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Norwegian Spirit Cruise Review by johnql

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Norwegian Spirit
Norwegian Spirit
Member Name: johnql
Cruise Date: February 2006
Embarkation: New York (Manhattan)
Destination: Southern Caribbean
Cabin Category: BA
Cabin Number: 11550
Booking Method: Internet Agency
See More About: Norwegian Spirit Cruise Reviews | Southern Caribbean Cruise Reviews | NCL Cruise Deals
Member Rating   4.0 out of 5+
Dining 4.0
Public Rooms 5.0
Cabins 5.0
Entertainment 4.0
Spa & Fitness 4.0
Family & Children Not Rated
Shore Excursions 4.0
Embarkation 5.0
Service 5.0
Value-for-Money Not Rated
Rates 5.0
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Ship Facts: Norwegian Spirit Review (by Cruise Critic!) | Norwegian Spirit Deck Plans
Norwegian Spirit - Southern Caribbean
Background -- This was my 14th cruise  6 on NCL (in reverse order, Spirit, Star, Dawn, Sky, Sea and Crown), 4 on Princess, 1 on RCI, and 3 miscellaneous. I am in my early 50s. It was the first cruise for my niece, Mimi, who was traveling with me. She is in her early 20s. Originally, I was supposed to be cruising with my long-time traveling companion, Linda. Unfortunately, she had a last-minute family emergency that prevented her from going. Her cancellation came the day before the cruise. I immediately called my travel agent to see whether I had any good options, despite knowing that the manifest of passengers is supposed to be finalized several days before sailing (a rule imposed after 9/11 so that Homeland Security could do cursory background checks). I was prepared to sail alone but the thought of paying a double fare didnt thrill me. Luckily for me, my niece, who had recently graduated college, was in a position to go on a trip at a moments notice. (Also, much to my surprise, she had a copy of her birth certificate readily accessible.) My travel agent was incredible. Over the next several hours, she fought on my behalf and worked her way up the corporate ladder to finally reach someone who had the authority to approve a last-minute name change. By 5:30 pm the night before the cruise, she had pulled off a miracle, getting Mimis name into NCLs computer system.

Summary -- For those who dont want to wade through a long review, heres the bottom-line skinny  it was a very nice cruise. I loved the dEcor of the ship; the port stops were generally fun; I always found something I liked on the main dining room menus; the specialty restaurants were excellent (Le Bistro, Cagneys and Teppanyaki) or good (La Trattoria); onboard activities were good to very good; the production shows were okay to good; the guest entertainers (singer, magician, hypnotist, Second City) were very good to excellent; the ships musicians were good; and the service was excellent with one or two minor exceptions. My niece pretty much agrees with my assessment except for the production shows  she found them unacceptably amateurish.

Embarkation -- We arrived at the pier at noon by cab, quickly handing off our 2 larger bags to porters right on the sidewalk outside the terminal. The previous sailing clearly had gotten in early because the terminal was fairly empty. We were actually stragglers even though it was only noon. The previous sailings passengers had all cleared out, so only the late arrivals were getting in line at this point. Got to the security checkpoint to present passport/BC/DL but since our passenger ticket didnt match both our names, the guard directed us to the customer service desk. We went there and it took about ten minutes to resolve the name change. Their printed manifest of passenger names didnt list Mimi, so they had to walkie-talkie to their upstairs office where they found the confirmation of the name change. They wrote out a new, very informal ticket for Mimi and we returned to the first security checkpoint. It was all fairly painless since I was fearing the worst-case scenario of Mimi being denied boarding.

Following the security checkpoint, we chose the Latitudes check-in line although it was probably not much faster than the regular line. There was also a VIP line for suites and the villas  that line was empty. The check-in clerk had trouble figuring out the name change, but after five minutes or so we were checked in. We next proceeded to the table where they issue the pre-made key cards. As expected, Mimis card was not there but Lindas was. That wasnt really a problem since we were already checked in. We proceeded through the embarkation photo area and boarded, took our carry-ons to our cabin and then went back down to the reception desk to get Mimis key card reissued with her name. Unfortunately, we didnt bring her BC/DL, figuring it really wasnt necessary since we had already gone through all the previous name-change discussions at check-in. So, Mimi went back to the cabin to get her documentation while I got on the Specialty Restaurant Reservations line. I ended up making reservations for Le Bistro, Teppanyaki, Cagneys and La Trattoria. By the time I was almost done making our dinner reservations, Mimi had finished getting a new key card issued.

Our checked bags were delivered to our cabin around 2:30 or so  definitely the earliest that I had ever had my bags delivered. We unpacked and then headed to the Muster Drill at 3:30. It was a routine muster drill until, a few minutes in, a deluge of water started running down the side of the ship right behind where I was standing. Luckily, the man next to me heard or felt it coming first and started moving away from the hull since our backs were against the wall. Within seconds, the dirty water was running across the deck and flowing into a drain but it was creating quite a mess and a stir among both the passengers and the crew. Several crew members rushed to the scene with their walkie-talkies trying to figure out what was causing the flow/leak. Some of the passengers theorized that it was some sort of boiler overflow or maybe AC-related. We never got an official explanation from the crew but before the drill was over they had managed to turn it off.

Cruise Critic Gathering -- Our Cruise Critic gathering was at 5 in Henrys Pub on embarkation day. About 15 or so people showed up. Everyone was very friendly. We hadnt contacted NCL beforehand, so it was an informal gathering with no NCL officials joining us. As it turned out, a number of us ended up teaming up for the nightly Pub Trivia quizzes in Henrys Pub (one of my favorite activities).

The Ship & Accommodations -- I loved the Asian dEcor of the Spirit. Its well maintained and clean. I also found the size of the ship very friendly  not dauntingly big but big enough to offer numerous public spaces and alternative restaurants. I found it easy to find my way around  there were numerous displays of deck plans at various locations throughout the ship and always near the elevators. You can also request a pocket-size guide at the reception desk.

Overall, I was impressed by the public spaces. The Stardust Theater was a nice venue with comfortable seating. The only bad sight lines were in the balcony, where pillars could partially block your view. However, one advantage to sitting in the balcony was an easy, unobtrusive getaway if you decided to leave a show early.

The Galaxy of the Stars provides a lovely vantage point during the day, especially on sailaway day as you sail down the Hudson and past the Statue of Liberty. Of course, you would probably be out on deck during warmer sailings. The Galaxy was used for various shows and musical performances. It was also the setting for the Latitudes Cocktail Party. A spiral staircase leads you from the Galaxy down to the Bridge Viewing Gallery. This is where you can meet the infamous Dragon face-to-face. There is also a small exhibit of photos and artifacts detailing the history of the ship, including its previous incarnation as the SuperStar Leo, the flagship of Star Cruise Lines (NCLs parent company in Asia).

The Maharajahs Casino was a decent size, although I never saw all the tables being used simultaneously. In fact, this casino struck me as being decidedly quiet compared to most of my other cruises. Plus, there were no real die-hards  you know the ones, the gamblers who are always parked at a table placing $100 bets, sometimes on multiple spots, spending 4, 5 or more hours a day gambling. In addition to the routine games (blackjack, 3-card poker, Let It Ride, Caribbean Stud Poker, roulette, and craps), there was one Texas Hold Em table. Unlike the Dawn and Star, the poker table was right in the middle of the casino, not hidden away in a side room. The poker table wasnt all that busy, except for a few evenings, never during the day. The variety of slots seemed fairly typical.

Bars  I dont really have a lot to say about the bars because I didnt spend that much time in them, other than Henrys Pub because I attended most of the Pub Trivia contests. Champagne Charlies looked like a nice place to get a drink. The Shanghai Bar was more of a thoroughfare as people cut through it, going from the front elevators to the Grand Centrum or on their way to the Blue Lagoon.

The Tivoli pool area was nice enough, very similar to most ships that Ive been on. As with all other ships, there are never enough lounge chairs during peak periods. Buccaneers Wet & Wild area was very popular with the kids on the ship. I thought the Raffles Terrace and the Buccaneers Deck Amphitheater were very nice spots to relax, generally quieter than the Tivoli pool area.

I didnt use the gym, but my niece reported that the facilities were fine.

Theres a decent size card room next door to the mahjongg room, but I didnt see any mahjongg sets. To me, its more like two card/game rooms.

The internet cafe was a nice size, equipped with 10-12 computers surrounding a comfortable sitting area. The rates are still outrageous (75¢ a minute or you can purchase blocks of minutes at a discounted rate). They also ran a special near the end of the cruise  half an hour for $12. Not exactly a bargain but much more reasonable. My advice is to use internet cafes in the ports of call. Most of the ports had several to choose from, and the rates ranged from $3-$5 for half an hour.

The video arcade was a fair size, with a wide selection of games. The main dining rooms (Windows and the Garden Room) were both nice. Windows is the bigger restaurant, with a wall of windows at the rear of the ship providing a wonderful view of the ships wake. I found both main restaurants nicely appointed. Unlike the Venetian (Dawn) or Versailles (Star) dining rooms, Windows didnt strike me as particularly noisy.

Our cabin was 11550, a BA balcony room. While I wouldnt call it spacious, it was plenty big enough for two people. Plenty of storage space and our luggage easily fit under the queen-size bed. There was also a convertible sofabed, a vanity desk and chair. The bathroom was small but not ridiculously so. Actually, the shower stall was a decent size, with a sliding glass door instead of a curtain. The balcony was big enough for a regular chair, a small table (maybe 2 feet square), and a lounge chair. I hadnt had a balcony in a while, so it was nice being able to sit or stand out there and just take in the breeze or the view.

Things I missed on the ship? There are no mini-fridges in the cabins, except maybe in the suites and above. Our steward did supply us with plenty of ice, but having a fridge is still better.

There is no separate movie theater since they eliminated it during a recent drydock. To me, theres no comparison between watching a movie in a theater versus watching it on a tiny tv in your cabin. They did show 4 movies in the Stardust (Cinderella Man, The Skeleton Key, Little Manhattan, and Dreamer  all of which also aired via the cabin tv) but they were screened at 11 pm, not exactly convenient for early risers or kids.

There are no self-service laundry facilities. This is not a huge problem for me since Ive never done laundry on a cruise, but I know that it matters to some people.

Shops -- The Galleria gift shop is your typical gift shop onboard a cruise ship  smaller than the one on both the Dawn and Star. It probably offers what most people are looking for but not much more than that.

The Photo Gallery is nicely laid out, providing lots of wall space to display the many photos that are taken throughout the cruise. They run various promotions during the cruise, offering enticements like an extra print, a photo key chain, or Buy 2-Get 1 Free deals. They also offer CD burning if you run out of space on your digital cameras memory card.

The Duty-Free shop for alcohol and cigarettes is tiny. At one point, they were running a special of Buy 5 Bottles-Get 1 Free. Of course, any alcohol purchased there has to be stored by the ship for pick-up on the last night of the cruise.

The jewelry shops lining Deck 8-midship seemed nice enough but I didnt spend any time there checking out either the merchandise or the pricing.

Shows -- There were four production shows  On the Radio (radio hits over the past four decades), Americas Beat (a somewhat hokey attempt to capture the many beats that America has to offer), At the Hop (a medley of '50s and '60s tunes) and Standing Room Only (a tribute to Broadway musicals). Keep in mind that these shows are performed by the NCL Production Company, not the Jean Ann Ryan Company, which I have grown accustomed to and enjoyed on previous NCL ships. The four production shows ranged from mediocre to good. The first two were mediocre at best, with spotty singing, uninspired choreography and adequate dancing. My niece was more critical than me  she found the productions unacceptably amateurish. The third show, At the Hop, was an improvement and was generally well received by the audience. The final show, Standing Room Only, was pretty good and was clearly the best show of the four. Perhaps the songs were better suited for their vocal ranges, but even the production values (costuming, choreography, etc.) were better than the earlier shows. Overall, I found the four shows acceptably entertaining  I was willing to overlook some of the shortfall in talent in favor of familiar, nostalgic and fun songs.

On the other hand, the guest performers were generally quite good. Many of the acts performed both in the Stardust and then later on in the Galaxy of the Stars. First on the agenda was a hypnotist known as Dr. Trance. He picked 14 or so volunteers from the audience. The show was pretty funny. Four or five of the volunteers werent really good candidates and were excused at various stages of the show. Most of the remaining volunteers seemed to be under Dr. Trances spell. Later on the in the cruise, Dr. Trance performed a more adult-rated version of his show in the Galaxy of the Stars. Nothing all that racy but definitely more adult-oriented. I thought both shows were good.

Donny Ray Evins performed a tribute concert to Nat King Cole. He was true to the style of Nat King Cole and his voice was pretty similar, but it was more of a tribute than an impersonation. It was enjoyable, especially for those in the audience who remember Nat King Cole.

The Second City comedy troupe performed two shows, the first in the Stardust and the second in the Galaxy of the Stars. Overall, they were very funny. The first show was a combination of prepared skits and improvisational comedy. An occasional skit fell flat but they always moved on to a different skit before they lost the audience. The second show was entirely improvisational, using suggestions from the audience as fodder for the comedy. Both shows were quite funny, but I do believe that their brand of comedy is not appealing to everyone.

Ray Mogenis, a comedian, performed two shows, too, again once in the Stardust and once in the Galaxy of the Stars. I only attended the first show, which was actually an opening act for one of the production shows, At the Hop. He started out a little slow but ended up winning over the audience. He was pretty funny.

Also prior to Ray Mogeniss comedy act, there was a funny intro bit by the CD, Julie. At the beginning of the show, she came onto stage and explained that she had had an extremely busy, hectic day with lots of different people pulling her in different directions. In fact, she apologized to the audience that she had just received a call and had to take care of some business before the show could start. She excused herself and then left the theater, at which point a big screen dropped down over the stage and we got a view of Julie running throughout the ship performing various tasks, either in a funny way or in a ridiculous way (e.g., chopping up salads in the galley, vacuuming the carpet, preparing mixed drinks at a bar, delivering room service, making a towel animal, etc.). Parts of the video (clearly taped) were speeded up for added effect. At the end of the video, Julie reappeared on stage and the real show commenced.

Bob & Sarah Trunell performed a comedy/magic act. They had performed briefly on embarkation day at the Welcome Aboard show. He was pretty good  nothing spectacular and pretty much all illusions that weve seen by other magicians over the years. But he was fairly funny and personable and his magic was well presented.

There was also a show by Rebecca Lowe in the Stardust on the last night. Shes a singer, performing songs that tell a story, from Broadway to Country. I believe shes one of the featured performers from the NCL Production Company. I didnt attend her show.

Activities -- The Spirit conducts a fairly wide range of onboard activities, many common on cruise ships but still fun. These include demonstrations (preparing sushi, cooking demo, the art of towel animals), lectures (language classes, weight loss seminar, historical talks about the Caribbean, Great Looking Hair), craft workshops (Paper Boxes, Beaded Geckos, Flower Combs, Napkin Folding), art auctions, trivia contests, pool games, Family Feud, Who Wants to Be a Bazillionaire?, The Not So Newlywed Game, Weakest Link, casino tournaments (blackjack, slots and Texas Hold Em), other tournaments (golf, basketball free throws, table tennis), Karaoke, dancing, and listening to the ships various lounge acts. This is by no means an all-inclusive list. Some of the activities, however, do carry a fee (e.g., martini class - $15, yoga - $11.50, Pilates - $11.50, casino tournaments - $10).

One activity that is not commonplace is the Murder Mystery Dinner (no charge). The Freestyle Daily indicated that the maximum number of participants is 96. That never became an issue on our sailing. We only had about 32 participants. More important is keeping an eye on the Freestyle Daily to know when the sign-up occurs. Oddly enough, after signing up, there was no additional notice in the Freestyle Daily to remind you of the date and time of the activity. Its quite possible that some people who signed up forgot to show up.

At 8:30 on Monday night, we gathered in the Stardust to prepare for the Murder Mystery Dinner. Each group of 8 participants would eat dinner together in Windows. There ended up being four groups. Each of the 8 members of a group was given a booklet that provided details of his/her character along with prompts on suggested and required dialogue. The script was divided into four scenes. We were advised to act out one scene for each course of dinner. We then proceeded down to the Windows dining room, where they had reserved four tables for us. The Murder Mystery itself played out smoothly with lots of fun parts, laughter, improvisation and lots of discussion at the end as to who the murderer was. The informal poll of our 8 participants had me labeled as the murderer. At 10:30 an NCL staff member returned to retrieve all four groups and we returned to the Stardust where the murderer was unveiled. It wasnt me. Definitely a fun activity.

The Pub Trivia contests in Henrys Pub were lots of fun. We thoroughly enjoyed joining up with other CCers. We ended up winning two of the regular contests in addition to the movie clip trivia contest, which was conducted in Maharinis Lounge in order to make use of the flat-panel, widescreen tv monitors that line the walls there.

Family Feud was fun, too. It was held up in the Galaxy of the Stars lounge, as were all of the other pseudo-game show knockoffs. Our fellow CCer, Susan, signed up and was chosen. Her team, the Smiths, ended up winning. It was hugely entertaining.

Who Wants to Be a Bazillionaire? was fairly funny, with one guy bowing out early because he thought that Mars was the third planet from the sun.

The art auctions were okay. I attended most of them and ended up buying one piece. I didnt really like the style of the auctioneer. He was all about the rapid-fire bidding and selling. Unlike many other auctioneers, he didnt bother telling us much about the piece or the artist, part of what I enjoy about art auctions. He was actually a personable guy and occasionally funny, but he needs to be more informative and less focused on high-speed auctions.

The Latitudes cocktail party was held at 1 pm on our first sea day. The wait staff was extremely attentive. Whenever one of us finished a drink, they would immediately bring a replacement without us asking. There were also hors doeuvres served. Neither of us won any of the raffled prizes.

Things that I missed or didnt like? There was no horse racing conducted on the Spirit. This seems to depend entirely on the CD, but I always enjoyed horse racing on earlier cruises. It appears to be on the endangered list of activities, approaching extinction.

Bingo has become too expensive for my taste.

As I pointed out earlier, several movies were shown in the Stardust, but there was only one showing of each movie and it was at 11 pm.

Food & Service -- We dined pretty much everywhere at some point  the main dining rooms (Windows and the Garden Room), most of the alternative restaurants, the buffet, the Blue Lagoon, Henrys Pub for Fish & Chips, the casinos late night snacks, and room service.

The food in the main dining rooms was generally good. Not great, but certainly edible. I never saw a menu that didnt have at least one item per course that I found acceptable.

We dined in four of the specialty restaurants  Le Bistro, Teppanyaki, Cagneys, and La Trattoria. Le Bistro was wonderful  great filet mignon, very good mushroom soup, and scrumptious chocolate fondue. Teppanyaki (maximum seating of 10, so book early) was also very good. I had the Taipan combo  filet mignon and jumbo shrimp. It was very tasty, but Im sorry to report that they serve only two jumbo shrimp now, compared to the three that were served on the Star and Dawn. Cagneys was very good  my niece and I both had the surf & turf (half a lobster and a filet mignon). There is an extensive list of side dishes available  we ordered the asparagus, cream spinach, potato wedges, garlic mash, and sautEed mushrooms. La Trattoria was okay to good. Mimi had angel hair pasta with meatballs and I had the meat lasagna.

The Blue Lagoon was a popular spot. We had several meals there. The burgers were well prepared; the chili was good; the Singaporean fried rice was tasty. However, Mimi thought the wonton soup was mediocre. She did like their hot dogs. And I was disappointed that they didnt serve buffalo wings, as they did on the Dawn and Star.

The Fish & Chips in Henrys Pub were tasty.

The buffet was just okay to me. The selection was not that extensive. However, the saving grace of Raffles is the presence of several stations where food is prepared fresh  omelette station in the morning, pasta and stir-fry stations at lunch and dinner. There were also several flavors of ice cream available at both lunch and dinner. Regular room service on NCL has always struck me as a weak spot because the menu is so limited. That said, it is convenient and every meal that we ordered was delivered promptly (usually 5 minutes early) and accurately.

I went to Le Cafe in the Grand Centrum for a specialty (spiked) coffee ($5.95). The purchase entitled me to a complimentary dessert. I had a sinfully delicious chocolate dessert there.

On deck BBQs -- There were several On deck BBQs. Pretty much typical fare  burgers, hot dogs, ribs, chicken, in addition to a couple side dishes. I enjoyed the burgers, ribs and chicken.

The Chocoholic Buffet was held at 2 pm on a sea day (Friday), with an earlier photo op entrance allowed. There was a huge line in the Deck 7 corridor outside the Stardust waiting to get into Windows. Despite the long line, it moved fairly quickly since there were four separate lines inside. There was the usual assortment of goodies (cakes, ice cream, dipped fruit, Eclairs, M&Ms, etc.). It was mostly very good. There were also quite a few nice ice sculptures on display.

Service in the eateries overall was very good to excellent, particularly in the specialty restaurants where they have fewer tables to attend to. One minor exception occurred early in the cruise when it took forever (20 minutes or more) to receive my cappuccino. Which reminds me  Im happy to report that espresso and cappuccino are still available free of charge in the dining rooms.

Our steward prepared towel animals for us almost every night. My niece really enjoyed that extra touch and took a picture of every one.

Ports of Call & Excursions -- St. Thomas - Coral World excursion. The excursion seemed somewhat lax in organization, especially when we were supposed to return to the ship. At the appointed time, we showed up at the exit of Coral World but there was no one there to direct us to the appropriate shuttle. Also, no headcounts were being taken. Im not sure how anybody knew everybody was onboard the 3 or 4 shuttles that were being used. We got on one of the shuttles but then changed shuttles. It probably didnt make any difference since they were all headed back to the pier but it still struck me as unusually lax.

Coral World itself was fun, although their handout map makes it look much more expansive than it really is. We saw stingrays, sharks, tortoises, iguanas, ducks, a pelican, spiny lobsters, and plenty of other fish. We watched a feeding in one of the aquariums.

After returning from the excursion, we explored the Havensight Mall (near the pier), picking up a few souvenirs. Then we went to an internet cafe.

Antigua -- We took the Historical Tour excursion. The excursion group was divided into smaller groups to fit into mini-vans holding up to 10 passengers apiece. Our guide was very informative and attentive, always doing headcounts and making sure we were synchronized as far as meeting points and times. The excursion included several photo op stops, with rum punch (or fruit punch) served at one stop. We sat through a show featuring a diorama and an audio history of the island. We also toured the historical bay area where all of the old buildings have been restored with most of them being used for more modern purposes (e.g., hotels, souvenir shops, etc.).

After the excursion, we did some shopping and walked around the area near the pier. We first stopped in at an internet cafe which charged only $4 for half an hour (vs. 75¢ a min onboard). We returned to the ship around 3:30. But Mimi headed back out alone to check out a Yoda art store that she had wanted to visit but had forgotten about when we were out and about earlier. When Mimi returned, she reported disappointment regarding the Yoda store. Its a store opened by the artist, Nick Maley, who developed and drew Yoda for the Star Wars movies. Unfortunately, he wasnt present at the store. Also, there really wasnt any Yoda artwork on display or for sale. There were autographed photos of the artist working on the Star Wars movies and artwork that had nothing to do with Star Wars.

Barbados -- The piers set-up requires the use of shuttle buses to get you from the ship to the piers terminal building, which houses quite a few shops. You can walk but its at least a 5-minute walk from the pier to the terminal. The shore excursion buses all left from the outside of the terminal building. We went on the Best of Barbados Tour which includes three stops  Orchid World, which had hundreds of varieties of orchids as well as many other plants and trees; Gun Hill Signal Station, which was an old military outpost used to warn of approaching enemy threats from the sea. Gun Hill offered spectacular panoramic views of the island; and Sunbury Plantation House, a 300+-yr-old house on what used to be a sugar cane plantation. The house itself has been well maintained and is furnished with many antique pieces of furniture. In addition, there are numerous artifacts ranging from golf clubs to household items to clothes, many from the Victorian Era. In the basement were half a dozen or so buggies as well as antique tools. Lastly, there was an exhibit of dozens of cameras ranging from the late 1800s up to 1970 or so. We were also served a choice of rum or fruit punch.

At our request, the bus dropped us off in downtown Barbados. We found an internet cafe and used it for half an hour. Then, we explored the downtown area before jumping in a cab and returning to the pier. We then spent about an hour checking out the shops in the terminal as well as a tented flea market right outside the terminal building.

St. Maarten - We didnt have to tender, as originally planned. Everybody was happy about that. Julie, the CD, had announced the good news the night before at the end of the Second City show in the Stardust. Mimi disembarked right after the ship was cleared at 11 in order to do a quick check of the port area. I opted to go to Raffles for a late breakfast/early lunch. Met up with Mimi right at the foot of the gangway at 12:30. Our excursion was one of the most popular  there were well over 100 people gathered for it. A guide led us to the buses that were congregated at the front of the pier area. The boarding process didnt make a lot of sense  instead of boarding multiple buses simultaneously, they boarded them consecutively. It ended up delaying the start of the excursion. Scheduled to begin at 12:45, we didnt take off until 1:15 or so. Later on, they did make it up to us by ending the excursion later but that cut short the free time that we should have had following the excursion.

The excursion itself was okay  nothing special. We drove to a vantage point overlooking Orient Beach for a photo op. Then, we drove through the French Quarter (Quartier dOrleans) and spent 50 minutes in Marigot, the capital of the French side of the island. We returned to Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side, where we were dropped off in the downtown area. We discovered that the Yoda Man had a new store there and after we entered the gallery, lo and behold, Nick Maley (the Yoda Man) greeted us and gave us a mini-tour of the gallery, describing the various Star Wars memorabilia that was on display. There were quite a few framed pieces with storyboard illustrations from Stars Wars, along with autographed posters (not all from Star Wars). It was the highlight of our visit to St. Maarten, especially for Mimi.

We took a quick cab ride back to the pier where we explored some of the shops, most of which Mimi had already checked out in the morning. Tortola - We cancelled the excursion that we had originally booked and decided to just wing it on our own. We walked around Road Town, including visiting Craft Alive Village (a series of little wooden houses with lots of handicrafts and souvenirs for sale). We saw a number of hens and roosters roaming around, including one hen with 5 chicks. We found an internet cafe and logged in for half an hour ($5/30 min). We walked back to the pier area and did a walk-through of the crafts flea market that was set up right outside the pier entrance.

Disembarkation -- The ship got into port a little early. Disembarkation ran very smoothly with the Express Disembarkation starting a little after 8 am. We had ordered room service, which was delivered promptly as usual. We were the third group called for disembarkation. No problems whatsoever  swiped the key card one last time as we exited the gangway. Found our luggage and presented our customs forms. We proceeded to the taxi area at curbside. There was absolutely no wait. As we reached the taxi stand area, we were assigned to a cab. We reached my apartment around 10 am - the end to a very nice cruise.








Publication Date: 03/27/06
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