Introduction: I'm a 27 year old male who sailed with his 59 year old mother onboard the Norwegian Spirit leaving Boston on May 15, 2009 and returning on May 22, 2009. I go on vacation to have fun as well as relax and this should shine through in my review.
Pre-Cruise Booking with NCL Direct: A few weeks prior to sailing there was a restructuring of prices and I figured it wouldn't be a bad thing to call up and see if I could surprise my mom for Mother's Day by moving us from an ocean view cabin to a balcony. The Arizona reservation agent was fantastic in his ability to help me out and had to confer with a supervisor in Miami named Michelle. Between the two agents I was able to make my Mother's Day present a reality and not lose anything! Yes it cost a little more but it was well worth the investment! All the while the service offered by the two never faltered. Nice work NCL!
Norwegian Spirit Cruise:
Embarkation: I am familiar with what NCL has control over and what they don't. Unfortunately the shore-side operation this year like last year was lacking and this was not NCL's fault. The way the longshoreman take the luggage you will stand forever in a line outside the terminal and then move inside and move MUCH quicker and get on the ship. The NCL reps inside the terminal moved things right along. I have never seen a lazier bunch of porters and we again left late because the ship wasn't fully provisioned by the time by 4PM. We arrived at the terminal shortly after Noon and were not on the ship until 1:20PM. However, as I usually do I met people in line and it helped pass the time.
The Ship: Built as the SuperStar Leo for NCL's parent Star Cruises, this ship is a one-of-a-kind gem in the Norwegian fleet. Her Asian inspirations are everywhere and the attention to detail in all paintings - especially on Deck 7 aft and in the Garden Room (Deck 6 - Mid-ship Dining Room) are just breathtaking. Stunning in its ability to have an abundance of natural light aft is the Windows Restaurant. This restaurant was also the resort casual ("no jeans and shorts") restaurant.
The Maharajah's casino had low ceilings on the gaming floor so if you're 6'4" or taller be sure to mind your head as those little security globes become quite the obstacle course to dodge. Forward on Deck 7 is Maharini's Lounge with TV screens and a nice U-shaped bar. The loungers in this area are more like beds (although not quite so comfortable to lie on). Just forward of the lounge was Maharini's Nightclub. This was the nightly entertainment venue when it came to dance club music. Both the lounge and the nightclub were the best designed with dEcor that I've seen at sea. It's very dark but elegant.
While I didn't dine in any of the specialty restaurants on this cruise I did go into each one and thought the dEcor was up to par with the Asian influence. Cagney's Steakhouse and Shogun (Asian cuisine and sushi bar) were very elegantly decorated. Le Bistro shies away from the Asian influence but that makes sense considering it's a French bistro.
Overall the public areas of the Spirit were very well preserved given the ship's recent dry dock in late 2008. Worn carpeting was hard to come by in all public spaces and upholstery was freshened just about everywhere. The ship's beauty does not disappoint.
Food: Completely subjective experience for anyone. This cruise's food was like the past Norwegian cruises since the menu change. Executive Chef Hans Peter did a fantastic job with presentation of the food on each plate. Thanks to the Executive Chef we were able to have another helping of Blueberry Chilled Soup on another night outside of the original night it was offered. If you haven't tried Norwegian's cold soups you are missing out on a signature item that you can only find on NCL! All of the cold soups are great from Peach, Blueberry, and Strawberry to Chilled Melon. The only one I didn't like which seems new to me is the Avocado and Tomatillo chilled soup. Ick on this one but the waiter (Kelton "Fox") was happy to replace it with another menu item. Main entrees were exceptional in presentation and preparation including the Beef Wellington and Prime Rib. I was surprised to see Escargot on the menu on the last night in the main dining room as well. I thought most cruise lines had gotten rid of it of their main restaurant menus so it was a pleasant surprise to have it and I very well enjoyed it!
Service was exceptional all around minus some early snafus but nothing to be highly critical about. To address the exceptional service where it was due I am going to just run through the events of the cruise as they occurred:
Day 1 - Embarkation Day - Boston: Embarkation was a slow process. If you're Latitudes then make sure you make yourself known so you can move further down the line once the longshoremen outside take your luggage away (which is the bulk of the line). Once onboard we explored the beautiful Spirit after having lunch in Raffles, the buffet. The buffet is a straight buffet line and not the action station concept that you find on other NCL ships. As such the line was very confusing to get to items you wanted, even within the same section (for instance the salad station's order was a bit skewed so that in order to get to the lettuce you were in the middle of the station and had to go either left or right to get toppings such as tomatoes or carrots). I did miss the action stations on the newer NCL ships but this not really a bad thing about the Spirit - just something to recognize is there and to deal with. Lifeboat drill was a bit longer than usual since a technical difficulty stopped the recording mid-way during the announcement. So we were extra informed when the recording finally started again and ran to the end! No biggie! The Muster Station Y2 still had fun anyway!
Dinner was at the Garden Room the first night. We didn't feel like unpacking our clothes with the late embarkation and still weren't familiar with the ship and with reading the FreeStyle Daily and the policy about no jeans in Windows we headed to the Garden Room around 6PM. It took until 7:55PM to have the entire dinner service. I don't know what caused this mishap but space between courses was very lengthy. More so than we're accustomed to and some thought it was prudent to leave because the service was bad. Our waitress seemed overwhelmed. I'm not sure if she was new or what but we were in no rush since the Variety Show was at 9PM.
The Welcome Aboard Showtime is at 9PM and the Cruise Director Paul Scally doubles as a comedian during this opening act which thankfully included other acts like Home Free (an Acapella group which left the Spirit when we arrived back in Boston) and a beginning production by the singers and dancers. This is not to be missed. It gives you an entertainment preview of the entire cruise - including what is worth coming back to the ship to in Bermuda and what isn't. Maharini's Lounge at 10:30PM had the nightly Friends of Dorothy gathering and Maharini's Nightclub was the nightly 18 plus dance club onboard. During the first night I made it a point to seek out the DJ to provide him with music to play during the White Hot Party. My biggest hope was that the White Hot Party would live up to the reputation of the party from which NCL stole the concept from and I hoped this CD would help in that endeavor for me.
Day 2 - At Sea: Ordered room service which was delivered promptly - even when it was sped up because we got up earlier than expected. The convenience of having a stateroom close to mid-ship is that I could walk up the buffet and grab a plate of food from there and consume it with the additional sides ordered from room service and eat on the balcony (if it were warm enough too but this day the fog was still with us and there was a chill in the air). At 10AM we had the Cruise Critic gathering which was well attended by senior staff members onboard including the Hotel Director (Frank), Food & Beverage Director (from Austria... name escapes me at the moment), Executive Chef (Hans Peter) and Front Desk Office Manager (Amnita). I mentioned the CD to the Hotel Director Frank and he said he'd follow up with DJ Freddy. Frank was also very interested in hearing how our cruise was going so far and what we thought of the first night onboard. He took all of our feedback in stride - most of ours (mom and I) were positive comments minus the first night service but that was minor since we're not cooking and we're cleaning so waiting is not an issue! Remember - you're free to whatever!!!
That evening we dined in Windows Restaurant and had really great service provided by dining room staff. The maitre d' also stopped by our table to make sure everything was going smoothly which it was. This night our stateroom stewardess Meyrine (aka Nona) had made us our first towel animal of the cruise. Nona who services the deck 9 midship area of staterooms was fantastic in her service and very personable to us during the entire cruise. Excellent service provided by her and her assistant steward.
Showtime tonight was at 7:30PM and it was "On Broadway". The show consisted of great musical featuring numbers from Hairspray, Wicked and Mamma Mia. One singer's energy was clearly noticeable and when you see this show if she's still onboard you'll instantly recognize her talent if you know anything about singing and dancing. Jaylynn's voice is incredible. Best at sea I've ever had the opportunity to hear and this was cruise number 15 for me. I can only say a guest singer like Kimberly Locke had a better voice (but was not a regular on the cruise ship). Incredible show with tons of energy and not to be missed! Monte Carlo Night was also this night. Since this a promotion for casino to get the casino revenues up (as well as drink revenues), it was largely a bust for me since I don't gamble but since the disco was right next door it was easy enough to go up there and hang out.
Day 3 - At Sea / Bermuda @ 11AM - Woke up and did the walk a mile with the Fitness Instructor Johan from South Africa. Very nice and welcoming individual and he gave me and another fellow student onboard the low down on places to go ashore as we completed our walk and were heading down the channel into the Dockyard harbor. We arrived on-time and were cleared by officials to go ashore by 11AM. The masses were waiting everywhere to go ashore. We opted for lunch in Windows and waited out the rush. It was the first time we got an aft window seat. We were very excited and this spot was very nice. Service and food again were excellent. Since we didn't have anything booked until later we got off the ship and explored the area in the immediate vicinity of the dockyard to get our bearings.
Dined again in the Windows Restaurant for dinner and again had excellent service - this time provided by Kelton "Fox" from Nicaragua. He was the best waiter team we had onboard the ship although every other team performed well (with the exception of the first night). He also gave me tips on where the best happening nightlife was ashore. As a result I ventured ashore the first two nights we were there.
SHORE EXCURSION: Bermuda Triangle Night Glass Bottom Boat Ride - For $50 this tour was a rip off. It lasted less than 2 hours and we saw some coral and if you could see in the nearly pitch dark then you could make out the hull of a ship wreck. The sunset on the way over was the most picturesque part of the tour and the tour provider really didn't control that. I wouldn't recommend this tour to anyone.
Nightlife onboard the ship consisted of Comedy Showtime of Second City and the 70's Groove Dance Party with the cruise staff. I passed on both of them and went back to the ship after the night excursion and changed and went ashore to the Frog and Onion and met up with some new found crew and passenger friends I made onboard.
Day 4 - Bermuda - SHORE EXUCRSION - West End Highlights - This tour was fantastic for $55. You got a nearly private tour with a taxi driver taking you to the sights of the Western end of the island including a fort, a small church erected by servants to worship, the Somerset drawbridge (which you drive over) and to the scenic Gibb's Lighthouse. The entire tour took its leisurely time with no pressure coming from the driver on when to get back to the taxi. We moved at our own pace during the entire tour and we were given a quick stop in the Botanical Gardens before heading onward to Hamilton where we were dropped. The other option was to return to the ship via taxi. There were four people total in our taxi van. I highly recommend this tour because seeing all the West End highlights on your own with doing the bus would take all day with hopping on and off. Cost of climbing the lighthouse is $2.50.
We spent the remainder of the day in Hamilton seeing sights that were closed or not there during our 2008 Norwegian Dream cruise (which docked at Front Street in Hamilton). The Bermuda Historical Society re-opened the museum near the first post office on the island around the corner from Front Street. We hit that first and it closes by 2PM. Allow a good half hour to see everything if you can speed read. Next up we went on a journey down the other end of Front Street and nearly out of Hamilton to the BUEI - Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute. Through the end of the time when cruise ships are there (late October) they have a Titanic exhibit which is spread through their regular exhibit. This place is fun for people of all ages from kids to adults. Hands on activities are good for the kids and adults alike and keep you from becoming bored. If you're a Titanic buff then you will not want to miss this exhibit. They even have some of the props from the movie with Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. This is a fairly new museum in Bermuda and well worth a visit! Admission is $12.50 for adults, $10 if you're 65 plus. It is a little bit of a walk down Front Street and diagonally across from a gas station on the outskirts of the City of Hamilton.
We returned to the ship for a later dinner and once again had Kelton as our waiter. Again a great dinner service provided by him and the food was great. Tonight's onboard entertainment featured a magician / comedian. We opted to skip this entertainment and instead lurked around until the Super Spirit Bermuda Deck Party. It seemed like a lot of people were ashore. This deck party had the lowest attendance of any deck party I've seen on any regular cruise. I went back and changed and ventured to the crew party ashore. All I can say is the crew knows how to party and I didn't get back onboard until 3:30AM. Great time ashore and had a great time with the crew.
Day 5 - Bermuda - Slept late and ventured ashore to do some last minute souvenir shopping in the Dockyard area. Mom and I returned to the ship to have a sit down lunch in the Blue Lagoon - a fast food style sit down restaurant. Found a nice cafe inside the pharmacy in the dockyard. They make Green Tea Lattes! I was in heaven since I was missing Starbucks! Went and got one for the late night that would soon follow.
Back onboard it was dinner in Windows with Kelton again. Fabulous food and fantastic service! Afterward we headed to the first show time of Home Free a cappella group in the Stardust Theater. These guys were very good. Then it was back to the room to finalize the wardrobe for the White Hot Party in Galaxy of the Stars!
Frank, the Hotel Director, came through with the music which was interlaced with the regular music line up they play during the White Hot Party. Thanks to Beverly on the cruise staff for giving me her wings for a short while and for the photo op! Frank made this night as close as to the way it should have been and the cruise staff helped in that endeavor. The party lasted until 1AM upstairs and then moved down to the after party in Maharini's Lounge and Nightclub. Passengers were out to have a great time on this evening and several new friends were made. We stayed up well beyond when the club closed at 4AM and headed off to the Blue Lagoon for a leisurely late dinner / breakfast service (Burgers, wings and fries). Got back up to the stateroom in time to wake mom up to watch the ship cast off at 6AM on...
Day 6 - At Sea - The ship was prompt in pulling out at 6AM. This is the first time that no announcements have been made onboard the ship for missing passengers. I don't know if it had to be due to the early hour or what but we left and navigated the channel. I fell asleep before getting a chance to see the Norwegian Dawn pass. I was informed by my crew friend at the Omelet station in Raffles that we did pass and you could clearly make her out. The rest of the day I slept and woke only for grazing (I mean eating). Ate at Windows that night and again had service by Kelton. I do highly recommend him. Tonight's entertainment was "On The Radio" - the second large scale production onboard. Great variations of music performances to music that you'd find on the radio - from Oldies and Country to Pop. Jaylynn once again shined during this performance. I wouldn't miss this show!
Later in the evening was Le Cabaret Glamour Party. This is something unique to the Norwegian Spirit so far and it's a cabaret style entertainment with a twist. There is a section called Ship 'N Dales at the end that women (or gay men) definitely don't want to miss. Everything is pretty skimpy all the way around and it's definitely NOT recommended for under 18 years old. Don't try to get them in either - proper ID is required. It seemed like a fantastic show from what I could see but the venue seems off. You can't really see most of what the dancers were doing because you're on the same line of sight as everyone in front of you so unless you're in the front row you can't see as much.
Day 7 - At Sea - Full Sea Day - Floated around the ship and shopped for souvenirs onboard and picked up the pictures I wanted. Bumped into the Hotel Director in the lobby and again he checked in to make sure everything was going great. He made mom and I feel very welcomed. He wanted to be sure this was our best cruise ever and through his crew and his efforts it certainly was right up there. Later in the evening after dining in Windows this final time (unfortunately Kelton didn't have a window section and wasn't anywhere close to where there was an open table) we had to sit somewhere else. During our dinner the ship slowed because we were going through a whale mating area east of Nantucket Island and Cape Cod. During this time we saw several fishing boats. Reality was calling and it was a reminder we were getting ready to dock in Boston tomorrow.
Two shows this night made our final evening onboard enjoyable including the Farewell Variety Show consisting of all acts onboard during the cruise minus Second City. It was an ok show but I'm happy we skipped the magician because his humor was not great and his acts were far too drawn out to keep people's attention (including my own). I was getting my camera ready for a part of the show that never materialized called Fountains. In between we enjoyed a special gift given by the Hotel Director while packing our luggage. It was a very nice touch at the end of the cruise and capped off a really memorable experience. Next up at 9:30PM was the International Crew Talent show. This cruise we didn't know anyone in the talent show but we still go to support the crew that work so hard for us. At the end of this show was the Norwegian Way with the presentation of all the higher ranking officials including the Captain and crew members from each department. It was nice to applaud everyone for their hard work. They get a much deserved standing ovation! Just wondering what happened to Fountains? I would much rather have had the Cruise Director spat on by his fellow staff members then listening to his old jokes. It would have been much more hilarious watching the Fountains performance. I do hope they bring it back on the Norwegian Spirit. Checked out the disco for a little while to say by to friends I made onboard and it was time for bed.
Day 8 - Boston - Debarkation: I woke up at 6AM and we were still navigating through Boston harbor. There was no need to get up fully at that point but we did anyway. Our luggage tags were Light Blue which was the second to last bag tag color to be called off the ship. We docked at 7AM and shortly thereafter we dined at Windows for our final sit down meal of the cruise. Service was impeccable and the menu was scaled back. Anything that took a lot of preparation was gone (noticeably the waffles). However, there was a pretty regular menu of items still to choose from including eggs, potatoes, oatmeal, grits, pancakes and French toast. We took our time dining since the ship hadn't cleared customs and the walk off passengers weren't off the ship yet. After breakfast we went up on deck to take a few more pictures with the Boston skyline in the background. The promenade deck was loaded with walk-off passengers. Luggage was everywhere and it was impossible to navigate so we went up to the pool deck which was nice and warm. We took our pictures and the ship was still not cleared by customs. Foreign guests didn't show up as they were supposed to and this delayed debarkation. People who owed tariffs because they exceeded the customs allowances were also MIA. The announcement for debarkation commencing wasn't made so the timing was a bit off. However, it wasn't until after 9:30AM when the first group of tags was called. We were the last group off when an announcement came over saying "All remaining passengers onboard please disembark the vessel." The time was 11:05AM. Once we cleared the terminal with our luggage it was nearly 11:30AM. This is the latest we've ever stayed onboard the cruise ship - ever! I didn't mind it at all though. We hung out in the cabin until 10:30AM on the balcony and let the stateroom attendant do her thing with the cabin (putting the beds back together). It was a very relaxing last morning and we "chilled" like the last morning brochure told us to do. We have no complaints about the disembarkation. When our time came we walked right off the ship and through customs and got our luggage and drove home. Cost of the garage for the week is $105 USD.
Conclusion: The Norwegian Spirit is the best ship for Boston to Bermuda. Thanks to the staff and crew specifically Nona (stateroom stewardess), Frank (Hotel Director), Beverly (Cruise Staff), Hans Peter (Executive Chef), Johan (Fitness Director), Sydney (Nurse) and the Maitre d' from India in the Windows dining room for making my NCL experience incredible! I highly recommend this cruise to anyone and if you see any of these people onboard - be sure to stop them and say hi to them for me!