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Sail Date: February 2010
Our cruise initially started out as a traveling nightmare, but thanks to NCL, the Jewel's onboard staff, and some wonderful CC friends, it turned out to be the cruise of a lifetime! I feel that it's important to share the background of our ... Read More
Our cruise initially started out as a traveling nightmare, but thanks to NCL, the Jewel's onboard staff, and some wonderful CC friends, it turned out to be the cruise of a lifetime! I feel that it's important to share the background of our trip before/as I do my review.

We are both in our 50's and this was our fourth cruise, all with NCL. This time we were meeting my son and his girlfriend (both in their mid-twenties) in Fort Lauderdale and then heading to the ship together for our cruise. We always fly a day ahead due to the weather here in Upstate New York, and this year was no different. When we arrived at the Buffalo airport on Saturday morning for our flight to Fort Lauderdale, we were told that our flight was cancelled (they gave us each a round-trip ticket for our trouble) and we could be put on a stand-by flight (which was already overbooked) on Saturday evening. An Air Tran supervisor saw how upset I was and offered to arrange a flight for us from Akron, Ohio (a four hour drive) to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday morning so we would not miss the cruise. I contacted the NCL number on our cruise docs to be sure that arriving after 2:00 PM would be okay. We arrived at the Akron airport early Sunday morning, and while waiting to board our flight, an announcement was made that our flight would be delayed. We finally flew out of Akron at 1:00 PM and arrived at Fort Lauderdale at 3:30 PM, too late to board the cruise. We spent nearly five hours at the airport trying to make arrangements to get to Roatan for Tuesday (impossible, we were told) or Belize for Wednesday. Again, I contacted NCL and they told us it would be possible to meet the ship in Belize on Wednesday morning. A very nice Air Tran supervisor, not only made arrangements to get us to Belize on US Air, but because it was Air Tran's fault that we missed the ship, they flew us at no charge!

We arrived in Belize on Monday afternoon and stayed at the Princess Hotel and Casino, which was arranged through our trip insurance representative. The hotel was nothing fancy, but was clean and acceptable. We spent Tuesday at the Belize Zoo, a trip worth taking, also an excursion option from the ship, which we arranged through the hotel. It was a nice way to spend a day and the tour guides were knowledgeable and pleasant.

Wednesday morning finally arrived and we were at the pier to meet the first tender at 8:30 AM. Our names were on the list and we got on the tender and finally headed off to the beautiful Jewel! Once on board the ship we were escorted to the reception desk where we checked in and were given our ship cards. We wasted no time getting to our cabin, 8054, an obstructed ocean view. Imagine our surprise when neither of our cards would work to open the door! The room steward let us in, and lo and behold, someone else's belongings were in our cabin. Could this vacation get any worse? We headed back to the reception desk and Joy, a great customer service rep on the ship, apologized for not telling us that we had been upgraded to a complimentary BB Balcony cabin. Needless to say, we finally felt that our vacation was really starting!

We arrived on the tenth deck to find John O'Hara (the hotel director), Mickey (the restaurant manager), and the assistant concierge standing outside our cabin waiting to welcome us aboard. Both John and Mickey gave us their direct phone numbers and told us to call with any needs we might have. After living out of a suitcase for five days, I couldn't wait to unpack and get settled, which we did very quickly so we could enjoy the ship. We took a walk around looking for my son and his girlfriend (who had boarded on Sunday). When we couldn't find them we went back to the cabin and found a phone message from John O'Hara. Some CC friends had to leave the ship due to illness and wanted to give us their AF mini-suite to enjoy for the remainder of our cruise (thanks Mike and Shelley). A couple of room stewards came up to help us pack and move to cabin 11578. Once there, we were truly treated like VIP's. We were invited to eat breakfast and lunch at Cagney's, normally only a perk for full suite guests, and my son and his girlfriend were welcome to join us. Daniela, the Concierge, made arrangements for us to have seats at the shows we wanted to see, and Mickey called me every day to see where we would like to eat dinner that night so she could make our reservations. And on top of all of this, each afternoon we were treated to gifts such as a fruit basket, bottle of wine, chocolates, etc. from the senior officers, John O'Hara, and Daniela. John even arranged for a second CC Meet and Greet since I had set up the first one and missed it! We all met again on the second sea day, and that was a lot of fun.

We found the Jewel and her crew to be absolutely amazing! Everyone went out of their way to be sure that all guests were enjoying themselves. We enjoyed all of the meals we ate on board, especially the Cagney's breakfasts. The steak and eggs was my husband's and son's favorite! We also ate at Teppanyaki and Tango's, both surcharge restaurants as well as both main dining rooms. All were very good; Teppanyaki is a great show as well as a meal. We loved the dEcor at Tsar's, having a table right at the window.

We didn't see too many shows since we boarded so late. We did see Cirque Bijou, and that is a show that should definitely not be missed. It was, without a doubt, one of the best shows I have ever seen! The ventriloquist/comedian was also very good. Once on board, my husband and I both enjoyed massages at Bora Bora Spa; they were a little pricey, but good. I attended the Martini tasting and felt that it was well worth the cost. For $15 they served five ½-3/4 sized martinis. They were all delicious. We're not big gamblers so we only spent a little time in the casino; the slot machines were not paying out at all. In fact, we didn't see anyone who appeared to be winning anything. We went to a seminar on ammolite which we thought was quite informative, and I even won a glass bracelet at Columbian Emeralds on the last night.

We went to Costa Maya on Thursday and enjoyed the day at Maya Luna Resort, a place we've been to before and really enjoy. We also got to Great Stirrup Cay, and although it was quite crowded, the weather was beautiful; in fact, it was the best weather day of our cruise, with bright sunshine all day and temperatures in the 80's!

Disembarkation was easy even though we were first escorted to a "special" customs office. I was quite nervous about it, but it turned out, they just wanted to know why we embarked in Belize instead of Miami. Once we told them our travel saga, we were through customs in no time and they simply told us to have a safe trip home. We had arranged for transportation back to Fort Lauderdale from Steve at SAS Transportation. It took him about 30 minutes to get to the port, but once in the van it was only about 30 minutes more to the airport.

All in all, we had the cruise of a lifetime (once we got on the ship). As far as we are concerned, Norwegian Cruise Line, and especially the staff of the Jewel went out of their way to make what was left of our cruise the most memorable we've had. There is no doubt that we will always cruise with NCL; in fact a few days after arriving home, I booked a cruise for next spring on the NCL Dawn. One final note...I definitely recommend trip insurance as you never know what can happen, especially with winter weather!

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Sail Date: April 2009

NCL Spirit   4/19/09 - 5/1/09

WE MISSED THE BOAT

My poor wife's back was too badly wrenched to permit boarding our scheduled flight ... Read More

NCL Spirit   4/19/09 - 5/1/09

WE MISSED THE BOAT

My poor wife's back was too badly wrenched to permit boarding our scheduled flight from Dayton to New Orleans on April nineteenth.   This situation required significant remedial planning to catch up the NCL Spirit.   The best port to fly into was Belize (BZE)    This is a small airport but is serviced by American Airlines 737's from Miami.   The flight departed Cincinnati and arrived at 1:20 PM local time on April twenty second.   We took a taxi to the port for $25 US.   Using the internet we had researched the ground transportation options and decided the taxi was the best choice.   We checked inside the airport, with the dispatcher and with the driver about the fare.   Surprisingly and very pleasantly, getting through local security and onto the tender servicing the ship was a smooth procedure, even quicker than the usual check in at the normal departure point.   My bride had telephoned NCL on the nineteenth and spoke with a knowledgeable     representative who created a three way call with an on board representative, so Spirit knew of our situation and was expecting us.   The tickets we had booked originally on American Airlines were forfeited.   For cruisers who may have had apprehensions about missing the boat be consoled that the situation can be dealt with but the remedy requires that an experienced traveler be involved and its not easy, cheap or within everyone's comfort zone.   Since this was a twelve day cruise we could miss the first four days and still have enough time remaining to justify the additional airfare expense.   We don't use travel insurance but may in the future.

The Spirit is one of NCL's oldest ships but is nicely maintained and a smooth sailor.   We encountered force six winds and waves of seven to eight feet with no significant problems for us with motion sickness or mobility.   There were the usual jokes among passengers that some people were walking drunkenly when it was just the ship's movements.

Our inside cabin on deck six was the smallest we've ever had after fifteen cruises and our dinner mates felt some fixtures were designed for an Asian clientele since this ship was first built and operated by Star lines.   By this they meant things were smaller.   The cabins do show some age and wear in the shower tiles, room carpeting and the closets.  The closets must be securely latched shut or they will open and close on their own during the night.   The cabins were not adequately sound proofed and conversations, televisions and drawers opening and closing could be clearly heard.   Several times I was awakened at night wondering who was walking about in our cabin when the noise was from next door.   Thankfully we had considerate and quiet neighbors.

The food in the main dining rooms was good with a few excellent dishes but just as many below average ones.   We didn't use the specialty restaurants but some people who did felt that food and service there was what was standard in main dining rooms on cruises years ago.   Raffles buffet was better than average and featured a soft ice cream machine and some hand dipped ice cream as well.   There were no significant issues with seating at Raffles but we had to ask to share tables with strangers several times.

Entertainment was uneven.   The magician, ventriloquist and the production company were very good.

The ship has a very poor public speaker system for general announcements and this became an issue during disembarkation in Boston.   Passengers we asked all said that they heard virtually no announcements in their cabins and several important announcements regarding leaving the ship were garbled and unintelligible.   Several Canadians went through the required immigration process earlier in the morning of the last day but the computers did not "upload" their data.   They did not hear/understand the announcements of their names to recheck and didn't realize that they were responsible for holding up the departures of an entire ship for over one hour.  

We missed several of the ports early in the cruise but Belize was quite foreign and rather third world-ish.   Curacao was nice and rather quaint but on the day of our visit, Sunday, the town was practically closed down.   Bermuda is a beautiful and fun port.   It's very expensive however.   A cruise ship is definitely a good way to visit there.    Use the ship as your hotel and employ the excellent public transit system to see the island.   Look into daily or weekly passes which permit travel on the busses and ferries.   The bus travels along the coast and one can get off at a beach or other point of interest for a while then re-board and continue to the next stop or return to the ship.

This was a repositioning cruise so it will not be repeated until next season.   There were five ports and seven days at sea.   While there were sufficient activities during at sea days we enjoy visiting ports and felt a bit confined and crowded on board for these periods.

My wife insists that I comment on the excellent performance of the cruise director Paul and his staff.   They were very friendly and approachable but kept activities under control.   Paul recognized us from our participation in the morning walk a mile program and even pulled us aside during our departure to state that he would miss our walks.

 

 

 

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