Norwegian Spirit - Bahamas: Norwegian Spirit Cruise Review by wardline
Overall Member Rating
Norwegian Spirit - Bahamas
Embarkation: New York (Manhattan)
I am 28 and have sailed on a number of cruises, including Sitmar (Fairwind), Wind Star (Wind Star and Wind Song), Renaissance (Renaissance III), Holland America (Westerdam), Celebrity (Century), and Cunard (Caronia). My partner is 23 and has only every sailed on the Caronia, an experience he likened to one of the last circles of hell. Hes not a trussed-up-in-a-tux kind of guy (like me), so in retrospect I probably should have guessed that an inside cabin on a smaller, older, formal ship was notto More use an appropriate term for the shiphis cup of tea. I say that because our fellow passengers had seemingly been recruited en masse from a British nursing home. Tea at 4:00 was like wading through a gleaming, surging, endless sea of walkers. To make matters worse, we were on one of the Caronias last voyages with Cunard and the ships staff had been picked over for service on the new Queen Mary 2, which apparently meant that only the mute or deeply unhappy were left on board. Being a ship buff, I took it in stride and spent my time admiring things like the teak rails and gravity davits. My partner, unimpressed by gravity davits, spent his time swearing and muttering under his breath. In short, he had sworn off cruising and this NCL cruise was my last, best, most desperate attempt to show him the exact opposite of what we had experienced: freestyle cruising. THANK THE STARS FOR FREESTYLE CRUISING. It turned the last tattered shred of hope I had into future cruises for both of us!
In order to prevent repetition, Ill try to only hit the most pertinent points and/or new information not included on other reviews. First, embarkation went very well. We arrived at Pier 88 at 11:30 a.m. and were seated in the terminal. In about 20 minutes, boarding begana LOT earlier than advertised. In fact, we were on board by 12:15 p.m. and enjoying a glass of wine in our stateroom& 45 minutes before we were supposed to board! The boarding process was a bit chaotic but very, very quick.
In terms of a physical description of the interiors of the ship, I was expecting garish, Carnival-esque colors and furniture. I was expecting neon flamingoes and harlequin diamonds. Fortunately, I was way off base on this. The Spirit boasts understated, traditional interiors in her public rooms that in some areas rival some of the better Celebrity and Holland America ships. There is a lot of faux wood throughout, with some deco-inspired furniture (especially in Champagne Charlies), gilt railings, and elegant ironwork. The smoking room, library, and card rooms are lovely spacesvery traditional and comfortableand the main dining rooms are elegant without being overbearing. Le Bistro is one of the loveliest rooms Ive dined in at sea& a must, and well worth the extra cover charge. I really wasnt disappointed in any area. The pool is very classic looking, complete with Grecian statuary, fountains, columns, and pergolas, and Maharinis night club is very, very hip. Overall, the ship gave me the impression of being well-maintained and effortlessly classynot overdone or ostentatious, and still comfortable enough to make you feel at home. In short, it was a great place to call home for seven days.
OK, so the colors in the staterooms were a little over the top, but they are not as ungodly awful as some reviews will lead you to believe. The bed was very comfortable (whew! I was worried), the balcony was roomier than I expected. There was ample space in our room for two people and the contents of four suitcases (yes, four). Our cabin, 11518 on Deck 11, was located just off the forward stairwell but still protected from noise in the lobby by a corridor wall. I highly recommend its location: very close to the gym, pool, and forward public rooms on Deck 12. Our steward and stewardess, Leonardo and Anita, kept the room in great shape and left the ubiquitous towel animals on our bed every night. These animals were cute for the most part, but on one night the towel-dog appeared to be mooning usthe dirty little pup and the next night we were shocked to find a cobra on the bed. I use quotes because frankly it appeared to be something else that can be likened to a snake but is in fact something quite different. Catch my drift? Now imagine one made entirely of terrycloth greeting you near your pillow. Shocking. ;)
The food was better than I expected across the board, though it seemed the appetizers and soups consistently outshone the entrees in the main dining rooms. The specialty restaurants are well worth itenhanced service (though all the service was good), quieter dining rooms, less engine vibration, and excellent cuisine. Le Bistro was our favorite, followed closely by Shogun. Take advantage of the 50% off specials for 5:30 and 6:00 seatings advertised in the Freestyle Daily newsletter, or ask about these when you board. Make your reservations quickly, too. We made ours the minute we boarded and were glad we did. The specialty restaurants book up. (Also the sushi in Shogun is a la carte at $2.00 or $3.00 extra per roll, but worth it).
Raffles was nowhere near as bad as some reviews would lead you to believe& it was the least impressive of course, but then again, its just a buffet. Its not meant to compete with the other restaurants. Raffles always offered a good salad bar at lunch, which was a welcome change from some of the heavy food offered in the dining rooms as the week wore on.
Kids & Families
The kids facilities make you wish you were 10 again. All the kids seemed to be having a blast, and the location of the childrens pool was perfectthey had their own area that was family-friendly without being intrusive for passengers who wanted to relax in the (relative) peace and quiet of the amidships area.
The itinerary was not why we chose the cruise, but we were actually impressedprobably because we did not have our hopes up. At Port Canaveral, we went to historic Cocoa Village, a town inhabited exclusively by elderly smokers. It was very, very low-key& antique shops, cafes, a bookshop with a militant historian with a hatred fro cruise ship passengers, etc. It was pleasant and great for strolling, but not a very exciting stop. If slow and relaxing is what youre looking for, check it out. If not, and youre avoiding the bustle of Orlando and the JFK Space Center, go to Cocoa Beach. Either way, definitely sign up for the ships shuttle. It is actually a better deal than taking a cab.
Miamis Art Deco district, South Beach, and shopping on Lincoln Road was a lot of fun (again, low-key). Take a taxi if you want to go directly to the beachit was about $35 R/T. Its hard not to order a good meal in South Beach, so definitely stop somewhere for lunchLincoln Road cafes are cheaper than those on Ocean Drive, and just as good. And be sure to people watch! Wowwhat a broad range Miami brings together! I did my part by adding the shockingly pale out of shape white guy to the mix.
Great Stirrup Cay was a lot of fun, mostly because we avoided the crowd at Bertram Coves beach. This beach is not made of sand. It is made of human skin packed so tightly you can actually walk across the crowd. Heres a great tip, however: when youre facing the barbecue hut (i.e., inland), walk to your right and follow the volcanic rock along the ocean for about 300 yards. Youll eventually go around a point and come upon a beach nearly as large as the crowded beach but with NO ONE ON IT. It was great! And the snorkeling was amazing -- there are huge shells galore, and a coral wall 30 feet out that was home to a large collection of fish and at least one eel. Be warned, thoughbe sure to wear good shoes or sandals, because climbing the rocks to get to this beach can be treacherous. They are very sharp, so tread carefully. Its well worth it! (NOTE: After bragging about our exclusive snorkeling adventure back onboard, we discovered that the reason no one else was snorkeling there was because there were no shark nets around the cove. So we could have been eaten. So live and learn. Its still worth a trip, I say.)
Nassau was our least favorite port, in part because it rained, and in part because we had so little time there. Shopping in Nassau is nearly identical to shopping in Miami, except the liquor is cheaper. There were four other ships there when we were there so the town was crawling with cruise ship tourists. One guy had on a shirt which expressed the poetic sentiment 100% Redneck. Hmm. Lovely. On a positive note, I did not feel as harassed by the local cab drivers as I have before. This might be because it was too early for them, though.
Overall, we enjoyed the stops. The weather was consistently around 80 degrees Fahrenheit after the first day at sea, and the seas were pretty smooththough this was not the case on the way home. The Spirit was pitching and heaving quite a bit in the swells, but overall she handled very well and our fellow passengers seemed determined not to let the waves inhibit their alcohol consumption. In some ways, I thing the rolling of the ship actually counteracted their stumbling. I know because I was one of them.
In conclusion, here are some tips you should know before you cruise:
1. Try to arrive at the pier (88, 89, or 90, depending on availability) around 11:30 or 12:00. They will let you board early, if you want to maximize your time on board. 2. Order flowers to your room. At $20, the NCL Harmony bouquet is a steal and the scent is always very nice. The flowers stay fresh all voyage long and add a nice touch to the room. 3. NCL will check most bottleseven shampoo bottlesfor alcohol. There are still ways to bring it on, however, so be creative. 4. Your luggage might not arrive at your cabin until 5:00 or later, so if you make early reservations the first night out at one of the specialty restaurants, keep this in mind. No shorts or ripped jeans are allowed in any of the dining rooms. 5. Men: pack khakis or slacks. I wish I had more. Almost everyone on board wore them to dinner every night. Polo shirts etc. are a good idea too. 6. Find Elizabeth Santiago from the Philippines and keep her as your server. She is greatvery friendly, always goes above and beyond. She is a real asset to NCL! (Tell her Michael & Austin from Kentucky say hello, too!) 7. Order NCL robes to your room. Any passenger can get them if they call. 8. Plan on dining at 8:00 in the main restaurants, if possibleyoull never have a wait! They only get crowded between 6:00-7:30. 9. The room service pizza makes a great midnight snack. Theyre very good! 10. Enjoy the people on board! We met some great friendspassengers and staff alike. Maharinis is a great club to meet people and really gets going after 11:00& good music, too! The dance floor was packed on most nights.
The Final Word
Not sure about cruising? NCL will convince you. This cruise is a great opportunity to ease into the cruise ship experience at your own pace. It turned my partner into a cruise enthusiasta semi-miraculous feat, given his earlier experience.
In fact, this cruise beat most of my other cruisesand definitely blew Cunard out of the water. If youre willing to dine late or make reservations, you should have no trouble with freestyle cruising. Its perfect for laid back, casual folksand the Spirit is a great ship to do it in. Shes classy, fun, and just the right size& with a great crew that seemed happy and eager to please. Great job, NCL! Well definitely be back! Less
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