My two children and I drove from home to Indianapolis where we parked the vehicle and had a pretty uneventful flight to New Orleans. We arrived and rented a car and drove to the Sheraton on Canal Street. We ate dinner at Grand Isle which was just OK, but had terrific live music in the courtyard. The hotel was exceptionally nice with a wonderful breakfast. I woke up early Saturday morning, got the kid’s moving, ate breakfast, and drove back to the airport to pick up d/h who had arrived from Columbus, OH. We met Melody (mstill) for lunch at Mulates and it was delicious. Around 3 p.m. I returned the cab to Enterprise on Barrone St. and cabbed it back to the hotel. We returned later that night to Mulates for dinner with some of our Roll Call members. I absolutely crave their shrimp and corn bisque ever since.
I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed meeting the people from our roll calls. I could not have hand picked a nicer bunch of people to cruise with. Before I knew it, Sunday morning rolled around and it was time to board the ship. We left the hotel around 10:30 or so and cabbed it to the port. I have never had any issues with embarkation in NOLA. It has always been very easy and efficient. But this time it was different… it was even better. We were directed to the Latitudes line and then to the private lounge area, where we were informed that we were VIPS and given priority embarkation and the opportunity to book specialty dinner reservations for the duration of the cruise if we would like with Jacqueline Collett the Concierge. Ms. Collett did a fantastic job and always made us feel welcome. She worked hard and delivered everything she promised and more. She was very impressive. Everyday we got a treat delivered to the room with a card from one of the Officers or department heads. Even the reception desk sent us goodies and a bottle of wine. We did book Teppanyaki and Shogun at that time. But booked the remainder of the reservations later in the cruise through normal channels and I am pleased to say for the first time since the 24 hour rule went into effect, we had no issues getting reservations at the times we requested. This could have been because the cruise was longer length or perhaps people were unwilling to spend more, I am not sure. But I didn’t see packed restaurants on this cruise too often. I found the service to be excellent in all of the restaurants we dined in. I have never been impressed by Blue Lagoon on our previous NCL cruises. However, on the Spirit this time, we had exceptionally friendly wait staff and kitchen staff who provided excellent prompt service. With regard to service and food quality: We found the service to be very good everywhere we ate. We were not rushed, but it was never slow. Food quality was fine. There were a few items I didn’t care for and it was no problem to simply ask for something else. I never left a table hungry. I really enjoyed the Sushi and Asian Fusion. Cagneys was also very good. Oh and good news!!! They have brought back the Pineapple Boat of fruit with chocolate fondue in LeBistro, I fell in love with and it was just as good as ever!
Our first night on board was a bit of an adventure. We went to bed around 10 or 11 p.m. and sometime between 11:00 and midnight it sounded like a roller coaster was above us. I knew the buffet was up there, but did not expect so much noise since it is typically closed in the wee hours. Sometime around 4:00 a.m. I was still awake from the racket and went up to see what they were doing to generate that degree of noise and found they were pushing trolleys full of dishes and other items that really didn’t seem to make that much noise up there, however, the vibration on the tile and steel floor created an echo chamber in our room below that was very loud. I went back to bed and drifted in and out of sleep the rest of the night. The next morning I went to the shops onboard in search of ear plugs and could not find any. So that night at bedtime the roller coaster started up again and eventually I found myself at the reception desk telling them my tale of woe, and the young lady listened attentively and offered to make a note of it in the log, I understood in my sleep deprived stupor there was little she could do as the work the were doing above our room had to be done and the noise went along with it. So as I was getting ready to retreat to my room, I mentioned to her that they really should sell earplugs on the ship so people could get a good night’s rest if they are unfortunate enough to find their room in a noisy area. All the sudden a light bulb went off and she said oh I have ear plugs here at the desk, how many do you need? (I will resist the urge to be sarcastic here lol) I said well I need one for each ear please ( I did not let this situation ruin my cruise, but it could have if I had to spend two weeks in this room with no sleep). In my mind having ear plugs settled the issue and allowed me to get a good night’s sleep. However the next day a young lady stopped by the cabin and offered us the option of switching cabins, at that point I was satisfied with the earplugs and did not want to pack up all of our stuff and move to a much smaller cabin, BUT I was impressed that they made the offer, that spoke volumes to me. I found out later in the week they had put down mats at night in the buffet to try and curb the sound and it did help.
I cannot bestow enough praise upon Jacqueline the concierge, Wiewek and Arnold our room stewards, Noel Chaves Maitre D, Frank HD, Orhan F&B, the staff in the specialty restaurants (especially Rambo and the guys and gals in Shogun and Cagneys for taking such good care of us. I really appreciated the efforts of Ray Carr CD. He worked hard to take great care of our roll call members, and I felt strongly he was a very kind caring person, even behind the scenes, when he didn’t know anyone was watching him.
The first sea day at 10:00 a.m. was our meet & greet. I was astounded at the terrific turn out from our roll call members, and enjoyed getting to know the officers who were exceptionally approachable and receptive, not to mention very pleasant. I am so glad I got to meet everyone and would love to cruise with any of them again. What a nice bunch of people! At the end of our meeting Ray Carr the CD approached me and said if at all possible he’d like to see if he could arrange a second meet and greet for the members and do it again later in the cruise. He told me he would be in touch later if he could do it. True to his word, Ray called me and put Maureen the group coordinator in touch with me and she set it all up complete with Mimosa’s for our members. I was very happy with the turnout of members and officers/staff who came. It was very nicely done in the Stardust Theatre.
We have cruised on big, and not so big ships, old and new ships, of the 9 of our cruises, this one was our favorite. The only reason I can use to explain it was the people made all the difference. The personal attention we received, the excellent service and lovely roll call members made this an extra special time for d/h and I. Sure the Spirit is older and smaller than most, but they have a marvelous crew that is hard to beat. We were treated exceptionally well and could find few flaws or shortcomings. The few issues we did have were reported and I am pleased to say that every effort was made to resolve them to our satisfaction (with only one exception).
The only unresolved issues I had, was with the Kid’s Crew. I was quite impressed with the Kid’s Crew during the first week and a half and appreciated the expanded services they offered in comparison to our last cruise on the Pearl (the provided more flexible hours on the Spirit). One problem came up when they offered dinner with the Kid’s Club on Lobster Night but failed to inform parents in the 6-9 year old group that they were required to sign up for it the night before. So at 6:00 p.m. kids were showing up to have dinner with the counselors and were turned away with no offer to care for their mistake. Later that night I ran into Noel Chaves and explained why we weren’t able to make it for dinner at 7:15 as was previously planned and discussed with him. He was a bit frustrated because he knew the kids were very disappointed and said if you had only called me, I would have added the children to the Kid’s Crew reservation to accommodate them. I did mention what Noel said to Sugar, Manager of the Kid’s Crew, and her reply was well, “if I called them to change the reservation, I would get into trouble”. This did not show me any earth shattering leadership skills. I was not impressed by her response. There was one other thing in the Kid’s Crew that was somewhat concerning. We utilized late night sitting one night toward the end of the cruise, and came to pick up the children. The door was propped open by a chair (not closed and locked as it should be when children are there) and the trumpet player from the band was in there sitting with my kids and the counselor. Since I had seen him and the counselor together a few times I assumed they were dating, but I felt it was inappropriate for him to be there. I did not approve, since only the Counselors should be with the kids, unless there is a scheduled activity with a guest, like “cookies with the Captain”. If I were to hire a babysitter here in my home, I would not allow them to have their boyfriend over.
One last word regarding the young ladies I saw working the reception desk, especially on the last sea day. They are amazing and true PROFESSIONALS in every sense of the word. They stood there while people lined up waiting their turn to come up and give them a blast. I actually sat and watched person after person come up requesting to have the tips removed from their accounts. I don’t know how the reception staff does it, I would probably either be throwing the loud mouthed abusers overboard, or start laughing uncontrollably when people come up and tell me how bad the service was, that no one deserved a tip and they should refund my $10 per day back to me. They are remarkable and deserve a standing ovation for doing a very thankless job, pretty well.
Lastly, disembarkation … my least favorite part of any cruise was done very well indeed. We had a terrible time getting off the Spirit the first time we sailed her from NYC, but this time it was very well done. I was very pleased! I am so glad we took this cruise, I would not have wanted to miss it for the world.