Mom and I (1st time cruisers) booked a balcony guarantee cabin 3 weeks before our May 21st sailing date after seeing an unbelievable deal on the internet. Because we sailed for such a great price my opinions are based on value for $$. A cruiser paying full-price may have had more reason to be critical or unsatisfied.
The ship, food, staff and ports all met or exceeded our expectations. My #1 advise for all cruisers is IF YOU'RE NOT HAPPY SPEAK UP - IF YOU NEED SOMETHING SPEAK UP - most problems can be resolved (don't just complain or criticise later)
NCL Spirit is a spectacular ship. This is a great link to some excellent photos of the Spirit http://22.214.171.124/spirit_slideshow - all areas were wonderful - Grand Centrum, Casino, Movie House, Moulin Rouge, Disco, Galaxy of the Stars and Pool deck.
Our cabin was a BA category mid-ship. Plenty of room for 2. Room stewards were great. They seemed to put in 20hr days - would see them at breakfast and then at turndown in evening. If you need something just ask. We really found Freestyle dining to be the right choice for us. Some meals we ate at small tables by ourselves. Other times we joined larger tables and met some wonderful people from all over the world. Some nights we ate early and caught both shows in the Moulin Rouge. Other nights we had an afternoon snack and then ate late dinners. There were dozens of activities each day. Art auctions, movies, sushi making/health/craft seminars. No luck in the casino or at bingo. Musical productions were OK, comedians very good, performers at Champagne Charlies and Galaxy of the Stars were great. Themed events every night were really entertaining. Always something to do.
Day 1: Arrived at pier around noon (drove from Vancouver to Seattle). Line #1 was to drop off baggage. Every bag was x-rayed. Moved quickly. Line #2 in terminal to check-in. Line for non-American passengers moved quickly. Line #3 to board ship was very long. I told Mom to stay in a seat while I stood in line as it snaked through the holding area. Finally got to final boarding area - had a bottle of wine in my carry-on bag (which was x-rayed)and paid the $15 corkage fee (added to shipboard account) Nothing said about 2 dozen cans of Pepsi also in carry-on bag (only Coke products onboard)... and then we were on the ship! Total time from arrival till onboard 1hr + 15mins - not bad at all.
After checking our cabin (Freestyle Daily was in cabin giving lots of activity/dining info) we went to Raffles Buffet to get some lunch. Typical buffet - food not hot enough and bland tasting. Avoided Raffles as much as possible during remainder of cruise.
Sailing was delayed 1hr due to late flights so the Bon Voyage BBQ didn't start till around 5:30. Drizzly outside but plenty of tables under cover. We had made reservations (2 for 1) at Shogun for dinner so we only checked out the BBQ - it looked great. Shogun was the only Specialty restaurant we tried - it was excellent. A little disappointed that sushi is a-la-carte - but very reasonably priced. Wandered the ship. All we could say was WOW! Saw people come to the Brig Room to claim their baggage which had been x-rayed at the port and appeared to have bottles in them. Ended most days relaxing in Galaxy of the Stars. Gorgeous scenery, great music and no pressure to order drinks.
Day 2: At sea. Breakfast in Windows. The waiters seem surprised when you don't order a lot. We each ordered juice, smoked salmon & bagel and cappuccino. "Is that all?" - no danish, eggs, bacon??. Mom was off to the Ketchikan & Juneau port & shopping talk. I went to the wine tasting seminar. Lots of activities all day... Excellent burgers at Blue Lagoon for lunch. Mom ordered chicken at Windows for dinner - very plain and bland. Asked server for another main course - no problem. Rough seas during the night - very windy - ship was creaking quite a bit, glad it was during the night, would have been tough to walk around.
Day 3: Ketchikan - Rainy till the afternoon. Slept in and was too late for breakfast in Windows. Tried Raffles - made-to-order omelet bar was great, other buffet items disappointing again. 3 other ships in port - lots of tourists. If you see a souvenir you like don't wait to see if its cheaper at the next port - may not see it again. No planned excursions - just wandered around. Called home from pay phone - can be long lines as crew members talk a long time when phoning home. Dinner at Garden - 1/2hr wait - was given a pager so we could go wherever we wanted while waiting.
Day 4: Juneau - Booked whale watching with Captain Larry (Orca Enterprises). Saw 6-8 orcas and 2 humpbacks. Worth every $$. Back on board by 1:30 to cruise to Sawyer Glacier. We felt that the afternoon/evening spent in Tracy Arm was the highlight of the entire cruise. We spent the time on our balcony - we ordered nibblies from room service, drank the wine we had brought, chatted with the cruisers next door, watched view from the bow cam on the TV. It was spectacular! Whales/dolphins swam alongside the ship. Unfortunately, because of the amount of ice in the water we could only get as far as Sawyer Island. If I had known this in advance I probably would have booked the Tracy Arm & Glacier Explorer (instead of whale watching) You board a small boat in Juneau and cruise Tracy Arm - able to go much closer to Sawyer Glacier and then transfer back to the ship. Highly recommended by all. A friend cruised Tracy Arm in early July and her ship didn't get any closer to the glacier than we did in May which surprised me. I decided that FOR ME if I cruise Alaska in the future I would choose an itinerary which spends more time glacier/nature watching. The port towns/cities are interesting but I have all the Alaska souvenirs I will ever need. Late sushi dinner at Shogun. Small sushi menu but very friendly sushi guys were happy to make rolls that weren't on menu.
Day 5: Skagway - Favorite port town. Wonderful sunny day spent wandering/shopping. Came back to ship for lunch. Dined with large mixed group. Had an interesting discussion with experienced cruisers at our table about pros & cons of Freestyle. The only con that they could think of was that you don't have the rapport/connection with the dining room staff that you'd have on a traditional cruise - same table/same waiter each meal.
Day 6: Prince Rupert - Another beautiful sunny day. BBQ on deck before we arrived in PR - we saw some whales. Our ship was the 1st to cruise into PR this year and the town greeted us with an excellent welcome party. Large crowd waving as we docked, live entertainment. Not sure if they do this for every ship. I think most passengers were shopped/sight-seed out by this port. How many souvenirs does one need? Everything starts to look the same. As we departed at around 9:30PM the town was setting off fireworks which we could watch from Windows restaurant. We were dining with a great mixed group. All ages from Kentucky, New York and England. The couple from Kentucky asked for steak even though it wasn't on the menu - no problem. The woman from New York finished her main course and then order another - no problem.
Day 7: At sea - We cruised the west side of Vancouver Island which was surprisingly calm. I had worried that it would be a rough day at sea but I was wrong. A beautiful sunny day - many people in the pools and hot tubs. I'm sure many were sunburned the next day! Set our suitcases in the hallway before going to bed.
Day 8: Woke up in Seattle - very sad that our trip is done. Had breakfast in Windows and our group/colour was announced to disembark. We were off the boat, had a short delay finding our luggage (So many black suitcases!!)and through customs in less than 15 minutes. It was almost 80degrees in Seattle that day!
Can't wait for the next cruise.....