I traveled on the Norwegian Spirit on July 15, 2007 to Florida and the Bahamas. I have now been home a total of six hours, all of which has been spent posting this review as often as I can so that no one else gets stuck on this ship. Having traveled on more than 65 cruises on all the major cruise lines, including NCL (pre-freestyle), I was expecting a wonderful vacation. I was greatly disappointed from beginning to end. This is a ship that normally carried approximately 2,200 passengers but was filled to capacity with 2,600 passengers. The only positive comment I can make is that the disembarkation system when we arrived back in New York was well organized and extremely efficient. Here are some of the negatives:
* Childcare/Activity Program - the brochure spoke of a wonderful childcare center with activities for all ages. My five year old granddaughter was traveling with me and so I was pleased to see there would be facilities for her and activities to take part in. The ship was traveling to Port Canaveral (with shore excursions to Disney) so there was a strong child presence on board. What is not told to you is that the children's facilities are not accessible unless you are willing to leave your child was a counselor. There is no way to spend any time with your child nor are there any "family" activities. When we inquired as to when my granddaughter could play in the ball area and craft area, we were consistently told the only time would be 5:15 - 6:15 - clearly dinner time for most families. The room sat dormant for much of the cruise because an activity was going on in another section of the play area. This idea of having anywhere between 40 - 80 children with two counselors may be fine for someone who does not really want to spend time with their children and is looking for a 16 hour babysitter, but for those families that want to vacation together, this system is extremely ill-conceived.
* Wet and Wild Pool - in addition to the childcare center, there was a children's wet and wild pool with a hot tub. Wild is a perfect word. There was no supervision whatsoever of this pool for the entire duration of the cruise. Though signs were clearly posted stating that this section was for children 2 - 12, there were adults who spend hours at a time in the hot tub. There were numerous times where there was upwards of 70 children jammed into this pool, many of whom were older than the 12 year old limit and paid no heed to the smaller children trying to enjoy themselves. This section is much too small for a ship that is going to attract children due to the Florida port of call.
* Bedding - I was in cabin 10120 which is billed as an outside stateroom with balcony. This room had a double bed and a pull out couch which was supposed to sleep two. There is no way possible that two people, even children, could have fit in this pull out couch. When opened, the foam mattress sat on a series of eight horizontal wooden slats. These slats fell out of the bed nightly. Once a slat did fall out, you would immediately sink to the fall in the valley that had been created by the missing slat. By the last night on board, I slept on the floor so that the mattress could not fall and do me any more harm that had already been caused. This was not a problem unique to our cabin as I encountered no less than 5 other cabin residents with the exact same problem, all complaining at the front desk. Which leads me to the next item...
* Surly staff members - on the fifth day of the cruise, my cabin door key card stopped working. I could not get into my cabin so I proceeded to the front desk. I told the front desk attendant that my card had stopped working. Her reply was to say, "Well, What did you do to it?" as if I had purposely damaged the card. I replied that I had it in my wallet where it had been the entire week. She grabbed the card, huffed off and made a new one. She then said, "Well, now all the other people in your room will need to get new cards, too." I was apparently an inconvenience to her. At the end of the cruise, luggage tags were placed in our cabin. Despite the fact that you are allowed three pieces of luggage per person, the three people in my cabin were only given four tags. I went to the front desk and asked to please have a few additional purple tags. A different, but no less unpleasant, front desk attendant informed in a condescending tone "Madam, if you had looked in your cabin you would have seen that the tags are there." Definitely not a service professional in any way.
The surliness was not exclusively reserved for the front desk. At one of the first 3:30 trivia competitions on board, Sherma (a member of the cruise director's staff), decided to lash out at all the Americans on board. Sherma suffered from having a little power and it going to her head. At this session she read three different questions about Canada. One of the passengers lightheartedly asked what was with all the Canadian questions. Rather than acting civilized, Sherma stated, "You know, there are other countries in the world other than the US. The world does not revolve around America. You should try to know about all the world's countries." This statement was made all the more ironic when she was unable to correctly pronounce the word Niagara in the next question. When someone corrected her statement of "Nigerian Falls" as being "Niagara Falls" she flipply replied, "Niagara, Nigeria, whatever". Earlier in the day, another staff member (Jeff who normally oversaw the Wii competitions on board) had done the trivia session. When someone at the 3:30 session questioned where he was, Sherma told us that she "was in charge of trivia, not him. He is nothing, he is just the Wii B." How appropriate in a room was numerous children sitting in it.
* Freestyle Dining - while the concept sounds great on paper of not having to stick to someone else's schedule for dining, this system is a disaster. Some of the places listed in the restaurant directory in NCL's brochures, such as the Bier Garten and Henry's Pub, do not serve food all the time but rather only on one day for a limited amount of time. The service in the two main dining rooms is adequate at best. Neither Windows nor the Garden Room (the two main dining areas) take reservations. Therefore, you will end up waiting anywhere between 30 and 40 minutes to be seated and then the meal takes an average of 1 hour and forty five minutes. This is not okay if you have children with you and the ship's attitude of "Well, there is a buffet upstairs" is unacceptable. Having paid for my granddaughter to travel with me, she should be afforded the same meal and setting as everyone else and not be vanquished to a lousy buffet for every meal. The meal takes so long to be served in full, that you will often need to leave before it is done if you have any intention of seeing the show.
The only way to get the service one would expect and the meal you deserve is if you make reservations for one of the following restaurants - Cagney's, Le Bistro, and Shogun. But wait - these restaurants are all an additional charge! So, after paying for your ticket, the only way to get any type of top-notch service is to pay again.
* Shore Excursions - We only signed up for the shore excursion in Florida. Since we had booked this cruise on-line through the cruise line, we had received an e-mail about the different excursions offered. One of the reasons I booked this cruise was so that my granddaughter could get her first taste of Disney World so I immediately booked us on the shore excursion that provided passage to and from the Magic Kingdom and a ticket to get into the park. Thank God I did this advance as those who did not have the advance notification of the shore excursions discovered that the Magic Kingdom excursions were sold out the very first day of the cruise. Numerous families with children were therefore closed out and their only option was to get to Disney on their own. The bus that took us on the 1 hour ride there told us that if we missed the bus it was a $125 taxi ride back to the ship. That means anyone who got closed out of this shore excursion would have to have paid $250 round trip and THEN paid to get into Disney. Nice!
* Pictures - though I surely expected to pay for pictures on board the ship, the fees charged were a lot steeper than they should have been. If you are honest and pay for the pictures, that is. Many people were walking up to the display cases, opening them, and walking off with their pictures. Makes the honest person feel the fool.
If you are looking for a bare-bones, no-frills cruise with lousy service and line after line to wait on this ship is for you.