Monday, March 11, 2019

Norwegian traveler tries Norwegian Cruise Line with happy results

Norwegian Cruise Line's colorful design carries through inside, with lively contemporary art and many other enticements.
NCL's Spirit, anchored off Santorini, brought cruisers to land in comfy,
 efficient tenders, offering great photo opportunities of ship and shore. 


NCL's colorful ships make mid-priced cruising attractive
to sailors such as this column's photographer, Bruce Keller. 

A balcony aboard NCL's Spirit offers
a lovely view of passing sights and cozy
reading corner for Christene Meyers. 

SUN. JOY. Bliss, Sky, Jade, Pearl, Star. Those are NCL ship handles, and they lured us their way for a cruise aboard the Spirit.
Aboard NCL's Spirit, seasoned travelers
"Cookie and Keller" enjoyed dining, a table
 for two, top shows and terrific land tours. 
AFTER MORE than 100 cruises on ships large and small, top-drawer to modest, this Norwegian-Irishman and my Greek-Scandinavian sailor hybrid set our compass heading for Norwegian Cruise Line. We'd cruised NCL in the Caribbean decades ago, on the smaller Sunward, then on the much larger Norway, the former SS France. When NCL acquired her in 1979, the line spent $100 million on a glorious renovation, paving the way for a new era of cruising.
A tour up the famed Amalfi coast, was part of the Spirit's attractive options.
We loved those long-ago trips, and yearned for a return to the relaxation and pampering we remembered on NCL. This latest two-month trip included three cruises and three weeks on land. It was our 25th foray to Europe and the Greek Isles.
We chose NCL's Spirit because we liked its "active relaxation" pitch, mid-size and fair-price ranking. (Our trip included three cruises, so we didn't want to break the bank.)
AS TRAVEL and arts writers, musicians, and romantics celebrating an anniversary, we also wanted lively shows, a table for two and interesting artwork. We liked the itinerary, an important consideration.  We were delighted that NCL captured our hearts again.
NCL was the first cruise line to offer "freestyle" dining,
a concept now used by many other cruise lines. 
Founded in 1966 with a sound reputation and 16 ships in her ever-expanding fleet, NCL's Spirit pleased us both, satisfying my need for R&R in pleasant surroundings, a lively casino, good gym and myriad dining options.  It charmed my partner, feeding his lust for all things nautical with friendly officers who talked sailing with him and a balcony to view dock life below.
This dessert was delivered to our room.
Lively artwork is one of NCL's
distinctions. The line has set
trends in many areas of cruising.
NCL tour groups  are kept small so each
person enjoys the history, here viewing viewing
Our Lady of the Castle in Rhodes. 
NCL's Spirit took us on an 11-day journey with stops in Mykonos, Piraeus--Athens, Rhodes, Santorini, Chania, Valletta, Messina and Naples.  We'd experienced all these ports but looked forward to returning, especially to Malta and Sicily, which many cruise lines don't offer as regular ports of call. As seasoned cruisers, we look for places we love -- but also like new ports and locales we've not visited in a while.  Those were deciding factors on our choice of NCL's Spirit.
WE LOVE the "freestyle" concept pioneered by NCL.
Now copied by many other lines, it allows for deciding when, where and with whom to dine in the evening, the one meal most of us truly enjoy and kick back for on a cruise. Spirit also offered late-night dining options, another plus, and fun eateries including a delightful late-hours pub that breaks from set schedules.  That flexibility includes casual dress options, ability to schedule entertainment and avoiding crowds.
As arts writers, we enjoyed several on-board auctions, chatting with knowledgeable auctioneers.  he auctions feature work by famed artists such as Peter Max and Guy Harvey, who were also commissioned for the eye-catching artwork on the Breakaway and Escape.We even ventured from our comfy patio to the lovely pool area, a playful modern extension of the ancient architecture we viewed in Greece and Italy.
We enjoyed an evening sail-out of Valletta, Malta, a port which  isn't
regularly visited.  
ALTHOUGH WE are elite status on five other lines, through many  cruises, we haven't yet reached that level on NCL.  Still, we were invited to parties, and to tour of the bridge -- always a must. So taken were we with the trip's variety and professional, friendly service that we booked another NCL cruise, on Pride of America, the only mainstream ship sailing Hawaii itineraries with no foreign ports. We'll soon reprise the loop we took decades ago: stops in Maui, Kauai and both sides Kona and Hilo on the Big Island.
Recalling our 13 blissful Atlantic crossings in Queen's Class aboard the QE2, we're also interested in sampling the "all suite" section of NCL's newere vessels.  The "Haven" concept on the newer larger NCL ships offers a special all-suite section accessible only by keycard holders booked there, in the style of Cunard's famous first-class/tourist-class ship design. The Haven has a private bar and lounge, a custom restaurant, secluded sun deck, and private courtyard so guests have little need to leave the complex.

A bird's eye view of the Water Taxi is yours from Double Tree Suites
Gallery One, Fort Lauderdale, where we next explore. 
UP NEXT: Come cavort with us as we head to Fort Lauderdale for a frolic with the alligators and the beautiful canals and grand hotels. We ride our favorite Water Taxis and check out the newly renovated digs at the Gallery One Double Tree. Then, an homage to celebrities at sea, including composer-pianist Andre Previn, and a host of others interviewed on the QE2 by Christene Meyers. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at travel, the arts, nature, family and off-beat fun.


  1. Sailing SeptuagenariansMarch 11, 2019 at 5:28 PM

    Wonderful memories stirred by this piece. My husband and I were newlyweds on the innaugural sail when the former SS France set out as the renovated NORWAY, one of the true and only real "liners" of the day. We, too, loved QE2, and miss her. Now we're interested in the Haven and the all-suite segment. Will check it out. THANK YOU!

  2. This all sounds so inviting. We usually sail Oceania and Regent, and have a Crystal cruise booked. Also Princess and Holland America. Will try Norwegian. Know it has a long history and have not tried it but for no specific reason. You make it sound greatly appealing. Appreciate the insights.

  3. Always entertaining to see what Cookie and Keller are up to. We are leaving the cold of Canada in a few days on a Regent Seven Seas cruise. Considering Pearl Seas extensive Cuba itinerary. Will you be writing about that? We hope so. Know you have visited Cuba....

  4. Florida Fun SeekersMarch 14, 2019 at 4:42 PM

    We love Norwegian Cruise Line because of its history, fine reputation and agreeable prices. The itineraries are carefully researched and the tours are always tops. Thanks for giving exposure to this excellent, mid-priced cruise option which manages to combine elegance and casual fun with good return for the dollar.

  5. You read our minds. Looking for value, interesting ports, style. NCL sounds perfect.