Background: I am a veteran of about 35 cruises on all the major cruise lines. Along for the cruise is my boyfriend Brian on his 4th cruise. Have sailed on NCL 5 times and this was my first time on the Spirit.
Pre-Cruise: We had joined the cruise critic roll call and enjoyed the pre-cruise banter and sharing of ideas for activities on and off ship. Our flight arrived about 3PM Saturday the day before sailing New Orleans time and we had booked on Priceline the hotel Renaissance Pere Marquette. ($95 + fees for our nite there) The hotel was a block off Canal and Bourbon St., very contemporary dEcor, comfortable and clean. Quick check in and off we were to hit the pre Mardi Gras parades and excitement in the city. A few blocks brought us to the first of several parades in town that weekend. Amazing coordination of the police with keeping crowd under control, managing street traffic and placing and removing miles of barricades. It was a thrill to be part of this celebration. We did get plenty of beads, a few mardi gras cups and viewed lots of marching bands, dance groups and watched the steady parade of floats on Canal St. Quite the party!! We walked down towards the waterfront, stopping at a mini mart to get some beers to enjoy on our journey. Very unusual to be able to openly drink alcohol in public on city streets!! Down to the waterfront we still had enough daylight to enjoy views of the Mississippi and see the mix of river traffic, ferries, a paddleboat and the port where we would board the Spirit the next day. Had a snack at the Crazy Lobster before making way towards the restaurant where we were meeting our cruise critic buddies for dinner at Mulates. Mulates is a well known cajun restaurant. Music and dancing available, We had a group of 12 or so enjoying dinner and sharing our backgrounds, cruise plans and having the first round of TOO MUCH FOOD for the week!
Embarkation: Hooorrrrayy!! the day is finally here for us to be the ones to sail away from New Orleans. We had watched the sailaway on the cruise cams, river cams and chatted with fellow cruisers a few weeks ago and this was going to be OUR turn to be onboard. Up for a nice breakfast at Ihop we repacked our luggage, put on the SPIRIT tags and grabbed a taxi ($7pp) to the ship. It was about 11 or so when we arrived. Usual bustle of cars, taxis and people at the terminal. Inside we smoothly made it to the latitudes check in line and within 10 min or so (after my boyfriend Brian had to surrender his UK passport for some extra scrutiny ??) we had our ship pass for the week and joined group B for boarding. Weather was just right, bout 75 or so and a mix of clouds and sun. AHHHH after a very long cold winter in PA we were ready to defrost, recharge and relax! Our group was called, we had the requisite bon voyage picture taken and headed down the gangway. Arrived inside on deck 7... nice teak promenade and the busy atrium area. We decided to have our lunch in the Windows restaurant vs the raffles buffet on deck 12.
Windows restaurant is found back (aft) of the ship on deck 6. You can not traverse from deck 6 directly to the back of the ship. We usually would go up to deck 7 and either use the promenade deck or the inside walkway to get back there. Once we arrived we were greeted and and immediately taken to a nice table for 2 with a window overlooking the mississippi river. Lunch choices are the same for the week but plenty of choices. We had shrimp salad sandwich which was just right. Service good and a great introduction to the food to come on the Spirit.
Off to explore we traveled thru the public decks on 6, 7, 8 and then went UP to see the areas on deck 12 and 13. We were happy to see the nice galaxy of the seas lounge on 12 forward. Nice windows to view outside and a bonus of a 'fake bridge' as well as the spiral staircase to the actual viewing area looking inside the bridge. Have not had that access before. Charts, information on the Spirit, their many inaugural plaques accessorize the room.
At 2 PM we were able to access our cabin on deck 5.
Cabin: We were in an inside cabin on deck 5 midship #5095. Easy access to either the front or mid ship elevators. We found the location just fine for the 2 of us. Cabin was cozy but had adequate storage. (4 drawers, 4 shelves in the closet and about 3 ft of hanging closet space. We did think the bathroom layout and shower were a big improvement over the standard cruise bathroom area. Nice sized shower with sliding door was a +++. We were served by a team of 2 room stewards. We only saw them a couple times over the week but they managed to handle everything just perfect without any need for more contact during our cruise. We dropped off the carry on and put our valuables in the safe and headed UP deck again.
Muster Drill and Sailaway: We enjoyed some time in the sun and warmth on deck 11 aft overlooking the children's pirate pool. This was one of our favorite hang out places on the Spirit.. There were tables with good access to the Raffles buffet and bar on 12 as well as tiered decks with lounge chairs overlooking that aft pool area. One hot tub is there as well. 4:30 was the time to head to deck 7 for our muster drill. We lingered a bit and were herded with the crowds near our lifeboat. They checked off our cabin number, demonstrated the life jacket procedure and then after another announcement we were dismissed. Rather painless. We went up to deck 13 and stopped by the Biergarten Bar there and chatted with a couple of our cruise critic buddies. Headed forward to the front of the ship where we heard the whistle (horn??) blow and off we went to sail off for the Caribbean. We stopped by Biergarten and enjoyed a bucket of beer before heading down to our cabin. Luggage arrived and we quickly got that all out of the way. They were having a freestyle orientation in the Shogun Lounge so we took advantage of that opportunity. I had sailed with freestyle before but Brian had not and I wanted him to get the head's up on how that worked on NCL. The restaurant manager gave us a nice presentation that simply explained the different restaurants and opportunities for enjoying TOO MUCH FOOD for the week on the Spirit. We made reservations for the Tues PM Taste of India dinner with her. She also gave us her business card with her ship phone # on it which was the first time we had gotten that information from ship officers before.
Freestyle Dining: We are fans of having this flexibility on a cruise not having to work around any set dining seating. During the week we usually had breakfast in the dining room on sea days and used the buffet on port days. Windows was the restaurant where they had breakfast. We found the menu extensive enough with good choices. Our first sea day the service was rather slow but other times we had no problems. They would give you a carafe of hot coffee on you table as well as a basket of danish. Upstairs in the buffet you were always greeted with Mr Happy..washy washy to make sure you had a germ free experience in Raffles. The breakfast buffet was well organized. They had a separate station for omelets/eggs made to order. Bagel and yogurts stations. Tables with fruit, danish, meats cheese. I usually had either an omelet or eggs and headed outside to one of the tables there. All good for us.
Lunch we had in the dining room when we were on board. The 4 port days we ate off ship to try some new places and foods. I heard some grumbling about the lunch and dinner buffets but since we ate elsewhere I can't comment. There is also the choice to eat in the 24 hr restaurant Blue Lagoon on deck 7. We had tea and dessert there one night but the food choices are good. They provide table service there tho you can order your food to be delivered to your room if you prefer. The room service menu is in a notebook on your cabin desk/vanity. We didn't find time to make use of this bonus on the ship but we saw some evidence of trays in the hallways so others seemed to get their food in room if desired.
Dinners we ate in garden 2x, Windows 3x went to the taste of India dinner and had one dinner in Le Bistro. We usually ate between 7-7:30 PM and didn't experience any waits. We joined with a group of our cruise critic friends one night making a table for 7 otherwise it was just the 2 of us. The food quality and choices were good. There was a nice selection of breads in a basket each evening. The standard choices avail every night were good selections to enhance the other changing entrees on the choice of the day menu. We found the food good to excellent, the service much better than we had experienced on other ships, crew personable and not too rushed for the most part. Most meals took about an hour start to finish. Our taste of India night (Tues) was a special treat. Tho TOO MUCH FOOD, I think there were 24 different dishes they had for us to taste. It was a constant parade of food which we served family style around our table for 6. Interesting mix of food and a nice group of table-mates (strangers to us but we learned much over the meal about each other) The Indian staff were welcoming and very excited to let us learn about their cooking and food items. I would say the only neg besides the quantity of food!! would be that it just went so fast. You really didn't have any time to savor each taste before another dish magically arrived. We did enjoy this very much and feel the $15 cover charge was very reasonable for the experience.
Le Bistro is tucked in a corner of deck 8 (I think!) by the art galley and casino. We were greeted and seated right on time. Food was excellent ho as usual TOO MUCH FOOD! Mushroom soup was delicious as well as our entrees lamb & beef tenderloin. We couldn't decide on just one dessert so we had both the crème brulee and the chocolate fondue! Yum Yum!! Well worth the $20 surcharge, great service atmosphere and FOOD!!
I did see a number of guests waiting near the Garden and sometimes near the Windows restaurant. I think it was mainly larger groups needing a big table and they were given vibrating pagers to let them know when they had a table ready. There are many video displays around the ship where you can see what times are open in each restaurant. The teppanyaki restaurant was almost always fully booked so if you want that choice during your cruise get on it. They have a reservations desk on deck 7 where they have all the different menus on display. Embarkation day and also the Tues (same night as the Taste of India and lobster in the main dining rooms) they offered a 20% discount on the specialty restaurant surcharges. Overall we were very happy with our dining experiences on the Spirit and didn't get to try everything!! There was also a chocoholic buffet on Fri night (11:30) PM and we saw a parade of passengers with plates going by with nice big chocolate dipped strawberries and other goodies they were taking back to their room.
Entertainment: We attended most of the shows in the stardust lounge at night. We liked the layout of the theater tho the entrance in the front of the venue was a bit unusual. We had no problems getting a seat except when they only had one show. The comedian Sam Greisbaum, the acrobatic duo and the magician were really impressive. I think I am a bit jaded to the dance production shows so they don't thrill me that much anymore. The second city group was a disappointment. I guess that improv type of comedy is not for me. Other activities on board are hit or miss. The newlywed not so newlywed game was entertaining tho I prefer when they separate the couples and then bring them back together for the answers. The galaxy lounge is a tight fit for some of the activities. You need to get there early or on time or you may be stuck standing in the background. They also use the Maharini lounge for some events. I went to the ship en dales dance show there and tho the staff was FRIENDLY and had some talent it was difficult to enjoy fully with the odd layout, drapes and columns. I hope when they do the next drydock in Sept they take time to refurbish this area. It has potential!! The cruise director Julie we had a chance to meet and speak to several times on board. This was her last voyage on the Spirit before heading home to Canada for a holiday and then she will be deployed to another NCL ship. We found her personable and capable. She flawlessly would introduce the staff and remind passengers of the upcoming events. Other cruise staff seemed energetic and involved. We enjoyed the music of the guitarist Jorge as well as the Ocean Vibe dance band. The schedule at night seemed busy enough for us and we missed out on a few things just needing more ZZZZ time. We felt the entertainment was excellent, the afternoon magic show and elements show were outstanding. Karaoke in the Henry's Pub was fun tho sometimes too crowded to join. Had a group of talented passengers singing in there the times we were able to squeeze in.
Cruise Critic meet & greet: First day at sea 10AM we had the meet & greet for our roll call group. About 35 or so passengers attended. NCL provided juice, coffee and danish for the event held in the Henry's Pub. Our group had organized a hometown gift exchange as well as a cabin crawl. We had the option to gamble $5 on the cabin crawl where you would get one playing card at each cabin visited then return to Henry's pub and the best hand would win the 'pot' ($135!) I was hopeful my 2 pair Ace High would be a winner but one of the other cc members beat me with a 3 of a kind, bummer!! Officers including the Captain!! as well as Julie cruise director attended, welcomed us, offered their services and phone # if they could help us on the cruise in anyway. I was very impressed with how much they valued the cruise critic members. We enjoyed the camaraderie as well as it was nice to see the other cabin options on ship. Inside, outside, balcony and suite (with jacuzzi overlooking side, large living area, big king bed chamber with delux balcony!!) some people get to live BIG! Nice to put faces to the screen names on the cruise critic boards.
I had been to all 4 ports before but 2 of them were first timers for Brian. I am a Librarian so a bit of an information addict. I had done lots of research on the cruise boards to see just what might be the best options in each port this time around. We wanted more relax and beach time then cultural or historic activities.
Costa Maya: arrived to a picture perfect day, warm sunny and we were happy to have this gift of a day to enjoy in Mexico. Prior to sailing I had made reservations to spend the day at the Tropicante Beach Club. We walked down pier and snaked around the port area with swimming pool, bars and many shops til we found an opening and headed to the ticket booth. We purchased a ticket for the shuttle to Majhaul for $3pp. Waited about 10 min for the bus to fill and off we were for about a 10 min ride to the fishing village. We were dropped off at the football field headed down a block to the Malecon (concrete boardwalk) Several villagers asked us to stop by their beach club for food and rest but we explained we had reservations and proceded to head to the Tropicante. Tropicante beach club is one of many different little beach clubs along the waterway in Majuhal. They have a concrete restaurant bar area with rest rooms and across the malecon you find their beach area with lounges, tables, chairs and shaded huts for the guests. The owner Steve welcomed us and had one of his employees set up our lounges and an umbrella near the water. There is no deposit when you make your reservation, all they ask is that you drink and eat on property for the day. We had a bucket of local beer (Mordello - 6 for $10) . Others from our ship were there including a couple groups from the roll call. We relaxed, ate, swam drank took a walk along the malecon and just relished this wonderful day in the warmth and sunshine! It felt like we were snakes sheding our skin with letting the warm water soothe us and the sun soak into our skin. Life is good!! Shared some excellent chicken enchiladas and guacamole.. more beer. We stayed til mid afternoon and settled our tab ($28 for beer & food, no charges for beach chairs) Steve gave us our lucky sea bean necklace and we thanked him for the great day in Costa Maya. Grabbed a taxi back to the port ($2pp) and headed back on board. Saw the small pool areas with dolphins near the water there. Seems too small for those magnificent animals.
Belize: Our second port was Belize city. 5 mile tender ride into the city. We didn't book our excursion thru NCL so getting tender tickets was required. We had booked our tour thru Coral Breezes and were expected on pier at 10AM. After a quick breakfast in the buffet we went to deck martini bar area to get the tender tickets. Passengers were already lining up about 7:30 or so for the 8am hand out time. We got in line just before 8 and we got tender #3. They immediately called the first tender, 2nd one about 15 min later. We waited til almost 9am for them to call Tender #3. Brian went down the gangway to check and it appeared they were loading the NCL excursions between tender #'s 2 & 3. NCL uses rather small tenders as compared to the one we had for Carnival last year. The boat was fast and we had a speedy trip in to the pier and made it with plenty of time to spare at the meeting location right in front of the Wet Lizard Bar. Last year we snorked shark alley and sting ray city with Coral Breeze before having a bit of time on Caye Caulker. This time we wanted to have more time to explore the island so opted to just be dropped off in Caye Caulker then meet up with the snorkelers on the island for lunch. Another sunny and warm day we had bout 24 or so passengers on the boat out to Caye Caulker..it's about 45 min ride luckily we had smooth seas for our trip. Henny the tour guide led us off the dock in Caye Caulker at the tropical paradise hotel & restaurant where we would eat lunch later. She called C & N golf carts to come over and pick us up. They arrived bout 5 min later took us a few blocks to their location and we rented a 4 seater golf cart for 1 ½ hrs for $20. Caye Caulker is a very laid back island, somewhat primitive with only 3 or so actual motor vehicles on the island. Most travel by foot, golf cart or bicycles. The roads are all sand and no traffic lights on the island. We headed on the main street to the end of the island where there is a split (water channel) where a hurricane split the island in 2 some years ago. At this location there is a beach bar, small swimming area and sandy beach. No chairs or umbrellas. A crowd of maybe 30 or so were hanging on the beach or by the bar enjoying the sunshine. We put our towels on beach, put our $ in my water wallet and took a dip in the water. Swift current there between the 2 parts of Caye Caulker keeps you moving if you are not careful. We enjoyed the water and saw many tropical tame fish just swimming next to us there. Stayed for maybe a half hour or so, stopping at the bar to have one of the Belkin beers we had been fond of on our last cruise. Exploration of the island took us by the local school where the students were returning from their lunch break. No fancy classrooms, playgrounds or facilities here. Students riding on bikes for the most part, all in uniform. We then headed to the airport which was rather primitive with a remodeled trailer for their terminal. We glimpsed by most of the island hotels and homes, simple concrete structures for the most part. We returned to the tropical paradise hotel where they came to pick up our golf cart. The coral breeze snorkelers had not returned yet so we ordered some conch fritters and a bucket of belikin beer (6 for $10) while we waited. Group joined us and we had lunch we had pre ordered on the boat ride over to Caye Caulker. Filled UP and happy after our beers we had a bit of time to hustle down the main street and found the gift shop to grab a couple souvenirs from our trip before heading back. Another speedy smooth ride back to Belize City we were back in port bout 3:30 decided we had enuff beer for the day and jumped on the tender back to the Spirit. Nice day off ship and we headed up to deck 10 and found just the place to relax before sail away.. Hot tub heaven right by the kid's pirate pool. The trip on Coral Breeze was $45 pp including lunch, we had made a $8 per person deposit ahead of time. This outfit has been in Belize for many years and has been dependable and reliable when we have booked tours with them.
Roatan, Honduras : A new port of call for Brian, 2nd time there for me. We arrived at Mahogany Bay bout 8am to another picture perfect day. Last time I had docked at Coxen Hole so I was excited to see the new port area that was under construction the last time we had visited Roatan. We had our quick breakfast in the buffet and met 2 of our fellow cruise critics (first timers from Canada) in the atrium before heading off ship. We booked a driver independently thru roatancultural tours and the company contact Cinthia had also done my tour on my previous time in Roatan. After hiking UP the hill to where you meet the independent tours (not really that bad and I confess I am wayyyyy out of shape) Our guide was holding a sign for Cinthia's tours, a young!! man named Orlin greeted us. He spoke perfect english and was personable and friendly. We were surprised to find out he was only 16 yrs old, he claims he has been doing tours since he was 9 yrs old or so?? The driver was a more mature man... Will, he was very careful taking us up and down all the twisty turny roads in Roatan. We jumped into the comfy van and headed around the island for a tour. Saw the 'view' the airport, drove along sandy beach, saw Coxen Hole where the Celebrity Equinox was docked. Drove by several small towns, saw the new applebees restaurant and some improvements since my last time on the island. Stopped by a small market area where we could purchase some souvenirs if we wanted. Will managed to take the van UP the side of a large hill where we could look down on the airport and see the ships docked by the water. Such a pretty island , mix of hills and beach. Not that touristy YET!! tho hotels/resorts are springing up around each bend. We then went out to the West Beach area. Olin tried to get us some space at the Mayan Princess but they were full for the day. We passed Simon Beach Club which I had read about on the internet so I asked him to check in there for us to use the facilities. We were able to spend a few hours there, Very classy beach club and restaurant. Has some canopied loungers, these mattress type loungers on the beach and clean restrooms. We were given wristbands and paid $10 for the beach use and lounge chairs. Ordered beer for @ $4 a bottle and relaxed a bit. Later we went into the amazingly clear and warm water,, perfect beach tho a bit busy for my taste. Just felt sooooooo good to float and swim around. Chatted to some family from the Equinox celebrating their father's 90th birthday!! Brian and I headed up the beach to the Bite on the Beach restaurant I had read about online. Nice location overlooking the water and good food (grilled fish sandwich, excellent!!) but very slow service bummer.. We rushed back to meet our cruise buddies and headed back round the island to the port. We paid $25pp for the tour which lasted bout 4 ½ hrs. added a tip and we were very pleased with our day in Roatan. We still had some time to explore Mahogany Bay before heading back on the Spirit. This is a nice facility. The magical beach chair lift looks fun but the $10pp price just is not reasonable. I think if they made it $5 they would get way more income from people using it. Us cheapskates walked the nice pathway to the beach. Brian opted for some beach time relaxing in one of the many chaise lounges on the beach there. I did head in the water, clarity was not as crystal clear as west beach and the sand seemed to be not quite natural but it was still great to enjoy some more time floating in water and taking in the warmth of the sunshine. I walked around a bit and the restaurants there all seemed to have the same menu?? Few gift shops there as well, I never hit the ones at the hill top but maybe they had more interesting selections. No buys here for me. Sadly we walked back on the trail up the hill and checked in. We showered and went UP for sail away...the ship sounded the whistle/horn but delayed the departure bout 15 min or so. We watched as a group of 20 somethings ran down the hill to the gangway while passengers on board applauded their return! Lucky they waited for them to sail.
Cozumel-- boo hoo our last port of call. I had been to Cozumel many times before and Brian had also visited once on a cruise before we got together. I had always wanted to visit the 'other' side of the island but had been hesitant to rent a car to do that after reading some stories of unplanned problems with police or other hassles on Cozumel by car renters. I found online an excursion that would make the last stop on the cruise a really special day. Cozumel Beach bar hop! I recruited 4 others from our roll call and we all booked the tour to meet at Starbucks downtown on that Friday. We woke up to another beautiful day, headed off ship and had to wind across the maze of stores and finally find the stairs down on the far side of the complex. Down and back to the main road we find starbucks and soon Tom the bar hop organizer is there collecting our $$ for the day. We had a group of 11, 5 from the Spirit, 2 from the Allure and 2 from the Carnival Valor. Nice new mercedes sprinter bus was comfy, our guide for the day Maria was full of energy and explained the route we would be taking. Carlos the driver navigated us to the other side of the island. Very rustic, no electricity, only 1 small hotel on this side of Cozumel. We visited 4 different beach clubs having a shooter at each one, and enough time for another drink or food if we wanted. Several of the clubs also gave us chips and salsa to enjoy. This is the schedule:
Punta Morena This stop has a pristine beach, sugar white sand, rolling waves, Caribbean breezes...ahhhhhh!
Coconut's Best view on the coast, from the highest point on the island. Watch the waves smash against the rocks below your perch, as you sip on your cocktail! Check out the collection of native animals too!
Playa Bonita Located in a little cove, this is an ideal spot for swimming. The remote location and fine white sand makes it that much more beautiful!
Rasta's We'll be chillin' with the Reggae beat at this family owned and operated beach shack. Great vibe, fresh seafood, ice cold beer...yeah Mon!
It was fun exchanging stories from the different ships and we all bonded during the trip signing a group tee shirt hanging in the last stop Rasta's. (good cocoanut shrimp here.. yummyyy!!) We had a short downpour at Rastas and had our group table inside for that stop. Grabbed a group photo and sent off the other cruisers before being dropped off downtown near the Sprit. Tour cost was $49pp ($19pp deposit paid ahead of time via pay pal) which included guide/driver/ beach clubs and a shooter at each one. We bought beers ($3 or so) and Pina Coladas (@ $7 or so) at the clubs. Lunch at Rastas we split guacamole and chips and a nice sized order of cocoanut shrimp ($22 total) Was a fun day to spend on Cozumel and we enjoyed every minute (and sip!!) of it. Back in town we walked down to Margaritaville. This is a rip off place with prices even higher than the states. A soda was $4.50, Pina Colada $11.50 and not sure what the beer price was. We should have stopped next door where they advertized beer for $11 for 5. Oh well, live and learn. One thing tho the Margaritaville has a ladder and access to this swimming playground with trampoline, water floats to climb and slide on that looked like fun if we had had more time. Back on ship boo hoo next stop New Orleans. Once aboard the weather took a turn to rain and we sailed away watching from the galaxy of the stars lounge where lightning and steady rain followed us away from Cozumel.
Last day at sea-- reality is setting in that we will have to repack and face the return to land all too soon. Relaxing day tho where we had a nice breakfast and lunch in windows and then went to Henry's Pub for the International World of Beer tasting($15pp). Only had 5 in the group but enjoyed the information and diverse selection of Beer. We sampled 5 different beers from 5 countries in about 5 oz glasses then we could choose any of the beers avail to have to drink for our last one. The NCL bar tender entertained us with card and juggling tricks. It was a nice change of pace and we guzzled the beers and ate some popcorn watching the ship rock and roll a bit with the rough seas that day in the gulf of mexico. Time to pack and then had a last great dinner in the Garden. We missed the farewell show but did go to Maharjinis lounge for the burlesque show. This venue could not handle the crowd. We stayed for a bit and then headed up to the galaxy to watch the Spirit sail into the Mississippi. Rain and lightning were constant but we did have the opportunity just round midnight to pass by the Carnival Conquest heading south. Nother night on the spirit went by way too fast.
Disembarkation: It's Sunday March 6th and we are in New Orleans. Awake by 8 we opt to head to Windows for our last breakfast and get our requested window table. Weather looks rather cloudy and the muddy Mississippi River is not impressing us after those days of Caribbean blue. Breakfast is good and we grab our carry on, double check the cabin and say goodbye to our home for the past 7 day. Red tags are called (2nd color after tours and self disembarkation) about 9:30 or so. Crawl thru the gangway heading to the Customs check. No problems there, we locate our luggage and give them a glance at our passports and off we are into the morning in New Orleans. Usual bustle at the terminal there with passengers leaving and arriving. We phone the Budget rental car on canal street and they send a driver for us. Parade time is back again in the city. As much as we enjoyed it last week we were happy to get our car and head out of the city across the LONG 24 mile long Lake Ponchitrain bridge. It's sunny and just warm and we can see the spring like colors emerging in the neighborhoods. Our flight is not until 5pm so we tour around New Orleans driving some back roads near bayous and fishing villages. Somehow we manage to put 177 miles on the car before dropping it at the airport. We shuttle in and get checked in airtran. Have a lucky dog!! and wait for our flight. Return to Maryland to bout 45 degrees and pouring rain... what a bummer. It all went way too fast!!
Overall Impressions and Tips!!
I would have to say I was very happy with this cruise. If I had to give it a ranking it would most likely top all of the 35 cruises I have been on. Great weather, nice itinerary, good crew onboard, enjoyed the fellow cruise addicts, liked the size and layout of the ship, officers were visible and involved in a way I had not experienced before. After months of planning it had all unfolded as I had hoped it would. Usually there are some glitches that seem to take a bit of the dazzle away from the trip but I have to say this one was smooth sailing all around. Returning home is another matter!! Post cruise depression, waking up to a dusting of snow and all the laundry etc to manage as well as return to work, well you lose that glow rather quickly!!
Future cruisers: my 2 cents for what it is worth!!
Spend a day ahead in New Orleans or more if you can. It's a great city to experience and not having any last min stress about getting to the ship on time is a treat you deserve!! Try to get on board early, you can explore and enjoy as early as 11:30 am. Don't forget that the main dining room is an option for that first lunch. Read the freestyle daily and work into your schedule the shows and things you want to do. Since you can dine just about anytime that doesn't have to be a priority of when on the Spirit. I am a silver latitudes (past cruiser) member and we had 2 parties onboard. Free drinks and prizes at the main one and the silver and UP one was a wine and cheese reception. Both enjoyable perks! Spend the extra $$to experience some of the specialty restaurants or events. The overall extra you pay for those meals are totally worth the food, atmosphere and experience. Stop by the art gallery the only one I have ever seen on a ship, it was fun to take a look at the artwork without having to dodge around the lounge and passengers! The casino is not a top have to do for us, but plenty of others enjoyed it. We did spend a little on the penny slots and even tho we didn't come out ahead we didn't lose enough we were were upset with ourselves. Drink specials are avail. 2 of the lounges have 2 for one martinis every evening, there is the bucket of beer special where you buy 5 and get one free and in the show lounge they offered a 2 for one deal each night. Sign up for the cruise critic roll call and have one of the passengers contact NCL about a meet and greet. I had the feeling that the officers of this ship are very aware of the power of the cruise critic followers and their experiences and it will enhance your cruise to be part of that trend. It's also great to have friends onboard you can join on tours, for dinner, a drink, share popcorn or whatever! Secret spots to hit.. we liked in the galaxy of the stars lounge way forward on each side there is a little bump out area where a table and 4 chairs fit. I called it the 'perch' nice way to spend some time looking at sea. Don't miss the bridge viewing area. We found you could head aft on deck 10 and wind up at the kid'[s pirate pool. Above that area there are lounges in tiers where the wind is pretty sheltered and you don't have massive pool chair hogs. Ice cream avail in the Raffles every afternoon. Nice sitting on deck 7 outside Henry's Pub as well as a scattering of lounges along the promenade. We loved having a full walk around teak deck to walk from place to place when we wanted. Spend some time reading the cruise critic boards for the ports and see if there are excursions that might be better choices than the NCL sponsored ones. One plus to the NCL website is that you can read reviews of their excursions before booking. You have to experience Mr Happy Washy Washy up in Raffles entrance at least ONCE! I don't think anyone has escaped his wake up greeting in the morning! Beach towels can be exchanged on deck 12 for clean ones or left in your cabin for exchange by the room steward. If you want to know the time of day an alarm clock is gonna be needed. With our inside cave like cabin we needed that wake up call on the port days to be sure we would be UP and ready for the tours we had booked. NCL provides soap, shampoo and shower gel dispensers in the bathrooms.
Most of all, enjoy every minute of your cruise on the Spirit. The crew is one of the best at sea and their constant attention to making your cruise special is evident everywhere. Make sure you smile and greet them wishing them a good day with their work. We are such fortunate guests on the ship to have the resources to allow us have this vacation experience we need to remember it is their efforts that make it so. May you all have as wonderful of a cruise as Brian and I experienced on the Spirit. I loved the ship and it's classic dEcor as well as the smooth sailing we we lucky to have! Bon Voyage to all.