BACKGROUND-We (2 friends, DH and myself, all early 50s) arrived back from our cruise on the Spirit early April. We had all cruised several times previously, on Carnival, RCCI, and last year on Celebrity out of NJ, so we can't help but make comparisons. We decided on NCL because it was the best itinerary for us out of NYC. Warning LONG review.
EMBARKATION- We took a limo from NJ, arrived around noon. Embarkation not too bad, the lines were long, but moved quickly. Bags were delivered to room around 3. We had to go downstairs to collect the luggage with the wine we brought- we paid the $15 per bottle and were quickly on our way.
CABIN- Our cabin was fine, Our steward however was not. First day we sought him out to request beds together and an egg crate- we got neither. The first night we had to sleep on separate beds, and they are as hard as rocks. We never got the egg crate and ended up sleeping on one of the blankets for some comfort. We had the makings for coffee, but no coffee maker- he said there were none left that worked, also, no extra towels, and often no more ice. However other stewards seemed much better, I guess we just got a bad one. The room was well laid out, and the bathroom was one of the best we've had. Separate toilet area, and a glass shower door. Bring your own amenities- their's are poor quality.
SHIP- We loved the ship, Interesting decor, nice public rooms, a walking promenade on Deck 7 that's better than any I've seen, and nice dining rooms.
DINING- We LOVED Freestyle Dining! We ate early and late (St. Thomas night we arrived back onboard around 9:50pm and still had a 5 course meal in Garden Room) There were no waits of more than 5 minutes. Most of the service was outstanding, but not always consistent. Portion sizes were small, but there was enough to eat, and double portions were easy to get should you want. Dining room dress was casual; jeans were around, but shorts weren't. Tried 2 Specialty Restaurants- both were good, but Main dining room is almost as good.
The food quality was only mediocre. There was just enough choice to keep you satisfied, never delighted. The desserts were a little disappointing, as were the salads. Fruit selection was basic, nothing special. Raffles (buffet) had no trays and could be crowded, however mad to order stations and salad bar were good. The coffee on Spirit was MUCH better than on CCL or Celebrity, and I loved the cappuccino.
PORTS- Although the weather wasn't great during our port days, we had good experiences at all. Went on our own to Cinnamon Bay (St. John) Great Beach, Great Bar with 2-for 1 Painkillers- then went to Woody's for snacks. We used the local dollar bus to Red Hook, a girl at the bus stop couldn't believe they would charge us $10 per person on the regular taxis. All the people were extremely friendly. Tortola, we took a taxi to Cane Garden- great beach, good day. When we came around the mountain back to the ship, there was a huge downpour, the ride was hair-raising. We were soaked by the time we got onboard. Samana, we took advice from this forum and did the ship's excursion to Cayo L. Nice beach, music and chairs. Drinks were reasonable. I thought $29pp was too much to pay, especially as the trip back was on board a little speedboat that may not have been suitable for some passengers (older and handicapped) We didn't care as it had started to pour while we were on the island.
ENTERTAINMENT- Mediocre at best. Production shows were OK, Trio (La Alhambrer? maybe) was laughable. Band at Galaxy of the Stars was barely OK. There was a duo- Millennium Singers (2 girls from Barbados) who were excellent. Trivia games were good, Karaoke seemed fun, but venue (Henry's Pub) was too smokey to stay. Casino was fine (no big wins).Quest was great fun, as were martini clinics!
DISEMBARKATION- Express seemed great for our U.S. friends. Canadians were not as lucky. We had to retrieve our passports and it took a while. Much better on Celebrity last year.
OVERALL- Some things were better and some worse than our previous experiences. Freestyle was great, We'd go on NCL again just for this. Service overall on the ship was good, but not even near as good as Celebrity.Public Rooms were nice, but not as well kept as Celebrity (bathrooms esp). The most noticeable difference however is the demographic. We really enjoyed the family atmosphere on Spirit. Lots of kids (well-behaved) grandparents and parents travelling together. Lots of young people having fun (not disruptive). Last year on Celebrity, (same week)by far the majority of passengers were seniors. This made for a completely different atmosphere. We much preferred the casual atmosphere on NCL, and would trade-off some of the negatives for this major positive.. We would highly recommend this ship, especially for families or groups. Might not be so good for romantic getaway, elderly passengers, or handicapped.