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cruisingfromMN

Spirit 2/27/05 Review: Day One

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Let me begin by saying we had a wonderful time on this trip. We loved the Spirit and the crew. A little background on us is that we normally travel with our two children and my in-laws. This time it was just my husband and myself looking for alone time. It had been 8 years since we traveled by ourselves. We are 44 and 45 years old, love to travel and always did land based vacations until 1997 when we cruised on NCL Dream (then Dreamward) for the first time. Since then we have done both cruises and land based trips but are very much hooked on cruising. This was our fifth cruise, first time on the Spirit and thankfully with this cruise over, we have to look forward to sailing on the Star this summer to Alaska. We have always booked direct with NCL and all but one time we have booked our own air. We have enjoyed standard balcony rooms or mini-suites. Our typical land vacation is generally mid to higher end properties. This is my first review on Cruise Critic and I intend on doing it day by day and hope that I can be as helpful to others as I have found everyone here to be so helpful to us. I hope I don't bore you completely!

 

Travel Day: We left Minneapolis on a NWA flight at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday, the day before cruising. When booking our own air, we always arrive at least a day in advance to avoid any potential problems. Especially flying out of MPLS, we have a risk of bad weather. Thankfully, all was well this day and we left on time and arrived in Miami on time. We had booked with Hilton online several weeks in advance. They offered a stay and cruise package that included transfer from the airport to hotel, breakfast and then transfer to the port the next day. Initially, they published it for $199.00 but by the time we booked it had dropped to $189.00. A week after booking it dropped to $179.00. Thus, we thought not bad, canceled and rebooked. However, while the stay there was o.k., there were a few problems which started at the airport. The shuttle van is suppose to run every 15 minutes. After waiting for 35 minutes we called the hotel and we were assured that the van should be arriving any moment. After waiting an additional 20 minutes called again to be told it was on its way. Finally arrived after waiting for 60 minutes in the rain but thankfully under cover so at least we weren’t wet. Check in began to make things worse after we had to prove that we were on the stay and cruise package, and that breakfast should be included. Finally, got breakfast vouchers. When we asked on the shuttle he said, “we don’t offer shuttle service, you will have to check with your cruise company”. We pushed the issue further and he said we should check with the bellman in the morning. Got to our room just after 1:00 a.m. Next morning we found out there was shuttle service and that it would leave at 12:00. We were told to be ready at 11:45. However, no one seemed to know how anything worked and we waited and waited. Finally left to arrive to the port at 1:00. Here is where everything gets SO much better.

 

Day One: Every time we have cruised, when I first see the ship, I am overcome with feelings of gratitude and awe. I am thrilled and after 5 cruises, I still have this feeling of wow, we are very fortunate. We own our business, work hard, plan hard and when it all starts coming together at ship arrival, I am simply struck down for a few moments. There was the Spirit… she looked great… no better than that… FANTASTIC. Got off the shuttle fully realizing that NCL had published a desired arrival time at 4:00. It was only a bit after 1:00 but we had planned on dropping off our luggage and going to Bayside Marketplace to spend the afternoon, provided the ship was not ready. We were properly greeted by an NCL representative, left the luggage and got on a free NCL shuttle over to Bayside. We were informed that they would start boarding at 3:00 and the first shuttle back from the shopping center would be at 3:00. Bayside is a nice area, typical for tourists. We did the necessary killing time by shopping, listening to music and relaxing in the partly sunny skies. If you are interested in cheap trinket like souvenirs, on the second floor of the center is a dollar store. There we purchased the requested magnet for our 12 year old and the requested key chain for our 7 year old and both were a $1.00 each. This would be our cheapest purchase on the whole trip! Good start.

 

As promised, the first shuttle to the ship was at 3:00 and we were on it. Arrived back to find extremely long lines for general boarding. The line was inside building #10 and ran outside, down the sidewalk, along the building. No problem for us since we are Latitude Members as there was no waiting. We simply walked in the door by the Latitude Sign. Once inside, we were greeted and saw no waiting for either Latitudes or Suite/VIP Guests. Since we were in a Penthouse, we were shown to the proper window. There we were greeted by Claudio our Concierge. Little did we know from that point on, we would be well treated by him, our Butler Arnie and our Room Stewards, Caroline and Ferdinane. This was our first Penthouse experience and we don’t know how we will ever cruise again without one. Everything was PERFECT! Claudio whisked us through check in and to the front of the Security line. We literally were on the ship within 5 minutes. No escort to the room, but that’s o.k. The ship is easy to navigate and clear directions were given when we showed our card key.

 

Upon opening the door to Penthouse 10018, we were overwhelmed! It was beautiful and exceeded our expectations. I had tears in my eyes...my dream of a Penthouse was here! Waiting for us was, Champaign on ice, a plate of shrimp, caviar and other unidentified items, a lovely bowl of fruit, an even prettier arrangement of flowers. In addition, there were several greeting letters from various Officers from the ship and Captain. Already, we were beginning to feel that this trip would be special. The room was exceptional, gorgeous, very clean and well laid out. No disappointments at all. The only strange thing we would comment on is that there is only one chair on the balcony. There is a built in “table” that someone could sit on but we thought it odd for only one chair. None the less, everything else was spectacular.

 

We immediately opened the Champaign and began to enjoy it along with the plate of goodies. We were in heaven and immediately called several people to say we had arrived! Our parents had been sharing our pre-planning enthusiasm for the Penthouse experience so they were the first on the list. For those unfamiliar with the AC Penthouse there is a dining table which seats four, a complete bar with every type of barware, refrigerator, coffee maker, cups, saucers, linen napkins, spoons, creamer; sitting area with love seat, coffee table, two chairs, full size TV, DVD, floor plant, floor lamp; bedroom with king size bed, dressing area, nice closet; small vanity area, another vanity area with two sinks, whirlpool tub, separate shower, and separated toilet area. Lots of great storage, well laid out closet with padded hangers as well as wooden ones, two safes, two phones. I could go on and on. Bottom line, it was beautiful. Oh, did I mention the lovely French toiletries of soap, shampoo, bubble bath, lotions and such, a very nice touch!

 

While celebrating our arrival, Arnie our Butler would stop by to introduce himself. Later, Claudio stopped by. Each described what services they were there to offer and assurances they wanted us to call for any need we might have. Our first need was reservations in Le Bistro. First night and come to find out each night thereafter the reservations up to 6:30 are two for one. Since we planned on eating a lot in the Specialty restaurants, we decided that we would like to take advantage of a 6:30 reduced charge. Claudio quickly confirmed. However, when at 6:00 our luggage had not arrived, I called him and explained and he rescheduled for 7:30. Luggage arrived at 7:10. Claudio called at 7:15 to ensure that we had received. A quick change of clothes and a freshen up and off to Le Bistro we go. Le Bistro has never been a disappointment on any ship and we greatly look forward to it. The Spirit, Taipan Bistro was no exception. We both had the Filet with Bearnaise, I had Escargot, DH had Asparagus, both had French Onion Soup, Caesar Salad, and we topped it off with sharing cheesecake and the Chocolate Fondue. All of this, we had been looking forward to since our last cruise on the Star and it was a great way to celebrate sail-a-way. All was excellent and cooked to order. I highly recommend Le Bistro at least once a sailing!!! The atmosphere is a bit strange… French Mediterranean cooking with Asian décor but somehow it works. We both felt the atmosphere is not as romantic as Le Bistro on the Star but we still loved it and would dine there again later in the week. After our dinner, we proceeded to explore the ship. As you probably have read on other threads, this sailing was the “Animal House at Sea” due to 1000 or so college kids on spring break. I am going to do my best on this review to not provide the great ugly details as so much has been adequately said on another thread. Instead, I would like to provide a review which indicates our overall pleasure with this cruise and give due justice to NCL for providing us, despite the spring breakers, a wonderful vacation. That being said, we felt it necessary to retire to our room at 10:30 p.m. due to the kids, their antics, poor behavior and drunken state. The halls were a mess but with a Penthouse, we had a lovely place to return to. We promptly filled the Whirlpool, put on Andrea Bocelli’s CD, Romanza for our listening pleasure and relaxed. We looked at each other and said is this really us?

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:) What a GREAT REVIEW!!! You make me want to make the Spirit our next NCL cruise to plan for!!! When you said "...I had tears in my eyes....", WOW!!! Your happiness was very vivid, it makes me want to see the Spirit as soon as we can!!!

Do you think that staying in a "Penthouse" category cabin made/helped your cruise even MORE special then it would have been say, if you were in a "regular" cabin???

Why I ask is because, next month on the Dawn we will be staying in an "AB Penthouse", which I hear is a fantastic cabin to stay in. We were lucky enough to be upgraded to it last month.

So, you would reccomend the Spirit highly??? Is it very pretty? Do you have any pictures??

You said there was champagne waiting for you in your room, did you request that? Did you have a "Romance or Anniversary Package"? Why I ask, is because if was Part of the Penthouse service, I wonder if we will get champagne too? And if we do, can I request "Sparkling Cider" instead, because my DH and DD don't drink.... I WILL have to look into this...

Thank's again for such a HAPPY review!!

 

Suesan:):):)

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:) What a GREAT REVIEW!!! You make me want to make the Spirit our next NCL cruise to plan for!!! When you said "...I had tears in my eyes....", WOW!!! Your happiness was very vivid, it makes me want to see the Spirit as soon as we can!!!

Do you think that staying in a "Penthouse" category cabin made/helped your cruise even MORE special then it would have been say, if you were in a "regular" cabin???

Why I ask is because, next month on the Dawn we will be staying in an "AB Penthouse", which I hear is a fantastic cabin to stay in. We were lucky enough to be upgraded to it last month.

So, you would reccomend the Spirit highly??? Is it very pretty? Do you have any pictures??

You said there was champagne waiting for you in your room, did you request that? Did you have a "Romance or Anniversary Package"? Why I ask, is because if was Part of the Penthouse service, I wonder if we will get champagne too? And if we do, can I request "Sparkling Cider" instead, because my DH and DD don't drink.... I WILL have to look into this...

Thank's again for such a HAPPY review!!

 

Suesan:):):)

 

Thank you Suesan for your kind words. Let me see if I can answer your questions.

 

We would HIGHLY recommend the Spirit. We thought she was a beautiful ship, well maintained and fun/interesting to experience the Asian decor. The crew seemed happy, friendly and accomodating. The layout was easy to navigate and public areas were very nice. Shopping is quite limited compared to other ships, but somehow we still managed to drop alot of dollars in the Jewelry store!!

 

We will have pictures in a few days and I plan on uploading them for viewing. We took one entire roll just on the Penthouse alone. Every evening, we took pictures of the appetizers. I hope they turnout well as I had Cruise Critic people in mind when I was taking them all.

 

Trying to answer your question on whether the Penthouse made the trip even MORE special. Tough to answer because there were so many factors that made this trip great. But definitely, staying in a Penthouse was huge piece of it and a dream come true for us. The service was exceptional and there is something so special by walking around the ship and crew members that we did not know, had not come in contact with, but they would recognize us by name. We still can't figure that one out! Factors related to the Penthouse was the beautiful room and the service that went with it. We often wondered whether having a Penthouse on the Spirit is somehow more special than perhaps on the Star or Dawn. Keep in mind, there are so very few Penthouses on the Spirit. With so few, is the crew able to provide even more customized service. I don't know but would welcome input from anyone who has done both.

 

Yes, the Champagne was waiting in our room and I am certain you could request ahead of time something non-alcoholic. I am certain you will receive the same amenities as we did. We thought about purchasing the Romance/Anniversary Package but are relieved we did not. Every evening, an appetizer would arrive delivered by the Butler, we already had the champagne upon arrival so it seems it would have been duplicated. Our opinion is that the Romance Package is a great value for mini-suites on down. Just our input, I'm sure their are others who might feel differently.

 

I know you will love your Penthouse. We are trying to figure out how to get one for our upcoming Star to Alaska Cruise. Hope I have helped to answer your questions.

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I have to tell you this is one of the best reviews I've read yet. Looking forward to the continuation. I will tell you that I'm so excited I could nearly wet my pants waiting to go on the Spirit next month after reading your comments. YEAHHHH!!!

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Love your review! Can't wait to hear more. You have wonderful writing skills, which make me feel like I am there with you. Please keep the installments coming! :)

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What can I say? You put the spirit of The Spirit into your beautifully written review. My husband and I have cruised twice in our lives: this past July to Alaska on The Spirit and the February 27 cruise to the Caribbean on The Spirit.

 

We had a mini-suite on the Alaska cruise and a penthouse this past cruise. Both times I had to keep "pinching" myself. The service, the beautiful decor, the food, the variety of fun things to do - I just love this ship.

 

You are right to concentrate on the positive because the NCL Spirit crew members work so very hard to give their best to every passenger. Thank you for capturing the excitement of the first day. You really are a gifted writer. Am looking forward to the next installment.

 

Sandpebbles

 

P.S. Darn it!! I'm kicking myself. Should have gone to the CC Meeting to meet you!!

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Thank you it was a pleasure to read,and hope to read more in the coming days/weeks prior to our own sailing on the spirit, we are also taking a suite on the 17 day cruise Miami > Los Angeles via the panama canal We hope that we enjoy our cruise as much as you seem to have yours thanking you once again

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This is a great heart-felt review. I know exactly what you mean about seeing the ship and having the WOW factor!

 

We live in Seattle, and during the AK cruise season we drive past the waterfront every Saturday and Sunday and we see the Spirit (on Saturdays) and the Star (on Sundays). Even though I'm not going to be boarding them that day my heart still starts to beat a bit faster, and my neck is stretched far as I try to get every seconds worth of viewing!

 

Later in the day we see them go by Shilshole as they begin their journey north. No matter how many times I've seen it, it's still exciting!

 

But it's even better on the days when WE are the ones boarding the ships! And we'll be doing that again in September, on board the Spirit, which I've never been on.

 

I'm interested in reading the rest of your review - no details to be left out!

 

Hikini:D

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Excellent review and writing thus far. Now, even through I will be taking the 9 day cruise March 18th, I am eagerly awaiting your next 4 day reviews.. Please hurry them out...

 

I think lots of us are waiting....

 

 

Elaine :)

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What a breath of fresh air! It sounds great so far and I am very much looking forward to the rest of your review because I sail on the 5 dy in a couple weeks. :)

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Just wanted to say that I read the first of your reviews and then had to quickly search for the rest of the days - what a joy to read. We cruised the Spirit over Thanksgiving and loved it (and I miss it!!) and would love to cruise in the style that you did on this trip - alone with your husband and in a Penthouse!! How wonderful.

 

I admire the way you chose to ignore the spring breakers and enjoy this trip as you intended. I also met Tony & Rob, the officers, and thought they were the greatest.

 

Thank you for the great reviews!

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Dear Cruisingfrom MN,

 

 

Your review was just what I needed. We just finished a cruise on the Dream on 3/7 and the best way to beat the cruise blues is to book another one!

 

We will be doing a group cruise and taking the family next January on Costa Med. But the hubby and I just got our new NCL credit cards and plan to put our every day purchases to work for us to build up points towards an Alaska Cruise on the Spirit in September.

 

The Sept. cruise will be our fourth cruise, never been to Alaska and never cruised without the responsibilities of children and hosting a large group. So, this will be the honeymoon we never had after almost 19 years together.

 

I thought the kids would rebell since they will be left behind but they all said "Yuck!" when I told them about the Alaska plan.

 

Your review about the Spirit is encouraging. The Dream was a nice older lady of the seas but I am looking forward to something different and more modern and you indicated that the Spirit just might do the trick!

 

I have one quick question as I've never vacationed without the kids...did you feel guilty or miss them? (Mine are plenty old enough to fend for themselves while we're gone, my college age son is 21 and can hold down the fort while we're gone and my youngest is 12)

 

:)

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Dear Cruisingfrom MN,

 

 

Your review was just what I needed. We just finished a cruise on the Dream on 3/7 and the best way to beat the cruise blues is to book another one!

 

We will be doing a group cruise and taking the family next January on Costa Med. But the hubby and I just got our new NCL credit cards and plan to put our every day purchases to work for us to build up points towards an Alaska Cruise on the Spirit in September.

 

The Sept. cruise will be our fourth cruise, never been to Alaska and never cruised without the responsibilities of children and hosting a large group. So, this will be the honeymoon we never had after almost 19 years together.

 

I thought the kids would rebell since they will be left behind but they all said "Yuck!" when I told them about the Alaska plan.

 

Your review about the Spirit is encouraging. The Dream was a nice older lady of the seas but I am looking forward to something different and more modern and you indicated that the Spirit just might do the trick!

 

I have one quick question as I've never vacationed without the kids...did you feel guilty or miss them? (Mine are plenty old enough to fend for themselves while we're gone, my college age son is 21 and can hold down the fort while we're gone and my youngest is 12)

 

:)

 

I am smiling reading your post!

 

My husband had really pushed this trip without the kids (we have a 12 and 7 year old, both girls). The 7 year old we have never left, the 12 year old just once when we were on the Dream in 1997. We have always preferred to bring them, fully enjoying family vacation time. I gradually became convinced that my husband was correct and that we deserved some alone time. I love my children dearly, just like you do but I have to say, this trip was incredibly special because my husband and I were together... ALONE. Did I miss them? YES, but not terribly so. Did I feel guilty? NO.

 

What was their response when we told them we were going? "No fair", but they were semi-teasing (I think).

 

We loved the Spirit and please keep reading my day by day review for my full appreciation of our alone time.

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I am loving this review--I feel like I am there! Thank you so much--it gives me goosebumps because it feels so real. I know exactly what you mean when you first lay eyes on your cruise ship. It is indeed awesome.

 

Keep these babies comin', it's cold up here in NJ! :)

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