My husband and I set sail out of Boston on the Norwegian Spirit. This was our first Norwegian. We have cruised Royal Caribbean three times. We had hurricane Earl and Fiona to contend with. We boarded Friday but had to stayed tied up in port until Saturday morning and the storms passed by. That was fine - better safe than sorry... or safe than sick!
First of all - we want this review to be fair. You cannot compare Norwegian with Royal Caribbean. Two totally different cruise lines. I found myself wanting to compare - but that would not be fair as they are two different experiences. We knew that going into this cruise - we had talked to several people and read several reviews. We wanted to experience a freestyle cruise and we were not disappointed. We loved the fact that we didn't have to dress up if we didn't want to and we could eat where and when we wanted. We did however, find ourselves wanting to interact with fellow cruisers and there was no real opportunity for that. We were always seated at a table for two. I think people should have the option of being able to join another table and chat with others during the meals if they wanted to. We did not eat at any of the specialty restaurants in which you had to pay extra. We loved the Garden and Windows restaurants for the evening meals. We never made reservations and never had to wait for a table. Raffles was a great buffet. We enjoyed it for breakfasts and lunches and found ourselves going back often for the fresh fruit! The one complaint that we did have was the lack of drinking options available. Basically all they had to offer was water unless you wanted to pay crazy high prices for other drinks. On Royal Caribbean there was always fruit punch and ice tea available as well as the water. We have not been on Royal Caribbean for 7 years so maybe this has changed now too. Also on Royal Caribbean, sodas, or non alcoholic drinks were free during the evening meals. This was not so on Norwegian. Water or pay big bucks. You could purchase a drink card before boarding, but we do not drink that much soda to warrant it. We just felt that there could have been other options besides water at the buffet. One other tiny complaint is that the coffee dispensers were two spouts for decaf on one end of the buffet and two spouts of regular on the other. I always found myself on the wrong end for regular coffee. Not sure why there couldn't be a spout of each at both ends. But this is a trivial complaint really :)
We had 2 days at sea going to Bermuda and 2 days at sea coming back. It was a bit rough the first day and the last, but being from and Island and riding a ferry often, it didn't bother us. The intention of our vacation was purely to relax. And relax we did. We found a lounger by the pool, took some books and read. We did not join many of the cruise activities so cannot comment on them. This was the perfect ship to simply relax as there wasn't many options of things to do like the larger cruise ships. No mini golf, rock walls, ice rinks, or simulators.
We enjoyed the shows each evening and attended many of the 'game shows' put on by the cruise staff each evening. Very entertaining. We found the comedy of Second City the best.
We had a balcony on the 11th deck aft. It was small, but we knew that going in. We really enjoyed the balcony and being able to step outside early mornings or sit out in the evenings to read. The room steward did an excellent job at keeping our room clean and tidy. The decor is a bit 'dated' and the pool towels were stained and dingy. Maybe they need to upgrade in that area a bit. Our bathroom smelled slightly of sewer by times and one morning it would not flush. After a phone call we found that all toilets on deck 9, 10 and 11 had a problem that they were working on. It was fixed after a short time.
As far as the the ship and all it has to offer - we were not disappointed. We knew going into it that it was small and not as elaborate as the previous Royal Caribbean ships. So for what we wanted, we have no complaints.
It is important to read reviews and know what you are getting when you book. There is no point in booking on a smaller ship and then complaining that it is small, or booking freestyle and then complaining because you wanted structure. Know what is on the ship before you book.
As far as Bermuda. It was VERY hot! And very beautiful. We got a bus/ferry pass, but soon learned that the bus ride was a crazy experience! Fairly long waits at hot bus stops, many stops and starts en route and very twisty, turny roads! We did take the ferry to St. George, which was nice, and the bus back. We went to the Crystal/ Fantasy Caves on the way back. They were excellent and worth the visit. We also stopped at Horseshoe Bay Beach, which was wonderful! Helped break up the grueling bus ride.
We found that Snorkel Beach, which was in walking distance of the ship, was the best beach and easy access without having to take the bus! A bit annoying that you have to pay $5 to go there, but no biggy. We attempted the bus one more time to snorkel at Church Bay. Wasn't really worth the hassle of getting there but did see some nice fish. We just missed the return bus by seconds so had to wait in the heat for a half hour for the next one! And the bugs were bad! Taxis are super expensive. Next time we might attempt the scooters.
All in all, we had a relaxing vacation and were not disappointed in any way as we did our homework before booking.