This was our first ever cruise. I don't think of myself as a "cruise person" because I am fairly introverted, but we've always wondered what it's like. We chose NCL Spirit because we liked the itinerary, we wanted to see New Orleans, and it matched my Spring Break at work (I'm a college instructor).
Upon boarding on Sunday afternoon, our big surprise was that least 1/3 of the passengers were spring-breaking college students. I had no idea students could afford a cruise. They dominated the ship, simply because of their numbers and noise.
We stayed in an inside cabin on the 4th level; it was small, of course, but fairly well appointed and efficiently designed. Contrary to some other reviews, we couldn't hear the engines.
On most days, we ate breakfast and lunch at Raffles buffet, which offers hundreds of choices and a chaotic atmosphere. Raffles makes it easy to eat a lot of food, which can be a problem. In general, it is extremely easy to get food and drinks on a cruise. You'll have to decide if that's a good thing.
Most nights we ate dinner at Windows, which is a traditional restaurant offering a limited but solid menu.
What We Liked I love dining out back home and write restaurant reviews for a weekly newspaper, and I thought the food was fairly good. If you order carefully and watch yourself, you can eat well. It is certainly not gourmet, but that't not the goal on this ship.
The quality of the evening shows varied dramatically. Our favorites were Second City and Jo-El Sonnier, and the employee talent show on the last night was enjoyable.
I did not care for Elements (Cirque de Soleil-like), nor the acrobats, nor the amusement park-style musical shows, but nothing was terrible.
We also enjoyed reading in the Galaxy of the Stars, walking around the ship on the 13th and 7th levels, and drinking 2-for-1 martinis in Champagne Charlie's (one of the very few drink specials available).
Embarkation and disembarkation were both efficient and well organized, and even the tendering process to Belize City was a bit better than I expected.
What We Didn't Like NCL's business model is to charge a relatively low basic fee, but then "up sell" the customer in dozens of little ways all week.
You are also charged $12 per person per day as a "tip" for the people who clean your room. This is not really a "tip" at all, since you are automatically charged and it's not tied to the level of service. It's just another fee, and should be part of the main charge.
NCL is obsessed with selling jewelry, both on board and on shore. I am not a shopper and cannot say whether the prices are really a bargain, but quickly grew weary of the sales pitch.
The low point came on Monday afternoon, when we attended an "educational session about shore excursions and shopping." It was nothing more than a hard sell for buying jewelry, interspersed with throwing cheap junk into the audience. Stay far, far away.
Cruises are the perfect vacation for big-spending drinkers. Prices are around $6 for a beer, $9 for rum drinks in plastic cups, and over $10 for cocktails. We saw lots of people drinking a whole lot of expensive drinks all week, and NCL probably makes about half of its profit this way.
My main problem was that we were probably mismatched with an NCL cruise. After the shows, the evening activities are all designed for boisterous large groups. They are probably perfect for many cruisers, but made us feel left out.
Recommendations I'm not sure if all NCL cruises are such a "party boat," or only during spring break, but I'll probably opt next time for a line targeting a more mature market. I like a party, but would also like educational sessions and chances to learn about the ship and the countries we were visiting. You won't find that here
That said, I enjoyed myself. I am the type to read lots of reviews beforehand, and my experience was more positive than many of the other reviews found here.
By Sunday morning, I felt sad to leave the ship and return to real life.