Hello, My wife and I took the July 17-24 cruise to Bermuda from Boston on the Norwegian Spirit. This was our first cruise together, and a honeymoon at that!
Our review of this cruise:
Despite the amount of people, boarding was quick. I don't think, really, that it matters if you arrive "very early" or "early" ... the lines are long regardless but move quickly. Except for your carry-on, your luggage is checked for you and delivered to your room later in the day. Free champagne throughout the lobby as you enter!
Through the boarding process, you will be issued a plastic card that serves as your room key as well as a "credit card" for any purchases to be posted to your account. (On one of my on-shore visits while in Bermuda, I lost my card but getting back onto the ship was a breeze. A new card was issued to me at the reception desk. I was anticipating a process of probably an hour, but it took a matter of moments.)
The first reception, immediately after the champagne, is a big pool party tons of people, food, lively music you will be "given" a tropical drink but don't get caught off guard the server will ask for your card immediately after handing you the drink ... so even thought it appears to be another "freebee," it isn't!
We had a stateroom with a balcony; the room was nice; we had asked for one queen-sized bed but ended up with two twin beds; by evening, they were converted into a king-sized bed. The bathroom was very compact but, actually, larger than we had anticipated. Closet space was more than adequate; drawer space is not, so plan on keeping some of your items in your suitcases under the bed. There is a TV, a safe, ice bucket which is refreshed regularly; there is no refrigerator or clothes iron in the room.
As for meals, it is called "Freestyle Cruising" so there are no specific seating times. There are three main options included and several specialty options that require a surcharge. The two main dining rooms are Windows and The Garden Room; we learned to plan on arriving just prior to opening time for dinner to avoid very long lines. If you are at the front of the line, service will be very good and very prompt. Afterwards, when those dining rooms are filled, the wait can be long and the service can slow to a crawl. This is more likely to occur at dinnertime than earlier in the day. If you eat breakfast at a "normal" time, as we do, the dining rooms are nearly empty because those who are late-night partiers are still snoozing.
The third main option is a buffet called "Raffles." It is a cafeteria-style buffet and atmosphere, and can be packed, very loud, and chaotic. There are many, many people who choose this option, especially those with children and teenagers, so the noise level is much higher. You can wait a very long time or have not much of a wait at all; it is "hit or miss."
The specialty restaurant options are worth a try if you prefer a quiet, more elegantly relaxing environment with excellent service and cuisine. Le Bistro is top-notch but requires the highest cover charge; plan to have at least one dinner there; due to the additional price, these options may be the only way to avoid noisy, unruly children at dinner time. La Trattoria is fairly authentic Italian for dinner; but either bring with you a huge appetite or make it a point to skip at least one of the courses!
There were a lot of children and teenagers/young adults on this cruise. When the children were with the activities program, they acted fine with the staff; in fact, in the darkness of the Stardust theater, there were about fifty of them seated together, and we didn't even realize their presence across the aisle from us until the lights went on at the end of the show. It was when they were with their parents that many of them were out of control loud, crying, whining, swearing were all things that were commonplace among this element. You need to learn which of these families to avoid. For the young adults, they can drink as of 18 with parental permission, so some of them "go wild."
It is best not to have any expectations for any of the events. We were looking forward to the "Disco" event, but it was nothing that we expected; even though it was in the large dance club ("Galaxy of the Stars"), it was packed with people who were too young below drinking age to be there. Even though we are avid disco dancers, we left that event after about fifteen minutes.
There is one main pool and one amusement pool for youngsters. On days "at sea," the main pool is jam-packed and if you wait until mid-morning you may very well be unable to find a lounge chair anywhere. At the Dockyard was also parked another cruise ship, from a different cruise line, that had 4-5 pools.
Saturday at sea was rough; I wasn't the only passenger who was uncomfortable despite my Dramamine. Many people had the prescription ear patches which I would do before any possible cruising in the future. Many people who cruise regularly said that this type of choppy sea in unusual.
The shows in the Stardust theater were all good, but not terrific. The best one was the four-member singing group from the Midwest. The magician was a big build-up for not much, really. Plan to arrive early to these shows and sit in the middle and not by an aisle I am tall and there is adequate leg room; otherwise, when you sit by the aisle you will be constantly letting the last-minute arrivers into their seats.
The service everywhere is hard-working and exceptionally polite. Don't hesitate to ask for anything you need, especially for directions with regard to various destinations on the ship!
Disembarkation was seemingly well-planned with an informational session beforehand; luggage is checked the night before you leave the ship; you keep personal items, medications, and a change of clothing with you for the morning. Going through this for the first time seemed like a free-for-all, but when your group is called, it does go smoothly and quickly.
Once in Bermuda, we bought a public transportation three-day pass at the terminal; this pass covers the public transportation routes throughout the island and the ferry services as well. Many other people arranged for special excursions, and most of those are booked in advance. We had booked a horse carriage ride which was CANCELED because not enough people had made reservations.
Our first venture was a bus ride from the Dockyard to Hamilton; we did this on a Sunday which was a waste of our time because most of the shops are closed on Sundays. Had we known this, we would have used Sunday as our beach day. We did, however, get to see the "real" Bermuda that of the average, hardworking laborers the part that doesn't seem to get on the postcards. Keep in mind that these are the people that, once on the job, serve you very well in all of the shops and taverns.
Our second venture was a ferry ride on Monday from the Dockyard to St. George. This is the historic place that everyone raves about. In July, however, all of the stucco buildings, sidewalks, and narrow paved streets create a brick oven. We were hoping to visit a perfume factory, but received different directions from everyone; after baking for an hour, we needed to seek shade and found it at the tavern on the waterfront and waited for our ferry ride home.
Our third venture was a bus ride to Horseshoe beach. As one might expect, it was spectacular. The sight of water in hues of aqua, turquoise, and blue with water in the low 80's made this a perfect excursion. Beach chairs are rented for $10 as are beach umbrellas (but those are not available on windy days). Alcohol is available for purchase from a stand at the entrance to the beach, and there is also a little convenience store there. If the walk up the long, steep hill to the bus stop is too much at the end of the day, there is the opportunity to purchase a ride for $2 per person in a van that makes that trek every few minutes. As I mentioned earlier, had we known better, we would have done our venture to the beach on Sunday when everything else was closed.
The voyage back to Boston was much smoother. Although there was, apparently, a summer "nor'easter" storm going up the coast, the sea was not rough on our route. We did have weather that was cloudy, drizzly, and foggy as we approached New England. It was comforting to see the beams from an occasional lighthouse in the distance, through the fog, as well as a trawling fishing vessel or two.
We wish other cruisers an enjoyable, safe, fun-filled voyage experience!