NORWEGIAN SPIRIT 7/03/04 TO 7/10/04 We had a great cruise on the Spirit. Here's our review:
Embarkation - Went very smoothly. We arrived at the parking garage across the street from the terminal about 11:15 and by 12:10 we were having lunch at Windows after dropping off our carry-on stuff in our stateroom. There were no lines to speak of for check-in but we got there before they started loading the ship so we had to wait about ½ hour before loading began. Our room steward was just finishing up with the room so we asked him for some type of pad (egg crate foam or whatever) to soften the hard mattress. By late afternoon, it had been taken care of and we enjoyed a comfortable bed all week. The weather was beautiful in Seattle and it got a little warm for our "lifeboat drill" at 4:00. As we pulled away from the dock around 4:45, a fireboat serenaded us with a water show which was enjoyed by all.
Day at Sea - Sunday was a beautiful, sunny day at sea with temperatures in the mid-60's. It was a scenic day while cruising the inside passage - we took over 50 pictures that day alone.
Ketchikan - We pulled into Ketchikan about 6:00 on rainy Monday morning. It rained the whole time we were there (over 2" of rain that day) and the temperatures were in the mid-50's. We got right off the ship (no lines) about 8:00 for our excursion (Totem Bight & Ketchikan City tour). After we got back from our excursion, we walked to Creek Street and around town. Getting back on the Spirit around 1:30 was no problem at all - we just walked back on.
Juneau - We arrived in Juneau quite early, around 5 in the morning. There was a very low cloud ceiling and it was "misting" out (light rain) and again the temperatures were in the 50's. We didn't book any excursions in Juneau and had planned to go up the Mt. Roberts Tram, but it was so cloudy out and the visibility was so bad, we decided it wasn't worth it. So, we set off walking to explore Juneau - we went to the Alaska State Museum which is quite nice. Again there were no problems or lines in getting off or back on the Spirit. We did dock quite a ways from downtown, but the shuttle busses were there to take you back and forth so that was no big deal.
Tracy Arm & Sawyer Glacier - We left Juneau promptly at 2:00 and entered Tracy Arm Fjord around 4:30 and were at Sawyer Glacier about 5:45. It was cloudy (at least it wasn't raining), so we didn't get to see some of the magnificent colors that abound when the sun is out. We viewed the entire event from our balcony (Deck 9, starboard side) and had a fabulous view and could keep popping back into our nice warm stateroom when we got too cold (and it was cold). There were a lot of icebergs so we didn't think we were going to be able to get very close, but we did - I kind of felt like I was on the "Titanic" hitting all the icebergs we did, but we got quite close to the glacier (didn't get to see or hear any calving, though). There were hundreds of seals (a lot of babies) lying on the icebergs.
Skagway - By 4:30 in the morning we were docked in Skagway. We saw the NCL Star dock right beside us around 5:30. It was quite cool early in the morning (about 48) but warmed up to the low 70's in the early afternoon. We also watched the Coral Princess, Serenade of the Seas, and the Spirit of Endeavour dock nearby. We got off the ship about 7:45 (again no lines or problems) for our first excursion (Klondike Dredge & Gold Panning, which was really a lot of fun). After we got back from that excursion we walked around a "packed" Skagway (too many ships in port), going back to the Spirit for lunch and a little rest before our afternoon excursion (Skagway Street Car, which we also enjoyed). Both of these excursions give you a good background of the history of the area which we liked. We did some more walking around town until around 4:00 when we got back on the Spirit (again no lines or problems). That night after leaving Skagway, the waters were a little rough causing a few passengers to get seasick.
Prince Rupert - We arrived at our last port of call about 2:00. It was mostly sunny in PR with temperatures in the low 60's. Hoping to get acquainted with the city and its history, we had signed up for the City Tour. We were somewhat disappointed because the tour guide just read a script "word for word" and gave a lot of boring information. We know PR is new to the cruising industry and hasn't had much experience yet, so we need to give them some time. This is a good place for a self-guided walking tour. They have a great museum just up the hill from where the Spirit docks with all kinds of information on the area.
Day at Sea - Finally a day to sleep in since we had been getting up around 4:00 each morning to enjoy the beautiful sunrise and scenery. We cruised on the west side of Vancouver Island so there were really not many sights to photograph. Luckily the waters were quite calm and the weather was nice enough to enjoy the outdoor barbecue. It was a day of meetings (debarkation talk), demos (ice carving and towel folding) and shows (crew show, passenger talent show, Jane L. Powell). Debarkation - We arrived in Seattle around 5:45 right behind the Diamond Princess. We had a nice breakfast in Windows, then went back to our stateroom to watch the unloading (and preparations for reloading) of the ship. The first group of passengers (those with flights before noon) debarked at 7:55, and about every 15 minutes they would announce the next group. Our group (Deck 9) debarked at 9:10, walking right off the ship, right through immigration, picked up our luggage (had trouble finding one of our bags because it was put with Deck 8) and walked right through customs with no problems.
Dining - We usually got a light early morning breakfast (between 6 & 7) via room service - coffee, milk, juice, fresh fruit, a muffin or Danish. You fill out the little card and put it on the outside of your stateroom door the night before, indicating what time you want it delivered. They were always prompt, in fact, usually about 15 minutes before the time we had indicated on the card. Later on in the morning we would either go up to Raffles Buffet or Windows for a nice breakfast. Both were good (Windows a little better, though) and we never had a wait at either. We had lunch at Blue Lagoon once, which was pretty crowded around noontime but service was still pretty fast (soup and fried rice were pretty good). Several times we went to the Raffles Terrace barbecue - that was always good and usually no line (except hard finding a table on the nice days). We also had lunch at Windows several times, probably the best place for lunch, and we never had a wait there. We had dinner at Windows, Garden Room, Raffles Buffet and Maxim's. We were rather disappointed with our $50 dinner at Maxim's - our waiter was busy with a large party and pretty much ignored us and the meal was not much better than what we had at Windows. We normally ate rather early (between 5:30 and 6:30) and never had a wait anywhere but when we left after dinner at Windows or the Garden Room, there usually was quite a long line of people waiting for tables. The buffet was better than we had expected and the desserts there were really good and we always had an excellent meal at Windows or the Garden Room. Our only complaint with dining was the "background" music in the restaurants was pretty loud and sometimes annoying. Also, they needed faster clearing of tables both at Raffles Buffet and Raffles Terrace - it was difficult finding a table at times. A recommendation for dining is that you be willing to share a table with fellow cruisers. You get to meet a lot of people that way and it helps speed up the dining for later arrivals. It seemed like most of the tables for 4 in Windows, had 2 people sitting at them while there was a line of people waiting.
Cabin - We were very happy with our balcony cabin (the only way to go on an Alaska cruise because the scenery is never-ending). Our room steward did a great job and kept our ice bucket full and replenished our towels as needed. Storage space was pretty good - there were about 4 shelves on the side of the closet and another shelf on the bottom for shoes and there were 4 small drawers under the TV area. Our largest suitcase would not fit under the bed but there was plenty of room in the closet for it. Also there were 4 shelves in the bathroom on either side of the mirror. The bathroom was a good size (a lot bigger than the Sky had) with a separate toilet area (very tiny with a frosted glass door) on one side and the shower (very good size) with a glass door on the other side. There were only about 10 hangers in the closet so you might need to ask for more or bring some of your own.
Entertainment & Activities - We weren't much into the activities and entertainment as we wanted to be outside on deck or on our balcony as much as we possibly could. We did see some shows (Great Adventure Showtime, Night on the Town, Jane L. Powell, and our favorite was the comedian, Bud Anderson). There were all kinds of activities - just check your Freestyle Daily every evening when you get it for the next day's activities - bring a highlighter pen so you can mark your choices! One thing we did enjoy was the viewing area for the bridge of the ship. The curtain is not open very often or for very long, but if you check the Daily you can find out when viewing is available (noon to 2 on embarkation day and then usually only when in port from about 11 to 1).
Complaints - Our main complaint was that the cruise was over way too soon! No, seriously, we really don't have much in the way of complaints - nothing is 100% perfect and you should expect a few problems. We would have liked to have the Spirit cruise on the east side of Vancouver Island (southbound direction) instead of on the west side as there is nothing to see but the ocean, and the inside passage is so beautiful and full of wondrous sights that you can't get enough of them! So, we're ready to cruise once again to Alaska - just want to find a ship that cruises the "true" inside passage the whole trip.
Norwegian Spirit -On Channel 3 on the television in your stateroom you get a "Report from the Bridge" every 15 minutes (miles traveled, miles to next port, miles from last port, current temperature, sea conditions, wind conditions, exact location, etc.) and then between those updates there was a continuous map showing the route you were on and the Spirit's location. In fact we got a map of the inside passage and attached it to the wall in our stateroom (the wall had a vinyl covering) and marked our route as we sailed along. The Spirit is a beautiful ship with a fabulous crew who do their best to serve you well - everyone was friendly and took time to converse with you if you were interested - we found the staff in both of the main restaurants (Windows and Garden Room) to be attentive and, in fact, outstanding. It appears the crew of the Spirit has made great advances from the first few cruises making this a great choice for your Alaska adventure! ENJOY!