Toyota van with a/c. Again, this tour was worth every penny. We had plenty of time to shop at the port before boarding the ship.
St. Lucia: We used Cosol (email@example.com. Cosol was our guide. He is awesome! He loves his island. This was the best tour of our trip. We paid $35 per person and $20 for our toddler. Although, I think the rates have went up to $40. He is worth that and more. He made us feel like royalty. He feed us constantly with local foods, bread, cookies, etc. He also paid for all the admissions. There were 9 of us on this tour. Not crowded at all. We toured the volcano, botanical gardens, waterfall, Marigot Bay, etc. Cosol was a great teacher. We learned so much about the island. Again, he knew when the buses were coming and we avoided the crowds all day. He gave us a choice mid-day to go snorkeling, swimming or back to the ship at the end of the tour. Our whole van decided to go swimming, so we went to the Wharf for lunch and a swim. Beautiful beach. Nice facilities for changing, etc. He came back for us at 3 and we were back in plenty of time for sail away!
Antigua: We spent the day at Pineapple Beach. $45 per person, our toddler was free. Cab ride was about $25. The taxi rates are set by the government and are not negotiable. We did keep trying drivers until we got one that did not charge for our toddler. What an amazing place! The beach looks like a postcard. Food and drinks were great. They have 2 pools. Lots of lounge chairs. My husband went snorkeling. Nice bathrooms, etc. We could have went to another beach much cheaper but we would not have had the pool or bathrooms, these were important to us. My daughter had her hair braided for $15-best price on any of the islands. We arranged for our driver, Cally to come back for us at 3 and he did. This was such a relaxing day. This resort is not fancy or elegant but the scenery and beach were beautiful.
Tortola: We had planned to go to Brewers Bay Beach. But this day was only ½ day in port. By the time we got up and had breakfast, it was 10 and we really needed to be back by 12. It was also overcast, so we just went into town. We bought some beach towels and T-shirts and then came back to the ship. Out of all the islands, this one appeared to be the most prosperous. I would like to see more of this island.
Disembarkation: It was really nice having the morning to relax. We slept in, and then had breakfast. You can stay in your room all morning but we decided to get out of the way and let our room stewards prepare for the next guests. So, we went to Deck 11 to watch us sail into Miami. This was really neat to watch. It did take forever to clear customs. We had an early lunch and waited for our color to be called. All will go smoothly if you wait until your color is called. We tried to sneak off early and it was a madhouse. So, we waited patiently and enjoyed our last bit of Miami sunshine. The lines for customs were incredibly long. We did discover that if you used a porter for your luggage, they went to the front of the line so that they could get you out and come back for someone else.
Shuttle: We had arranged with EZ Express EEZZEXPRESS@aol.com for transportation to the Fort Lauderdale airport. They had set up a tentative time of 2. They called while we were waiting to clear customs and said they were ready to leave. We told the driver it would still be awhile before we were allowed off the ship. So that is when we felt pressured to try to disembark early. We then got a call from another driver to say that he was picking up passengers from the Spirit and just to call him when we cleared customs. So, we relaxed and waited for our color to be called. We found our driver and we were on our way. If we had to do this over again, we would most likely choose a tour of Miami through the ship. I have seen Miami a few times but my husband hasn't. I think the shuttle through the ship was also cheaper.
Departure flight: We used frequent flyer miles for our flight. The only flight available for departure was out of FLL at 9:05. Before we checked luggage, we went to see if we could catch an earlier flight. We were able to change our flight to the 7:00 flight to Atlanta.
So ends our journey. This was absolutely the best vacation we have ever had. 9 nights was so perfect. We are now looking at a 12 night cruise for next year.