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Norwegian Cruises aboard the Norwegian Spirit
Above: Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Spirit Cruise Ship.

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Ship Details
Began service: 1998
Guest capacity: 1,996
Total staff: 920
Length: 880 feet
Passenger decks: 13
CDC inspection score: 94

Norwegian Spirit Overview

The Norwegian Spirit cruise ship departs from New York, NY, Seattle WA, Vancouver, British Columbia. Throughout the year she offers ocean cruises to Alaska and Caribbean.

Check Dates & Prices for cruises to Alaska and Caribbean.

Norwegian Spirit was originally built for the Asian/Pacific market and for family cruises of three to four nights, rather than the seven-night itineraries it now serves. The ship is an interesting blend of modern convenience and Asian custom. Those unaware of the history of this ship might be confused by the Chinese symbols and artwork, rack of chopsticks at the fast-food restaurant, banks of chaises and chairs that form an amphitheater overlooking the children's play area, and a specially designed room for mah-jongg.

The staff and crew of Norwegian Cruise Lines had exactly two weeks to refit the ship for the Alaska reassignment. After all the hard work, Norwegian Spirit has emerged as a wonderful new entry in the North American cruise market. The ship's odd quirks and cultural differences make it unique and interesting, and anyone lucky enough to sail on Norwegian Spirit will quickly come to appreciate the beauty of her public spaces and its incredible, hard-working, attentive staff and crew.


Approximately 80 percent of the staterooms are outside.


NCL doesn't advertise gourmet fare but the food is very good in the two main dining rooms; meals are creative and attractively served. However, their concept of "Freestyle Cruising" means lots of choices beyond these traditional dining rooms.

Choose when to dine and with whom among nine restaurant options.

Maxim's Steakhouse ($20 or $25 charge, depending on your meal selection) is a small but beautiful room. Food choices range from grilled salmon to steaks and whole lobsters. The presentation is nice, food is prepared well, and service is attentive.

Taipan Bistro, NCL's French restaurant ($15 charge), is located behind the Grand Centrum. Although the design of the facility is Chinese, the fare is French. Menu items range from appetizers of escargot in garlic butter to Spirit's version of "surf and turf," which includes four small half-tails of lobster, filet mignon, three sauces and a choice of vegetables. A generous portion of salads is also offered. The Bistro's most popular dessert, chocolate fondue, is simply divine: Chunks of fresh fruit are served in a pineapple "boat" and a pot of warmed chocolate is placed on the table for dipping. That item alone is worth the Bistro's surcharge.

The Asian-themed Shogun ($12.50 charge) serves sushi, tempura and other Japanese specialties. The ship's executive chef personally prepares the sushi and sashimi to exacting Japanese standards. Not only are the dishes fresh and delicious, they are visual works of art. This is my favorite of the three surcharge restaurants.

The one dining venue on Spirit that is disappointing is the buffet, Raffles Cafe. There are no cooking facilities at all in that location, so food has to be brought up from the kitchen to be placed in the steam tables, by which time it has lost most of its appeal. The ship's management is working hard at devising interim solutions to these challenges and hopes to have them resolved in the near future.

The Bier Garten, open all day, serves hamburgers, hot dogs, salads and "Bavarian-themed" items such as knockwurst and sauerkraut. Surrounded by picnic tables, it overlooks the central pool complex. This spot will be terrific on Caribbean itineraries but was quite chilly on our Alaska route.

Late night snacks are provided in the casino and include sandwiches, olives, pickles, veggies and dip, and some sort of hot item (the chicken sate with peanut sauce was great.) NCL's signature Chocoholics' Buffet is also present, but it took place during my cruise at the exact time the ship was visiting Sawyer Glacier, which I and many other guests considered quite odd. Many of us didn't realize that it was being served on the pool deck so we missed out chocolate "fix."

Room service is simple with mostly cold items. Breakfast is continental only, no hot items. Suite guests get a wider range of room service choices, including hot breakfast, dining room meals served in-suite and a couple of sandwiches not on the menu for guests in standard staterooms.

Hint: The room service sandwiches are very nicely presented, but they are pre-made and sit in the refrigerator for who knows how long before your order arrives at your door. This causes the bread to be kind of hard and curled on the outside, soggy from the lettuce on the inside. Choose a grilled cheese sandwich from the kid's menu; they are freshly made and really good.


Norwegian Cruise Line has long been known for its excellent production shows. The Moulin Rouge Theater is one of the finest at sea, and the shows are elaborate, colorful and exciting. Evening entertainment includes individual performers as well, and an occasional folkloric troupe brought onboard for a cultural show.

Two of the lounges featured live music on a daily basis, Champagne Charlie's and Galaxy of the Stars. Champagne Charlie's is above the atrium floor, so anyone in that area could enjoy the music every day. Dancing to live music was available nightly in the Galaxy of the Stars. There was disco music and dancing in Celebrity Disco every night also.

The cruise director's staff provided fun activities ranging from craft lessons to learning a foreign language (Spanish and Tagalog, the language of the Phillipines). And there were plenty of onboard games, trivia contests, bingo, Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, Liar's Club and even The Weakest Link, with shipboard logo prizes given out to the winners.

The casino, Maharaja's, is one of the largest at sea, with a huge array of slots and table games. Slot machines ranged from five cents to $25 and some allowed you to change denomination in the middle of your play...to switch from playing quarters to playing dollars and vice versa. On sea days the casino was open nearly 24 hours.

The art auctions seemed to be a big hit with those who attended them.

Fitness & Recreation

This ship has plenty to keep the avid exercise junkie busy with a Sports at Sea program. The program offers logo items to those who complete their programs. The outside promenade on Deck 7 circles the ship and is the ideal place for a walking circuit; the Sports Deck (13) has a running track, basketball court, volleyball, and a golf cage. Ping-Pong tables are located on Deck 11.

There is one large swimming pool on the Deck 12, big enough for early-morning lap swims, surrounded by four large hot tubs.

The gym is small but well equipped, and Spirit has a couple of unique features not found on other ships. Two small "aquaswim" pools are located within the fitness center. 6 feet wide by 12 feet long, these heated pools allow you to swim against a current of water, which provides resistance. If you don't get to the big pool before the crowd does, this is the perfect way to get your laps in.

There are separate changing rooms, relaxation rooms, and steam and sauna rooms for men and women. The women's side is expansive, with a relaxation room along the port side of the ship, lined with windows looking out to the sea. There are a couple of tv's and comfy chairs and sofas. There is a large dressing room, sauna, and steam room for women to use. Those on the men's side are small; the dressing room is small but adequate, the steam and sauna rooms much smaller than those for women. The men's relaxation room is cozy, with a single television, located in an interior room with no windows.

Trivia tidbit: The men's and women's facilities were reversed during the refit for the North American market, a fact which I found fascinating. The Asian culture exalts men's relaxation and pampering, leaving the smaller and less appealing side for the women.

The Roman Spa, operated by Mandara (Steiner of London), offers treatments ranging from hot stone massages to "body-cleansing" wraps. Treatment rooms are very small and have the typical decor used by Mandara spas. Prices ranged from $29 for a head and neck treatment to a full day of pampering for over $300. The mid-range for massages seemed to be around $100; look for specials in the daily Freestyle paper, especially on port days.

Public Areas

Norwegian Cruise Line ships feature a central atrium which is called the Grand Centrum. Rising 6 decks high on Norwegian Spirit, this space is the focal point of social interaction. A black marble floor leads to a grand staircase that goes to the shops, and Champagne Charlie's -- a lounge that features music in the evenings. On the starboard side of the Grand Centrum is a series of upholstered chairs and divans for conversation; on the port side is the Cafe, a small lounge that serves coffees, cakes and cookies, and other bar drinks. Behind the staircase is a black marble fountain, which can be seen from the atrium's three glass-enclosed elevators as they rise to higher floors.

There are three amazing, standout spaces on this ship that are breathtaking; in fact, the nicest at sea in their categories:

Windows, one of the two main dining rooms on Norwegian Spirit, sits at the end of Deck 6. This room is a classic, and could easily have been found on the famous ocean liners of bygone eras.

The third amazing space on this ship is Charlie's Childcare Center and Buccaneer's Wet and Wild. The "kid's club" is best in its class outside of a Disney ship. It's like having a shipboard amusement park, with tunnels and tubes, rooms filled with balls that kids love to jump in, a pool complex with slides and fountains and pirate muskets blasting water, and the best game arcade on the seven seas.

There are bars and lounges scattered throughout the ship. One favorite is the Cafe, located in the Grand Centrum along the port side. It's a quiet space where you can sit and listen to the soothing sounds of the fountain behind it. The Bund, Norwegian Spirit's sports bar, located in on Deck 7, seems cramped and rowdy. There are private karaoke rooms behind it for guests who want to try their hand at sing-alongs. Henry's Pub, a clubby room, serves beer, lager, spirits and billiards in an Olde English-style environment. When the weather is good, Raffle's Terraces is the best spot on board for a drink or a beer. It looks out over the kids' pool area and the stern of the ship, and is cheerful and friendly.

There is a small movie theater on Deck 8, behind Champagne Charlie's. It's a charming room, and is also used for religious services.

Just aft of the Galaxy of the Stars lounge is a series of public rooms that include the library and Internet center, a game room, a cigar room and a mah-jongg room. All of these spaces are lovely, but the library and Internet center really stand out. They are calm, peaceful, and small but well-designed spaces. Internet prices are reasonable at rates from 30 cents per minute to 75 cents per minute depending on the package you choose. Wireless access is available too, and almost all public spaces have "hot spots."

Note: Internet capabilities on Alaska itineraries are limited due to the mountains that block satellite service.

There are shops on Deck 8 surrounding the atrium, but they are tiny and cramped and don't have a lot to offer (mostly because there is not enough room to offer much of anything). There is a new Colombian Emeralds store onboard, which is unique for a cruise ship, and another jewelry store with the usual items. There is a sundry and duty-free shop and a logo/apparel shop.


This ship seems like it was custom-built for families. It has a child center that looks like a day camp for the kids of the rich and famous.

The center is divided into several rooms according to age and purpose. There is the video arcade and a room with games and activities that will keep older children and teens occupied for hours. There's a teen disco, an activity room for younger children that uses tubes and balls and climbing things and tunnel things and lots of soft toys, all in bright primary colors. An amphitheater has been built between decks 10 and 11 at the aft end so adults can sit and watch their kids play while enjoying a beer or drink from Raffles bar.

There is no charge for using the center, which takes children from age two to sixteen. Toddlers in diapers are welcome, but only while the parents are onboard; they are given a beeper and notified when their child needs to be changed.

Expert Norwegian Spirit reviews are edited by Michelle, and provided by Ian and Cruise Critic.com, an award-winning cruise community. This objective information can help you choose just the right ship for your next cruise vacation.

Check Dates & Prices for cruises to Alaska and Caribbean.


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Norwegian Spirit cruise reviews

Cruise Ship Inspection Report
All passenger cruise ships arriving at US ports are subject to unannounced CDC inspection. Norwegian Spirit Score: 94

Cruise Critic: Norwegian Spirit
The Cruise Critic gives NCL's Norwegian Spirit a 4-ribbon rating.

Web links

NCL Cruises
Request a brochure, or find a travel agent who represents Norwegian Cruise Line at the company's official Web site.

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