There were 9 of us sailing together. 7 were sailing on NCL for the first time. For 3, it was their first cruise. It was the 5th NCL cruise for hubby and me.
Pre-cruise: Hotel, Dining, Sightseeing
We all stayed one night pre-cruise at the Hampton Inn French Quarter/Downtown area - 226 Carondelet Street, New Orleans, LA 70130 http://www.hamptoninn.com/en/hp/hotels/services.jhtml?ctyhocn=MSYDTHX. The hotel was conveniently located near the street cars on Canal Street - one even runs right in front of the hotel, Bourbon Street, dining, a CVS, a Walgreens, Arby's (enjoyed their very good iced tea on a very hot day!) and other shopping. We popped into CVS a couple of times for supplies - batteries, water, pop, etc.
The hotel staff was friendly and extremely helpful. They actually saved the vacation of one of our members who had accidentally dropped her passport in the car before flying to New Orleans. Being a Saturday and the cruise boarding the next day, and many businesses being closed on Sunday, for a while it seemed her fate was sealed, but the ladies working the check-in desk really came to the rescue by suggesting the possibility of airline cargo service being able to help. So, with the help of the hotel staff, a family member of one of our group getting the passport out of the car, to the airport, the departure city's airline's cargo department, and the airline in New Orleans, the lady was able to get the passport in time for boarding. awesome job by all, THANK YOU!!!
In addition to the help provided above, a lady at the check-in desk provided an area map, asked us what we'd like to see and do, made suggestions, and marked the map so we could find all of the interests. I hadn't thought to ask about this, but saw her doing this for another group who was checking in. Very nice of them to do this for their guests. Helped us make better use of our limited time in a new-to-us city. No getting lost going to dining and attractions and helped us find our way back to the hotel. Cool!
The hotel offers luggage storage before check-in and after checking out. This came in handy and we sure appreciate Hampton doing this. Our group was able to sightsee and pick up last minute items before heading to the ship, thanks to this courtesy. Cool!
Our room was clean with a couple minor blips - bathroom needed a smidge of attention, which I took care of, and the shower stall could use a touch of either deep cleaning or refreshening of grout at the lower area, but a few squirts of Lysol spray - which I do in any hotel, cruise ship, etc, anyway, so no big deal. The brand new flat screen television was terrific, the lap desk a first for me to see in a hotel, plenty of lighting, a mini refrigerator, safe, table space, and wonderful bed and bedding made our stay comfortable. The common areas of the hotel were clean, well maintained, and comfortable. We liked that the elevators required a room key in order to get to upper floors for security reasons. The complementary hot breakfast in the morning was voted by our group as the best we've ever had at a hotel!
Hubby and I ate lunch at Deanie's Seafood French Quarter 841 Iberville Street, New Orleans, LA 70112 http://www.deanies.com/restaurants/french-quarter---restaurant-and-private-dining/ . Hubby had the Combo Dinner of shrimp, oysters, and catfish. I had the Crab Quartet of crabmeat au gratin, stuffed crab, fried soft shell crab and fried crab claws. Both dishes came with french fries and coleslaw. We were served four seasoned medium-sized red potatoes just after ordering our meals. We hadn't ordered the potatoes, so we decided it may be the equivalent restaurants back home serving bread or peanuts. There was way too much food and we couldn't finish it, but we sure tried since it was SO delicious. We'd happily eat at Deanie's again.
Our group ate dinner at a restaurant on Bourbon street that had been featured on Guy Fieri's television show Drive-ins, Diners and Dives. The Old Coffeepot Restaurant at 714 St. Peter Street in the French Quarter http://www.letseat.at/theoldcoffeepot . Our favorite dish was the Southern Style Baby Back Ribs. Delicious!
After dinner, while walking in Jackson Square, I saw some tours getting ready to start - Haunted History Tours http://www.hauntedhistorytours.com/ . I'd always wanted to take a tour in N.O. but didn't think one would be possible on this trip, so I was ecstatic running across this. I quickly found out that the tour only cost $20 per person and ran 1 1/2 to 2 hours (with a stop at a bar to use the rest room and get something to drink). I ran over to my group to see if any of them wanted to go on the tour. My nephew definitely wanted to go, so he and I were going to join the tour. His mother, my sister decided to join us. The rest of the group declined and walked around the Quarter before heading back to the hotel. Sis, nephew, and I LOVED the vampire tour! It was definitely a great way to see and learn about the area. The guide did a fabulous job of imparting information in an interesting fashion. The three of us wish the tour had been longer since it was so interesting and fun. Also wish the rest of our gang had joined in. The next day, after hearing how much we enjoyed the tour, they wish they had joined us too! I'm jumping ahead, but hubby and I got to spend the better part of the day in N.O. once we debarked the cruise. We ran across a tour office near the Square (not the Grayline tour offices, the Grayline tour we would have been interested in didn't fit with our time constraints). One of the tour companies you could book there was Haunted History Tours. Unfortunately, the tours we would have liked didn't fit our time constraints, either :(. There will have to be another trip to the wonderful city of New Orleans :). I definitely want to take a couple more H.H.T. tours.
Easy peasy! We hired a couple vans to shuttle us to the port. Our driver told us we arrived at the right time - after the early crush of arrivals and before the late comers. Yes! I love when that happens. We sailed :p through check in --- so fast and so exciting that I forgot my purse at the security screening area! My sister noticed it but didn't recognize it as mine until she picked it up - yep, heavy as a brick, that's got to be my sister's, she thought, correctly (rolling eyes). She brought it to me laughing. Hubby got a kick out of it as well. Well, I told him I was excited about getting the sail and sign card, not my fault he didn't believe me until there was proof.
Pretty, clean, well maintained but needing a touch of smidge of patching on the ceiling of one of the outdoor tiered seating areas aft. All dining rooms, lounges, theater, etc. were comfortable.
Our cabin was one that was laid out sideways. We loved the arrangement of the room. Hubby loved that we didn't have to enter the room between the closet and bathroom doorway. The cabin was clean, though I did find that either the books/directories that stay in the cabin each cruise or the desk/vanity had a smoke odor. I piled the directories/books to one side and cleaned the table surface. It seemed to help. I didn't care for the several cigarette burn marks on the bathroom counter. The counter was clean, but it looks terrible when people do that with their cigarettes. Yuk! The bed was a little harder than I like, the sheets were nice and soft this time - just the way I like them. The pillows were great. Didn't like that there was only one night stand. We both wear eyeglasses and read in bed, so a second nightstand would have been nice, but they had an armchair on one side of the bed. I didn't care for that being right next to my face, so I moved that to another area. I ended up using a suitcase as a nightstand.
Employees were friendly and fun. Service was terrific. Only blip we had was one night in Windows main dining room service could have been a bit faster, but a manager must have noticed because someone else came to help with our table.
Food was very good overall - some things out-of-this-world, some pretty good, and some okay. Our group seemed happy with the food. The only complaint from one or more of our group was the buffet food wasn't hot enough.
Bar drinks. I was disappointed with my Strawberry Daiquiris, Pina Coladas, and Miami Vices. They were okay, but didn't seem like they had much alcohol in them. I quit ordering them. I tried other drinks, which were fine, but missed my S.D., P.C. and M. V.s.
Kid's Club. The 13 year old in our group went to the kid's club the first time they were to meet, but he didn't opt to join in their activities, preferring instead to hang out with us - his family of Mom, Step Dad, Aunts, Uncles, and honorary Grandma. Fine by us!
Entertainment appreciation varied. Some of us loved it, some thought it could be a bit better. For instance, some of us (the teenager, some of us middle-aged, and a couple slightly over middle-aged) really liked the comedian, while a couple of us, middle-aged, thought he wasn't funny. So, I thought the comedian did a great job of appealing to a wide range of audience. Some of us who liked the comedian liked Bob Hope, Bob Newhart, etc., so we appreciated that he had clean shows - without cussing, dirty content. Very refreshing!
Some of us liked the arial act and some not so much, but did appreciate the amazing shape the pair was in to be able to do the moves they did.
The production numbers got most of us in agreement. They were good. Elements kind of threw us a curve ball because it was unexpected/different, but it still entertained us.
The bands Flex and Prism provided great music to listen and dance to. The singing duo Arvin and Emily were terrific.
The only thumbs down I have for entertainment was the lack of piano playing throughout the week. I heard some playing, but it didn't come close to the amount I heard on the Dawn. I LOVED the amount of piano playing on both of my Dawn cruises - in the main dining room and at various venues on the Dawn, sometimes it seemed like I'd move through the ship and go from one piano player playing into another area where another piano player was playing. I sure missed that on this cruise. :( One night on Dawn we got to hear a piano play in the aft dining room and on another night the player had finished but set a box to play recorded piano music. There was a piano in Windows main dining room on Spirit, but we never lucked into being in there when an entertainer played. One night we ate early, another mid session, so I'd have thought we'd "hit" the right playing time. Maybe we missed the days when the piano was played because we dined in Garden and buffet a few times too. I didn't see/hear the piano in the atrium played, though I'm sure it probably was, I just missed when it was :(.
I don't do it every cruise, but this sailing became one of my Bingo/Instant win ticket/Raffle cruises. Passed out some of the Instant Win tickets to some of our group while waiting for theater entertainment to begin. We won a couple of $1 instant wins and a $5 instant win. The lady who won the $5 turned it into more when she cashed it in in the Casino. Cool! Hubby and I played slots in the casino. We won some and lost it. A couple of our traveling companions won a little bit on the slots. Cool!
We attended most of the theater entertainment (production shows, magic, arial, comedy, Second City), Galaxy of the Stars entertainment (parties, music, bingo), a couple in our group enjoyed the pub crawls, and the pool.
Costa Maya - We went to Chaccoben Mayan Ruins then got something to eat and shopped. Nice day.
Roatan - Took a Victor Bodden tour of the island, some of us zip lined, we toured the monkey, animal, and bird area on his property, got something to eat, swam/snorkeled, and shopped. Lol, hubby and I had been the only 2 of our group of 9 who had been to Roatan before. We hadn't been on the island long before some of the others began to talk of going in together and buying a house or condo to share :D They better be careful, we just might go for that! Great day.
Belize - Several members of the group took a tour to Goff's Caye. They loved it! The rest of us took the tour to Lamanai. We loved it! Back in Belize City, we shopped before returning to the ship. Belize won some more fans :). This was hubby's and my third time in Belize and we still love it and can't wait to go back. Great day!
Cozumel - We went to Mr. Sancho's beach resort. Originally we thought we'd do it ala carte, but changed our minds and did the all inclusive (which really isn't, because you have to pay an extra $12 or $14 to play on the water climbing features). That disappointed the teenager in our group, but he quickly got over it when his mother, and an uncle took him parasailing, then afterward, with the addition of one aunt, the four of them took a ride on a banana boat. The parasailing and banana boat ride became the favorite activity of the week for the four of them. Did some shopping before returning to the ship. Great day.
Future Cruise Certificate:
A couple sailing with us (their first cruise) purchased a future cruise certificate and hubby and I purchased two. Now we'll have fun trying to decide where to travel next.
Easy peasy, just like embarkation was! Hubby and I carried our luggage off. Since he and I were going to catch a late flight (evening), we decided to use a service available right as you leave the port interior. There are stands, taxis, etc. right outside. One of the ladies working inside the port, when we asked about luggage storage services, took us over to a woman who walked us to the stand for a company called Rush It courier service. The price was reasonable (something like $25, I think) and they said that we could have a van pick us up and take us to the airport. We arranged to meet the van in front of/near Cafe du Monde by Jackson Square in the French Quarter at 4 pm. With the luggage and arrangements for shuttle service to the airport taken care of, hubby and I walked from the port to Canal Street where we got on our first streetcar. We ended up riding a couple of streetcars and got to see some of the Garden District. Then we went to Cafe du Monde for our first real beignets (made at home in the Midwest just isn't the same ;D). It rained a little while we ate. Afterwards we looked into taking a tour. Nothing seemed to fit our time schedule, so we walked over to the museum next to the cathedral across from Jackson Square Park. The museum had exhibits about Katrina and Mardi Gras. Both interesting to learn more about. Spent a lot of time here. While inside it poured rain outside. It was still pouring when we left, so we made our way back to Cafe du Monde for another round. Afterwards it was time for the shuttle to pick us up, and it did.
Airport and flying back home.
Ate dinner at Acme Oyster House in the airport. Pretty good food, would love to try the location in the French Quarter when/if we are lucky enough to get back to New Orleans again.
Flight out of New Orleans was on time and went smoothly.
Loved sailing NCL Spirit, staying in and sightseeing New Orleans, and seeing the western Caribbean again.