This is our 9th cruise. It is our 3rd with NCL and our 3rd with our children, ages 11 and 8. Our previous cruises have been on Carnival, RCCL, and Cunard. We live in the Boston area and after 2 cruises on the NCL Majesty, we wanted to try a different ship and leaving out of New York was a great option for us because we could drive to the port. We chose to sail on the NCL Spirit for the ports of call, size of the ship, and the affordability of a vacation for a family of 4.
Embarkation: Getting to the port and parking was a breeze for us. We arrived to the pier at 10:15, I dropped off my wife and kids with the luggage and parked the car above. We checked in, got our cards, and went upstairs to wait in the Latitudes area. Up there we met several of our CC friends from our Roll Call. When they announced boarding for the Latitudes members, we all go in two pretty big lines to get through security. It did not take very long and we were on board and having lunch in Windows within an hour.
General impression of the Ship: We loved the ship! The colors, wood, and Asian decorations were beautiful. We loved the natural brightness of the Centrum. The layout of the ship made it easy to get around. Our children have never been on a ship this large and they loved the size and feel of it! The public areas were comfortable and throughout the week we found many areas to sit and relax. The ship was constantly being cleaned and it sparkled. As far as the pool areas are concerned, we loved the kids pool area the best. The main pool was always crowded and it was not easy to get a chair during days at sea.
Ports of Call: We sailed to St. Thomas, Tortola, and Bermuda. We enjoyed all ports. St. Thomas has changed some since we were there over 10 years ago. We went to Magen's Bay. It was a beautiful beach day for us. The beach was crowded but we had no trouble finding a space to put our rented chairs and relax. The water was beautiful, warm, and clean. The only negative comes from getting some food. There was a long line and wait to get some lunch at the beach. It took nearly an hour to get our pizza, we ordered a whole instead of slices, but it was a good value and tasted delicious. My wife noticed people that got into line to the right waited a lot less than she did on the left of the line.
We spent very little time on Tortola. We took a shore excursion through NCL over to Virgin Gorda to explore the Baths. This ride over was a bit rocky but as soon as we got to Virgin Gorda, we knew that this would be a good day. What a beautiful island! The beaches and caves were wonderful, The beautiful blue water and white sand made this a picture perfect location and a wonderful day. FYI! To go to the second beach it is necessary to climb/crawl through the caves. It requires dexterity. If you are unsure you can stay at the first beach as some of our group did and it is just as pretty with much less physical activity. The return trip to Tortola was smooth and sunny!
We have been to Bermuda before but never to King's Wharf. We enjoyed the shopping and found the Snorkel Park, a beach area that is just off of the shopping areas within walking distance. This was a small beach with lots of coral reefs for swimming and exploring. We had a great time there swimming, sunning, and playing with the water toys. It was a short walk back to the ship from the park.
We had smooth sailing and great weather for the entire week. The sun was shining brightly for all 4 of our sea days and I have never sailed in such smooth seas!
Dining: The Spirit has many options for dining. We ate in Windows, The Garden Room, LeBistro, Cagney's Steakhouse, and Shogun. We had lunches in Raffles, Poolside, The Bier Garten, Henry's Pub, and The Blue Lagoon. We found the food to be very good to excellent. Our favorite meals were at LeBistro, which we went to 3 times. We were a bit disappointed with Cagneys. I thought that my filet was a bit tough and the lobster seemed over cooked. I am from New England and I am picky about my lobster. However, the lobster that I had in the Garden Room the day before was better so this was a surprise but be forewarned it comes with a brown sauce that I'm sure you can ask for without. The lobster in Cagney's came with butter. The Filet Mignon in LeBistro was excellent (bigger and more tender than Cagney's, go figure) and a favorite of our 8 year old as well as ours. Our son loved Shogun the best, both for dinner and for the sushi lunches. We had thought that they would prefer to eat at Raffles and the Blue Lagoon but they really wanted to have dinner with us in the restaurants! We ordered the anniversary package and had one dinner alone in Le Bistro. It is included in the package, a really good value since it also comes with a free bottle of wine. We had the Fire Star and it was delicious. It comes to your table on a metal rack which is ignited before it is served to you, a lot of fun! I would highly recommend the fondue and the crème brulee. The cheesecake was ok. We made our reservations for all of the Speciality Restaurants on the first day when we boarded. This process was a bit frustrating. There were 4 NCL staff helping with reservations and when we got to the front of the line, the staff person got up and told us that the other person would help us. The problem was that there was another line of people already there. The lines were already long and it was confusing. After some waiting, we got our reservations. We liked to eat early, between 5:30-6:00, and never had to wait at all when not having a reservation for Windows. Check the Freestyle as well since the early dining is often ½ off and the kids were charged ½ as well, every day. All of our meals were very good to excellent in our opinion and this is based on our 9 cruises on 4 different cruise lines.
Cabin: We booked an inside cabin on deck 5. My wife and I have stayed in inside cabins before. Our children have never stayed in an inside cabin. The Spirit has very limited outside cabins for a family of 4. We knew that the cabin would have 3 lower beds and 1 upper berth. The cabin did have good storage space for us and the bathroom was a good size. We loved the size of the shower and the fact that there was a door instead of a curtain. Our room was clean and our stewards very nice and helpful. Given all this, we did not like the three lower beds, it was way too crowded for us! We were planning on going on the Spirit in 2007 but the cabin limitations have prompted our change to the Dawn.
Kids Programming: Our children participated in the NCL Kid's Program for the third summer in a row. We felt that the kid areas, pool, and arcade were large and our kids loved it. They made friends and really liked the counselors on the ship. We found that our kids liked to spend time with their friends at Kids Crew and time with us and feel that the program offers the perfect balance for a great family vacation!
Staff and Freestyle: We found the staff to be friendly, attentive, and responsive. The service from the staff was excellent in all the restaurants. We especially enjoyed Maria and Maria in LeBistro and Anna, the Head Waitress. They were exceptional. The staff really gave our children extra-special attention and we appreciated it as it made for such an enjoyable dining experience. We could not have asked for better service or attention and it matched or exceeded all of our previous cruising experiences on other lines such as Royal Caribbean and Cunard. We love Freestyle cruising! The option of eating in different dining rooms is appealing to us, We have found the service to be excellent. However, we would not say that people can eat when they want, where they want. We have always been able to do this because we make reservations. We believe that NCL may actually want to market the dining product as a Choice Dining. This change may help the cruiser understand that they can pick the restaurant and the time based on availability. We love that we can choose the restaurant by making reservations. We have never had to wait this way.
Disembarkation was a breeze! We waited until our color tag was called and since we were on deck 5, we were some of the last to leave the vessel. We found our luggage easily and brought them up to our car and we we off without any problems or hassles! By far the easiest departure we have experienced.
We loved this trip. The Spirit is a beautiful ship with lots to do for all ages. The staff went out of our way to make our trip excellent. We met so many wonderful people from our roll call and we look forward to our 2007 cruise on the NCL Dawn!