We flew in on Saturday and spent the night in New Orleans at the Sun Suites of Metairie. The hotel was nothing spectacular, but it was clean, reasonably priced, and served our needs for a place to sleep the night before the cruise.
We arrived at the port about 10:45 AM, and there was no line for Latitudes check-in. We very quickly got through security, had our paperwork taken care of and got our cards. We were on the ship sipping our first mimosa by 11:45. We chose to eat at the buffet for lunch; it was very crowded and busy but we did manage to find a table with another couple. My advice here is not to be shy! I walked up to a table and asked if we could join them; turns out, we spent a lot of time with the people we met that first day!
On Sunday, it was warm and sunny. We were able to sit at the Bier Garten Grill and enjoy the weather and a few beverages. The first sea day it was quite windy and chilly. People were sitting at the pool but not many were swimming. We enjoyed relaxing and meeting new people. The weather all week was perfect; it was in the 80's and 90's. Reality set in on the last sea day when it turned windy and chilly late in the afternoon, and by Sunday morning, we knew we were headed home!
The staff and crew of the Spirit are amazing! If you get a chance to meet Remo or Marian, both of whom work as bar wait staff near the pool during the day, say hello! Once they meet you, both of them will go out of their way to be sure that you have anything you need or want. I can't begin to count the number of times one or both of them came over, called us by name, and asked if there was anything they could get for us. Monique is the restaurant manager, and she also was always checking up on us to see how things were. Again, no matter where she saw us, she called us by name, and stopped to chat. The maitre'd, Jeff, was also very accommodating. Our room stewards did a great job taking care of our cabin by keeping our room neat and ice in the bucket; they even went so far as to keep the helmet of Corona's full of ice! The only place that I could find any fault with the staff would be at Champagne Charlie's. One afternoon we went there to listen to music and my husband asked for some limes for his beer that he got at one of the other bars, and I asked for a glass of water—twice! Both times the waitress just walked away; she finally brought one lime wedge over, but I never did get the water.
We did not eat any meals at the restaurants with an up charge. We found the meals at Windows and the Garden Room to be tasty and plentiful. If you would like to try more than one entrEe, they will gladly bring it to you. I generally asked for a small portion of the pasta each evening as an appetizer, and got it without a problem. We had breakfast at Windows a couple of mornings and at the buffet the other mornings. Food was fresh and plentiful at both places. The waffles are made to order as are the eggs and omelets at the buffet. I wasn't impressed with the offerings for lunch at the buffet by the pool. On the other NCL ships, there was a huge buffet on the deck and I always looked forward to lunch there. On the Spirit there was not a wide variety, just a couple of salads, some burgers, hotdogs, and maybe sausage or chicken. The Blue Lagoon was good, and had very good burgers.
Our cabin was phenomenal! We had one of the 200 square foot cabins on deck 6. I had heard that it might be noisy, but I took my chances for the extra room it afforded. I have to say, we never heard any noise until the very last night when the suitcases were being moved from the halls. The cabin was almost as large as a hotel room! If you have a chance to book a cabin like this you will definitely not be disappointed! A tip for staying in an inside room: set the TV to the bridge cam channel at night and turn the volume down. When you wake up, you can tell whether it is still night time or morning by the "window" provided on the TV screen.
We found the entertainment on the ship to be okay. We went to several shows. The magician was pretty good, as was Second City. I enjoyed the crew variety show as well. One thing that I was disappointed in was the lack of a band playing near the pool during the day. Previously, I have loved the Caribbean music that is played at the pool, but on this cruise there wasn't a band there very often. And when there was no band, the music was very low-key—just a step up from what you'd hear in a restaurant during the dinner hour—not good "laying in the sun" music! One thing that was a lot of fun was the martini tasting at Champagne Charlie's. For $15 we got five or six (almost full-sized)different martinis to try.
We visited four ports on this cruise. First we went to Costa Maya, where I booked a visit to Hotel Maya Luna. I cannot say enough about Carolien and her staff. I had heard about this resort here on Cruise Critic and booked myself (www.hotelmayaluna.com). It was $25.00 for 1-5 people to spend the day at this private beach and resort. We took a cab to get there—don't get the cabs at the port; go out of the port area and take a yellow cab—they are much less expensive (about $3.00/person). At the Hotel there is an amazing reef about 400 yards from shore. You can use the kayak to get there, or swim (it is much further than it looks—we swam!!). We snorkeled at the reef, then came back and had lunch which was prepared by Pedro. Try the pineapple chicken—it is fabulous! They will make anything you desire, if it is not on the menu, just ask! The fresh banana daiquiris were to die for; bananas were grown right there. My husband enjoyed the tequila in the oak barrel on the bar. We ate, swam, drank, and had a great time for about six hours. When I went to settle the bill, Carolien took my $25 deposit off the total, so it only cost us an additional $24 for the day. I gave her a generous tip for the great service! There is no doubt that we'll definitely be going back there!
Our second port was Santo Tomas, Guatemala. We didn't book an excursion there, but they have a nice market at the port where you can get some nice souvenirs. Hint: don't pay asking price for anything as everyone will give you a better deal if you make an offer first. There is a little stand outside the market that has amazing fresh coconuts. Try one of those; they are delicious. Be sure to go on deck when the ship pulls away from the port as the people there put on quite a show with music, dancing, flashing lights—it's quite a sight to see!
We also went to Belize, the only port where we had to tender in. As long as you have a ship excursion, it is easy to get on one of the first tenders. We took the beach break through the ship. It was a nice beach, with beautiful turquoise water. I wasn't impressed with the food at the beach; you had to buy your own there and it wasn't very good. The hamburgers were a funny color, and the potato salad was warm. We threw it out and ate once we got back to the ship. We did a little shopping in the port and found a few good buys.
In Cozumel we did the Snuba Adventure through the ship. That was a lot of fun and the guide was excellent. Watch out for your ears though, as my husband blew out both eardrums that day (which we didn't find out about until he saw his doctor here at home). We also did some shopping in Cozumel. I found some great buys on tanzanite stones. Again, do not pay asking price; I offered significantly less than the man was asking and got the stone for what I was willing to pay.
Disembarking took a little longer than expected due to a shortage of customs agents. We waited in line about an hour to finally get off the ship. A word of warning, once you get into the line in the port, there are no bathrooms until you are all the way through customs. Be sure to use the restroom before you get off the ship! Also, if you use one of the porters who offer to help you with your bags, you will get through the line much more quickly as they go through an express line. It is definitely worth the tip! We stayed in New Orleans on Sunday night to experience Mardi Gras, and it was an experience!!! The cab ride from the port to the hotel (Sun Suites, Metairie) was a huge rip-off (almost $40 for two of us). Then we had to take a cab downtown and back again. We had a terrible time trying to even get a cab back to the hotel from downtown; it took two hours to find one.
All in all, we really enjoyed this cruise. Both of us decided that it was our favorite one so far. The ship is beautiful, the staff friendly, and the ports were interesting and fun. We will definitely be cruising with NCL again! Enjoy your cruise.