Ports of call: Port Canaveral, FL; Miami, FL; Nassau, Bahamas; Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas.
This was our 3rd cruise; the second with NCL. All 3 times we have sailed directly out of New York. We live only about 8 minutes from the pier and it is a great pleasure to sail from our home town. We booked through a large online agency, as we have many times before, and had no difficulty whatsoever. We also booked all our excursions before leaving. I also ordered fruit and wine for our stateroom, which we found waiting for us in the stateroom upon our arrival. It was exactly as ordered.
Embarkation: We waited a total of about 45' before getting on the ship. The lines moved quickly. Through them one completes security check, immigration to the Bahamas, and your payment method for purchases/charges made on the ship. We also received our key cards. From there we boarded the ship and found our stateroom.
Cabin: We had a balcony cabin on Deck 10 aft. There was more than enough room for both of us to be comfortable on the balcony, and we made very good use of it throughout the cruise. In the past we have had oceanview cabins. Having the balcony added a great deal. The bathroom was perfectly fine. One should note that the soap and shampoo are both provided via liquid dispenser; we brought our own and I recommend doing so. Neither of us uses a hair dryer so I cannot comment on it. The television was fine. Some have noted the picture was dark. This darkness was easily remedied by adjusting the picture with the remote control. We had an electrical outlet converter, and you should bring one if you might ever need to charge or use more than one item at a time, as there is one 110V outlet per cabin. The stewards were wonderful (Hassan and Elena); decent, professional, friendly and always willing to go well beyond their duty to make us comfortable.
Ship facilities: This is a gorgeous vessel. The Galaxy of the Stars, a large lounge on Deck 12 forward, is a great space. We would have a drink there when the ship was leaving a port of call. A great place to enjoy the view. From there you can also view the ship's bridge by taking a staircase down one deck. That was a lot of fun. There you can also learn about the ship's history, which we found very interesting. There is also a mah jongg room and a card room. As we spent part of most evenings playing Scrabble or cards, we enjoyed these spaces. There is also a small library and an internet room. We ordered the New York Times every day and through that got 15' free internet access, which was all I needed.
Exercise facilities: As a US Masters swimmer, I enjoyed the Aquaswim; this is a version of an endless pool, e.g., a treadmill for swimmers. One swims against the current. However, in the beginning of the cruise, some people seemed to think they were private jacuzzis. They quickly were disabused of that notion or got bored, so I had it to myself most of the rest of the time and had really good workouts. The fitness center itself is also very well designed. There are bikes, treadmills, and elliptical trainers; free weights; and Nautilus equipment, e.g., biceps curls, leg presses, etc.
Tivoli pool and jacuzzis: Neither of us ever used the Tivoli pool, which seemed to be occupied by people of every age and description floating around, or by drunken college students on spring break. Nor did we ever get to the jacuzzis on Deck 12, because they were always occupied by drunken college students at all hours of the day and night.
Casino/nightclub: We didn't use the casino at all, as we are nonsmokers who have no tolerance for smoke-filled facilities. NCL: PLEASE provide a nonsmoking space in the casino. It would be very much appreciated. We also didn't use the disco at all, but we did look at it and it seems as if it's a very nice space.
Video arcade: Even though I'm in my 5th decade, I enjoy playing video games and found little trouble getting access to what I wanted to play, esp. late at night. This video arcade is well equipped.
Restaurants: We took advantage of Freestyle Dining and ate at the following specialty restaurants: Le Bistro (French) x 2 nights; Cagney's Steakhouse x 1 night; Shogun (Asian) x 2 nights; La Trattoria (Italian, obviously) x 1 night. We also ate in Windows one night, and had lunch one day in Blue Lagoon. We didn't mind paying additional cover charges and had spectacular food. There is a dress code, e.g., no shorts, athletic wear, t-shirts, cutoffs, flip-flops, or jeans after 5:30 PM except in the Raffles buffet, but we found that this policy was not universally enforced. NCL: PLEASE enforce your policies. As for the much-maligned Raffles buffet, we found it to be quite easy to navigate and enjoyed the food.
Tip: Book your seats for specialty restaurants on your first day, preferably as soon as you get on board. People tend to go to them later in the cruise. You will have a better experience for doing the opposite.
Shows: We enjoyed the show tunes show, and part of the Second City comedy act. However, the sound system in the Stardust Theater is such that the sound is way too loud, and it makes it almost painful to be there, particularly if the actors in a comedy act are screaming into their microphones. I am not sure how much of this was the sound system itself v. the actors. The seats are very comfortable and the rest of the theater is very pleasant.
Customer service: Absolutely superb. We had nothing but wonderful experiences with everyone.
Excursions: We took an ecological tour of the Banana River Lagoon in Port Canaveral and had a wonderful time, ably guided by experts. In Miami, we took a bike tour of part of the national seashore and of Key Biscayne, similarly guided by two wonderful young men, who were most enthusiastic about ecological matters. In Nassau, we spent part of our time on the stingray encounter, because my partner loves stingrays and has enjoyed our other adventures with them. However, in general this is not an excursion for experienced snorkelers. It was fun, but there were way too many people on that particular adventure. We also went to the National Gallery of the Arts of the Bahamas, and had a great time there. In Great Stirrup Cay, we went snorkeling on the reef. There are many varieties of fish there. I was pleasantly surprised to note that most people seemed to be quite respectful snorkelers, keeping a good distance from the coral and behaving well toward one another. This experience may be due in part to the fact that the water was rather rough and those who were less sure of themselves probably turned back to shore.
Other guests: Like others, such as jdsuth on Adventure of the Seas, we had difficulty with parents and their children. We were literally run into by children racing down the hallway of Deck 10, egged on by their father, who yelled at us to get out of the way as they were having a race, in the hallway lined by staterooms, including staterooms occupied by disabled persons; older persons; persons who didn't want to be run over. When we didn't get out of the way, he told us, "I warned you." We were also screamed at by a couple of women, accompanied by 2 year olds, who, at 10 PM, were throwing mah jongg tiles into a bucket while we were trying to play cards and didn't appreciate us asking them to be quiet in a card room. No cruise line can control the beliefs or opinions of its guests, nor would I expect anyone from the cruise line to have policed either of these two areas where we had the most difficulty. But these experiences, and many others, make me very worried about our society.
Disembarkation: Very easy. We chose the express disembarkation. We left our cabin at 9:45 AM, were off the ship at 10:05 AM and were in a cab by 10:08 AM; home eight minutes later!
In summary: We had a wonderful week away, and NCL did everything possible to make it a great vacation. The Spirit is a wonderful ship with a wonderful crew. You will not be disappointed.