Embarkation was good. We arrived at the Terminal early. Dropped off my Wife, Son and Mother and went to park. We had to park at a different pier then the one we sailed from. (We sailed from pier 88 and returned at pier 92). I just noted it so you are not confused if it happens to you. The place was crazy with people getting off the Spirit and us getting on. It was organized chaos so don't worry. The lines were long but it moved quickly. We boarded and had lunch at Windows. Nice lunch during which they announced the cabins where ready. We went up and got settled. We had a Balcony room aft, on Deck 10 with connecting doors to the cabin next door (my parents). This was great for us. We shut the doors for privacy but opened them mostly during the day. Makes both of the cabins seem bigger. As for the cabin, it is not huge but it worked for us. We had 3 people in ours so when the pull out bed is out it is tight. Hard to get to the balcony but we managed. Unlike some reviewers we spent some time in our cabin on sea days. (Oh how I already miss our afternoon naps) and it was a beautiful place to spend some time. I really recommend a balcony room if your budget affords. Never had one before but will in the future if possible.
Moving on, we left NYC in overcast and cool the trip down the Hudson went quick and we where on the Ocean heading south. I will note here that the sailing was not always smooth, I didn't mind it much but my wife and son did. No one in our group got sick but it was rough a few times. A little on the way south and a bit more on the way north. Remember it can happen on any cruise you just have to work around it.
Ports of Call: Port Canaveral was really nice, still a little cool but not much anyone can do. We all wore sweatshirts to Disney. Nice excursion. Not enough time for us in the park but still a great day. (It was still spring break according to our tour guide. The park (Disney Studio's) was PACKED.) Travel to and from the port was simple and getting around Disney was simple too. Please remember if you do this excursion and the tour guide will remind you, if you miss the bus back to the port its $144.00 by taxi to get back to the ship. Needless to say, we where very careful to make it back on time.
Nassau: Our favorite stop on the cruise was Nassau. What a beautiful city. We docked near the NCL Gem so that was cool. What another beautiful NCL Ship. Our group took the Pirate Museum Tour. It was much more then I thought it was going to be. I would say the best bang for your buck we have ever had on an excursion. We toured the city and saw most of the major sites. Stopped at Fort Fincastle, walked down the Queens Staircase, went to Fort Charlotte and then onto the Nassau Pirate Museum. The tour brochure said 2.5hours but it was longer then that. After which we walked back to the ship. The straw market was huge. We all noted that it seems like a lot of the same stuff along the way but good selection. We did get a chance to walk through town after the straw market; this is one of my favorite things to do in a new place. Lots of little shops and different things to see. Make sure if you can stop at the rum cake shop. Free Samples and very good. We bought some to bring home.
Grand Bahama Island: You dock about 15 miles from the major shopping/attraction area, Port Lucaya Marketplace. We tried to book an excursion but it was full so we got a shared taxi ($5.00 per rider) and went into Port Lucaya. The island is still recovering from the last hurricane(s) so there are some things that still need repaired but over all a beautiful place. Went shopping and did the beach there. Like everywhere around the Bahamas the water is so beautiful. We only had about 5 hours there so not a bunch of choices on what to do. They have a great shopping area at the Port Lucaya Marketplace, Straw Market area to small shops of all sorts.
On to the ship review: I read about everything I could before we went so I had lots of uncertainty before sailing. I will put this disclaimer in now, I am just one person but the negative things I had heard I never found?? I looked but still couldn't find them. The ship was clean, kept neat and the staff was great. Folks this ship is beautiful. Yes it's not brand new but the design and look inside and out is fantastic. The ship Staff and Personal are top notch. I had the opportunity to attend a party on board with many of the Senior Staff. I was really impressed with them and their attitude. We had wonderful Cabin Stewards Gene and Russ they always a smile on their face and would do anything to make our stay nice. The Restaurant Staff was just as good. If you eat at The Garden Restaurant ask for Dean Walker. Dean is from Jamaica and has such a great attitude and manner. The food as far as our group found was good to great. Always a good selection and choice. We never had to wait more then 5 minuets for a table. The Buffet was nice. It is after all a buffet, lots of choice and lots of food. Always seemed to be crowded. My son loved the Blue Lagoon Cafe on deck 7, as well as the burgers and dogs at the Beir Garten. The shows at night are good. Had a great juggler act Root Berry. The Ship dancer/singers really give it their all. We had a gentleman named Chantz Powell who sings dances and plays the trumpet. If you get a chance to see him it is well worth the effort. The ship orchestra is very good too.
I do have a few negatives about the cruise. Getting off the ship in ports is a mad rush. I don't have the answer but maybe more exits or something could be worked out. In your cabin you can't hear the announcements unless you have your TV on to one of the ship channels. Using the speaker in your cabin too would be better. Next I think they should have the buffet lines better marked. It is hard to tell where it starts or ends.
Disembarkation: Sailed into NYC on Saturday Morning a little late. This is another issue I had. We used express disembarkation (this is where you carry all your luggage and get off first) didn't really have much trouble. Everyone was in a hurry so my advice to all would be just relax a little and it will go so much better. A late note: I just found out that after we got off their was a major delay in getting everyone off. We didn't see this because we where out and to our car. So I guess the express didn't work well for all. We must have gotten lucky to get off early. It did seem busy maybe because the Gem was in port at the same time?
I could go on about this cruise and this ship but its getting a bit long. So I will end with, you may read negative things about this ship and freestyle. You may read a bad review about this same cruise. I can't concur with them and I will stand by my review. This is a beautiful ship, great staff, great food, clean, well kept and a wonderful choice. Some people I suppose will never be happy so don't let them spoil your chance to see some wonderful places and sail on a great ship. I know this might sound too good to be true but we really had a great time so I'm just sharing our experience.