NCL Spirit Review
I never thought I would be a regular cruiser, especially at age 26, but yet here I am.
Having just come back from a Morocco & Canary Islands cruise, I’ve already got another two(!!!) cruises booked.
With a disabled parent, I go on holiday with my parents so I can: a) help look after my mum, and b) keep my dad company. Under the circumstances, cruising is perfect for us. I get to satisfy my wanderlust whilst my parents get a well deserved, accessible holiday.
Our first cruise was a Western Mediterranean cruise on the NCL Epic so we knew exactly what we were getting when we booked to go on the NCL Spirit. But cruise ships are just like hotels; each has its own individual character. Did the NCL Spirit live up to expectations? Guess you’ll just have to read to find out.
NCL Spirit Highlights
- Built in 1998, the Norwegian Spirit was built in 1998 and refurbished in 2017.
- The guest capacity is 2,018 with the number of ship crew being approximately 912.
- The smallest ship in NCL’s fleet, the Spirit has a gross register tonnage of 75,904 and an overall length of 880.2ft.
- Winner of the Best Mid Size Ship for Value of Money at the 2013 Cruiser’s Choice Awards.
About NCL Cruises
In terms of choosing an NCL cruise, there are two factors that really attracted us to the cruise line, and have then retained us for four cruises.
Before I talk about two ways to cruise Norwegian, it’s worth noting that NCL is an American cruise line, and not Norwegian as the name would suggest. Consequently, everything is paid in dollars, so depending on how the pound weighs up, UK cruisers can get a pretty good deal!
Freestyle cruising is the main reason why we, as a family, chose NCL.
If you have images of a strict and stuffy atmosphere like a modern-day Titanic (maybe not a good film to mention in a cruise ship review) and it’s your worst nightmare, you need to look at NCL.
Operating on a freestyle cruising system, being on a Norwegian cruise line cruise is just like staying at a normal hotel. There’s no timetable about when to eat like most traditional cruises, you eat when you want to eat. There’s no formal dress code, it’s relaxed casual all the way.
Ok, so there are more ‘traditional’ dining rooms that don’t allow jeans but you don’t have to go to that restaurant because there’s so much choice. There’s also usually a ‘Norwegian’s Night Out’ where you can dress up, but this is completely optional and you wouldn’t be out of place in jeans and a top.
It’s simply cruising however you want to do it
Premium All Inclusive & Just Cruise
November 2019 Update: NCL no longer seems to be offering the Premium All-Inclusive or Just Cruise schemes which I think is a massive shame. Whilst existing bookings made under these schemes are being honoured, future bookings can’t be made. This seems to have been replaced by the Free At Sea scheme which is a promotion that lets you pick speciality offers for 2 people per cabin at a reduced rate.
The second reason for choosing NCL is the choice of how you cruise: either Premium All-Inclusive or Just Cruise.
Premium All Inclusive is exactly how it sounds. This cruise option includes a lot of extra things in the price so you don’t have to worry about any bills at the end.
Without any additional offers (which are very frequent), Premium All-Inclusive currently includes:
- Premium Beverages including alcohol, soft drinks, and juices in all bars, lounges, and restaurants. You also get 1 bottle of water per person per day in your stateroom.
- Gratuities including all service charges and taxes.
- Internet package. At the moment it is 60 minutes of ship-wide wifi per person.
- Speciality coffee. Choose from Lavazza speciality coffee in all dining venues.
All this is on top of your normal cruise package including the many complimentary restaurants and entertainment.
This option wasn’t around when we did our first cruise on the NCL Epic but it’s what we did when we cruised on the NCL Spirit. Honestly, if you can afford it, do it. You can forget about paying a drinks bills or gratuities at the end of the cruise and have the added bonus of internet packages (which are expensive if bought on their own) and speciality coffee.
Alternatively, you can choose Just Cruise. Again, exactly what it says, this way of cruising gives you the best fares available at the time of booking, including service charges, but without any additional extras like drinks packages.
A good option if you are on a budget, there are a limited number of Just Cruise fares on select sailing, with daily-changing prices. Yostateroomoom is also on a guarantee basis, meaning the exact number will only be advised when you get the final boarding documents.
NCL Spirit Staterooms
Like all NCL cruises, there are a wide variety of staterooms on offer, suiting different budgets and needs.
With the cheapest option being an inside room and the most expensive being a suite, we went for a balcony situated in the middle of the ship.
Accommodating all three of us in a single room without the need for a pull-down bed, we were treated to amazing views of the ports we docked in from the comfort of our balcony.
Speaking of the third bed, it took a bit of manoeuvring to access the sofa bed when it was made up, which also meant that whoever slept on that side of the main bed also had to navigate it.
In terms of size, staterooms are usually significantly smaller than your standard hotel room. In comparison with the NCL Epic, I feel like the Spirit’s rooms were a bit smaller, but it is a smaller ship. Despite being smaller, we managed fine 3 to a cabin, so don’t let that put you off.
Another difference from the NCL Epic is the bathroom. On the Epic, the bathroom is split up, with the bath/shower on one side of the hall and the toilet and sink on the other. On the Spirit, the bathroom is all together, and although very small (standard on a cruise ship), it was very manageable. Personally, I preferred the more traditional layout so it was a big win for the Spirit.
Reading up online, I saw a lot of people comment on how outdated the decor on the NCL Spirit was. Whilst it isn’t as modern as some of the ships in the NCL Spirit, I wasn’t bothered by it so much. It was practical and that’s what matters.
What’s On Board The NCL Spirit?
I mentioned that NCL ships were like floating resorts with lots going on. Here’s what’s available on the NCL Spirit!
The dining options onboard the ship can be split into two groups: complementary and speciality. The complimentary options are included in the cost of your stateroom, whereas the speciality restaurants come with an extra charge.
We mainly ate in the complimentary restaurants for the entire cruise. Personally, I don’t think there is any reason to not eat at one of the complimentary restaurants because there is so much choice.
Usually opting for a buffet at Raffles Court for breakfast and lunch, we then made a reservation at one of the waiter-service dining rooms for dinner. Our favourite was Windows, which was to the back of the ship and have amazing arched windows that were lit up at night.
Whilst we were away, it was also Chinese New Year and, as there was a complimentary Asian Fusion restaurant on the ship, we got to celebrate in style.
The Chinese restaurant on the NCL Epic was very cramped, with slow service, however, Shogun on the NCL Spirit was amazing. Although you couldn’t reserve a table, it never took longer than an hour to get one (we sat with a pager in the bar down the corridor) and the food was delicious.
In terms of the speciality dining, we decided to try the Teppanyaki in the Japanese Hibachi restaurant to celebrate my parents 40th wedding anniversary. If you have never had Teppanyaki, you need to try it ASAP.
Sitting on a communal table whilst the chef cooks in front of you, prepare to see twirling knives and flying shrimp. It was honestly the best food we had on the cruise and something we want to do again on the next one. My only advice is to book early as it is a very popular option!
Other speciality restaurants on the Spirit include:
- La Trattoria (Italian)
- Atrium Cafe & Bar (Snacks)
- Cafe 49 (Pastries & Cookies)
- Cagney’s Steakhouse
- Le Bistro French Restaurant
Bars & Lounges
In addition to the wide choice of restaurants, there are loads of bars and lounges to choose from.
From the relaxed vibe of Henry’s Pub to the more vibrant Maharani’s Lounge & Nightclub, there was something for everyone.
Before I went on a cruise, I used to think everything would be very crowded, but people find their ‘place’ and tend to stick to that. Our place was Champagne Charlies, a cocktail bar overlooking the beautiful Atrium with its glass elevators. It also had live music at night, making it the perfect spot to sit back and relax.
Another favourite was the Galaxy of the Stars Observation Lounge. Situated at the front of the ship, the bar enjoys huge windows, letting you take in the scenery or sea. This bar always had some form of entertainment going on, from bingo and demonstrations in the day to cabaret-style shows in the evening.
Entertainment & Activities
Although I don’t think the entertainment and activities were as good as on the NCL Epic, there were still lots of things to do on the NCL Spirit.
Compared to the NCL Epic, the facilities on the NCL Spirit were geared more to an older audience (Probably due to the time of the year, although there was plenty for kids too!). The entertainment team put on plenty of activities including seminars and fun challenges like ring toss.
The ship has two pools, one main one called the Tivoli Pool, and one small one called Buccaneer’s Wet and Wild for children. There were also plenty of hot tubs perfect for this winter sun cruise.
One of the most popular places was the games room where you could check out games such as chess and monopoly. I loved that there was also a library and writing room, providing a quiet sanctuary if you wanted some time to relax.
Speaking of relaxing, the Mandara Spa & Salon offered some amazing treatments that I wish I had had time to try out!
If you wanted to stretch your legs, there was a well-equipped fitness centre, a jogging and walking track plus plenty of fitness classes to join in with. On top of this, there was a golf driving net and basketball court.
Being a big fan of retail therapy, I was happy to see that there were two shops onboard. The Jewellery shop boasting everything from men’s watches to beautiful diamond earrings, whereas duty-free had a wide range of alcohol. In contrast, the Galleria shop was much more affordable and had a good stock of beauty, jewellery, and fashion.
In terms of shows, there were three main shows in the Stardust Theatre:
- Elements – a dance & light show based on the four elements of Earth, Air, Water & Fire.
- Soul Rockin’ Nights – a music show celebrating everything from soul to rock & roll.
- World Beat – a dance and music show highlighting different sounds from around the world.
In addition to these, there were a couple of other shows from visiting performers including a magician and a violinist.
If you didn’t want to go to the theatre, there was always some form of live music in one of the many bars, and Galaxy of the Stars usually had its own show or cabaret act including comedy.
NCL is known for its deck parties, and the party theme on the NCL is white hot. Completely optional, it was so nice to see people of all ages getting involved and wearing white. In the need for even more parties? The themed music nights in Maharani’s Nightclub were always popular.
NCL Spirit Review
There is no doubt that I had an incredible time on the Morocco & Canary Islands Cruise on the NCL Spirit.
Despite being a much smaller ship than the NCL Epic, the NCL Spirit held its own. Being a smaller ship, you got to know members of staff, they remembered your drinks order and it just felt like home.
I felt like the Spirit was more of a traditional cruise ship. I loved that the oriental theme in the public spaces and the main Atrium was beautiful with its water fountain and elevators.
Food and drink wise, I feel like there were plenty of dining and bar options to choose from. If you didn’t want to pay for speciality dining, you would have been perfectly happy at the complimentary options. However, I would 100% recommend the Teppanyaki if you wanted something a bit more special.
I did feel like the entertainment could have been slightly more varied, however, I think that was probably down to the time of the year and the average age of the cruisers.
Would I recommend the Spirit? Yes! The Spirit isn’t the flashiest or most modern cruise ship out there or even in NCL’s fleet, but it is still a lovely ship to cruise on and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again.
Have you been on an NCL Cruise or one with another cruise line? What did you think of the Spirit? Let me know in the comments below!
Pin it for later!
Other posts you might find interesting: