You guys know how big a fan I am of cruising. 3 sailings in one year? We are cruising crazy! If you would have told me before moving to Europe that I'd love sailing on a giant vessel, margarita in hand and the world at my fingertips, I would have told you...WHAT THE HECK ARE WE WAITING FOR! Let's set sail! Sounds like pure bliss, right? When you cruise with the right cruise lines and on the right ships, cruises can be some of the greatest vacations of your life. I'm living proof of that. Our first cruise last May with Celebrity kicked the cruise-fever off...but our last cruise of 2013 on the Norwegian Spirit really solidified my love for sailing the open seas on a floating hotel.
For the purposes of becoming a well-rounded cruise connoisseurs, we decided to forgo our beloved Celebrity Cruises and see what it was like sailing with Norwegian Cruise Lines. We got super lucky with the 9-day Canary Island itinerary (as it was called...even though we never ended up getting to the Canary Islands, but that's a story to come). Not only would we be checking 3 new countries off our list, but we were going to sail on the Norwegian Spirit, one of Norwegian Cruise Line's most popular mid-sized ships! The 2,018 passenger, 13-deck Norwegian Spirit was originally named SuperStar Leo (of Star Cruises) and launched in 1998 for sailings around Asia. Eventually, the SuperStar Leo was acquired by Norwegian, was renamed the "Norwegian Spirit" in 2004, and was partially refurbished in 2008. Throughout the ship today, you'll still find much of the Asian-inspired decor, but the Spirit has been updated to include 11 restaurants, eight bars/lounges, and many family-friendly features. The Norwegian Spirit has all the amenities of an ultra-luxe ship with a very modest price point...precisely what excited us most about our decision to sail with Norwegian. Another great feature? Norwegian Freestyle Cruising. This style of cruising allows you to have the freedom to enjoy your vacation on your own terms. No set dining times, no assigned dining tables, relaxed dress codes, and more complimentary dining options than on any other ship we've sailed on. While we did miss having a set waiter every night (we love building relationships with the staff), we did LOVE not having formal nights and being able to choose when we wanted to dine. If we were tired from a long day exploring in port, we'd take a quick nap and dine a bit later that night! The Freestyle Cruising concept helped to make our vacation super relaxing and less rushed. Another reason why Norwegian really sparked our interest!
So, let's go on a little tour of the Norwegian Spirit, shall we?
[It's a long tour...so hang on!]
After touring Barcelona (where our fabulous cruise departed from), we hopped aboard the Spirit around noon after a super smooth check-in process. As with most cruise ships, staterooms aren't ready the second you step onboard...so while you wait, they do allow you wander around the vessel to explore your floating home. Each restaurant, pool, entertainment center, and bar is open for the viewing...and the buffet restaurant is usually already serving up hot food and allowing guests to grab a bite to eat in between independent touring sessions. Of course, one would be silly to miss an opportunity to photograph the ship void of dozens of guests, so we set out to see what all the Norwegian Spirit had to offer.
Deck 13- Home to the Bier Garten (a German-inspired bar, how appropriate!), the running track, the helicopter pad (which doubled as a sweet place to catch some sun in your lounge chair), the Celebrity Disco (teenage club), and a basketball court. I'm sure you can guess which one of these amenities we used the most! :)
Deck 12- Tivoli Pool (spent lots of time there!), Roman Spa & Fitness Center (got myself a nice massage & a few workouts in), Galaxy of the Stars Lounge (where lots of nightly parties and entertainment took place), Captain's Bridge (where all the important ship driving stuff went down), Raffles Court Buffet & Terrace, and La Trattoria specialty restaurant (we never ate there).
Deck 11- Mostly staterooms. This is the deck where our balcony room was located! It was nice being so close to the pool and buffet. You'd think it would be loud, but we never heard a peep from inside those walls!
Deck 10- Home to more staterooms, the childcare center, the arcade, and a little kiddy water play area called Buccaneer's Wet & Wild. Deck 9 was all staterooms, so it's safe to say we never went there.
Deck 8- While this deck also had staterooms, it was also the location of the Stardust Theater (where nightly shows took place), Champagne Charlie's (a fun piano bar overlooking the atrium where we played lots of cards & cruise games), the Photo Gallery, the Galleria Shops, and the Shogun Asian specialty restaurant/teppanyaki/sushi bar (we ate at the Teppanyaki station for my late birthday celebration--yum!).
Deck 7- Home to Maharajah's Casino, Maharini's Nightclub/Lounge, Le Bistro French specialty restaurant (ate here---fancy, fancy!), Henry's pub, Shanghai Bar, Blue Lagoon Cafe (burger and fry cafe), Coffee Cafe, the ground floor of the Atrium, Cagney's Steakhouse specialty restaurant (at here for a friends birthday--really good!), and Guest Relations.
Stay tuned for port recaps from Morocco, Portugal, and more from sunny Spain!