If I had to limit my description of our recently completed two week Canada/New England cruise on the NCL Spirit it would have to be "hospitality." We experienced hospitality at nearly every step of the way - from our arrival at a crowded Black Falcon Pier to embark for our cruise to our leaving for home at the same pier. This word certainly extends to all of the crew we could possibly interact with our whole cruise and to the majority of ports we visited. The entire crew was friendly as well as professional. I cannot think of one member of the crew that did not offer a smile and a friendly greeting as we walked around the ship the entire two weeks.
This was my DH and I's sixth NCL cruise and our second cruise on the Spirit. Both were in the same cabin - 9212, an AD suite overlooking the wake. The suite was basically as we remembered it. There was now a flat-screen TV in the living area and the special suite coffee machine. We had only been on board a few minutes when DH exclaimed: "I feel at home."
Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at the pier about 11 AM. There were greeters to guide us every where at the port. We went through security, were escorted to suite check-in and then the suite waiting area. We were greeted by our first concierge, Bruce, and the standard beverages and pastries to enjoy until we could board. We were allowed to board just before noon. We were escorted to our room by our butler, Maurice. After dropping our carry-on luggage in our room and meeting our exceptional room steward, Jeremiah, who was putting the finishing touches on our room, we headed to Cagney's for the first of many lunches - and shrimp cocktails. The wait staff in Cagney's for breakfast and lunch were superb and functioned very much like a team.
After lunch we refreshed our memory of the ship's layout as we explored it once again. There were no surprises from what we remembered from four years ago, although as noted on the boards various places, the video arcade has been moved from deck 10 aft to deck 7 mid. The Spirit is not a new ship. There are places where we noticed that she has aged in the four years since we last sailed on her. She still maintains the character and charm that we first fell in love with. With the cooler temperatures of this itinerary there could be crowding in the buffet seating area at prime times since few people would brave eating in the outside aft area. This seems to be a regular problem on any cruise ship doing cooler itineraries as we also experienced it on an Alaska cruise on another cruise line.
As this was a port intensive itinerary, NCL scheduled our roll call's meet and greet for 7 PM the evening we sailed. This worked out well and the majority of folks attended. Many of the officers attended, headed by Frank, the Hotel Director. Rather than stand up in front of the group and give a "canned talk", all of the staff attending mingled with the Cruise Critic folks. This was very appreciated and enjoyed by those who came as I heard many positive comments about the officers coming and spending time talking with them.
For the second half of the cruise Annabelle "Bel" was our concierge. She stepped into the job at the last minute. She was professional, friendly and very helpful in making sure we had things we needed during the week. We enjoyed her care for us throughout the second week.
While in Bar Harbor, Public Health was on board for their inspection. We learned on our tender trip back from town that they had scored 100 as we chatted with Sam, who entertained with his wife, Margie, mainly in Champagne Charlies. This was announced in the evening during the show and the Lattitudes Party. Thinking of the friendliness of the crew, two days later we ran into Sam on the street in Sydney. He remembered us. As we chatted he directed us to a discount store for DH to pick up a couple of items he had forgotten to pack.
The great score from Public Health made the introduction of the GI virus during the second week a surprise. My first hint that there was a problem was during the announcement that we could disembark in Charlottestown we were reminded to wash our hands frequently, even while in port. When we returned to the ship, all of the standard precautions were now in place to prevent the spread. Sources told me there were about 50 persons who were affected, my DH being one. The staff in the medical center was great. They were caring and concerned about how he was doing, frequently checking on him. Jeremiah, our room steward, cleaned our room completely twice each day and still had a smile on his face in the evening and enjoyed making the towel animals for us - ones that we had never had before. It was how he helped us to make the best of the illness and to smile.
The passengers on this cruise were mainly over 55, as I expected. There were very few children on board. As always we enjoyed meeting those who had been a part of our roll call at the meet and greet and then chatting with them a various times during the rest of the cruise. We also met others when we agreed to share a table at dinner or sat with in the buffet. We always enjoy the perspectives of others who are from other states or countries.
We enjoyed several of the theater shows, particularly during the first week. We enjoyed the acrobatic duo. The Elements show that last night of each week was the best show I've seen on NCL.
The ports of call all had their interesting parts. We chose this cruise because of the Canadian ports, having wanted to visit the Atlantic Provinces for some time. We enjoyed the uniqueness of each of the ports and what was offered. A quick note about them.
Bar Harbor, Maine is a quintessential northern New England town that has tried hard to preserve its character while developing a tourist business. We walked around and found the Abbe Museum of Native American culture and took a private tour into Acadia National Park.
St. John New Brunswick and the Bay of Fundy was great. We were surprised at the welcome we received as we disembarked that day. The local volunteers were out to greet us - women received a rose. We took the NCL tour up along the Bay of Fundy and the Fundy Trail that included a stop in St. Martin. I would highly recommend this tour. The experience was wonderful. At lunch we were entertained with stories from the past of the area.
Halifax, Nova Scotia was the one port we were at twice. The first time we did a private drive around town and visited the Citadel, Botanical Gardens and Fairlawn Cemetery where Titanic passengers are buried. We wondered around the waterfront getting our bearings for what to do on our return. The second time we visited the Maritime Museum. There is plenty of other exhibits to see here besides the Titanic exhibits.
Sydney, Nova Scotia we opted to visit the Highland Village Museum. The travel to and from allowed us to see some of the Cape Breton Island scenery and hear about their Celtic connections. We then wondered around town for awhile and visited a few of the local museums.
Cornerbrook, Newfoundland found us walking their urban trail along the brook that runs through town. Once you were on the trail you would hardly know you were in the midst of an urban area. This port was one of the less visited ports which we enjoy since we do not go on vacation to do a lot of shopping.
Quebec was our turn around city. We docked and could walk all over the "old city" which we did. Several of us from our roll call accepted the offer of a local CC to give us a walking tour. (I had met her on a previous cruise.) She showed us a good deal of the "old city" prior to lunch at a restaurant in one of the old houses. It was a very good lunch and based on the prices we saw elsewhere, closer to the port, the price was reasonable. Sorry, I can't remember the name. We walked around some more in the afternoon before re-boarding the ship.
Sept-Isles, Quebec was by far the least visited port we visited. They are just starting to develop their tourism so those without tours that day were probably not impressed with the town. Plus, it was a cold day that the strong breeze made seem even colder. We did the train tour back to an Innu Camp. We travelled on the same train the Innus use for transportation. Our guides worked as a team and included many Innus who are learning English as their third language. We didn't have time to visit all their displays but we did learn much about their native ways, which they seek to preserve. We felt the hospitality at this port was wonderful for no longer than they have been greeting cruise ships. On the train on the way to the Camp we were offered coffee and sweet rolls as they shared with us. On the way back they served us lunch. Both arriving at the train and then when we returned Innu children greeted us in native dress.
Charlottetown, PEI is another walkable town, which we opted to do on our own as we were not all that interested in Ann of Green Gables. We visited Provence House and learned some Canadian history. We walked out to Victoria Park stopping to see an antique fire truck on display at the fire house and chatted with the local firemen. We also chatted with a local DPW worker.
As I write this I am amazed that it has been two weeks since we returned home. The memories of this trip linger.