Unmatched value and great service.
This is our second NCL sailing and third overall. After experiencing Royal our last cruise, we were eager to loosen up and freestyle again, and it didn't disappoint. The Spirit represents the sweet spot of cruising, not too big or small, 2000 passengers and about a 2:1 ratio of passengers to crew members. Translation: Anything we wanted to do was easy to do with no excessive wait and help was never far away if we needed anything.
We drove from part way from central Texas the night before our cruise and arrived late Sunday morning to Fulton Place Parking. Write that name down if you don't know about it already. Case and point, it was only $10 a day instead of $16 at the port and extremely secure. How secure? I managed to leave the car unlocked for the duration of the cruise and nothing happened! Whew. They also provide a complementary shuttle to and from the terminal that only takes a couple minutes. Embarkation was a snap through the Latitude line and we were on the ship in More
about 20 minutes total.
First impressions of the ship were what we expected, not blown away but by no means disappointed. It's an older ship, in fact the oldest in the fleet but it didn't matter. The decor could be considered a little tacky and worn out in places, but I thought it was unique that the ship retained so much of the original name and decor throughout, the Superstar Leo. I don't need on board surfing, carousels, mini golf, or a rock wall to make my cruise experience complete. The layout was a little tricky and not really mastered until we finished out last sea day. Certain locations were truly hiding and you would walk by half of the places if you weren't looking. Being asymmetrical in layout probably caused that a little. I know it wasn't just us. Every time someone got out of the elevator, there was confusion. Again it's only our third time cruising, but I've never been so poor about mastering the layout.
The dining on board again was without surprise. I don't expect 5 star meals unless I pay for it. Windows it probably our favorite breakfast stop. Every morning you would be sat immediately usually next to a window (how appropriate) and would have 3 drinks in front of you by the time you could have grabbed a plate at the buffet, Raffles. There were hits and misses with the Garden Room and Windows dining. Is it just me or has lobster gotten really tiny in recent years? And I don't mind trying next things, just stop messing with the classics just to be different. I really don't need big slabs of pumpkin in my lasagna. If you are fine with Denny's food, then you really won't be disappointed. I'm not knocking it, but I am not sailing on Regent or Cunard either. You get what you pay for.
Entertainment on the ship was the usual fare and in general enjoyable. Our favorite act was Duo Acrobatique. Imagine a Cirque du Soleil show with only a couple people and you get the idea. The comedian was Sam Greisbaum and he was very fun. He proves you don't need to be dirty to be funny. Even the adults only show was clean. That's rare. The only act we missed on purpose was Cripton and Renatta Magic. Imagine Jack Sparrow meets David Copperfield and you get the idea. I actually like magicians, but this seemed almost amateur the few time we saw him in other acts. The advantage is you get to figure out how some of the tricks are preformed because of it though. The ships singers and performers were entertaining but not memorable. Catch the show Elements, it was really good. And don't forget Second City improv. They will have you laughing hard. I most enjoy the shows that feature the ultimate improv actors, other passengers. Dancing with the Spirit Stars was really the highlight. Note to self, British people have no shame in doing crazy stuff!
I'm not really going to say much about on board activities because really to each his own. In general there wasn't a whole lot of participation and other times the wind made it difficult to even be outside for others. I never found myself bored, I just rested up for a busy night of fun.
One thing I wanted to make special mention of was the service, because that really is a huge part of having a successful trip. Our room stewards Joel and Jezreel were very friendly and greeted us no matter how many times we ran back to the room because we forgot something. "Wakey Wakey" or "Washy Washy" will be the greeting from the boisterous and friendly staff at Raffles. The Cruise Director Julie was always visible, much more than other directors we've experienced in the past. The captain Evans Hoyt was very cordial as were other officers. The on board entertainment was very approachable and fun to interact with. The Spirit is the ship with the highest customer satisfaction in the fleet which really doesn't surprise me. I just hope for others that do this cruise on the Star, when the Spirit is moved to the Mediterranean, the torch is passed not taken with it.
Disembarkation was silly easy since will just walked off the ship with our luggage, duty list in hand, and were meeting our shuttle in about 15 minutes total. All in all this was a wonderful cruise for a couple that likes bang for the buck. In talking with seasoned cruisers and first time cruisers alike we weren't alone. If only Norwegian would consider Galveston in the future... Less
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Cabin review: IF5003
Our cabin 5003, on the Norwegian Spirit was exactly what I was hoping it would be, adequate. There's a saying I like, "everything looks the same with your eyes closed", so really I wasn't expecting much more than a place to crash at midnight. It's no denying the cabin is small, as it was designed for the Asian market rather than us fat Americans. But it easily held our emptied suitcases and the bathroom with glass shower door was plenty roomy. The bed was not my favorite. My 240lb frame found it too hard and the valley created by putting two single beds together just makes it worse. But then again, I wasn't expecting space age memory foam either. I now appreciate my bed at home more now. If you are prone to motion sickness, you may want to consider something further back as the rocking is prominent and the crashing waves on the bow sound like a train wreck at times. Also the mechanical equipment used in port on the ship is easily audible too, so don't expect to sleep in. This created an alarm clock for me so I didn't mind.
Port and Shore Excursions
Tendering is a pain isn't it? We got to the location that hands out tender tickets early and scored the "first" tender ticket. First is parentheses since you are the first after the ship purchased excursions are prioritized and you are then called. Only after waiting the hour plus did we realized we could have slipped in with the others by another route. Oh well. The process was hampered by the large amount of "mature" customers that don't exactly hop on the tender boats swiftly. The tenders were never in short supply, they were just waiting for the other ones to load up. But any who this is about Belize not tendering right? The reason we were in a big hurry was because we saved substantially by going with an non-ship excursion, cave-tubing.com, for only $50 instead of the $109 they charge on the ship. As soon as we got off the tender others vendors could tell that we were looking for them and directed the way. We passed security and someone was there with a clipboard greet us. The tour bus had already left and they said to wait. Suddenly a black Lexus pulls up and we are told to get in. With two empty seats on the tour bus, they weren't going to be paid so they rushed us through town to meet up with the group. Ever done 60mph through downtown Belize City? We have and it was heart racing to say the least. We quickly found the bus and hopped aboard. The crew with www.cave-tubing.com was exceptionally welcoming and entertaining. Throughout the tour we never questioned safety or felt cheated in the experience. In fact other cave tubing tours looked at ours with a envy. This excursion really took up our entire time at port but that's just fine with me. If you go to Belize, this is something you have to do. The locals seem very nice and quite interested in talking to you about whatever you are curious about. I'm looking forward to returning and enjoying the incredible natural beauty of this country.
We were the only ship to arrive at this port so it really didn't seem crowded at all. Being it was the first time we had been to a Mexican port, we weren't sure what to expect. The port itself is clean and new as it is completely rebuilt from Hurricane Dean. Don't miss the free dolphin show just south of port. Sure you could pay $100 a person to touch them, but keep the money and stand at the pool's edge for an entertaining time. It was amazing how many people on board the Norwegian Spirit has no idea it was right next to where they got off the dock. Personally I don't think too highly of "local crafts" (made in China) and I certainly don't want to buy anything that I can't fit into a piece of luggage so shopping doesn't have a huge appeal, and unfortunately that's really all there seemed to be. Based on the large amount of adult themed gifts, I was quickly turned off to souvenir shopping. The large "Drug Store" sign you can see from the ship as you pull in is where we headed and found prices to be very reasonable and the tequila museum is worth seeing. We then took a cab to the older part of town, Mahahual, and from there rented a little spot on the beach for $10 including beer. Outside of the constant parade of people selling stuff I don't need, it was relatively quiet and a nice place to play on the sandy beach with the ship in the background. We then found a nice little beach side bar with swings for chairs and had nachos and Pina Coladas. A stroll through the little shopping stalls made me yearn for getting back on the ship because they seem so desperate and then so rude when you indicate you aren't interested. This port has been rebuilt exclusively for cruise travelers and I really don't care for that a whole lot. I'm better by not seeing a Diamonds International sign everywhere I look. Authenticity is lost and the "locals" really aren't that local. Next time I will probably go to a Mayan ruin site or snorkel and stay distant from the shore.
The poor rating is what happens when you show up on your forth consecutive shore day with no plan. No I don't need a bracelet with my name on it. No I don't smoke cigars. No I don't need to look in your store that mirrors the one I just walked by. After finding a refugee camp, Starbucks, I was genuinely ready to take a shortcut back to the ship. Next time I'm going to book an excursion and escape the chaotic port area, it's tourist hell. My uneasy feeling was confirmed as a crew member for the Allure of the Seas docked with us that day was tragically found dead. I just hope what is happening on mainland Mexico doesn't ruin Cozumel too. I really would like to come back better prepared and open minded on what was voted by our cruise ship the most popular port.
We arrived in Mahagony Bay with no plans other than the check out the cruise catering port and see what we can do. As we were getting a iced coffee, a young guy that sat next to us at Raffles on the Norwegian Spirit ran over to us and said they rented a car and wanted to know if we wanted to join them. We shrugged why not and met up with them near the myriad of taxis. As we got into a car that could've been mistaken for a large red roller skate, we drove from the port to the main road, passing many taxi drivers that yelled "You're going to need a tour guide". Turns out you don't. There is essentially one road in Roatan that goes east and west. We chose east. We stopped at whatever looked interesting. Parrot Tree Plantation was the first stop and we parked in the side lot after the friendly guard waved us through. This resort has a very nice lagoon to swim in and fantastic scenery on the south side of the island. We left about the time the tour buses arrived and dumped a bunch of people off that probably paid $50 for the privilege. We left having spent anything. We continued east until the road became gravel and pressed on. You can tell work was underway to continue paving the main road, but in the mean time it was pretty washed out. Eventually we found a place that gave us a reason to return, Camp Bay Beach Adventure Lodge. Owned by a couple from Florida, we were welcomed and enjoyed a wonderful lunch on the beach with wahoo sandwiches, conch chowder and local beers. The beach had amenities to enjoy for little coin and comfy hammocks to fulfill the postcard scenes you envision when you think Caribbean. After several hours of friendly hospitality and beautiful seclusion, mother nature arrived with heavy clouds so we retreated to the other side of the island. The further west we drove the more congested the roads became and harder the beach became to enjoy without having to pay for it. After driving through Coxen Hole, I really don't understand why people prefer it to Mahogany Bay. It's dirty, much worse for pedestrians, and not near as polished as the other port. Maybe it's just the proximity to the more popular touristy stuff like Bananarama. 75 miles later we returned the rental car just in time for all aboard. We'll be back, but for different reasons than most. Top tip for Roatan, rent a car and explore. There are some nice surprises waiting.