Hi, back from the Spirit 5/20/06. This won't be a minute by minute review, but I will try to give you a pretty good summary of our trip! Traveled with my DH and our 16 1/2 month old son. Had some awful weather, but despite that, the trip was great thanks to the excellent staff and facilities and the great people we met . Embarkation wasn't bad at all, but the port really needs some work, we were told that should happen by 2008, thank goodness. We got to use the Latitudes check-in line so that really cut down on our time! Had the buffet lunch at Raffles. Was pleasantly surprised based on some of the previous reviews I had seen. It was a buffet of course, not a gourmet experience, but the food was fresh and what was supposed to be hot was. We had breakfast and lunch there most days. (easier with the baby)
Leaving out of NY was great, no plane to deal with and the seas were not a problem at all! The weather was overcast and foggy, but it was still awesome to sail past the Statue of Liberty and under the Verizano Bridge.
The itinerary is fine except, not enough time in Port Canaveral at all for a day trip to the theme parks. We went to Magic Kingdom and you really had less than 6 hours there. Of course the fact that it was raining cats and dogs didn't help the situation but we did get a great shot of the baby with Mickey and Minnie so for us the say was still a success. It rained almost all day when we were docked in Nassau so we didn't bother to go over to Paradise Island. Thankfully we had great weather for the evening beach party at GSC and again for the beach there the next day. Spent a really nice day with fellow CC Nic's Mama and family, thanks Nicholas for letting Dillon play with your pail and shovel!! GSC isn't as built up as some of the other line's private islands, but it is very clean, very pretty and was lots of fun. Were also treated to a sunny (if a bit windy) day at sea Friday so I may not have to go to the tanning salon after all to make it look like I was on vacation!!
OK I am afraid I am kind of jumping around so forgive me, but here is my take on the Dining Experience. We only had dinner once in the Gardwen Room (one of the main dining rooms) on formal night. Not as big or varied a enu as on some of the other ships we have sailed, but the food and the service was very good, we were about the only people dressed up which was weird, but that's OK, had the baby in his Captain's outfit and had to do formal photos for sure! The Specialty Restaurants were A+. Had the pleasure of dining in LeBistro with fello CC Nic's Mama and her family on the first night. Service and food were outstanding. We also dined in Cagney's and Shogun and can't say enough about the food and service, excellent!!! We ate in LaTratorria one night as well, and the food there was also very good, and again, excellent service. The day we were in Disney, by the time we got back on board, showered and rested it was like 9 PM before we wanted to eat, so we just went to Blue Lagoon (24 hr place) Chicken Wings, Chili, Stir Fry Rice and Stir Fried Noodles were all very good. One day at lunchtime, the baby fell asleep so I sent DH off to lunch and told him to bring me back something (room service menu was pretty bleak, although anything we ordered was fresh!) He stopped at Blue Lagoon and they wrapped everything up and stacked it and even offered to help him back to the room. We really had no complaints about the food at all, and the service was just fantastic, just about everywhere.
Our Chief Cabin Stewardess Authoreen and her Steward Sony were just great!! Always a smile and a friendly greeting, even stopping to chat with the baby and they were always there in a flash when we needed them!! They kept the room in tip top shape, and we really did mess it up quite a bit with the baby!! :0) The room (we had a BA on deck 11) was kind of small compared to most balconies we have sailed in, but it was still OK for the 3 of us, I am thinking a 4th would have been too much! It would be nice if they had another 100V outlet in the cabin, but we walked with a power strip and were able to have a few things plugged in at a time and it was just fine. My son loved the fishies on the tiles in the bathrooms and it was nice having the toilet area separated off from the shower area with thew sink between the two. They really need to do something about the drainage in the shower though, so slow there was almost always a flood, even after a brief shower. Hey, ladies, I was even able to bend over to shave my legs in the shower without hitting my head!! LOL
I cannot say enough about the kiddie pool area, it was awesome for little kids and as long as you didn't go first thing in the morning, the water (even the water spurting from the alligator and the canon) were heated to 84 degrees, the kids were having a ball in there, and the kiddie hot tub was a blast as well. My son is only 16 1/2 months, but he was able to go into the kid club area (with us) a few times a day and he loved the climbing and the ball pit and the slide, and he especially loved sneaking into the arcade and climbing on all of the cars and motorcycles. Luckily for me, he doesn't even want the quarters in there yet, just likes to pretend to drive. In a gated area near the baby pool, they had a couple of ride on toys, some rocking horse type spring thingies, and a little climbing area, that you could use at any time, and they were a big hit as well.
The staff was first rate, Cruise Director Ricky was so full of energy, and he always took time to stop and say hi to my son. We were lucky to meet him along with Hugo, the Hotel Director, and Kim the Food and Beverage Manager at the CC Meet & Mingle, which only we and Nic's Mama and her family showed up for. It was well worth it because we were then given VIP/Concierge Status and Lisa Meyer the Concierge was just great! Every afternoon one treat or another was delivered to our stateroom, we got VIP tender tickets for GSC, dinner reservations were arranged without hesitation, and we even were invited to a private cocktail party with the Captain and is staff in the Art Gallery, it was really nice, and all of the officers stopped and chatted with each of the families in attendance, including the Captain.
Getting off the ship for us was a breeze. We went to breakfast and then opted t go back to our stateroom and watch NYC form our balcony. There were tons of people clogging the elevator areas and hallways all trying to get off the ship first. We waited till they called out luggage tag color and walked right off, it was the easiest debarkation I have had. Unfortunately the cab situation at the pier was awful, 3 ships docked at once and a real jam waiting for cabs, waited almost 2 hrs for a taxi (thank goodness my son chose then to nap), and there were only about 15-20 at the most families ahead of us in line when we got off. Don't think NCL has any control of that!!
Of course the prices aren't out yet, but we are considering booking a group cruise on the 8 night sailing in June 2008. I think this was a great ship for families and out friends and family with small children would love it. Like the 8 night itinerary better too!
Hope I gave a pretty decent description and if anyone has any question, would e happy to answer them if I can!