Here is a review of our cruise on the Norwegian Spirit from 5/19 to 5/27. This was an 8-day cruise sailing from New York City to Bermuda, Tortola, and St. Thomas. This was the 9th cruise overall and 5th cruise on NCL for my DW and I (50 years old). We have also sailed with Carnival and Royal Caribbean.
Embarkation Day (5/19)
It was a cold raw rainy day to start our cruise. This was the first cruise we have been on that did not have a sunny day to start our trip. We are from Connecticut and live only an hour and a half from mid-town Manhattan. We drove to the city and arrived at the port at 12:30 pm. We were greeted by the sight of three cruise ships; the Spirit, the Dawn, and the Carnival Miracle along with the rush of passengers for all three ships. We drove up to the parking lot above the piers, paid $180 (by credit card), and rode the elevator down to our pier with our luggage. As we walked into the lobby for the Spirit after giving our luggage to a porter, we were directed to a row of seats to wait to be called through security screening and then wait to be checked in and given our keycards before boarding. They did not have a Latitudes waiting area, instead there was a separate line after the security screening area that was much shorter than the general passenger line. We were on board the Spirit by 1:00 pm. We had brought two 12-packs of Diet Coke with us and the screener did not ask us to open our carry-on bag as we went through the x-ray machines.
Since we had an hour to kill before going to our cabin, we went to the Windows restaurant for a sit-down lunch. After which we took a stroll around the ship before heading down to our cabin to drop off our carry-on bag.
Last year while on the Norwegian Dawn, we signed up for the now-defunct Rewards Program. This allowed you to book a future cruise and be treated as if you were a gold level Latitudes member. One perk is that you get a Welcome Aboard fruit basket and a bottle of wine. You also get to have concierge service and priority in making reservations which we did not take advantage of.
Once we went to the cabin at 2:00 pm, we perused the freestyle daily to get an idea of what we wanted to do for the rest of the day. After the mandatory life boat drill at 3:30 pm we returned to our cabin to find that our luggage had arrived, so we quickly unpacked before heading topside for the sail away.
We were scheduled to sail away at 4:00 pm, but it was well after 5:00 pm before we pulled away from the pier. Sail away in New York harbor is always fun and inspiring with the ship going by the Statue of Liberty and then under the Verrazano bridge before hitting open waters. The rain put a damper on this, but people were lined up along the rails to watch and film the event anyway.
There are only two main dining rooms that do not require reservations or added fees, Windows and the Garden. Windows is much of an elegant room, but since we had been there for lunch, we went to dinner at the Garden restaurant. We arrived at 6:15 pm and found a short line waiting to get in. After only 5 minutes we were brought to a table for two by a window. Everyone seemed to be seated quickly except for larger parties of guests (6+).
We enjoy trivia games, so we went to the pub trivia in the Shanghai Bar before heading up to the Stardust Theater for the "Welcome Aboard" Show hosted by the Cruise director Darin. The show was only a half hour long and showcased the various musical acts to be found on the ship each evening. They included a duo called Pryme Tyme singing pop hits, Randon Lauron singing and playing guitar, Ariel Jacobe playing piano and singing Sinatra-like songs, the Alambre Trio playing and singing pop songs, and Next Stage which was a quartet that was terrific. All were good.
The evening ended with a comic in the Galaxy of the Stars room named Greg Vaccarello. He was Ok, but we thought he was struggling to have a PG show. He did set up his final joke quite well.
Day at Sea (5/20)
The temperature was still cool, but it was a partly sunny day. The hot tubs were filled by people all day long while the pool was fairly empty.
For those people interested, they had a sign-up for a murder mystery dinner that would be held the evening we would be leaving St. Thomas.
They had a cocktail party for Latitudes members in the Galaxy of the Stars in the afternoon where you meet the Captain and his staff and they give out small prizes (we remember when they used to give away a free cruise for two, but those days are long gone). It is a nice casual hour to relax and meet other passengers while listening to music.
For dinner, we went to Windows at 7:00 pm and were seated immediately at a table by a window.
The main show for the evening in the Stardust was called "Standing Room Only". It was an hour of Broadway songs performed by the cast of Norwegian dancers and singers. The dancing was pretty good, but the pace is fast and it seemed like they trying to fit in as many songs as possible within the hour.
In the Galaxy of the Stars, they had the traditional "Newlywed not so Newlywed" game which was a fun time. There is usually at least one couple that makes some wild comments.
King's Wharf, Bermuda (5/21)
Forget about sleeping in late. They start making announcements at 7:00 am to let you know they have arrived and are docked at the pier!
It is a sunny and comfortable day with a slight breeze. This was our second time at King's Wharf and we will be coming back to Bermuda in September for a week long cruise out of Boston, so we decided to just take a short walk off the boat after breakfast.
The Watchtower Mall is across from the pier. There you will find a variety of shops and food. There is an internet cafe called the Swiss Connection where there charge $5 for a half hour of internet access. There is a nearby small man-made beach called Snorkel Park that is near the Maritime museum and the Frog and Onion Pub. You can rent chairs and umbrellas and there is a bar with drinks and food called Hammerhead's.
If you interested in going to other parts of the island, there are buses, taxis, and ferries continually running. The ship is in port until the 3:30 pm all aboard.
We are the only ship at the dock in King's Wharf, but we watched the Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas sail into Hamilton across the bay from us.
We received a plate of chocolate-covered strawberries from Latitudes (for members with 5 or more Norwegian cruises).
We enjoy the port days, because the pool area is less crowded. We like to find a shady spot near the pool to take a quick dip in the hot tubs and pool.
For dinner, we went back to the Garden at 7:15 pm and were seated immediately at a window table again.
The main show in the Stardust has former soap opera actor Jeff Trachta (the Bold and the Beautiful) singing and doing impressions.
They had a Country Western Hoe Down hosted by Darin in the Galaxy of the Stars later on in the evening.
Day at Sea (5/22)
It is another cool cloudy rainy day. It was funny to head up topside early in the morning, for a run on the running track, and see books placed by chair hogs around the pool area getting soaked by the rain.
For fans of the soap opera, "The Bold and the Beautiful", they had a question and answer session with the actor Jeff Trachta in the Stardust Theater.
They had another Latitudes cocktail party hosted by the Captain at 7:00 pm in the Art Gallery near the Casino and Le Bistro. This party was for passengers that have sailed 5 or more Norwegian cruises. After the party, we ended to the Garden at 7:40 pm for dinner and were seated immediately.
The main show in the Stardust is a funny show by two comic jugglers that go by the name Sharkbait. We had seen them six months ago on the Star and they were just as funny as before. They have a lot of energy and were the best performers on the ship.
They had the 70's Disco Groove party in the Galaxy of the Stars later on with men dressing up as the Village people singing "YMCA".
Tortola, BVI (5/23)
It is a sunny and warm day. After so many cool days, it seems very hot. We are docked at the pier in Road Town by 11:00 am. We are the only ship in port this day.
We took a walk off the ship to check out the shops in Road Town. Once you go past the gates to the pier there are plenty of vendors with souvenirs as well as a few pubs. We were approached by several cab drivers offering us a 2-hour tour of the island in their air-conditioned vans for only $15 per person.
We returned to the ship to spend the afternoon by the pool for a very relaxing time.
In the afternoon, we found a tray of cookies compliments of Latitudes in our cabin.
The ship left Tortola by 7:00 pm and we went back to the Garden for dinner by 7:30 pm for immediate seating by a window. We felt that the service in the Garden was faster than the Windows room.
The main show was "America's Best" which highlighted the Spirit's singers and dancers with various types of music.
St. Thomas, USVI (5/24)
Here is another morning where you are woken up by loud announcements at 7:00 am! Because St. Thomas is the first stop after visiting a foreign port, all passengers are required to go up and identify themselves to local officials. You hear constant announcements asking you to go upstairs and to be processed.
It is another sunny and warm day. We have been to St. Thomas several times before, so we decided to stay on board and enjoy the peace and quiet of the emptied ship.
Across from the ship at the dock is a small shop with internet and phone connections. There is a free shuttle that runs all day to take you to a nearby dockside mall and a cable car ride up the mountainside by the ship.
On the other side of the harbor in Charlotte Amalie is the cruise ship Caribbean Princess which added a few more passengers strolling around the harbor town.
For a while we watched as cruise staff members were being trained for an emergency. They had a group of about 15 staff put on life preservers, jump into the water, and then one-by-one flip over an overturned life raft by themselves.
Sail away was 4:00 pm this day.
We went to Windows for dinner at 7:00 pm and were seated immediately by a window.
The main show was the Second City Troupe with their scripted show. This was our third cruise in 12 months. On the previous two cruises, they also had the Second City and each show was the same so we walked out after a few minutes. I guess we still don't understand what is so funny about Second City because it seems so hit or miss with their act.
They had the Liar's club in Galaxy of the Stars later on that was much funnier than the Second City. The panel included Sharkbait, Darin the cruise director, and the comedian Greg.
At 10:30 pm they had a rock n' roll sing along in the Raffles amphitheater led by Darin, Ariel, and Randon which was fun.
Day at Sea (5/25)
Sleeping at night was difficult due to moderately rough seas. The waves were 4-8 feet and the ship was swaying quite bit. You knew it was going to be a long day when you saw barf bags placed in all of the stairwells. It was another rainy day as well. They had the pool closed all afternoon due to the rough water. Most passengers seemed to adapt to the swaying quite well and we saw a lot of people spending the day lounging and sleeping around the ship in chairs and sofas.
After lunch, we walked by the Windows dining room and saw a huge line for the Chocoholic Buffet at 1:30 pm.
The main show was called "Retro Active" with the singer/dancers giving a show with songs from the 60's to 90's. At the end, they bring out representatives from the crew to sing a goodbye song and "We are the World".
The Second City Troupe had a script-less show in Galaxy of the Stars which we left because they followed the same format as previous cruises. We have another cruise booked for September to Bermuda. We are hoping they don't have a Second City troupe on that ship as well. Day at Sea (5/26)
The sun was out, but it was cool with the wind. The hot tubs were full, but the pool was sparsely used.
This was our last full day on board. We spent the afternoon walking around to say good-bye to crew members that had been very helpful to us. We then went back to our cabin to pack our bags before heading out for dinner. That way, we would not have to worry about packing when we got back to our cabin later on in the evening after the shows.
We went to the Garden dining room for our final dinner at 7:00 pm. As usual we were lucky enough to be seated immediately along a window. There was a wide selection of food to order each evening in the Garden and Windows dining rooms. It is not 5-star food, but we were never disappointed.
They had two shows in the Stardust Theater. The first was a Spirit Crew Talent Show and the second was another show by Sharkbait, the comic jugglers.
Later in the Galaxy of the Stars, they had another comedy show by Greg Vaccarello and then they had a good-bye Rock n' Roll party led by Darin on guitar with the best band on the ship called Next Stage. It was a fun way to end the cruise. As the average age of passengers change, it is fun to see and hear more rock songs, but we still enjoy hearing big band dance songs as well.
As for cruise directors, Darin was OK. He was rarely seen around the ship and seemed to prefer playing his guitar and singing versus meeting and greeting passengers. (He is a good guitar player though) The rest of the cruise staff were terrific whenever we ran into one of them.
We arrived back to New York City on time. They started making announcements fairly early to let you know that once the ship has been cleared, they would start to announce the tag colors of luggage of passengers that could begin to proceed off the ship. We had white tags which were one of last colors to be announced and we were in no rush to get off. We went up to Raffles for breakfast and then took one last stroll around the ship. The Carnival Miracle was at the pier as well. By 10:00 am, they finally announced that passengers with white tags could head down to get off the ship. We went back to our cabin to get our carry-on bag and then headed down to disembark. Since we were one of the last groups to get off we found our bags very easily and we back in our car leaving the pier by 10:30 am.
We really enjoyed the layout of the ship. DW cannot be in the sun and there were plenty of places on deck that provided shade. We thought the toned down colors of just black, gold, and wood tone was a great combination compared to the garish/gaudy colors found on most other cruise ships. There were plenty of nooks and crannies inside the ship that offered seats and tables for quiet reading, resting, or people watching.
The Shanghai Bar next to the Blue Lagoon must be next to the meat locker. It was always cold.
The Galaxy of the Stars room is where they hold a lot of activities. It is much smaller than most rooms like this on other ships. There are only a few rows of seats between the bar and the dance floor area so you would need to arrive early in order to get a good viewing seat for events.
Henry's Pub is one of the few inside areas where passengers can smoke. We avoided this room for the entire cruise as the smoke is pretty thick and we do not smoke.
The Stardust lounge is found aft and is accessible through decks 7 and 8. There is a small dance floor area before the rows of seats begin. The first row is reserved for passengers willing to pay a minimum of $20 or so for drinks. The view is great from most of the seats so sitting in the first row is not necessary. We found it easier to leave the room by going up to the deck 8 exits to avoid the crush of people trying to go out of the deck 7 exits.
The Bier Garten Grill is a great place for drinks and food under a large canopy that overlooks the Tivoli pool area. They have great bratwurst and sausages along with burgers and hot dogs.
Raffles Buffet always had a wide variety of food available. We had read about people complaining about the set-up and seating, but we never had a problem finding a seat. They don't have trays, so you need to get your food plate, find a spot to leave it, and then go for your drink.
The art gallery is located opposite Le Bistro and is above the casino. It is interesting just walking around and checking out the different artwork they offer during auctions. We still don't know why anyone would want to go on a cruise to buy art, but then again we don't buy jewelry, liquor, or electronics either.
We booked an inside cabin (9101). We like to sleep in on our cruises and not have daylight wake us up. This cabin's set up is slightly different than most inside cabins as you enter the room at it's side with the beds to your left and the closet and bathroom to your right. This cabin was mid-ship and situated only a few decks away from most activities. The room has four beds. In addition to the two twin beds, there is one bunk bed that pulls down from the wall and there is a roll-away bed under one of the twins.
There is no fridge in the cabin, which we knew. We brought a small collapsible cooler bag to hold our soda and ice along with beers we would buy on board. We never had a problem asking for extra ice.
There is a small hair dryer in the bathroom. DW has short hair and it still took a while to dry her hair. There is one plug in the cabin that is 100 volts, but is only rated for 500 watts which limits using a large hair dryer. There is a 220 volt plug, but you will need a converter to use this one. You can buy one at AAA for about $25.
The shower stall has a sliding glass door. The bathroom set-up has plenty of room.
The closet had about a dozen hangars, but we had brought our own.
We were able to store our two large pieces of luggage under one of the beds.
Don't forget to go to the casino for your daily free spin on the free cruise slot machine. You will need to sign up for a casino card first (which is free). This was never posted in the freestyle dailies, but the days and times for the free spin are listed on a schedule found above the machine that is in the back of the casino near the disco.
They have different color carpets in each of the three stairwells to help guide you around the ship. Red (red ahead) is fore or the front of the ship. Blue is mid-ship. Green (green back) is aft or the rear of the ship.
In the Galaxy of the Stars room, you will find a stairwell down to the captain's bridge. You go into a room to observe the bridge and the crew in the running of the ship.
We only used the main dining rooms so we did not go to the specialty restaurants. They did have a special throughout the cruise where Cagney's (steak) and Le Bistro (French) were half-priced between 8:30 pm and 9:30 pm. The Shogun restaurant always seemed to be busy.
You can ask for an iron and ironing board to be brought to your room.
For any ship board activities run by the cruise staff, it seemed that they did not give away prizes to the winners. Instead, they give everyone a Sports Afloat card and the staff member initials the card each time you participate. If you win, they add additional initials to the card. At the end of the cruise, you redeem your card for a small prize (deck of cards, pens, paperweights, t-shirts). This way, everyone is able to get something for participating in events (trivia, putting contest, etc.) instead of just the winners. We were able to each get 16 initials (mainly by winning some of the trivia games) so we qualified for Sports Afloat t-shirts.
Deck 13 has a jogging track that is 300 yards long that is open 24/7. One end loops through the Bier Garten area, so it gets a little congested during the afternoon.
Halfway into the cruise, they offered laundry service. The charge was $20.00 for the clothes you could fit into the bag that was provided.
We are tea drinkers. We brought covered thermos cups with us to use in the morning to get tea and milk to bring back to the cabin in the morning before breakfast.
On board, you have to sign out for towels to use by the pool or to take off of the ship. They take your room number and will charge you $25 for each towel not returned.