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1,193 Norwegian (NCL) Bermuda Cruise Reviews

About Me: I'm a 28 year old male who sailed with his 60 year old mother on the May 21, 2010 sailing of the Norwegian Spirit from Boston to Bermuda. This was my fourth NCL cruise this year sailing twice on the Norwegian Jewel and once ... Read More
About Me: I'm a 28 year old male who sailed with his 60 year old mother on the May 21, 2010 sailing of the Norwegian Spirit from Boston to Bermuda. This was my fourth NCL cruise this year sailing twice on the Norwegian Jewel and once on Norwegian Sky and my ninth NCL cruise overall. I've sailed on other cruise lines including with Princess (5x), Celebrity (3x), RCCL (1x) and Carnival (1x). I primarily cruise NCL these days switching completely from Princess as of January 2009. I prefer the FreeStyle concept and love NCL for their innovations they've brought to the cruise industry. With that said now here's my review... Embarkation: For Boston this process went VERY smoothly. This was my third time cruising out of Boston and the other two times had torturous embarkations with long lines for everything from getting the bags to checking in. This time it was not the case. We got rid of our bags promptly and walked inside the terminal and through security to the check in counter where there was a five minute wait and then it was our turn. Then it was right up the escalator and onto the ship after being greeted by Bruce (Concierge). Before we knew it we were having lunch! I don't know how NCL fixed this problem from the past two years but it was a very enjoyable embarkation! The Ship: The title of my review is inspired by her Oriental dEcor. Originally the SuperStar Leo she is now some 12 years old and in the public areas she's not showing her age at all. Everything looks brand new and is well polished and shiny. Her dry dock just over a year ago probably helped to keep her looking so fresh and new. Each of her specialty restaurants have incredible artwork - mostly Asian inspired (minus LeBistro and Windows). Our favorite dining room was Windows because you could see daylight no matter what part of the dining room you are in. Other public venues I enjoyed this trip included Cagney's Steakhouse, Le Bistro and Maharini's Nightclub. The gym onboard is not as well appointed as the Jewel class ships with less equipment available and squished together. This is due to the lack of aerobics studio so part of the gym serves as this space. The Stateroom: Our cabin was 11010 for this voyage. This was the only part of the entire ship where we thought she was showing her age. While not in a sad state of disrepair things were noticeably broken but easily fixed (for the most part). A handle on the nightstand drawer came loose and hung down. It was repaired by maintenance in 24 hours after it came loose. The bathroom tile needed re-grouting in the shower badly. I think since the bathrooms take the most abuse from passengers for a 12 year old ship it was in an ok shape. The carpeting in the stateroom had been recently replaced though as it had no spots showing wear and was stain free. Food: To our pleasant surprise one of the very few familiar faces onboard from last year was the Executive Chef Hans Peter. We knew we were in great hands in the culinary department when we saw him out and about the first night. He is very friendly and always seeking guest feedback about the food onboard. Love NCL's chilled soups and didn't miss any of the favorites this cruise! I've cruised so frequently with NCL to know their menus inside and out and refer to them by their dinner numbers. Dinner 5 is my least favorite of the entire menu series on NCL. We did venture to two specialty restaurants this cruise and it was to Cagney's Steakhouse whilst docked in Bermuda and the other time was to Le Bistro. The food in Cagney's was excellent. Le Bistro onboard the Spirit has an open kitchen and so the food is really fresh and hot! Love the escargot in Le Bistro and also on the Dinner 7 menu. Great work Peter! Fellow Passengers: The cruise from Boston always has such a mixed crowd and this cruise proved that you are as only as old as you act! I had a blast making friends of all ages this sailing. Bostonians don't seem to appreciate vocal house music as much so the disco wasn't as hopping as I would have liked but I understand a DJ has to play to their crowd and majority rules. Now here's what I did on a day-to-day basis so that you can gauge the cruise as seen through my age group's eyes: Day 1: Boston, MA - Embarkation - After boarding the Spirit we had a leisurely lunch. From there it was to the stateroom to drop off the bags which were ready just before 2PM. Hung out in the cabin for a while getting some of the carry-on stuff put away before watching the ship cast off from the balcony. Our cabin was on the starboard side and it had great sight lines to the bridge which is on the same deck. We watched the Captain pull away from the pier using the thrusters and such. It was neater than being up on deck. After they cleared out of that bridge wing we went upstairs to the Tivoli pool area and finished watching the ship back out and turn around. After freshening up really quickly and changing into the clothes which arrived at some point when we were up on deck we headed to dinner at Window's Restaurant. Dinner was excellent and then it was off to the one show only Paul Scally & Friends. It's a variety show where you get to see clips of what the entertainment will be throughout the vacation. Great way to kick off the cruise! For me it was off to Maharini's Nightclub to meet DJ Jasper and give him a CD for the White Hot Party. Since I was early to the club it was nice to actually get to talk with him and get to know him a little bit. I live for nightlife so it's good to get to know the DJ and their likes. DJ Jasper gauged his crowd and did very well during the rest of the cruise with playing to everyone's favorites. I'm sure the bar revenue numbers is proof positive that he knows what he's doing. Day 2: Sea Day - Sea days are designed to sleep in and that's what any late night owl would be doing. My day started around lunch time and was just a lazy day at sea. Did some power walking of the Promenade Deck and poked around the shops onboard before taking a PM disco nap. Dinner tonight was in Window's Restaurant and was flipped around. Usually the menus are sequential but on this trip we had Dinner 3 menu on the second night. Instead of having Beef Wellington we had the Prime Rib. No biggie. I like both menus and welcomed a change to the menu sequence! Next it was off to Stardust Showtime of "On Broadway." With the new cast that signed on some four weeks previous there was a change to this show from last year. Some of the musicals were taken out (most noticeably my favorite "Hairspray") and were replaced with a few numbers from "In The Heights" and "Movin' Out." The new cast was incredible both on-stage and off-stage. I loved the Mamma Mia numbers at the end and the cast really seemed to come alive during this part of the performance. Great show and not to be missed! Back to Maharini's after briefly checking out the 70's Groove Dance Party in Galaxy of the Stars for a night of dancing and chatter with new found friends. Day 3: Sea Day / Heritage Wharf, Bermuda - After a leisurely breakfast on the balcony and watching the Spirit approach Bermuda we hung out and watched the ship pull into its berth on the Promenade Deck. We actually arrived and cleared customs earlier than anticipated so we watched the people getting off the ship before having lunch in Windows. Once we knew everyone was off the ship and the mad rush was completed we leisurely went ashore and explored the shops in the dockyard and Clock Tower Mall. All the vendors are pretty much the same as they were in 2009. Nothing new to see there and the pharmacy remained a popular place to get Coca-Cola products (as NCL now sells Pepsi products exclusively). After walking around for a bit it was back to the ship to get ready for Cagney's Steakhouse and some al-fresco dining on the Promenade Deck. After checking several times about whether this event was still on because there was a slight breeze on deck, we showed up and were shown to a table inside. It was explained to us that it was simply too windy and it really was to dine outside. Things would have flown off the tables. This is a hidden gem to dine outside and watch the sunset and it's ONLY available on days when the ship is in port (Sunday and Monday nights) and there is good weather. Had a nice Porterhouse steak and ate it all myself to the surprise of Svetlana Kostunko, waitress and Rogeliza Nanad, hostess. Both were very attentive to our needs and Executive Chef Peter even stopped by for a few minutes to chat and make sure dinner was enjoyable and it was. Tonight's show was Duo Acrobatique starring Roberto & Dorota. This is a definite must-see show. They explain what they're doing and just how dangerous it really is so that you will appreciate their performance later in the week during Elements. Two show times given of 7:15 and 9:15PM. Galaxy of the Stars hosted the 50's & 60's Sock Hop while the disco was largely dead this night because Snorkel Park and Hammerheads on the other side of the dockyard was hosting their opening night party. I went in and checked it out. It's $5 for Spirit passengers and free for the Spirit crew. Drinks are slightly more expensive from what you'd pay onboard depending on what it is that you are drinking. The music was mostly reggae tunes and some hip hop. There were a few DJs spinning that night. Day 4: Bermuda - BERMUDA DAY - Since this is Bermuda's annual holiday celebration with parades and festive outdoor parties we went down to Hamilton to check it out. We were skeptical that the parade would even happen but the weather gods were on Bermuda's side and the really rainy weather and winds had largely died down for the 4 hour long parade. It's the longest parade I've ever attended! Bermudians really like their dance routines, most of which was to reggae or hip hop music. We were opposite the main viewing stage with all the public officials from the island including the Premier and his wife. Since it was a national holiday in Bermuda very few shops were open and those that were in Hamilton shut down at 1:30PM to catch the parade going down Front Street. After the parade mom and I headed back to the ship. After another great dinner in Window's Restaurant mom and I attended the show of the Second City comedy troupe. It was an ok entertainment option. The weather was no cooperative to have the deck party out on deck so it was relocated to Galaxy of the Stars. I lurked around that for a bit and it just seemed to lack energy so I went to bed early and skipped Maharini's completely. Day 5: Bermuda - St. George's - Since the weather was so windy there was no direct route to St. George's as the ferry was not running. As a result you had to take the fast ferry to Hamilton and then bus it up to St. George's. When we arrived in St. George's we set out to find the house with the printing press that we missed two year's ago on the walking tour. We found it and it was open. St. George's is so great that you can go up and down streets and discover things you didn't see before and old houses with historical significance. Sadly St. George's has gotten hit hard by the cruise ships pulling out. What was once a bustling shopping street just outside of Ordinance Island and off the town square is now just a dead zone. Most of the shops are closed now as are most of the restaurants that we recalled from a few years ago. The White Horse Tavern is still there though. We hopped on a bus to St. David's to check out the other lighthouse on the island. The only way to get to it is from St. George's by taking the St. David's route. The bus drops you at a stop just a few feet from the lighthouse. Unlike what most locals tell you this lighthouse is not open to the public. However, if you are a lighthouse aficionado like my mother is then just getting some pictures of it and seeing it in person is perfectly fine. After doing some last bit of shopping in Hamilton, including at A.S. Cooper Men's store which is the best line up of clothing for men I've seen on the island - especially for designer names, it was back to the ship for departure. The weather was still windy and rainy mess. We hurried down to the dining room and got a window seat in Window's Dining Room to watch cast off from the pier. Since the wind was blowing us back to the pier it was interesting that we shoved off and then slowly drifted back and then bounced off the pier. No damage to the ship other than rub marks from the bumpers when we returned to Boston and we finally got under way after turning around. This night the seas were quite rough due to the weather they were having on the island the last two days we were there. We caught the late show of Soul Rockin' Nights to go back to the cabin and finish watching our departure from Bermuda. The production cast did a great job of dealing with the ship's swaying this night. If you like the genre of Rock music then you'll love this show. It was mom's favorite and my least favorite of the three productions onboard (based on the music involved). The highlight of any NCL cruise for me is the White HOT Party and it was Tuesday night in Galaxy of the Stars. DJ Jaspar at the wheel and played a wide range of music for the premiere event up in Galaxy of the Stars. The night wasn't as hot as the one in March onboard the Norwegian Jewel with DJ Jean but it was an ok night. When the party moved to Maharini's Nightclub the music changed to more of a house beat, which is what a white party should be! Got to dance quite a bit this night and had a blast overall. Day 6: Sea Day – No need to start early as the White Party went very late into the early hours of the day. Got up and had brunch this day and floated around the ship a bit doing some more browsing of deals and walking the Promenade Deck. Afternoon show of magic with Chorgis was a good way to spend 45 minutes out relaxing. Nice to have options during sea days in the afternoon which also include having a main show in the theater! Off to dinner in LeBistro tonight with hot escargot. Very nice dinner service and the wait staff were very friendly and attentive. The open kitchen was a nice favorite although at our angle we couldn’t see it. We had a nice window seat overlooking the Promenade and the setting sun. Afterward it was off to show time with Paul Scally, Cruise Director, doing his comedy show. Glad there were some audience members who played along this trip. Two dwarfs who he joked about came up on stage from the audience and kicked his butt for the jokes. It was cute, definitely staged, but cute. Tonight was the Chocoholic Buffet in Window’s Restaurant. What a fabulous venue and what an incredible job done by the pastry chef onboard with the culinary presentation of chocolates. Doors were at 11PM and be sure to get there early to get your photos before all the food is gone! Next it was off to VIP All Access Evening in Maharini’s Nightclub. It was nice to see a NEW evening in the nightclub with suggested attire of red or black. This was also the fall back night where you regained the hour you lost earlier in the cruise. It was great to hang out with the crew friends I made onboard while waiting for the adult male revue of “Ship-N-Males” to begin. Women out there (and gay men)… be sure to check out this revue! It features the hunky Brock (Production Dancer), Eduardo (Guest Relations), Kwasi (Happy Happy Washy Washy Guy) & Paul Scally (Cruise Director). It’s an adult’s only revue and it’s well worth staying up to midnight for (even if you’re not a spring chicken). A great night for the nightclub onboard and it was definitely nice to spend the night here until 3:30AM. Day 7: Sea Day – Sleeping is the name of the game here. It’s a bit chilly outside so just hung around and had a late lunch and went to the International Crew Talent Show. This is a definite must attend. The crew work so hard for us and the least we can do is go and support them and cheer them on with their very good hidden talents. The show time was at 3PM in the Stardust Theater. Tonight was the lovely Dinner 7 menu with the escargot, chilled black cherry soup and beef tenderloin in Window’s Restaurant. Great dinner service and special thanks to Bruce for getting us in the dining room in record time considering we didn’t call him beforehand to set this up. Very nice last dinner onboard and I highly recommend this dinner as it is the best dining room menu on this night of the cruise! Next it was off to show time of “Elements.” It’s a new production to the Norwegian Spirit for this year’s Boston to Bermuda season. It’s a fire and ice Cirque-style show with acrobats Roberto & Darota. There is no signing in this production, just performance and dance numbers. If you’ve seen Cirque Bijoux produced by Jean Ann Ryan, this show goes a step further in the cirque style. The closing part of the show is just fantastic with the acrobats and dancers flying high and confetti raining down. A strong suggestion is to sit a few rows back to catch the full performance. Also, be sure to have an empty bladder before attending the shows as the aisles are used frequently by performers. People getting up and getting in their way just does not enhance the performance and is dangerous for everyone involved (passenger and cast member). This show is definitely a must-see event of the cruise! It was so good I saw it twice! After the “Elements” second show be sure to get up to the Galaxy of the Stars to participate in the always hilarious “Quest” game show. It’s an adult’s only show featuring a quest for items that are not easily found or produce-able but on your person. That’s all I’m saying! It’s always hilarious!! It was off to Maharini’s Nightclub for the farewell disco which featured a toga party. Most guests got into the spirit of the event and it made the last night onboard great. I called it quits fairly early knowing that disembarkation morning is always an early one. Left the disco at 1:30AM and it was still hopping. Thanked the DJ for the nice house sets he played throughout the cruise and off to bed I went. Day 8: Boston, MA – Disembarkation – Woke up at 7AM to find us already docked. Usually we’re still coming into the city at that point. Went back to bed until 8AM and got up and had some breakfast. Disembarkation was the smoothest I’ve ever seen it and all luggage tags were called by 10AM. A lot of folks did the Express Walk-Off with their own bags so there were very few that the porters had to handle. Since it is a Friday morning we opted to be the last group off to avoid rush hour in Boston as we were driving. Blue and Light Blue are the luggage tags which are the last ones off. Thanks to the nice send off by Scott of the Cruise Staff. Conclusion: Since we’ve done this itinerary before the ship was really the main attraction and her crew did not disappoint! The Oriental Lady rolled out the VIP red carpet for mom and I and it was a great cruise. I wish Mother Nature had cooperated quite a bit more for our port time in Bermuda because it dampened the fun ashore but we fully realize that sometimes you have a bad weather cruise. Just means you have to cruise more frequently or repeat the cruise again!! I would like to take a special moment to thank all these people for whom made this cruise so enjoyable for me: First and foremost a big thanks to Bruce Van Der Boon, Concierge Extraordinaire, who without his services this cruise would not have been nearly as smooth flowing as it was. Bruce was nearly always the first person to greet me in the morning for breakfast and was always hospitable no matter the request – no matter how late the request was prior to the time of wanting it. The incredible dining service team on this ship was so nice and so hospitable no matter the dining room. My two favorite hostesses were Rogeliza Nanad and Neysi Webster who no matter where mom or I would be on the ship would always come over and greet us with a big smile and warm welcome. Svetlana Kostunko in Cagney’s Steakhouse was incredible the entire trip. Thomas and Miguel Rodrigues in Window’s Restaurants remembered us by name days after we sat in their section. Quite impressive the level of service offered by the dining room crew! Annalyn Paz was the best bellperson we had for figuring out a recurrent room service need and scheduling times for it. That is really great customer service right there! Jeniffer Balisacan and Josue Echano were incredibly helpful and attentive stateroom stewards on Deck 11 forward. Josue took care of some problems including a backed up drain for us when maintenance had their hands full on embarkation night. Josue also found a large enough trash bag to wear as a poncho because the ones on shore didn’t fit my height and I was soaked from the waist down after going out for an hour. Very good work Josue! A trash bag might not have looked glamorous but it kept me dry and that’s what counted! A shout out to my favorite Maharini’s Nightclub staff of Irma (Waitress), Dewa Padma (Bar Waiter) and to Reynoldo and Pedro (Bartenders) who besides the DJ made Maharini’s a great place to hang out nearly every single night of the cruise! DJ Jaspar did an incredible job spinning house music where he could and any DJ who likes house music is an instant favorite of mine! Nice work DJ Jaspar! I mention all these people by name because they stood out and each earned themselves STYLE cards in their own right. The production cast members and cruise staff was incredible to hang around with as well and I thank them for their company and the memories! Thanks to Milka for setting up the onboard Meet & Greet for Cruise Critic and for taking care of a special task given to her with great care and speed! I am looking forward to my next cruise with NCL in the not too distant future! Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
A bit of background- my boyfriend and I are first-time cruisers; I am 25 and he is 30. This cruise appealed to us not only due to its departure from Boston, but also due to the "Freestyle" cruising mantra. In all, we had a ... Read More
A bit of background- my boyfriend and I are first-time cruisers; I am 25 and he is 30. This cruise appealed to us not only due to its departure from Boston, but also due to the "Freestyle" cruising mantra. In all, we had a fantastic time on our first cruise (hopefully of many!) and definitely plan on cruising on NCL in the future. Embarkation in Boston was efficient and low-stress. We were dropped off at the pier around 12:15, and we were able to be dining in Windows by about 1pm. Only about 20 other groups were in Windows at this time so I highly recommend heading there rather than to the deck party they try and steer you toward! Rooms were ready at 2pm and we were able to enjoy our balcony as we left Boston. The sea days en route to Bermuda were fun- we enjoyed the trivia sessions as well as Paul Scally and Friends and "Just Magic" with Jorgos. We also went to the "Newlywed Not so Newlywed Gameshow" which was a riot- the couples selected had been married anywhere from 2 days to 62 years! All in all, the days gave us a good chance to get ready for Bermuda. We arrived in Bermuda late Sunday morning, and rather than try and fight the hordes trying to exit the ship early, we once again had a leisurely lunch. (Windows ended up being our favorite dining spot.) We left the ship around 12:30 and wandered around the Dockyard for a while, confirming which places would be open the following day. We had elected to do an excursion through NCL for their "Shipwreck Snorkel", which ended up being altered slightly due to the horrendous wind conditions but was still a lot of fun and also allowed us to see a lot of the island from a different point of view. The dinner that evening at Windows was superb- I had the Beef Wellington, which I am still dreaming about! Monday was Bermuda Day, a national holiday, and as such the reef fishing excursion that we had planned on doing was pushed back to Tuesday. The weather also started to turn for the worse, with high winds and rain. We decided to take advantage of the day anyway and go into Hamilton via the excellent public transportation system. The marathon was going on as we got into Hamilton, and very few shops were open. It was definitely something else to see how the Bermudians turned out to support their friends, though! That afternoon we headed to Horseshoe Bay, which would have been a lovely beach in better weather conditions. As it was, we were sandblasted and thoroughly exhausted by the time we returned to the ship, but still made it to a delicious meal at Cagney's, followed by the EXCELLENT Second City scripted show. We ended up going to every Second City performance during the voyage! Tuesday the weather had actually worsened, and our fishing excursion ended up being cancelled. We ended up going back into Hamilton, where we did some more shopping and got our passports stamped at the Post Office on Parliament Street. We ended up heading back to the ship earlier than anticipated, because snorkeling had introduced some bacteria to my face and it had turned rather red, swollen, and covered in dozens of tiny pustules. The medical staff was very professional and one bottle of penicillin later, I was ready to enjoy the trip home. During the remaining sea days, we went to all of the Second City shows, Paul Scally's comedy show, and the Chocoholic Buffet. We also went to the towel folding presentation, which came in handy as we did not receive a towel animal on the last night! I ended up making my own and leaving it for our stewards. We arrived in Boston early- I woke up at 5:45 and we were already in port- and disembarkation was a breeze. All in all, other than a few minor hiccups which were largely beyond NCL's control, we had a fantastic time on our maiden voyage to Bermuda and definitely plan on cruising with NCL in the future. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
Background As my wife, Pat, was making her way through graduate school on her way to a Master's degree in Social Work I started to think about a suitable way to mark the occasion. We have been averaging about a cruise a year since we ... Read More
Background As my wife, Pat, was making her way through graduate school on her way to a Master's degree in Social Work I started to think about a suitable way to mark the occasion. We have been averaging about a cruise a year since we started this form of vacation about a decade ago and have yet to meet a cruise we didn't like so I knew that I could not go wrong by looking in that direction. I wanted the trip to be not just a way to mark the achievement but also a real chance for her to wind down from all the stress of both classes and interning; so that meant that the trip would have to be right after graduation which was scheduled for May 14. Maximizing relaxation also suggested avoiding flying to and from port cities. This strategy not only avoided airport stress, it also saved money that could be used to upgrade the ship accommodations to the "pampering" level. Since we live in the Boston area these constraints meant that the only option available to us was the seven day Boston-Bermuda round trip on the Norwegian Spirit. With the great resources of the Cruise Critic reviews and message archives I was able to determine that the Gemini Suite (Cabin 9212) should be just what the doctor ordered. Nevertheless, for maximum effect and to avoid creating a distraction from her academic focus, I decided to delay telling her about it as long as possible. The fact that the Bermuda cruise that had been on our "to-do" list for years made it difficult for me to keep the whole thing a secret for almost a year. In fact, I thought about it so much I began to wonder if I might spill the beans by mumbling about it in my sleep. Even when the time came that I had to say something if only to ensure that she did not inadvertently make calendar commitments in conflict with the trip, I said nothing about the splurge to book a suite. EMBARKATION (RATING 4+) Departure day was May 21, 2010, a Friday. We live on a commuter rail line in suburban Boston and decided it was easy enough to take public transportation to Black Falcon Pier. Driving would have been simpler and faster but we figured that the money we would have spent on a week's parking would be better spent on dining room surcharges. The weather on departure day cooperated: it was beautiful with temperatures in the mid-seventies as we left the house. We caught the train from the station just a block away and switched to the Silver Line at South Station (route SL2) which stops right at the cruiseport (use the "Design Center" stop). Total time from door to pier was less than an hour and a quarter. (Driving would have been just about half that.) When we arrived at the Cruiseport it was just about noon time and there already were a lot of passengers curbside. We saw various long-shoremen rolling luggage trolleys back and forth but none seemed to be interested in us. After a few minutes it became clear that they had been engaged to assist passengers who had arrived in chartered busses (presumably something arranged by their group leaders). Individual passengers were supposed to walk just past Gate D (i.e., in the direction away from downtown) to drop off their "checked" bags. (If we had seen any signs or if there had been anyone announcing this procedure, things would have gone a little bit smoother.) After taking our bags, the porter told us to walk back and enter the building via Gate C. The next step was to pass through security. There were two airport style lines where carry-on bags, all metal items (including coins and watches) were sent on the belt for X-raying and the now minimally-encumbered passengers passed through the metal detectors. After collecting our stuff we were given the health questionnaire on which we correctly (and honestly) reported that we have not been suffering of late from coughs, fevers or other such maladies. From there we were directed to the line for checking in. There were, perhaps, a couple dozen agents processing what by now were probably several hundred passengers. As we were about to join the end of the line I saw no signage but there was an NCL agent within speaking range so I asked if there was a separate line for suite check-in. She said, "Oh, go down all the way to the end." This brought us to the end of a second line which had only two people when we got there. They were soon dispatched to the next available agent and we followed shortly behind. It was now 12:15. (Had we simply joined the first line as directed, it would have been much closer to 12:45.) The agent asked for our health forms, our passports, the "cruise ticket", and a credit card. (I was surprised that she actually kept the ticket I printed out on my home computer a few weeks ago. Somehow I had expected that it would function like electronic airline tickets - something that obsessive people like me carry around just in case I need to convince an agent that the computer has lost my reservation. I don't know what would have happened if I could not have produced it.) After getting my signature on the credit card authorization and clicking various fields on her computer terminal, she said that she would be right back with our ID's. A few minutes later she came back empty handed and a bit distressed. She poked the keyboard a few more times and then announced, "Oh, you are VIP's, the concierge has your key cards." (I couldn't help but wonder why NCL has implemented a process that makes it more likely that the passengers they want to expedite will end up waiting longer because it involves an exception process that flies under the check-in clerk's radar.) Once she resolved things to her satisfaction she waved to a member of the ship's crew who came over. The agent wished us a "good cruise" and asked the crew member to escort us to the ship. The crew member led us up the ramp to the second level of the terminal but instead of then turning right onto the gangway, she brought us to a cordoned off area of folding chairs and turned us over to someone else who introduced himself as Bruce Van Der Boon, the concierge. Bruce was in the process of explaining his job (which we understood boiled down to doing whatever he could to ensure we had the best possible vacation) when seemingly out of nowhere another member of the crew appeared whom Bruce introduced as Madel, our butler who escorted us onto the ship and all the way to our cabin. Amazingly, in spite of all the steps, the awkward handoffs in the check-in area and the mild state of confusion on our part, we were not only on the ship but actually in our cabin before 12:35! (Our luggage did not arrive until well after 4:00 so the "Priority" luggage tags NCL provided apparently did not carry much weight with anyone besides us.) STATEROOM (RATING 5) May 2010 photos of the Gemini Suite can be found at: http://travel.webshots.com/slideshow/577874582FjnTSJ There are quite a lot of references to Cabin 9212, the Norwegian Spirit's Gemini Suite, on the Cruise Critic boards. Many questions have been raised (and more or less addressed) over the past several years. Of course things can change over time so I jotted down as many questions as I could before we left and will address them all here as an up-to-date, one stop reference service (as of May 2010). First, however, I must report that our overall impression of the suite was completely positive. As mentioned above this trip was a graduation gift for DW and it was only when we stepped into the cabin that she learned the true extent of her present. She was very pleased with the suite. Overall, it made a bigger impact than the Q6 suite we were bumped up into on the QM2 last year. That cabin was merely large; this one was sumptuous, spacious and comfortable. It is also very attractive. Although on the way to the cabin we could see that the ship definitely has an East Asian dEcor, this suite is Italian. The paintings in the living, dining and bedroom areas all are of Venice. The carpet in the living room is custom made for the suite since it has a center medallion with a representation of the Gemini Twins and showed no signs of wear. The most distinctive feature of the suite, however, is having two distinct rooms separated by a real door rather than a curtain. The living room/dining area can be completely closed off from the bedroom/bath area. This is a real "suite". The balcony is quite narrow but runs the full width of the suite. Diagrams on the NCL website and in the brochures indicate that the balcony only extends the width of the living room. That may be true for the penthouse suites on the sides of deck 10 but it is not true for those at the aft of deck 9. (See dimensions below.) Cabin 9212 is also easy on the eyes. In spite of the general impression one might get from the NCL website, you will not find any hot pink and turquoise with purple and orange accents in this cabin. The primary color for the living room is green, for the bedroom it is reddish-brown glossy wood paneling, and for the bath it is blue tile. Close inspection shows some signs of wear - some scratches and nicks hear and there, but everything was clean, functional and appeared to be well care for. Now for detailed answers to all questions I could find in the CC posts about this cabin. Balcony: Runs the full width of the suite but quite narrow. It has a fairly heavy sliding door from the living area which tended to stay in what ever position it was put. The windows over the whirlpool tub and in the shower look out onto the balcony. There are two aluminum framed lounge chairs with adjustable backs, two wicker-style arm chairs, and a small (14" x 14") table about 16 inches high. The loungers are not very up-scale but they do dry off quickly after a rain shower. The balustrade is 46" high and composed of clear glass panels topped by a wooden railing. Bathroom: The bathroom takes up slightly more than half of the bedroom/bath portion of the suite. It is on the outside part of the room and is separated from the bedroom by a full wall-to-wall drape which, when closed, was very effective in keeping the bedroom dark regardless of how bright the bathroom was. Looking around the room in a clockwise direction there is a counter with two sinks (each with a full sized mirror) and vanity lighting on the left wall. The counter was a couple of inches closer to the floor than what we are used to at home but not uncomfortably low. There is a small amount of shelving which is pretty much taken up by the supplied toiletries. There is storage space (with door) underneath each sink. Beyond the sinks is the whirlpool tub (six jets with good circulation). [Note: the water level must be quite high in the tub before the jets will operate. Merely filling to a level above the jets is not high enough.] Over the tub is a window onto the balcony with a full view off the stern of the ship through the balcony's glass balustrade. To the right of the tub is a large (approx. 14 sq. ft.) shower with a full floor to ceiling window with the same view as the tub. There is a light in the shower. Both windows have shades which can be drawn if the stern of the Spirit is in view of anyone else (not likely in the open sea or even in some ports.) Next to the shower and on the right wall of the room is a toilet stall. The stall has a floor to ceiling glass door which is frosted for about four feet up from the floor. The way that these fixtures are fitted into the cabin, the door to the toilet "room" faces the tub - it cannot be seen from the bed end of the room. The last element in the bath area is a vanity counter with full lighted mirror and a chair. Breakfast: Available to suite guests in Cagney's on deck 7. The menu is fixed all week and includes distinctive items such as traditional eggs benedict, crab cakes eggs benedict, challah French toast and the usual cold cereals including muesli, fresh fruits, breakfast meats, smoked salmon, and cheeses, etc. A very relaxed way to start the day (compared to the much more active Raffles buffet restaurant which, of course, has a much broader variety of offerings.) Cagney's breakfast offerings can also be brought to the suite by the butler. See the Food section for reactions to Cagney's breakfast offerings. Cleanliness: The cabin was spotlessly clean and was kept that way all week by the room steward. Climate control: The cabin has three thermostats(!) One in the living area, one in the bed area and one in the bath area. They do not have a temperature display but rather buttons to allow you to increase or decrease the temperature by steps. (My guess is that each click raised or lowered the temperature about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit.) When the thermostats were on different settings there was a noticeable difference in temperatures in each area of the cabin (that is, they worked.) Coffee maker: There is a Lavazza Coffee Maker with a variety of single serving coffee and tea capsules in the dining area of the suite. The unit is fairly large and certainly takes up a lot of space on the dining room counter. However, the convenience of being able to have a cup of coffee in less than two minutes without having to call anyone or go anywhere was wonderful. (We made tea to go with the canapEs/sweets delivered each afternoon. It wasn't a proper British High Tea but it was very relaxing.) Used supplies were replaced almost as fast as they were consumed. (We saw capsules for regular and decaffeinated coffee, as well as black, green and chamomile teas although we did not use them all.) The supply of sugar packets and small half & half "creamers" was also maintained without asking. The coffee maker also includes a shelf to accommodate two standard size coffee cups and two espresso sized cups which, marvelous to relate, are kept heated! There is also a steam nozzle for people who know how to use such things. Dimensions: The overall inside size of the Gemini Suite (cabin 9212) is 374 square feet. The balcony is an additional 76 sq. ft. for a total of 450 sq. ft. The approximate dimensions of the various areas of the suite are as follows: Living/dining room - 19.25' x 8.75' [171.5 sq. ft.]. Bedroom - 8.75' x 10.25' [89.5 sq. ft.]. Bath - 11.33' x 10.0' [113 sq. ft.]. Balcony - 21.67' x 3.5' [76 sq. ft.] Electrical outlets: There is one 110V/500W outlet in dining area convenient to the table. One 115V outlet is incorporated in the hair dryer unit mounted on the wall next to the bathroom mirror. This one is marked "for shavers only". It clearly does not have the amperage to drive a stronger hair dryer but could easily support a charger for small items such as an electric tooth brush, cell phone, or camera battery. One 230V outlet with both blade and pin receptacles is at the vanity table. On the floor, however, was an impressively large and heavy portable converter unit with a 230 blade plug and two 115V outlets. If you need extra 115 outlets, then just plug this unit into the outlet on the left side of the vanity mirror and you have two North American style 115V outlets at your disposal. There were no labels indicating restrictions on the devices that could be plugged in to this converter. Engine noise, vibration: The Spirit has diesel engines (not azipod propulsion). We noticed some engine vibration departing Boston and again when arriving in Bermuda but that was not a problem. There was, however, a significant amount of rumble (not merely vibration) when we were about 50 miles from Boston returning in the wee hours of Friday morning. It woke both my wife and me up more than once (and, I am sure a lot of other passengers.) I do not know the technical cause but I had the image of trying to drive a heavy car over a very rough gravel road with the parking brake on. I am sure that those of us in the very rear of the ship were not the only ones to notice it. Whatever the reason for this particular disruption, there was not enough vibration or noise from the engines on this trip that would make me averse to booking an aft cabin on the Spirit in the future. Fruit/Flowers: There was a lovely floral arrangements on the coffee table which really brightened up the room. We added water as needed and the flowers still looked pretty good at the end of the week. There also was a bowl of fresh fruit including apples, grapes, bananas and strawberries on the dining table. The bowl was automatically reloaded with new fruit as we ate items throughout the week. Furnishings: The living room furniture consists of a love seat sized sofa-bed, two upholstered arm chairs, a TV credenza with flat-screen TV and DVD player, an oval coffee table and a floor lamp. The dining room has a wooden table (slightly smaller than a standard card table) plus four upholstered straight chairs along with a Lavazza beverage machine and supplies, stemware, fruit bowl, plates, flatware, etc. The bedroom has an oversized bed, two end table lamps, a chest of drawers, a flat-screen TV, a closet and two safes. The bathroom has two sinks, a whirlpool tub, a separate shower, a toilet, a vanity table with chair and an electronic digital scale. The balcony has two wicker-style arm chairs, a small cocktail table and two loungers. The suite has no desk but the dinning table can certainly be used as a writing surface and it is convenient to a 115V outlet for plugging in a laptop. Hair dryer: There is a built-in wall unit just to the right of the sinks in the bathroom. It was handy but with only moderate power and would not be very practical for very long or thick manes. Lighting: There are a lot of lighting fixtures in the suite (and a lot of light switches to get used to) but overall the total effect is fairly subdued. The bathroom sinks and the vanity are well lighted as is the dining area counter. The living area and dining table areas are moderately lighted - there is no bright reading lamp. The bedroom has a total of five fixtures but even so the brightness level is best described as "romantic" - certainly for anyone who has reached the age when cataracts have started to form. The chest of drawers in the corner beneath the TV is actually in perpetual darkness. In my opinion the bedroom lighting is the only serious defect in this suite. You pretty much either have to take things out of the drawers to see what you have or you have to recognize your clothing by feel. The top switch just as you enter the cabin is a master so all the lights that are on can be shut off at once as you leave. When you come back you can relight the cabin the way it was when you left. Luggage: Luggage can be stored under the bed. There are 13.5 inches of clearance between the floor and the bed frame. There also is space on the floor at the far left end of the closet where the purpose of the hanging rod is defeated by a small shelf. Lunch: Available to suite guests in Cagney's on deck 7. The menu is fixed all week and is fairly limited. Whereas the breakfast menu offers the unusual and popular crab cakes eggs benedict, the lunch menu does not have much of a draw. Cagney's lunch offerings can also be brought to the suite by the butler. See the Food section for reactions to Cagney's luncheon offerings. Mattress: Hotel quality pillow top mattress. It was extremely comfortable. Absolutely no complaint here. (The duvet was also just the right weight.) The mattress surface is large - 70" wide which is about 10" wider than a standard Queen size bed. It is 78" long. Noise level: This is a very quite suite. It is located at the very back of the ship on a transverse corridor that only serves three suites. There are no cabins on the opposite side of the corridor and there is almost no foot traffic other than the suite passengers, the steward and the butler. The space on the deck above is the imitation rock formation in the children's pool at the very back of the ship. The space below is the lighting control room for the theatre and the promenade walking track. The cabins on either side are also suites and have their bedrooms adjacent to 9212. There were no intrusive noises all week. Out on the balcony, the sound of the water being churned up by the propellers completely masks any squeals that might be coming from the children's area above on deck ten (and even when we were in port, we rarely heard any noise of that kind). We heard nothing but water. General announcements are not broadcast into the room and can barely be heard through the corridor door. They can be heard clearly if the TV is turned on to one of the information channels. Powder room: Contrary to comments I read on these boards, there is no powder room in this suite. Pillow menu: There was no "pillow menu" but there were five pillows on the bed and they were not all the same size and feel. If none of them was "just right" I suspect that the butler could supply alternatives. Refrigerator: This unit has a refrigerator (although standard cabins on the Spirit do not.) I asked the butler for a carton of milk (for my tea) and it stayed fresh all week. Safe: There are two combination safes located at the right end of the bedroom closet - fairly low to the floor. They can each be programmed with a four digit code of the passenger's choosing. They are the usual size (interior dimensions of about 14"W x 7"H x 10D" although the door opening is only about 10"W x 5"H. You can certainly store lots of small things such as jewelry, cash, passports, iPod, etc., but not something as large and rigid as a typical laptop computer. We did not use the second safe on this cruise. Sewage smell: Over the past couple years, there have been posts from Spirit suite passengers complaining of a sewage smell in the bath room area. (Since the bathroom is really one half of the bedroom, such odors would be constantly noticeable.) The reports were that the smell was coming from the floor drains - there is one in the shower and another in the tile floor just outside the shower. (Presumably the smell was due to the drain's losing the water that normally sits in the "U" part of the pipe specifically to prevent odors because poring a couple of glassfuls of water into the drain seemed to fix it.) We noticed no unpleasant odors of any kind in this cabin on this cruise so we didn't have to try pouring water down the drains. Shower water: Good pressure and as hot as anyone is likely to want it. The shower head can be lifted from its holder to be hand-held and it has an adjustable head for various spray patterns. There is no specific "pulse" setting. Storage space: The storage space in the living room is limited to open shelves on the TV credenza - a good place to keep the Freestyle dailies and all the flyers, announcements and invitations that pour in. There really isn't any suitable storage space here for a third passenger. The dining area counter has open glass shelving for stemware (red wine glasses, white while glasses, champagne flutes, tumblers etc.), a little cabinet space below where you will find menus from the various alternative restaurants and other dining room odds and ends such as salt and pepper shakers. The bedroom has a closet with two mirrored sliding doors. The closet is about 6.5 feet long. The upper shelf space is pretty much taken up by the life vests and the beach towels. The closet rod has a usable length of 52 inches and was supplied with plenty of plain plastic hangers. The right half of the closet can't be used to hang long items like pants and dresses because there is a unit which holds the two safes and a couple of drawers (each about 10 inches wide) built up from the floor level. Shirts and jackets can readily be hung in this area. In the corner just off the foot of the bed is a built-in unit of five drawers topped by the cabinet that houses a TV. The drawers are more than a foot wide and about the same in depth. Small triangular shelves on either side of the bed serve as end tables not suitable for much more than eyeglasses and clocks. The space under the bed is open and can accommodate almost anyone's luggage. The bathroom has a little open shelving between the sinks which is mostly taken up by the supplied toiletries and shower cap packets. There is a doored cabinet under each sink and a pull out waste bin between them. The vanity counter has a set of four fairly small drawers on the right side. We had no problem storing everything we needed for a seven day cruise without using all the closet space, drawers and shelf surfaces available. Telephone: The suite has a phone on the dining counter next to the coffee machine and a second phone in the bedroom on the triangular "end table" shelf between the bed and the closet. Third passenger: The sofa in the living room can be opened into a bed wider than a twin but narrower than a standard double. When the sofa is opened, access to the balcony is blocked. As noted under "Storage" there are no separate shelves or cabinets for anyone sleeping in the living room. The drapes in front of the balcony door and window can be easily closed and are just as effective in blocking light as the drapes between the bedroom and bathroom. TV: The Gemini Suite has two digital (flat-screen) TV's. The living room has a 26" unit on a TV credenza opposite the sofa. It is firmly attached to the credenza but swivels to adjust the viewing angle. The second TV is located behind a cabinet door in a corner of the bedroom. It is a 19" unit and can be viewed while sitting up (or lying back) in bed. The living room TV is also connected to a DVD player. You can bring your own DVD's or borrow some from the ship's library. You can also play CD's through the TV's speakers. Water/ice: The ice bucket was automatically re-filled every day (and I am sure could have been re-filled more often if it were being used up faster than that.) The cabin came with a liter bottle of San Benedetto water. For reasons neither DW nor I could think of at the end of our stay, we had not drunk it so I can not say whether it might have been replaced if we had emptied it. Wi-Fi: Available only in the Internet Cafe/Library and in the atrium. Not available in the cabin. SHIP (RATING 5+) Appearance: The Spirit is a gorgeous, clean and well-cared for cruise ship. The Asian styling throughout the ship is a very attractive setting for the abundance of art pieces everywhere. We particularly liked seeing the small sculptures that adorn each landing in the three stairwells. Not knowing much about Asian art it was interesting to read the labels on most pieces which identified them by country and time frame. Presumably most pieces were copies, but they served their purpose very well. There also were wall hangings and statuary to be seen all around and none of it got stale. The main lobby (the Grand Atrium) on deck 7 is fairly open and is distinguished by the flood of natural light falling from the large windowed cupola high up at the deck 12 level. It was a very attractive place either to sit in or to pass through except when it was completely packed full of folding tables covered with all sorts of stuff being hawked by the staff. This gorgeous room spent most of its daylight hours as a flea market. Very much the pity. The main theatre (Stardust Theatre) holds over 900 passengers in fairly comfortable seats (with cup holders) with good sight lines. The stage is big enough not to cramp most shows and was actually easily extended to accommodate "Elements". The second level balcony seats are individual arm chairs and provide comfortable watching over and through the glass balustrades. Unlike most theatres we have seen on ships, the main entrance is not from the back but rather from either side of the stage. Thus, most passengers walk up to their seats from the front rather than down to their seats from the rear of the theatre. Handicapped accessible seating is very conveniently located in the front rows just as you enter. The Galaxy of the Stars show lounge on deck twelve at the front of the ship seemed to us to be the nicest show lounge we have seen at sea. The area in front of the small stage served both as an apron stage for open performances like The Second City comics and as a dance floor for the passengers. There were at least three sessions of "ballroom dancing" with live musicians and any number of opportunities for rock/disco dancing both with live musicians and recorded music including a 50's & 60's Sock Hop. The room is very attractive and comfortable during the day (and is enclosed within a wrap-a-round seating area that provides overflow seating and has a great view of the sea on three sides.) At night, however, the trim lighting in the ceiling pulses with the sound of the music and makes the place seem like a very energetic place to be especially at the end of a long day. I thought the place looked fantastic at night. Champagne Charlie's on the deck 8 balcony overlooking the Grand Atrium is a lovely "hotel bar" but the clubby atmosphere is lost when it is pressed into service as the stage of a five story theatre. As discussed under Entertainment, sound control is a major problem (in my opinion). At the forward end of deck 7 is the Maharajah Casino. Neither DW nor I spent any time here but there certainly were hundreds of passengers who did. There were many game tables and probably more than a hundred slots including some penny and two penny ones. The Indian decor is based on a Maharajah's pleasure palace with even the ceiling decorated primarily in gold and red. The place was in use virtually round the clock except, of course, when the ship was in port. Just beyond the casino was the companion Maharini Lounge. The bar/night club was fitted not only with the usual chairs, tables and sofas but also had some over sized divans (about the size of large beds). I was never in the Lounge late enough to see how these pieces of furniture were actually used and by whom but I certainly wondered about it. The inner sanctum of the Maharini Lounge had open space that could be used for dancing (which was the major draw of the place in the wee hours) and also was fitted out with many flat TV screens which were used to show movies during the afternoon. (There also were two channels on the cabin TVs dedicated to running movies around the clock. I was surprised to see Avatar and the Robert Downey Sherlock Holmes releases among the movies being shown in the cabins.) The outdoor areas of the ship are also distinctive but DW and I are not much for pools or sun bathing even under ideal weather conditions. We did see, however, that many people were happily lounging around the pool as the physical layout including wind screens protected them from the gales. It seemed to me that the hot tubs were getting more use (even very late into the night) than the pool. Remember that it was still only the middle of May and we were not sailing in the Caribbean. Fellow Passengers: The ship was quite full with 2,214 passengers on a vessel with a double occupancy capacity of less than 2,000. Clearly there were lots of cabins with three and even four occupants. (The only time that I felt crowded, however, was when the atrium had been turned into a flea market which, of course, was the choice of NCL.) During these times it was best to avoid deck 7 if you wanted to get from one end of the ship to the other. Other than when people were gathered for shows in the theatres there didn't seem to be many crowds on board. (I suspect that Raffles - the buffet restaurant - would have been crowed particularly at breakfast but since we did not get to this eatery, I don't know for certain.) The thing that struck me most about the passengers, however, was the age diversity. There were at least a couple of dozen children under 10 years old and several hundred people over 60 enjoying, I hope, a second childhood. Then there were the large groups of twenty somethings and couples in their forties and fifties who seemed to make up the bulk of the passenger list. This was by far the lowest average-age passenger crowd we have ever sailed with and I am sure that fact accounted for the sense of vitality on this cruise. There appeared to be a lot of college aged people which was probably due to the fact that the school year had just finished. (That, after all, was the primary factor in our choosing this particular week.) What struck me most was that everyone seemed to be having a good time - there were activities and venues that appealed to all kinds of interests. Kudos to NCL for pulling that off. At the same time there was a sense of geographic homogeneity that was very comforting. Well more than half the passengers had to have been from New England and the great majority of those were from Greater Boston. I don't think I have ever seen so many Red Sox caps anywhere outside Fenway Park. Of all the passengers we got to meet completely at random on this trip the couple who lived farthest from Boston came from Long Island, New York less then 200 miles from where we live. This mix of cruisers certainly would not have been traveling with tuxes and beaded gowns. But I did not see many people dressed in attire that could not be classified as "clean casual". If there were instances of Maitre d's refusing to allow patrons into their restaurants for improper clothing (or, conversely, dinners being upset because the Maitre d's allowed people in in violation of the dress code), I did not hear of any. From time to time we spotted men in sport coats and ties with women wearing fancier dresses and jewelry and concluded that they were probably celebrating a special event and/or were have formal photographs taken. In any event they seemed to be having a good time and looked completely comfortable dressing up and everyone else seemed comfortable in not dressing up. Promotions: Laundry specials: One full bag of standard laundry items left on bed before noon on either Monday or Tuesday would be washed, folded and returned to cabin on Thursday morning for $24.95. There was a Pub Crawl on Saturday (our first full day aboard) which offered 5 drinks in 5 bars for $25. There were promotions all week pushing jewelry, spa treatments, specialty drinks, smoothies, coffees, photos and just about anything else that was for sale on board. There also were various "tournaments" in the casino (blackjack, Texas Hold'em, etc.) and elsewhere (Bingo) which, I guess, you could classify either as entertainment or promotions. DINING (RATING 5) Food quality (rather than quantity) is usually one of the most important concerns when DW and I take vacations. I have read a lot of feedback about NCL food (and about the Spirit specifically) on these boards and, naturally, opinions differ. It is, after all, a matter of taste. We do not, as a rule, appreciate ship buffets and the quality of general dining rooms run by the mid-level cruise lines often is inconsistent in both the food and service aspects. Therefore in planning this trip I factored in the surcharges required by most of the Spirit's restaurants and planned to see if the extra cost would result in a satisfactory dining experience or, perhaps, something even a little better. Our first exposure was lunch on embarkation day. The peace and quiet of Cagney's was a very nice way to start off the vacation but I am sorry to report that the lunch menu did not have much that I thought appealing. When I found out that the menu does not change day by day it seemed unlikely that this would be our main luncheon venue. What we had was generally good but no more. The grilled asparagus was very nice but I didn't think it was so good that I would want it every day. I wanted to be sure to try out at least one of the main dining rooms to serve as point of comparison with the specialty restaurants. When I mentioned to Bruce, the concierge, in mid-afternoon that we wanted to eat in the Garden Room that first evening around 7, he told me he would meet us outside the restaurant. When we arrived we saw a few people in the lobby apparently waiting to get in. Bruce took us through the back door directly to a waiting table by the window and got us settled in - the first of many window tables we would enjoy on this cruise. We had chilled peach soup, garden salad and leg of lamb. Everything was very good and the service was fine - timely, polite, attentive and accurate. Our one experience with the Garden Room was completely positive. It was at this first dinner that I learned about the wine promotion. If the passenger commits to buying six, seven, or eight bottles of wine there is a 20% discount. There are two catches. One, the choices do not come from the ship's entire wine list but rather from a limited one specifically prepared for this promotion. And second, you must identify your choices all at once. I told the wine steward that I was interested enough to look at the "Selected List." It contained 48 wines including 17 whites ranging in price from $27 to $79 and 20 reds ranging in price from $27 to $74. There also were some sparkling wines and magnums and a couple of half bottles. The selection was very diverse geographically. France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Spain, USA, Chile, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand were all represented. If you are going to drink half a dozen bottles of wine in the week, a 20% discount up front is a good deal. The trick is to commit in advance to the selection. Of course, I couldn't know what we would be eating all week so the only guide was to pick wines according to the restaurants. It struck me as a kind of game: see how well you can match the wines with the food without knowing what the food is and where more than half the wines are from vineyards you probably have never heard of. I knew that during the cruise we would want to visit Le Bistro (French), Shogun (Asian), Teppanyaki (Japanese), and La Trattoria (Italian) and we would be having lamb that night in the Garden Room. With that information (and, of course, the prices) I threw the darts and made my choices: three reds from Spain, Italy and Chile and three whites from Germany, Argentina and Spain. I gave the sheet to the wine steward and subsequently got the bottle I wanted for the evening (an Argentinean Malbec) and received a receipt for each of the remaining five bottles I had selected. Bottles not finished with the meal could be taken to the cabin or could be re-corked and stored for later recall in any restaurant. I now had my own personal wine cellar on the Norwegian Spirit and the receipts went in to my wallet. It was my responsibility to keep track of what I had and what I wanted to drink with each meal. I had expected to be taking a mental as well as physical vacation and wasn't planning on this much brain activity. But I thought of it as a game and it actually was fun seeing how things played out. As it happened we had one bottle that we didn't get to and have brought home. The other five all got drunk, DW agreed that all went well with what were eating each night, and, surprisingly, all tasted very good to excellent. I'd play this game again in a heart beat. Day two (Saturday) began in Cagney's where we sampled the renowned crab eggs benedict. They were very good but we both felt that the traditional eggs benedict were a bit better (probably due to the fact that there is no Canadian bacon with the crab version.) Lunch at Cagney's was a fairly good cream of broccoli soup, a good salad with palm and coconut and a fairly dreadful French dip sandwich. The beef was overcooked and covered with an overly sweet coating of grilled onions. The dipping "juice" had the consistency of thick ketchup and tasted like barbeque sauce. That was our last lunch at Cagney's. Our dinner was at the Shogun Asian restaurant where between us DW and I had Egg Drop Soup, Hot & Sour Soup, Crispy Crab Wontons, Harvest Spring Rolls, Pork Fried Rice, Vegetable Chow Fun, Lemon Pepper Shrimp, and Cantonese Scallops. We thought that the soups were good, and the appetizers and the entrees very good. The Pork Fried Rice got an excellent rating from me but, sadly, DW thought her Vegetable Chow Fun was fun in name only. It was fair at best. The bottle of Spanish Albariño was a good choice for both the seafood and the vegetables of this menu. Sunday started with a breakfast of fruit and cereal in our room served by Madel (who called about two minutes ahead of time to ensure that we were ready for him.) Our lunch was at the Frog and Onion (see section on Ports). We asked Bruce to get us a reservation at Le Bistro ($20 pp) for dinner and were seated at a table by the window. We started with asparagus gratin and seared-spiced sea scallops which were very good to excellent. The main course was beef tenderloin au poive which also was excellent - it was a great piece of steak. You could actually see a difference in color between DW's "medium" and my "medium rare" - I was really impressed by that. I called up a Spanish Rioja from the "cellar" and it went perfectly with the peppered beef. The dessert was a chocolate fondue for two with pieces of fresh fruit for dipping in the velvety smooth hot chocolate sauce. It looked like this trip was going to turn out much better gastronomically than I could have hoped. Monday was rather dreary looking so we slept-in so late that we skipped breakfast. We decided to try Windows for lunch since we had yet to even step into the restaurant. (We found it to be a very lovely room.) The lunch menu is much more appealing than Cagney's and, fortunately, so is the food. Between us we had cold cucumber soup, spinach & cheese puffs, shrimp and crab cocktail and salad Nicoise. The seafood cocktail in particular was very good. I finished off with a fine slice of banana cream pie. These items were good to very good (the seafood cocktail, in particular, was well worth repeating) and the service was just fine. We decided that on our next Spirit cruise lunch in Windows will be a regular affair. The afternoon was spent looking forward to the Enchanted Dinner. The dinner is only offered once a week. The captain and other officers (including the executive chef who was rapidly attaining god-like status in my mind) stopped by all the tables to chat. When I asked the captain why this dinner is offered only on the Spirit he told me that there were two reasons. First, it is the brain child of their executive chef, Hans-Peter Heine. It's his pet project. And, second, only the Spirit has a space like the Art Gallery which happens to be conveniently located near a proper galley (Le Bistro) and which can be dedicated to the dinner for one night without disrupting other ship services and activities. While Selwyn White played perfectly suitable (and quiet) background music on a portable keyboard, the food started coming. First was marinated shrimp with pumpkin seed dressing paired with a Spanish sparkling wine. They were both very good. The next course was Finnish Salmon Cream which was essentially a fish chowder made with chunks of salmon. It was simply excellent and went beautifully with a Pino Grigio from Northern Italy. The third course was boneless frogs' legs which also were excellent (tasted like chicken) and were accompanied by a very good Sauvignon Blanc from Chile. It was palate clearing time when they brought out an excellent mango and tequila kiwi sherbet. There was a choice of three entrees and both DW and I selected the "Lobster - Thermidor Style". We both thought it excellent (and being Bostonians we are a bit fussy about our 'lobsta'). The wine was a very good chardonnay from Australia. After letting things settle a bit we dug into dessert: chocolate avalanche (a flourless chocolate cake with chocolate glaze). It also was excellent and went perfectly with a glass of Drambuie, a liquor I normally do not like. All in all this meal was fantastic and a real treat for any foodie. I have had a few meals that might have topped it on Silversea and on the Queen Mary 2 but not by much. And, you could never find anything even close on land at only $65 per person. It was almost three hours before we left the Art Gallery so we missed the Stardust Theatre show that evening. But, with all the magnificent food (and all that wine) we couldn't have cared less. Tuesday morning (our last day in Bermuda) started with breakfast in the room. Fruit, cereal and toast went down pretty quickly and we were off the ship to take the "Bermuda Island Tour". Lunch was at the White Horse Tavern in St. George (a good salad and club sandwich made with focaccia bread that did not take up much of our limited time in that town). Dinner was from La Trattoria ($15 pp) but was served by Madel in the room. He also fetched the Chianti that I had in mind for this meal. The first course was a very flavorful but clean tasting liver pate and smoked duck breast served with nicely toasted croutons. Next, we had penne pasta with pesto sauce which we both thought was very good. My osso bucco was as tender as could be. It separated from the bone at the slightest touch. The flavor was pretty good but seemed to need just a little bit of something. My wife's chicken parmigiana was good but not particularly exciting. The dessert of an assortment of three canoli (each) was very good. Wednesday morning we returned to Cagney's for breakfast and I ordered the "Belgian Waffle". I always thought that Belgian waffles could be distinguished from ordinary ones by their thick pockets and their light texture. What we got that day was thinner than a frozen Eggo and as tender as poorly cooked pizza dough. It wasn't a Belgian waffle and it wasn't even a good regular one. Fortunately the selection of breakfast meats, cheeses and fruits was very good and provided a healthy start to the day. We returned to Windows for lunch and between us we had beef prosciutto, roasted tomato soup, a mixed salad, fish and chips and pineapple upside-down cake. These items were good to very good and again the service timely and attentive. Dinner that night was in Teppanyaki ($25 pp), the Japenese hibachi grill restaurant. Teppanyaki restaurants generally offer a pretty standardized meal of many courses where your choices are limited to the entree and dessert. We started with a few edamame (Japanese boiled soy beans) and then a miso soup that was very flavorful but thicker and "busier" than any we have had before. Next was a cold seaweed salad that tasted quite good in spite of the fact that I suspect that it had an ingredient or two that I probably would avoid eating if I knew they were there. By now the chef had prepared the grilled vegetables which he called an "appetizer" course. For vegetables, they were pretty darn good. Next came Japanese fried rice which was very tasty. He made much more than the ten of us sitting around the grill could eat. My main course was beef and shrimp. Both were absolutely excellent. They were the best teppanyaki shrimp and the best teppanyaki steak I can remember ever having. DW had lobster, scallops and calamari. The first two were excellent but the calamari was even a little more chewy than expected. All of this went very well with the Argentinean torrontes white wine from our stash. Dessert was green tea cake and green tea ice cream. Both were delicious (and also went well with the last few swallows of wine.) Thursday morning we ate in the room again and fairly late. I had ordered two soft boiled eggs and when Madel set them on the table the shells were still very warm to the touch but the yokes were still loose - just right. The remaining items (fresh fruit, cereal, Danish and decaf coffee) were all good. Somehow we managed to skip lunch (a sin of omission we rarely commit on a cruise ship). We had not been to Cagney's yet for dinner but I really did not think that they could deliver a steak that was any better then the one we had at Le Bistro on Saturday night so we asked Bruce to book us for a repeat visit to Le Bistro because we both wanted to try their roast rack of lamb. With some trepidation that the repeat visit would pale compared to the first one we entered Le Bistro to find ourselves yet again at a window table. I started with foie gras and smoked duck which were both excellent. DW had mussels which she proclaimed delightful and the serving of ten was just right for an appetizer course. The rack of lamb did not disappoint. Although our wine supply was dwindling, we did have two half bottles in store. Fortunately both were reds and both were strong enough for the lamb. DW finished off the Rioja Reserva and I emptied the Argentinean Malbec. I was just about to say to DW that the lamb was as excellent as the beef when Executive Chef Peter appeared at the table to ask if everything was satisfactory. I said that I was sure that he already knew that everything is much more than satisfactory but I would be happy to say so to him directly. Dessert was a very delicate and satisfying crème brûlee. Departure morning we had muesli, Danish and coffee delivered to our room to eat while we finished packing our bags. (The muesli was full of fruit and quite good - as it had been all week.) In addition to the Enchanted Dinner there were several other special dinning opportunities on board including "Taste of India" ($15pp), Murder Mystery dinner ($20pp), and the Jazz Brunch ($15pp). And of course there was the famous Chocolate Buffet at 11 o'clock on Wednesday night. Although we were too full to eat dessert after having had dessert, Bruce arranged for us to get into Windows just ahead of the general opening to see the display before it got consumed. Some of the pieces are truly works of art. It is both a shame and a delight that they are edible. The fear that the overall quality of the food and its service might not live up to the quality of the accommodations and its service level proved to be unwarranted. The dining room service charges added about $300 to the cost of our cruise which is a fairly small premium over the cost of the cruise itself. We happily enjoyed many memorable meals on the Spirit. On the basis of this experience, I would consider choosing NCL cruises in the future because of food quality rather than in spite of it (assuming that I am prepared to pay the surcharges). This is not what I would have expected based on our satisfactory but not notable culinary experiences with NCL a decade ago. ACTIVITIES/ENTERTAINMENT (RATING 3+) CC Meet & Greet: We arrived at Henry’s Pub at 10. About half a dozen persons were already there. Eventually we had about 20 CC passengers. There were blank name tags and markers so we could identify ourselves with both our CC monikers and our real names. NCL provided coffee, tea, pastries. The Hotel Director, Prem Kainikkara, and eight other NCL officers came and were introduced. Prem thanked us for our patronage, asked to be given the chance to correct any issues or problems that arise before they show up on the internet, and said that there were people who monitor Cruise Critic boards and bring significant content to the company’s attention. He said that they care what we think. Once the crew finished their comments and left we had a pleasant opportunity to continue chatting with fellow cruisers. What we didn’t do (and this is entirely our own fault) was make sure that we got a chance to “meet & greet” everyone. We got so engrossed in chatting with a few of the attendees that we didn’t get to meet the others. Once the name tags were off we were unable to recognize most of our fellow CC-ers the rest of the voyage. We vacated the Pub about 11:15 with no one shooing us out. Entertainment: I would like to be able to say that we were very pleased with the entertainment available on this trip. We saw a good variety of acts who in many cases were clearly very talented. Unfortunately, however, there is, in our opinion, a major technical impediment. In most venues the sound systems are cranked up too high to be able to enjoy the music. It is clear that there are people (admittedly most are younger than we are) who actually enjoy sound for sound’s sake. For them, louder is better. I am afraid that we cannot agree. Prior to this cruise I had heard many good comments concerning Arvin and Emily and was looking forward to hearing them. We saw them first at Champagne Charlie’s and thought it was unfortunate that they were made to sound like the sound levels were mistakenly set for a theatre setting. The result was musically muddy with no sense of dynamic subtlety. We had to leave. A couple of nights later they were moved into the Grand Atrium due to weather conditions and the sound levels were even higher. Suffice it to say that no musical performance in the Grand Atrium should be so loud that it can be heard in cabins on the twelfth deck. The musical quality is lost and the sound levels were, for me, painful. We had to leave. We were very pleased to hear Selwyn Wright’s Nat King Cole set at Champagne Charlie’s early on in the cruise although we did have to position ourselves to avoid the full blast of the speakers. Sadly his later sets at that venue suffered badly from being over amplified and I could find no seat where I could listen comfortably. This is a cocktail piano performance in a cocktail lounge. It is supposed to convey a sense of intimacy. It had all the intimacy of a performance at the Hollywood Bowl. By contrast, (the guitarist/singer) Jim Capik’s talent (usually in Henry’s Pub) could always be appreciated since he never had to overcome his electronics. I found myself wearing ear plugs in the Stardust Theatre shows. This brought the sound levels down into the comfortable zone. I could hear everything even with the ear plugs but, of course, they could do nothing to put back the subtly of expression found in musical performances with normal dynamic variations. A constant wall of sound for ten or fifteen minutes at a time is not musically artistic. Several times during the week the Hotel Director invited the passengers to raise any issues or concerns we might have rather than just walk off the ship at the end of the week grumbling about something that could have been corrected. I realized that my issue was not a simple one like fixing a squeaking door or making sure that the coffee urns don’t run empty. Nevertheless I wrote a note to Mr. Kainikkara expressing my thoughts and within a few hours Bruce found us at dinner and told me that the Hotel Director would like to talk to us about our concerns. We met with him shortly thereafter and he said that he took my concerns seriously and would discuss my note with the appropriate staff. I believe him. What surprised me, however, was that, in response to a question from me, he said it was the first time the issue had come up as far as he knew. My conclusion is that any cruisers who think that they might be able to enjoy on board musical performances even better if the sound levels were dropped significantly so that, for example, you could always hear the singer’s voice and lyrics clearly, should say so. NCL will save on electricity, the artists will know that they are communicating better with the audience and we will have a more comfortable experience. Despite the problem with sound levels, we were impressed with the level of talent on this trip. The production shows, “On Broadway”, “Soul Rockin Nights” and especially “Elements” were very good to excellent. “Elements” is performed on the last night of the cruise and is hyped all week but, actually, is a very impressive presentation. It is a “Cirque du Soleil” style show in that there is no plot, no dialogue and no lyrics. The various acts (magician, acrobats, dancers) flow on and off the stage as the music and stage magic create a very ethereal mood. It might be worth skipping dinner to see this show twice. The stage acts, Jorgos (a magician), and Duo Acrobatique (two acrobats named Roberto and Dorota) were both impressive. The acrobats, in particular, did various movements on ropes and rings that we have seen before but never with more finesse and apparent ease. An amazing combination of strength and fluidity. The musical acts, too, were quite good. We did not get to see them all but Selwyn Wright is a fine pianist and crooner. My wife and I were both very disappointed when we found his background electronic support sounds overpowering his voice and keyboard on what should have been a very enjoyable evening of Frank Sinatra songs. (The Nat King Cole retrospective was excellent.) Jim Capik played guitar and sang soft, thoughtful music in the style, perhaps, of Jim Croce or James Taylor (maybe it has something to do with their common first name.) Arvin & Emily are a husband and wife singing duo with Arvin on keyboard. They can do a tremendous job with standard popular music of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s but, as noted above, on this cruise, at least you had to be half a ship’s length away to really appreciate their talent. Lastly, a band with a pair of young female lead singers called “Ironics” was surprisingly good at reproducing 70’s rock dance music sounds like Earth, Wind and Fire (which came out before either of these women probably were born). They often appeared in the Galaxy of the Stars venue where the combination of the style of music and the acoustics tolerated the high volumes. The crew talent show was very entertaining. It consisted almost entirely of vocal performances with a little background instrumental support. There are some very talented people in the crew who are willing to share their musical skills with the passengers. Perhaps because of the minimal instrumental support, there wasn’t any over amplification. They could be heard perfectly and sounded great. On board the ship was also a cast from Second City, the improv theatre group based in Chicago. They presented a couple of very well attended improvisational shows plus a couple of audience participation workshops in the art of improvisation. The 50 minute video-based show on former Second City members who went on to make it big in the entertainment world is a very interesting take. There was a Quest contest held on the last night of the cruise. It was very popular even though there was very little general promotion about it. The staff brought in lots of extra chairs to Galaxy of the Stars lounge and people still had trouble finding seats. Entertainment experiences we never found time to enjoy include the casino, the myriad TV-game-show style shows, karaoke, the Ship-n-Dales show, bingo, art auctions and the wine/beer/martini tasting. There certainly would have been no reason for anyone to get bored on this cruise. The cruise director for this trip was Paul Scally. He is very energetic and often seemed to be in two places at once. He did not, however, move to the top of the list of “Favorite Cruise Directors I have Known”. Athletic Facilities: The main pool has an attractive setting with a good deal of wind protection. That was a very good thing on this trip since so much of it took place with apparent wind speeds across the deck in excess of thirty miles an hour (Fifty mph was hit more than once.) Since it was so early in the season the weather wasn’t very hot but some people were using the pool and particularly the hot tubs (at all hours.) There were some younger children on this trip who seemed to enjoy the children’s pool at the back of the ship but not many. The fitness center is not very large but wasn’t crowed anytime that I was there. The spa has a long list of personal services (acupuncture, teeth whitening, massages, etc.) - none of which either DW or I used on this cruise. The men’s locker room (at least) has both a sauna and a steam room. There is no surcharge or service fee to use these facilities. Up on the sports deck we saw people playing basketball and taking swings in the golf cages. There is a jogging track on that deck as well. We also saw shuffleboard and table tennis being played. The Promenade Deck (deck 7) has a loop that completely circles the ship (I think that three laps is about 1 mile.) SERVICE (RATING 5) The Concierge: The concierge for this trip was Bruce Van Der Boon. As can be seen from the many questions and comments about concierges on these boards, concierges can vary all over the lot. Many posters comment that they really had no need for the concierge and therefore had little contact. We probably did not “need” one either but the contact was there anyway because Bruce is a very active concierge. As mentioned above under “Embarkation” we met him in the cruise terminal in Boston just before we reached the bridge to enter the ship. He assured us that he felt his job was to help us in any way he could to have a great trip. He delivered on that promise. He gave us his phone extension and invited us to call him at any time if there was something we needed. I asked him if there would be an Enchanted Dinner on this trip and if so, I really wanted to participate. He said “Yes, there will be and I will put you down for it. It will be Monday evening.” First test passed. Since there is no “Concierge Lounge” on the Spirit there was no place where we could just drop in to see him. However, Bruce was in Cagney’s every breakfast and lunch to check in with each suite passenger and to ask how things were going. He would ask if he could make dinner reservations and remind us about the evening’s entertainment offerings. For the nights when there were shows in the Stardust Theatre, he blocked off a section of seats in the balcony overlooking the stage and chatted with his passengers as they arrived. On the day that we had neither breakfast or lunch at Cagney’s he came to our cabin during the afternoon to ask about our dinner plans. (Since we were dining in the room that evening, this was the first day we had not talked with him about a dinner reservation and he noticed.) He was present at every event that the suite passengers were invited to attend always looking out for our welfare (not that it was ever in jeopardy). Although we had no need for traditional concierge services such as arranging private transportation, on-shore dining or golf outings Bruce’s constant presence was a major element in turning a comfortable cruising experience into a pampered one. Since that is what I was looking for on this particular trip, I very much appreciated his efforts. As an example of this feeling of special treatment on our first day in Bermuda (Sunday) we complied with a note left in the cabin to meet Bruce outside Henry’s Pub at 10:45. When he got word that the ship was to be cleared by the Bermudian authorities, he led us and most of the other suite passengers who joined us through a “crew only” door into the bowels of the ship and eventually down to the gang way level. We were off the ship before the general announcement was made. Since we had almost three days in Bermuda and we were docked, there really wasn’t much need for this even though it was fun to slip off the ship through the back way. It is, however, an example of Bruce’s pattern of offering his services rather than merely being available whenever someone approached him. The Butler: Our butler for this cruise was Madel Bunyi. It was he who met us at embarkation and escorted us to our cabin. Although most of the cabins on the ship were still being serviced since it was only a couple of hours since the incoming passengers had disembarked, Madel led us through closed elevator lobby doors to our suite which was in pristine condition and ready for us to move in. He showed us around the suite pointing out what we needed to know about operating things. He gave us his card with his phone number and invited us to call him if there was anything he could do. I said that I understood that we would be getting afternoon canapés or similar treats and said that was correct. I went on to say that since there is no formal “afternoon tea” on this ship was there anyway we could get tea with our canapés. He said that the Lavazza machine can make tea as well as coffee so we could have all the tea we wanted when we wanted it. I asked for some milk since I prefer it (rather than half and half) in my tea and he said, “Sure.” When we came back from the evacuation drill we found a plate of canapés on the dinning table and milk in the refrigerator. Although the steward did a fine job of keeping the room clean and tidy, we did not see him much at all during the week although we did see the parade of towel animals he left behind. We generally saw Madel at least a couple of times a day. When we realized that there were a few items missing from the suite (for example, we had bathrobes in the closet but no slippers) I gave Madel a short list for someone to take care of when convenient and was surprised when he returned himself less than an hour later bringing everything I mentioned. We had breakfast in our room three times (including on disembarkation day) and each time Madel phoned just before he was ready to arrive. He placed a table cloth and flatware on the table, served the food and took the trays away. We also had dinner in the cabin one evening. There are copies of menus from the specialty restaurants in the cabinet below the dining room counter so when Madel came to the cabin to take our order at 6:05 pm we knew exactly what we wanted to eat at 7. I also gave him a receipt for a bottle of Chianti I had purchased in the wine package promotion. He returned about 6:50 with both the dinner and the wine and after he set up everything beautifully, we were starting our appetizers at exactly 7 o’clock. General Service: We encountered no problems with service anywhere on the ship (dining rooms, bars, shops, etc.). Everyone seemed genuinely pleasant without over doing it. I was surprised at the number of stewards who would say “Good Morning” or “Good Afternoon” as we passed them in the corridors. They weren’t just greeting the passengers that were in the rooms that they were assigned to. It was a little distracting to be asked repeatedly if we wanted anything from the bar if we were sitting in a place like the Galaxy of the Stars waiting for a show to begin but a polite “No thanks, we’re fine” was all it took and, usually, got a nod and a smile in return. No subliminal transmission of guilt for not buying something. Tipping: This has been (and will continue to be) a major topic on these boards and I can only endorse what many have said before: tipping is a personal thing. We realize that the room steward is covered by the automatic gratuity system but had we been staying in a hotel, we would have certainly left something for the chambermaid(s) who we might or might not have seen. Knowing that our suite was being cleaned daily by the same person (whom we had actually met), and finding no reason to critic his efforts we felt it appropriate to leave a thank you note with the same tip we would have left for a week’s hotel stay. (We actually didn’t “leave” the envelope – we gave it to the butler to deliver, of course.) The butler and the concierge are another matter. They are not covered by the general service charge. They clearly ought to be tipped for their services but I think it inappropriate (and certainly inconvenient) to do it on a service by service basis although I know that some other passengers use that method. I prefer to tip in a lump sum at the end of the cruise (and I gather that most staff members prefer that method as well). The general guideline “tip according to how much you used them” makes perfect sense to me. I did, however, modify it a little to include “tip according to how much impact he had on your enjoyment of the trip”. Both the concierge, Bruce, and the butler, Madel, had a big, positive, impact on our cruise experience. On our last cruise (on the Queen Mary 2) we were upgraded into a cabin which came with “butler service” but the attitude was decidedly antagonistic. The overall impression we got from our butler on that ship was “If you really want it, I will take the trouble to go find someone to take care of it.” The impression on the Spirit was “What can I do for you now?” There was a concierge office on the QM2 which was very responsive to individual requests and I could find no fault when we asked for something to be taken care of. But Bruce repeatedly came to us and almost made us feel guilty if we didn’t have something for him to do (knowing that he already must have been one of the busiest people on the ship). We would have been completely comfortable in our cabin with just the usual services of the steward but Bruce and Madel made us feel pampered. Since that is what I was really looking for in this particular cruise, I felt that I had to show appreciation by tipping a little more than merely on a fee for services basis. (I was, of course, limited by the amount of cash I brought with me so I could not let my sentiments run completely wild.) PORTS (RATING 4) The only port on this cruise, of course, is King’s Wharf in Bermuda. Weather: While we enjoyed beautiful weather at either end of the trip the three days in Bermuda were less than ideal. Sunday was just partly cloudy but breezy; Monday was threatening and windy; and Tuesday was very windy with scattered light showers. It was not beach weather but not many people were likely to expect beach weather in May. At the time of our departure from Bermuda the winds were blowing so strongly against the side of the ship that we had difficulty clearing the dock. In the end we were actually pulled away by a tug boat. The very high winds churned up the water quite a bit into the next day and you certainly could feel it but I don’t recall it ever being rough enough even to make it difficult to walk about. The dancers on the stage showed no sign of even adjusting for the ship’s movement and most passengers seemed to be moving about as usual. Nevertheless, I understand that there were a few who either felt seasick or thought that they could easily become so and were asking staff members about precautions. Excursions: It had been my intention not to bother with NCL excursions on this trip. However, two things lead me to change my mind. First, the middle day of our stay (Monday, the 24th of May) was a national holiday. It really was not a suitable day for exploring the island – most museums and shops would be closed and the transportation system would be seriously curtailed. That was a major chunk of our in port daylight hours. Second, quite a few months after I booked the cruise NCL changed the schedule. The departure time from Kings Wharf was to have been 9:00 AM Wednesday (as it had been in the summer of 2009). A few months before our trip I noticed that the departure from Bermuda was moved back to 5:30 on Tuesday afternoon. That makes a much bigger difference than anyone at NCL seemed to be willing to admit. A 5:30 departure means a 4:30 “all aboard” for the passengers. While King’s Wharf is serviced by regular ferries to both Hamilton and St. George they don’t run every ten minutes. The 3:30 ferry from St. George should arrive at King’s Wharf before 4:30 but if you missed it or it got delayed or it got cancelled, you would miss the departure and there are no ports between Bermuda and Boston where you could catch the ship enroute. So you had better plan on leaving St. George on the 2:30 ferry. The first ferry from the Dockyards to St. George is at 10 am. So what could have been a full day at St. George is now reduced to a little more than three hours. If the scheduled departure had been moved to midnight or even 8 pm, a whole day on Tuesday for exploring the island without risk of missing the departure would have been possible. As it now is with an arrival late in the morning on Sunday and a departure late in the afternoon on Tuesday, the claim “three full days in Bermuda” is clearly misleading if not false. One of our objectives for this trip was to see the Bermuda Aquarium and Zoo. We could probably get there on Sunday on our own but ferrying to Hamilton and changing to a bus would be time consuming. The NCL website offered a shore excursion which involved a private boat from King’s Wharf directly to and from the Aquarium in Flatts Village. It meant not being able to control the amount of time we spent at the museum and it cost a lot more than doing it on our own but it also meant convenient door to door transportation, a narrated trip and a chance to see a major part of the island from the water as we sailed along the North Coast and into the Flatts Inlet. The whole trip took about 3.5 hours and included more than an hour and a half at the Aquarium and Zoo. It is a great place where we would have easily spent another hour if we were on our own but we did have enough time to see everything without reading all the labels. Unless you specifically do not like zoos or aquariums, this is a must see with or without children in tow. It is the one of the best small-medium sized animal facilities we have ever seen. The second objective for this trip was a visit to St. George, the oldest continuous English community in the New World. As noted above, there was little point in going on the holiday and doing it on our own on Tuesday was too risky. As it turned out the extremely high winds on Tuesday wrecked havoc with the ferry operations and most (if not all) trips between St. George and King’s Wharf were cancelled. If we had gotten out there we would probably have had to get a cab to bring us all the way back to the Dockyard in time for the departure. A five hour coach excursion call the “Bermuda Island Tour” was offered on Tuesday starting at 9:00 A.M. Since it was our first visit to the island, this was a good way to see what the place really looked like and get a general feel for the lay of the land even though there would be no time to see anything in depth. Again, having a knowledgeable narrator beats reading a guide book and the hour plus we would have on our own in St. George was certainly not enough time but it was better than not seeing St. George at all. The ride from The Dockyard to St. George took a little more than an hour and on the way we passed over the world’s smallest drawbridge in less time than it takes to say it and we passed through Hamilton in more time than one might have thought given the fairly small size of the place. But that small size means traffic congestion even in mid-morning. We arrived in St. George right at the Town Square shortly after 11:30 and decided to have lunch at the conveniently sited White Horse Tavern. After lunch we had enough time to have a good look at St. Peter’s Church and walk around its graveyard, and then see the public stocks and take a peek inside the town hall before re-boarding the bus. The Historical Museum will have to wait for another cruise. The route back was a little different and included a stop at a beach so we could get a good look at the sand and see what makes it look pink. Late May is usually a bit too early for swimming and the strong winds and threat of rain would have discouraged most people from getting into the water, but the weather was fine for watching the surf and checking out the rock formations. Throughout the trip we were told about the differences in housing in various parts of the island and the reasons for the typical differences in wave formations on the south and the north sides of the island. Overall, a good excursion for a first time visitor who wants to get a bit acquainted with the island. We would recommend it. The Royal Dockyard is a worthwhile attraction in itself. Before our excursion to Flatts Village on Sunday we had time to poke around starting with lunch at the Frog and Onion. DW had the Ploughman’s Lunch with a glass of wine and I had the fried grouper with a glass of lemonade. Both meals were excellent and quite filling. As we were warned, however, food is pretty expensive on Bermuda so this lunch for two came to $52. We poked around the craft market and the artisans’ shops. The pottery maker in particular had exquisite pieces that were delightful to look at even if we didn’t have the funds to buy something for our dining room or kitchen. On Monday, the holiday, I walked over to the Bermuda Maritime Museum which occupies the old fortified tip of the island for a quick visit. I stayed for more than three hours. After scrambling over the gun placements and poking into underground bunkers like a 10 year-old I went into the original Commissioner’s House which has been completely (and beautifully) restored and now serves as a museum of all things connected to Bermuda’s relationship with the sea. The exhibits cover all three floors of the building and include everything from currency to military defenses to the slave trade. There is even an exhibit on the American military presence in Bermuda during and after WWII. In addition to the Commissioner’s House there are buildings containing exhibits on boat building and the use of the island as a penal colony. Lastly, included within the fortification walls is a dolphin attraction where you can swim with the animals or just sit and watch others do that. The Bermuda Maritime Museum is a big and rather hilly place requiring a lot of walking but well worth the time. If you have any interest in history (or even things nautical) this is a must see. Admission is only $10 and the place is in full view of the dock – you can’t miss it. There certainly were a lot of things to see and places to go that we did not cover on this 2 and a half day visit. I already want to go back for more. DISEMBARKATION (RATING 5) Since we had hauled our luggage by train and bus from home at the start of our trip we saw no reason not to use “walk-off” disembarkation. If nothing else was different, this decision alone made for the easiest disembarkation we have ever experienced. The challenge of packing everything (or at least, all the right things) while not missing any of the “last time” events of the final night has always made the night before disembarkation the most stressful time of the cruise for me. So much of a week’s effort to unwind and relax goes out the window while trying to get everything stuffed back into the bags along with the new acquisitions without skipping dinner, missing the show, forgetting to return library books and so on. Not having a “have your bags in the corridor” deadline was very liberating. When you have to say “Good-bye” a clean break is usually best and that is what we got. NCL suite occupants are entitled to priority disembarkation. We had muesli and coffee in our cabin around 7:15 while we put the last items in our bags. After checking every drawer, cabinet and shelf (twice) we met Bruce (the concierge) in Henry’s Pub shortly before 8 o’clock. At just about 8:10 he got word on his cell phone that the ship was cleared. Bruce then led a parade of about a dozen suite occupants through the Grand Atrium and over the ramp into the terminal. After turning in our Customs form we were on the street by 8:15. The bus for South Station arrived at 8:17 and we found ourselves on the 8:40 Needham local wondering why things like that do not happen all the time. We were in our house unpacking bags while some of the last passengers were still just finishing breakfast. SUMMARY We were looking for a relaxing cruise where we could be pampered for a week and, perhaps, even have a few good meals. Mission accomplished. The pampering exceeded by a wide margin what we received in a highly touted “Queens Grille accommodation” on the Queen Mary 2 last year. In our experience, at least, a suite on the Norwegian Spirit means competent, dedicated service with no stuffiness or smugness. The number of suite passengers on the Spirit is small enough that personal service is actually within the reasonable capability of a few staff members. On a scale of fair to outstanding our overall dining experience rated very good to excellent which certainly exceeded our expectations (and approached what we consider the norm on the luxury cruise line ships). Lastly, while there must have been many people on board who were there to party this did not feel like a “party ship”. We saw lots of people of different ages and apparently of differing interests who all seemed to be enjoying themselves and that can be contagious. Lots of food and alcohol were certainly consumed but we saw no rowdiness and heard no one loosing his/her temper. Somehow, NCL was able to satisfy a wide range of desires. That is to NCL’s credit. Nor did there seem to be much sense that one person’s satisfaction was diminished by the way someone else was enjoying him/herself. That is to the passengers’ credit. We should be blessed with such a blend of joie de vivre and good will in our everyday lives. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
Background: I went on the Spirit for 7 nights to Bermuda with my girlfriend mainly to celebrate her graduation from college. I have been on 3 other cruises previously with my family, but this was my first cruise that I booked myself. It ... Read More
Background: I went on the Spirit for 7 nights to Bermuda with my girlfriend mainly to celebrate her graduation from college. I have been on 3 other cruises previously with my family, but this was my first cruise that I booked myself. It was my girlfriend's first cruise experience, and she is (unfortunately for our wallets) now hooked! Neither of us had been to Bermuda before either and loved it as well. Travel to Port: We managed to save a lot of cash getting to Black Falcon Terminal by taking the T (only $1.70pp). I live in the Metro-West area of the Boston suburbs, so my roommate was able to easily just drop us off at Alewife. We took the Red Line to South Station, where we switched to the Silver Line, which drops you off right at Black Falcon. We had about 6 bags including carry-ons, so even with only one transfer, it was hard work. Overall we made it smoothly, but there were some very frustrating moments (word to the wise: spill proof coffee mugs only work if you remember to close the lid). I only suggest taking the T if saving $50 is a big deal to you and/or you packed much lighter than we did. Next time I will still take the T, just pack smarter for it. It was very fast and efficient though, and we got there by 12:05. Embarkation: It was average for me. We arrived at the terminal by 12:05 and we were eating lunch in Windows by 1:15. My only real gripe was that instead of spreading the porters out, they just had four of them at gate B and made everyone line up, dragging their bags, and drop the luggage off in one spot. That was the longest single part of the embarkation process (about 45 min... even longer than the check in line!!!). Luckily after that, Black Falcon worked like clockwork. We were in and out of security in 3 min, and check in was only about 20 min, despite the long line (they had sufficient check-in stations). The complimentary champagne as we boarded was a nice treat to get the trip started. Stateroom: The room was ready by 2pm and we were pleasantly surprised at its size. From pictures I had seen and other reviews, I was expecting a much smaller, more cramped room. We had a balcony, midship, on deck 10, and it felt very spacious, even at night with the curtains closed (not quite as big as a RCL balcony room, but still roomy). They got rid of the tacky striped bedspread and replaced it with a smaller, slightly less tacky liner they put out between making your bed and turndown. My girlfriend actually really liked the new carpet pattern, while I couldn't care less about carpeting. The shower was possibly the largest I have ever had in a cruise stateroom (only previously on RCL) and I loved the sliding doors for both the toilet and shower. The soap and shampoo were both decent and did not dry out my skin or hair (usually true with hotel products for me). I had no problem with the hair dryer, but my girlfriend agrees with other reviewers that it was too weak. The bed was a bit stiff for me, but I got used to it after the first night. I also loved the location of my cabin (lucky since it was a GTY), it was just 4 doors down from the central stairway/elevators and deck 10 is close enough to walk to all the main public areas (2 decks up to pool/Raffles/Galaxy of Stars, 2 decks down to shops/theater balcony/upper Centrum). Overall, I was exceedingly happy with our stateroom, especially since I got it for the same price as the inside cabin I had upgraded from. Ship Facilities: The public rooms were all very nice and comfortable. I definitely found myself spending most of my time in Galaxy of the Stars, because of the amazing views during the day and the activities there at night. Maharini's Night Club as also very unique. The various beds and couches are great for just relaxing and chatting with other people in the club. Part of me was missing some of the facilities of the mega-ships, such as rock-climbing and an adults-only pool/solarium, but there were enough activities on board to make up for it. I also noticed that the Bier Garten was never open at night. I like hanging out on deck at night on ships, and although I can get a drink inside and bring it out, it would be nice to have an outdoor venue open past 10pm (when the pool closes). Overall, the ship was very clean and still looks brand new from its recent dry-dock. The only thing I wonder is why so many little signs still say SuperStar Leo on them, so many years and dry-docks after the name change (a curiosity, not a complaint). Dining: Overall I found the food to be very good on the Spirit. Although there were individual dishes I did not care too much for, I did not have a meal that I left unsatisfied or unhappy from. The portions, on the whole, were very small, but my girlfriend and I actually loved that, because it allowed us to try more things without filling up too fast. MDRs: I am pretty sure that Windows and Garden share the same kitchen, so I am lumping them together with food. I really had no complaints about the food in the MDRs. We ate in either Windows or Garden for 6 of the 7 nights for dinner, and twice for lunch. We did not try Windows for breakfast though. I did notice that Windows has a slightly nicer ambiance, and the service is consistently slower-paced and more attentive. In Garden, the service was variable in terms of speed and attentiveness, but never to the point where we felt neglected. Le Bistro: This was the only pay-extra restaurant we tried. We booked a romance package that came with a dinner at Le Bistro and a complimentary bottle of house wine there. I had the Onion Soup, Escargot, and Foi-Gras stuffed Chicken; my girlfriend had the salad and the pork and sauerkraut plate; and we shared the chocolate fondue for two. I have to say, although I really enjoyed my entire meal, I do not see the appeal in paying extra for Le Bistro. I have no actual complaints about the main dish or appetizers, but I had equally, if not more, appetizing meals in the MDRs. In fact, they had the same escargot in Garden on the last night. Although the chocolate fondue tasted good, it was nothing special at all. It just tasted like Hershey's fudge with some cream in it (at least it wasn't Hershey's syrup). Plus, it was maybe 5 degrees above room-temperature. I am a little shocked that people said that desert was worth the surcharge alone, but to each his own. My suggestion is unless the intimate ambiance is worth $15pp to you, skip Le Bistro and just go to Windows (or try the Sushi, I heard it was much better)! Raffles: To sum Raffles up in one word: meh. There were occasional tasty dishes the couple of times we went for lunch, but overall, it was overcrowded and not much more appetizing than our alma mater's cafeteria. Raffles was good for grabbing some quick pastries and cereal in the morning (especially since our cabin was only 2 decks down, next to the stairs/elevator). Raffles is clearly the weakest link in the Spirit's food chain, but the other options are able to take up the slack, keeping my overall impression of the food on the ship high. Blue Lagoon: Hot food 24 hours a day is a definite plus on a ship. The food was consistently good from here, with the tomato soup being one of my favorites along with the fish and chips. The one downside to this venue is the policy of sit-down dining only. From what I have read the 24 dining spots on the other NCL ships are counter-service and that makes worlds more sense. There simply are not enough seats in there to accommodate the demand for food once the late night munchies kick in (10pm to 1am mainly). One night the line for a table was about an hour long at midnight, so my girlfriend, our friend and I just went back to my cabin and got room service. It is a shame it was not better thought out, because the food is really satisfying. Other Food: The BBQs next to the pool and at the Bier Garten were great. I suggest doing one of these on-deck options for lunch during the sea days. They may not have the selection of Raffles, but the food tasted better at these locations, and you can always bring it into Raffles if it is too windy and/or rainy to eat alfresco. We did that on a particularly windy sea day when we were still a bit too far north. Room service was fine, nothing special, mostly cold dishes. The mac and cheese though had what tasted like Cheyenne pepper in it. Now, for me that was delicious, but this was a dish listed technically on the kids menu, and I don't know too many kids who love spicy food. Atmosphere/Activities/Entertainment: The cruise was really put on a whole new level by the efforts and presence of the cruise director, Paul Scally. He was by far the best director I have ever had on a cruise. He was always around the ship, very funny hosting and running various shows, and also very friendly when talking to you. He really remembers the guests who he meets throughout the cruise. Also, if you are into that sort of thing, he can be caught partying in the club with everyone at 2-3am and declaring drink specials on a whim. He will then be a the first event at 6am. I am convinced he never sleeps. All of the entertainment events were interesting. I saw almost all of the big shows and liked what I saw (although just not a big fan of the general showtunes reviews, but those are just a part of cruising). Second city was great both nights they performed. My girlfriend and I took advantage of a number of the game shows and contests, leading us to win both the scavenger hunt and best couple. This lead to us being mini-celebrities on the ship, possibly also adding to the over-the-top experience. As for the NCL U activities, a couple were interesting (Improv workshop and History of Magic) but most were just glorified excuses to buy liquor or jewelery. Although, I knew not to expect a lecture from Dr. Ruth like my parents were treated to on the QM2. Overall this was an unforgettable cruise that reaffirmed my love for cruising, and sparked the bug within my girlfriend as well. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
We took a last minute cruise on the NCL 'Sky' for a three day Bahamas cruise to tape an episode of Cruise Radio and it was pretty eventful. Since my radio show is independent, I can have an unbiased look at it all. We are both in ... Read More
We took a last minute cruise on the NCL 'Sky' for a three day Bahamas cruise to tape an episode of Cruise Radio and it was pretty eventful. Since my radio show is independent, I can have an unbiased look at it all. We are both in our 20's, so of course having fun was the second reason we were on the ship.. after the radio show of course :) Embarkation was a breeze, we were out of the car and on the gangway in less than fifteen minutes and I thought we were going to be waiting in lines because we didn't get to the terminal til 1:30 pm. The rooms were pretty small but I couldn't complain, they did upgrade us to a suite which was nice. The TV's are still standard TV's, plenty of closet and drawer space as well. The did show the days activities on the TV channels on the ship and you had to option to buy. Now for the freestyle cruising! There are a few speciality restaurants on board, we ate at Cagney's (steakhouse with a surcharge of $25). The other dining times we just went to the main dining rooms (The Palace and The Crossing). The buffets on board were your standard hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, and seafood. One place I did take advantage of was the sports bar on board, it was open til 5:30'ish every morning and it made for some great after hours food. The entertainment was good. Typical cruise show material, nothing spectacular. Matt Baker, the Cruise Director was a trip. He made the cruise amazing and kept everyone on their feet. The white party and the 70's disco is a must! The pool area was nice. Plenty of servers, we did get asked a few times if we wanted drinks in the 30 minutes we were out there but I understand that's their job so I didn't let it bother me. Usually I feel nickle and dimed on a cruise ships, not on this one. The private island , Great Stirrup Cay was nothing to write home about. It seriously looks like the cruise line hasn't put a dime into the island in about 20 years. It wasn't ran down but could have been improved. One think that I was really impressed about was the cleanliness of the bathrooms on the island. They were kept cleaner then some of the public restrooms on the ship. We had a nice BBQ on the island and went for a little walk on the nature trail afterwards. When the cruise comes to an end, they don't rush you for disembarkation, they just ask you to be out of your cabin by 9 am so they stewards can flip the cabin over for the next cruise. We didn't get off the ship til about 10 am. For my first NCL experience, it was a fun time. No real complaints. I would rebook in a minute! Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
When we walked from The Port Authority to the Cruise Terminal, I couldn't help but groan. George wanted to save an extra $12 for cab fare. However, it was such a beautiful day for a walk. I'd recommend it to anyone who's ... Read More
When we walked from The Port Authority to the Cruise Terminal, I couldn't help but groan. George wanted to save an extra $12 for cab fare. However, it was such a beautiful day for a walk. I'd recommend it to anyone who's traveling without kids. It was a little hectic trying to get across the main drag by the terminal, but we just waited until the hand stopped blinking, and we were able to walk. We got into the terminal around 11:45 in the morning, instead of our usual 11:15. The person who checked us in led us to the office where the VIPs check in. We met our concierge,and he was very friendly. He went out of his way to make our cruise experience a very memorable one, right from the start. After he introduced himself to us, we went with this one crew member to board, and we had priority boarding. We checked out our room, and had lunch in the Venetian Restaurant. We wouldn't recommend the buffet to anyone, as the food isn't that great. The service in the dining room was impeccable. The Filipino workers were very friendly, and they went out of their way to make our lunch experience uneventful and enjoyable. After we had lunch, we explored the ship, then went back to our room. I organized the meet and greet for our cruise critic members. The meet and greet went really well. Everyone had an awesome time, as we all got to know each other with an ice breaker that I have learned from years past. The officers met us at the meet and greet, and were very friendly and informative. We had a good time just hanging out in the Star Bar, and talking with our fellow cruise critic members. The first night, we received two cocktail party invitations. One was for the VIPs on Monday evening, and one was for the Latitude Members on Tuesday evening. We showed up to the VIP with our free style clothes on. George had his cargo shorts, and I had my jeans. We felt out of place, among the other elegantly clad cruisers, but the officers said we were "free styling" and that was perfectly fine with them. We still felt a little uncomfortable, until one of the officers came over and started talking to us. She was awesome, and we really enjoyed talking with her. The person who put together the meet and greet was also there, and she made us feel more at ease in our appearance. We did, however, dress up for dinner every night. George and I didn't bring our fanciest clothes, but we did enjoy the free style dining that was offered. It was a great experience, as we talked to the waiters and waitresses. They were all interested in me, because of my living in the U.S., as a transplant from the Philippines. Every day when we walked into our cabin, after we spent the day outside, we found some sort of snack waiting for us in our stateroom. They gave us caviar and salmon and also, dessert foods. We couldn't ask for better service. We ate dinner with Shona, the cruise director. We had put our name into a lottery, and they set us up with Shona and Camilla. They were two very nice women, who loved to entertain us while we sat and ate our food. All the nice people made us feel so comfortable and relaxed. There were a lot of people who were on the ship from Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. The kids who were on the ship were very well behaved, as the youth program did an excellent job keeping them occupied. The shows weren't too much to brag about in the main theater, the Stardust. We weren't too pleased with the comedian, because his sense of humor was senseless. However, the seats were very comfortable. When it was time to say goodbye, we were very sad to leave all the wonderful crew members behind. We couldn't ask for better service from such a well trained crew. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
Just returned from an amazing 7-night cruise to Bermuda aboard the Norwegian Dawn from New York City. Prior to booking, we read many of the negative critiques and had serious hesitations about taking this cruise. All I can say is that if ... Read More
Just returned from an amazing 7-night cruise to Bermuda aboard the Norwegian Dawn from New York City. Prior to booking, we read many of the negative critiques and had serious hesitations about taking this cruise. All I can say is that if we had, we would have missed out on an incredible experience. Although this was only our third cruise, we are fairly seasoned vacationers with high standards (we own a time share with Marriott and recognize quality operations). The ship was lovely: clean, modern, and well laid-out. The public areas were beautifully decorated and varied in style and feel. Many of the criticisms we read were in reference to the additional charge restaurants. We viewed this as a wonderful option that offered high quality at a reasonable price. Although there are many dining options to choose from that are included in the cabin rate (two dining rooms, one of which was stunning in its dEcor, a traditional buffet and a diner-style restaurant - all with very good food), the specialty restaurants offer a more intimate setting IF YOU WANT IT. We felt that having this choice enhanced our dining experience, and viewed it as a bonus! The other criticism we had read was about the staff being pushy to sell liquor, goods, etc. Look, like anything, cruising is a business. Again, the services were there if you wanted them, but the staff was not at all pushy. As a matter of fact, we found every staff member to be cordial, friendly, and extremely helpful. In other areas, the entertainment was great. Loved the variety of shows and performers: from Bernie the talented piano crooner, to Dave the comedian, Greg the incredible magician, and other fabulous comedians and performers. I am so happy that we booked this cruise with NCL. We had the time of our lives and will cruise with NCL again - hopefully in the very near future! Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
We are a family of five who have all cruised several times, on NCL, RC and CC. We really like the freestyle dining which is one of the reasons we chose this sailing. We also avoided the super, overinflated airline prices during spring ... Read More
We are a family of five who have all cruised several times, on NCL, RC and CC. We really like the freestyle dining which is one of the reasons we chose this sailing. We also avoided the super, overinflated airline prices during spring vacation by traveling from a port we could drive to. We actually rented a bus with several families we met on Cruise Critic on our roll call and that turned out to be a great thing. Everyone was fun and it was nice having so many familiar faces on board. We arrived about 11am, luggage was immediately taken by the porters and then through check in quickly, even though we only had birth certificates. We were sitting in the Venetian Dining room by noon, after wandering the ship a bit. The lunch menu does not change, but there was quite a variety to choose from, from hanburgers, salads, fish, chicken, etc. Service was very attentive. The ship is beautiful and we never noticed any repairs going on, or disrepair anywhere, but we did not go looking for it either. The only crowded place was the pool area on sea days, and because this was spring vacation, there were lots of kids everywhere, includind three of my own :) I liked that the gift shop was at the back of the ship and you didn't have to go through it all the time, less temptation. The casino had a separate entrance, although when you passed by it, the smoke smell was strong. The ship's layout is good, but it helped to have a kid with us to get us to the right place...their sense of direction is much better. Within a couple of days, it was easy to find where you wanted to go. We had two inside cabins on deck 11. If I could do it again I would have gone lower because we hit some rough seas on the return home and we were rocking quite a bit. We like inside cabins because they are always dark, especially if you want to nap during the day. We heard no outside noises, the shower was great, the room tastefully decorated and the beds were very,very comfy. There was plenty of storage, but I would suggest bringing a power strip as there was only one plug at the vanity area. We left the bathroom light on at night We asked for everything to be taken out of our refrigerator and it was. Unlike all our other cruises, we never met our cabin steward (usually they are there to greet you by name), nor did she seem to go the extra mile. We did get towel animals but we had to ask for ice and towels several times. She never really went all out in cleaning the room. Friends had a different steward and had a different experience. Only on the last night did had we wished we brought duct tape because the drawers kept opening and closing with the ship rocking. Food-we ate at the regular dining rooms, buffet and Blue Lagoon only-we did not do the surcharge restaurants this time. We ate mostly at the Venetian because we had very very slow service one night at Aqua (come to find out, our waitress was new and didn't realize we were her table until we had sat there for 1/2 hour). This was the only night we didn't care for our meal, braised beef short ribes, all were mostly fat, very little meat at all. Othere than that, our food was good to excellent. We did get bored with the new menus. They no longer offer shrimp cocktail, to my husband's disappointment. (You can get this in the pay restaurants though) The desserts were pretty good ranging from key lime pie, chocolate mousse, baked apples and always strawberry shortcake and cheesecake. We really liked the strawberry shortcake the best. We dined one night with Vicmond from India, who is the Food and Beverage Director and he said most of the cruise lines are changing to the same type of menu, where you have the same choices on one side (chicken, steak, lamb, salmon and tilapia) and one side of the menu offers three different choices each night. This seemed fine at first, but to us was boring by the end of the trip. Vic made it seem that you had 9 choices each night so there was plenty of things to eat, but the standard choices got monotonous. The Garden buffet is a buffet, nothing special but with three kids, it worked out well for us. We ate 5 of our breakfasts here because it was quick, some of our lunches, but no dinners. Breakfast choices were standard, eggs, bacon sausage, lots of fresh fruit, cereals, pastries, salads,etc. they have an omlet station and waffle station. They even had eggs benedict as a standard choice. The food, however, never really seemed hot. A couple of days they had a poolside lunch BBQ, wish they had this more often. Food was tasty. One night we simply did not want to change for dinner and instead went to the Blue Lagoon where I found the service quick and the food good. My teen daughter spent lots of time here with her new found friends. Vicmond said this was their busiest restaurant, especially between midnight and 2am. I think alot of people stop here after shows. You could get hard ice cream at Topsider's Bar during the day, three different flavors each day, and soft serve sundaes or cones at the buffet. They only give you very small cones, but we figured out that this was because the ice cream is so soft that it would melt out before you could eat it if it were normal size. My son kept them busy scooping cones for him..haha Also wanted to mention that the water on board is very good. We had no problems drinking this most of the time. We enjoyed the entertainment very much but found you had to go quite early to get seats. Our favorite production numbers were Band on the Run and Bollywood. My kids liked the "fountains" part of the Crew Talent show. There was also a magician and comedian. We did go to the adults only comedy show....definitely not rated PG!! Dave Heenan is a funny guy. Bernie Martini plays the piano and has a velvet voice. He has over 900 songs that he can sing/play, all from memory. There was always a crowd listening to him. Very talented musician. Jose and Patty were pretty popular but they really need to find a larger venue because people were spilled out into the halls listening to them. Unfortunately we never stayed up late enough for the White Hot Party, or any of the dance parties so can't comment on those. They had karaoke and bandoake. The pool band was good as was the ship's rock band. They had pub crawls, margarita and beer tastings, 2 for 1 martini nights. They played trivia contests, there was plenty of bingo (didn't go)and there were plenty of different movies, seminars, etc to also do. Too much to choose from...and something for everyone. The cruise director is Shona and she is very likable and friendly, a beautiful girl. We found Ray Ray, her assistant to be unpersonable. My kids did go to the kids club. My teen daughter lived there. We would have breakfast together and then she would be gone. Sometimes she was doing the organized activities with the counselors (whom she loved), other times doing things with the friends she made on board, but that was usually in the teen lounge. They did all dress up one night and dined with the counselors. Went to several shows together. They held a "prom", had a dating game, scavenger hunts, dances at night,etc. My other two were in the 10-12 group which didn't seem to thrill them that much. My DD, 10 went more and made some friends. they played survivor, built a cruise ship, and played boys vs girls. But alot of times they just hung out and I think this age group still needs direction and schedules. MY DD who is almost 13, but very tall for his age, felt too old and really just wanted to be in the teen group. I must say the camp counselors were great. On the last full sea day when we had very rough seas, they made sure they knew where every parent was and you needed to call several times to check in on your child. They also had plenty of "barf bags" as my daughter reported. We did not feel pressured to spend or did we feel nickel and dimed to death. The bar servers were everywhere but never bothered you. I had a spa treatment and she mentioned some aromatherapy oils but I said I was not interested and she did not push. We did not have the photographer in our face as on other cruises. There was plenty of ways to spend your money if you wanted to though.Of course after every show, you had plenty of opportunity to purchase the DVD's that the magician was selling, which made the shows seem like a large commercial him. We loved Bermuda. Although the weather was not hot, it was not too cold either. It was cool on the ferries and we all ended up buying sweatshirts in Hamilton one day. We went to St George and you can tell they are hurting with no cruise ships going to this port. Store inventory was low in most of the stores and there seemed to be very few people buying (I know it is still off season for them). We went to Fort St Catherine which has tremendous views from the top. We were surprised to see the little beach next door no longer had the snack shop/bar area, which we figured might have been damaged in a storm, but some local Bermudians told us they just decided to get rid of them unnecessarily. The facilities at Tobacco Bay were closed for renovations so we had no place to change into our barhing suits, although the kids changed under towels and one European older gentleman just stripped right down there-YIKES!! We toured the Perfume Factory, had lunch at the White Horse, it was good buy very expensive. over $100 for the five of us to have hamburgers, and we only drank water! The second day we did do a ship excursion, Caves and Aquarium tour which was nice, our driver informative, but you actually had very little time in either place. We have done the caves on our own a couple of years ago and that tour was significantly longer and more informative. I feel like they just wanted to push you through to get the next group in. We actually only had a half hour at the aquarium/zoo, and wanted much more time. The tour stopped along a couple of beaches for picture stops. It was an impulse move on our part to purchase this tour, don't think I would spend the money to do it again, although I would see the attractions on my own next time. The transportation in Bermuda is great. The tour ended in Hamilton and they gave you a ferry pass to get back to the ship so we had plenty of time to explore Hamilton also. We would have gone onto Horseshoe Beach but the Portuguese Man O War were there and the beach was pretty much closed. The last day we stayed in port, King's Wharf. We started at Snorkel Park, which is small but very nice. It was too windy this day so we did not stay long but it's a great little spot with facilities, restaurant and bar. We attempted to go to the Maritine Musuem after leaving the beach as it is just about next door but we did not have cash with us to the beach and they did not take credit cards. We shopped around the port after lunch on the ship and got to watch the glass blower demonstration which is always cool to see. All in all we had a great cruise. We were all wishing we had a couple more days. We like the intinerary where you have two sea days prior to reaching Bermuda but wish we could have two sea days after also. You get very tired trying to fit everything into the 3 days in port and an extra day to relax would be nice. Disembarkation was simple, although we were delayed due to customs pushing everyone back about 40 minutes. You choose what time you want to get off which is very nice. Everyone on our bus chose the same time and when our color was called, we went down to find our luggage and got in line for customs, and although the lines were very long, they moved fairly quickly. Our bus was waiting for us and was under cover which was nice because it was raining when we got back to NYC.   Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
Norwegian Dawn: Amazing voyage to Bermuda. We have sailed on the Dawn 2 years ago with my wife's 2 Aunts on Mother's Day. We thought it will be fun to take our daughter, Son-in-law and our 2 grandsons 4 and 8 on this ship to ... Read More
Norwegian Dawn: Amazing voyage to Bermuda. We have sailed on the Dawn 2 years ago with my wife's 2 Aunts on Mother's Day. We thought it will be fun to take our daughter, Son-in-law and our 2 grandsons 4 and 8 on this ship to Bermuda. Dawn is an elegant ship and the crew members kept it sparkling clean all the time. This ship is also a floating Museum with amazing collections of European Masters as well as Andy Warhol paintings. Embarkation was smooth, our daughter and her family embarked earlier than us. We boarded the ship around 1 PM and our cabins were not ready, we were directed to Garden Cafe. We met our daughter's family and first order of the business was for to take my 2 Grandsons for their soft ice-creams even before I had bite to eat. Then we proceeded to our cabin. Our daughter's cabin had bunk beds where little ones climbed up immediately and were very happy. After the emergency drill we headed for our dinner at Venetian room. We spent next 7 days eating alternatively between Garden Cafe, Venetian and Aqua dining rooms. Food quality ranged from excellent to nothing so great. The Vegetarian Indian buffet at the Garden Cafe is worth mentioning here as it is rescued me from eating a creative but often tasteless vegetarian entrEe in the main dining room. We never attempted any of their specialty dining room or room service. On April 22nd my wife and I were invited to have dinner with Ships officers and our Table Host was Mr. Vikram Raj Parthasarathy and dinner was good. He is the Man-in-charge of Food and Beverages. He discussed the difficulty and joy of serving over 8,000 meals a day, passengers likes and dislikes etc. He also informed us that there were 2,800 passengers on this voyage out of which 822 were children's ageing from 2 months-16 years old. The entertainments were great. The bands were of top quality, the comedian and magician shows were also great and grandsons enjoyed them very much. The Musicals were of top quality with Bollywood Musical was their finale which fits the fare. The crew entertainment show on the last day was also excellent with comical end of the water fountain shows. We never took the ship arranged ship tour. Instead we bought 3 day bus and boat passes for $28/person. This gave us the flexibility to visit St. George at its attractions, Crystal caves, Aquarium, Zoo, Museum, Shelly Bay Beach and play ground, Glass and pottery works. Our Grandsons enjoyed playing on the beach but water Temp was 65 F which was too cold even for them. Both Anil and Kiran enjoyed T-Rex children pool, Adult Pool as well as Video Arcade. The Children camps were mediocre, quite often the 4 year old didn't have enough to do and he got bored. The disembarkation got delayed due to rain but it was smooth. Overall this is an excellent cruise. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: Three of us in our late forties and early fifties sailed the Dawn to Bermuda during 4/25/10 week. I last sailed NCL in February, my sister last sailed NCL in 2003, and her fiance' last cruised when he was 10 ... Read More
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: Three of us in our late forties and early fifties sailed the Dawn to Bermuda during 4/25/10 week. I last sailed NCL in February, my sister last sailed NCL in 2003, and her fiance' last cruised when he was 10 years old. HOTEL INFORMATION: We stayed two nights at the Holiday Inn on 57th Street. We loved this location within walking distance to Times Square, Central Park, and mid-scale shopping. The hotel is also probably one of the closest to the ship. This hotel has parking on the premises which is a perk from what I understand about parking in Manhattan. Tip 1: On the corner up the street is a local 24 hour restaurant where we ate breakfast for a very reasonable price every morning. Tip 2: If you check the rooms out online, ours was even better than the pictures. Our bedding was updated and we enjoyed the quiet of our room. The size of a double double was great as the room was wide. TRAVEL TO PORT: We drove our car to Pier #88 located at Manhattan Cruise Terminal, 711 12th Avenue, New York, New York 10019. Signs are very visible and police assist in directing traffic. In the terminal, drive up the ramp to Parking which is very secure and reasonable for Manhattan at 30 dollars per day . Parking spots were plentiful and helpers assist you in the giant elevator that takes you down levels to drop off your luggage and to check in. Some decide to drop off passengers at the main entrance, drive around the street again, and then park the car. If you are all physically able, I think everyone going to the parking area together is better option. Tip: The attendant takes cash or credit card. Cash makes the line go faster. Keep your ticket receipt with you because they do not want you leaving it in the vehicle. EMBARKATION/DEBARKATION: The time one embarks each week can be different due to varying factors. NCL uses a number system that you receive upon checking in. The ship has to first clear customs, then clear out the passengers on the previous sailing. On this sailing, boarding the ship began at around 12:15pm. The standard of staterooms not being ready until 2pm exists across the fleet so it is always a good time to eat lunch, to sign up for specialty restaurants, to sign up for the spa, to explore the ship, or to sip a cocktail by the pool. For debarkation, passengers can select how they want to leave...earlier or later! Read the information they send to your stateroom and you get to select which method based on your individual needs. We decided to walk off minus our luggage so we left a little later than those who decided to express walk off with theirs in tow. Tip 1: If you find yourself in a giant line to go through customs and you do not want to wait, get yourself a porter. They go through the fast lane! Tip 2: Tip them well. Our porter took our luggage all the way up to the parking lot without knowing what we were giving him. SHIP INFORMATION: The Dawn is very well cared for by the ship crew. Carpet on deck 8 was replaced, staff always polishing, my railing was teak oiled while in Bermuda, and the wait staff by the pool and in the Garden Cafe were speedy and efficient in keeping the areas very clean. Any time I was at the buffet I saw the crew standing by ready to pick up any little dropping made outside the food bins. I was even asked if I needed any assistance with bringing my plate to the table. The Dawn also never felt crowded. We always found a seat, a lounger, or a quiet area whether it was by the pool, on an outdoor deck, or inside walking around. I particularly like how each restaurant, bar, and lounge is separated as some of the newer ships tend to have everything in one location. Tip 1: Make sure to visit the Mexican/tapas area on deck 8 mid ship because if you do not have a stateroom on this level, it is very easy to miss. Tip 2: An adult hot tub exists on the upper outside deck at the ship's front section billed as the "Quiet area." STATEROOMS: Balcony 8550 located forward port side on deck 8 afforded me protection from the wind, a view of the wharf, beautiful sunsets, and a view of Lady Liberty returning to NYC. This balcony location is more enclosed than the other balconies on the ship. My sister and her fiancE had mini-suite 11082 located mid ship starboard side on deck 11. They enjoyed the larger balcony, the nicer deck chairs, the larger bathroom with the tub, the larger couch, and their morning sunrises while viewing the ocean. Sister titled her mini-suite "affordable luxury." Our stewards in both locations were great and very accommodating to any requests. Tip 1: Give them time to carry out your special requests. I find it easier to leave them a note if I do not see them right away. An example includes if I want the beds together or apart. They usually have it all done early evening or before bedtime. Tip 2: It can vary which side of the wharf the Dawn docks. Although our sailing docked port, I have heard it sometimes docks starboard. Tip 3: Use the dial outside your stateroom (do not disturb, make up room, turn down room, or welcome) and tell your steward how long you are leaving for if you see them upon exiting. An example includes, I am going to dinner... Tip 3: Mini-suites do not get the full suite perks. DINING: Some people report you have to eat in specialty pay restaurants in order to get a great meal. I totally disagree on the Dawn! Every restaurant whether it had a fee or not was wonderful. The three of us total dined in Aqua, the Venetian, the Garden Cafe, Cagney's, Le Bistro, Impressions, the Blue Lagoon, Bimini's Bar, and Asian Fusion. There are so many options onboard that we ran out of time to try room service, Teppenyaki, Mexican (Salsas) , Tapas, the sushi bar, the barbecues by the pool, or the special chocoholic buffet! We never waited to get a seat in the free restaurants and we got our particular restaurant and our particular time request any time we called ahead. They even allowed us last minute changes and add-ons. I even appreciated the times we were asked if we wanted to make a reservation. Tip 1: The Blue Lagoon on deck 7 also serves from a breakfast menu. Although the selection is not as varied as the Garden cafe buffet, they have more than enough to satisfy. If you like to dine outside, the door from the BL leads to the promenade and a few tables are set up out there. Tip 2: You can mix and match items from the "always available" menu selection and from the three varied nightly entrees selection in the two main restaurants. Unique to the Dawn is a random drawing one can sign up for to dine with an officer. They advertise in the freestyle daily you can sign up at reception. Sometimes at the cruise critic meet and greet (if your sailing has a roll call on the boards and someone offers to contact the ship to set up a meet and greet) they will let you sign up there too. We signed up and had a fun dinner with the Staff Captain. I think also unique to the Dawn is a Big Band Brunch held on the last full day at sea. Having seen it advertised as a Jazz brunch on other ships where the show band plays jazz in one of the smaller specialty restaurants such as Le Bistro, The Dawn does it big NY style by kicking it up many notches! Held in the beautiful Venetian restaurant, many of the above entertainers sing/play in addition to the big show band. Food galore too which is more upscale than the buffet. This is advertised right on embarkation day, throughout the week, and in the FreeStyle Daily so sign up if interested. The cost is 15 dollars per person. Another unique meal I found offered onboard the Dawn was The Chef's Gourmet Dining Experience. I met a passenger who explained it was a very special dining experience. She and about 20 other passengers signed up for a fee (basically to cover the cost of the wine for passengers and gourmet food) in a private room off the Venetian. The menu was especially designed by the Executive Chef and she said it was a very pleasant evening with some of the senior officers. I saw a photo taken of all of them in the gallery and everyone had happy faces on! Although I did not partake on this sailing, I thought it a very nice option to provide passengers which is just that...an option. PORT/SHORE EXCURSIONS: If this is your first time to Bermuda, I highly recommend the island tour first. Since you are there for three days, it gives a good overview of the area and then you can decide where you want to spend more time the second and third days. If you venture out on your own, the bus/ferry pass is easily purchased right at the wharf. We found two locations. The first is at a counter where you walk through the building once getting off the ship. The second was right off the side where the ferry picks you up. The Bermuda boards on Cruise Critic is also a valuable source of information as is the shore excursion section on the NCL website. Tip 1: If you really want to do a particular tour, then sign up ahead of time on the website or sign up the first day on the ship. We wanted to do a bicycle tour but we waited until the day prior to sign up. They had already canceled it due to lack of interest. Tip 2: I heard taking the bus from King's Wharf to St. George takes a few hours with a stop in Hamilton. Some said it was too long but others said it was a great way to see the island. Tip 3: The Captain is always correct with his weather forecast. Tip 4: Follow the Captain's advice to not rent a scooter. ENTERTAINMENT: The Dawn is certainly a New Yorker's ship. Music playing just about everywhere! Many things to do and to see throughout the days and nights. They had family activities, bingo, art auctions, seminars, dance and exercise classes, and social events. Pool games have returned to the NCL lineup but I did not watch them nor take part in them. The musical entertainers onboard this sailing were top notch. Below is a list of who was onboard (keep in mind it may change by the time you sail): 1. Vladimir Krivian (awesome piano player who sometimes played the Venetian during dinners as well as other times/locations throughout the week) 2.Michael Blackwell (piano and melodies) 3. Bernie Martini (totally awesome! His venues got crowded as passengers discovered his amazing vocal/piano talents throughout the week. A young good looking crooner, he never disappointed. My sister gave him the hardest working musician award of the week because he played everywhere days/nights. We concluded he must drink olive oil to keep his voice so smooth for that long!) 4. Jose and Patti (a dynamic duo! Standing room only so get to their venue early) 5. Next Stage (The absolute best ship band on the seven seas. The passengers love them and the crew loves them! All are excellent musicians and the female lead singer is the icing on the cake) 6. Dawn Show Band 7. DJ Franco (Finally! A DJ who played music for all the age groups onboard this week. I was not the oldest dancer in late night Dazzles! A wide variety of music that everyone could dance to...even my trance/techno requests late night!) 8. Guest DJ Tipsy from NYC (hooray! I love the guest DJ thing. He sometimes played late nights, at sunset chills by the pool, and at different parties throughout the week in conjunction with DJ Franco) 9. Pavla Szirotna (Did not hear him at any of his venues) 10. Steve Gallatin (guitarist...did not hear him at any of his venues) 11. Caribbean Wave (cool pool band and party band who played at different times /venues) Stardust Theater Shows: Band On the Run , Comedian Michele Balan, South Beach Rave, The Second City Comedy Troupe, Magical Showtime Beyond Belief, Bollywood, Farewell Variety Show with Michele Balan, Gene Yaws, and Greg Gleason Dance Parties: 70's Groovalicious Dance Party, Flashback Through the Sixties, Music Through the Decades, Beatles Tribute, Big Band Hits, Beer Fest and Country Night, Bermuda Nights Deck Party, Rock Night, 50's and 60's Dance and Sing-A-Long Party, Bandaoke (karaoke with the band Next Stage), and the White Hot Night. Cruise Staff Events that involve the Passengers: Viva Las Vegas Night, Not-So-Newlywed Game show, NCL's Pyramid Game Show, Dancing With The Stars of the Norwegian Dawn, Adult Karaoke, The Liar's Club, Sing It if You Know It, and The Second City Script less (family friendly). Tip 1: The casino is closed while in the port of Bermuda Tip 2: There is so much to do, you do not really notice. Tip 3: Get to Bollywood early or on time. The beginning parts take place on the stage, in the front aisle, and in the side aisles. Stay after the show for a special performance, especially if this is your first time on NCL. SERVICE: Absolutely impeccable for us. No matter the restaurant, no matter the lounge, no matter where we were, the friendliness of the staff in all locations is one of the major reasons I will continue to sail the Dawn. The leadership from the top officers and their ability to ensure all of their staff remain in good spirits naturally, effortlessly, and seamlessly, definitely showed throughout the week. The noticeable spirit of happiness flowed through each officer/staff/crew member as I observed all taking pride in their work. They have STYLE cards onboard at reception one can fill out for any employee who goes above and beyond for you. THE SPA: The three us signed up for the weekly spa package. Ninety-nine dollars for me and 150 dollars for my sister and fiance together as a couple. We used the spa just about every day. I enjoyed most swimming in the lap pool and using the steam and sauna rooms. I also enjoyed the Elemis lotion in the container by the sink. The spa employees were fantastic from day 1 through day 7. Every treatment we had was so very enjoyable and so worth every penny spent. I had an ionithermie that truly and honestly worked. I also treated myself to a deep tissue massage at the end of the week which left me in a state of bliss. My sister and fiance had three inoithermie treatments, a couple's massage, and hot stone massages. Rico, the salon stylist, gave me a fantastic haircut that will last a long time. Tip 1: Enter the spa raffle on embarkation day and then be present to win later on that early evening when everyone else is unpacking or eating. Their prizes are awesome and hardly anyone attends...which increases your chance of winning a cool spa treatment. Tip 2: They have fresh orange juice on the table next to the lap pool (along with water, coffee, tea, etc.) to sip while lounging and observing the awesome aft view! SUMMARY: We three purchased the cruise rewards certificates because we will definitely sail NCL again. A great bargain, you pay 250 dollars to use as a future deposit on an entire cabin instead of per person. You receive 100 dollars onboard credit for the current sailing. We totally enjoy the freedom of freestyle, the dressing up or not, the onboard choices where we decide what to pay extra for or not, and the wonderful officers/staff/crew that NCL employs. Tip: Not ALL of the good ones are going to the Epic so all the Dawn Darling Cruisers out there can breathe a sigh of relief! Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
It was an amazing 7-night cruise to Bermuda with my sister and brother, aboard the Norwegian Dawn from New York City. This was our first time with NCL and we didn't really have much expectations other than the usual, as with other ... Read More
It was an amazing 7-night cruise to Bermuda with my sister and brother, aboard the Norwegian Dawn from New York City. This was our first time with NCL and we didn't really have much expectations other than the usual, as with other cruise lines. But in the end, we were so glad we booked for this cruise because everything turned out great, way beyond what one could possibly ask for. The ship is simply beautiful, the service was excellent, dining was very good to excellent, the public areas, entertainment and dining venues were lovely, and the staff was very courteous and helpful. I specifically want to point out that we thoroughly enjoyed such a terrific entertainment by the very best on the ship, the ever energetic, amazing, musician extraordinaire: Bernie Martini. Seeing him perform that Monday night at the Gatsby when we were just passing by, got us hooked on and we ended up glued in that venue until the end of his performance. Thereafter, we followed him every night to wherever he had to perform, so much so, that we had to circumvent our activities around his performance time. We just totally fell in love with his music and the manner he made music. I personally admire him so much for his skill and mastery of his trade, his professionalism, and his very pleasant personality. He was always so gracious and sincere in performing requests pouring in from the audience, and each song that he sings always comes from the heart. The intensity and emotional component of his singing and piano playing is so compelling and powerful that it touched my spirit and my whole being so deeply. It was an awesome experience, and made our trip very memorable! I am so glad that I got his CD (and so did my sister) that I play everyday since I got back from the cruise and I hope he could cut more CDs so I can purchase them all. We sincerely wish for Bernie to achieve the peak of his career, get scouted by the right people and move up to mainstream popularity. He is one huge package to treasure - very entertaining, very likable and super talented. We are going to take the EPIC and do a back to back caribbean cruise at the end of this year or the beginning of next year, so we'll get to see "Mr. Golden Voice Bernie" perform again. And to you, Bernie - thank you so very much for the good time, for sharing your music with us, and for the memories. We'll see you again! Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
This was only my second cruise, and my wife's first. My first cruise was not on NCL. I booked this cruise, Boston to Bermuda, as a surprise for my then fiancee. We decided, why not get married in Bermuda while we're at it? We ... Read More
This was only my second cruise, and my wife's first. My first cruise was not on NCL. I booked this cruise, Boston to Bermuda, as a surprise for my then fiancee. We decided, why not get married in Bermuda while we're at it? We both had an excellent time, and can't wait for our next trip. EMBARKATION: Embarkation through Boston was pretty painless. There were three lines going through security and they moved pretty quickly. After getting through the line we had to fill out a health form, and then get into another line to get your stateroom key cards, picture taken, and make sure you had a credit card to attach to our onboard account. There was a Latitudes member line, and a first time cruiser's line. The Latitudes line was much shorter and quicker. I think we arrived at Black Falcon Pier around 11:30, and were on the boat by 12:40. After getting on the boat, we wandered around trying to find Windows, one of the main dining rooms, for lunch. The food was delicious. The first day is definitely one where you get used to finding your way around the boat, but by the second day, you do feel much more comfortable figuring your way around. The trick is to just realize what stairs or elevators go where, as they do not necessarily allow free access to all areas of every deck. We loved the Spirit. It is a large boat, but I guess smaller than a lot of other cruise lines. I don't know if I really would enjoy a larger ship or not. All public areas seemed very nice and clean and our stateroom was extremely nice. The Asian decor was a treat! I upgraded from an inside view to an ocean view and was very glad for the view, and the extra daylight that shown through. Especially on this cruise as it was cool and windy most days, and temps for sunning on the upper decks weren't quite right (for us, anyway). SERVICE: Everywhere we went, bars, restaurants, in the hallways, shops, etc., we thought service was wonderful. Our stewards did a great job. Our room was always clean, and I think they work very hard. They always tried to smile and call us by name. When they do this for so many months in a row, non-stop, smiling and trying to remember people's names, this can't be as easy as people just expect it to be, in my opinion. FOOD: We thought the food and service was wonderful!! We ate almost everywhere, except for the Bier Garten and Garden Room. We ate in Windows for breakfast and dinner, and ate at the following specialty restaurants: Shogun La Trattoria Le Bistro Cagney's Teppanyaki I felt the cover charge was a fair price for all, and the food in these restaurants was excellent. I think La Trattoria was probably my least favorite out of all of them, but that was not because the food was bad - I just think pasta is pasta and no matter what you choose, it all ends up tasting about the same. The Raffles buffet is always very busy and loud. This is definitely not the place to go to enjoy a quiet meal. The food choices were plentiful, and I finally got to enjoy those pretzel rolls I had heard so much about. They are actually called Laugenbrötchen or Laugen rolls. Soooooo delicious! The Blue Lagoon has your typical fast food type fare, and we only ate there once. I had the fish and chips, and my wife had chicken wings. I was disappointed by both. The fish was over cooked and had the texture of chewy chicken. The chicken wings were just so-so. But I think if I had tried again, I may have had a different experience. ENTERTAINMENT: I didn't see all the shows but what I did see I thought was great. The magician, Fred Becker, was wonderful. Unfortunately, his contract was up after this cruise, and so he will no longer be on the Spirit. We saw a neat dance show called Elements, which incorporated dance interpreting Fire, Earth, Wind, and Water, and also had some showy magic by Fred Becker in between. I was very impressed. Paul Scally, the cruise director was delightful. A comedian and great host, he added fun to everything we saw. I only caught a glimpse of Second City. This is an improv group, and if you like Whose Line is it Anyway, you will like this group. I'm not a huge fan of improv, and so did not stay to watch much of them. The little extras the cruise put on, like the dance parties, the Newlywed, Not so Newlywed show, the Best Couple show, were all great. SPA: For the romance package, you get a 25 minutes Seven Sea's couple's massage. This was great. We ended up adding on the hot stones and upgrading to the full massage. Very nice, but I'm not sure if it was worth the price (even with getting half of the massage for free...) We both had never had professional massages before, and it feels great, but 5 minutes later, I couldn't tell I had a massage. Maybe it was because I was just so relaxed on this cruise already! My fiancee/wife got her hair done, and had a pedicure. Again, we felt both were a little too pricey, but at the same time, and if we were on a smaller budget, we probably would not have done any of this. But since this was our wedding/honeymoon, we were splurging. GYM: The gym is pretty small, and I did not use it, and looked only to have treadmills, and stair steppers. CASINO: We are not gamblers, but we did stop in the Casino to check it out. It is small, but has everything a gambler probably looks for. We played a few small slot machine games, won a few bucks, and then promptly lost it again. The biggest turn-off is the smoke (to us non-smokers). Even when you walk by the door of the casino, you get hit by the smell of the cigarette smoke. The adjoining Maharini's lounge was a cool place and bar to hang out at. Always very quiet. GALAXY OF THE STARS: The galaxy of the stars, with it's observation deck, and stairs down to the Bridge viewing area, was always packed when an event was going on, and it was hard to always find a seat. Get there early. But it is really nice and a great place to hang out. It was fun to observe the Captain on the bridge, and to see all the plaques, awards, and gifts that were given to the ship from various locations around the world. POOL: The pool is definitely a smaller one. The rough seas made it so most times the pool was empty, and some times even closed, as the water was just sloshing out and making the pool a rough wave pool. HOT TUBS: The hot tubs were packed or not, depending on when you looked. Hit or Miss. We went in one night and it was just the two of us. BERMUDA: So glad we got to go, just wish we had more time. One whole day was all about our marriage and the wedding, and so that cut out a lot of the extras we may have been able to do. The island is gorgeous, the temperature for the last week in April was perfect. The wind is definitely a factor in helping to cool you down though. If you do your hair up nice (like my wife before we got married) be prepared to have it blown around quick! The beaches were great, the water temp felt fine to us two New Englanders, but it was so windy we didn't want to get in all the way. The jelly fish were just starting to come out and we saw some dead Man O' War on the beach, so keep your eyes peeled. Anyway, whatever you do on Bermuda, expect it to be a little pricey, but the people are wonderful, friendly, and helpful, and it is a beautiful country. DISEMBARKATION: Leaving the ship is sad, but it was very quick, easy, and painless. Leave your luggage out the night before with a colored tag on it depending on what time you feel you want to leave, or take your luggage with you the next morning and you can do 'easy walk-off' and just leave with your own luggage, whenever. FINAL THOUGHTS: Loved it - will do it again, and will choose Norwegian Cruise Lines. I hope other ships are just as good as the Spirit. What a fantastic experience. I know I probably left out a lot, but I really can't say I had any negative experiences on this cruise. I would recommend this cruise and the ship to everyone. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
We are just back from a seven day Boston to Bermuda cruise 4/30 - 5/7. We were beyond sad to leave the boat. Washy Washy, Happy Happy. Embarkation: What can I say? We live about 20 minutes outside of Boston and it was a wonderful ... Read More
We are just back from a seven day Boston to Bermuda cruise 4/30 - 5/7. We were beyond sad to leave the boat. Washy Washy, Happy Happy. Embarkation: What can I say? We live about 20 minutes outside of Boston and it was a wonderful experience to leave from the Black Falcon Pier. We had driven down to the port of Baltimore last year, this blew that away in every sense. We were at the Pier around 11:30a and having lunch in Windows by 12:15 after some exploring. It took about 25 minutes from when we got out of the car to get onto the boat. We were shocked at this because we waited about two hours at the Port of Baltimore last year to get onto the boat. Huge difference! Room: Interior cabin 11535, deck 11, right under the Spa. It is very quiet because of this. We will however, not book an interior cabin again. A little light from the outside world would have been much appreciated. Our fault, no one else's. The shower was quite large and you could fit two people into it easily. There was a small burrow with 4 drawers and the closet had five shelves in it to store clothing. There was also ample hangers to hang our clothes. Our stewards names were Brian Reyes and Reymundo Lozado. These guys were awesome, always greated you in the hall and asked you how your day was going. Reymundo was especially personable. Congratulations to whoever gets these guys! Food: What can I say? It was excellent. We ate at one specialty restraint, Cagneys. We both had the filet mignon which was cooked exactly to order and was really tasty. We definetly had what I would call a 70-80 dollar meal. So if you look at it like this, it was worth the 25$ charge. We ate in Windows and the Garden room the other nights of the cruise. It was nice to be able to change up scenery once and a while. Windows is a beautiful room and Garden is much smaller but I do believe had slightly better service because of this. There were a couple times in Windows that I felt we waited a bit too long but we were on vacation and it just didn't get to us. We stopped at the Blue Lagoon a couple times during the cruise. The Spinach and Artichoke dip was amazing, but remember this is comfort food and not exactly good for you! We ate lunch at the Bier Garten once, hot dogs, hamburgers etc, and at the pool side BBQ once. Both had standard BBQ food. The room service menu had pizza, sandwiches, burgers and some desserts on it. We ordered it one night and it took about 30 minutes for delivery. The chocolate buffet was fun but very very busy. Raffles: had breakfast there once, loud and packed, typical buffet. Entertainment: Elements, excellent!!! This is coming from someone who absolutely hates Broadway shows. It was just absolutely excellent and encompassed magic, music, dance, and acrobatics. Paul Scally was the cruise director(and the original Geico geiko). He was hilarious and put on a comedy show the last day of the cruise. We enjoyed it. The Second City comedy group was just ok. They had some good skits and some really not so good skits. Bingo, like all cruises bingo is encouraged. We went the first day. It cost me 70 dollars! The basic package was 30, building up to 70 which was 96 cards on an electronic handheld device, a few regular ones, 20 instant win tickets, and some free cruise raffle tickets. I was shocked at the price but we went for it and bought one between the 2 of us. The prize money was really mediocre(200-300) a game for something that must have been pulling in thousands. They did however raffle off a 500 dollar ring(White gold, laced with yellow gold, amethyst in the middle). Wouldn't you know, the guy who never wins anything wins it! My fiancE was very happy with me ?. The white hot party was packed and located in the galaxy of the stars. It was fun for a bit but just was not our cup of tea. Spa/Gym: I actually did utilize the gym! The gym consists of about 10 treadmills, 4 elipticals, and 3 cross trainers along with some weight training. The window overlooks the water so it was very peaceful. The Aquaswim(exercise pool), sauna, and steam room are all included at no extra charge. My fiancE did a Spa treatment on the third port day for 99$ and it consisted of a back massage, foot and ankle massage, facial, scalp shoulder and neck massage. They advertised this as about 80 minutes. She was in there for around 95. Casino: The casino was rather large compared to the one other we have seen before(Carnival Pride). We played a bit on the slots but not too much. They gave 20 dollars credit for 10 dollars when signing up for a cruise players rewards card. There were always machines available. Public areas: The Galazy of the Stars was amazing. We loved it. A large observation deck with plenty of seating looking out on the ocean. We found ourselves relaxing there when it was too cold on deck. There were also plenty of public areas so no one area ever felt to packed. Maharahi's lounge was usually empty and had some nice bed sofas to vedge out in. We never had trouble getting a lounge chair on deck. Drinking: Buckets of beer are by 5 get 1 free for just under 29 dollars after tip. They also had a promotion starting on the second port day where it was get 2 free! I went through a good few of these and they had a good selection of bottled beer. Henrys pub had Heineken, Amstel Light, and Bass Ale on tap. The drinks of the day were 7.95. Frozen drinks were about 9 dollars. We felt the buy 5 get 2 free promotion was very reasonable. Pool and hot tub: The Tivoli pool is the only adult pool on the ship. It was never too packed and was large enough for our needs. It's about 6'3" at it's deepest. Don't be fooled by the signs that day 7'9". Im 6' 1" and was always able to tippy toe and touch the bottom. There are 4 hot tubs surrounding it that were either packed or empty. But whenever we actually went to use one, we were able to. Bermuda: Ah, Bermuda. Loved it. All three days were around 75 and sunny. And in case you didn't know, 75 in Bermuda is hot. First day, got off the boat and headed to get the buss and ferry pass. You can get it right on the warf at the information center or walk to the end of the warf and get it in the second information center/shop. We then took the ferry - right outside the second shop over to Hamilton then headed to the Hamilton bus stop- pay attention here!!! The visitor information center is closed on Sunday in Hamilton and the bus station isn't exactly easy to find. Head from the pier where the ferry docked over to the Irish Linen shop(Yellow building, green shutters), head up the hilly street next to it. Take a right at the end of said street. Walk past the city hall and the bus stop will be on the left and you cant miss it. We headed from here to the Crystal and Fantasy caves. Cost: 20 dollars for one cave, 27 for 2. We enjoyed them and our tour guide Ron was excellent. After this, walked around Hamilton for a bit, most everything is closed then headed back to the dockyard and went to the Frog and Onion pub for my 50 ounce beer. Yum! Cost: 21 dollars and you keep the glass(they give you a boxed one). Day 2: Headed over the St George's via Ferry(we were originally going to going here day 1 but the ferry doesn't go to St Georges on Sunday). Beautiful village. We walked to Fort St Catherine which was about a mile away. On our way there we saw the unfinished church, St George's golf course, and tobacco bay. It's a nice walk and if your capable of it, I recommend it. It's a bit hilly though. Fort St Catherine(7 dollars pp) was our favorite part of the island. The views from it were amazing and the history in it was rich and it is well preserved. If you like history, I would call this a must while in Bermuda. We then headed to St Catherine's beach which is right next to the fort for a bit and over to Tobacco bay for a bit. Day 3: Stayed around the dockyard, did some shopping, went to snorkel park. It was nice to not have a day jam packed. We loved being in Bermuda for the three days. Conclusion: Loved it, loved it, loved it. On the way down the fiancE and I were saying how we would never do the same place twice, well while I am writing this, she is looking up information on the Dawn next year, May 6th for our honeymoon, Boston to Bermuda. We loved Norwegian and will sale plenty of times more. We think we are addicted! Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
Background Information: This is my 3rd cruise and my husband's 2nd. We have been on Carnival before so alot of my review will be comparing NCL to Carnival. We are in our mid-20's, no children. Embarkation and Disembarkation: ... Read More
Background Information: This is my 3rd cruise and my husband's 2nd. We have been on Carnival before so alot of my review will be comparing NCL to Carnival. We are in our mid-20's, no children. Embarkation and Disembarkation: Getting to the port around noon, there was a pretty long line but it moved really fast. From the time we got in line to the time we were on the ship was about 30 minutes. To disembark, we took our luggage with us and it took about 1 minute. I was surprised that we didn't have to talk to anyone from customs...we simply gave them our form and were off the boat! Ship info: This ship was much smaller than ones I've previously been on. It is pretty easy to get around but it takes about a day or two to figure out how to get to certain places (ie: we were on the 5th floor, to get to Windows we had to go up to 7, across the ship, and down to 6) Stateroom: As expected, our room was very small. We don't spend much time in our room, so we get the cheapest one possible. There are plenty of cubbyholes and drawers to put your clothes though. I think for such a small space it was configured perfectly. The bathroom could definitely use some sprucing up. The shower would clog up so you'd be standing in a couple inches of water and the lighting was poor. Service: This is what I was most worried about. I had read so many reviews about how awful the crew on NCL is due to the whole "freestyle" aspect. THEY WERE WONDERFUL!! Our Steward Biron and our hostess Shellyn (Garden Restaurant) were AMAZING! Dining: This is definitely the area where Carnival wins and NCL loses...big time. The one plus of NCL is that we didn't have to dress up to go to dinner. We ate at 2 specialty restaurants during the week: Shogun and La Trattoria. We only did because we received a $50 onboard credit from our travel agent. I don't like the whole concept of having to spend extra money to get good food. Both the specialty restaurants were good, but not excellent. The buffet, Raffles, was better than Carnival's buffet. Pretty good choices but the hours were strange and I feel we were always going in while they were making a switch to different meals. The main dining room's food was good...but definitely not the same quality as Carnival's. The selection was not that great and the portions were pretty small. Most of the desserts were a disappointment. Entertainment: We went to see all of the shows while onboard. I feel like 2nd City is hyped up too much...they were funny, but not as funny as I was expecting. I would say their R-rated show was the funniest. All the other shows were great (except for the 1st Magician show). Summary: Your vacation is really what you make of it. We had a great time! Will we travel NCL again? Probably not...it was nice to give it a try though. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
My friend and I went on the NCL Spirit from Boston to Bermuda. She is 45, I am 52. Since neither of us had ever cruised, and husbands were unable to take time off, we decided to give it a try. I did a lot of research online, what to pack, ... Read More
My friend and I went on the NCL Spirit from Boston to Bermuda. She is 45, I am 52. Since neither of us had ever cruised, and husbands were unable to take time off, we decided to give it a try. I did a lot of research online, what to pack, what not to. (A HIGHLITER PEN is a must), and flashlight, alarm clock, for inside rooms. Inside Cabin 6th deck.. pretty easy to get to elevators, but (stairs helped us keep the weight gain down). With inside cabins it's always dark, so need a lighted clock, or flashlight and watch, or you'll sleep late in the morning. Bathroom, closet,entrance way, a little tight.. but comfortable for 2 people. I think more than that would be a little cramped. Hallway was quiet through entire cruise. There were so many fun things to do during the day ON the ship, besides the usual day entertainment around the pool area. At night, the shows were fantastic, then dancing til 2am was a blast. We met many fantastic people that we were happy to party with. The fact that we had THE BEST room stewards, and THE MOST FANTASTIC Cruise Director (PAUL) that anyone could ask for was a plus. Staff members were ALL courteous, friendly, and fun. The food was great, and we loved the "eat anytime, anywhere, anything" way of cruising. We each brought 3 fancy dresses.. didn't wear any of them. Shorts, capri's, sundresses.. that's the way to go at night, and swimwear, and a coverup takes you through the whole day. Bermuda was naturally beautiful, and added the other 25% of excitement to the trip. IF you are limited to excursions, look into Helmet Diving, and take a bus, ferry to the rest of the island beaches, capital etc. My friend and I have agreed this is the BEST VACATION either of us have ever had, and are planning to go again next year on NCL Dawn, since Spirit is being moved. I sure hope they move the Boston crew from the Spirit over to the DAWN!. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
Embarkation was a disaster through no fault of NCL. New York City decided to hold a bike-athon that began and ended at the West Side Manhattan cruise terminal where the Dawn would be docked for the day. Arriving vehicles could not cross ... Read More
Embarkation was a disaster through no fault of NCL. New York City decided to hold a bike-athon that began and ended at the West Side Manhattan cruise terminal where the Dawn would be docked for the day. Arriving vehicles could not cross 55th St. as they usually did because it was closed at 12th Ave. In addition, on normal cruise days, embarking passengers arrive on the street level and debarking passengers leave on the upper level. On this date, only the upper level was available so you had cabs and limos bring passengers to the ship competing with cabs and limos picking up passengers from the ship. As we entered the pier, we passed hundreds of debarking passengers who stated they had been waiting for hours to be picked up. Utter chaos. Once inside the pie, embarkation proceeded quickly. We were welcomed by our efficient concierge Anoop who escorted us aboard for lunch. Our cabin was ready at about 1:45PM and we found it in excellent condition. Our cabin stewards Claudia from Columbia and Albano from the Philippines took care of our every request throughout the week. The sailaway festivities were held on beautiful day for sailing past the Statue of Liberty and under the Verrazano Bridge. Our luggage was delivered to our room before 5:00PM. Surprisingly calm seas awaited us outside New York Harbor. NCL had arranged a meeting for our cruisecritic roll call group for Monday morning at 10:30. Almost 100 passengers attended. We were warmly greeted by Captain Hakan Svedung, Hotel Director Hugo from Belgium, familiar to many of us. The Food and Beverage Manager, Concierge and Cruise Director Shona were also present to welcome us. Upon reading the Freestyle Daily, I was delighted to see that many familiar crew members were back on board. Vladimir Krevian would again be performing his piano artistry in the Atrium and the Venetian restaurant. Pianist/vocalists Bernie Martini and Fabrizio Caligaris would again be performing nightly in Gatsbys. Trumpet artist Larry Lockwood was back leading the Dawn orchestra for dancing in the Spinnaker Lounge. Los Amigos trio performed pleasant music in the Atrium. Dining was enhanced by the fact that we reserved a table for six nightly in the Venetian next to the Vladimir's piano. We were honored to be invited to dinner at Captain Svedung's table on Thursday night. He is a charming and personable man and it rumored he will Captain NCL's new Epic mega liner. We also enjoyed wonderful dinners at LeBistro and Impressions of Italy. Having Vladimir playing your requests made the Venetian a perfect place to enjoy dinner nightly. The nightly menus provided the same entrees nightly, with three different entrees every night. Dinner on the Dawn was first rate. Activities on the Dawn were many and varied. We enjoyed our early morning swim in the Oasis pool (open at 6AM), morning trivia in Pearly King's Pub was good fun and garnished us some prizes. The no-fee fitness classes however, were too few and far between. They were better when NCL had their own instructors rather than those from Steiner who were more interested in selling services than giving passengers a good aerobic's class. The best entertainment was provided by the musicians in the various lounges and another familiar Dawn performer, comedian Dave Heenan. The Jean Ryan production company was still performing the same Bollywood and South Beach Rave shows that have been on the Dawn for far too long. Some of the performers in these shows were not up to the level of those in previous years. Bermuda remains our favorite island port and except for a few brief showers, we were able to enjoy several of Bermuda's fine beaches where the snorkeling was often excellent. The only excursion we took was the Catamaran Coral Reef Snorkel which took us to a location in the Great Sound which was not especially notable. Our return trip to New York was not as smooth due to the increased speed of a one day passage. We arrived in New York, as we left on a beautiful day and debarkation was much better despite a scheduled parade. The exemplary staff of the Dawn, under our old friend Hotel Director Hugo, were deserving of special mention. The Dawn is a happy ship and it makes for a happy cruise. We look forward to sailing aboard the Dawn again next year. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Thank goodness NCL does not use the same GPS system we had in the SUV guiding us to the New York City Cruise Ship Terminal. That said, we arrived at 11:00 am for our Norwegian Dawn 7 day cruise to Bermuda. Check-in was a breeze and soon we ... Read More
Thank goodness NCL does not use the same GPS system we had in the SUV guiding us to the New York City Cruise Ship Terminal. That said, we arrived at 11:00 am for our Norwegian Dawn 7 day cruise to Bermuda. Check-in was a breeze and soon we were escorted by butler Huda to our Garden Villa. Wow!! The last minute up-grade looked to be worth every penny. Luxurious accommodations and wonderful amenities not to mention views that blew our socks off. This was our third cruise aboard NCL Dawn and was certain to be our most memorable. My wife, two adult children and I prepared ourselves for the 4:00 pm sail away. Manhattan and the Jersey Shore looked great in the late afternoon sun. We were familiar with the restaurants and dining rooms on NCL ships and had established our meal "plan of attack" in advance. When on land, I do not eat at the same restaurant every day for 7 or more days straight nor do I do so on a cruise. NCL has a surcharge for the premium restaurants and I factor that into the cost of the cruise when choosing the cruise line. Good eateries on land cost a little more. A $10 to $25 surcharge for a meal costing $85 or more in most towns is a small price to pay. When the appetizers looked too tempting to choose between, we just asked for both and ate them with relish (sic) The same with desserts and cheese plates. And coffee. And another appetizer. We thoroughly enjoyed meals in Impressions (Italian), Cagney's Steakhouse, Teppanyaki, Bamboo (Asian) and the Bistro (French cuisine) Wine with the meals was reasonable although the 18 percent auto-gratuity is a bit much considering the mark-up on what is most likely duty-free plonk. The food in the Venetian and the Aqua dining rooms was great. Like any place serving the quantity of meals they do, there may sometimes be an item that is not up to par. Anytime I politely pointed this out to the staff, the situation was resolved post haste and always to my satisfaction. Why wait until after the cruise to complain?? I must criticize the critics that complain about food on the buffet. Hey Folks!! It's a buffet. I have found the buffet to be up to the standards I expect. Just don't expect me to eat at the buffet every day. We found the sushi, the chicken wings and pizza to be just fine...for a buffet. For those that complain about the buffet eggs, go to the main dining room. You will be served as many eggs as you want cooked any way you want. With whatever sides you want......while seated, with linen napkins, coffee continually refilled, in elegant surroundings and without the jostling of the buffet line. The Norwegian Dawn has undergone a cosmetic overhaul since we last were aboard in 2007. New carpeting. New furnishings. New look to the casino. But we miss the pattern on the deck hallway carpets. Previously the pattern had fishes that always were swimming towards the front of the ship, a valuable aid to navigation for the disoriented cruiser. Now I must actually read the "You are here" signs. NCL entertainment is great. The first time and the second time and maybe the third time. But really, how many times must we see the Jean Anne Ryan troupe perform the same tired routines? I agree with other cruise critics in this matter If subjected to "South Beach Rave" and "Band on The Run" one more time, I will be on the run. Even the dancers themselves attending the "White Hot Party" only stayed for one dance. Are we bored yet?? Let us hope that NCL will breath some new life into all the shows on board. The Second City comedy routine was new and refreshing for a change. Comedian Dave Heenan was also very enjoyable. NCL's loyalty program, Latitudes, has undergone some changes. These changes may save NCL a few dollars in the short run but may prove costly to them over the long term. Previously there were benefits afforded returning cruisers. NCL has eliminated many of these. Gone is the welcoming bottle of wine and even the tiny ship's pin. Other than a quick gathering in the lounge with drinks and nibblies, the perks for Latitudes members are almost non-existent. Loyalty is a 2 way street and NCL should be very careful with their cuts. On this cruise and on other NCL cruises (Dawn, Pearl and Jewel) we have always found the staff to be exceptional. The ship's officers are constantly moving about the ship talking to and more importantly listening to the passengers. We chat with the waiters and waitresses and they respond with attentive and caring service. The room stewards do a wonderful job. We found the folks in the gallery shops to be knowledgeable and friendly. There was however one blackjack dealer that seemed to keep all the good cards for himself. I hope he transfers to another cruise line!! We have already begun the plans for our NCL Alaskan Cruise for the summer of 2010 Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Wow - everyone is entitled to their opinions, but we had a GREAT cruise. I really have two things that we didn't enjoy but not complaining. On the last sea day returning, it was a rough ride home and the entertainment - but that would ... Read More
Wow - everyone is entitled to their opinions, but we had a GREAT cruise. I really have two things that we didn't enjoy but not complaining. On the last sea day returning, it was a rough ride home and the entertainment - but that would be about it for complaining. Embarkation was a breeze - couldn't have been easier. I think we were on the ship in 10 to 15 minutes, after we got out of the car. We had a stern cabin, and I thought that was amazing. I agree with all the people who claim that the stern cabin balconies have the best view, they literally do. We will always try to book stern cabins from now on. Food is very subjective. We liked some, we didn't like some. We chose to eat at both the main dining rooms, the Impressions Italian restaurant, the Asian Fusion, Garden Cafe, and the Salsa Tapas Bar and the service was fast and great. We have never sailed any line but NCL so I cannot compare our experience, but I read how all these people want service from the same person every night so they can remember their preference and drink and name. I have to be honest on this cruise, not only did all our servers remember our name but went above and beyond to say hello to us the day after if we saw them at another restaurant or even any other place on the ship. They remembered our names throughout the cruise. We took our two year old son, and at every restaurant all the servers and maitre de went to great lengths to entertain our son so we could eat peacefully. Kudos to all. Thank you for making our cruise very special and comfortable. Kids Club - the girls who work there are magicians with kids. Our son had a blast. Activities - there was just so much to do. You really have to pick and choose what you want to do from the dailies. Chocolate Buffet - Honestly, I thought the chocolate buffet on the Pearl last year to Alaska was better, but no complaints, still chewed down chocolate. Entertainment - this is subjective also. We are from New York; we have seen more than our fair share of Broadway shows and at least eight or nine different Cirque Du Soleil shows if not more, and then more Off Broadway Shows. Can't even begin to tell you how many comedy clubs we have been to or even magic shows both in New York and Las Vegas. You guys get the point. We didn't enjoy any shows at the theatre although they tried very hard. I still have a lot of respect for all the people who are on the ship entertainment business, and I still attend all the shows to show our appreciation. I know people will say, if you don't like the quality then don't go. I said I didn't like it but it was still entertainment and time on the ship well spent. I would consider the shows average at best (and I am being generous) but to each their own. Some people loved it. I really enjoyed listening to Fire and Ice. I forget the name of the piano player and singer outside the Havana Bar and the Italian Impression Restaurant, but he was also very good, even though he had an accent. Nickel and Diming - I don't get it. People always seem to be complaining about this. I figure if you don't want something don't buy it. If you don't want to pay extra to eat, don't eat at the surcharge restaurant. If you don't want to pay extra for pictures or spa then don't buy them. We didn't feel that we were being nickel and dimed. Spa - my wife loved the spa; she bought a full hour massage and then some, but CHOSE to spend money there. She said the service was great. They did try to push their products to her, but she politely refused and they stopped pushing her for their products. Havana Bar - met a lot of nice people here. I am glad they have those on board. Reservations for Restaurant - there was a reservation desk right out the Italian Impressions restaurant, and the lady there knew our name after the first night and she would greet us every night we showed up by name and make her recommendation (although we didn't take them) and was always polite and courteous. Room Stewards - Seriously what are those people complaining about that you never met your room stewards throughout the cruise? First I would love to know why it was so important that you met them. If you wanted anything done, you could leave a sticky note on the door for them or you could just call the front desk and they would have it resolved for you in an instant. We met our room steward and his assistant the first day and they knew our names already and met every single of our requirements. We wanted them to join our beds since they were separated when we walked in. They also opened up the sofa bed half way for our two year old. They also emptied out the fridge so we would keep snacks and milk for our son. They kept our room extremely clean and always put away my son's toys neatly and in a place where he found them immediately. We had towel animals every night which my son loved. We had ample amount of towels both in the morning and evening. I can't praise them enough. Again, two more people who really made my son's cruise that much more enjoyable. They would actually run down the hall / corridor with my son just to entertain him. Kudos to their efforts also. Cruise Director - Shona (If I spelled her name correctly), well she tries hard and did a good job. I have had better CD's before, but she did well and so did her assistant. Thanks you to all those who made the CC M&G possible. It was absolutely great to meet so many of you. Thank you for putting it together. Bermuda - what can I say? It was a lot of FUN. Beaches are BEAUTIFUL. I have not been to the Caribbean, but we loved Aruba beaches and now we love Bermuda beaches also. Bermuda as a city was great. Very clean and safe, and very accommodating. Everyone wanted to help and make our stay comfortable and enjoyable. The transportation system was amazing, and got us every where without a hiccup. We did not get a cab at all throughout our stay. We visited the both caves (was a great experience), the Zoo/Aquarium/Museum (only our son enjoyed as it was very small), BUEI (to us a waste of time), Unfinished Church (beautiful), St. George (nice quiet town to walk and small beautiful shops next to the ferry but expensive) Front Street, Hamilton (shopping area), Fort Hamilton (nice), Royal Naval Dockyard (small), clock tower mall (small). The best excursion was Hartley's Helmet Dive - what an experience. Overall a great cruise on a great ship with a great crew. You guys get the idea. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
Embarkation was smooth as usually out of NY. Checked in at the CAS and VIP counter and was promptly escorted to a private waiting area. General Information: We walked on board about 12:30, got some hand sanitizer sprayed on and took my ... Read More
Embarkation was smooth as usually out of NY. Checked in at the CAS and VIP counter and was promptly escorted to a private waiting area. General Information: We walked on board about 12:30, got some hand sanitizer sprayed on and took my first glass of bubbly. AHHHHHHHH......vacation. Had a nice leisurely lunch and got to our aft cabin around 1:30. (Little earlier than the room ready announcement but the hall monitor saw my hubby had a bad leg and told us to go on down.) We met our Room Steward Jamie and his assistant, Chris who were very accommodating throughout the cruise. They did their best too keep us with my DH and his bad habits!!! We met our neighbors on either side of us and we all stayed right where were for sailaway. I had ordered a bar setup so we had a couple cocktails before heading down tot the casino for the CAS party before they opened. They had food and drinks ready for us so we didn't have to go to dinner and could start handing our money over as soon we hit international waters. Went to a dance party later that evening with some fellow passengers and then we hit the hay. We had out Meet and Greet at the Star Bar Monday morning. The officers and well as the captain came and each one of them gave a little speech as to what their duties were. It was great to meet all the people I have been talking to for the past year. Surprisingly, no one had any questions! One of our Roll Call Members had the Garden Villa and she offered a tour to anyone that wanted to see it. All I can say is WOW! I don't think the pictures they show on NCL site do it justice. The ship itself was clean and constantly being touched up throughout the cruise. We actually saw two gentlemen painting a scratch on the mural on the Promenade deck. It was a rainy windy sea day Monday. Most people stayed in but there were plenty of morning walkers on the deck. Since this a cruise for us to sit back and chill that is what we did most of the time so I am not going to have a lot to say about the activities. They had a martini clinic, a pub crawl, beer tasting, wine tasting and a mojito muddling clinic during the sea days. (Not all on same day) . The Pearly King Pub had sporting events (football./baseball) I did hear some complaints about the Yankee games not be broadcasted. You would like a ship full of passengers coming out of NYC just might want to see a Yankee playoff game. I don't know...maybe it's just me....... DH got the Spa pass for the week @ $99 (Couples $150) I think I have a fear of spas or something. I never want to go on the ship. He loves it. Some other activities they had (off the top of my head) where trivia contests, WII games, towel animal clinic, Second City improve seminar, some fitness seminars, basketball, shuffleboard, bingo, cruise rewards, Bermuda Talk, Food: I thought the food was very good. The whole static menu thing didn't bother us at all as there was always something we found on it that we enjoyed. We ate at the Venetian 2 nights and Aqua two nights. We did eat in Teppanyaki one night (which is a must for me because it always turns out to be a lot of fun. ) We went with two couples we met on our Roll Call. The food is prepared right in front of you and in my opinion was very good. The only odd thing is the dessert. They used to have ice-cream (such as green tea) but now they have these things that look like tiny silicone breast implants made out of some sort of rice and a liquid center (like melted ice-cream) I like the real stuff better but this was "interesting" to say the least. We did the Anniversary package ($79) which entitles you to a bottle of bubbly in your room, choc. covered strawberries, a cake and champagne party, a free photo and dinner at LeBistro with a bottle of wine. We went with another couple we met on our Roll Call and we all ordered the beef tenderloin. It was really good. I also has the escargot which is always a treat! The funniest part was when it was time for dessert and they brought the cakes over....I don't want to ruin it for anyone. We hade the cakes wrapped and sent to out rooms and had some real desert. Crème Brule! Anoop (sp) the concierge was getting frantic since he reserved some seats for Bollywood that night and the show had already started as we were finishing up so the four of us practically ran to the Stardust Theatre. He was so nice and very accommodating. I give this guy a lot of credit keeping track of all this passengers. Entertainment: Speaking of Bollywood...I thought the entertainment on the ship very good from what I saw. My DH said he could take or leave Bollywood but I was impressed that we were in a Nor'easter and these guys didn't miss a beat. I would not see it again but was entertained. The Tina Turner Tribute featuring Fire and Ice was very good. This girl could belt it out and strut around just like Tina. I think the drunken guy in front of me really thought it was her!!! Bernie Martini, the piano player always had a full house. I would listen to him for a while before heading back to my cabin for the night. I did not make it to South Beach and have seen Second City before. The comedian was pretty good from what I saw on the replay. Bermuda: The sun was rising as we headed into Bermuda. It was beautiful. We watched the 3 stooges from our balcony s trying to get the ropes to tie us up. (note to NCL, you will need to paint the new ding they made with their boat under the word NASSAU) It was very windy the first day and our ferry to St. Georges was canceled so we took the ferry to Hamilton and caught the bus from there. I think we spent more time on buses than in St. Georges. We checked out the town square, the NCL Majesty was in port at the time, had a beer at the Whitehorse, Went to St. Peters church and looked around the cemetery which I always find very fascinating as I like history, walked up to the unfinished church and to Tobacco Bay to see if anyone was swimming. Nottoo many. Then it was time to head back. Now pay close attention here because you need to read to the end of this section. Thursday we were waiting for the bus to take us to the beach and DH decides he is not going to ride busses all day long and wants to get a scooter so we can have our freedom.. I have read too many thing about them didn't want to do it as I heard too many horror stories. Well, it was great. We went to Glass Bottle Beach and picked two bags of beach glass, checked out the Somerset Bridge, Found a farm, went to Horseshoe Bay, not too many people in the water since it was still windy and overcast. Got a Ginger Beer Snowcone and thought it would taste better if the women added some Black Seal ....and she agreed it would taste better, but didn't have any....continued on to the Gibbs Hill lighthouse which has spectacular view. You could climb it for $2.50 pp. I think its approx 180 steps. We went to Jobson Cove and swam here for a while and talked to a few others of the Dawn passengers. That pink sand is a great exfoliate by the way. Headed out to Astwood Park and saw cats everywhere. It was very nice there and had great ocean views. We had a great day and started to head back as we were going to meet some folks at the Swizzle Inn on the other side of the island but never made it. A little bit outside of Somerset we were rounding a curve and going up a hill at the same time which slows down the scooter. A truck was over the center line coming the other way and we had to move left to avoid it...Right into one of those coral like walls. We hit that twice (at least that is all I remember) and the scooter started to slip. DH tried to steady it but it was going down. Luckily the scooter had slowed down some because they don't have enough oomph to get up those hills so I think it could have been a lot worse. Without going into all the detail, we were able to walk away from this with minor cuts bruise, broken toes and cracked ribs compared to what could have happened. I know there were quite a few passengers who rented the scooters who made out just fine, but when someone tells you it's dangerous, you need to listen. I went on the Bermuda threads several times and the people who live in Bermuda said it's too dangerous. My DH learned his lesson the hard way. He got the brunt of it by the way. If you think you are a safe rider and nothing can happen to you, think again. Luckily we were able to see all that we did before the accident and the very nice constable and her partner took us back to the ship. Friday we went to Snorkel Park and started healing the wound in the salt water as suggested by ever Bermudian we spoke to as well as the Paramedics. We did a little shopping in the Dockyard and walked around a bit before heading back for sailaway. We had a pop up storm hit right before sailaway which gave us a beautiful rainbow to send us off. We had some really rough seas Saturday and they closed all the decks because of the wind. The barf bags were very visible a there were a lot of Do Not Disturb notices on the status wheels outside the cabins. Luckily we were ok. We went on another tour of the Owners Suite occupied by another fellow Roll Call member. The OS is really nice if you just have two of you whereas the GV can fit 3 couples. They were in the front of the ship and it was pretty cool during the high sea and wind. I still prefer the AFT but the amenities in the OS were just right! They had the crew show the last night complete with Fountains. They did not do a Quest game as I had hoped they would have but maybe next time. All in all it was a great trip and I met some really terrific people through our Roll Call. This was our first trip alone since our honeymoon (normally friends or family come along) and I have to say it was one of the best times I had. Two more things. The only time I had a problem with a crew member was the Spa Manager who got very snippy with us when we took our printout to her Saturday and said they charges ups for a couple instead of one person. She said something like" Well , that is not how we do things here!!" So I asked "How do you do thing here? She said we don't adjust last day. How do I know you haven't come here? " (Let's see, DH has a sticker on his card and I don't. Have you or the six people standing with you ever seen me here?, Would you like to check the security cameras to see if I ever came here? You are ones who are supposed to know who is coming and going.) In any event, she removed the $150 and charged back the $99. It was already 7:00 at night and we just didn't have time to discuss her behavior with anyone. She did what was right but she didn't have to be so snotty/snooty. Second thing: Luis, the coffee dude from Columbia in Cagney's made us the best pot of fresh pressed coffee. So if anyone from NCL is reading this, give that man a raise! In conclusion, the weather may not have been perfect and I didn't get to do some things I wanted to but that just gives me incentive to go back again. The cruise experience is what you make of it and you control your own fun level! I would travel on the Dawn again. (already looking at Southern Carribean) She is a "just my size" ship and the crew was wonderful. It was truly a fantastic voyage! 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Sail Date October 2009
This was our first time sailing on NCL and our first cruise out of New York. We arrived in New York the day before and stayed at the Millenium on Broadway. The hotel was in a great location. American Airlines lost both of our bags ... Read More
This was our first time sailing on NCL and our first cruise out of New York. We arrived in New York the day before and stayed at the Millenium on Broadway. The hotel was in a great location. American Airlines lost both of our bags some where on our nonstop flight. Just amazed me how they could have done that, but we were not alone in that problem. There were also about 5 other families with out their luggage as well. Lucky for us that they found them the morning of sailing and managed to get our bags to us about an hour before boarding the ship. Embarkation was very quick. We were on the ship and receiving a glass of champagne only about 25 minutes after arriving to the pier. The ship itself was very nice, well kept and clean, clean, clean. We were part of a NCL seminar at sea program and that included a tour of the ship not usually seen by the public. Backstage, kitchen, laundry, stores, crew quarters, bridge ect, and all areas are kept spotless. Our bags arrived to our cabin in good time, before the lifeboat drill even.+ We found the food very good. The lido buffet area always seemed to move along quickly. Often buffet line food is not really hot enough, but the lines on the Dawn were fine. They did a lot of grilling on deck by the pools. Burgers, chicken, corn and these areas moved quickly as well. We made our way to the Blue Lagoon every day for the hot wings. Usually on the way to our cabin at the end of the day. The staff would package them up for us to go and we would enjoy them in our room watching TV before nodding off. The stage shows each evening were amazing. We also listened to Bernie Martini almost every time he played. He does a very good Sinatra tribute. My favorite entertainer was Dave Heenan. This man is a great comedian. Even when he is not working he all over the ship talking and joking with everyone. One of the things that I noticed was that all crew on board genuinely seem to enjoy their jobs and seem quite happy. We did the self assist disembarkation and it went very smooth. We woke up the final day at 7 and finished packing. Then we left our bags in the room while we went up to the buffet for a bite. After eating we retrieved our bags and headed to Blue Lagoon area once again to get in line for disembarkation. We were off the ship and heading for the airport before 9 am. We will definitely sail on NCL again. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
On our cruise, we had 6 of us traveling together, 3 couples, and were going to celebrate my 50th birthday. Initially, my husband and I booked one of the Owner's Suites and our friends booked an AB, the top-level balcony room, down ... Read More
On our cruise, we had 6 of us traveling together, 3 couples, and were going to celebrate my 50th birthday. Initially, my husband and I booked one of the Owner's Suites and our friends booked an AB, the top-level balcony room, down about 15 rooms from us on the same deck. About 3 weeks before the sailing, I convinced my sister and her husband to join us and I was able to get us all in one of the 2 Garden Villas - 14500, port side. I was dreaming about this cruise. This cruise was all about the Garden Villa... we did go to Bermuda and had a good time there... but it wouldn't have mattered if we docked at all... it was that incredible. (Note 1: Villa description in "about cabin" section below.) (Note 2: posted you-tube videos... here is link to my Cruise Critic video posting which will get you to the videos... one is the inside, one the outside. http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1080477 ) However, it is not only the quarters themselves... but how you are treated... and were we ever spoiled! The trio of our Butler, Hooda, our Concierge, Anoop and our Steward, Jonathan were top-notch. I must, particularly give compliments to Jonathan who made sure everything in our Villa was perfect, and Anoop who ensured all of our entertainment and jaunts were special. Incredible private living quarters. Our favorite of the 2 Garden Villas due to beautiful bar area vs. kitchen. Grand piano was a player-piano... good to know if no one plays! Dining table big enough for 8, light leather sofa huge and really comfy. Bar / kitchenette heavily used (meaning WE used it a lot!) Cappuccino maker was SO GOOD!!! Three suites within our Villa... 1)MBR and bath simply breathtaking. Huge closet / dressing area, beautiful view out window, great shower, bath and appointments. This one had the sleeping area set back from the hallway. Note - all suites were soundproof! 2) "Guest" Suite also beautiful with living area... had smaller bathroom then the other 2, but still nice vanity area and dressing space. 3) like a 2ND MBR... bath almost identical to 1s room, jut a smaller whirlpool bath. This one had sliding glass doors that open out to the patio area... nice to have, but is a little noisy due to canvas over outside dining area whipping in wind. Patio / Garden. Wow. 6-person hot tub that was to die for. Two dining tables... table for 8 under canvas and table for 4 open. Also used steam room (for 2 people) a lot... really great steaming and had dressing area in there. Sitting area with benches and cushioned chairs next to hot tub, and fountain running from side of staircase that leads up to... the sundeck - another wow. This is basically a tennis court-sized AstroTurf area with lots of chaise lounges and tables and overlooks the side of the boat as well as the pool area. None of us could imagine anything better. Seriously. ONLY problem we had was regulation of hot water... both the shower/tubs in the suite areas, as well as the hot tub! Checked it, fixed it, happened again. Would still go back in a split second. As for the food... it was GREAT! We got to have our breakfasts and lunches at Cagney's - can still taste the truffle-oil parmesan fries! The Garden Cafe was terrific for a buffet... and the night of the Chocolate Buffet was decadent. (We got to go early because of room class! NICE!) Le Bistro - tremendous... Salsa's - fabulous... and the Sushi was really fresh. Also loved the Italian restaurant. One night we had 10 lobster-tail dinners bought up for the 6 of us... we ate every last bite... they were perfect! Entertainment, although NCL makes a big deal of it, I thought wasn't the greatest. The magician was awful... the comedic bits saved him! The comedian was funny, but old stuff. Normal cruise-type level. We didn't see 2ND City or the big Bollywood deal, but our friends who saw it gave them the same kind of reviews. Embarkation was a breeze. we borrowed our friends Suburban and drove from Philly to NYC... parked at the dock. While considered a bit pricey ($210 for the week) it wasn't bad to split 3-ways and was really convenient. We took the elevators down to the port and were ushered right in... also payed a $90 corkage fee there at the port (6 bottles) as I can only drink non-sulfite added wines. After we checked in we were ushered into a suite-only area and them met and escorted to our Villa. By the same, debarkation was also great in that we didn't have to be up at the crack of Dawn. We had a nice breakfast at Cagney's (awesome meals there) and were one of the last to leave the ship, about 10am. All in all, I honestly can't imagine a better time on any vacation... totally spoiled us... we're still dreaming of that hot tub! Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
I was on the 9/4-9/11 sailing of the Norwegian Spirit to Bermuda. This is my second time on this ship (first time was in 2006 to the Eastern Caribbean out of New York) so I pretty much knew what to expect from the ship. Instead of going ... Read More
I was on the 9/4-9/11 sailing of the Norwegian Spirit to Bermuda. This is my second time on this ship (first time was in 2006 to the Eastern Caribbean out of New York) so I pretty much knew what to expect from the ship. Instead of going day by day, I am going to break the review down into categories. Background: On this trip were myself (29 years old), my wife (30), and our daughter who is 16 months (well 17 months as of today). This is the fourth NCL cruise for my wife and I, first for our daughter. This is our first time to sail out of Boston. Arrival At The Port: Quite easy. Despite the report from others that you have to get in line with your luggage before getting a porter, this was not the case for us. We showed up a little after 1 and unloaded our bags from the car and were met with a porter who took our bags. Quick and easy. We had a friend drive our car and park it at my office so we did not park at the port. We were then directed inside where we got into the Latitudes line which was quite a bit shorter than the "regular" line. The downstairs of the terminal building was quite hot and stuffy. They really should pipe some AC down there. We checked in and got our keys. We got a chuckle because our daughter's key card had a corner cut indicating she was too young to buy alcohol. Once you check in, you are directed upstairs. This area is air conditioned and it is quite refreshing compared to downstairs. Getting On The Ship: We headed onboard at around 1:50. I love the feeling when you first set foot on the ship. It is like all the stress of the world has been lifted and you are finally on vacation. Upon boarding we were greeted with smiles and cold "champagne". The wife opted for the orange juice that was also available. Since we had the diaper bag and another rather large carry-on we headed right to our cabin to get rid of those before lunch. Upon arrival to deck 11, we were greeted with closed fire doors and a sign that said the cabins would be ready at 2pm. No problem, it was 1:58 at this point and at exactly 2pm they opened the doors. Cabin: We were in a balcony cabin on deck 11. Category BA, cabin 11018. We had stayed a couple doors down on our previous Spirit cruise (11010) so we knew what to expect from the cabin. Since our 2006 cruise, the carpet had been changed and the bedding had been upgraded. There was a "Pack 'n Play" in the room for our daughter. We hadn't requested it but it was there. We brought our own because we figured our daughter would rather have the one she is used to. We asked our steward to remove it and he did right away. Almost immediately we noticed that the balcony door was very hard to open. VERY hard to open. I could open it but my wife barely could. We waited until our first sea day to report the problem because on embarkation reception/guest services is usually busy with various requests. Once reported we were pleased with the response. It almost seemed like this became the number one priority on the ship (even though I am sure it wasn't, it seemed that way). They tried lubricating the door and this did not work. They ended up having to replace the door (yes, apparently they have spare balcony doors onboard) which fixed the problem. I was very impressed by the response! We received several calls to make sure everything was still okay with the door. Even though some work was done to the cabins during the Spirit's latest dry-dock, some things were obviously missed. Much of the tile in the bathroom was discolored or otherwise damaged. Not a huge deal but something cosmetic. Other cabin negatives, I noticed quite a strong sewage smell at times. This isn't something I noticed last time I was on the ship. It wasn't a huge deal but I thought I would mention it because some people seem to have a major problem with odors. And for some reason every time we would shower, the carpet under the wall that was shared with the shower stall would get wet. We didn't notice this until late in the cruise and reported it to guest services. Public Spaces: Absolutely beautiful! I love the Spirit. The Asian decor is understated and elegant. All was just as I remembered it from last time I was on the ship (except for the added cabins, the move of the arcade, and the "Celebrity Disco" changing to a teens area). The Grand Centrum is such an amazing space. Grand, high, airy. Just so nice. The Stardust Theatre has been redone with new seats since my last cruise on Spirit. They are very comfortable. Dining: I noticed that there were very few "little ones" in the main dining rooms. This I imagine (and was confirmed later in the week) is because most with small children opt to dine in the buffet. Our daughter is quite good in public settings and is able to sit still through the longer dining room meals. We did not dine in any of the specialty restaurants. Most of our meals were in the dining room, although later in the week we opted to "buffet it" for dinner because we didn't want to have to do the getting ready for dinner routine (especially after the rocking and rolling on Thursday). The food for the most part was exceptional. All dinner entrees I had were fabulous. The highlight of the week for me was the "Surf and More Surf". It consisted of lobster tail, shrimp, scallops, muscles, and another kind of fish. Lobster tail, which seems to get a lot of chatter here, was available 2 nights in the main dining room on this 7 night cruise. Breakfast was standard breakfast, nothing stood out as being either amazing or terrible. Lunch was a little more hit and miss. For the most part the lunches we ate in the MDR were good. Some missed the mark a little but by no means did I go hungry. The buffet was decent, typical buffet fare. We had a couple breakfasts in the buffet and it seemed my wife always had a hard time getting her eggs done right. This was the case last time we were on the Spirit. In that case, we both got omelets that were WAY under done. This time around she had trouble getting her eggs fried the way she wanted them. We did not have this problem in the MDR which is where we ate most of our breakfasts. Buffet lunch was fine and the few dinners toward the end of the week we had at the buffet were decent as well. The one little surprise at dinner time was the shrimp cocktail. These are large shrimp unlike the baby shrimp cocktail which is always available in the MDR. I think the bottom line is you will not go hungry at the buffet but for really good food opt for the MDR. The only other dining venue we ate at was Blue Lagoon. VERY good. Greasy "comfort food" done right. The wings were fabulous. It really wasn't a buffalo sauce. It had a nice sweetness to it with just the right amount of heat. Hard to explain but it was so good. Onboard Activities/Entertainment: I really didn't see or participate in much onboard. It is tough with a 16 month old. You tend to nap when she naps, sleep when she sleeps. The vacation becomes more about spending time together and planning around the schedule of our daughter. With that said, I was able to sneak out to see Jane L. Powell aka "The Chocolate Goddess Of Love". I had seen her once before on the Dream and I think she is amazing. Not only does she have a very unique and powerful voice, she is funny and entertaining. When I found out she was on our sailing I knew I would have to find a way to see her show. It did not disappoint. We all were able to see some of the lounge type music onboard but my daughter was in bed by 9 so our options for entertainment were limited. But the extra sleep by napping when she naps and sleeping when she sleeps was great. Under Two Zoo: NCL has organized kids activities/child care for kids 2 and older. For the under 2 set there is the "Under Two Zoo". It is a room at the entrance of the child center which has toys and mats for those under 2 to play (while their parents supervise). Our daughter really enjoyed it. When she was getting restless we would go to "the zoo" and she would have a great time. It was a great help for us because we didn't have to pack a bunch of toys. And while there was rarely any other children in there when we were there, my daughter met a couple of other little ones. Staff: The staff was amazing. They all went out of their way especially when it came to our daughter. She was so spoiled all week long by the attention paid to her by the staff. From those who cleared tables in the buffet all the way to more senior staff, they all seemed to stop to pay her some attention. She was treated like a princess for the week. All who met her remembered her name. This made the trip so special not just for our daughter but for my wife and I as well. Our interaction with the staff was just as pleasant. This cruise it felt like they took more time to make sure everything was alright. They were very attentive in the dining venues and I didn't pass one member of the staff anywhere on the ship that didn't wish me a good morning, or afternoon, or evening. Or ask how the cruise was going. The two stewards who were in charge of our room did an amazing job all week. We had an incident with a sippy cup spill at 9 one night and our steward immediately changed our sheets (all with a smile). My daughter loved the towel animals. She loved ripping them apart even more (they didn't last more than 5 seconds). Shopping: Shopping onboard consisted of your standard duty free items, jewelry, the ever popular Bijoux Terner (everything $10), gift shop type stuff and photos. I bought some booze from the duty free and the pricing is great. 1 liter of Crown Royal and 1 liter of Tanqueray for $34 total. $17 a liter is quite a bargain. We also bought some photos. 8x10s were $24.95 each. On the last sea day from 6pm-10pm they had a special where if you buy 4 at regular price, you can buy 2 more for $5 each. Yes, I know the photos onboard are overpriced (some might call them a rip-off). We bought them though. We usually don't, but the formal shots came out so good and it was our first cruise with our daughter. Weather/Sea Conditions: The ride to Bermuda was so smooth. I usually get a little sea sick the first day at sea but this was not the case with this cruise. It was just so smooth and calm. Weather in Bermuda was gorgeous the entire time we were there. On the way back it got rough on Thursday morning and that is when I started feeling not so good. Wife was also a little "green". But the rocking and rolling didn't seem to phase our daughter one bit. She went on like nothing at all was different than it had been days before. Bermuda: My wife and I had been to Bermuda before. It was for only part of a day though. This time we were hoping to check out more of the island. That didn't happen....but that's ok. We ended up spending most of our time around the dockyard venturing over to Snorkel Park to use the beach. It isn't a great beach. Not very big, obviously trucked in sand. But it is very calm, very clear water, and there is an abundance of fish. If you are looking to hit a close beach, it works. Health Concerns: Like on previous cruises they remind you about norovirus and to report any "issues" immediately. Unlike previous cruises they also included information about the H1N1 flu. As usual, there are hand sanitizers everywhere and they spray your hands as you get on the vessel. Cruising With A Toddler: If you are cruising with an under 2 year old I have some advice: take the Freestyle Daily and rip it up. Really, you aren't going to be a doing a ton that doesn't revolve around the kid. And that is alright if you know what you are getting into. I see a lot of posts on here asking if it is wise to take a baby on a cruise. At least based on our experience the answer would be YES. If you get onboard expecting to have a cruise like you had before you had kids and expect to do a bunch of activities you might be disappointed. But going in we knew this would be like no other cruise before. Very little casino, pretty much no drinking, no evening shows. And with all that we didn't get to do, this was still the best vacation ever. It was so amazing to see the cruise through the eyes of our daughter. My wife and I made so many memories...most likely our daughter won't remember much if anything about the cruise but she had a great time. We brought along some things that made cruising with her much easier. For bath time we brought along disposable wash clothes that already have the soap in them. You can use it for body and hair. Also, disposable bibs (called "Bibsters"). Disposable sippy cups also came in handy. We usually aren't big on disposable products (we think they are a waste of money and resources) but in this instance they really came in handy. We brought a small umbrella stroller (which we used off the ship only---our daughter insisted on walking everywhere on the ship). Finally, we bought a travel fan for $4 at Walmart which provided just the right amount of white noise to help with sleeping at night and napping during the day. Conclusion: While very different because of having our 16 month old daughter with us, this was our best cruise to date. NCL really provides an outstanding value and their very well trained and caring staff makes all the difference in the world. No vacation is perfect, and there were small things that we could have let get to us and ruin the cruise. If there is anything that you need taken care of, let someone know. We could have stewed about our balcony being very hard to open but we let someone know and it was fixed right away. I see people letting one or two things ruin their entire vacation. Those working onboard are there to serve you, to make you happy. That is their job. If you want something, don't be afraid to ask. The bottom line is a vacation is what you make of it. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
Our flight from Ohio to Boston was good and at the airport we obtained our bags and jumped in a cab. The cab ride took longer then we thought as people were getting off the ship - $34 with tip. We spoke to a lady who was leaving the ship ... Read More
Our flight from Ohio to Boston was good and at the airport we obtained our bags and jumped in a cab. The cab ride took longer then we thought as people were getting off the ship - $34 with tip. We spoke to a lady who was leaving the ship and she said the trip home was very rough and they spent the last day in their room sea sick. Check in was very fast and once onboard we listened to the band and checked out all the tables with events with extra charges. We went to Raffles for lunch and then snooped around the ship. It was cold outside so we went to the Galaxy and watched as we backed out. Rooms were then ready and we were on the 5th floor with a picture window. Glad we did not have the portal window. We ate all our dinners in the Windows except one night in the Garden Room. They have the same menu. Our server the first night was Locksley Fung from Jamaica. He was great and sang to us. He was hard to understand, but still great. We requested him every night we ate there. We took our dessert back to the room to eat later. Food was really good and just the right portion for us. Since there was such a great selection, we did not feel the need to go to the specialty rest. The next morning we tried to figure out the shower system and found that if you want a hot shower you had no water pressure. If you want a warm shower - you have pressure. It was pretty rocky and glad for the handrail in the shower to hold on to while shaving our legs. Raffles for breakfast (which we did every morning) and met a lady who was visiting her husband who worked on the ship. Off to Cruise Critic Meet and Greet. It was really nice and the following officers came: Hotel Director Sean Wurmhoeringer, Food and Beverage Director Helmut Spitzbart, Guest Service Michelle Fernandez-Taladhay, Executive Housekeeper Tess Naz, Concierge Erika Heim, Executive Chef Barrington Burke and Restaurant Manager Adin Barrett. It was a lot of fun to meet our fellow cruisers. Toni and I were invited to join the Captain for cocktails in the Art Gallery and had a great time. Went to the Not So Newlywed Game and it was funny. Then to casino to play slots. We did this a few times on this cruise and I never heard anyone winning. The next day we pulled into Bermuda and it started to rain as soon as we got off. Thank goodness for rain ponchos - we used them a lot on this island. We stayed at the Dockyard this first day. Went to Second City and then to dinner. Then went to Majority Rules and it was great fun. Then Modal Magic played and they were really good. The only thing was, it was cold in the Galaxy and the waiters started pushing cocktails. They would tap us on the shoulder and tell us not to buy from anyone but them. We had almost full drinks in front of us and still the tapping continued. We finally just left and went to Henry's Pub for Karaoke. It was a blast and this girl Bethany Bistany sang and she was fantastic. She should be a singer!!! We closed the bar down. Bunny towel tonight. Up early the next morning and took the ferry to St. George. Nice town and watched the wench dunking at noon. Bus to Hamilton was fine, but we did not care for Hamilton. Too big. We ate at the Hog Penny and enjoyed seeing the men in their shorts and suite jackets. The bus back to Dockyard was so scary, he knew everyone and kept taking his hands off the wheel and riding right on the back of all people in front of him. After dinner we went to find the festival at the Dockyard and found out they stopped doing it in Aug. Went to Frog and Onion instead. Went to Chocolate Buffet and took it back to our room. Elephant towel tonight. Up early next morning as this was going to be our beach day. Once off the ship it started pouring, we got on the bus at Dockyard marked "special" which only goes to the beaches and back to Dockyard. It poured on the ride there and down the big hill to Horseshoe Bay. We were bound and determined to see the pink sand. Toni is a breast cancer survivor and when she was going through treatment she said she wanted to see pink sand. So there we stood with rain ponchos on when it finally stopped raining we rented chairs. We spent the rest of the day there with just clouds. It was really nice. Monkey and Peacock towel. The next day was spent by the pool. If you want to relax and read, this is not the place to be. Too many distractions. We did the martini tasting and they were just too acidy for my belly. Went to the White Hot party and it was nice. The boat started rocking. The next morning the boat was really rocking and I got pretty sick. Stayed in room all day. Toni did venture out to do some shopping on the boat and she said no one was out and about. She did attend the Taste Of Indian that night and said it was good, but lasted too long. Recap: the boat was very nice and food was good and plentiful. (I gained 6 lbs) The pretzels in the Bier Garden are to die for. The crew of this ship were very nice and helpful. Erica Heim, the Concierge, was fantastic!! If we went to Bermuda again, we would fly there and stay so we would have a better chance of sunny weather. I would recommend the Spirit to anyone. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
This was my 4th cruise on NCL and the most amazing by far. I traveled with my fiance (3rd NCL, 6th total), two close friends (both first cruises) one of their parents (also first cruise), my brother (first cruise) and my parents (6th ... Read More
This was my 4th cruise on NCL and the most amazing by far. I traveled with my fiance (3rd NCL, 6th total), two close friends (both first cruises) one of their parents (also first cruise), my brother (first cruise) and my parents (6th Boston to Bermuda through NCL). We booked two rooms and squeezed 4 into each. Embarkation- Embarkation was quick and easy, they changed the set up which seemed to make it a bit more chaotic and crowded. As we are latitudes members we were expecting to join the special check in line, as it turned out the regular guest check in was moving quicker. One of our party had lost his passport and had no issues checking in with his birth certificate. We checked in at one of the most busy times a bit after 1:00 pm and we were still on within 25 minutes. No problems Rooms- We had both 6567 and 6067 both inside staterooms. It was a bit cramped for 4 people and not much room for luggage to be left out but we made it work and even spent some time just relaxing in the room. At some points we had 8 people in one room. One thing I was a bit surprised by was that there was only one bed that folded down from the wall and the other one was one that slid out from under the bed. It worked and we all slept OK each night. We also learned that to our surprise the chairs also pull out into a bed. In fact the first night we had 5 people sleeping in one of the rooms. Food- The food was pretty good. we tried a few of the specialty restaurants. see below for reviews of each restaurant. We were traveling with a vegetarian and we were all impressed with the number of options she had. In fact in the raffles food court there was a vegetarian section. Windows- the food at windows was just OK, the service was a bit worse on both occasions that I ate here. One of the people in our party really appreciated the cheese pasta dish. Sushi- my fiance and his friend are both big sushi eaters. They went to the sushi restaurant on Saturday first full day at sea, and said it was amazing. The Godzilla roll was perhaps the best sushi they had ever eaten, the ice cream desert was just as good. The Miso soup was extremely hearty compared to the normal Miso soups that we have experienced. Sushi is generally pricey at home so for $15.00 per person it was well worth it. They had hoped to enjoy it once again, but unfortunately time ran out. Blue Lagoon- this is a great idea to have food at any time. There is always that awkward time when you get hungry and nothing is open in between lunch and dinner. They were also very great at giving more than one order of whatever that you wanted. There were a few occasions when the guys in our group went in and ordered 3+ orders of wings and brought them back to the room. Overall the service and quality of the food was great. The spinach and artichoke dip was really good. Raffles- was not much more than expected. You get sick of the same old thing all the time, and it did not spice it up much. I think that the most enjoyed part of raffles was the soft serve ice cream. I think the chef/staff could step up the selection a bit. No real complaints though. Cagney's- AMAZING as expected. Everyone enjoyed their meals. The steaks were great and the cheesecake even better! Entertainment- one word- UNBELIEVABLE!!! As previously stated this is my 4th NCL cruise and the entertainment staff was absolutely amazing even compared to good staff we had in the past. When we left the ship we felt as if we left good friends behind. There was never a dull moment and we looked forward to all activities put on by the crew. The folks that we dealt with alot and really appreciated are Paul Baya (cruise directory), Hamish (assistant cruise director), Louise, Francis, Nikki, and Dan. All of these people made us feel at home and involved. The pub crawl was great and so entertaining, you visit 6 different bars and get 6 different drinks for 25 dollars, we participated in both of these during the week and they were definitely a highlight of the week. We also participated in lots of the game shows, and guest activities. One big change we noticed about this cruise is that they do give away alot of free alcohol for participating in various activities. I really can't say enough about Paul and his staff, I hope to cruise with them again some day! We did have a few small complaints regarding the entertainment. Second city was not as good as seen in the past. The other small complaint we had is that we were looking forward to the adult quest game, and they did not have it. We had been talking it up all week and were dissapointed to find out they did not have it this cruise. Service desk- We had quite a few problems with our room keys not working. All but 2 of us had to turn in our cards and some of us more than once. The other big concern I had with the service desk was the fact that we always tip by ourselves and remove the autogratuity at the end of the cruise as we would rather know that the tip's to the correct people. We were given quite a hard time on this we were told it was not possible and it was required, when it is not. We ended up having this removed after approximately 10 minutes of arguing. We later heard them doing the same thing with someone else telling them it was not possible. This should be removed. Bermuda- This was my 3rd trip to Bermuda and by far the most dissapointing. The Island just doesn't seem the same anymore. The people are still very pleasant as always but the enviroment just doesn't seem the same. Not sure how to explain the details behind it, but its just how we felt after leaving the island. overall, this cruise was the most amazing cruise we have yet to experience. Infact because of this we put a deposit on another one and hope to travel on the NCL EPIC in 2011. 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Sail Date September 2009
Day One: It was a dark and stormy night...oh, wait. That was our last cruise aboard the Norwegian Spirit. No 40-foot seas and 100-mile hour winds on this trip. We would be sailing from Boston with a beautiful and sunny 80-degree ... Read More
Day One: It was a dark and stormy night...oh, wait. That was our last cruise aboard the Norwegian Spirit. No 40-foot seas and 100-mile hour winds on this trip. We would be sailing from Boston with a beautiful and sunny 80-degree day heralding the start of our vacation. This would turn out to be a cruise filled with pleasant surprises, just showing how much the crew and officers on NCL ships wants you to have a great time. A little background. This is our second time sailing the Spirit (the first being a NYC to Bahamas cruise) but our eighth Boston to Bermuda cruise. So we drove to the Black Falcon Terminal in Boston knowing exactly where to go and what to do. Or so we thought. They've switched things up a bit at the pier. You have to get in a line to have the porters take your bags, which I admit I don't care for. I liked the old days better when the porters came to you. Struggling with 5 pieces of luggage by myself while DH parks the car is not easily done. From here everyone heads for security (in the old days you passed through security after checking in). This actually works pretty well and minimized the confusions outside (Latitudes vs. non-Latitudes lines). Once through security we were quickly directed to the Latitudes line, which was about 25% as long as the other line. After waiting for a moment, a person came down the line asking for gold, platinum, and suite guests. We followed her and found ourselves in a line only 5 deep. Excellent! We were quickly checked in and directed to the concierge lounge to pick up our key cards. Our concierge, Erika Heim, greeted us right away, and explained her services to us. We made dinner reservations with her for that first night (Shogun, the Asian restaurant) and for the Enchanted Dinner. The Enchanted Dinner is currently only offered on the Spirit. We'd read about it on Cruise Critic and decided to try it ourselves after seeing the rave reviews. Seating is limited, however, so make those reservations early! (More detail about that to follow.) Start to finish, I'd say it took us about 35 minutes to get through security, check in, and find ourselves sipping sparkling wine on the Promenade deck. After a relaxing lunch at Cagney's we re-acquainted ourselves with this beautiful ship. All of the Asian dEcor is understated and lovely. The central atrium area is airy with glass elevators whisking passengers to their destinations. I think the aft of this ship is a great use of space. A great pool area is available for the kids (similar to the Dawn) with slides and hot tubs and stadium style seating for perfect for watching your kids or the enjoying the wake of the ship. There is also a bar and tables reminiscent of the Great Outdoors on the Jewel class ships. A nice blend of the best of both worlds. The Spirit doesn't boast a Tex-Mex restaurant, but otherwise offers you all of the dining options of NCL's other ships. We returned to our stateroom about a half an hour before the boat drill and found all of our luggage waiting. I don't think we've ever received it that quickly before. So we unpacked while enjoying our pre-muster champagne (a little family tradition). Our muster drill was held on the Promenade deck. It was pretty hot but we were able to find some shade as our station was in the far aft of the ship. We'd arranged with some of our fellow Cruise Critics to meet at Raffles bar for sail away. As the Spirit backs away from the pier before turning around in the harbor, this was the perfect vantage point. Despite the fact that we'd been on the Spirit before, we had never been to Shogun. That the Spirit was built in Asia is showcased in this beautiful restaurant. A kimono-garbed waitress gave us our menus and filled our water glasses adding to the ambiance. The food in Shogun was as good as we've had in the Asian Fusion restaurants in any ship. I opted for the Kung Pao chicken for the first time and could see why they label it a favorite. Yum! Erika stopped by to see how everything was going and we found out that she'd just arrived at the Spirit that morning. The way she hit the ground running I would never have guessed that she was shaking off the cobwebs of vacation. We caught a bit of the first night's show. I have to admit that we left in the middle of comedian David Naster's act, as we just didn't find him funny. Any time a comedian has to say "Thank you for getting that" each time someone laughs at his joke, you know he isn't all that amusing... at least that's how I felt! Back in our cabin we'd found that the rooms stewards had taken care of our cabin and had added ice to our cooler (which we brought because the Spirit doesn't have refrigerators) without our asking. Great service and a pleasant surprise! Day two: First mission of the day after a scrumptious breakfast at Cagney's (I'd never had the banana-infused hotcakes before...delish!) was the Cruise Critic meet and greet. I'd ended up organizing it and was a little nervous as this was my first time as organizer. I needn't have been worried at all. I called the ship's Group Services Coordinator, Bruce van Der Boon and knew immediately that I was in good hands. Bruce is a bundle of energy, funny, and knows just how to put you at ease. Plus over 30 people from the roll call turned up, calming the fear that we'd have more ship's crew than cruisers! My second mission was to talk to Sean Wurmhoeringer, the Hotel Director about setting up a private martini clinic for our Cruise Critics. I remembered Sean from my first time sailing the Gem, during her inaugural season, when he'd been the Food and Beverage Director. He had been more than willing to set up a martini clinic for us on that sailing, and I was hoping he'd be willing to do so again since so many of us had expressed interest on our roll call. Well, that led to another surprise. Sean actually remembered me from the Gem and gave me a big hug when he saw me. How on earth he could remember me is beyond me. Just demonstrates Sean's amazing attention to detail. We chatted for a few minutes before he brought his staff in and said a few words to our group. Sean brought all of the senior people that reported to him from the Food and Beverage Director, the Restaurant Manager, the Concierge, to the Executive Housekeeper. He gave out everyone's phone numbers (including his own) and meant every word when he told us to call any of them if we needed anything. They keep these phones on themselves day and night and are really there if you need them. All of the really good HD's do this. They want to know of any problems you may have while you're still on the ship and they have a chance to correct them. On the way out, Sean told me that he'd set up as many martini clinics as we'd like and that we'd talk later. I wondered when "later" was going to be until I returned to my stateroom and found the invitation to the Captain's cocktail party there. It was to be held in the Art Gallery, which was an area of the ship that I'd missed the first time I'd sailed the Spirit (it's on deck "7 ½" forward above the casino on the port side). I don't know why this always sneaks up on me. The party is always the evening of the first sea day and I always make dinner reservations that conflict. So I called Erika to change our reservation and she says, "Oh, I was just going to call you! I was going over the dinner reservations and saw that yours was the same time as the party. I moved your reservation to 7:45." Wow. She is good. The cocktail party was great. All of the senior staff were there including the Captain of course. The Spa Manager is a smart cookie. She set up a hot rock massage area for a free demonstration (on the arms only). We were traveling with friends and the husband had no interest in trying this. So the lady who was "selling the concept" set her sights on him. Next thing I know he's in the chair with both the masseuse and the "sales woman" working on each arm. (He and his wife both booked massages before the evening ended!) We confirmed the martini clinic with Sean for Wednesday at 3:00 (we would come to find that when Sean says "Done" he means it!). We also talked about the Enchanted dinner that would be held in the Art Gallery on Monday evening. He said that they got the idea when a customer wanted to have a private party for a group of 35. The Spirit doesn't really have a bar or restaurant area to accommodate such a request. They came up with the idea to use the Art Gallery, which is a dedicated space of about 3,000 square feet, unique to the Spirit. The party went so well that they were inspired to invent the Enchanted Dinner. Dinner that evening was at La Trattoria. I have to admit that on my previous cruise on the Spirit I hadn't gone to this restaurant. I somehow thought that the food would be lacking since it's really just a cordoned off area of the buffet. However, Cruise Critic reviews of this restaurant were fantastic so we gave it a go. First of all, they really do a great job of closing off this area. Once inside you feel as though you're in a very nice, intimate restaurant. Secondly, fellow cruisers were right. The food was really, really good. (More impressive to me when I found out later in the cruise that the Spirit was built without any kitchen space in the buffet. All of the meals have to be cooked in the sixth floor kitchens and brought up by elevator or created on hot plates. It's amazing what they can do with this logistical constraint!) This was a pretty late dinner for us, so after a donation in the casino at the craps table we called it a night. Tomorrow Bermuda! Day Three: Bermuda was in our sights, so we decided to grab breakfast at the buffet where we could sit outside and watch our slow approach to our favorite island (we weren't scheduled to dock until 10:30). The Eggs to Order station is great. I ordered a ham and cheese omelet while DH had eggs over easy. We grabbed other items from the wide range offered at the many stations of the buffet (anything from fruit to biscuits and sausage gravy). Watching our approach we were a little wistful as we approached the Town Cut that would lead to St. George, Gates Fort, Fort St. Catherine, and the spot where the Club Med used to be. Turning the corner you have a glimpse of Tobacco Bay before continuing on toward Dockyard. Staying at Dockyard just doesn't have the atmosphere of St. George. We'd considered taking the ferry to St. George, but being that we were in Bermuda over a holiday weekend, we'd only have regular bus/ferry service on Tuesday. Therefore we figured to head out to Warwick Long Bay (and the Swizzle Inn!) on that day. St. George would have to wait until next time. Erika had invited us to meet her at Henry's Pub for an early escort off of the ship. This was a pleasant surprise, as I know that not all concierges offer this service. Additionally, as we're docked in Bermuda for a full three days I hadn't thought it would be offered. As we wanted to head straight to Snorkel Park (before it got too crowded) we took her up on her offer. There was a bit of a delay in the ship being cleared. We'd expected to be cleared by 11:00 but it wasn't until around 11:30 that we were allowed off of the ship. Finally, we stepped onto Bermuda and boy was it HOT! Not a whisper of breeze, either. The water was definitely going to feel good! Well, here was our first bad surprise...Snorkel Park wasn't open! We waited around in the sweltering sun until noon and it still didn't open (we finally found out that it wouldn't open until 1:00). I understand that it's Sunday and understand that there are customs to be followed but especially in this economy, I'd think they'd take advantage of the cruise ship's arrival. Especially as all other areas of Dockyard where open, and in fact a gentleman at the end of the pier was directing everyone to the Snorkel Park. Well, we're flexible, so we walked around the Craft Market for a bit (mostly to cool off I have to admit) and then had lunch at the Frog and Onion (we realized that it would be very difficult to get back on the ship for lunch with everyone else trying to get off). The Frog and Onion offers basic "pub grub" and good portions. Beware of the sticker shock if it's your first time in Bermuda. Four sandwiches and 3 sodas cost a little over $80 (including tip). This isn't news to us, but thought I should mention it as the price of things in Bermuda can be an unwelcome surprise. Back to the Snorkel Park. Compared to the other beaches we've been to in Bermuda, I found this one to be disappointing (another poor surprise). I wasn't expecting the famous pink sands or anything magnificent, but I was expecting clean! All of the beaches we've been to in Bermuda have been spotless, including this one as of last October. This year it was littered with bits of trash and cigarette butts. Extremely disappointing, but we weren't going anywhere else at this point (especially with the limited transportation schedule). Enough about that. We shook off the bad mojo and rented chairs ($10 per chair for the day) and set out to snorkel. The water was warm (a good 85 degrees)...almost too warm for people wanting to really cool off. But not for me as I'm a big sissy about cold water! There was an abundance of fish in the area, easily seen even without snorkel gear. DH thinks he found the reason for all of the fish...he swam outside the reef and saw a big ol' barracuda parked out there. So with plenty of fish spotted and an ice-cold daiquiri in hand, we enjoyed the day. Back at the ship, our friends decided that they wanted to go to LeBistro for dinner and asked us to join them. They were worried about getting last minute reservations, but I thought that being that we were in port it shouldn't be a problem. Sure enough, we got our 7 o'clock reservation easily. (In fact the only specialty restaurant that we dined at that was full was La Trattoria, but there, seating is very limited.) LeBistro remains our favorite restaurant on any of the NCL ships. The food and service are always excellent. We all ordered the escargot and I was relieved to see it was the "regular" recipe. (On the Pearl the escargot had some sort of a pastry topping that, although good, didn't compare to the original.) I had the filet mignon, which was as perfect as always, DH went for the lamb chops, and we all saved a little room for dessert (crème brulee...YUM!). The show this evening was the Second City, so we decided to check that out as it's always a good time. There were some things repeated from other shows we'd seen, but plenty new to keep us entertained. Particularly like their version of the "Massachusetts driving test" which, of course, included being able to put on make-up while driving among other "necessary" skills. The end was hilarious when the audience gave three words that had to be acted out to two of the cast members for them to guess. They about killed themselves acting out (and guessing) the word avuncular. So our first steamy day in Bermuda drew to a close. Tomorrow, steamy day number two and the much-anticipated Enchanted Dinner! Day Four: After breakfast we got off of the ship and walked around. Yup it was another very hot, windless day, but this time the Snorkel Park was open (and it wasn't even 10:00). We walked over to the mall really just to see what was there and what was open. Being that this was Bermuda's Labour Day, we'd been told that all of St. George and Hamilton were pretty much closed. Well, all of the businesses at Dockyard were open, so for those traveling to Bermuda during a holiday, rest assured that you won't be left completely high and dry. Our friends expressed interest in taking a snorkel excursion. I enthusiastically encouraged DH to join them as he loves snorkeling and I had idiotically gotten sunburned the day before. Staying in the cool comfort of the ship sounded perfect to me. We went back to the ship, and found that the excursion booth was closed, but you could by tickets from a machine. You simply inserted your room key, picked the excursion you were interested in, it told you how many spots were left, and you chose how many tickets you wanted to purchase. I'd never seen the ticket machine before because if we've booked excursions through NCL, we've always done so online before the cruise. I thought it was pretty clever. The excursion wasn't until 2:00, so DH gathered what he wanted to bring and we went for a light lunch. After they left I went to the spa to see if there were any openings (reasoning that as we were in port there could be), but of the things I was interested in, they were booked. Oh, well, it was worth a shot. I walked around the ship for a bit, and then went back to our cabin to relax and read. Eventually I cleaned up for dinner and ordered a snack from room service for DH figuring he'd be hungry from snorkeling. DH returned from the Barrier Reef Snorkel a little after 5:00. The excursion took place aboard the Consort with Captain Ronnie at the helm. DH said that the captain is a true "Onion" who comes from a line of lighthouse keepers. In fact his father was the keeper at St. David's Lighthouse at one time. The Captain kept up a good commentary during their voyage, including mentioning that Bermudians truly love their holidays and "celebrate" to such an extent that it often takes the island a week to get back on schedule. DH enjoyed snorkeling over the Barrier Reefs that speared from a depth of 50 feet up to just 18 inches below the waters surface. He thought the different varieties of coral that they got to see were cool, but found that he didn't see any varieties of fish that he hadn't seen snorkeling from the shore. On the return from the reef, they stopped over the wreck of the HMS Vixon to feed the fish. Apparently hundreds of fish live in the wreck and start following the boats when they show up knowing that they're going to get fed. As it was Labour Day, the bakeries were closed, so instead of feeding the fish bread, which was usual, they used cat food. DH said it was amazing to see the surface of the sea boiling with fish as they fed. As soon as the boat left, the fish all darted back into the sanctuary of the wreck. Another thing he noted was the cash bar. Not a complaint, but we've never done an excursion on an island where they didn't offer at least one complimentary rum punch. All in all, he thought the main reason to do this excursion was because it was a holiday. In 9 trips to Bermuda, this is the first time any of us has gone on an excursion because we find it generally unnecessary. We were going to skip meeting for a drink before dinner because we knew that we'd be served plenty of wine at the Enchanted Dinner. However, in my perusal of the Freestyle Daily I found that premium martinis were 20% off at Maharini's Nightclub. As the nightclub was below where we wanted to be for dinner, we thought this was perfect. After a martini each, up to dinner we went. I want to pause here to mention a couple of things. I already mentioned how the Enchanted Dinner came about, but I didn't mention Sean's pride in what they were doing there. The response had been so tremendous, that they'd rolled out another culinary experience, "The Taste of India". Sean was particularly enthusiastic about this new experiment. It had occurred to them that some of the finest chefs on board were from India and here was an opportunity to showcase their talents. Sean would ask us a few times over the length of the cruise to try this, but it never worked into our schedule. On our last cruise, the HD, Denis Prguda had said that he thought that NCL was going to start letting the individual ships shake thing up a bit food-wise and I think what we're seeing on the Spirit is evidence of that. I defy anyone traveling on any of the major cruise lines to find food on the level that we found on the Spirit. I love that NCL, always the innovator, constantly experiments and strives to improve their product. On to the Enchanted Dinner. First I have to say we're idiots because none of us thought to bring a camera. The candle-lit tables scattered about the Art Gallery created a beautiful setting. Before we got started, Executive Chef Barrington Burke stopped by each table, sharing his excitement about this menu. He'd been allowed free reign and had not only created the menu, but had actually cooked our meal. Here was a surprise. Although I was expecting a great meal (at $65 per person) I never thought that the Executive Chef for the ship would personally be cooking our meal. He also said he was constantly tweaking things so not to be surprised if something arrived that wasn't on the menu. It was obviously great fun for the chef to get his creative juices flowing and his hands dirty. The only "off-note" of the entire meal was the wine served with the first course. It was an asti that was simply too sweet for the shrimp it was paired up with. Art Manager Chris said they had just tried it for the first time with our meal and that they normally serve a Prosecco. Well, we'll give them points for experimentation, and note that for the rest of the meal, the wines were paired beautifully. There are three appetizers served and you are encouraged to try them all. Of course if there is something that you simply do not want to try, you only need to tell your waiter. The first course was a salad with jumbo shrimp and a grape seed oil dressing. Delicious. Next was a Finnish Salmon Cream, which turned out to be a flavorful cream broth with chunks of salmon floating in it. Next were boneless frog legs in a garlic Chablis sauce. I have to say this was wonderful. I won't say that the frog tasted like chicken, because in fact it was even milder tasting, and seemed to absorb the flavors of whatever is was cooked in. A very delicate, succulent, appetizer. Chef Burke then threw in a new spin and sent out a sorbet to cleanse the palate that he enhanced with a shot of Limoncello that he personally poured onto the sorbet at tableside. This was a nice way to move onto the main course. I'd ordered the filet mignon and DH had ordered the Lobster "Termidor Style". The filet mignon was probably the best cut of beef I'd ever had. Melt-in-your-mouth tender, but bursting with flavor uncharacteristic of most tenderloin and served on a bed of a to-die-for mushroom sauce. DH's lobster was Maine lobster (although we think frozen) just swimming in cream. What's not to like? Dessert was a "Chocolate Avalanche" paired with Baileys served in a dark chocolate cup. Warm and delicious and not too sweet, this was the perfect ending to the meal. A nice surprise was that we each received a "free piece of art" for attending the dinner. After nearly three hours of decadent dining was the Chocoholic Buffet. Ugh. Erika had invited us to go up early for a photo op before the buffet was opened to the general public. Waddling around in our food coma, the food looked lovely, but not remotely tempting. Sean was there and kept trying to get us to try something, but it simply wasn't possible (and we did mention to him at another time that maybe the Enchanted Dinner shouldn't be the same night as the Chocoholic Buffet). Chef Burke was there and we thanked him profusely for a fantastic meal. His answering grin was evidence of the pride he's taking with this meal (and rightfully so). Day Five: Today was another hot day in Bermuda and a lazy day. After two days of snorkeling in the sun, DH didn't feel like hitting the beach. Warwick Long Bay would wait until next time (my sunburn rejoiced!). The guys had brought along fishing gear, so after breakfast they headed out to fish off of the pier (DH said the girl at security asked him on the way back why he had a frog in his bag and he had to explain that is was a lure!). I walked out with them so that I could do a little shopping. I checked out the pharmacy that had opened since our last visit in October. It is large and has a good selection of items to meet your needs. It also boasts a decent selection of souvenirs (naturally) and a small deli counter that sells sandwiches and coffee. (I'm sure it sells more than that, but that's what I noticed at first glance.) The mall has a number of shops ranging from t-shirt shops to an art gallery, jewelry store and a high-end purse shop has replaced the Swiss Connection, which was the Internet cafe (you can find Internet access at the Frog and Onion and at the new visitor's center). The best thing about the mall is that it's blessedly cool and offers a respite from the Bermuda sun! Across from the mall, on the water, is a small convenience store and I went there with the mission of buying some Perrier. It's the only place that I've found at Dockyard that sells sparkling water. We always bring some with us when we board the ship, but look for places to replenish the supply when we're in port. Keeps the weight down in the luggage! On the way back from my exciting water purchase, I stopped in the visitor's center to see what it offered. You can of course buy transportation passes (which you can also buy at both Heritage and King's Wharfs), they have the aforementioned Internet cafe and a small supply of souvenirs and water and soda. For the first time in numerous cruises, security actually asked to see my bottles of water, thinking I'd bought wine. I showed the bottles and a girl at the end of the x-ray machine asked what was the difference between my water and theirs (she gestured to the ice-cold bottles of water they had available for sale). I just responded that my water had bubbles...I didn't mention that it was also half the price! After the guys were done fishing (and had caught a few "aquarium" fish) it was time to head to the Swizzle Inn. I'd read elsewhere that it was about $40 each way to the Swizzle via taxi. Since we normally spend $20 pp for a 2-day bus pass, the four of us opted for the non-stop service of a cab. Taxis are lined up at the end of the pier so it was simple enough to hire one. It was a slow day for the cabbies though. Ours told us that she'd been there for an hour and a half before we showed up, and she'd figured we were just stopping to ask a question. It took about 30 minutes to arrive at the Swizzle Inn. We immediately (and stupidly) found a table outside. Without a breeze stirring the air, we were soon sweating despite being in the shade (for reasons I don't understand, it never occurred to us to move inside...tradition, I guess). It didn't stop us from have a jug per couple along with conch fritters and cheese fries! (Actually my friend's DH and I split an additional half jug of rum swizzle...the Swizzle Inn makes the best!) DH wanted a new t-shirt so I shopped the Swagger Out gift shop (air conditioned, thankfully!) while waiting for our taxi to arrive. The shop is much smaller than the shop at the original Swizzle Inn at Bailey's Bay, but they met our needs. We'd all agreed to take the night off from sumptuous dining and hit the buffet for dinner. Erika called while we were in our cabin to check on our dinner plans for the evening (she'd noticed that we didn't have reservations). We told her we were going to lie low that evening, but would love to return to Shogun the next night. It's so nice to have these details taken care of for you without having to think about it! DH and I weren't yet hungry for dinner, so we stopped in for the 7:30 magic show. Richard Burr and his wife Josette, were a talented and entertaining couple. We enjoyed about a half hour of their show before going to the buffet for a light dinner. Just enough dinner consumed and a small soft-serve ice cream cone in hand we walked around the pool deck looking for something to do. We must have hit things at an in between time, but finally found Mario Blanco playing in Henry's Pub and the Yankees game on the tube. We enjoyed listening to Mario play Jimmy Buffet, the Beatles, etc while rooting against the Yankees. Day Six: This was going to be a busy day. We had breakfast at Cagney's then went for a long walk on the Promenade deck. At 1:00 was the Silver, Gold, and Platinum Latitudes Party. It was a cheese and wine party rather than the typical party with passed appetizers and cocktails. The party was at the Galaxy of the Stars and probably the least entertaining one we've attended. The cheese table was a help yourself affair tucked in a corner well away from the guests (and out of our line of sight). Also, I only saw two officers chatting with the guests. They were Bruce, the Group Services Coordinator, and our new favorite concierge, Erika. While there, our friends expressed an interest in dining at Shogun that night, and I told them Erika had already hooked us up. At 2:30 we returned to the Galaxy of the Stars to watch the talk on the Epic. We figured (correctly) that we wouldn't learn anything we hadn't gleaned for ourselves online, but had some time to kill before our 3:00 martini clinic at Champagne Charlie's. The talk did remind me to purchase a cruise rewards certificate though! I thought the turnout for our clinic was pretty good. Only five of the people from our roll call did not show up (and one of those had been a "maybe" anyway). We were surprised to find that it was the bar manager giving our clinic (I apologize for not getting his name). He didn't mix the drinks, but gave us a detailed history of the martini, spirits and cocktails in general. He also did a trick, pouring about ten martinis at once to show he still had his chops! (I noticed that the clinic following ours did not have nearly this much flare.) We had an excellent time trying the five martinis served (I actually enjoyed the vodka martini, a first for me) and had an even better time talking with our fellow cruise critics. Everyone seemed to be enjoying their time on the Spirit. We lingered until about 6:00 and realized that we really needed to get ready for dinner. We decided it was more a matter of changing shoes than clothes, which left us time to have a drink at Raffles Terrace. Probably not a good idea to have mojitos after the martini clinic, but they were cool and refreshing. At dinner I ordered a bottle of Prosecco to try. We all like sparkling wine with Asian food and after the Art Manager had recommended it, we thought we'd give it a try. We had a winner. The Prosecco was a smooth, balanced wine that went well with all of our meals. I went back to my old fallback the sweet and sour pork. It's so much better than the sweet and sour they serve in restaurants back home! After dinner we hit the casino and I'm happy to report that DH took back his donation to the craps table and came away a little ahead. By now it was almost 11:00 and I'd hit the wall. DH was rarin' to go however and went to the White Hot Party at Galaxy of the Stars while I went to bed. DH said the White Hot Party was fun and everyone seemed to be having a great time. Cruise Director, Paul Baya was dressed in resplendent garb ala Elton John. HD Sean was also present, but stuck to wearing his uniform. ? Day Seven: Mother Nature gave me a wake-up call at 3:30 am. The ship was rockin' and rollin' and the door to our balcony had slid open a bit and was whistlin' up a storm. Got up, shut balcony door, locked it this time, went back to bed and tried to sleep. Storm outside increased its force, and the ship added a shudder here and there to top off the rolling. The Captain later confirmed that we were going through a Force 9 storm with 12-16 foot seas and 50+ mph winds. Seems we can sail the Spirit without passing through a bit of a storm. By mid-afternoon, the waves had subsided, but the ship was still rolling as the winds were broadsiding us at 40+ mph. But I'm getting ahead of myself. We went to the buffet for a quick breakfast and ran into Sean. We had a nice conversation about cruise ship life and his upcoming vacation (he leaves on September 25th). He brought up the Indian dinner again and we expressed regret that we couldn't make it. He asked what our dinner plans were that night and we told him we'd just hit the buffet since we had packing to do. He paused and asked "Would you like to try some of the Indian food?", a few more questions followed (what time we like to eat, etc) and next thing I know he's telling us to show up at the Garden restaurant at 7:00. Surprise! I called our friends' stateroom and left a message letting them know about our new dinner plans and to confirm what time we were going to meet in Henry's. Packing begins (boo!), we walk around the ship, then go to Henry's for our last listen to Mario. We arrive at the Garden Restaurant not knowing what to expect. People are in line, being given pagers, and when I approach the podium I say, "I believe we have a reservation." I provide our cabin number and, of course we did. We were quickly led to a table for four and there was a bit of confusion as we weren't given menus. Then a keen eyed waiter noticed we didn't have menus and brought them. When our waitress appeared to take our order we had to explain that the HD had set something up for us. All I can say is if you have a chance to try the Taste of India on the Spirit, do not hesitate! My past experience with Indian cuisine has been okay. I can take it or leave it. The wife of the couple we were sailing with had only one experience with Indian food and she hated it (but was there to be a good sport). The "meal" began when the waitress brought out a drink composed of yogurt and a fresh mango puree. This was beautifully presented in a champagne flute with a mango garnish and a swirl of raspberry in the glass for a pop of color. A delicious and soothing drink (and I don't even like mango). Then the food began to arrive. OMG. This was the best food ever. Appetizers that were some sort of dough filled with potato inside one type and a spicy filling in the other and fried to perfection. We sampled multiple types of curry chicken and lamb. Had a soup that was a vegetarian broth with a lentil base that was simply amazing. I don't think I've ever experienced such an explosion of flavors from something so seemingly simple. More curries came out (chicken and fish this time), a delicious vegetarian rice, a sauce with a leek base and a potato filled flat bread. Dessert was a warm rice pudding and almond toasts in a buttery saffron sauce (how the toast managed to retain a crunch in the center is beyond me). The Executive Sous Chef, Baiju Ravindran, was kind enough to come out and explain to us what we'd enjoyed and the methods of preparation. His excitement at being able to create these dishes was contagious. I'm so grateful to him and to Sean that we were able to have this spectacular meal. All of us agreed that the meal was fantastic and there was not one element that we did not enjoy. Back to reality. It was time to finish packing and begin our farewell to the Spirit. At least we had some football to watch since they were broadcasting the opening game of the NFL season. Day Eight: Two surprises...one pleasant, one not so much. The not so much one was that it was 61 degrees and overcast when we arrived in Boston. Yuck! Where was my Bermuda sunshine? Good surprise, the Dawn was backing in right behind us. We've now seen the Dawn more times in port than we've actually sailed her. A final buffet breakfast...a final check of the cabin to make sure nothing had been left behind, then it was off to meet Erika one last time. I can't say enough about Erika. She really made our cruise a delight. We were pleasantly surprised to find Sean standing on the Promenade deck wishing the departing passengers well. After another profuse thanks on our part for a great cruise and a final handshake, our cards were swiped the final time and we followed the ramp down to our luggage. Each time I think that NCL can't get any better is does. They have real jewels with Sean and Erika and the rest of the Spirit crew. We hope to sail with them both again soon! Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
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