Let's get right to it. DW and I, Mother and Father, MIL and FIL and Brother and his Friend had 4 adjoining inside rooms on Deck 9. I booked this cruise as a gift for my mother's 60th birthday, and purchased everyone's rooms. This was my first NCL cruise, having been on Celebrity, Princess, HAL and Carnival for longer cruises previously. We favor Celebrity with HAL a close second. My wife and MIL had a very bad experience years ago on NCL when they allowed a ship that was to be retired to make its last 4 cruises with engine troubles and missed ports. In this day and age, a cruise line could not do that without websites like this keeping them in check, but those were the days, as they say. So I convinced them to give NCL another try.
We live in Central NJ, so we drove to the terminal, arriving at approx. 10:30 a.m. and parked with ease. We were one of the first to check in before they moved the computers behind the x-ray machines, so we were on the ship as soon as they allowed boarding, approx. 11:45 a.m.
We ignored the rather insistent NCL employee shuffling the rest of the unsuspecting passengers to Raffles, and thanks to the good advice on this board, took our luggage to Windows to eat lunch after we made dinner reservations at Cagney's for 6pm (we later went to explore the ship and looked at the buffet upstairs -- needless to say, Windows was a GOOD choice). The food was OK, nothing great -- in fact, it was lukewarm, but tasty. The service, IMHO, sucked. Our waiter was just going through the motions, could not be bothered to smile and just didn't want to be there, serving people. If he were my waiter for 7 days, I would not have been happy.
We then went to see our rooms, which were ready at 2, as promised. I thought the room was of adequate size, but needed severe refurbishment, compared to the common areas of the ship. We never saw our steward, but our beds were separated, so we called and asked if they could be put together. One thing that I saw that shocked me was that the room steward had "hours." I had never seen this before. We were outside of the designated hours, so we had to call the purser's desk and ask for assistance.
We then went to explore the ship. I have to admit, I thought the ship was beautiful. It was very tasteful and elegant, with none of the tackiness you would expect from a cruiseship, especially the lobby. The card rooms were very nice, the gym was great with all new equipment and the pool areas, from what I saw, were good.
When we went back to our room, the beds were pushed together, but in the wrong direction, away from the headboard, and with the same two blankets that were on the individual beds -- not one blanket, as should have been the case. We called the purser's desk again and asked if they could fix that during turndown service. They said yes.
We took a short nap and went to Deck 12 to watch the ship depart. We waited for about an hour and fifteen minutes, but no departure, so we went to our rooms to get ready for dinner. We then heard the announcement of the threat. I have to admit, it didn't bother me one bit that they were looking into the threat. I guess I just have become accustomed to living near NYC. Maybe if I had a child (my wife is expecting in March) that was not on the ship I would have paid more attention and would have had to determine whether to leave the ship or not, but it never even crossed my mind. This caused interesting dinner conversation as to whether they would let people off the ship (I said they would have to -- once they cleared the threat) and whether people would get refunds (my answer - no freakin way -- but good luck to those who will try -- and let us know how it works out).
This will be the only thing I say on this topic. In my opinion, you have the right to get off of the ship if you felt that you and your loved ones were in danger, but NO right to a refund from NCL, as they were not to blame. I am saying that as a lawyer and as a rational thinking person. I also did not mind that they would not release any information about the threat. Not exactly textbook police work to release information during an ongoing terrorist threat and possibly assist the terrorists. This is life in the 21st century. Get used to it. It may not be pretty, but it happens.
Anyway, back to the review. We went to Cagney's at 6pm and the restaurant is very nice. Now to the food. Part of it was very good but some of it was laughable. Three people started with the beefsteak tomato and bermuda onion salad. What was served could not have been served in a local McDonalds. Apparently, we were told, apparently as an explanation, that the tomatoes were not fresh, so they were boiled and peeled and sliced thin and served with thin red onion. We all laughed, because the waiter actually thought this was a valid explanation. They were quick in bringing different starters for those who were dissatisfied. I then had the caesar salad, prepared "tableside". We had a similar salad in the Normandie specialty restaurant on the Celebrity Summit, and it was very good, and the presentation was neat. Needless to say, we were looking forward to this. But we were served a standard caesar salad prepared in the kitchen. It was OK, but when we asked why it wasn't prepared tableside, they said there was no room in the restaurant and that it was prepared on a trolley in the back of the restaurant. So the joke for the rest of the night was that it was prepared tableside, just not at the side of our table.
The steaks were excellent. My filet was very tender and the sides were good. I highly recommend the onion shoestrings. All in all we had a very nice meal. I would have wanted to try Le Bistro, but we don't have many people in our family who like french food. Maybe next time on another one nighter.
We then went on deck right outside of Cagney's to watch the ship pass Lady Liberty and the bridge. I've seen it a few times, but it is neat each time.
Off to the SecondCity comedy show. I have seen it in Vegas before, and it was a good show. I loved that the theater actually had theater type seats as opposed to lounge type seats.
Then to the CASINO. I won $450 (craps and BJ), my MIL won $1400 (roulette and slots) and my parents lost a little (slots). My DW went up at around midnight because the casino was too smoky for her. There were $25 limits on most BJ tables, with a $100 table and a $50 table in the mix. There was one roulette table at $1 minimums and the second at $5 minimums, but we quickly found out that that particular table only gave out $5 chips and required you to place three chips on the table. They would not change the minimum to $15 -- I don't think they understood it very well. Craps was $10 and was hopping all night. I got in at a good point, won my money, and left before it went downhill.
At that point, I went to pay off the room bill in cash, and encountered a slight problem. Our entire party was given a $13 per person credit as some kind of promotion we, nor our TA, knew anything about. However, I was the only one with a charge other than the tips on my account, because we do not drink. And we later found out that the credit could not be applied to the tips. The problem was that all the shops were closed and the other 6 people could not possibly spend $72 on soda, so I convinced a very nice NCL employee to place all of the accounts on my credit card so that the Cagney's charge ate up the credits and thus were, in a round about way, applied to the tips. So that worked out well. I would have gladly spent the credit in the shops, but NCL did not advise us about the credit. Kudos to the purser's desk though. They helped a great deal.
I went up to the room around 3am and my wife awoke and told me the problems she had with the steward. Our room was never turned down for the evening, despite the fact that I stuck the "please make up room" sign in the door. Turns out that two of the rooms were turned down and two were not. They also did not change the comforter as we requested. A manager and another steward (apparently not ours) apologized to my wife and put the right sheets on the bed and said that they would make sure that the right people knew what happened. If I had not already paid the bill, I would have asked for the steward's tip to be removed and would have given the gentlemen who helped my wife some cash. But she did not know his name and I couldn't be bothered with complaining at 3 in the morning. It would have sucked to have this steward for 7 nights.
Anyway, we woke up the next morning, had a leisurely breakfast at Windows - the food was very good, service somewhat sluggish and uninspired. We then left the ship and went home.
We had a great time, and although the ship is beautiful, I do not think that we could sail the Spirit for more than the one night. The food is just not on par with Celebrity or HAL. But for one night, it was all we could have asked for.