Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Caribbean on Norwegian Spirit

On August 18, 2007 Tina & I boarded the Norwegian Spirit in New York for an eight-night cruise. Our primary purpose for this cruise was to visit the Alambre Trio, whom we had met on prior cruises on Celebrity's Zenith. Seeing the trio again and listening to their music in person, where I could enjoy their extensive repertoire was pure pleasure. I have never gotten tired of listening to their two CDs, but hearing other songs is nice.

"Freestyle Cruising" was a major change from what are used to from other cruise lines. When everything you are interested in doing is scheduled at a different time every day, it can be chaotic trying to schedule meals. Fortunately, the main dining rooms had times available for walk-ins as well as the possibility of making reservations. The other thing that added to the chaotic atmosphere on the ship was the number of children, ranging in age from infant to teenagers: fully 1/3 of the passengers were children. There were strollers everywhere, including the dining rooms, and the teenagers congregated on the stairways or in other areas where they blocked traffic.

The ship itself was not as nice as the others we've been on, and many things were in a state of disrepair, especially the carpet. The whole standard of the operation was not up to the level we've experienced on other cruise lines. Because with "freestyle" dining you rarely have the same waiter more than once, the cruise line imposes a $10 daily service fee. For many of the crew, having their tips guaranteed, in addition to the lack of opportunity to form relationships with the passengers, contributes to a lack of motivation to provide the highest level of service. However, on a positive note, the regular musical entertainment in the was excellent. They covered a wide range of styles and all had exceptional talent.

The first exciting event on board, after the life boat drill (which was actually very well done), was passing close to the Statue of Liberty as we left the harbor. I had seen her from a distance when we sailed out of the Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, NJ, but seeing her up close was a special experience.

The ports we visited on this cruise were King's Wharf, Bermuda; Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands; and Havensight, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. Unfortunately my camera malfunctioned just before we re-boarded the ship on Tortola, so I lost all the photos I took in New York Harbor, Bermuda, and Tortola. I was able to get some distant shots of Tortola, but lost some great photos from Bermuda

For some reason I can't fathom, I had the impression that King's Wharf would be a dreary place like a shipyard or the harbor area of Dutch Harbor, Unalaska. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was pleasantly pretty and picturesque, although not as nice as either Hamilton or St. George's. As usual, we did a lot of walking, and learned how King's Wharf got its name (I waited too long to write this so I can't remember the story - I'll write about it later if I remember it). The highlights were a beach area that was some kind of park (I'd know the name if I had my photos), a glass blowing studio & shop, and an artists' cooperative where we saw some gorgeous handmade, original design quilted wall hangings that were wonderful art.

We also did a lot of walking on Tortola. We were trying to find the botanical garden, but didn't figure out where it would have been until we were back on the ship. Road Town was nice, and the government building was quite imposing, but there was nothing special to commend that port.

I'll cover my fourth visit to St. Thomas in the next episode.

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