The 6 Day Florida/Bahamas out of NYC Spirit Cruise was my first cruise ever. My boyfriend and I selected this voyage to celebrate our 2 year anniversary. This review comes from the perspective of a mid-twenties cruise newbie.
Embarkation: We arrived to the pier in NYC around noon. Pick-up/Drop-off there is quite competitive between the taxis and other drivers. However, once there, we gave our luggage to the porter and had a very easy time locating the processing area. Waited on line after line for an hour or so, but we continuously moved forward. Processing was a snap and we were on the boat before we knew it.
Once on the ship, we were escorted to the Grand Centrum where we waited in a slow line to make our specialty restaurant reservations. We dropped our carry ons off in our inside stateroom; and by 2:00, we were sitting in Raffles Court enjoying an embarkation lunch. Once finished, we went to the Bier Garten on Deck 13 to view the NYC skyline as we glided past it. Party music was blasting from the pool and everyone seemed to be in high spirits. When we passed The Statue of Liberty, the DJ played "Proud to Be an American" for a movement of campy reverie. We found this to be a pleasant touch. Fortunately, we experienced surprisingly calm seas and beautiful weather for the duration of the trip. After a few drinks to celebrate our vacation, we poked around the ship and returned to our cabin. At 4:00, our steward delivered our luggage where we unpacked and were out and about by 4:30.
Our Cabin: When booking, I explained I wanted as little rocking as possible. Our room was inside stateroom 6081, dead center of the ship. It was small but not tight. Before we arrived, our 2 twin beds were push together to make a queen. Space was limited, but we defiantly had enough room, since we are fairly tidy, to hang our clothes in the closet and slide the suitcases under the bed. I bumped the ladder for the optional bunk-bed and it crashed to the floor. We stored that under the bed as well. The bathroom was tight but designed so that the sink and shower recessed allowing plenty of room for the toilet, which was angled into the center of the bathroom. Not once did we feel confined. This was just right for two people. The room was always immaculate and serviced twice a day, once to tidy up in the morning, and once to turn down the bed, complete with mints on the pillows, each evening. Our steward brought us an ashtray which was also emptied twice a day. Despite the number of cigarettes smoked, the room never smelled like it. Nor did the bathroom retain any unpleasant odor. Ventilation was excellent!
The only minor complaint I can come up with is the inconvenient staircase, which was the only accessible one that lead to the other decks. Even though we were right next to The Garden Room (mid) we had to walk to the for set of stairs, back-track across Deck 7, and down the mid stairs to go down to Deck 6 to access the dining room.
This brings me to the food.
DINING: The food ranged from good to excellent. I wouldn't rate any of it as poor since it all qualified as edible and no one (at least not that we knew of) became ill. We had a decent variety but did not try every restaurant. Each restaurant and dining room came with a small menu, 4 or 5 appetizers, some soups and salads, about 5 pr 6 entree selections and about 7 deserts. Here is what we thought of each:
Windows Main Restaurant: Huge! There were hours of operation which made it nearly impossible for us to make it on time for breakfast. Though we were ready to go at 10:00, we still missed it. I am not a breakfast person and this defiantly did not turn me into one. I would only classify breakfast as 'good' while I always found something to enjoy, the specials were much more enjoyable than the staples of the breakfast menu. The Chocoholic Buffet is not to be missed!
The Garden Room: Identical menu to Windows. But, the seating is much more intimate. We ate dinner here a few times. The main dining room dinners were 'very good'. Each night had a different theme. Since the portions are small, we ordered everything on the menu we fancied. The variety from night to night was great, each dish had a unique flavor and was presented beautifully, and we always left satisfied. Service was a bit slow in the main dining rooms, as NYers, we are accustomed to 45 min dinners, but each sitting took 60 to 90 min.
Raffles Court & Terrace: It's a buffet. My BF loved eating there for lunch. The regular food was buffet quality, but there are several specialty stations which included waffles, omelets, crepes, stir-fry and ice cream. The food here was always the same. Not my top choice, but I'd rate it as 'good'. There was a decent variety to select from, but nothing extraordinary.
Blue Lagoon Cafe: Granted this 24/7 cafe was limited, but we found everything 'very, very good'! We got food from here at least once a day. Seating is limited, but they gladly wrapped everything up and allowed us to take it wherever we pleased.
Cagney's Steakhouse: Excellent! The lobster was bland, but everything else was very tasty! Our server was more attentive here and the meal was much more timely. We feel it was worth the extra money.
Le Bistro: Outstanding! The steak was better here than it was at Cagney's. The French cuisine was rich and so tasty. Service was the same level as we received at Cagney's. There are many exotic things on the menu (such as fois gras and escargot) and it is well worth the money!
Along the lines of the restaurants, I will note the abundance of hand-sanitizers located around the ship. They are at the entrance to every restaurant and every public room. This is a very clean ship.
THE PUBLIC ROOMS: Again, we didn't go into every one, but here's what we did see.
The Tivoli Pool: Medium sized and deep. It ranged from about 5'10" to 8' and you had to hang on to the wall which was always crowded.
Maharajah's Casino: Small (in comparison to Las Vegas) but there was more than enough machines, tables, and activity to accommodate everyone who wanted to gamble. There was a great variety in slot machines including penny to $25 slots, all of which seemed to have a decent pay-off. There weren't many tables, but even at its busiest, the casino had available seats. We liked the midnight munchies buffet (fruit, cheese, cookies, and some kind of hot finger food.)
Golf Driving Net: Small and nicely maintained, got the golf bug out of my BFs system for a while.
Basketball Courts: There is 1, and its always occupied.
Ping-pong: 4 tables, never a long wait for one.
Shuffleboard: 1 located on the Promenade of Deck 7. It was always occupied.
The Library: Quite and intimate. There was a decent selection of books and crossword puzzles available daily.
The Picture House: NCL Photographers are everywhere! At every port, restaurant, party, and gangplank. There were even a few "Professional Portrait" sessions where one could get beautiful shots taken at no cost. Everything is displayed in The Picture House, organized by day, time, and event. Once we located all of our photos among the thousands and thousands (not as difficult as it sounds) we purchased only 1, of us with the captain on formal night.
Speaking of purchasing:
THE SHOPS: There are a few duty free locations which sell everything from booze and cigarettes to fine jewelry for very cheap prices. Also, the Galleria sells Spirit merchandise for typical gift-shop prices.
BARS & LOUNGES: Booze is rather expensive and there are no buy-backs. Places such as Henry's Pub and Champagne Charlie's Champagne Bar have a huge selection of cocktails, wine and beer. There is often live entertainment and activities going on. We are not huge drinkers, but did indulge in the evenings, mostly sticking to the Buy 5 get the 6th Free beer deal. We racked up about $350 in booze on our bill; but we were sober 98% of the time.
ENTERTAINMENT: Very good. We were very amused by Ed Alonzo and Second City. The Stardust has stadium seating so each seat is good. The Galaxy of the Stars has plenty of seating, but only a few hundred chairs provide any kind of a view. This was a problem for us when we saw The Second City's Adults Only show and whenever we played Bingo. Those good seats went to the people who arrived very early for the events. Throughout the ship, there are very talented bands, singers, and even a DJ providing fun music.
My boyfriend took advantage of the fitness facilities, this is what I gathered from him. Roman Spa & Fitness Center: Many treadmills and ellipticals, and even a few weights. The jogging track is almost a wasted effort since, even though parts of the track are sectioned off, it circles part of the Bier Garten and helipad. Understandably, there were always people in the way.
The only draw back to the Spirit is that there is no direct way to get anywhere on the ship. There are only 9 elevators which seem to stop always stop at every floor since every passenger wants to take advantage of them. We took the stairs. Until I got my bearings, I wandered in circles around the ship. Pretty much everything needs to be accessed off Deck 7, except for Deck 13, where there is only 1 bank of elevators (mid) that travels all the way up. It was inconvenient to navigate.
To sum up, the ship is lovely! Asian décor lines the walls. The carpets, and floors, while showing signs of use are in excellent condition. The Grand Centrum is simply elegant, warm, and very lively. I was pleasantly surprised after studying the deck plans to see that while everything is really laid out on top of everything else, it never felt crowded of congested (with the exception of the first 2 games of the recent Boston Massacre) where every Yankee and Red Sox fan was crammed into Henry's and The Shanghai Bar. Everything is immaculate and several times, the crew was seen cleaning the decks.
Every member of the crew has a smile on their face. We got little personal attention with the exception of 1 server in the main dining rooms we were fortunate enough to have several times (when you find the great ones, you can request them.) Any question or concern we had was answered quickly and very politely.
EXCURSIONS: These were limited to only a few hours in each port, which other passengers were displeased with. But we understood when we booked that this was the case. We stayed on the boat in Port Canaveral. A few hundred other passengers did as well and we all enjoyed the on-board activities. We played 2 rounds of Pub Trivia and I made a flower lei at Arts & Crafts. It was actually a very relaxing and pleasant day.
Nassau: We shopped in the straw market and went to the Pirate Museum. Frankly, I liken it to the dirtiness of shopping on Canal Street in NYC. It was a hoot to be in these shops, but the people on the street were predators. Smiling, they offered us favors then stuck out their hands and said "Give me money". They were very pushy and relentless. The Spirit provided us with coupons for certain shops that we took advantage of. With free tote-bags from Del Sol (changes color in the sun) and a free bracelet from Diamond's International (which we had to go to 4 before we found the right one) we spent money on souvenirs for the folks back home and booze which was confiscated while re-boarding the ship and returned to us the night before debarkation. The Pirate Museum was interesting and since we wandered there on our own and only paid admission, we saved $20 each. It's small, but cute. I'm glad I went once but wouldn't do it again.
Great Stirrup Cay: Absolutely gorgeous! It was a little tropical paradise. The tendering service was efficient since there were 3 boats constantly traveling from ship to land and back again. We loved the Island Party at night and rented a raft for $20 where we took turns diving off of it to go snorkeling. The bathrooms were a hike from the beach.
DEBARKATION: This was a mess! We elected to do the Express Debarkation, which I now realize other people who opted to leave their luggage out the night before had a much easier time than we did. It seemed like the majority of the ship chose our method, completely congesting the halls, elevators, and stairways of Deck 7 at 9:20 in the morning. Not only were there a lot of bodies, but all the luggage as well. The deck was blocked off, so more and more people kept building up in the tiny corridors. A crew member finally yelled for all of us to clear the way, but there was no place to go! After what felt like about a half hour, they started to let us on the deck a few people at a time. Once across the gangplank, we were out. But this seriously was the worst part. It was disorganized, chaotic, and the corridor capacity was quite overestimated by NCL. They NEED to re-vamp this system.
Overall, I loved this cruise! Freestyle was the perfect way for us to do it. There was no pressure to be someplace at a certain time. We were allowed to come and go as we pleased and enjoyed every minute of it.