The 2,018-passenger Norwegian Spirit debuted in 1998. You won't find a rock-climbing wall, bowling alley or some of the other whiz-bang features offered by some of the fleet's bigger, newer ships, but enjoyment doesn't always have to come in an ultra-modern package.
Spirit has 11 restaurants, eight bars and lounges, as well as plenty of family features. And it's a lively, friendly ship to boot. Despite its age, regular refurbishments, including a late-2008 overhaul, have kept the teenage ship looking fresh.
The ship debuted as Malaysia-based Star Cruises' SuperStar Leo (Star's parent company, Genting Hong Kong owns a 50 percent share of NCL). Transferred to NCL in 2004, Norwegian Spirit still boasts a pleasing, Asia-inspired decor that includes artifacts on display -- an antique vase here, a mannequin in Samurai costume there (little museum-like plaques tell you what's what). Staircases have wood and iron railings, the atrium boasts glass elevators and waterfalls, and the color palette is more mellow than over-the-top (no neon tones as on newer NCL vessels). The overall effect is that Norwegian Spirit feels like a fancier ship. Excellent service enhances the experience -- from the moment you board, there are touches of pampering.
During its 2008 renovation, the ship was outfitted with a new diesel engine, and 11 cabins were added (eight with balconies). The Stardust Theater got new red-velvet seats, and nearly all the upholstery and carpeting on the ship was replaced. (The carpet in cabin hallways varies by deck, so you can tell you're on the right one by looking at the carpet color.) Also added were a new phone system and wireless Internet access.
But the biggest change is that teens now control the Celebrity Disco, giving them their own private hideaway on Deck 13, at the opposite end of the ship from the younger kids' facilities -- something teens will, no doubt, hold over their younger siblings. The video arcade has also moved, from Deck 10 to a more prominent spot on Deck 7, and is geared toward the teen crowd with games like Downhill Bikes and Target Terror.
But the thing we enjoyed most on this ship was its lighthearted attitude and a prevailing sense of humor. Example? A Captain's invite read "free drinks on the Captain (we mean, with the Captain)."
Norwegian Spirit Fellow Passengers
The shipboard crowd ranges from toddlers to seniors, with many in the middle range. NCL's "Freestyle Cruising" appeals to a casual and unpretentious clientele, and the overall cruise-ship vibe is young and fun. Family groups choose this ship for the hundreds of connecting staterooms, and the children's center is one of the best at sea.
Norwegian Spirit Dress Code
The dress code is casual. Shorts are not allowed in the main or specialty dining rooms after 5 p.m. The Windows dining room is reserved for those who want to dress up a little at night (something beyond jeans), but it's not a formal ship. There's no need to pack a tux -- or even a suit.
Norwegian Spirit Gratuity
Each passenger is automatically billed $13.50 per person, per day in all cabin categories up to and including a mini suite. Suite guests will be charged $15.50 per person, per day. This charge is automatically added to your shipboard account. This amount can be adjusted in either direction. Beverages purchased onboard include an 18 percent gratuity charged at point of service, while all specialty and entertainment dining carries an 18 percent auto-gratuity. Spa services charge an automatic 18 percent gratuity. For those in suites, butlers and concierges expect to be tipped separately, at your discretion.
Next: Norwegian Spirit Cabins