I have to start by saying that when we were trying to decide what to do for vacation this year, we started by thinking it would be a “land” vacation. But it didn’t take long to decide it was cruise time again. We had such a blast last year that we knew we wanted to do it again. So the search was on…
My husband’s first cruise was last year with the Epic. Even though I had cruised off and on since the 80’s, I guess I started him out big. LOL I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy to top that cruise. I only had 1 week out of the year that I was going to be able to vacation and we knew we wanted to do the western Caribbean, so the only choice that came up was for the Spirit. After reading so many excellent reviews about the Spirit, I knew we had made a good decision (even if it was made for us).
Arriving at the port of NOLA
to board was A BREEZE! I thought the Epic and Miami did a wonderful job of getting us on the ship quickly…the people at NOLA and the Spirit topped that tremendously. I could not believe how quickly we were on board.
The Grand Centrum
entrance was spectacular! Now that’s what I remember cruise ships being like when you entered them. They gave you that “wow” factor. It was 5 stories tall, 3 glass elevators and a beautiful lit up stairway leading up to the next floor. The waterfalls were beautiful in the Grand Centrum. This was all something that I truly missed on the Epic!
We immediately decided to explore the ship a little and make our way to have some lunch. We ate at the buffet at Raffles up on the 10th floor, which hit the spot, and then they were already announcing that our rooms were ready for us. Wow, that was quick! It was about 1:15pm when they were available. We found our room. Hmmm, I thought upon opening the door that it was a little strangely designed. So, I’ll start off with my “room report”.
We book the interior room
because we like to save money in any way we can…more to spend on the ship and in the ports. We are hardly ever in there other than to sleep and shower, so why not. The design of the interior room was less than what I expected. Previously on cruises when you walk in, to one side is the bathroom and at the end of the room is the bed. As soon as you opened up the door, the door hit the bed and you were walking right into it. It was decorated ok, but could use some updating as most already know. It had a couch in it (over in the corner and beside the bed) and in front of that was a vanity with a mirror. This is where you’ll find all the different types of plugs everyone is talking about. To the other side is the storage/closet area. The closet was big enough and had shelves in the corner. But, we decided since there were 3 of us that it would just be easier to keep everything in our luggage and get what we needed out daily. I really feel that if they just moved the bed around with the sofa, the room would seem so much bigger. You would be able to walk in and have room to stand instead of maneuvering around a bed to get to things. This room was (I believe) 145 sq ft. We stayed in a studio last year, which was only 100 sq ft and it seemed WAY bigger than this one because of the layout.
Ok, on to the bathroom
. It was decorated cute with the little ships on the tiles, but I didn’t think it was very clean. The grout was darkened in areas all over and the walls in the bathroom were a little dirty with something on them. I got tired of starring at it and decided to see if it was a permanent stain or just dirty and wipe it off. It came off. Hmmm. It came well equipped with the soap and shampoo dispenser in the shower and the hanging line for wet clothes. Everyone complained that they didn’t like the new design of the bathrooms on the Epic and the glass doors, well; I don’t see a difference really. There was a shower with a glass door on one side in the bathroom and a toilet area with a glass door on the other side. The sink was in between. So, essentially if someone was in the shower and someone needed to use the restroom, you still have a glass door there to be seen. Bathrooms were never an issue with me with either of these ships. Just saying…
Our room steward
was nice and always spoke (but this has always been the case with any NCL personnel on the ship that we came across). I did ask that he leave 1 extra towel in the room for me to use for my hair because we only had 3 towels and there were 3 in the room. He was happy to do so. The only time he didn’t…and I’m not sure why, is the last night were he only left a total of 2 towels????
We got a towel animal every night after the first night (and excluding the last night) where I was told by fellow cruisers on our roll call that some only got them twice. Maybe it was because we had our daughter, maybe not.
Another thing I noticed this time around was you could feel the swaying of the ship. I remember these days with the smaller ships of the swaying and getting off the ship to find that you are still feeling like you are rocking. With the Epic, we didn’t feel any of that and only felt movement when we were pulling up against the dock with the vibration. The weird part was, I was always use to rocking back and forth, but I think since our beds were in the direction they were, we ended up feeling like we were rocking from front to back instead of side to side. LOL No big deal, the rocking sensation was gone after about 3 days of being home.
Around the ship…you could tell that she was not brand new, but these people work so hard at keeping her cleaned up. Just like the Epic, as soon as you put something down, someone is there to swipe it up and clean it for the next person. Clean, clean, clean. When it comes to keeping a ship as spotless as possible, NCL staff do it up right!
One gripe I (well my husband) did have was for some reason still unknown to us, outside Raffles dining, they had the side of the ship doors blocked off to go in on the left where the men’s restroom was. You had to go in the opposite side of the ship and walk around. I’m not sure why this was only on this deck. We ate a lot up there and just thought it was weird that it was always blocked off from entering the dining area there.
There were places around the ship that you could clearly tell that needed a fresh coat of paint or redone, but it never stopped our fun of course. We were just use to seeing everyone painting and clear coating the handrails several times during our cruise on the Epic. The handrails here hand worn off the clear coat and we only noticed because we had witnessed them on our prior cruise working so hard to keep it looking brand new (of course because it was brand new). We did see a painter on the outside of the ship on the scaffold painting one day (as I was eating lunch, he zoomed by me startling me). LOL One thing that I do have to complain about is they did not keep the windows on the outside of the ship very clean. When we got on the ship, they were not clean and during the cruise, they were not clean. All the salt on them made it hard to take pictures (like from the Galaxy of the Stars in the front of the ship) and I guess I expected a little more in that area of cleaning.
Upon exploring, we managed to find only 1 tv screen that showed where we were at during any given time. It wasn’t in a public place with a lot of traffic. I found that odd. I really enjoyed having it on our screen in our room last year and figured they would have this somewhere that would be obvious and it wasn’t. I also miss being able to view your on board account from the room, but asking the staff at the front desk (which was never busy) to print you up one was easy.
We did go down the little winding stairway to the Captains area from the Galaxy of the Stars and found that area to be really neat. I took pictures of the making of the Spirit (Super Star Leo) to share with everyone. That’s one thing I had never seen in all the pictures of the Spirit.
We ended up buying 2 future cruise certificates and the lady at the desk was extremely nice. However, we were talking about the new ships coming out and she said that they were going to start booking at the end of the year??? From all the talk on cc, we understood it was going to be October. So, I’m not sure now.
, I really didn’t see any “great” deals going on that interested me like we did on the Epic. The jewelry was very expensive compared to last year and we just couldn’t find a deal that struck our fancy like last year. I did end up getting a tee shirt that says Spirit on it for me and one Del Sol Spirit shirt for my daughter. The best deal that I found was for a Spirit scrapbook with all the trimmings along with the matching photo book. I loved it and for all the stuff we got in the package (which included tons of pictures as well) for a great deal of only $34 (I think it was). I also got a free 8x10 photo of the ship with all the ports for the simple fact that I noticed that it was WRONG on the picture. The way that we visit each port was wrong and the guy at the photo shop said that he had never noticed that and gave me a free picture because of it. LOL Ok, I’ll take it.
-for the most part, I thought the food was good. We eat a lot at the buffet because we are not really picky and I like the thought of seeing the food I’m eating prior to eating, along with eating as much as you’d like…(insert big smiley face here). I didn’t discover the crepe area until about the 3rd night (which I love) and we had to hunt down someone to make it for me. It did not taste the same as last year. I don’t think they cooked it long enough and it was very doughy still. They also did not have the huge selection that the Epic did for fillings or toppings. Kind of a disappointment for me. I attempted it one more time during the cruise and the cook did not know how to make them. He burned the first and the second time he just made a mess with holes everywhere in it. But, it was ok. We were joking and laughing about it the entire time. He was a good sport about it and he cracked me up. The only thing I ate that I can say just was NOT good at all was their stir-fry/Asian food in the buffet. Everything else was great. We knew that eating time was going to be an issue with our 3 year old and soon discovered that it was. We quickly discovered a method that worked for us. Breakfast we would sit at a certain table (so it because familiar to her and only had one instance that someone was sitting there and my daughter looked at him like he needed to move LOL). But it was outside of Ruffles. We would sit down, I would go in and get my daughters breakfast, and then we would take turns getting ours. This worked out well. It seem to be the only time it worked though. We quickly learn to take her to the kids program to play while we dined for dinner or lunch and then bring her back her favorites to the room to eat. We would pick her up, let her eat in the room, then she would beg to go back to the kids program for a few hours. It worked for us.
The only specialty restaurant
that we ended up going to was the night they had the Taste of India. One word describes this night of feast…heaven! It was SO good. They had 20 dishes that they serve you and we only found 2 that I didn’t care for and 1 that my husband didn’t like. It is a MUST DO! For the price ($15) you can’t beat it! It was the first time I had ever had Indian food and now it won’t be the last! We wanted to do the Teppanyaki, but it was always full for the times we needed.
After a very long day and picking up my little one from the kids center (she was asleep) my husband stayed back at the room with her while I went to the chocolate buffet
the night it was offered. WOW, what a display. I’m not a chocolate person, but brought stuff back for the hubby to try out. I went mainly for the pictures and could not believe how beautiful it was…and VERY crowded. There are a lot of chocolate fans out there! Hehe
-my daughter begged to go to the kids club all the time and when we picked her up, she begged to go back. These people are the best! Especially CROC, who has been with NCL for 3 years I believe and has worked on a lot of ships. I believe he has a double degree in something to do with children and he was wonderful. The activities they have every day and night for the children are just amazing. My daughter came home with a bunch of things they made and they were always painting her face to correspond to what they were doing that day. She loved it. They even took them to Windows one night for dining. Always something planned and I highly recommend it to anyone with children.
Buccaneer Kids Pool
area-Something that has been debated on here for a while and I found to be interesting while we were there. I was worried about them letting me in the pool with our little one and some said they would not because it was limited to 12 and under, others said don’t worry about it. Well maybe it was just my cruise, but there were parents in the pool, going down the slides with their children and having a great time. ALSO, there were tons of parents in the pool with their infant children IN DIAPERS…which is a no-no and there was never anything said to them. I wasn’t aware when I was looking at the pictures for that area prior to going that the hot tub was for kids as well??? At least that’s what it was used for when we were there (along with the parents). All the things to play on at the pool were really neat. The ship is actually a tunnel to climb in and you can go up on the top of it and squirt/control the water coming from the canon on it into the water. My daughter loved that.
Tivoli Swimming pool
-we never once witnessed any chair hogging. Maybe it was the time of day we were there (which varied), but ALWAYS seen chairs available. In my pictures you will see that there was plenty of seating available no matter which deck you were on. We would go out there and hang out, take pictures and so on…but did most of our swimming later in the evening and there would either be only 1 or 2 people in there or none. It was nice. We always found a spot in the hot tub (there were 4 at the Tivoli) and that made it nice.
-we went around trying to find some of the games that people on cc had told us were good to play and didn’t have too much luck finding anything other than the monkey and fish game. It was about the 4th night that I had finally discovered “my game”! It was always winning when I played it and it would keep you going for hours if you stayed there long enough. Now that’s my kind of game! I like the video looking games that have the bonus rounds with all the sounds making you sound like you just hit the jackpot. LOL If anyone is interested, this game was (when you walk in) to the left all the way at the end wall on the left. It was about the 4th or 5th one down and it is one of two games (that I’m aware of) that has multiple games on it. Hit the “more games” button and find the CAVE KING! That was the best! I won some pretty good money on it and it kept me playing all the time. Of course the Gold Fish games were always hitting pretty good as well and I did well on it (but there are only 2 of them). My husband played a Penguin game (that was 2 down from the Goldfish) and did really well on it too. We ended up doing pretty good on the slots. We used our slot plays coupons (and from the look of the huge stack they had at the desk, everyone has discovered this site as well) and we also used our NCL slot play coupons too. Extra slot plays for free and a chance to win just thrills me. Hehe
We went to see the magician, which we really didn’t care for and ended up walking out before the show was over. The show experience for us was a little weird on all the shows. They are really trying to sell you stuff, which was odd during a show. I also didn’t like their use of the movies during the show (and this was all the shows we attended). The magician came out and did a trick, then went behind the stage and they showed a movie of him…doing his tricks, so that when he came back out, he did the same tricks you had just watched on the screen. ???? It was almost pointless to stay when we had already seen it and it really wasn’t anything that gave me the “wow” factor. They also try to sell you videos and stuff on “how to do his tricks” and there is a lot of advertisement during the show, which I didn’t like.
The Russian couple was excellent and really amazed me (especially the wife). They did show a movie with them as well, but it wasn’t as bad because it told a little about them and their history. They also tried to sell you stuff during the show and at the end.
We went to see the Comedian, now he was a hoot. We really enjoyed his show, but then again I like comedians and love anything that involves laughter.
I don’t think we went to any of the other shows. We kinda played things by ear with our daughter and what she wanted to do and of course we had to attend only the shows that we were able to if she could go to the kids program during those times (which they stop the program at 10:30pm every night unless you want to pay $6.00/hr after that). We knew this was going to be more of a relaxing vacation while on the ship instead of packed with shows every day and something to do (like the Epic was) prior to leaving. So, this was ok with us. More time to sit on the deck watching the sunset, enjoying each other’s company and a drink, swimming, or playing in the casino. No problem. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. (Although sad that we did miss the White Hot party and would have paid for sitting that night, however, they make the mistake of having it on a night prior to the next port day when you have to get up early in the morning. I feel this needs adjusted to a different night).
The one thing we did different this time is not pay our account
by cash. I don’t use credit cards and I’m one that plans to a tee…usually to the last penny if possible for our vacations every year. I make spread sheets, I research for months and months and know exactly what we are doing, how much it is going to cost and have envelopes for each day/activity. I believe in paying for everything I can upfront if it’s possible so there is less to deal with while on vacation. One of the mistakes I made this time was paying for our DSC prior to going and also buying our Soda package prior to going. We had a good amount of free OBC from our TA and I wasn’t thinking at the time that I paid for these items prior to leaving that I should have just used the OBC for this. So needless to say, we ended up drinking more than what we had intended. LOL We were also going to use cash to establish our OBC, but at the last moment, we used my husband’s paypal card (which is linked to his bank account) instead. They did put the $300 hold on it from the beginning. In the end, we probably should have went down and settled our account with cash, but decided to just let them charge the card and not worry about it. When we got home, we discovered that they not only charged the account for the full amount, but there was another charge that was made on the Friday that we were on the ship for $129+. We have no idea what that is about and still need to call to see what is going on. We did not charge anything for $129, our balance was not $129 and even had we charged anything for that amount, it would have been on our on board account and part of the total bill at the end. So, I will go back to doing the cash thing next time again. I just don’t like the issues with the cards and I’ve read some real horror stories about them.
Getting off the ship was a breeze, just like getting on. We always do our own carry off and can leave at any time. They announced that those wanting to do carry off was welcome to leave around 7 something. I want to say 7:45 or maybe even earlier. We were still eating breakfast at the time. There was no hold up getting off or in customs. Wow, simple as can be! Plenty of cabs waiting to take you to the airport. I know everyone says to make sure you book your air flight sometime after noon just in case…just we always seem to be waiting around at the airport for about 3-4 hours with nothing to do. This isn’t the greatest thing after coming off a beautiful ship and vacation…and especially with a child. I will book earlier flights from now on!
I know I’ve probably missed a ton of things I wanted to say, but I’ve been working a week on trying to complete all my reviews, just started back to school this quarter on Wednesday and tomorrow is my first day back to work since vacation…so, if I think of anything, I’ll add it later. Anyone that may have any questions please let me know and I’ll try to answer them if I know it.
We had a wonderful vacation and always make the most of it. We are happy, upbeat people that don’t let much bring us down on vacation, even if we have a bad encounter (or the daughter has a mental breakdown). LOL We brush it off and continue with the fun. NCL does not let us down. The staff is friendly and makes it a memorable experience each time. I feel that they go out of their way to speak and accommodate you in any way that they can. They are first class. The Spirit is a beautiful ship and we loved the Asian décor. Yes, she has some wear on her, but she is the oldest of the NCL family. I can see why so many people on cc cruise on her over and over. It will be interesting to see what they do when she is in dry dock.
Now, it’s time to figure out which ship we will want to try next year (thinking a cruise to either Bermuda or Southern Caribbean). Then let the stalking of the new 2013 ship begin! NCL…release those itineraries already!!! I’m ready to book!