Husband and I cruised for our 10th anniversary and re-created our honeymoon cruise (also Boston-Bermuda on NCL). This time, we brought our 2 1/2 year old with us and splurged for a balcony. (Just for background, this was my 4th cruise--3rd on NCL, 1 previous on RCI).
Embarkation was a breeze and much appreciated by parents traveling with small children. We were quickly aboard and made our way to "Raffles", the ships buffet-style eatery.
Raffles quickly went downhill, and by the end of the week found it completely horrific to even consider eating there. The offerings were pretty tame and not well executed. The bread was often stale. The fruit needed to be replenished at all times and usually looked as if someone chopped it with an ax. None of the food tasted any better than anything I ate in my college cafeteria.
Dinner at Windows wasn't much better. The service was terrible--tons of staff standing around while my water glass was empty and dirty plates needed to be cleared. We ate cold food there one night and never went back.
Meals in the Garden Dining Room were marginally better, although the service was better, though not consistent. Sometimes, the waitstaff was friendly and wonderful, particularly with our daughter. Sometimes they were pushy and we felt rushed. Other times we waited extremely long waits to get our food or to even have a drink refilled. Overall, it was a step up from Windows, though.
One night we ate at La Tratoria, the pay extra ($10) for Italian food restaurant. The food was good, the service was better than the main dining rooms. Two notable differences: the food was actually served HOT, which we discovered makes a big difference, and the staff was able to bring us hot decaf coffee after dinner without a long wait. I know these seem trivial, but they also seem like basic issues in the food service industry and were lacking anywhere else we dined.
For lunch we mostly ate at the Biergarten--burgers, fries, coleslaw. It was good "junk food." And, breakfast was SO much better in Windows than at Raffles.
Our cabin stewards were both friendly, especially toward our daughter, and we appreciated that. However, they weren't particularly good at their jobs, and multiple times we needed to call for towels (not extras, just to replenish what they had taken away), beach towels, to ask to change the sheets that we noticed were dirty (not made dirty by us--yuk!!). I also noticed other signs on uncleanliness in our cabin and it's bathroom.
Cabins & bathrooms are small, with much less storage space than on other ships we've sailed. But, we made due. And, this is often expected. However, after my daughter's pull out bed was pulled out for the night, we could not get to the balcony door and spend time out there, as we had hoped.
NCL REALLY does a poor job at segregating smokers and non smokers, and several times we needed to move because we were overwhelmed by cigarette smoke. Also, no one enforces rules on NCL. For instance, there is a sign that says, "No children in diapers may swim in the pools." But, that is totally disregarded by parents, and no staff member enforces this. So, I was thrilled that my daughter was not interested in swimming in the baby pool (she is potty trained) and did not end up swimming in other children's feces.
The shows that we went to were all OUTSTANDING. There was a really talented acrobatic duo who were probably the highlight of our entertainment. They were amazing! Also, many of the singers and dancers were very, very good and made for an enjoyable evening. And, the grand finale the final night was truly remarkable--costumes, music, dancing--it was all top notch! NCL clearly spends time and effort looking for talent, and for that, they should be praised.
In general, I've fallen out of favor with "freestyle" because on this ship it tended to be more like a "free for all." Groups of mostly young boys (I'd say aged 10-12) ran around with no supervision, often nearly knocking over other guests as they made their way down the staircases, or through a hallway. At one of the shows, a few obnoxious boys held up an entire row of seats yelling out, "These seats are saved, you can't sit here!" But then, they got up and left 15 minutes into the show. Parents, too, were poorly behaved. We didn't send our daughter to the childcare center, but did try out a few of the "Family Fun" activities. At one, in particular, parents were nearly knocking each other down trying to see who could get ahead of another in line.
Another example comes from the staff. Every day, all day you are literally harassed into buying something from NCL: dvds, towels, spa packages, bingo tickets, extra wine, extra beer, bottle water instead of tap. It gets annoying when you have to repeatedly correct a server to ask for a glass of tap water.
I even had to contact the service desk one night when, after midnight, someone in our vicinity was allowing their children to scream off the balcony. This had gone on the night before, and I wanted to put an end to it before my child was awakened.
The seas to Bermuda were extremely rough, and my daughter ended up being very ill, so we took her to the ship's medical center and both the nurse and doctor who treated her were professional, helpful, and patient. I was not at all reticent about paying for the extra service and I appreciated their professionalism.
We ran into several nice families who also expressed similar concerns as ours. One family, in particular, who had also cruised on RCI in the past agreed that we would rather be on an RCI ship than on the Spirit (while on our 2nd day in Bermuda RCI's Explorer of the Seas pulled up next to us and we looked longingly at it!). Even the people who got off of the RCI ship seemed nicer than the majority of the people on the NCL Spirit.
We didn't swim much, but the pool was always crowded--or overcrowded! The kids' pool, too, is way, way too small.
Bermuda is charming and beautiful and we enjoyed King's Wharf and the close proximity to the beach and shopping.
Overall, you make your own good time, and we did just that!