NCL Spirit 3/4/12
Cabin 9500, Category BD (balcony)
About us - 60'ish semi-retired professionals, not too fussy. Our 41st cruise, 14th on NCL and 2nd on the Spirit.
We drove to the pier. Parking is in the "whale lot" which is the outdoor secure lot across the trolley tracks from the pier. There is a place to drop bags if you do not wish to tote them from the parking lot. Parking is $108 for 7 days and is paid in advance with cash or credit card.
The terminal opens at 11:00 so if you arrive early you may be made to wait on the sidewalk. We were admitted at 10:20 and I believe it was because we had VIP luggage tags, but am not certain. We went through security and they did question one item in my carry on, which after investigation was seen to be non-alcoholic and preceded on to the counter where we checked in promptly.. From door to key card took about 10 minutes. The VIP waiting area is for suite and villa guests and does not permit platinum latitudes as in some ports. Boarding was a little delayed but we were onboard by 12:20.
Prior to boarding you could do a welcome aboard photo, but it was off to the side so it did not hold up the line and there was no pressure to have it taken. A station with water, tea, coffee and cookies was in the waiting area.
Boarding was done by numbers given as you registered. Latitude members received lower numbers than newbies.
Once you dinged onboard and sanitized your hands you were free to drop your luggage in the theatre or if you chose, you could drop your bags off in your cabin, even if it was not ready. The buffet was open but we chose to head straight for the Windows Dining Room and have a leisurely sit down lunch.
This ship was built for the Asian market and the oriental design is throughout. Likewise, some of the areas are not built for super-size-it Americans.
Cabins: This was the smallest cabin I've had on an NCL ship. It was fine for DH and I but Im sure there are those who would find it a bit too cozy. The bathroom has the sink area in the center with the toilet and shower off to opposite sides, each with a sliding glass door. This makes the shower very spacious, but the toilet a big snug.
The shower has wall dispensers of Frances Denney soap and shampoo. The sink has liquid hand soap and there are travel size containers of bath gel, shampoo and after shave lotion. There is a wall mounted hair dryer that was adequate for me but if you need a more powerful dryer the spa has 1000 watt blow dryers. The glass enclosed shower makes a perfect steam cabinet for those wrinkled clothes. If you need to iron anything, call the desk and they will send up an iron and board to use for two hours.
The bed was comfy and had nice quality cotton sheets. There was a foam overlay and a duvet. Robes and coffee makers are standard in balcony and above cabins, but are not usually in lower category cabins. There is only one plug and it is in the vanity area. It is labeled "no hair dryers". There is a safe in the closet and you set your own four digit code. It is large enough to hold a lap top. There is a flat screen TV. Our cabin had a fold out loveseat. The balcony had two standard size chairs (not loungers) and a small end table. The balcony is not huge but was adequate for our needs.
Although this is the oldest ship in NCLs fleet it does not show. She is clean and well kept.
There is the buffet which has a pretty good flow to it and is accessible from multiple sides. For breakfast there is a separate area for custom cooked eggs, and a custom waffle and crepe station on the other side. Coffee and tea are available all day for free. Juice is only free at breakfast. There is no lemonade or punch.
There are two main dining rooms. Windows at the aft, which is the larger of the two and Garden more centrally located. The menu is the same in both restaurants. The items on the left side of the menu change daily, while those on the right are available every day. You can mix and match. We found the food to be fine in the MDRs, although I seriously missed my cold soup each evening. (more on that later)
Specialty restaurants are available at a cost ranging from $10-30. Reservations are required, but other than the Teppanyaki, I think you could probably walk in to most of them. We were comped dinner at le Bistro two days and it was quite nice. The chef and his assistant came out to greet each person and inquired about allergies or anything special you might want in reference to the preparation of your dish. On a previous cruise on the Spirit we dined at Cagneys and it was excellent.
I will probably forget some of the additional places to eat but free of charge is also the Blue Moon cafe, famous for its chicken wings and comfort food. There is poolside food which is usually burgers, hot dogs and a large dish - one day was paella, another jambalaya. Other premium restaurants are La Tarattoria (Italian), a shushi restaurant whose name escapes me but items there are a la carte. Sandwiches and cookies are served in the evening at the casino.
There is soft serve and scoop ice cream in the buffet. Scoop flavors vary each day, two at a time. There is a coffee bar in the atrium.
A very large casino for a ship. Lots of slots and video poker, ranging from penny on up. Table games were BJ (automatic shuffler) Let It Ride, Three Card Poker. They have added a non-smoking casino area that is the best kept secret onboard. Most people think it is the raised area (which is up three steps) in the rear, but between the bathrooms and leBistro is a staircase to the smoke free slot area (no table games). There were never more than three people in there.
I must say this is the worst paying ship casino I've ever been in. Very tight slots and tables were played maxed out. There were tournaments for BJ and slots. At the rear of the casino is a very unique lounge with lounging beds.
We only took in three shows, Acrobbatique, the Broadway review and Elements. Elements is particularly good. It is new to NCL in the past six months and includes aerial acrobatics that are very entertaining. Worth it for sure.
The music we heard around the ship was quite pleasant and only in the Stardust Lounge did we find it earsplitting.
The duo who replaced Arlin and Emily, our favorite dancing music pre and post dinner, were fine but did not have the personal connection with the audience, or the talent of Arlon and Emily. Unfortunately they had moved a grand piano into the lounge which took up the entire tiny dance area, so we just danced in the aisles, much to the amusement of our fellow passengers.
The guitarist was different from what is available on most ships and a nice change. Talented and friendly, as well.
There were games likes the newlywed game, Deal or No Deal, and let's not forget bingo. The game room is a good sized and has a nice assortment of board games. It is seperate from the library and internet cafe and affords a nice indoor space with a good view of the water.
There are the usual offerings of services at inflated prices. Usually I don't use the spa, but since we missed our Costa Maya beach massages, DH and I each had a massage and it was very nice. The spa has a free sauna and steam room on each side. DH tells me the layout on the men's side is stranger than the woman's, which is peculiar in its own right. Between the dressing area and the steam and sauna area is a very nice area where women and men wait for their spa treatments. So, beware if you are going to prance through with a towel on that you are not in the ladies locker room.
The showers have gel and shampoo dispensers and are comparable size to cabin showers. You do, however have the ability to stand in the shower and see out the ceiling to floor window to the sea. An 18% tip is automatically added to your service.
Costa Maya was missed due to high waves. The spa did extend the port day prices even though wee were not in port.
Belize - This is a tender port and depending on the seas, it takes about 15 minutes from ship to shore. If you are on a ship tour you do not need a tender ticket, just meet at the assigned area on your ticket. If you are not on a tour, you could receive a tender number in Champagne Charlies then wait elsewhere for your number to be called. If you had VIP tender passes, you could proceed to the gangway anytime after groups had finished, in other words when the first number was called. They use local tenders. We have been to Belize multiple times and chose to enjoy the solitude of the ship.
Roatan - This was a tender port also, but takes only a few minutes. They used the ship's life boats for tendering.
Procedure was the same as Belize. We had arranged a spa day at Baan Suerte, which was superb. A must do again for us. I had the best coconut shrimp of my life at the cafe down the beach. If you are doing an independent tour do not follow the crowd out the main gate, but around to the left at gate 7 is where you willl find all the independent waiting.
There is a nice shop area here at mahogony bay as opposed to the older pier.
Cozumel. We docked at the Langosta (downtown pier) along with the Star. You can disembark at will. We chose to go to a restaurant we enjoy for lunch, had a beach massage, then roamed back to the ship. Very relaxing. The Star staff put on quite a show with music, line dancing and making balloon animals, swords and hats for their passengers. It was a lot of fun to watch. We held the ship for two late passengers and one was left behind. The security officer was not happy and I don't know what he said to those two young people, but I'm glad it wasn't me.
The gym has the usual assortment of treadmills, elipticals, bikes, weights, etc. There are classes each morning for a fee. The gym looks out over the sea so it is very nice. There are chilled towels in a cooler. Of course, there is the dreaded scale in there in case you want to spoil your vacation.
There was a latitudes party on the first sea day. Free drinks a few appetizers and the unpdate on what's new to NCL. Candace, the Lat. Representative was a chatty little thing and made awarding prizes a quizzing of three passengers rather than just a drawing. Nice idea, but a bit drawn out and no more prizes from each department. No music, no dancing. One evening at 6:30 there was a silver, gold, platinum party which was the worst I've ever been to. Not in a private room, but one side of the show lounge was cordoned off with chairs. The band played at ear splitting levels so there was no opportunity to chat with the officers who were there, although most were from housekeeping since senior bridge officers were busy taking us out of port. Bad timing, awful locale - very disappointing since I usually enjoy talking one on one about NCL. Future cruise certificates were for sale through the onboard rep.
You can choose a disembark time by means of the color coded tags, or do walk off. We did walk off and were down the gangway at 7:45. Security did a better job than usual in controlling the chaos around departure areas. Maybe there were not a lot of self disembarkers, because it did seemed we met a smaller than usual number of local folks. Immigration and customs was an agent standing in the terminal looking at your passport, taking your declaration and waving you on. No counter, no computer, no nothing. Just welcome home.
This and That
We did the Behind the Scenes tour and it was quite interesting. In the galley I asked the chef about the possible return of the chilled soups and he asked where I was dining that evening and my favorite soup. At dinner DH and I received a bowl of our coveted banana soup and a strawberry one as well. Bravo, Chef Fernandez!
There were daily meetings of Friends of Bill, Friends of Dorothy but no Veterans gathering. Shame on you NCL.
Lots of daily drink specials, and sales at tables set up in the atrium.
The announcements seemed to be minimal and brief. Yeah!
I felt the staff on the Spirit seemed to go above and beyond many of our sailings. What a delight.
The CC meet and greet was the first sea day in Henry's Pub and I believe 5 or 6 officers were there and I must say it was the nicest spread of pastries and fruit I've seen at a M & G.
I would not hesitate to cruise the Spirit again and will miss her when the Star replaces her in NOLA next year.