The Norwegian Spirit and
Kennedy Space Center
by Andrew Johnson

 The Norwegian Spirit originally started out for Star Cruises (the parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line) as the Super Star Leo in 1998. It sailed in Asia with Hong Kong one of its ports. Built with the Freestyle concept in mind, where as you know, one isn’t tied down to a set restaurant and dinner time and doesn’t have to dress up but may do so if desired, the Leo was the newest and largest vessel in that region, spending six years there and offering Asian and European cuisine in eight different restaurants. One still finds the multilingual signs in English, Chinese, and Japanese throughout the ship, including the bathrooms in all passenger staterooms. The ship was transferred to Norwegian Cruise Line in 2004 and renamed the Norwegian Spirit. For a ship this age, it holds up well, one of the smoothest ships sailing. This is the other NCL ship sailing the Bahamas – Caribbean connection out of New York City, similar and yet not similar to the Norwegian Dawn which we sailed twice.

The Colorful Cruise Ship
When on a cruise, all of that wonderful food comes to mind. During the day, in addition to the formal sitting at the restaurant, a buffet affords enormous variety. Near the pool, one may chose Mexican food plus the burgers and franks with French fries which many seem to crave. I noticed many people of Asian background, both as passengers and help aboard the ship, more so than I’ve noticed on ships before. Could be the background of the ship is a draw or else the fact that this cruise was the only one of the season having a $30,000 slot machine tournament in the casino. Nice to meet so many different cultures and traditions.
Le Bistro French Restaurant, Shogun Asian, and Cagney’s Steakhouse again gave us superior cuisine. For the extra that is paid for these specialty restaurants, it’s well worth the dining experience. Again, the staff is there ever aiming to please. We did dine at the regular restaurants and found the food tasty and delicious.
 Helpful to us to an enormous degree was Concierge Lisa Meyers, who was there to make all of the small obstacles smooth and adding that extra touch in ensuring our positive cruising experience.

 Our first port was Port Canaveral. One had the choice to go to Walt Disney World or Universal Studios in Orlando instead, but we chose to visit the NASA Kennedy Space Center and which was so worth the trip. The exhibits and dioramas were breathtaking as one was close-up to the space program. Our guide was a world of knowledge. This tour is a must when going to Cape Canaveral.

 Nassau, as I noted last year, is built up like St. Thomas with major shops and of course the behemoth Atlantis complex.
 One cannot forget the cruise line’s private island for rest and relaxation and calm clear water for swimming. Snorkling and other water sports are available at this paradise island.
 Next I’d like to explore the pluses and minuses of this trip.
The Pluses:
1. The self programmed code-locking safe keeps the worry of valuables off the mind.
2. A coffee maker in the room with supplied coffee is a nice touch when you want a cup and do not feel like ringing up room service for just that.
3. The extra surprises brought to the room for having been a past customer of NCL.
4. Food – food – food – wherever and whenever you want it (but no 24 hour food court – for the wee hours of the morning as I’ve experienced on other ships, but room service is on beck and call.).
5. The chocoholic buffet for the chocolate lovers in us all – chocolate in all varieties and shapes in imaginative creations.
6. The entertainment in shows, acts, and singers and musicians in the lounges.
7. The internet affording contact with individuals back home.
8. The TV in the room with CNN, ESPN, movies, and happenings aboard ship.
9. The staff and workers in all capacities who tirelessly work to try to ensure you the best vacation on board ship in their ever friendly manner.
10. Two hooks on the wall in your stateroom for a quick hanging of clothing.
11. The three sectioned and partitioned bathroom in the stateroom that separates shower from sink from toilet – three people may use the three facilities simultaneously.
12. The complete enjoyment for me, and for my wife and daughter and our good friend George Banat (who traveled with us) of just sitting on the room’s private balcony, watching the water go by, dozing, and dreaming, with seemingly not a care in the world. Now that’s total relaxation.

One of NASA's buildings where the space shuttles are assembled
With positives there are also negatives –the Minuses:
 Freestyle Cruising in our previous cruises with NCL used to be great – one wasn’t tied down to a particular time frame or dress code. Unfortunately on this cruise, freestyle has come to mean free of quality. In one year’s time, the cutting and nickel and diming that has taken place is quite obvious. Public rooms were not the cleanest, broken theatre seats abounded in the showplace theatre, lights throughout the ship were out, frayed carpets could be readily seen, and the washcloths given in the stateroom were old and frayed (I’d use these for my car at home).

                              The NASA launching pad
 Little by little, the small things go.
1. Probably because tips are charged in advance (no choice given now) and divided among those who do individual service for you, there is no need to go that extra mile to please. In the past, I had always given extra to those who did a great job – no need this time. Everyone simply seemed to go through the motions. 
2. One pool is much too small for all on board. The four hot tubs, which are crowded most of the time, should also not be foot bathing venues for children and teens. The children’s pools in back of the ship are nice, but not used by the youngsters who prefer the main pool. Perhaps an adult only pool, as I found on another ship, is the answer.
3. No refrigerator in the stateroom is a definite disadvantage in keeping things cold – most importantly, medication that must be kept cold for some or just a cold drink when returning from a shore excursion.
4. The room stewards were invisible. There were no introductions until I made it a point on the third day to find them. We called them the Phantoms. At the end of the cruise, our friend George never saw them at all, he having a different set of stewards for his room. 
5. No one is there to show you to your room when you board ship. You hunt for it by diagram and ingenuity.
6. The halls outside the cabin on my deck didn’t seem to be air conditioned: quite a change going from your room to the heat of the corridor.
7. Bagels with cream cheese and lox (salmon) are always nice for breakfast. How does a ship run out of the salmon on the second breakfast? Were the people eating that much? I will admit that plates were piled quite high with food that people couldn’t possibly finish. What a waste seeing those plates left with all that food to be thrown away, not consumed, because the eyes are always bigger than the stomach – or else people simply don’t care about being wasteful. 
By the way, the salmon mysteriously reappeared for the breakfast when we were to depart the ship at cruise end.

8. The private island and beach are wonderful, but cut out is the huge barbeque we enjoyed in the past on this and other cruise lines. Rather than spending the morning and afternoon there, the ship now docks at the island in the evening giving you the opportunity for a “moonlight swim,” but sails the next day after the noon hour. I noticed too the very few lounge chairs on the sand with a multiple abundance of regular sand chairs there – guess it’s cheaper to replace with less costly items.
9. Staterooms and balconies seem to be smaller than those of other cruise lines – comfortable yet with less drawer space. For our bed in our room with balcony, one very small night table was on one side of the bed with none on the other. The top of that table was only big enough for the phone on top.
10. This was the first ship I found that my empty luggage did not fit under the bed for storage during the stay on board.
11. The overhead noise in the stateroom during sleeping hours was a bit much – our room under the pool area on the 11th deck had chairs above thrown around in the wee hours of the morning while the deck hands cleaned and set up for the next day.
12. I miss the visit to the bridge and to the kitchen to see how all is accomplished for so many’s enjoyment.
13. The self-service laundry and ironing for those who choose to go that route was missing.
14. A real negative is the disregard of some passengers for others in having their young children rampage through the ship at all hours annoying those who paid for a vacation too. This is really not the fault of the cruise line but the parents who do not seem to care for others who also paid for a pleasant vacation.

Rocket Park - one of many exhibits at the Kennedy Space Center
Taking the pluses and minuses in mind, but looking at the larger picture, cruising is enjoyable and restful, gearing up the system for the year of activity that lies ahead. The time on board seems to go by quickly, but the memories last for a long time to come. Those I feel sorry for are individuals cruising for the first time who do not realize what amenities were like in the past, the Golden Age of Cruise Ship Travel.

Photos by Lisa E.Johnson

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