This is my second time cruising and with NCL, and after this trip, it confirmed I would like to cruise for life.
NCL Spirit is a beautiful ship. Although a bit small, but nonetheless it was perfect. We were traveling in a group of 4, my husband, brother and sister in law, and me. We arrived at the dock in NYC at around 10:30AM. The staff there were very nice to us and helped us load our luggage very fast. Also, since we were Latitude members, we had a designated area to rest which had a stand of cookies, muffins, coffee and juice. One thing we didn't like was that we didn't have to wait until noon to check in, but the staff there force us to wait until noon to check in (where we would have to fight with hundreds of other people). Well, we didn't listen to them and went straight up to the counter to check in. The process was very smooth and we were done in a matter of minutes. Then, we were left to wonder around and rest until they call us to board the ship.
Once they called us to board the ship, we breezed through the 500+ people waiting in line to check in and was one of the first people on the ship. People - MAKE SURE YOU CHECK IN AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!!! FORGET WAITING UNTIL THEY CALL YOU TO CHECK IN (EVEN THOUGH YOU'RE A LATITUDE MEMBER, WHICH MADE NO DIFFERENCE ANYWAYS).
We went straight to the Raffles Court for our buffet. The food wasn't good but we didn't care. We are officially on vacation!!! However, I probably would've chosen to go to Windows to have a sit-down lunch though... since we couldn't get into our cabin until 2PM and had a lot of carry-ons. You will DEFINITELY get better food and service than Raffles.
Our luggage came at around 3:30 - 4PM, which is extra fast to our standards. We then explored the whole ship. We also made a good use of this time by making our dinner reservations at the specialty restaurants. If you make your reservations for 6PM and earlier, you get 50% off of your cover charge. Since we were on the sea for 4 days, we made a good use of this special. We also purchased something called "The Passport", which gives you a book of vouchers (20 of them?) to redeem non-alcoholic drinks. I believe it cost about $20. It is a very good deal if you plan to only have about 2 nonalcoholic drinks a day. It's way cheaper than those endless soda cups ($40) which a lot of times you can't even find the staff to fill them up for you. However, personally I would not advise you to order the frozen smoothies or anything beside the sodas. My sister-in-law and I must have tried every single frozen smoothie flavor on the ship and they all tasty nasty!!! They are too sweet or sour, and they make you even more thirsty after you have drank them. So we just ended up getting root beer and go to Raffles for the ice cream to make ourselves root beer float.
You can also sign up for the texas hold'em tournament, bingo, blackjack, and other gambling games at this time. We heard from a lot of people that Bingo sucked so we didn't play. We also didn't play any other gambling tournaments because of personal preference. My husband signed up for the Texas Hold'Em Tournament which turned out to be a huge disappointment and scandal. I believe it was $60 to join/buy-in. Well, you are guaranteed to spend at least $120 (and that is if you're really skilled) for that tournament because for the first two hours, people can rebuy-in at any time. So, in order to stay and beat the game, you have to keep on rebuying in, even though you may have already won a lot of chips from other people.
Something I found fun to do on this cruise was the "Mystery Dinner". It's like the game "Clue". You sit at a table of 6 and you're given a script to read. One of you is the murderer and you have to guess who it is. So, if you're not scared of acting, then it is the must-go event for you!
Entertainment sucked on this trip. The comedian was not funny at all. In fact, he bored me to death and some of the jokes he said offended me. And I am a very easy person to entertain to! My family also agreed with my opinion that the entertainment sucked. We believed the Cruise Director (Julie) could've done a better job with it. However, there was one show we enjoyed a lot and it's a group called "The Second Stage". They perform like the SNL crew and we couldn't stop laughing the whole time they were performing. We loved them! However, all subsequent performances done by them weren't as good.
They have this thing on the cruise ship that's called "Karaoke Dance Head". It cost about $20 to make but it's definitely worth it. Basically, they cover every single part of your body (except the head) with a green cloth and you sit in front of a green back drop. Then, they will show your head on the screen with your selected song, and your body and back drop is replaced by whatever background that goes with the song. You're supposed to pretend sing and move your head. The effect is hilarious! However, the operator wasn't very good at recording the DVD and we almost lost our valuable memories.
Dining - We dined at both main dining rooms, the Garden Room and Windows. They served the same menu on both nights so it's your pick on what kind of view you want. We preferred the Garden Room (although the table is a bit too low) since we're prone to seasickness. Both are very nice and the food selection was excellent. The staffs were excellent and served us well. They are especially a place to be on the optional formal nights (there are 2). However, they only serve lobster tails on the first formal night. Also, you can wear jeans at night to the main dining rooms, as long as they are not ripped.
We tried 2 specialty restaurants: Le Bistro and Shogun. Le Bistro was nice although I didn't think it was as good as how people described it to be. But, I loved the fruit fondue. It was excellent! Shogun was ok since I only tried out their sushi menu. It was just like eating at any other Japanese restaurants. We heard Cagney was excellent and were tempted to try it. Unfortunately, we ran out of time to try it.
We always ate at Raffles Court for breakfast and lunch b/c we had no other choice. We wanted something close by the pool. The buffet food wasn't all that good and the whole time we were there, they served us stir fry. The stir fry was actually pretty good, actually it got better as we cruised along. Maybe we just got used to the taste, or I just started putting some hot sauce in there to get more flavor.
We heard La Trattoria is pretty popular. We wanted to try it out but it was ALWAYS full. Either it's that good or they only provided space for 20 people. I will let you find out yourself.
Blue Lagoon was alright. They served the smallest chicken wings I have ever seen so make sure you order at least 2. The wonton soup was alright, at least you can eat the wonton (when I was on Pride of Aloha, the wonton was kind of raw). Burger and fries are pretty good.
We didn't really try the room service this time because it didn't look like they have too much selection in there. Everything comes in a small size so make sure you order at least 2-3 items on that menu for yourself to satisfy your mid-night hunger.
The public rooms are exactly what the professional review says. Most of the activities are done in the Galaxy of the Stars (which is not big enough to hold a whole ship of people). So, if you think an activity is popular, make sure you go there early to save a seat! Some fun activities there are salsa dance and line dance lessons, battle of the sexes (super fun), the not-so-newlywed game, etc. They also have a dance floor there so put on your dancing shoes!
Cabins - My husband and I stayed at an inside room, my brother and sister in law stayed in a balcony room. Both are very nice, depending on your preference. Obviously, the balcony room is a lot bigger. Both rooms have ample space to put your stuff if you're just traveling by 2 people. Make sure you bring a clock, hangers, and outlet strip. The power is the same as what we use in US, so no need to bring a converter. The shower is quite big and they provide you shampoo, conditioner and body wash. I wasn't used to the shampoo and conditioner because it made my hair all dry and tangled, so I brought my own. They have a hair dryer in the bathroom (look and feel like a vacuum cleaner) and it does the job. I wouldn't risk blowing out the electricity in your hallway.
The rooms are just big enough for 2 people (you have to put your luggage in the corner of the room). There is a dresser stand, small love seat and a night stand. It was tight but cozy. For the inside room, the third bed is a pull down from the wall and the fourth bed is underneath one of the beds. I wouldn't recommend squeezing a 4th person in that room. 3 is the max.
We did not book any of the shore excursions through NCL and have opted to plan our own. Our sources all came from this message board which I want to thank the fellow cruiser for everything!
St. Thomas - We actually opted to go to St. John for the day since we heard they got better beaches there. As soon as we got off the ship, we were being swarmed by so many taxi drivers. Well, don't take their taxis because their price is so expensive... like $50 to Red Hook Ferry (takes about 20-30 min to get there. We walked out of the ferry terminal and the shopping area and turned left. Maybe about a mile down is the Kmart. They have a local "bus" there (it looks like a Ford pickup truck that's converted in the back... in fact, taxis look like that too). It doesn't operate on a set schedule but it comes pretty often. Best yet, it only cost $2 to go to Red Hook! Yes, $2! However, be ready to sit with a bunch of local people since this is a local "bus". So, if you see a "bus" that's filled with local people, that's the "bus" you want to get on! Well, we were stopped by a taxi driver who offered to take us to Red Hook Ferry for $25 before we found the bus stop. So, another lesson learned... the farther you get away from the cruise ship (we were only a couple hundred feet away), the cheaper the taxi price.
From Red Hook ferry, you take the ferry to Cruz Bay - St. John. I believe the ferry comes every hour but check the schedule. Once we arrived at Cruz Bay, we took the $6 per person taxi to Trunk Bay (very nice beach). There are two other nice beaches in between that you can go to, but Trunk Bay is the most popular. It's a very nice place to go snorkeling. The water is calm and there are plenty of fish to see. Unfortunately, we didn't see any sea turtles, which was at the top of the list for what we want to see.
We thought we couldn't bring food from the cruise ship, since that's what they say in the Latitudes. Well, no one checks you when you get off the ship so if you want to be economical, you can bring your sandwiches, cookies, etc. from the ship. Otherwise, plan to spend about $10pp at Trunk Bay.
On the way back, we found the $2 bus. It will bring you directly outside of the ship terminal. We opted to go to Kmart and buy some liquor. Well, it wasn't worth it because I think the NCL sells them at the same price or Bermuda or Tortola sell it for cheaper.
Tortola - We were ready to get off the ship at 7AM. But, we found we were the first one to get off. We thought we would be fighting off herds of people like other times, but surprisingly, no. We walked about 10 minutes along the waterfront to get to the ferry terminal to Virgin Gorda (The Baths). Well, the ferry wasn't due to leave until 9AM and we were too early. We took Speedy's ferry to Virgin Gorda but there was also another ferry called Smiths (I believe).
The ferry ride is about 40 minutes. Once we get off the ferry, we took the taxi to the Baths (part of your ferry ticket). To get into The Baths, you pay $3pp and you walk down a hill to get to the beach. Then, once you get to the beach, you turn to the left (where the rocks are) and that's the place you want to be. Go through the rocks (Devil's Day trail) and you're going to come to an amazing view and a beautiful beach. It's a good snorkeling and picture spot. However, you have to return to your original beach in order to catch your taxi back. Some people said there's a route that will take you to the taxi stand but we opted to go through the rocks again. It takes about half an hour to get through these rocks since many people may be in your way and it's a very narrow space.
Bermuda - Once you get off the ship, try to go for the ferry to Hamilton. Then, take the #7 bus around the southern half of the island until you get to the Horseshoe Bay, which is famous for its beach and pink sand. We found it to be ok, but that's after we saw so many beaches already. Horseshoe Bay got an area by the rocks that is calm and great for snorkeling. On another side, it's got the regular beach that we see in NJ Shore or Ocean City MD. Hamilton is a very nice little town with many small expensive shops. You can definitely tell this is a British town.
Some people said Snorkel Park by the cruise ship is nice. It is not. We were first excited to be there but the smell just overwhelmed us. It just have been some sulfur or garbage smell. Well, we didn't dare to go into the water.
We had fun walking in the shopping center around the cruise ship. We saw the blow glass factory and tasted some of the rum cake. It is a must-see while you're there.
Overall, this cruise was excellent. I would definitely go on it again. Let's just hope they do something about the entertainment and that buffet.