BACKGROUND My husband (51) and I (56) were celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary. This was my 5th cruise and my husband's 2nd.
EMBARKATION Since we live in Philadelphia, we were dropped off at the pier by a van service. We arrived early, around 9:15. We were told to sit down until they were ready to begin the screening process. At 10:30, one of the agents came up to us, and another couple, and told us to follow her. She said that she knew that we were one of the first people to arrive so we were told to wait in line to have our carry-ons x-rayed. She then began directing the other people behind us. The baggage screening started and we were directed to the registration area. We used the Latitudes line and were given #3. We were the first ones processed in the latitudes line so I'm assuming #1 and #2 are possibly reserved for suites and possibly wedding parties. We then sat down and waited until they began boarding the ship. Around 12:30, they began calling numbers. It was difficult to hear the man calling the numbers. By 12:45 we were walking up the gangway and 15 minutes later we were seated in Windows ordering lunch. CABIN We were in Balcony 9530. The cabins were ready by 2:00. Our luggage was outside our room by the time we returned after sail away. There was plenty of room to put our clothes away. We had new pillows and a new mattress with a topper. There was a top sheet also. A card was in the room asking us to order fruit for our room. It was delivered the next day and was replenished as needed. Our stewards, Budi and Leslie, were terrific. We were up early every day so our room was cleaned by the time we returned from breakfast. Turn down was also done promptly every evening. We loved the location of our cabin - close to the forward elevators. Even though we were opposite the crew entrance, we never heard any noise even during the last evening when the luggage was being moved. We had towel animals six evenings. The bathroom was surprisingly large for a cruise ship.
SHIP We were a little concerned after reading some of the reviews, but I have to say I thought the Spirit was in pretty good shape. You can see some areas of the carpet showing some wear and also, some of the windows need to be replaced but that in no way took away from our enjoyment of the Spirit. My husband is a carpenter and he always notices things that need to be repaired and he didn't think the Spirit was anywhere near as rundown as some of the reviews lead us to believe. We saw a lot of ongoing maintenance (again, my husband noticed it more than I did). The hand rails on some of the outside stairs were being refinished. They would remove one of the handrails and put up caution tape, refinish it, replace it and then take the other side off. We really did love the ship. It was very elegant and it was very easy to find your way around. Our first night out was really rough, with rain, thunder, lightening, wind and a lot of rocking and rolling. A lot of passengers were ill. Things had calmed down by Sunday afternoon and it was smooth sailing after that.
ENTERTAINMENT We enjoyed most of the shows. Chantz Powell was terrific as was the illusionist, Richard Burr. We didn't see the comedian, Richie Byrne. Neither my husband nor I liked Second City. The 70s Disco party in Galaxy of the Stars was a lot of fun. Quest was also really funny and had some drama with a complaining woman and a girl in a toga. Don't miss Los Amigos in Champagne Charlie's. The Crew show was also really good. Most sea days were spent by the pool although there were some activities going on --- some you had to pay for and some were free. The pool area gets crowded so you need to get out there early. PORTS
SAN JUAN - We took the San Juan city tour. I don't think it was worth the money. We could have just walked up to the Fort and explored the city on foot. We returned to the ship to eat and then went back into Old San Juan. A lot of the stores had closed and we didn't like wandering around the narrow side streets which by then were pretty dark. I have to say the main street with all the bars and restaurants was really jumping. That area was really crowded.
TORTOLA was absolutely beautiful. We booked NCL's excursion which took us on a tour, all the way up to the top of the mountains, then to Cane Garden Bay. We stopped several times for pictures. While at Cane Garden Bay, we had lunch at Myetts's Garden and Grille Restaurant which was included. Lunch was delicious. Cane Garden Bay was so beautiful and the water was clear and warm. The ride around the island was little scary because of the steep hills which reminded me of a rollercoaster at times plus you are driving on the wrong side of the street, well for us anyway!!! Not a trip for the faint hearted.
SAMANA We didn't go into Samana but instead booked the Cayo Levantado excursion. This was a tender port so we were taken to the island on speed boats. I think this was much better than taking the ship's lifeboat tenders. There was some confusion while we were waiting to leave on the tenders. When we entered the Stardust Theater, we were told to sit down because it was going to be a little while before we could leave. We were about 20 minutes early so we were prepared to wait. Apparently, some of the people who were standing in line already, waiting for the early tender departure, had family members who sat down. When they were getting ready to begin loading their tender, the rest of the group joined their family and some of the people in the back of the line began yelling at the woman who was organizing everything. Tendering is always a pain and I think NCL could use some help in this area. The crew seemed a little overwhelmed trying to move all the people plus the yelling didn't help. The ship arrived early to Samana, and the other two ports, so we just sat and waited until it was our turn to go. We had more than enough time on the beach which was beautiful. The water was very warm --- just be careful --- in some spots there are jagged rocks. I saw two people who had cuts on their feet.
FOOD We thought the food was really good for the most part. We ate in Cagney's and LeBistro and both were great. We didn't eat in The Garden, only Windows. We never waited more than a couple of minutes to be seated but I think because there were only two of us made that easier. The service in Windows was pretty prompt. The only time it was a little slow was the last night out but it was more crowded than it had been the rest of the week. They have some dishes that are "Cooking Light" dishes and I found the ones I tried to be very good. The Blue Lagoon has delicious food also. The Chocolate Buffet is something to see. We ate breakfast every morning at Raffles - my husband loved the omelets and I loved the waffles. We ate lunch at the buffet a few times and dinner twice. They had a nice variety of food, a lot of stir fry, which we aren't fans of but there was plenty to choose from. My husband kept looking for mashed potatoes but we didn't see any on the nights we ate there. We had the Anniversary package, and that was really nice. I called and asked for cheese and crackers instead of the canapEs (I'm diabetic) and they sent us the nicest plate of cheese, crackers and fruit.
STAFF I can't say enough good things about the staff. There were so many smiling faces when we boarded that you didn't know where to look next. Our stewards introduced themselves to us the first day and stopped by when they saw us to make sure everything was OK. We tipped them extra at the end of the cruise because they did such a good job. We brought a small soft-sided cooler with us and they kept it filled with ice.
DISEMBARKATION We arrived in New York early also and since we had a later tag color, we enjoyed the morning with breakfast and then sat in Champagne Charlie's listening to Los Amigos until they called our tag color. By then it was easy to find our luggage and we waited a short time in the customs line. This was a great cruise and we took advantage of the Cruise Rewards program. We decided to go on another cruise next June only this time, we are taking our daughter, 23 and sons, 21, 19 and 17 with us.