Our first cruise was to Hawaii in May, 2002 on the Norwegian Star, and on May 1, 2009 our 8th cruise, all with NCL, was on the Norwegian Spirit. This 7 day cruise took us from our home in central Connecticut to Boston where we boarded the ship that took us to Bermuda for the 2nd time. We obviously are big fans of NCL, FreeStyle and the Resort Casual dress code. This cruise was the first Boston to Bermuda run of the year by the recently renovated Spirit, replacing the 2008 ship, the Dream .
It was very slow going, but we found no reason to blame NCL. I've recently discussed the matter with an official on the Spirit, and was told it has gotten better, local authorities have been cooperative, but it's not yet perfect.
We arrived about 10:45 am, and joined a long line of cars that extended to the end of the terminal. I'm sure the problem had to do with cars coming to pick up disembarking passengers, as well as those of us arriving early for embarkation, plus many taxi's, busses and limos. I dropped off my two passengers and luggage at the main/center entrance to the terminal, with no porters in site. I assumed they were busy with those getting off the ship. Because I counted on porters, like there always are in NYC, my wife could not move all our stuff into the line waiting for porters, as there was too much with the 3 year old there, a stroller, and a rolling cooler we brought, since the cabin had no fridge. There was still traffic to contend with going to the garage, driving to the 4th floor, and walking back, got me to the (very long) line at 11:10 am. It did not move until 11:30, and even then it was slow.
The line at that time extended the length of the terminal!! We noticed an extreme shortage of porters, first detecting only two, with very small luggage carts more equipped for a small hotel. The porters moved slowly as well, and many around us joked they must have been on break, or a bunch called in sick, or there was a work slowdown. Eventually we saw a total of 5 porters, mind you some of them were helping the busses as well, making long walks back and forth from the end of the terminal. As we got closer we noticed passengers walking towards us and going directly to the porters, cutting a line that had to be close to an hour wait at that time and pace. When it was nearly our turn we advised a potential line cutter where the line was and he scolded us for aggravating him. We wouldn't allow the approaching porter to serve him, and directed him to our bags. He then handed me his coffee to hold, saying he needed my help. We joked about whether I could keep the coffee while he slowly put our bags on the rack, along with one other couples, and then handed his coffee. He asked if I really wanted it, as his personality earned him the tip that I had put away.
From there we went inside, directly to the counter via the Latitudes line, as I noticed a very lengthy line for others. There were many staffers serving the Latitudes line, as I assumed that NCL had to pick their poison, and chose to give preferential service to their returning customers. From that point on it was as smooth as ever, and we were stepped onto the ship at 12:20 pm and immediately consumed my glass of champagne.
I hope this was a one-time problem, given this was the first cruise for the Spirit.
We arrived at the pier in overcast conditions, in the 60's, and we had some rain and cool weather until Sunday morning. Sea conditions got pretty rough Saturday morning, with many passengers sick and some staff as well. Our granddaughter was down and out from breakfast time until early evening, but my wife who is often bothered by rough seas was OK. Sunday and Monday were mid 70's with plenty of sun and partly cloudy conditions, and Tuesday was spectacular. The "Daily" said 75 but it felt like 80. The same went for Tuesday, as we enjoyed a great day in the sun, and shade at times. Water temperature at the beaches were comfortable, probably around 70, which should have been OK for most New Englanders and Canadian friends.
We first headed to see if our cabin was ready, and found the hallway doors shut. I found our cabin steward who advised me our cabin was ready so we dropped off our carry ons, and headed out. We checked out the main atrium area to see what was happening there, and was impressed to see it reminded me a bit of the Star with the glass enclosed elevators. Lunch was at Windows, where we had a great Aft table, where our granddaughter (Sydney) enjoyed watching the planes take off from Logan. Our next stop was the pool area on Deck 12, giving us a chance to also visit the Kids Water Park area, which was excellent with a wading pool, two water slides, and a hot tub. Signs said 12 and under, but there were many young teens there, and the hot tubs rarely had little ones in it. They also had a little play area for tiny ones to play in, all under shelter. I never saw NCL staff around to enforce the age guidelines, but suspect they would have "policed it" if it became a problem. In general we found everything on board we have been accustomed to, and though the layout was different, and some things were smaller, most everything appeared to be in excellent conditions, and of course it had the flair of it's Asian heritage. Note one day we returned from port and found our balcony had been disturbed, and found that they had replaced one of the two glass panels on the outside. I had heard they were replacing some of the thermal window panels on the ship, and for three days noticed carts with new glass on them around the ship. Of course they are always painting something, and seemed to be focusing on varnishing, noting our balcony rails were done, and many spots on Deck 12. One day we saw them doing some painting the hull. The only actually wear and tear I noticed was on our balcony ceiling, where the paint had some signs of rust. A beautiful ship indeed!
Our cabin. We were located in the first port side balcony on Deck 9, #9500, and really enjoyed it. It seemed a little smaller than others in the past, but certainly served our needs. After the first night, our granddaughter opted to let the stewards to refrain from opening the sofa into a bed, as it was clearly in our way, and our double had plenty of room for her tiny body. She was also sea sick on Saturday, so it all worked out fine. We had brought along a power strip to charge our cameras and phones, so never did need to use our electrical converter box we had from a daughter's European trip. We also brought a small rolling cooler stuffed with family favorite beverages, and we filled them twice daily with ice to chill milk, soda, and juice. Stewards offered to fill it each day, but because it was new and unfamiliar with it's ability to keep things cool or if it would leak, I got ice from them as needed. Our cabin was spotless and never wanting for anything from our terrific stewards, other than the egg crate padding I requested Day 1. Having the safe on the floor in the closet was a little inconvenient, but not a serious issue. Drawers and closet shelves were sufficient for the 3 of us, as our hanging shoe rack came in handy. We thank Rebecca Lambojon and Rommel Campo for the great job they did for us! Sydney loved the towel animals!!
The Crew: As usual, the crew was spectacular. We always wonder if each cruise will live up to the others, but we always seem to have great results. I like to pay tribute to the best, but have to draw the line and do skip some deserving ones. We often took the time to complete one of the two methods to acknowledge outstanding performance. One was the form at most of the restaurant tables that you deposit at the main Information Desk on Deck 7, and the other was an "Over and Above" performance card that was left one night in our cabin, but also available at the main desk. Sometimes finding their names is difficult because their name tags are difficult to read, their names hard to understand, or their names are not written on the table cards.
Following are some of our favorites: LaTrattoria - Maitre D's Harry and Marry. Harry is actually Suharyanto from Indonesia, and was incredibly helpful and entertaining to our Sydney. If you've got kids, I trust he will find you. They also saved us that night when we could not locate chocolate milk on our first night, so went back to them when everything was closed, and Blue Lagoon had none. We would have called room service, but the book in our room indicated it was not offered on Day 1, but we found it was available. We came across Harry throughout the week, and we always enjoyed his kind words and warm personality. Inegah Sayohey was great to us as well in Windows, as our Sydney reminded him of his two year old at home in Indonesia. A duo we liked in Windows were Kelton Fox and Aldo Ray, who were especially accommodating to our needs for quick service one night as we were rushing to see a 7:30 pm show. In Cagney's we enjoyed the service and smiles from Hostess Rashada Faustino, and Waitress Rogelizo Nanad from the Philippines . Call her J. Lo if you see her!! She actually remembered us from our Jewel cruise in 2005, when she worked in LaTrattoria. Others that I will mention later on include the Hotel Director Frank Hasenwinkel, Champagne Charlies Bartender Gede, Concierge Erika Heim, Front Offce Manager "Bon" Villaluz, and Group Event Coordinator Bruce Van Der Boon. Bruce will soon be filling in for Erika as Concierge. Executive Housekeeper Ralph Lawson oversees the cabin stewards, and we have become recognizable to him, having been with him on maybe 5 of our cruises. Thank him for having such clean rooms and accommodating stewards!! Sydney's Kids's Crew councelor, "Sharky" was also a lifesaver for us, making her and us feel comfortable in her presence. Lastly is our great Captain Kenneth Harstrom, who we were fortunate to meet and speak with on several occasions. It's incredible how outgoing and pleasant these people are, even knowing it is part of their job to make your experience the best it could be. They always seem to out perform our expectations, even though we keep raising the bar. On this cruise everyone was so nice to Sydney, that she became overwhelmed by it all. She got very shy, but when she opened up to some of them, we know she made their day!!
Kid's Crew: This was our 3rd cruise with grandkids on board, but the first we had responsibility and a first hand relationship with the staff. Our granddaughter was shy with most strangers the entire cruise, and reluctant to go off on her own to Kid's Crew. But one night she decided she wanted to go, and for the next three days spent some time there each day. We could not have been more pleased with the way the staff handled her, as we went back twice to check on her (discreetly) and she was having a good time. Once she even wanted to stay a little longer. Her prime counselor was "Sparky", and she took Sydney under her wing and was terrific. They played games, watched movies, went to the theater as a group and many more activities. They even had dinner together one evening.
Cagney's - We had two great dinners, one lunch, and several breakfasts. Service on each occasion was outstanding, while the staff proved to be as personable as they were efficient, and so kind and loving to our granddaughter.
Windows - One lunch and two breakfasts, and one dinner, and again the service was terrific. We tend to prefer the specialties because we are familiar with the menus prior to going, and the service is always outstanding. We were not disappointed in any way on these meals or the service. We had a tight schedule one night, and our waiters were great in getting us to the show with time to spare. The sliced beef loin with Yorkshire Pudding and gravy brought me back to my youth, where it was a frequent Sunday dinner with my family.
Raffles - One breakfast and two dinners, as I'm not a big buffet fan, but overall was quite satisfied with the food's quality and variety. My service was not so good, kidding of course, because I wasn't too good at making my selections and delivering it to our table in a timely manner. That's my biggest drawback for buffets, as some of it's cold, especially noticeable at breakfast, as toast. Is always a problem.
LaTrattoria - One great dinner where food and service were outstanding as expected. I've never ordered Tilapia, so this was a great opportunity to do so as plenty of backup was available. It was quite good, but I still prefer to see Cod, Scrod, Haddock and Flounder on the menus. My wife loves the many options available for your made to order pasta bar. A special repeat mention for the Maitre' D and her assistant, Marry and Harry, helping get our first night off to a great start. We had planned to return, but couldn't fit it in.
Beir Garten - Disappointed I only worked in one lunch, as it was the only day we spent the day pool side on this cruise. Love the speed and convenience along with the hot dogs, brats, fries, etc.
Blue Lagoon - Had one rushed dinner there due to running late on our evening plans, and made a couple of take out stops for quick bites. Hot dog, chili, chili dog, chicken fingers etc. were very good, though was a little disappointed in the fish and chips this trip. Too much breading for me.
Room Service - Rarely comes into play for us, but with our little one down during the few hours of rough seas, the chicken soup and ginger ale came in handy, as well as a couple of other occasions for her chocolate milk, and a popular grilled cheese. She surprisingly would not eat the mac and cheese, so I tasted it and found it had some spice in it I could not detect, as it may have been some pepper or something with a similar kick.
Meet and Greet:
We had an enjoyable informal meeting with our Roll Call friends and NCL attendees at Henry's Pub, giving everyone the opportunity to mingle with each other and staffers like the very important Hotel Director, F & B Manager, Bar Manager, Cruise Director Paul Scally, and our Group Service Coordinator. Of the 15 parties represented on our roll call, at least 11 were represented by the 25 or so attendees. Special note on our CC'er "danimal", as I happened to witness him reaching out to an elderly passenger who fell one night in the Maharini's Casino Lounge. Dan, an EMT, and his wife Jodi, a physical therapist, rushed to his aid prior to the arrival of ship medical personnel. My understanding is he broke his hip, and was flown home from Bermuda.
We attended each evening performance in the theater, and in general they lived up to our expectations. I don't think the current productions reach the heights once experienced with the Jean Ann Ryan Productions, but they certainly provided us with an hour of high quality entertainment each night. The Welcome Aboard Show previewed the upcoming shows on Saturday with 7:30 and 9:30 shows of "Showtime Tonight: On Broadway" with the production company, leading to evening performance of the Comedy Showtime with Second City, Magician Richard Burr, The Cat's Pajama's, a one week gig by a unique vocal band headed off to make a DVD, the very popular "On the Radio" musical production, and closing out with two shows on Thursday, beginning with the Farewell Variety Show not unlike the opening night show at 7:30, and the International Crew Show at 9:30 highlighted by the appearance and special words from the Captain, accompanied by key staff members, and representative staff from all over the ship, led on stage by a parade of flags and inspirational music. Our favorites were the Production Cast shows, and the vocalists who created background music through their vocals. We do not go out of our way to watch magicians, but really enjoyed Mr. Burr and his wife. Most of these performers can be seen in a variety of related performances and clinic throughout the week. Just pay attention to the FreeStyle Daily, and announcements made at the theater.
Our granddaughter's presence influenced our normal itinerary, but we did manage to enjoy some quality time at karaoke, the piano "martini" bar, Galaxy of the Stars, and the casino. "Galaxy" does not provide the venue afforded the larger ships in Spinnakers, as it appears to mandate that you give up some of your time and other options to reserve yourself some of the scarce prime seating. We did not do that, but I was able to catch some of a great "adult only" Cabaret Show there on Wednesday night
Our activities for the most part were structured around our granddaughter, Sydney. Upon arrival at King's Wharf. We decided to spend the day near the pier, and started out by heading to Snorkel Park. We checked out a few shops along the way, mainly looking for a couple of beach toys. She was happy we found a pail and shovel with accessories, and we found prices in general seemed very reasonable given our expectations for high prices. Entry to the beach was free, though 2 chairs and an umbrella set us back $25. They had other rentals available, though not everything was out.
Partly cloud skies were a good start as far as sun exposure goes! Temps were low 70's, and the water was said to be about 68. After some quality beach time, we visited the little playground we had passed, and Sydney also spent a few minutes playing in the sprinkler. We strolled around a bit more, and got some information on Dolphin Quest and the Maritime Museum. Because it would only cost us a total of $16 to enter the grounds and walk around, we put it on our agenda for another day.
On Monday we bought our two day bus and ferry pass, and headed for Hamilton. We planned to take the bus from there to Horseshoe Bay, but we had a "snafu". The first bus available was crowded and though it had a few seats left, there was no room for our stroller. There was a slot for large items, but there was a stroller there already, and it was quite small. The stroller would not fit on the next bus either, and the driver would not allow the stroller to take a seat even though there was plenty of room. It's a long story that finally worked out and we enjoyed a nice afternoon at beautiful Horseshoe Bay. We were surprised at the poor attitude shown by both bus drivers, as were the locals we met and discussed it with. We just had bad luck on that matter!! Horseshoe Bay was terrific, water had some surf but with comfortable temperature. A small cove sheltered by some large rocks is a great place for young kids. There were a few Portuguese Man o' War washed up on the beach, but did not notice any in the water. Back at the pier, we had been told there would be some activity on the streets of the Dockyard that night, but found the area locked up pretty tight. It was a nice evening to walk around, but the time could have been better spent on board. We took a ride on a horse drawn wagon, $50 for 45 min. It could have been less if we waited for more people. The driver, Sue, was a very pleasant young lady who gave us a nice tour, which included some facts and history of the area, and an interactive Q & A session throughout.
On Tuesday we went to Dolphin Quest, where Sydney had a great time watching the Dolphins. Though there was not formal show, we did watch them play for awhile, and then watched one woman take the Dolphin Swim which lasted over an hour, and she had the place to herself. I think she paid $255, but got more than she expected. They also had an option a family of three kids took, where they paid $60 for the first person, and $30 for each of the next two. The "deal" was for a 5 minute greeting with the dolphins, but again they got more. It was a brief interaction from the dock, but the pricing made it affordable for such a family. We didn't have time to see much of the museum, but did walk the grounds, and took some pictures from there across the waterway to our ship, with old cannons aimed directly at the Spirit. From there we did a little shopping at the Clock Tower Mall, and was impressed at the shops available and the modest pricing for souvenirs. Time was short, but we found what we needed and headed back toward the ship to drop off the stroller before boarding the bus to the Swizzle Inn for a late lunch.
Overall we really enjoyed our time on land, and accomplished our goals and then some. Quality beach time, nice weather, a few drinks while enjoying the sun and warm climate, and Sydney had a great time and loved the pink beach!!
It started a little late, but went smoothly once we got the OK to walk off. We were off the ship around 9:30, but traffic in the parking garage was a mess due to a broken payment machine at one gate. It took me more than 30 minutes to return to the terminal to pick up passengers and luggage. Signage in the garage is poor, as even with the exit problem they could have avoided the mess if there were signs or if attendants notified drivers of the problem.
The local people we met in Bermuda were very friendly and helpful. Parking at Black Falcon was $105. Pepsi fans should note the Coke is gone!! Photo Frenzy was $119. They later offered a $50 upgrade. The hot tubs on Deck 12 were utilized regularly. There was a free shuttle train/trolley that made a stop on the pier, convenient to the ship, but we never used it. NCL has excursions on a similar vehicle.
I really have to stretch to find something to criticize, but if I did it would be the quality of the TV programming, especially since we had a youngster with us. I'd think they could find something better than the Cartoon Network. Also, following sports onboard is quite difficult, as ESPN is the sole option. I wonder what it would take to have some basic network options available, even if there was a nominal charge. We don't spend much time in our cabin, but we did spend more than usual this time.
Special thanks goes out to the Captain Kenneth Harstrom and the Hotel Director Frank Hasenwinkel for making this such a memorable cruise. We also thank so many of the crew members who provided us with TLC, especially the tender loving care they provided from their hearts in making our granddaughter feel so special. I highly recommend the Spirit, and enjoyed our stay at the Dockyard. Though it did not have the quaint feel of St. George, it allowed for more convenient access to Hamilton and the South Shore area, and now that we've done it, I think we might prefer this cruise over the Majesty, the deciding factor being the size and amenities offered by the larger ship.