My boyfriend and I, along with friends, cruised on the Norweigian Spirit Feb. 24-March 4, which embarked from New York City. It was my first cruise and my boyfriend's second (both of his were on NCL, but this was his first "Freestyle Cruising" experience.)
Embarkation went smoothly and quickly for both my boyfriend and I (because of my boyfriend's Latitudes membership, were ushered into an express line), and for our friends, who waited in the line for all other passengers. And, much to my surprise, our room was available within an hour of getting on the boat.
The boat was pretty magnificent on the inside and out. We had a balcony stateroom, and we were thrilled we booked it. There's nothing like getting your first glimpse of the islands outdoors, perched high above the water, and falling asleep to the sound of the ocean waves at night. Inside our room there was more than enough room for movement when we placed our luggage under the available desk and table. Closet and drawer space was more than ample, and we didn't feel cramped in the bathroom at all.
The room was clean when we arrived (with the minor exception of a stained coffee mug), and was kept clean throughout the cruise. Our housekeepers were phenomenal and attentive, especially one who took to greeting me by name every time I saw him after our initial meeting.
The food on the boat was always great-whether in the Raffle Buffet or main dining rooms. Service seemed to take a while in the Windows and Garden Room restaurants, but with a packed house (which we got into with hardly a wait) and four courses, it was understandable. Our group ate several of our meals at Raffles, enjoying a wide selection for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We spent many evenings at Maharini's Night Club, adjacent to the boat's casino. (FYI-we heard that the first two nights are when you'll most likely see a substantial payout-case in point, I turned $4 into $52, while gambling with just $20, during the first night).
The nightly shows that we saw in the boat's large theater were for the most part impressive, although the magic act left much to be desired. The balancing/dancing act, Cameo Rascale, was incredible. The acrobatic abilities of the family of four, including two very young children, were unlike anything I've ever seen. I hope others on future cruises will have the chance to enjoy their act.
Although I'd read some not so positive accounts of the Second City improv act in past reviews, I was generally impressed by them (and not just because they invited me "on stage" for their adults-only, scriptless show in the Galaxy of the Stars Lounge). During their partially-scripted show in the theater another night, they acted out hilarious "reflections" of the cruising experience.
There were very few negatives that I really noticed on the boat, but among them was the noticeable rocking of the boat throughout the trip. While it didn't bring me to become "outwardly" ill, it definitely did a number on my stomach and head. While such movement would be expected for our final sea day, when the weather was bad at points and there were visibly rough seas, I was surprised to feel a similar motion during calmer days at sea. Others I talked to said they'd never really experienced anything like it on other boats. Perhaps it was because of the Spirit's smaller size compared to other ships we saw in port, including an absolutely massive ship from Royal Caribbean's fleet. But I'm no expert, so don't take my word for it.
The only other negative I saw was the price of soda. I thought $2 a can was pretty steep. I know there was a special program for purchasing sodas, however I'm unsure of the details. I didn't sign up at the start of the trip because I wasn't quite sure how much soda I would drink. As it turned out, ginger ale was one of my most common purchases.
Ports of Call Leaving the boat at the Ports of Call went very quickly. In St. Thomas and Tortola, we were met with a number of local taxis to take us where we wanted to go. On both of those islands, we decided to do things on our own and not sign up for NCL's shore excursions. We made it safely to all our destinations, including beaches (Meagan's Bay in St. Thomas and TK in Tortola) and shopping, and were able to get back to the boat in time each evening.
In Samana, Dominican Republic, we went with a Rainforest, Mangroves, Cave and Beach shore excursion, which was beautiful and fascinating. Although there were a few moments of issues with the boat, our guides and captain on the small speedboat that showed us those wonderful sights were responsible, comforting, and entertaining. Our excursion ended at Cayo Levantado, a very nice beach that I wish we could have spent a little more time at.
Disembarkation (Express, in our case) was smooth, once again. As this getaway neared it's end, my group began seriously talking about where to cruise next (my friend's were also cruise newbies). I certainly think I'll be cruising with NCL again.