About Me: I'm a 28 year old male who sailed with his 60 year old mother on the May 21, 2010 sailing of the Norwegian Spirit from Boston to Bermuda. This was my fourth NCL cruise this year sailing twice on the Norwegian Jewel and once on Norwegian Sky and my ninth NCL cruise overall. I've sailed on other cruise lines including with Princess (5x), Celebrity (3x), RCCL (1x) and Carnival (1x). I primarily cruise NCL these days switching completely from Princess as of January 2009. I prefer the FreeStyle concept and love NCL for their innovations they've brought to the cruise industry. With that said now here's my review...
Embarkation: For Boston this process went VERY smoothly. This was my third time cruising out of Boston and the other two times had torturous embarkations with long lines for everything from getting the bags to checking in. This time it was not the case. We got rid of our bags promptly and walked inside the terminal and through security to the check in counter where there was a five minute wait and then it was our turn. Then it was right up the escalator and onto the ship after being greeted by Bruce (Concierge). Before we knew it we were having lunch! I don't know how NCL fixed this problem from the past two years but it was a very enjoyable embarkation!
The Ship: The title of my review is inspired by her Oriental dEcor. Originally the SuperStar Leo she is now some 12 years old and in the public areas she's not showing her age at all. Everything looks brand new and is well polished and shiny. Her dry dock just over a year ago probably helped to keep her looking so fresh and new. Each of her specialty restaurants have incredible artwork - mostly Asian inspired (minus LeBistro and Windows). Our favorite dining room was Windows because you could see daylight no matter what part of the dining room you are in. Other public venues I enjoyed this trip included Cagney's Steakhouse, Le Bistro and Maharini's Nightclub.
The gym onboard is not as well appointed as the Jewel class ships with less equipment available and squished together. This is due to the lack of aerobics studio so part of the gym serves as this space.
The Stateroom: Our cabin was 11010 for this voyage. This was the only part of the entire ship where we thought she was showing her age. While not in a sad state of disrepair things were noticeably broken but easily fixed (for the most part). A handle on the nightstand drawer came loose and hung down. It was repaired by maintenance in 24 hours after it came loose. The bathroom tile needed re-grouting in the shower badly. I think since the bathrooms take the most abuse from passengers for a 12 year old ship it was in an ok shape. The carpeting in the stateroom had been recently replaced though as it had no spots showing wear and was stain free.
Food: To our pleasant surprise one of the very few familiar faces onboard from last year was the Executive Chef Hans Peter. We knew we were in great hands in the culinary department when we saw him out and about the first night. He is very friendly and always seeking guest feedback about the food onboard. Love NCL's chilled soups and didn't miss any of the favorites this cruise! I've cruised so frequently with NCL to know their menus inside and out and refer to them by their dinner numbers. Dinner 5 is my least favorite of the entire menu series on NCL. We did venture to two specialty restaurants this cruise and it was to Cagney's Steakhouse whilst docked in Bermuda and the other time was to Le Bistro. The food in Cagney's was excellent. Le Bistro onboard the Spirit has an open kitchen and so the food is really fresh and hot! Love the escargot in Le Bistro and also on the Dinner 7 menu. Great work Peter!
Fellow Passengers: The cruise from Boston always has such a mixed crowd and this cruise proved that you are as only as old as you act! I had a blast making friends of all ages this sailing. Bostonians don't seem to appreciate vocal house music as much so the disco wasn't as hopping as I would have liked but I understand a DJ has to play to their crowd and majority rules.
Now here's what I did on a day-to-day basis so that you can gauge the cruise as seen through my age group's eyes:
Day 1: Boston, MA - Embarkation - After boarding the Spirit we had a leisurely lunch. From there it was to the stateroom to drop off the bags which were ready just before 2PM. Hung out in the cabin for a while getting some of the carry-on stuff put away before watching the ship cast off from the balcony. Our cabin was on the starboard side and it had great sight lines to the bridge which is on the same deck. We watched the Captain pull away from the pier using the thrusters and such. It was neater than being up on deck. After they cleared out of that bridge wing we went upstairs to the Tivoli pool area and finished watching the ship back out and turn around.
After freshening up really quickly and changing into the clothes which arrived at some point when we were up on deck we headed to dinner at Window's Restaurant. Dinner was excellent and then it was off to the one show only Paul Scally & Friends. It's a variety show where you get to see clips of what the entertainment will be throughout the vacation. Great way to kick off the cruise!
For me it was off to Maharini's Nightclub to meet DJ Jasper and give him a CD for the White Hot Party. Since I was early to the club it was nice to actually get to talk with him and get to know him a little bit. I live for nightlife so it's good to get to know the DJ and their likes. DJ Jasper gauged his crowd and did very well during the rest of the cruise with playing to everyone's favorites. I'm sure the bar revenue numbers is proof positive that he knows what he's doing.
Day 2: Sea Day - Sea days are designed to sleep in and that's what any late night owl would be doing. My day started around lunch time and was just a lazy day at sea. Did some power walking of the Promenade Deck and poked around the shops onboard before taking a PM disco nap.
Dinner tonight was in Window's Restaurant and was flipped around. Usually the menus are sequential but on this trip we had Dinner 3 menu on the second night. Instead of having Beef Wellington we had the Prime Rib. No biggie. I like both menus and welcomed a change to the menu sequence!
Next it was off to Stardust Showtime of "On Broadway." With the new cast that signed on some four weeks previous there was a change to this show from last year. Some of the musicals were taken out (most noticeably my favorite "Hairspray") and were replaced with a few numbers from "In The Heights" and "Movin' Out." The new cast was incredible both on-stage and off-stage. I loved the Mamma Mia numbers at the end and the cast really seemed to come alive during this part of the performance. Great show and not to be missed!
Back to Maharini's after briefly checking out the 70's Groove Dance Party in Galaxy of the Stars for a night of dancing and chatter with new found friends.
Day 3: Sea Day / Heritage Wharf, Bermuda - After a leisurely breakfast on the balcony and watching the Spirit approach Bermuda we hung out and watched the ship pull into its berth on the Promenade Deck. We actually arrived and cleared customs earlier than anticipated so we watched the people getting off the ship before having lunch in Windows. Once we knew everyone was off the ship and the mad rush was completed we leisurely went ashore and explored the shops in the dockyard and Clock Tower Mall. All the vendors are pretty much the same as they were in 2009. Nothing new to see there and the pharmacy remained a popular place to get Coca-Cola products (as NCL now sells Pepsi products exclusively).
After walking around for a bit it was back to the ship to get ready for Cagney's Steakhouse and some al-fresco dining on the Promenade Deck. After checking several times about whether this event was still on because there was a slight breeze on deck, we showed up and were shown to a table inside. It was explained to us that it was simply too windy and it really was to dine outside. Things would have flown off the tables. This is a hidden gem to dine outside and watch the sunset and it's ONLY available on days when the ship is in port (Sunday and Monday nights) and there is good weather. Had a nice Porterhouse steak and ate it all myself to the surprise of Svetlana Kostunko, waitress and Rogeliza Nanad, hostess. Both were very attentive to our needs and Executive Chef Peter even stopped by for a few minutes to chat and make sure dinner was enjoyable and it was.
Tonight's show was Duo Acrobatique starring Roberto & Dorota. This is a definite must-see show. They explain what they're doing and just how dangerous it really is so that you will appreciate their performance later in the week during Elements. Two show times given of 7:15 and 9:15PM.
Galaxy of the Stars hosted the 50's & 60's Sock Hop while the disco was largely dead this night because Snorkel Park and Hammerheads on the other side of the dockyard was hosting their opening night party. I went in and checked it out. It's $5 for Spirit passengers and free for the Spirit crew. Drinks are slightly more expensive from what you'd pay onboard depending on what it is that you are drinking. The music was mostly reggae tunes and some hip hop. There were a few DJs spinning that night.
Day 4: Bermuda - BERMUDA DAY - Since this is Bermuda's annual holiday celebration with parades and festive outdoor parties we went down to Hamilton to check it out. We were skeptical that the parade would even happen but the weather gods were on Bermuda's side and the really rainy weather and winds had largely died down for the 4 hour long parade. It's the longest parade I've ever attended! Bermudians really like their dance routines, most of which was to reggae or hip hop music. We were opposite the main viewing stage with all the public officials from the island including the Premier and his wife. Since it was a national holiday in Bermuda very few shops were open and those that were in Hamilton shut down at 1:30PM to catch the parade going down Front Street. After the parade mom and I headed back to the ship.
After another great dinner in Window's Restaurant mom and I attended the show of the Second City comedy troupe. It was an ok entertainment option. The weather was no cooperative to have the deck party out on deck so it was relocated to Galaxy of the Stars. I lurked around that for a bit and it just seemed to lack energy so I went to bed early and skipped Maharini's completely.
Day 5: Bermuda - St. George's - Since the weather was so windy there was no direct route to St. George's as the ferry was not running. As a result you had to take the fast ferry to Hamilton and then bus it up to St. George's. When we arrived in St. George's we set out to find the house with the printing press that we missed two year's ago on the walking tour. We found it and it was open. St. George's is so great that you can go up and down streets and discover things you didn't see before and old houses with historical significance.
Sadly St. George's has gotten hit hard by the cruise ships pulling out. What was once a bustling shopping street just outside of Ordinance Island and off the town square is now just a dead zone. Most of the shops are closed now as are most of the restaurants that we recalled from a few years ago. The White Horse Tavern is still there though.
We hopped on a bus to St. David's to check out the other lighthouse on the island. The only way to get to it is from St. George's by taking the St. David's route. The bus drops you at a stop just a few feet from the lighthouse. Unlike what most locals tell you this lighthouse is not open to the public. However, if you are a lighthouse aficionado like my mother is then just getting some pictures of it and seeing it in person is perfectly fine.
After doing some last bit of shopping in Hamilton, including at A.S. Cooper Men's store which is the best line up of clothing for men I've seen on the island - especially for designer names, it was back to the ship for departure. The weather was still windy and rainy mess. We hurried down to the dining room and got a window seat in Window's Dining Room to watch cast off from the pier. Since the wind was blowing us back to the pier it was interesting that we shoved off and then slowly drifted back and then bounced off the pier. No damage to the ship other than rub marks from the bumpers when we returned to Boston and we finally got under way after turning around.
This night the seas were quite rough due to the weather they were having on the island the last two days we were there. We caught the late show of Soul Rockin' Nights to go back to the cabin and finish watching our departure from Bermuda. The production cast did a great job of dealing with the ship's swaying this night. If you like the genre of Rock music then you'll love this show. It was mom's favorite and my least favorite of the three productions onboard (based on the music involved).
The highlight of any NCL cruise for me is the White HOT Party and it was Tuesday night in Galaxy of the Stars. DJ Jaspar at the wheel and played a wide range of music for the premiere event up in Galaxy of the Stars. The night wasn't as hot as the one in March onboard the Norwegian Jewel with DJ Jean but it was an ok night. When the party moved to Maharini's Nightclub the music changed to more of a house beat, which is what a white party should be! Got to dance quite a bit this night and had a blast overall.
Day 6: Sea Day – No need to start early as the White Party went very late into the early hours of the day. Got up and had brunch this day and floated around the ship a bit doing some more browsing of deals and walking the Promenade Deck. Afternoon show of magic with Chorgis was a good way to spend 45 minutes out relaxing. Nice to have options during sea days in the afternoon which also include having a main show in the theater!
Off to dinner in LeBistro tonight with hot escargot. Very nice dinner service and the wait staff were very friendly and attentive. The open kitchen was a nice favorite although at our angle we couldn’t see it. We had a nice window seat overlooking the Promenade and the setting sun.
Afterward it was off to show time with Paul Scally, Cruise Director, doing his comedy show. Glad there were some audience members who played along this trip. Two dwarfs who he joked about came up on stage from the audience and kicked his butt for the jokes. It was cute, definitely staged, but cute.
Tonight was the Chocoholic Buffet in Window’s Restaurant. What a fabulous venue and what an incredible job done by the pastry chef onboard with the culinary presentation of chocolates. Doors were at 11PM and be sure to get there early to get your photos before all the food is gone!
Next it was off to VIP All Access Evening in Maharini’s Nightclub. It was nice to see a NEW evening in the nightclub with suggested attire of red or black. This was also the fall back night where you regained the hour you lost earlier in the cruise. It was great to hang out with the crew friends I made onboard while waiting for the adult male revue of “Ship-N-Males” to begin. Women out there (and gay men)… be sure to check out this revue! It features the hunky Brock (Production Dancer), Eduardo (Guest Relations), Kwasi (Happy Happy Washy Washy Guy) & Paul Scally (Cruise Director). It’s an adult’s only revue and it’s well worth staying up to midnight for (even if you’re not a spring chicken). A great night for the nightclub onboard and it was definitely nice to spend the night here until 3:30AM.
Day 7: Sea Day – Sleeping is the name of the game here. It’s a bit chilly outside so just hung around and had a late lunch and went to the International Crew Talent Show. This is a definite must attend. The crew work so hard for us and the least we can do is go and support them and cheer them on with their very good hidden talents. The show time was at 3PM in the Stardust Theater.
Tonight was the lovely Dinner 7 menu with the escargot, chilled black cherry soup and beef tenderloin in Window’s Restaurant. Great dinner service and special thanks to Bruce for getting us in the dining room in record time considering we didn’t call him beforehand to set this up. Very nice last dinner onboard and I highly recommend this dinner as it is the best dining room menu on this night of the cruise!
Next it was off to show time of “Elements.” It’s a new production to the Norwegian Spirit for this year’s Boston to Bermuda season. It’s a fire and ice Cirque-style show with acrobats Roberto & Darota. There is no signing in this production, just performance and dance numbers. If you’ve seen Cirque Bijoux produced by Jean Ann Ryan, this show goes a step further in the cirque style. The closing part of the show is just fantastic with the acrobats and dancers flying high and confetti raining down. A strong suggestion is to sit a few rows back to catch the full performance. Also, be sure to have an empty bladder before attending the shows as the aisles are used frequently by performers. People getting up and getting in their way just does not enhance the performance and is dangerous for everyone involved (passenger and cast member). This show is definitely a must-see event of the cruise! It was so good I saw it twice!
After the “Elements” second show be sure to get up to the Galaxy of the Stars to participate in the always hilarious “Quest” game show. It’s an adult’s only show featuring a quest for items that are not easily found or produce-able but on your person. That’s all I’m saying! It’s always hilarious!!
It was off to Maharini’s Nightclub for the farewell disco which featured a toga party. Most guests got into the spirit of the event and it made the last night onboard great. I called it quits fairly early knowing that disembarkation morning is always an early one. Left the disco at 1:30AM and it was still hopping. Thanked the DJ for the nice house sets he played throughout the cruise and off to bed I went.
Day 8: Boston, MA – Disembarkation – Woke up at 7AM to find us already docked. Usually we’re still coming into the city at that point. Went back to bed until 8AM and got up and had some breakfast. Disembarkation was the smoothest I’ve ever seen it and all luggage tags were called by 10AM. A lot of folks did the Express Walk-Off with their own bags so there were very few that the porters had to handle. Since it is a Friday morning we opted to be the last group off to avoid rush hour in Boston as we were driving. Blue and Light Blue are the luggage tags which are the last ones off. Thanks to the nice send off by Scott of the Cruise Staff.
Conclusion: Since we’ve done this itinerary before the ship was really the main attraction and her crew did not disappoint! The Oriental Lady rolled out the VIP red carpet for mom and I and it was a great cruise. I wish Mother Nature had cooperated quite a bit more for our port time in Bermuda because it dampened the fun ashore but we fully realize that sometimes you have a bad weather cruise. Just means you have to cruise more frequently or repeat the cruise again!!
I would like to take a special moment to thank all these people for whom made this cruise so enjoyable for me:
First and foremost a big thanks to Bruce Van Der Boon, Concierge Extraordinaire, who without his services this cruise would not have been nearly as smooth flowing as it was. Bruce was nearly always the first person to greet me in the morning for breakfast and was always hospitable no matter the request – no matter how late the request was prior to the time of wanting it. The incredible dining service team on this ship was so nice and so hospitable no matter the dining room. My two favorite hostesses were Rogeliza Nanad and Neysi Webster who no matter where mom or I would be on the ship would always come over and greet us with a big smile and warm welcome. Svetlana Kostunko in Cagney’s Steakhouse was incredible the entire trip. Thomas and Miguel Rodrigues in Window’s Restaurants remembered us by name days after we sat in their section. Quite impressive the level of service offered by the dining room crew! Annalyn Paz was the best bellperson we had for figuring out a recurrent room service need and scheduling times for it. That is really great customer service right there!
Jeniffer Balisacan and Josue Echano were incredibly helpful and attentive stateroom stewards on Deck 11 forward. Josue took care of some problems including a backed up drain for us when maintenance had their hands full on embarkation night. Josue also found a large enough trash bag to wear as a poncho because the ones on shore didn’t fit my height and I was soaked from the waist down after going out for an hour. Very good work Josue! A trash bag might not have looked glamorous but it kept me dry and that’s what counted!
A shout out to my favorite Maharini’s Nightclub staff of Irma (Waitress), Dewa Padma (Bar Waiter) and to Reynoldo and Pedro (Bartenders) who besides the DJ made Maharini’s a great place to hang out nearly every single night of the cruise! DJ Jaspar did an incredible job spinning house music where he could and any DJ who likes house music is an instant favorite of mine! Nice work DJ Jaspar!
I mention all these people by name because they stood out and each earned themselves STYLE cards in their own right. The production cast members and cruise staff was incredible to hang around with as well and I thank them for their company and the memories! Thanks to Milka for setting up the onboard Meet & Greet for Cruise Critic and for taking care of a special task given to her with great care and speed!
I am looking forward to my next cruise with NCL in the not too distant future!