Background - We booked this cruise about 2 months ago and got a pretty good rate. It was the week after Spring Break, so we had to take DS out of school. Since he has never missed a day of school yet, I didn't think twice about taking him out. My family included me, DH, DS 6 1/2 and DD almost 3. My mom and almost 21 year old brother and girlfriend came with us, too. I have been on 3 cruises in my life, when I was younger (with a friend's family). I have cruised on the Celebrity Horizon two times to Bermuda which I absolutely LOVED! I also cruised on Carnival Celebration to the Caribbean and I absolutely HATED that one. My last cruise was about 14 years ago.
Embarkation at Manhattan Cruise Terminal - We got to the terminal a little before 11am. We were dropped off by my brother in law. Once we got out of the car, a porter was there immediately and made sure we had tags on our luggage. Then he took them and we were on our way inside. I was surprised that there were no crowds yet! We were waiting for my mom, brother and his girlfriend to arrive, so we didn't check in yet. We waited for them at the area right when you enter the terminal. They finally got there at about noon...and so did everyone else! Our bags went through the X-Ray machines, and we went through the metal detectors. We were carrying a case of wine with us and we were waiting for them to tell us where to go with the box, so we could pay the corking fee. Well, no one ever said a word! They let us carry this big box with us onboard. We brought a bottle of wine to dinner every night and never did have to pay any corking fees. We opened the wine in our cabin before we got to the restaurant each night. We were finally able to board at about 1:30 or so. Once onboard, they directed everyone to the buffet (Raffles) or the Garden Room. We walked right past the Garden Room and there was a HUGE line. I went right to Windows and it was EMPTY. I think there were only 4 tables occupied in the whole place. Of course, we got a table RIGHT by the windows. While we were eating, there was an announcement at 2pm that stated our cabins were ready.
Cabin - We were in cabin #9077 and my mom, brother and his girlfriend were in cabin #9075 right next to us. They were inside cabins and they were SMALL!!!!! When we got into our room, they had it set up so that the two beds were pushed together to form a queen bed that was pushed towards the right hand side of the cabin. On one side (where the pull down bed was) we had a stroller open and left it there at all times. There was plenty of room to leave the stroller up - never had to fold it and put it away. There is one 110 volt plug by the vanity/desk area. There was a note on it that said NO HAIRDRYERS! It was sufficient for my straightening iron and for charging our cell phones and such. I took a power strip just in case, but never needed it. I did buy a converter and a dual voltage 1875 hairdryer and used it in the 220 outlet. It worked out PERFECTLY. There were some shelves by the TV with drawers below. The closet was roomy with about 10-15 hangers already in there, and it also had shelves off to one side. The safe was also in the closet. Even with this storage, I don't know what I would have done if I had forgotten to bring my hanging shelf closet organizer. This added 4 (or was it 5?) more shelves to the closet, and we used it for all the kids clothes. There were 2 corner shelves on each side of the mirror. This was fine for toothbrushes and such. There was a bottle of lotion, a shower cap and a shoe mit when we checked in. They never did replenish the lotion as we used it. We never did ask, though. You are given beach towels and if you don't have them in your cabin at the end of the cruise, they charge your account $25 ea. for them. They change them for you each day. Our room stewards were pretty good...we had only 2 towel animals all week, which I thought was a bit strange considering they knew we had two small children in our cabin. Oh well, they work their butts off...so we only got 2 towel animals. Not a deal breaker for us. We handed them extra tips every couple of days.
DINING - I can't say enough about the dining on this ship! We loved every meal...well, almost every meal. When we got onboard, we went to Windows. I have to say, this was by far the WORST meal of the week. Well, maybe I shouldn't have ordered a cheeseburger as the first meal on the ship...what was I thinking?!? The service was REALLY bad. I hoped this was not setting the stage as for what was to come during the week.
WINDOWS - We only had a few meals here...two lunches and a dinner. Both times for lunch, we had the same server. He was UNBELIEVABLY SLOW both times. For dinner, it was AMAZING. We went on Lobster Night, the second night of the cruise. None of us ordered Lobster, since we heard it was frozen. People walking out of the dining room who had ordered it said it wasn't that great and that you were able to tell it was frozen. I ordered Beef Wellington, DH, my mom and brother ordered duck and my brother's girlfriend ordered the fish (not sure what it was). Everyone loved their food, and our waitress was GREAT. She was from Indonesia and we had a GREAT time talking with her that night.
CAGNEY'S STEAKHOUSE - We made ressies here as soon as we got onboard. We had coupons buy one get one free, so we decided we'd get the most bang for our buck here. The meal was FABULOUS!!!! It was ALMOST perfect. DH ordered a Porterhouse ($30 surcharge instead of $20) and it came out well done, and he ordered it medium. The Maitre'D came right over and sent it back and ordered a new Porterhouse for him. By the time it came out, we were all finished with our dinner. He picked on it and we all tried it...it was AMAZING, as was all of our meals. My mom had the chicken, my brother had the 8 oz Filet Mignon, his girlfriend had the salmon and I had the NY Strip. All cooked to perfection! We got a bunch of sides and loved EVERYTHING. The kids ordered from the kids menu and I took them to the kids club as soon as they were done eating, so we were able to linger there over the rest of our meal. The desserts were outstanding! They made Bananas Foster every night, to order. We got a few of those, a few cheesecakes, a chocolate explosion or two and an apple pie. Everything was SUPERB. They didn't charge us for DH's meal at all. We liked it so much, we went back on Friday night, the last night of our cruise. DH was even able to order two entrees without additional charge. LOVE CAGNEY'S!!!!!!!!!!
SHOGUN SUSHI AND ASIAN FUSION - DH and I were able to go to Shogun alone, while my mom, brother and his girlfriend took the kids to Windows. We ate at the Sushi bar and it was AMAZING! The $15 surcharge is for all the Sushi you can eat. We had a great waitress named Hilaria and overall, this meal was GREAT. We liked it so much, we booked it again for all of us. The next time, we sat at a table since there were 5 of us (the kids were in the Kids Club!) and my mom doesn't eat Sushi. She ordered from the Asian Fusion menu ($10) and we all ordered from the Sushi menu. Hilaria even let us order appetizers from the Asian Fusion menu...whatever we wanted. She was great! Food, service...everything was superb.
LA TRATTORIA - we ate here at about 9:30 one night. DH stayed in the cabin because the kids were sound asleep. I went with mom and my brother and his girlfriend. I heard not so great reviews on this place, but decided to give it a try. Boy, am I glad we did. I ordered the mozzarella with tomato appetizer and I don't think I've ever tasted better mozzarella in my life! And I'm Italian!!! It was delicious. I had Penne Pomodoro, a small salad and a chicken breast for dinner. Everything was cooked to perfection! We all enjoyed everything. They even made up a FULL meal to take back to my cabin for DH.
RAFFLES COURT - It was your basic buffet. Nothing really stands out for me, except for the Tacos at lunch one day. They were GREAT! And wouldn't you know, I looked for them every day after that and they were nowhere to be found. Oh well. Anyway, we ate breakfast here EVERY morning. There was something for everyone. After breakfast hours, it seemed they served lunch/dinner type foods all day long. I don't think it was ever officially CLOSED. There was a small ice cream station that had 3 or 4 choices each day, with cones, sprinkles and sauces. No whipped cream though, the kids were bummed about that. Just kidding, it was great! At breakfast, they had many drinks that were included...water (as always), milk, cranberry juice cocktail, apple juice, orange juice, iced tea, coffee, tea and hot chocolate. I think there was more than enough to drink! I took a big thermos and filled it some days with water or juice, to have in the cabin for the kids.
There was always food by the pool and at the Bier Garten for lunch, and it was decent. The burger was MUCH better than the burger I had at Windows! LOL
BLUE LAGOON - GREAT comfort food! When we first got on the ship, we walked right through it. I thought it would be bigger than it was. I had the Buffalo Wings a bunch of times and they were great! DH had the Wonton soup, Chili and Chinese rice and loved all of it. My brother was addicted to the Chicken Fingers all week. He ate there a minimum of once or twice every single day. It was always hot and fresh, no matter what time!!!
ROOM SERVICE - we utilized it a couple of times for the kids. Ordered Grilled Cheese and potato chips...it was basically cheese on toast, with a few layers. It was pretty good!
TIPPING - as you may or may not know, they have AUTOMATIC Gratuities on NCL. I like this idea. But when we had GREAT service (at dinner every day) we ALWAYS tipped extra! We also gave our room stewards a few bucks every couple of days. They kept our room really neat and clean and ALWAYS had our soft sided cooler filled with fresh ice!
Kids Club - We signed both of our kids up as soon as we got onboard. The ONLY time they let us into the Kids Club was when we were signing them in for the week. Otherwise, it was an ADULT FREE ZONE. I really liked the idea that no Adult was able to just walk in there at any time. It seemed much safer that way! Both kids loved it...I had one in the 2-5s and one in the 6-9s. They went just about every hour it was open. We signed up for the Kids Club dinner, too. They take about 25 of the kids to dinner at Windows. If you want to do this, sign up early! They only have 25 slots and those go quickly.
Arcade - It was a very nice size! All of us loved to go and play Air Hockey in there. DD just sat on all of the motor cycles and pretended to play. She had a blast!
The Buccaneer Pool was so nicely themed! But it was FREEZING COLD!!!!!! The kids went down the slide ONCE and that was it. DH had to go in to catch DD since she is only 2 1/2 and can't swim yet. He was so shocked by how cold it was! And on the TV, it said it was 80 degrees. NO WAY!
Tivoli Pool - it was nice, but I expected it to be bigger. The deck around the pool was small and if you weren't there early for a beach chair, you were outta luck. Luckily, we were able to get beach chairs each day when we wanted them. They had entertainment many times throughout the day here, as well as a couple of Casino Games.
Port Canaveral - We got to Port Canaveral and were REALLY disappointed in the weather. It was very overcast and windy and it certainly did not feel like a Beach Day. We planned to go to Cocoa Beach, but decided against it when we got off the ship and realized how chilly it was. There was NOTHING to do in the immediate area, so we got back on the ship. Most people went on Excursions to Disney World or Universal, which would have been fine. We decided against that, since we go to Disney World every single year and thought it would be a waste to spend that kind of money for just a few hours in the parks. For someone who won't be able to get to Orlando in the near future, it's a great way to spend the day.
Nassau - We actually got into port over an hour and a half LATE. That was a bummer, since Atlantis was waiting for us. I booked a room at our timeshare (Harborside) so we would be able to access the facilities for the day. After walking through the straw market and getting a cab, we went to Atlantis. After checking in and getting our bands, we went to the new Kids Splashers Pool. It was a great addition! I haven't been there in 2 years and they were just building it when we were there last. There were 5 water slides and many other things for the kids to do in that area. EVERYTHING closed at 6! So at 6, we got out of the pool and just walked around. We have vacationed there 5 times already and haven't been there for 2 years. Just walking around the resort, checking out the amazing Marine Habitats, made us REALLY miss it...I think we might spend a week there next year, but who knows. It was a very nice way to spend a few hours. If I would have paid the big bucks for the Excursion Fee to go, I would have been UPSET since you only had a few hours to enjoy all of the slides and such. Atlantis is such a beautiful place. I highly recommend a vacation here!
Grand Bahama Island - We didn't bother getting off the ship here at all. It was REALLY industrial area, but I have to say the water was ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS. I was sunburnt from the day before so we decided to forego the beach and stay onboard.
ENTERTAINMENT/ACTIVITIES - We didn't participate in much, and that is OK. There seemed to be something going on all the time! We saw a few shows that were GREAT...Second City Improv Group is just INCREDIBLE. I saw them a few times and thought they were great each time. I saw the Broadway type of show earlier in the week and thought that was good, too. I played Bingo a couple of times and didn't win. Oh well, better luck next time.
CASINO - I don't gamble...at all. But DH and my mom do. DH plays the table games and mom plays slots. I heard there were NO free drinks in the Casino, so when I read there were free drinks when the Casino opened as we left New York, I was the first one in there to get a few freebies. They served Rum Punch and it was REALLY good! I do have to say, they actually did serve free drinks most days, between specific hours. They served the free drinks to those with the Casino at Sea players card. DH won 2nd place in a Texas Hold Em Tournament, and 1st place in another Texas Hold Em Tournament! He didn't place at all in the last one he played in, oh well
Deck 8, Champagne Charlies, is a great place to sit at night. They have a great bar there with live entertainment each night. It was so nice and relaxing!!
Deck 7, The Centrum - it was really nice! My 2 year old called the Window Elevators a "GAME". She always wanted to play the game! It is so simple and elegant, not loud and gaudy like other lobbys I've seen. There was also a Dining Reservation Desk that opened at 7am each day, which was great.
Deck 13 was windy while we were at sea...the only time I was up there, was to get a soda at Bier Garten or hang out while DH played Basketball.
Soda Card - DEFINITELY worth it if you like soda! I love my Diet Coke (I don't drink coffee or anything) so for me, it was worth it. I got one and my mom got one. DH drank water the whole time...when he didn't have a beer or a Johnny Walker Black in his hand!
Disembarkation - We chose a later time to get off the ship. We got ORANGE luggage tags, which meant we would be getting off the ship at approximately 12:20pm. We had a nice leisurely morning...went to Raffles, walked around the ship some more, went to the arcade until they called our color. The ship seemed SO empty at this time! At about 11:30, we got off the ship and were pleasantly surprised at the lack of crowds getting off the ship and in the luggage area. We decided to get a Porter to take all of our bags to the street. Boy am I glad we did! The Customs Line was about an hour long. With a Porter, they have their own lines and we were whisked right to the front and had to wait all of 5 minutes. It was GREAT! I also heard some people who got off earlier in the morning and those who had EXPRESS Disembarkation, had to wait as much as two hours to get off the ship and get their luggage. Do yourself a favor...plan your Disembarkation to be LATER and you will be pleasantly surprised with how relaxing the whole process is!
Overall...we had a WONDERFUL time. Would I cruise Spirit again? DEFINITELY! I just might reconsider the itinerary. This cruise, was to experience the Cruise in general. We took the time to relax and enjoy the ship. For our next cruise, I'd like to go to nice and interesting ports. I hope I can talk my husband into it again!!!