My mom, nephew, his g/f and I left NYC on 5/17 for our Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Spirit. My bro-in-law drove us from our home in Northern NJ to the pier. The traffic was insane as we approached 55th St. Not at all as free flowing as when we left on RCL from Bayonne in 2006. I had ordered a wheelchair for my 88 year old mom so she wouldn't have to deal with the steep ramps. We waited in the terminal for over an hour when I finally told my nephew to go on ahead with his g/f and we'd meet them on board. It seems there were around 15 people waiting for wheelchairs and only 2 wheelchairs in service. We were each given a number, ours was number 8 and after sitting in the terminal for ages, we were finally taken to the ship. Once we got mom into the wheelchair, everything went quickly. We got our room keys and onboard in record time.
Once onboard, we headed to Raffles for a bite to eat. The place was a madhouse! Tables were full up for the most part but we finally got some food and sat down only to be approached by a woman with a young child of about 5 years old who was whining and fussing and wouldn't eat and knocked over his drink. Needless to say, this was not a positive start to our voyage. But that's where things got progressively better.
Our veranda stateroom on deck 10 was spotless. The linens and towels amazingly white. We found out much later that there should have been a paper sheet on the bed to unpack our luggage on and a binder with cruise tips and a room service menu in it. We never got that so we would order room service on the fly.
Dinner at Windows was very nice and the ship is lovely. We found the staff very friendly and polite. I don't know what ship those people were on who found the staff rude and the food distasteful. We went to the casino that night and I was lucky to win some money. It's likely true that the slots are loose the first couple of days and then tightened later in the week.
Mom and I went on 2 excursions that I had booked online. In San Juan we did the city tour and Bacardi factory. Kind of interesting but a bit boring after a while. 2 nice drinks were included at Bacardi but the factory tour was pretty boring. At least we found out why the Barcardi logo is a bat! Our other tour was The Best of Tortola. That one was amazing. Our driver/guide drove us in an open air mini-bus 1400 feet above sea level to some breathtaking views of the island. The ride was exciting since each time we rounded a curve on the mountain he had to toot his horn to warn oncoming drivers we were approaching. Heart in throat we would gasp at how close to the edge he'd drive. No guardrails on the mountain and more than once passengers would squeal in terror. We ended up at Cane Bay Beach for a 2 hour swim/lunch. The beach is beautiful but they charge $5 for a lounge chair. I settled my mom in one and approached the man to pay him. He said he'd be back but never came to collect his $5. Fine with me. Then we had a wonderful lunch. Choice of Mahi-mah-, ribs, chicken or one other thing. Mom and I chose the ribs. They were delicious. A virgin rum punch was served with lunch. $1.00 if you wanted rum. Not necessary. Back on the ship, we played bingo. Very expensive. If you "want it all" it was $89/person.
You got an electronic bingo thingie that tracked your 60 or so cards, 5 rip off things that promised a winner in every one, usually $1.00 win, a lip gloss bingo ball that got you a strip of raffle tickets for a free cruise every time they called the number on that ball (ours was B4), and some raffle tickets for the cruise. My nephew's g/f won $277 that first bingo night. Later she joined a slot tourney and got s bunch of other raffle tickets. She won a mini-facial, dinner for 2 at Shogun and 100 internet minutes (which comes in handy since internet time on the ship is outrageously priced). The pool is small with not enough chairs for all the guests so we just used the pool when we docked in Samana since I didn't care to go ashore there. Lucky too, People came back with horror stories of horse feces on the beach, terrible living conditions, with the islanders bothering tourists to buy stuff or polish their sneakers. Photos were expensive, I didn't buy any but my nephew spent over $100 on them. Drinks were the usual $5-$10/apiece but coffee, espresso, cappuccino, iced tea, milk and juice were included in the cruise. Again, fine with me.
We ate at Cagney's one nite. Exceptional value, I thought. My nephew had the 24 oz steak and said it was great. Mom and Kelli had surf and turf. They expected a filet and lobster tail. Nope. They got a nice size filet and half a lobster! Enough for any appetite. Shogun was very good as well. The ship was kind of wavy and bumpy throughout the trip with people crab-walking. I think one of the stabilizers was down as well as one engine. Nobody got ill though. Returning to NYC we smashed into the pier! Nobody was injured but we saw it all over the news later that day.
Disembarkation was a breeze. We chose to stay on the ship till the last minute. We were up early showered, had a nice breakfast at Windows went back to the stateroom, took a nap and left our room at 11:00. We went to the Blue Lagoon and had a cup of coffee and waited till all the lines were gone and walked off the ship in no time flat. Now here's were it gets sticky AGAIN! The traffic was again unbelievable with only one single lane pick up road. Buses double parked along the road stopped up traffic for hours. We finally reached my bro-in-law who had been circling the pier for an hour and arranged to meet him 2 blocks away. We dragged our luggage to 48th St and 11th Ave, my poor mom all red in the face from exertion. My nephew toted her luggage and my luggage while his g/f took hers and the souvenirs and I toted his luggage. What a relief to get to the car. In closing, I'll say the cruise was really nice, wonderful staff, lovely stateroom, good food, a bit expensive onboard, not very efficient at the terminal or pier with too much confusion all over the place. Free style cruising may appeal to some, I thought it was okay but personally, I'll take RCL any day.