NCL Spirit 4/19/09 - 5/1/09
WE MISSED THE BOAT
My poor wife's back was too badly wrenched to permit boarding our scheduled flight from Dayton to New Orleans on April nineteenth. This situation required significant remedial planning to catch up the NCL Spirit. The best port to fly into was Belize (BZE) This is a small airport but is serviced by American Airlines 737's from Miami. The flight departed Cincinnati and arrived at 1:20 PM local time on April twenty second. We took a taxi to the port for $25 US. Using the internet we had researched the ground transportation options and decided the taxi was the best choice. We checked inside the airport, with the dispatcher and with the driver about the fare. Surprisingly and very pleasantly, getting through local security and onto the tender servicing the ship was a smooth procedure, even quicker than the usual check in at the normal departure point. My bride had telephoned NCL on the nineteenth and spoke with a knowledgeable representative who created a three way call with an on board representative, so Spirit knew of our situation and was expecting us. The tickets we had booked originally on American Airlines were forfeited. For cruisers who may have had apprehensions about missing the boat be consoled that the situation can be dealt with but the remedy requires that an experienced traveler be involved and its not easy, cheap or within everyone's comfort zone. Since this was a twelve day cruise we could miss the first four days and still have enough time remaining to justify the additional airfare expense. We don't use travel insurance but may in the future.
The Spirit is one of NCL's oldest ships but is nicely maintained and a smooth sailor. We encountered force six winds and waves of seven to eight feet with no significant problems for us with motion sickness or mobility. There were the usual jokes among passengers that some people were walking drunkenly when it was just the ship's movements.
Our inside cabin on deck six was the smallest we've ever had after fifteen cruises and our dinner mates felt some fixtures were designed for an Asian clientele since this ship was first built and operated by Star lines. By this they meant things were smaller. The cabins do show some age and wear in the shower tiles, room carpeting and the closets. The closets must be securely latched shut or they will open and close on their own during the night. The cabins were not adequately sound proofed and conversations, televisions and drawers opening and closing could be clearly heard. Several times I was awakened at night wondering who was walking about in our cabin when the noise was from next door. Thankfully we had considerate and quiet neighbors.
The food in the main dining rooms was good with a few excellent dishes but just as many below average ones. We didn't use the specialty restaurants but some people who did felt that food and service there was what was standard in main dining rooms on cruises years ago. Raffles buffet was better than average and featured a soft ice cream machine and some hand dipped ice cream as well. There were no significant issues with seating at Raffles but we had to ask to share tables with strangers several times.
Entertainment was uneven. The magician, ventriloquist and the production company were very good.
The ship has a very poor public speaker system for general announcements and this became an issue during disembarkation in Boston. Passengers we asked all said that they heard virtually no announcements in their cabins and several important announcements regarding leaving the ship were garbled and unintelligible. Several Canadians went through the required immigration process earlier in the morning of the last day but the computers did not "upload" their data. They did not hear/understand the announcements of their names to recheck and didn't realize that they were responsible for holding up the departures of an entire ship for over one hour.
We missed several of the ports early in the cruise but Belize was quite foreign and rather third world-ish. Curacao was nice and rather quaint but on the day of our visit, Sunday, the town was practically closed down. Bermuda is a beautiful and fun port. It's very expensive however. A cruise ship is definitely a good way to visit there. Use the ship as your hotel and employ the excellent public transit system to see the island. Look into daily or weekly passes which permit travel on the busses and ferries. The bus travels along the coast and one can get off at a beach or other point of interest for a while then re-board and continue to the next stop or return to the ship.
This was a repositioning cruise so it will not be repeated until next season. There were five ports and seven days at sea. While there were sufficient activities during at sea days we enjoy visiting ports and felt a bit confined and crowded on board for these periods.
My wife insists that I comment on the excellent performance of the cruise director Paul and his staff. They were very friendly and approachable but kept activities under control. Paul recognized us from our participation in the morning walk a mile program and even pulled us aside during our departure to state that he would miss our walks.