First of all, I live in New Orleans, where the Spirit sailed from, so it was just a cab ride to the pier. Embarkation was very easy. There was plenty of time to get familiar with the ship, and have a nice lunch in the Windows dining room, before the muster drill and sailing. The sailing was beautiful as we wove our way down the Mississippi.
I was sailing with the "Aquafest" group - gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered. We accounted for about 30% of the passengers on board, and had a great time. NCL was wonderful in accommodating our functions and events.
Our cabin was great, clean, a little tight - but I do not spend much time in it.
We ate only one dinner in the Windows main dining room, the first night, and it was pleasant and good. I know the complaints are legion about how NCL pushes the specialty restaurants and sticks the dining room with a single menu, but I for one am game for the specialty dining. We ate at Le Bistro two nights - and it's still our favorite. (The mushroom soup there is such a treat!) We ate at Cagney's twice. It is much better than the Cagney's on the Dawn. Great steaks! We ate at Shogun one night and enjoyed the Asian flavors there. All good, and all worth it. All staffed with a great crew.
. . . BUT . . . La Trattoria is a big disappointment, especially if you enjoy wine with your meal. Fortunately the up charge is marginal. Except for the carafes of Chianti, the staff is totally confused about the wines on the menu (not those on the wine list - those actually on the menu) - and it takes them a long time to get you a drink. I think they have to go to a remote bar to obtain them. The Americano cocktail, also on the menu, was, in fact, very good, and one of the best drinks I had on board. Otherwise, order something with red sauce and go for the Chianti - I think it was being kept nearby . . . Moreover, I later realized this venue is merely a sectioned off portion of the Raffles Court buffet. Nothing special at all.
My only other "bitch gripe" is the Broadway style production show. The singers and dancers all did a great job, let there be no mistake. But, where was the band? Where were the musicians? Is this professional karaoke?
Music in Champagne Charlies at cocktail time is wonderful. I forget their name, but the male/female duo were absolutely beautiful. Especially stirring was their rendition of "My Heart Will Go On" - but hearing it on board a ship was a little bit creepy! It was Hallowe'en, after all. Also, Benny Martini in the same lounge is not to be missed.
The pool deck was great. Four spas around the pool. Pool is pretty good size! I enjoyed doing laps in it first thing in the morning. Friendly staff at the pool. On sea days they set up the grill for great burgers, but even better is the wonderful paella they put out at the same time and place. Great Caribbean beats from the pool band. Some sceney see and be seen people watching. All fun!
We only did one NCL shore excursion - a "catamaran" snorkel/beach afternoon in Belize. The catamaran was more like a shuttle - no sail, and no rope net to lay on and watch the sea fly by underneath. The staff was nice and attentive, however. And the reef was beautiful. Great snorkeling. A lot of people crammed on board - but still a great time. Unfortunately one of the participants had a bad reaction to a sting from one of the small jellyfish in the water, and we had to end the snorkeling early to swing by the ship. The ship had medical staff on the catamaran as soon as we arrived. We had the opportunity to get back on the ship there, which we did, being more interested in the snorkeling than the beach. NCL credited us 25% of the excursion price - on their own volition. They had not heard any complaints from us, at least. Not as great as what NCL put together in 2010 in Barbados, but still a fun time. I would do it again.
Our other shore excursions were beach parties put together by Aquafest, and they were great. I call Costa Maya "The Magic Mayan Kingdom" - if you've never been there, and your cruise is porting there, plan on doing an excursion. The Costa Maya Compound is one flat soda. In Cozumel we just shopped. Los Cinques Soles is the best place there for shopping/eating/margaritas. No high pressure sales tactics! Nice stuff!
I'm sailing with Aquafest and NCL Hallowe'en 2012! We booked that baby on board. 11 nights out of Miami. Norwegian Sun. Can't wait!