We were on the 5/19-5/27 NCL Spirit sailing to Eastern Caribbean with stops in Bermuda, Tortola, and St. Thomas.
Background: We are a couple from the suburbs of Philadelphia in our 30's and this was our first cruise. We were traveling with 3 other couples all who have cruised before but never with NCL. I did a lot of research on NCL on these boards before the cruise.
Embarkation: New York City! Wow...there were three ships leaving that day and it went really smoothly. We got there about 11:30 and we were told the ship will not board till one. We sat in a waiting area and they started checking us in soon after we sat down. All four couples were checked in and on the ship with great ease.
Day 1 (At Sea): When we got on the ship we were told that our staterooms would not be ready until 2:00. Our friends convinced the staff to let us to our rooms so we could drop off our carry ons since we brought a lot since we traveled by van to the pier. We were lucky enough that when we got to our staterooms they were done. So we took advantage of that time to get a few things settled and decorate our doors. My bar set up was in the room when we got there. The room was nice. The beds were OK...we didn't have any major problems with them. The toilet area was small. The shower was nice and everyone agreed that they liked having shower doors instead of a curtain however it was very hard to shave your legs in that shower (that was the feeling of all of the women in our group and we are a variety of heights and sizes). The balcony was nice but it definitely showed some wear. Everyone thought the balcony chairs were very nice. The thing everyone was most disappointed about with the room was the closet space. There really isn't enough. We made do however. We took some time to explore the ship for a little while. Our group had all received the Coupon books from our travel agent so we all agreed that we would try Cagneys on the first night. We went by Cagneys and were told that the reservation line would not open till 4 but I decided to call early anyway and made the reservation for our party of 8 with ease. We then headed up to raffles at about 2:30 to grab some lunch. We missed a lot of the chaos in there because we went later. Raffles is very good if you know what to get. We had some excellent sandwiches and hoagies! We loved our chicken salad sandwich! We then went for our mandatory muster drill and this was chaos. Definitely not organized like it should be. We headed to our station and one of the employees actually told us that we belonged on the other side of the ship. We started to head to the other side and were told again we were going the wrong way and that we were originally on the right side. I would hate to see this play out in an actual emergency. Our luggage did not get up to the room until about 6:30. It seemed like we were the last people on our floor to get our luggage. We unpacked until dinner. We had dinner at Cagney's at 8:00 p.m. They seated our party in a private room which was very nice! The dinner was excellent but we did find that the service was a little slow.
Day 2 (At Sea & Optional Formal Night): The weather was really terrible and the ride was very rough. There was a lot of people getting sick. We took the time to explore the ship further and hit the casino for a bit. I thought the machines were ok....I am not a big gamble but they let me play for a while which was nice. I really loved this push quarters game that you normally only find in arcades. this one was for actual money. I was addicted. Our group dressed up to the nines for our formal night and I would say that about 65% of the ship dressed up. The dinner was excellent. Afterwards we went to see a Broadway review show in the theatre and it was pretty good.
Day 3 (Bermuda): By today I had learned one thing for sure...Never trust the Freestyle daily for a weather report. They predicted the weather to be mostly cloudy and 72 degrees. Well when we pulled into Bermuda it was a clear sky! it was probably about 76-78 degrees for the day. We did the Ultimate Catamaran Swizzle Excursion. Boy was that fun! This excursion is true to its name and its description which was the bottomless rum swizzle and it was very good! Our glass never went empty as they were always coming around with a pitcher to refill it. They took us to the shipwreck of the Vixen and we saw a see of fish! We then traveled further so we could get in the water and cool off, snorkel, or hang out on this little private beach. The water was a little chilly at first but you got over it quick. The water was clam and gorgeous! By the time we got back to the boat we were not feeling any pain. When we got back on the boat we were ready to cool off on the ship in the pool however the pool water was so hot it was not even relieving. I heard a lot of complaints about it. We just hung out for a while for some sun and then went back to our room to shower up and go to dinner. That night we went to the casino again for a little entertainment.
Day 4 (At Sea): Well the weather was lousy and rainy again so we were inside for most of the day. The first thing I did was go first thing in the morning at about 7:45 to get in the reservation line to book a reservation for out group in La Trattoria. I thought this would be easier and assure me the Time I wanted going down there first thing. the Reservation desk was about 5 minutes late opening and I was about 6 people deep in the line. In the middle of making my reservation for 8 at 7:30 she told me it had become unavailable....after she had already told me that it was...and she told me the reservation line must have booked it quicker then her. She then went on to say that the maximum she could accommodate at that time was a party of 7. I worked in the restaurant business for a good portion of my life and there is no difference between setting a table for 7 or 8 (three on each side, one person on each end). Oh well, a slow hostess landed me in the 8:00 spot.
Day 5 (Tortola): The weather was hot. We docked at 11 and DH and I got off the ship around 12. We walked around the area where vendors were set up with shopping and then we decided to take a taxi tour on our own for $15 per person. We got a lot of scenic pictures of the island. We stopped at Cane Garden Bay and we were going to stay at the beach for a while and then go back we decided not to because the beach was over crowded. Overall although there are some scenic spots in Tortola, I was not impressed.
Day 6 (St. Thomas): This was the last day we would be blessed with the nice weather. We were told the night before that when we pulled into port at 7 am customs officials would have to board the ship and give us all clearance since St. Thomas was considered our re-entry into the United States. DH and I decided to get up early and do that first since people with excursion tickets were being taken first at 7. If you did not have an excursion ticket you were taken by floor...and we would have gone at 8. We got in line at about 6:40 and we were about 20 people back. We were so glad we didn't wait until 7 am cause the line was ridiculous however the line went really fast because friends of ours went to the line at 8 a.m. and said it only took them about 10 minutes. We did the Magen's Bay Beach Getaway excursion. We could have easily don this on our own but it was inexpensive so it wasn't a big deal. What a beautiful beach! I would highly recommend going there. After the beach we did some shopping. I only wish that St. Thomas was a longer port because no one gets off the boat at 7 and having to be back on by 3:30 is just way to early. There really is not enough time to fully enjoy everything St. Thomas has to offer...not to mention St. John which we plan on going to next time. I much preferred the Tortola hours of 11-7.
Day 7 (At Sea): This was another optional formal night although it was poorly advertised in the freestyle. It basically only announced the formal night while trying to push their pictures so by the time we really realized that it was formal night no one wanted to dress up. DH and I dressed up a little and decided to get pics taken. I was disappointed with how most of them came out and the one I really liked I did not end up getting because I thought $25 for one 8 x 10 was just too steep a price. We went with another couple late that night to a comedy improv show in Galaxy of the Stars and ended up walking out in the first 5 minutes because it was really stupid. We then headed down to the casino and another couple that we traveled with was heading up to the comedy show also. We told them not to bother but they decided to see for themselves. They were back within 10 minutes. This was also the day of the Chocoholics Buffet. There is really some communication problems on this ship. The buffet was set to open at 1:30 so we went down to Windows at 1 to wait in line. we were down there a good 10 minutes with a few other people before the staff that was standing there with us decided to tell us that they would be forming the line upstairs! the buffet however was awesome!
Day 8 (At Sea): The instructions were very vague for some of the things that you have to do to prepare for disembarkation. The freestyle daily said that you would be able to pick up all of you liquor between 6-10 in the conference rooms. We headed up there because we had purchased liquor in St. Thomas so we thought that we would need to pick it up. Then we waited in line for about 15 minutes only to find out this was just a line for people who had liquor taken from them and that our purchased liquor would be delivered to our room. I would say that we were confused because this was our first cruise however a gentleman next to us stated that he cruised with NCL before and always had his liquor delivered and did not know why they were not doing it this time. He also thought he would have to pick it up so they confused a NCL veteran cruiser as well.
Disembarkation in New York City: We were scheduled to disembark at 10 a.m. but we were docked before 8 a.m. We went to Windows for breakfast as it was open from 7-9...Raffles was open from 7-10. We told the hostess that we had a party of 8 and they actually tried to seat us at 2 separate tables! We told them we did not want to separate and that we then pointed out a round table for 8 people that we wanted to sit at. We were told that we could not sit at that table because there was no server assigned to that station. Again being in the restaurant business for so many years....that answer was a no-no. If you have a table that a guest wants to sit at and there is no server in that station you ask another server who is close by to pick that table up! We returned from breakfast by 9 a.m. and a floor was pretty much deserted. We were unsure if our color was called. Our color was called shortly after and we exited the ship by about 9:15. Although the disembarkation was rather smooth and quick, the unknown time change left us outside on the curb in NYC with our baggage waiting for our van that was not scheduled to come until 11 a.m. because disembarkation was scheduled for 10.
Our Biggest Rave about this cruise was definitely the food. I will go through the different restaurants that we experienced ad give you our opinions:
Raffles Breakfast: Raffles was ok for breakfast. I think some people expect to much out of a buffet. It is basic breakfast. It is not top of the line but the food is edible. Raffles Lunch: The sandwiches as I mentioned were awesome! Our crew loved the hoagies and the Wok dishes to order. Go to raffles knowing what it is and what food it is good for and you will enjoy it as our group did. We did not dine in Raffles for dinner. Windows and Garden Room (main dining rooms) We very much preferred the elegance of Windows. The breakfast in Windows was very good. The dinners were excellent. All of our group firmly agrees that we thought the food was excellent. The service was also very good. We never once ordered our dessert the same time as our meal. As far as the portions go...We have some big eaters in our group...many night there were two entrees ordered with no problem. I personally would rather have small portions and be able to try more things. Some dishes were plenty and some were very small it depended on the entree. DH and I would often order an extra dinner to split between us of something else off the menu that we wanted to try. Friends of ours ordered 2 themselves. I always felt free to order whatever I wanted and however much I wanted of it.
Cagneys: We very much enjoyed our meal at Cagneys however I do have some mixed emotions on it. We went on a 2 for 1 coupon that we received so we only paid $20 per couple. I am not sure that the experience in Cagneys would have been worth $40 per couple; I do believe that the price is steep and believe me when I tell you I have no problems paying for food! Service that night was rather slow but efficient. I would go during the advertised discount times which on our cruise was 8:30-9:30.
La Trattoria: Again we all very much enjoyed our meal here also. However, For Italian cuisine I did think that the menu as extremely limited and did not even offer some of the basic Italian choices such as Chicken or Veal Parmigiana. I can see where this menu would disappoint. We had really good service here. Blue Lagoon: One word...Burger!!! The burgers here are awesome....we tried a few other thing like wings, fish and chips, potato skins....all which were ok but the burger never disappointed!!
Bier Garten: Burgers and hot dogs always a good lunch treat! Room Service: Continental Breakfast was fine and delivered right on time. Somewhere on the boards I read about ordering a grilled cheese off the kids menu and I must second that vote....we loved the grilled cheese! It was a hit with all! Plus you get chips with it!!!
Our Biggest Complaint about the cruise was the obvious lack of communication on the NCL spirit. We had a good time overall but we definitely have our concerns about NCL. We will be sailing on Carnival next year.