Embarkation was a breeze. A work pal and I took different modes of transport to NY. I was afraid that Ernesto would hamper air travel from DC, so took Amtrak, she kept her flight without any delays or problems. We met at the pier at 11 am and were on board by 1:00. (The ship was 2 hours late arriving. We did hear that folks arriving later than us waited in line for longer). We first ate at the buffet on the 12th floor, then went on a self guided toured of the ship. We were able to make reservations for the gourmet restaurants in the lobby, which was quick, painless and easier than traveling to each restaurant.
St. Thomas: I took the excursion which offered a ferry to St. John and then a bus ride to the National Park. Not to be missed it's gorgeous. Rain showers put a damper on swimming the full afternoon, but it was well worth the time and cost.
Tortola: Took an excursion to the beach, Garden Bay. It was delightful! I loved the water; there were stands to purchase trinkets at the beach. Outside of the pier, there was a straw market set up on return from the excursion. Again, trinkets were available for purchase. I found the sellers willing to discount items.
Getting on and off the ship in Bermuda was a breeze. This time I walked ten minutes to the Snorkel Park and was not disappointed at all. The water was as beautiful as expected and there were multitudes of fish to see. The Park also offers slides for children. There is no charge to enter the Park, rental fees for chairs and umbrellas. Snack bar doesn't sell bottled water, but juices and sodas. Food prices were extremely high at the snack bar, so eat at the ship first (hot dogs $6, hamburgers $8.50).
The gym provided all the equipment anyone could want. The Aquaswim was a great alternative to the pool if you wanted to swim for exercise. There are two and a sign reads, ½ hour limit per person. It was great!
The shows were ok and entertaining. The comedy shows were ok. I missed Radio Days which other folks on the ship loved.
Cagney's Steakhouse: Excellent Boston Lobster and Filet Mignon. Seating at solid tables and enough space between tables. Side dishes of vegetables were good and the dessert was excellent. ($20-$25) Sushi Bar: Was outstanding! The two chefs were efficient and friendly. The al la carte menu is so inexpensive and there is an extensive menu. This was my favorite spot for lunch. ($2 per order) Service was outstanding! Shogun: Offers a selection of Chinese dishes and you can also order Sushi. ($12.50-$15). Service was outstanding! La Trattoria: Requires reservations but there is no charge. They petition off about 25% of the buffet and offer Italian dishes. The food was ok but service was outstanding!
The Main dining rooms were as busy and hectic as you would expect. The food quality was ok and I wasn't impressed with the service but for the price, how can you beat it?
The restaurants and buffet food was much better than I anticipated after being on the Dawn in June. In fact it was great! The buffet: For breakfast there is made to order omelets and waffles and at lunch made to order stir fry noodles. Tea time offered the usual assortment of pastries and my favorite scones with cream hand dipped ice cream and tea sandwiches.
The Bar above the pool has a grill which served pork burgers and sausages and fries, daily for lunch. The quality of pork burgers was excellent and this place offered a variety of interesting salads and sauces each day.
In a nutshell, I wasn't anticipating the great quality and variety of the food on the Spirit, so I was well pleased and surprised. NCL should take a look at the differences between the offerings on the Dawn and Spirit and get the Spirit chefs on board!
The cruise offered the typical contests by the pool each day at sea.
The casino was a lot of fun and the machines were hitting enough that folks kept at it. They have the ticket in ticket out system for ease. They offered a Texas Holder tournament, a slot tournament and a Black jack Tournament. All were great fun!
Disembarkment NYC was simple and timely - we choose Express and were in taxis by 8:30am.
All in all the cruise was so much better than expected. The ports were excellent as were the gourmet restaurants. It's ironic that the Dawn is rated higher (June cruise) as the Spirit was delightful and less expensive.