To see the cruise through my eyes you have to understand a little about me. With this in mind, I’m a 29 year old male who sailed on the Norwegian Spirit from 8/28/11 through 9/6/11 and yes the end date of the cruise was a Tuesday morning. This was my 22nd cruise overall and my 12th with Norwegian Cruise Line. This was also my third time on the Norwegian Spirit. Other cruise lines I’ve cruised on include Celebrity (x4), Princess (x5), Royal Caribbean (x1) and once on Carnival. This cruise was meant to be a relaxing vacation and as such there are not a lot of shore excursions.
Pre-Cruise Stay: NEW ORLEANS
DAUPHINE HOTEL – Dauphine St, French Quarter
It is a very well appointed hotel room with double beds and nice marble in the bathroom. Location is one street north of Bourbon so the location was supposed to be quieter. The hotel offers a complimentary beverage at check-in and complimentary continental breakfast in the morning. I would recommend this hotel as it is extremely clean and the location is right. The only drawback I caution you against is where your room is located within the hotel. We stayed in the courtyard of the carriage house and it was just above where the valet parking was. At 3-4AM on Saturday morning someone’s car alarm went off and sounded like a megaphone in there. It kept going off for an hour before it finally stopped and I passed back out. The front desk of the hotel wasn’t picking up when I called about it but it did eventually stop.
This was my first time to New Orleans and this was part of the reason for booking this cruise. I wanted to experience the city, specifically the French Quarter and the infamous Bourbon St. Upon arrival to New Orleans and just after checking into our hotel, we headed to Walgreens on Canal St. On our way down there we walked over to Bourbon St to take it in before heading down Dauphine. We heard pops and thought it was fireworks or something related. We had no clue and crossed Canal into Walgreens. When we came out there was police tape encasing the entire block where we were and the pops were actually gunfire! Welcome to New Orleans: A guy is shot in the groin for trying to get with his shooter’s girl. It made the news that night and we saw the story. This didn’t make me feel safe at all.
We at the Chartres House Café and I had what would be my first Jambalaya of the trip. Turns out I’d eat it noon and night for the next two days until boarding the Spirit as it was the only other menu option available in most restaurants in New Orleans that didn’t have seafood in it. I couldn’t wait for NCL’s great food!
On Saturday, our full day in NOLA, we strolled around and took a self-guided walking tour of the French Quarter. You could spend a whole day in Jackson Square in all the museums right there and we pretty much did just that. Make sure you see the exhibit on Hurricanes in the building to the right of the cathedral. It’s well worth the money and very moving, especially in the last room with the video. We bought the museum combination pass for all of them so after hitting all the museums including the race exhibit at the US Mint we were tired. We jumped on the trolley and headed out to the Garden District. We took the trolley to the end of the line and then rode it back to Canal St. We had dinner in the diner diagonally across from the hotel and returned back to the hotel.
DAY 1: NEW ORLEANS & EMBARKATION
We headed over to the pier and arrived around 11:30AM. Our bags were taken quickly and we were inside and through security very fast. Check in was a breeze since I am a Gold Latitudes member, the line on this cruise was non-existent! From arrival until the time we boarded the ship was just under a half hour. It couldn’t have been any faster and it flowed nicely. Bravo to New Orleans shoreside operations!
After a leisurely lunch, the rooms were already available for occupancy. The announcement came just after 1PM. We headed up to our stateroom to drop off the bags and to get somewhat settled in. I was in dire need to take a disco nap.
CABIN 9026 – BALCONY (Starboard Side)
This is a standard balcony accommodation with two beds and a sofa by the balcony. Our room was in pristine order. Everything worked as it should have and it didn’t have any visible signs of wear and tear. There was some minor rust on the balcony but I’m sure that’ll be addressed in dry dock in three weeks time. I love the ability of NCL’s showers to remove the shower head so as a tall guy I can actually reach my head with it. NCL has the best shower setup of any ship in any fleet I’ve sailed on!
PUBLIC SPACES: As I mentioned before, I’ve sailed on the Norwegian Spirit twice before (once in 2009 and again in 2010 to Bermuda). Year over year I couldn’t find anything wrong with her. The carpeting and all public areas are very well kept. If it were not for some changes to her underside, I’d really say the Spirit didn’t need her upcoming dry dock. Tidbits of information from higher ups onboard the Spirit stated some changes passengers will see post-drydock include the introduction of a galley and action stations to the Raffles Buffet and flat screen TVs in each of the staterooms. This will only serve to enhance the guest experience on what is already the most beautiful ship in NCL’s fleet. Her Asian décor I fell in love with on the first cruise and it’s so intricate, you can clearly see that Star Cruises spent a lot of money building this ship and it’s an absolute gem in the Norwegian fleet. I love the Spirit’s décor!
FELLOW CRUISERS: About 90% of the cruisers were from the TX, LA, AK, MI area and as a result the entertainment onboard slanted towards a lot of Country music and hoe-downs and related country matters. It seemed like every night there was something country going on aboard the ship. If you like this sort of stuff then you’ve found your ship!
After the lifeboat drill it was back to the cabin to change and get ready for dinner and watch the sail away from our balcony. I thought the Charles River in Boston had dirty water, it was nothing compared to what the Mississippi River has! We turned around right at the bridge and started to head down the river. We requested a window seat in Windows Main Dining Room and met the fantastic server team of Edzel Aberia (Senior Waiter) and Rowena Jomawan (Junior Waitress). Both were so friendly during the dinner service and really made such a warm welcome back aboard we stuck with them for the rest of the trip for the most part. Some familiar dining room faces were also there from the last cruise including Kwasi from St. Lucia who came over and said hello.
After dinner we had some time to waste before the “Welcome Aboard Show” and it left an opportunity to go up on deck and watch the sunset over the MI river. We stayed up by the helicopter pad sitting on stacked chairs until well after sunset before heading to the show. The dusk seemed to last forever as the land to the West of NOLA is largely flat and allowed it to last seemingly forever.
SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: “Welcome Aboard Show” featuring the Norwegian Spirit production cast, illusionist Fabien Solaz, Jose & Patti and Comedian Sam Griesbaum. It was a sampling of the entertainment for the entire cruise. The production cast had changed from the previous year but the routine was the same for the opening show. Good to watch. The stand outs were Jose & Patti. This incredibly talented duo has a loyal following on Cruise Critic and I didn’t know why. Now I do, they’re incredible! They sing just about any song and do it very very well. The comedian Sam Griesbaum was not funny and I don’t know where they got him from.
Stayed up on the balcony and watched the river go by while waiting for a good time to head down to the disco to give DJ Vibe a CD of music for White Hot Party later in the cruise. I didn’t stick around too long in the disco and headed to bed early.
DAY 2: SEA DAY
After sleeping in later than normal, it was off to the Cruise Critic Meet & Greet in Henry’s Pub. For the people who showed up, it paid off as they got to meet the manager of every department onboard and the Captain! Thanks to Klaus Lugmaier who is actually the Director of Hotel Operations for NCL’s entire fleet for taking the lead on the introductions and taking the time to talk to us. As the host for this event, I was honored that he shared some of the details of what was going to happen to my beloved ship in dry dock. The one person I recognized year over year was Chef Hans-Peter who instantly came over and greeted me warmly back to the Norwegian Spirit. After a small request for a recipe for a friend, Chef Hans-Peter had to return to his duties. He did stop my mom who was being a wall flower and said a very warm welcome back to her as well. Peter really made this cruise incredible for mom and me (as you’ll see by continuing to read). Special shout out to Raquel “Kelly” Nunez for setting up the meet and greet and making sure it went smoothly. She was so nice throughout the voyage.
We headed up to Raffles Court for a quick lunch before the Latitudes Party in the Galaxy of the Stars. Out of all the Latitudes meetings I’ve been to with all the Latitudes tiers, this one was the least attended. Usually Galaxy of the Stars is overflowing with people and is standing room only when the Spirit sails from Boston. This cruise was so much different. The Gold and Platinum Latitudes didn’t have a separate gathering either this trip because there were so few of us onboard. The Captain came by and said a nice greeting and introduced the senior management team.
Afterward it was back for a quick disco nap and to get ready for dinner and the show. Tonight we requested the aft window section and since I found Edzel in the buffet in the morning I had asked for his section, he didn’t start until later though so it left us with a mix of waiters and waitresses which was dizzying. All of them were nice but we had far too many to remember any of their names! This night we met an incredible Assistant Maitre’ D named Shridhar Dhuri or simply “Dhuri” who asked us what we liked each night and about our special request for food. Dhuri set everything up for us that it was handled so nicely. We would contact him for the time we’d be arriving into the Windows Dining room and he always had a table for us. He always checked in multiple times during the dinner service to see how the day went and how the food was.
SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: “On Broadway”
New with this dance troupe was the musical “Jersey Boys” from the last time I saw this production. What a fantastic way to kick off one of my favorite NCL productions. Any production which pays tribute to good Broadway shows always gets rave reviews from me. Other productions touched upon in this show included Mamma Mia, Wicked and Movin’ Out. Definitely a show to catch!
After the show and Friends of Dorothy it was time to change for the disco. I stuck around for a bit and danced for a little while before retiring.
DAY 3: COSTA MAYA, MEXICO
Today was a day about getting to the beach you can see from the ship and just relaxing. With some haggling with one of two vendors for golf carts behind the port shopping area, we were off in a golf cart to the beach. I’d done this last year on Spring Break and it’s the easiest and most convenient way to go back and forth and do whatever in Costa Maya. Taxis are affordable but the beach is long so the golf cart helps get you around. I made it over to the resort area I love most and it’s so far away from the rest of them that it’s really hidden and really nice. It was a nice relaxing day at the beach for mom and me.
Back on the ship it was time to get ready for dinner in Windows restaurant with the talented server team of Edzel and Rowena with everything set in place by Dhuri. Sunshine, the Hostess for Windows, made sure we were seated in the right section and right by a window. I couldn’t have asked for better service all the way around.
SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: “Duo Acobatique”
Maria and Dmitri were on the ship the last time I was onboard but the show had changed. It was less centered on acrobatics and more on dance and this time it incorporated a number from their son who is an aspiring acrobat at the young age of five. If you like Cirque style shows then this one is not to be missed!
GAME SHOW: “Battle of the Sexes”
Usually every cruise I try and hit at least a few of these which are alternatives or between the major production shows. This battle of the sexes was pretty weak. The guy’s team won but the energy from the Cruise Director’s staff was lacking to get participants involved. Finally people on each side wound up pulling audience members into it. It was a fun game show but not the energy that I’ve seen before.
After a brief stop by Friends of Dorothy it was off to the disco for 10PM and hanging out with West (Bartender) and new friends at Maharini’s Bar. The disco really didn’t pick up this night either so it was a fairly early night for sleep.
DAY 4: ROATAN, HONDURAS
I’ve been to Roatan several times. Going ashore means going to shops at the pier area and the grocery store down the street and heading back to the ship. This port also allows for fantastic pictures of the cruise ship using natural island flora. Keep this in mind if you’re a good photographer with a good eye for setting up shots. Since I had mom with me I stayed around the port area and didn’t go to the other side of the island where the nice beaches are. Instead, I headed back on the ship and used the fitness center which was empty.
SPECIALTY RESTAURANT: Cagney’s Steakhouse
My favorite specialty restaurant on any NCL ship is the steakhouse. I had the succulent jumbo shrimp cocktail with a specialty soup and then a very large cut of steak that the Executive Chef Hans-Peter recommended for me. It was huge and it was cooked to order. Dessert was a special eggplant ice cream which is a special creation of Chef Peter. I cannot say enough about Chef Peter. The whole cruise he took very good care of mom and I and his culinary creations are darn good!
SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: “Soul Rockin’ Nights”
This is the least favorite of the NCL productions on the Norwegian Spirit as I’m not a fan of rock music. However, mom found it to be the best show of the three. It depends on your perspective of the genre of rock music as to whether or not you’ll like it but the performers were not bad. It is a one show only deal so if you miss the 7:15PM show then you’re out of luck as it’s not repeated at 9:15PM like the rest of the shows are.
I had an issue with my keycard not working so I headed down to the Guest Relations desk for a replacement and mom took in the show of Jose & Patti at Champagne Charlie’s. Jose & Patti would perform here nearly every night of the cruise and no matter what decade of songs they were singing, they were always enjoyable and spot on. This was a hidden gem on the ship so if you happen to see this duo on the FreeStyle Daily – make sure you stop by and see them! I stayed after I got the keycard situation worked out before heading to Motown night in Maharini’s. It was fun and I made some new friends that night who liked to dance (finally)!!
DAY 5: BELIZE CITY, BELIZE
I had a nice leisurely breakfast on the balcony with mom watching all the tender boats fill up and zip off to shore. By the time we needed to go for the shore excursion, it was open tenders and most of the ship was already off. As we were leaving the ship, two contractors from Rolls Royce boarded. I found out later they were there in preparation for the upcoming drydock and to get everything in place for it.
NCL SHORE EXCURSION: Calypso Train Tour: This one hour narrated tour of Belize includes complimentary water and plantain banana chips. It gives you the highlights of both the rich and poor sides of Belize City and a history of the country’s independence from Britain. It takes you by several sights and it well worth the money. Just make sure you hold onto your belongings carefully as the roads in Belize need some repaving you bounce around a bit and things can fall off the trolley. There are step stools available for people with mobility issues (such as arthritic knees) and the tour operator provides assistance for those needing it. An easy tour for a decent price and gives you an introduction to Belize. I had been to this port four times but never took this tour. If you’re an adventure person then definitely do the cave tubing tour!
After the train tour but before heading back I had the customary lunch and Belikin Beer at the Wet Lizard above one of the terminal buildings. The Wet Lizard is usually bustling with activity but the Spirit was the only ship in port that day so it was fairly dead. Still nice to have lunch shore-side and watch the tenders come and go. Afterward it was back to the ship for a disco nap for the much anticipated dance night of the cruise… the White HOT Party!
STARDUST SHOWTIME: “The Second City”
After dinner in Windows with the fantastic duo of Edzel and Rowena, it was time for some comedy. I’ve seen the Second City show on many ships and while it’s called somewhat improv, some of it is not really as it is the same thing heard over and over again on every NCL cruise that has a cast of Second City on it. I would like to say they’re good but if you hear them repeatedly by cruising frequently, well they’re just downright boring. I would recommend them if you haven’t seen their act before though because it is funny if you haven’t seen it before!
GAME SHOW: “Newlywed, Not So Newlywed”
Trying to get the oldest couple to join the show was a very hard trick to pull off and took quite a while. The Cruise Director was introduced before the other two couples were picked from the ticketing system. The game show seemed disorganized this time around. I don’t know if the Cruise Director’s staff was just tired or what was going on. Once everything got going, some of the responses were just downright jaw dropping – especially from the older couple and it made up for the slow start. This is definitely a good game show if you get the right couples involved.
DISCO NIGHT: NCL’s Signature White Hot Party
The start of the party is in Galaxy of the Stars with ice sculptures and cruise staff with angel wings donning white attire. Drinks are served in twinkling bottom drink glasses. The production dancers come up and do a number and stay for the line dance songs (eg electric slide, etc) and then the dance floor opens for regular music. The party continued after hours downstairs in Maharini’s Lounge where there was plenty of conversation to be had. The only member of the cruise staff who was out and I actually talked to at length was Johnnie who had just come in Belize and wasn’t supposed to start until next cruise as Assistant Cruise Director. Nice guy and I had a nice conversation with him. Returned to the cabin after having an after hours snack at Blue Lagoon around 4AM.
DAY 6: COZUMEL, MEXICO
I don’t know why the White Hot Party doesn’t have a sea day after it because I definitely needed a sea day after it! We arrived in Cozumel and tied up. I had breakfast on the balcony and we left for the shore excursion.
NCL SHORE EXCURSION: Cozumel Semi-Sub Tour: From the Punta Langosta pier in downtown we took a taxi to the Royal Caribbean pier. After boarding the semi-sub we were brought down immediately to the glass bottom where we stayed until the ship was docked again. The view is of a coral reef which was largely destroyed in 2005 when Hurricane Wilma pummeled the small Mexican island. (I remember this Hurricane well as I took a cruise out of Fort Lauderdale when Wilma was coming straight for Florida.) There is only some 300 feet of what was once over 1,000 feet long coral reef. We circled it quite a number of times and fish showed up to show off their stuff and then we circled back. It’s a neat little excursion and I would recommend it. Caution for those with mobility issues as you do have to go down a set of stairs into the sub and for those with claustrophobia issues as the door to the top is closed at all times and you are in the bottom part for the entire time during the tour (unless you’re getting sea sick and then you go topside).
Back to the ship for lunch and some shopping at the mall across from the Punta Langosta pier and then into Carlos N Charlie’s for a yard drink. Now that Senor Frogs has a half location up by the Carnival and Royal Caribbean piers, this place was not hopping as it usually does. I got a yard, consumed about one quarter of it and then headed back to the ship for a nap before watching cast off. It never fails that people in this port invariably miss the ship or there is a list of names announced and this cruise was no different. We had actually untied all the ropes and were starting to thrust away from the pier when I spotted two runners coming down the escalator. We did thrust back to the pier and pick them up and later on I’m sure they were quite thankful we did.
SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: “Jose & Patti”
Throughout the cruise mom and I would stop by this duo and hear their vocal talents and plethora of songs. They never disappointed the whole trip and tonight they were no different during their early show.
SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: “Elements”
This show is a combination of Cirque-style aerials, acrobatics and dance with no vocal components. It is the best show in the NCL fleet in my opinion. I love it each time I see it and we caught the second show. Stay tuned at the end of the show for the Norwegian Way/Wave where a selection of talented crew and the senior officers come out to pay tribute and say goodbye to the guests. The whole show from start to finish is just great.
SPECIALTY NIGHT: “NCL’s Signature Chocoholic Buffet”
On the Norwegian Spirit, the Chocoholic Buffet is held in the Windows Restaurant aft on Deck 6. It’s a nice spread of chocolate goodies with elaborate amounts of ice sculptures and decorations made of chocolate. If you like chocolate at all or even just a wee bit, you’ve got to get to this event! It was immediately following the second show of Elements.
We returned to the stateroom where I sat and waited for the midnight Ship-N-Males performance in Maharini’s Lounge. I ended up falling asleep and missing the whole thing. BUMMER!
DAY 7: SEA DAY
I woke up in the morning and the ship was rocking and rolling a little bit. The wind outside was howling and I wondered where this bad weather had come from since we had good weather the entire trip up until now. We left the cabin to go to Guest Relations and do some other errands on the ship so the cabin steward could make up the place and when we returned we found a towel animal of a monkey hanging off our air conditioning vent. While down at Guest Relations there was a map of Tropical Storm Lee showing it going into LA just West of New Orleans. We heard another guest ask if the MS River had been closed and wondered just how bad this was.
At approximately 10AM the Captain came on the public address system and announced we were not heading back to New Orleans until Monday because the river had been closed by the US Coast Guard and that further information would be available after 11AM.
Seizing the Day Activity: “How to Run a Floating Hotel”
A slideshow of what the ship consumes in food, fuel and other things was presented before the floor was opened up to the Captain Kenneth Harstrom, Hotel Director Klaus Lugmaier and Chief Engineer Ioannis Karloutsos. Surprisingly a lot of the questions didn’t have to do with the weather outside and our delayed arrival. This is where I learned why the Rolls Royce people had signed on in Belize. Questions ranged from intriguing to downright silly but the three of them answered them as best they could. They had to leave to attend a conference call with Miami NCL to figure out how to proceed.
Another announcement was made around noon letting us know that satellite calls and internet would be free until the ship docked in New Orleans for people to re-do their travel arrangements and that our arrival was expected around 4PM on Monday. This sent a frenzy of people to Guest Relations but the senior management onboard was out in full force to answer questions for everyone and security was present to keep the crowds under control. After getting the flight re-arranged quickly with Southwest who said the airport was closed anyway, it was back to the vacation. We booked a Tuesday flight home as there were no flights late enough on Monday to fit the “planned arrival” time.
Seizing the Day Activity: “International Crew Talent Show”
Your stateroom stewards, laundry department folks, waiters and waitresses and the rest of the crew work so hard and tirelessly to take care of you, the least a cruiser can do is cheer them on when they have some other talent besides what they’re doing on the ship. Complete with the Tinikling native dance of the Philippines and a hip-hop troop from the same place and a few good singers, this show doesn’t disappoint and was a great sea day activity.
Back to change and get ready for dinner in Windows with the fantastic service of Edzel with Dhuri stopping by every now and again to see how things were going before…
SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: “Farewell Variety: Fabien Solaz & Sam Griesbaum”
Since we had another day on the ship, the entertainment line up got shuffled a bit and the 7:15PM show was changed to mirror the 9:15PM show with the comedian and the magician. The magician was great but the comedian was not very funny.
GAME SHOW: Adult Quest Mania
No matter what the cruise staff comes up with for items, it’s always interesting to watch. I never spoil the ending but lets just say most people prefer if pictures were not taken but I always tell people I never join the team because I’ve seen it too many times and well the saying: “What happens on the ship stays on the ship!” is a lie!
Down to the disco for a short bit before attending “Tease: A Night of Burlesque” in the Galaxy of the Stars. It was a nice production by both male and mostly female production dancers with the singers getting in on the action as well. Went back down to the disco until 2AM and then headed to bed.
DAY 8: SEA DAY – SUNDAY
A leisurely morning of getting up on the ship and going around before heading to a…
Seizing the Day Activity: “Culinary Demonstration”
This activity was created and thought up by Executive Chef Hans-Peter the previous day when they found out the ship would spend an extra full day at sea. Chef Peter had four tables set up, one as a fruit carving station, another as a vodka pasta sauce station, hot cucumber soup station and finally a bakery station where the person was making roses and showing the audience how to do so. It was a nice event and the audience got to sample the cucumber soup and the vodka sauce with penne. Audience members were also given the recipes which was a nice added bonus.
After finishing lunch, there wasn’t much going on around the ship so I took the time to walk the Promenade Deck and do a work out. I thought the gym would be insanely crowded but it turned out not to be nearly empty. The gym has a small free weight area, upper body and one abdominal machine. The cardio deck consists most of treadmills with four bikes and four elliptical machines and one stair step machine.
Upon return to the stateroom I found a note on the door from the Captain indicating the ship would not be at the berth in New Orleans on Monday and that he was going to try and embark the pilot on Monday morning and if successful we’d be alongside later on Monday evening and NCL was going to allow passengers to stay onboard and disembark on Tuesday – if needed.
Dinner tonight was in the Windows Dining Room with Edzel and Rowena so we could say goodbye and tip them extra for their excellent service throughout the entire cruise. Special requests were nailed down by the third night and you didn’t even have to ask anymore, they just brought it with the appropriate course.
After dinner mom attended the “Liars Club” while I called the hotel shoreside booked for Monday night and cancelled. Mom said the Liars Club was ok.
SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: “An Evening of Enchantment”
Jose & Patti was the main draw for attending this one time only 9:15PM show. Other singers included production cast members Lisa Quibell (from New Orleans), Michael Seward and Chase Kamata. It was a great show and is generally a one-show only on the last night of a regular seven day voyage. Be sure you catch it!
Out to the disco briefly since the ship was moving a bit too much, it was too dangerous (in my opinion) to be that far forward and try to dance so I turned in early that night.
DAY 9: SEA/RIVER DAY
I woke up around 8AM to the ship rocking and rolling and going 6 – 7 knots in a very small circle with old oil platforms all around us. I had no clue what was going on other than the ship was really moving and it was dangerous to walk unless you pretended like you had ataxia. I made it around the ship to pick up my breakfast and back to sit inside the cabin to attempt to eat on the balcony. Out of no where, the Carnival Triumph showed up and they had first berthing rights. A pilot boat approached her and she headed for the mouth of the river which was at our bow. We knew we’d at least get into the river and sure enough a pilot boat came out for us and we watched on the starboard side the pilot and a US Coast Guard official come aboard the Promenade Deck (as the waves were too high to embark them on any lower deck) and into the river we went.
Seizing the Day Activity: “Chef Peter’s Cook Off”
Again Chef Peter stepped up to the plate and offered guests another culinary show but this time, he picked out passengers to cook up Hungarian goulash or at least whoever came close to it would win a free dinner for two in the specialty restaurant of their choice. After a minor technical glitch with the power, the competition was off and the second team got the judges panel vote (which was also made up of passengers) but the closest to the Hungarian goulash actually turned out to be the third team. Both of them got specialty restaurant dinner reservations!
After a leisurely lunch, I saw that there was shipboard scavenger hunt (and not the Quest kind either) and decided to partake. It was fun running around the ship for a half hour trying to find everything. Thanks to Raquel “Kelly”, Group Service Coordinator for her letting me borrow her raincoat for the scavenger hunt. We didn’t win it but it was fun running around to all the crew that mom and I made friends with seeking out the items or getting them from our cabin. The conclusion of this event coincided with NCL’s Complimentary Rum Punch. Yes, you read that right! For one hour on Day 9 of the voyage NCL gave out free rum punch at every bar on the ship. It was a very nice gesture of NCL to do. Mom had a cup but as an avid Grey Goose vodka fan I didn’t.
SPECIALTY RESTAURANT: NCL’s Signature Le Bistro Restaurant
The food was great and it turns out with so many cruises we knew the Maitre’ D of this restaurant from the Norwegian Jewel. Chef Peter stopped by the table personally to wish us a safe journey home and we thanked him for all the special requests he did for us all week. He made sure our dinner was fantastic for the last night onboard. I had the escargot, a steak dish and crème brulee for dessert. It was a very nice way to spend the last night onboard in the anchorage space some 13 nautical miles south of the New Orleans pier.
After taking a picture on the Promenade Deck of a sun that was trying to set given all the clouds from Tropical Storm Lee, we headed to the…
SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: “Farewell Variety Showtime: Take 2”
Back by popular demand the Norwegian Spirit singers, dancers, acrobatic duo of Maria and Dmitri, Kyle Dodson (Cruise Director), Jose & Patti and the comedian Sam put together another show to entertain the guests. The show flowed nicely and Jose & Patti again stood out amongst the performances. It was a nice evening show to end the cruise on.
It was time to head back to the stateroom and start packing all over again and put the bags out before heading to the disco one last time. Carnival took longer than expected and we were still at anchor well past the time the Captain had originally said. He came on and told the guests that it wasn’t expected to be until after midnight that we’d tie up. I headed to bed around midnight and we still were not moving. At 2:20AM hooting and hollering very loud from the Carnival ship as it went past us down the river made it so there is no way anyone on the Starboard side of the Spirit could have slept through it!
DAY 10: DISEMBARKATION – New Orleans – Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Most of the passengers opted for the easy walk-off program and actually started to disembark the ship at 3AM when we were alongside. Our ship had already cleared the non-US citizens on Monday while we were anchored in the river so by the time we got up at 6AM with a wake-up call from Guest Relations; the ship was pretty much a ghost town. After having a sit down breakfast, it was off to the room to pack up and listen for the bag tags. Instead of calling them by color individually, they said all bag tags may disembark. There were so few of us it didn’t matter what color you used, they just wanted us off the ship. 8AM we were shoreside and by 8:30AM we were at the airport thanks to a quick driving taxi!
This is the first cruise I’ve ever been on where the culinary/restaurant team has out done the cruise staff. I’m really not a foodie either. On this cruise Executive Chef Hans-Peter took very good care of mom and me from the moment he welcomed us back at the Cruise Critic gathering until the last dinner onboard. This guy is truly a wonderful person and NCL is blessed to have him!
The dining room staff was excellent specifically the service from Edzel Aberia, Senior Waiter and his assistant Rowena. Shridhar Dhuri, Assistant Maitre’ D in Windows was also incredible in getting our table setup each night and holding it for us if we ran a little late along with having our favorite server team (Edzel & Rowena) wait on us – even if their section was across the restaurant. The hostess Sunshine was always so pleasant and her assistant Marciel was just as nice. My graduation dinner in Cagney’s was handled very nicely by the talented team of George de Torres and Lyss Torres Chura.
Klaus Lugmaier, Director of Hotel Operations for all of NCL was the Hotel Director and every time he saw me out and about he would always check in with me to ask how things were. I did inquire about the placement of the White Hot Party with a port day the next day and he followed up and had the Cruise Director call me and explain why that was the case. Klaus means business and he’s another great asset to NCL! It was great meeting such an incredible man who worked tirelessly on the passenger’s behalf to try and keep us happy during what the crew called a “crisis.” (I didn’t see it as one but a bonus vacation!)
Raquel “Kelly” Nunez was everywhere at the end of the cruise and she was always out and about trying to help the guests as much as possible – even taking time to lend me her jacket so I could use it for the scavenger hunt! These great people made the cruise for me and hats off to each and every one of them!!
John D’Souza, Spirit’s Concierge, deserves a hat’s off for his help in making contact for a situation of a personal nature during the satellite crunch. We were able to make contact and get everything straightened out fairly quickly to allay any anxiety it may have caused my mom. I wish I could be more specific but he did an excellent job with his help in that situation. Thanks John!
Having sailed on the Norwegian Spirit three times over, this trip is definitely the most unique of all three because the staff and crew bent over backwards, starved themselves (quite literally) and hardly slept to take care of the passengers over the last few days of the elongated cruise. It was a job well done and NCL handled it great (front desk staff all the way on up to corporate decisions). I’m proud to say I’m a loyal NCL cruiser now and I highly recommend the Norwegian Spirit to any cruiser considering this ship. If they can weather a storm at sea and handle it flawlessly and with such compassion for their guests, they can handle anything!