Norwegian Spirit Entertainment & Activities
Norwegian Spirit offers an impressive number of bars, lounges and entertainment venues.
The sexy Maharini's Lounge & Nightclub, which is accessed only through the casino, has an Indian-influenced decor with fancy chandeliers, velvet curtains and plush daybeds with pillows. It feels like a V.I.P. room in a South Beach Club, and a D.J. spins tunes there nightly.
Another fun space is the traditional, English-style Henry's Pub. (Yes, there are darts.) Henry's is a much better spot to watch sporting events on TV than the cheesy Shanghai sports bar near Blue Lagoon, which looks like an afterthought. At night, go to Henry's for folk music; the Shanghai Bar's main attractions are the seven private karaoke rooms for guests who want to sing along without a big crowd.
Elsewhere at night, Champagne Charlie's has live music (usually a piano player/singer), and the sound delightfully drifts throughout the atrium.
Galaxy of the Stars on Deck 12 is the ship's observation lounge and is a real winner, offering views from floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides. Its padded window seats are the perfect spot to sit and stare mindlessly at the sea (that is, if no activities like Bingo are going on in the space at the time). Blue carpeting and ship models in cases highlight the lounge's nautical theme. A bandstand and dance floor in the center of the large space get a good workout at night, and the lounge's large bar is the place for singles to meet and greet.
Editor's note: For some goofy fun, head down the steps at the front of Galaxy of the Stars, and snap a photo as you pretend to steer the ship via the captain's wheel that's positioned there. For the real deal, head down the circular stairway, and you can peer through a glass window at the Captain and officers on the bridge. You'll also find a small display of items the ship has acquired at its various ports of call, including plaques and artifacts.
The oversized Maharajah's casino sees lots of action, day and night, with its huge array of slots and tables, including blackjack, roulette, three-card poker, Caribbean Stud Poker, Let it Ride Bonus, Texas Hold 'Em and Craps. Baccarat and other specialty tables are available on request. Gaming areas are also located off the pool deck and in Galaxy of the Stars, but they're mostly focused on video poker and blackjack machines.
NCL is known for its colorful, lively production shows, and on this ship, they are performed by a team of singers and dancers in a real, classic theater. The recently renovated Stardust Theater, with its plush red-velvet seating and opera-house ambience, is one of the prettiest show lounges at sea. Two decks create a slant and great sightlines in the main section, but sit in the balcony on Deck 8 if you think you might want to leave early. (Otherwise, you need to walk to the front of the theater in front of everyone.) In addition to the show productions, the theater hosts visiting performers and is the venue for the highly popular International Crew Show. The resident Second City improvisational theater troupe does a couple of performances there too, encouraging audience participation. They also do an R-rated, late-night show in the Galaxy of the Stars lounge one night.
During the day, the activities crew hosts trivia contests, sports activities and frequent Bingo rounds. Lottery tickets are also proffered throughout the cruise. Game shows like the Not So Newlywed Game and The Perfect Couple -- all a tiny bit risque and geared toward adults (think PG, rather than R) -- are also fun.
Art auctions by Park West pack folks into the art gallery, which is hidden away above the casino. Frequent come-ons of free Champagne may be part of the draw.
On my Bermuda cruise, dozens of shore excursions were on offer each day, from beach transfers ($26) to twilight snorkel adventures ($56), SCUBA lessons ($164) and deep-sea fishing excursions ($260). Golfers will delight in a chance to play on some of the island's famous courses, such as Port Royal, Ocean View, Fairmont Southampton Princess, Belmont Hills, Riddells Bay or Tuckers Point (from $95 to $261 for 18 holes). One of the most creative tours is the Bermuda Triangle Night Glass-Bottom Boat tour, which ventures into the notorious waters, with the boat's lights illuminating the coral and fish and the crew sharing tales of disasters (spooky!). Prices are reasonable; most tours are less than $100 with many $60 or less. Often, the tours have discounted prices for kids, 12 and younger.
Norwegian Spirit Public Rooms
The ship's Grand Centrum atrium area is sure to elicit "ah's." The six-deck space -- with its waterfalls, black marble floor and grand staircase that rises to Palladian windows -- is a hub for social interaction. Sit in The Cafe coffee shop with a latte or with a glass of bubbly at Champagne Charlie's, and watch the shipboard world go by. The entertainment team makes good use of the space; it seems like there's always a piano player performing near the waterfall or at Charlie's, and on some cruises, an a cappella group will have people crowding the atrium's multiple levels to sing along to Harry Belafonte's "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)."
The oceanview library doubles as the Internet Cafe. Though it has a few shelves of books, the computers, which unusually face the ocean, are the real attraction. Note: When there is an event in the nearby Galaxy of the Stars lounge, this is not a quiet place to be.
Internet rates start at 95 cents a minute for the pay-per-minute option; special packages can bring the price down a touch (100 minutes for $85 or 250 minutes for $129), and some promotions give you free Bingo cards with an Internet package. The ship also has wireless access (for the same fee) in the library and some -- but not all -- public spaces, including the pool deck and atrium.
The ship's shops include a Colombian Emerald jewelry outpost and venues with the usual selection of duty-free alcohol, cigarettes, trinkets and logo wear. Special sales are also held frequently in the lower level of the atrium.
The medical center is located on Deck 4. Conference rooms are located on Deck 8, as are the photo shop and gallery.
Norwegian Spirit Spa & Fitness
At Norwegian Spirit's recently rehabbed main pool, tent-like white canvas awnings provide shade for those who want it, though there are plenty of open sunning spaces too. The aft pool is the ship's family hot spot with its pirate-themed water park, complete with slides and squirting cannons that elicit squeals of delight from young revelers. (For quieter sunning, head to the front of the ship on Deck 13.) For those who don't mind public relaxation, four popular, large hot tubs surround the main pool.
The main pool works for laps if you get there in the early morning, but in the spa, you'll also find an indoor, heated swim-against-the-current pool with two lanes. The gym is small but has ocean views and is well-equipped with treadmills and bikes that face floor-to-ceiling windows. Weights occupy one corner, and there's a small, mirrored area for fitness classes (fitness classes levy an additional fee of $10 to $15).
The Roman-themed Mandara Spa is operated by Steiner of London and has separate changing rooms, relaxation areas, steam rooms and saunas for men and women. While men have a cozy indoor space as a relaxation room, women get a more expansive space with large windows that offer portside views. What's funny there is that the rooms were reversed when the ship landed in the U.S.; in Asia, it's the men who are more used to pampering.
Spa treatments feature Elemis and La Therapie products and include hot-stone massages and toning body wraps. Teeth-whitening and acupuncture are among the offerings, and Botox is served up by a visiting doctor. Regular massages run about $120. (Look for specials in the ship's daily newsletter.)
A delightful feature of Norwegian Spirit is a real wooden promenade that wraps around the entire ship on Deck 7. That's something you rarely see these days, and this one has both shuffleboard and a few traditional wooden deck chairs for lounging, as well as some tables and chairs for card-playing or enjoying drinks. It's also a nirvana for walkers. Uniquely, venues on the Promenade Deck, including the Shogun Asian restaurant and Henry's Pub, have store-like marquees fronting the wooden deck (although the real entrances are inside). When walking the promenade, you'll feel like you're on a street -- maybe in Singapore?
For joggers, there's a track up on Deck 13, near the net-enclosed basketball court. Six times around equals a mile. Nearby are four cages for driving golf balls; head to Deck 11 for Ping-Pong.
Norwegian Spirit For Kids
The ship's Splash Academy on Deck 10 is a standout. More like day camp than daycare, the large center is divided into several rooms, each with a purpose and each age appropriate (6 months - 3 years, with parent, 3-5, 5-9, 10-12). Well-trained staff act as camp counselors for the kids. An activity room for younger children utilizes climbing tubes and tunnels, a ball crawl and lots of soft toys, all in bright primary colors; it even has a space with toys that's reserved for parents and toddlers to play together. Other kid-friendly spaces include an outdoor activity area and crafts section, as well as an indoor area with computers and Nintendo Wii.
Buccaneer's Wet and Wild is a pirate-themed water park that kids adore. It's got a pool that's surrounded by caves and a mountain, two small water slides that require entry through a tunnel, pirate's cannons that shoot water and even a children's hot tub. An amphitheater with views over the whole scene allows parents to sit and watch their kids play while enjoying a drink from the Raffles bar.
The center does not charge for daytime use, and toddlers in diapers are welcome, but only while their parents are onboard; parents are given beepers and are notified when their children need to be changed. Group baby-sitting is offered late at night (10:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.) and when the ship is in port (so parents can go ashore). The cost is $6 per child, per hour, and $4 per hour, per each additional sibling in the immediate family.
Teens hang out in their own space in the Celebrity Disco on Deck 13, which is only accessible from the outdoor deck. The teen lounge is decorated with video screens and features a juice bar, foosball, air hockey and, of course, computers and a Nintendo Wii. A large video arcade, geared toward teens, is located on the Promenade Deck (Deck 7).