This was not only our first time cruising with Norwegian but also the first time we cruised with our young adult son, daughter and daughters friend. We started out spending the night before the cruise in New Orleans. We stayed at the Marriott Springhill Suites...very convenient to the cruise pier, about 8 blocks from the French Quarter. Saturday night we enjoyed the French Quarter: Starting out at Bourbon Street...O'Brien's for the dueling piano bar and the best Hurricanes; we then went to Maison Bourbon for fabulous jazz; we ended the night at Cafe Dumond with cafe au laits and beignets. Great night!
Sunday it was an easy 2 blocks from the pier and parking and baggage handling were a breeze. Just drive into the parking garage and the porters will take your bags before you park. We tipped $1 per bag. Embarkation could not have been any smoother. No long lines and no waiting to board. We arrived at the ship around noon and went to Windows dining room for lunch. It was almost empty...everyone else headed for the buffet line, I guess.
We explored the ship and thought it was very nice...clean and well maintained, very pleasantly decorated with an Asian theme. Also they had decorated for Christmas. Not seen on every cruise line.
My husband, my son and I were in one cabin and my daughter and her friend were in another. We had received a free upgrade after I had read on our CC Roll Call that the price of the cruise had dropped and it might be possible to get an upgrade. We were upgraded to an outside cabin on the 8th deck. When we arrived in our room there was a bottle of wine from NCL and our travel agent and a $50 onboard credit. Nice surprise! The cabin was an adequate size and we liked that the NCL Spirit had a shower door unlike other cruise lines we had been on. The beds were comfortable (not as much as Carnival's), the TV was tiny.
The food on the ship was good in the main dining rooms. We loved the little bar Blue Lagoon where you could get fish n'chips, salads, wings, burgers, etc. Small space but good food. We were not crazy about the desserts...the cookies and ice cream were good. There was a grill overlooking the pool with hot dogs, burgers and bratz, potato salad, fries...all pretty good. The buffet was not as good as we have had on other cruise lines with the exception of breakfast. We enjoyed breakfast at the dining room three days so my husband could have his eggs benedict, but otherwise we liked the buffet just fine. We missed the free sushi and the 24 hour pizzeria that we've enjoyed on other ships...not offered on the Spirit. There were several restaurants which required a fee between $10 and $25pp. The only one we tried was Shogun and it was well worth the $15pp fee. We chose to eat at the Asian Restaurant and we were allowed to have as much sushi and however many items off the menu as we wanted. The service was impeccable and the food fantastic....highly recommended.
The service although different from other cruise lines was good. Our cabin stewards were invisible to us most of the time but did a fine job. We kind of missed the rapport gained from having the same wait persons every night, but everyone that waited on us was friendly and professional.
The entertainment was good. We especially enjoyed the comedy team, the acrobats and the last show Elements. We didn't especially enjoy the Broadway show. One criticism is the game shows were held in a lounge and they were hard to see. Also the parties were not that great. But our kids enjoyed the casino nightclub and the karaoke. I missed having a lounge with our kind of music and dancing. The line dancing classes were fun but crowded.
The ports of call were great...we had a blast on the Jungle Beach tour through the ship in Costa Maya. Free drinks all day, beautiful beach and facilities. We were able to get a great deal on Para-sailing...$25pp. The kids started playing volleyball and soon others joined them. In Guatemala we went on the waterfalls tour through Happy Fish. Our guide Carla was wonderful and we had a small group of 7 people. We learned about the plants that grow in the rain forest and their uses, we saw gorgeous scenery and we got about 45 minutes to swim in the unbelievable pond at the waterfalls. Belize we went on a snorkel/beach tour with Ecotours. Our guides were great but we were not thrilled with the snorkeling and didn't have hardly anytime on the beach...but Belize is gorgeous...do something. Cozumel my husband went diving with Blue Angel and he said it was fantastic. The kids and I went shopping, spent some time at Senor' Frogs (fun, fun, fun...but not for underage kids)and then went snorkeling at Chankanaab park. We had a great time. There were tons of fish and the water was clear and almost no one else there. For $36pp the kids got entrance to the park, snorkeling gear and t-shirts. Really nice park. One of the best things about NCL Spirit was we had more time in the ports than other ships we have been on.
Debarkation went smooth for us. At the information desk there are color coded tags for your luggage that coordinate with the time you want to leave the ship. We chose 9:30 a.m. and promptly at 9:30 our color was called. Our luggage was waiting for us and there were no long lines at customs. The whole process took about 30 minutes. Probably the best debarkation experience of the 6 cruises I've been on.
Our adult kids loved the cruise. It was my 23 year old sons first cruise and he says freestylin' is the only way to go. We enjoyed it enough to put a deposit on another NCL cruise sometime in the future.