Some background on us- 14th cruise for me and DH, and 3rd for 6 year old DD. Have sailed NCL twice before in the'90's when it was not Free style cruising. Choose this cruise because we could drive to N.O., and the itinerary looked interesting.
Embarkation in N.O.: Very easy and fast. NCL saw our 7 bottle of wine on Xray and we paid the corkage fee. Very smooth process. Water and cookies provides while you wait. We were in the 1st group to check in and the 1st group on board. Went straight to Windows for lunch (thank you CC members!)
Cabin: The 2 beds weren't pushed together but Radolpho our room steward corrected by dinner. DD was Supposed to sleep in the upper pullman, but the rail was only 2 inches higher than the mattress, so that was out. Our chair opened to what looked like a very uncomfortable single bed, but DD slept great on it with no complaints! Room was cleaned every morning when we ate breakfast and then again at dinner. Got towel animals 2 nights which was fine. The bathroom was bigger than some other cruises- liked the door on the shower - no nasty shower curtain! Closet was big and had 5 shelves for stuff. Dresser had 4 drawers -plenty of room in the cabin to store 3 people's stuff, including Santa presents that we had to keep hidden for a few days! I also brought some garland to decorate for Xmas and used 3M removable hooks to hang our stockings.
Food: We were pleasantly surprised. Maybe we went in with low expectations after reading the reviews, but the food overall was really good. Had 2 avg dinners at windows and the rest were great. Ate at Cagney's and it was OK. Didn't think it was worth the $20.00 Per person. Had a hard time getting that reservation too. DH was told nothing was available before 10:15pm for the 1st or 2nd night when he went to the reservation desk on embarkation day at 3:00pm (we wanted a parent's night while DD was at kids club). I stopped by the desk 3 hours later and spoke to Jane. She very kindly said she would be able to find a table for 2 at either Le Bistro or Cagney's, and we chose Cagney's. We liked Freestyle dining. Worked well for our family that we weren't stuck with set dining time. We liked that we could eat just the 3 of us. Also liked not having to dress up too much.
Crew: We were worried because we had read that maybe this crew wasn't as friendly and the service was lacking. This was not our experience. DD met Maria, one of the cruise staff, at the Sail away party and danced with her for 30 minutes. Everyday when we saw Maria on the ship she would stop and give DD a hug, and knew our names! Christian at Wii each night was very friendly and had the right personality to handle the pre-teens. Wait staff was as good as previous cruises. In Windows 1 morning for breakfast, I asked if they had any sliced fruit for DD. Our waitress brought a cereal sized bowl full of sliced strawberries. Also had another great waiter from Jamaica (Forgot his name!!) who was super and stopped by our table on another night when we weren't in his area, just to say 'hello'. The entire crew was very sweet to DD and always made her feel special.
Kids club: Let me say,that when NCL canceled 1 port and people were unhappy, DD's response was "Yea!! another day for kids club." DD LOVED kids club and would have been content to spend every hour it was open in there- but DH and I wanted some family time with her too! Counselors knew her and us on sight. DH and DD discovered Wii about 1/2 way thru cruise and stopped by each night to play(we don't allow any video games at home so this was a big deal). Most of the kids were 10+, but took her under their wing to teach her. One more word about the kids- Although this was a Holiday sailing and we were told there were over 500 kids on board, it never felt that way. The ones we saw around the ship were very well behaved. Even the older kids at Wii each night took turns and helped each other(There was that 1 little girl at Windows 1 night who screamed and threw fits throughout dinner, and her parents who did NOTHING, but that is the Parent's fault)
Ports: Roatan- DD and I did the dolphin/beach party excursion. Met up with DH at the Beach party. Dolphin excursion is expensive but thought it was worth it. Got about 30 minutes in the water with the dolphin, in groups of 8 people. Our dolphin was 2 years old and was not always in the mood to follow the trainer's commands, as compared to the other dolphins we watched...Tabayana beach party was beautiful. DH got a great spot right at the water with an umbrella. BBQ lunch was disappointing. BBQ chix, Hamburgers and hot dogs, coleslaw and fruit. No desert. Expected move food and more variety. Beers were $3.00 for local, and they were ice cold!
Belize- booked our own excursion with Coral Breezes tours for the Tropical Island escape to Caye Coral. We were a little dubious when we met up at the port- ship was open air and smaller than expected for a 45 minute boat ride -didn't match the picture in the website, and we took off 1hr late. However we ended up have a nice day. Caye Caulker is how we imagine Cozumel used to be 30 years ago. Very laid back. Walked to end of the island and snorkeled and then ate lunch.
Cozumel- 6 ships at Cozumel that day. Cudos to NCL to getting there early and grabbing a place to dock. The line for the other ships who had to tender was long! We were the 1st people to Paradise beach. Great Guacamole and salsa! Beach was nice and empty till about 11am, then got pretty crowded. Still fun..
Entertainment- never saw a show. I know, I know...its just not our thing. Saw some of the pool games- typical cruise stuff.
We think this was a great vacation for our family. Food and service better than expected. DD had a great time with kids club. Would sail the Spirit again- she is a beautiful ship- very tasteful decor, and well maintained.