In the past, we have been All-Inclusive go'ers..... but we've had a taste of cruising, and we think we like it!
Here's my review of The Spirit out of New Orleans, Feb 27th - March 6th, 2011 - Costa Maya, Belize, Roatan, Cozumel.
I had endured a little bit of stress before embarkation, due to our flight arriving at 11am Sunday morning, and worrying about Mardi Gras parades blocking traffic routes to the dock, but all went smooth.. we landed about 45 mins late into New Olreans, due to de-icing in Toronto, and were on the ship in good time. We managed to do carry-on with no problems with the airlines... numerous bottles of suntan lotion in federally approved bottles....
Lines were long, but got through security with no serious issues... DH had to remove belt, shoes etc... same as in an airport. Saw many people having to remove their alcohol from their bags and either pay the corkage fee for wine or having the liquor kept aside till the end of the cruise.
Check in at desk was a little slow, but there were alot of groups ahead of us.. groups seemed to take a little longer. We were on board by 1:15pm.
Once we got on board, we wandered around and headed to Raffles buffet... WHAT A ZOO!... we figured we'd wait out the lines, and headed to Henry's Pub... Junifirst, the Bartender made a great first impression on us.. first time NCL'ers and first time cruisers! He went and got our soda card / sticker for us... and kept us entertained with jokes, tricks.. and a free drink!! J
Luggage and rooms ready around 2pm... we changed and got ready for sail away.
Side note, the bottle of rum we purchased through the groupevents director, was ready and waiting in our cabin when we got to our room.. no issues.
Sail away was fast... and smooth... we spent the rest of the day exploring the ship and trying to get our bearings..
Monday - Day at Sea
Monday was an EXTREMELY windy day.... we had breakfast in Raffles buffet, like we did every other morning, then headed up to deck 12. We lazed around, air was still chilly, then headed to our CC Meet n' Greet in Henry's Pub. Great to put faces and real names to screen names... met alot of really nice people!! Captain and some of the crew showed up, introduced themselves, gave out their phone numbers on the ship if we needed them at any time. Also did a hometown gift exchange.. that was fun! Hope the people that got my Toronto bag like hockey!! Lol
Rest of day was spent lounging at the back of the ship.. trying to find shelter from the extremely windy conditions... and yes, the sea got $7 of ours.. blowing out of DH's pocket.. oh well..
Dinner at Windows with "cdkuckyt" was great, learned alot about cruising in general... after dinner, in bed early... no shows, no entertainment.. just getting our sea legs and catching up on zzzzz's.
Tues - Costa Maya
Breakfast at Raffles
Up on deck to watch approach and docking into Costa Maya
We had emailed Steve at the Tropicante weeks before hand to reserve a few loungers.. hear about him through CC.
Bus was $3pp there, and $2pp return by taxi.
Had a great day at Tropicante! Greated by Jorge and the rest of the crew, and Steve himself came by to say hello. We spoke with him later on in the day, got to know how and why he ended up in Costa Maya.. Food was terrific, and can't beat 6 beers for $10!! Thanks again Steve!!
Wed - Belize
Breakfast at Raffles
Tendered to Bannister Island - One of our favourite spots for the week!
Weather was gorgeous.. DH spent time floating around in the warm sea water, I read on the beach. Belikin beer was $3 a bottle.. great beer!
Tendered to the ship to drop people off, then to the port for a little shopping. Finally got my hands on a Coach purse and wallet!!! ($20 for the both)... albeit they're knock-offs.. lol.. no one will know unless they read this post!
Thurs - Roatan
Had booked a tour with CMitch999 on CC, with Cynthia's tours.. we had to meet up with our guide and driver outside of Mahogany Bay entrance, as they don't allow private tours to pick up directly at the port. Orlin, our 16 year old tour guide along with our driver.. travelled us around the beautiful island explaining about the history, import/export and people... we packed our swimsuits for a beach in the West Bay area, and we ended up at San Simone beach club.. beautiful little place on a pretty crowded beach.. $10 per person for the day, loungers, beach beds, use of the beach.. although we were taken advantage of on the price of beer.. we paid $5 a bottle and our fellow tour buddies paid $4... so they didn't get another dime out of us ... we waited to get back to the ship to eat and have another drink. Anyways, beach was amazing... best we'd ever seen.. water was bath temperature, and the ambiance was that of a Hollywood movie! Spent a few hours there, then back to the ship with a little bit of time for souvenir shopping and a quick peek at Mahogany Bay beach area.. looks not bad if you don't want to venture past the port area.
Friday - Cozumel
We had pre-booked the all-inclusive resort Nachi-Cocom for the day... took a taxi there, $16... and had a terrific 4 or 5 hours of all-inclusive food and drink. By far the BEST Mexican food we've ever experienced, and LOTS of it... beer and cocktails aplenty! $16 for a taxi back, with time to shop at the port.. and have the last few $1.5 beers... ahhhh...
Leaving Cozumel we had rain... but didn't spoil anyones day I'm sure of that!
Saturday - Day at Sea
By this point, DH and I have realized that.. yes, we are new to cruising, and this has been a great trip up to this point.... but we don't particularly like days at sea. We find ourselves to be bored. Not because there's nothing to do.. TRUST ME, there's LOTS to do on board.. but just nothing that we were interested in. Hard to find any places to laze around the pool if you're not up at the crack of dawn to save yourselves chairs...
Although, it was an extremely rough sea day.. and previous night. The Captain had apologized about the tossing and turning, due to a storm front we were heading through.. But nevertheless, we spent the day at the back of the ship reading, and me eating green apples to keep the nausea at bay.
Sunday - Disembarkation
Up early, breakfast at Raffles...
Bags were packed, and we did walk-off with carry-on... customs was a breeze.. mainly because we didn't buy anything of any great value... off the ship in about a half hour.
Room - We had an inside cabin #10023. Note to self if there's a next time... if feasible, oceanview at minimum (to have a sight line or horizon for my seasick tummy on rough days) or at the least, a lower floor and mid ship. We were very close to the front, which meant you could feel alot of the ships movement over waves etc. Although our room was very close to the stairs and elevators, which was a big plus! Room was always kept clean, bathroom was rather spacious.. we were expecting alot smaller. Towel animals left on our bed at night.
Food - We ate in Raffles Buffet for breakfast, Windows and Garden Dining rooms for dinner, and at the Blue Lagoon once when we were starving after coming in from a port day. Food overall was good, not great...nothing that we couldn't have made at home ourselves. What you would expect in a banquet hall... In the Windows restaurant, DH ordered a steak medium-rare... it landed on his plate almost raw!! Just flipped from side to side and thrown on a plate... he was not happy. He didn't send it back, which in hindsight, he should of.. but he was starving and didn't want to wait for it to be cooked again. Thank goodness there were no issues with undercooked meat.
But, we didn't have to cook for ourselves.. so wasn't all that bad!!
Service - All crew members were terrific! They work extremely hard to make your cruising experience one to remember! And Mr Washy-washy gets his own kudos!! You know who he is!! Always greeting you at the entrance to Raffles Buffet in the morning with a HUGE smile and welcoming you to the current port... or "No chicken legs today! Sea legs only!!", when it was rough waters.. Our room steward was very nice and wanted to make sure we were happy and settled each day...
Servers in the main dining rooms seemed to lack a bit of personality, but I do understand that they all work VERY long hours and long days and are putting on brave faces for all of us.. when you know they have to deal with the odd issue and homesick from their friends and families.. all in all, they were very good as well.
Bars - As noted, we spent our first few hours of our cruise in Henry's Pub.. we had a great time... but when we ventured back in during the week, it was rather dull and boring in there... but if you have a group of people, I'm assuming its a little livelier. Raffles bar was great, although we found the servers sometimes seemed annoyed when you showed up with your soda card for refills. Bier Garten always looked packed.. went there once for a DOD... in a pineapple... it knack soon wore off.. lol. Stardust lounge was a nice place to hang out and watch the ship sail... didn't drink in there, so not sure about the service.
Was the access point to the bridge though, which I thoroughly enjoyed checking out... DH was getting sick of me checking it out I think, thought I was annoying the captain.. lol.. but I found it so interesting!!
Shows - Second City was good.. although the improv bit was a little slow... skits were hilarious! I didn't find the comedian "Sam" to be very funny.. I'd heard all the jokes before... but the Stardust Lounge was packed when he was on. The acrobatic husband and wife duo were terrific, the new show Elements was AWESOME!! At the end of one of the shows, they had alot of the crew members come out, so we could give them a round of applause... our cruise director, Julie, who was Canadian YAY!!, it was her last week on the Spirit.. she was off on vacation, then on to another ship... too bad.. she was terrific and had a great voice for the PA system...
Pool - We didn't use the pool at all... never really a good time to do so.. for us. We did use the hot tub in the kiddy area for about 10 minutes, until an entire family of 4 people piled in and took it over. So much for that.
One quick note.. we didn't end up going to the White Hot Party, the Chocolate Buffet, or use the Spa... too tired for the 1st two... no need for the latter!
We didn't end up going to any of the restaurants that had cover charges... so can't comment on those.
Overall - The Spirit needs a few cosmetic updates and needs to be refreshed. Its an older, smaller ship.. so the rock climbing walls, and bowling alleys do not appear here... but she's small and sleek enough to not make you feel like you're overwhelmed by a massive floating city...
We will cruise again, if we can find a route that has less sea days... we will try Norwegian again... maybe not the Spirit, but possibly one of their larger ships.... to compare.
Hello again to our new cruise buddies!!