The Norwegian Spirit

Good morning everyone!  I know you’re all anxious to see the inside of the house.  But since it’s the weekend I wanted to do something FUN. And what could be more fun that taking a CRUISE?


There she is.  The most beautiful and beloved of all cruise ships (to me).  The Norwegian Spirit.  She was HERE in Portland this week – on Thursday!  So of course we went to the Old Port to visit.


My kids weren’t exactly thrilled to be pulled from the car and made to pose in front of a chain link fence, but I needed to relive the memories. LOOK! She’s so happy to see us too, she’s even smiling.


OOoohhh how I love that ship!  It made me all goosebumpy just to be standing near.  I watched the happy cruisers w/ a mixture of envy & admiration, making their way through town, shopping and eating, enjoying themselves.  Even on a gray day, you can’t help but feel giddy.  Such an amazing vacation.  Sigh…

Hard to believe it’s been two years since my family & I climbed aboard the Spirit.  Our first cruise was one of the most exhilarating, eye-opening experiences of our lives.  I spend hours just dreaming of the next.


CLICK HERE for more photos from our trip.  The Norwegian Spirit Halloween Cruise, New England to Canada.  October 2007.  Happy Cruising!

My First Cruise

We left a week ago, October 28th, for 6 nights of fun onboard the Norwegian Spirit: departing from New York, with stops in Halifax, Nova Scotia; Bar Harbor, Maine; Boston; and Martha’s Vineyard.

I’d never taken a cruise before, had never really considered taking one, but my parents (former cruisers) were treating the whole family and how could we say no to that? I was psyched to visit Nova Scotia, a place I’d always wanted to see, in addition to Acadia National Park. And so we went, no need to ask twice.

My maiden voyage was an experience and I’ve certainly come away from it a more enlightened person. The most amazing thing to me was actually living on the sea for a week, on a massive ship, and to think about what it’s like for the employees who live and work there.

For those who’ve never taken a cruise, it’s sort of like being stranded at a resort. There’s more than enough food, plenty of booze and entertainment, but you really can’t leave. If you get bored, if you want to stay longer in port, if you want the effing motion to STOP ALREADY – it ain’t happening! If you cruise in a warm climate, you’ll probably be so busy sunning, swimming, and drinking that you couldn’t care less. But the cruise we took had by necessity more of an indoor theme (it was cold + windy), the water was rough, and we spent a lot of time wandering around the ship, gambling in the casino, and of course eating. Having Meniere’s disease, I undertook the voyage with slight trepidation, thinking overly rich, salted cuisine was gonna throw me for a loop, but the food was delicately seasoned and everything was fine.

The ship itself was beautiful and unbelievably enormous – like a floating hotel, but more.

And the decor was lovely (other than our circus tent bedspread) and subdued with a lot of Asian detail. The trained staff continually amazed me, performing all of the requisite functions without regard to the movement of the ship. It must come with practice, but was impressive nonetheless. The Kids Crew children’s program rocked and the girls couldn’t wait to go back every night. On Halloween they took the kids all around the ship for trick-or-treating and many of them said it was their best Halloween ever (not surprising – they made out like bandits).

Our first night on the ship though.. UGH. I wasn’t seasick – I’d taken a ginger pill or 2 earlier and felt peachy in that regard, but I’d been fighting a cold before we got onboard and wasn’t feeling 100%. The water that night was rough and the wind raged and howled against our balcony most of the night. Between the rocking of the boat and the screaming wind (and the newness of it all to me), by bedtime I was a nervous wreck, convinced I’d be awakened in the middle of the night having to jump ship. By 6:30 am, while most others were sleeping off their hangovers, I was out of bed practically dancing I was so happy to still be alive. I threw on my jacket, headed to the top deck and walked laps for an hour. The sky was gorgeous, and the sea sparkled and stretched for miles in every direction. The dolphins I saw swimming off the bow were just icing on the cake.

The remainder of the trip (save for the last night) was great. We visited the Citadel and art museum in Halifax, bought some Nova Scotian whiskey for my husband. Stood on the top of Cadillac Mountain in Bar Harbor, took in the spectacular foliage, walked all over Boston, as well as treating the kids to the children’s museum, and rode bikes around half of Martha’s Vineyard. We had a blast in the casino, won over $350 on the slots, and enjoyed nightly shows – especially the Second City comedy troupe and Richie Byrne.

But the last night.. When we left Martha’s Vineyard on Friday evening, Hurricane Noel was coming up the coast – and fast. The small transport (temper) boat that we rode back to the ship was being slapped around like a naughty child, and people were frightened. The captain of the Spirit wisely decided our best chance was to try outrunning the storm, which we did manage – blazing from Martha’s Vineyard to New York full-steam ahead. The gale force winds shook us like popcorn, heaving the island-sized boat around like a toy. People kept making jokes about us eating our last supper onboard. HAHAHA – Not funny. After spending a week at sea sanitizing my hands 30 times daily, it seemed unwise to actually press lips to the dirt, but when we arrived in NYC Saturday morn I wanted to kiss the ground.

It’s great to be home, though I’m still swaying back and forth with the movement of the ship. At this moment the room is tilted at a slight angle and I feel as though I may teeter off my seat. Last night while uploading photos from the trip, I felt positively nauseous. It must be an effect of Meniere’s as the rest of my family are fine, but oh how I wish it would stop. How ironic for me to be seasick now – back in PHILLY – when I felt great all week on the boat. Cursed sea legs ear!

In Bar Harbor: The biggest lobster claw I’d seen in my life – you could live off that guy for a week!

My older daughter is obviously thrilled to be participating in the emergency drill. Go Team Z1 !

A photo of the pool on one of the calmer days – looks like the water is trying to liberate itself. John and the ladies went hot tubbing while I snapped pictures snuggled warmly in my parka – it was about 50 degrees outside and WINDY – then of course John had to go swimming in the big pool (which even at 80 felt cold). We were all surprised to learn the pool’s filled with salt water. It makes sense – but we weren’t expecting it.

A pilot boat had to escort our ship each time we entered or left a port. Here’s a pic from Bar Harbor of the escort returning to his boat. It was always neat to watch – and the first time we saw we didn’t know what was going on. I was like hey – did someone miss the boat? are those pirates? Duh. Good thing my parents were there to explain all those little things.

The hardworking Canadian border patrol. This one’s strictly for my sister who marveled (several times) about the quality of the men in Halifax. (She is from PHILLY after all).

For more pix – check out my photo gallery.

Taking a cruise? Here’s what to pack (in addition to the essentials)

If you’re lucky enough to be going on a cruise anytime in the near future, here’s a helpful list. I spent a little time today looking online for creative things to bring onboard and found a host of really great ideas to make the trip even better. Thought you’d all enjoy, so here goes..

  • Ginger pills. These are sold in every pharmacy with the vitamins and many people swear by them for sea-sickness. Great benefit – they are side effect FREE and may work as effectively as prescription meds.
  • A couple wood or plastic clothes pins. Great for keeping those pesky drapes shut, hanging up drying laundry, etc.
  • Cable ties. These work even better than those small locks for keeping your suitcases locked securely. Simply pop a pair of nail trimmers or a small pair of scissors in your purse to snip open (and of course bring extras for securing bags during the cruise and on the way home).
  • Laundry bag. Bring one and you can use it as a hamper during the cruise and when packing for home you can just throw it into your suitcase without having to repack.
  • Plastic ziplock bags. Bring a few for toiletries, damp swimwear, etc.
  • Decoration for your door (and tape to hang it up). Not only friendly and cute, but instantly recognizable from down the hall! No searching for your cabin.
  • Small fold-up umbrella.
  • Watch or portable alarm clock.
  • Travel size hand sanitizer.
  • Post-it notes & pen. Helpful for leaving notes for your room steward.
  • Plastic refillable water bottle. Great for use in cabin as well as toting along on shore excursions.
  • Cell phone AND CHARGER.
  • Nightlight for cabin. Great not only for the kids, but for those of us who need bathroom breaks during the night.
  • Binoculars. Just in case you get lucky and see some dolphins or whales from the ship.
  • Power strip. I read many cabins have only one electrical outlet, so this is good if you need to plug in multiple things – hairdryer, curling iron, etc.
  • Small flashlight. In case power goes out you’ll be able to find your way in hallways.
  • Copies of important documents. People suggested making 2 copies each of passport, driver’s license, credit cards, etc. and leaving one in LOCKED luggage or on person and another copy at home. Sounds like a good idea.
  • Camera and extra batteries.
  • Small bag for last night. Not sure if you saw this in the small print of the brochure, but many cruise lines claim your luggage the night before you arrive back at port. So they recommend bringing some small bag or tote to carry all of your remaining essentials the last day.
  • Portable DVD player and DVDs.
  • iPod or portable CD player, if desired.
  • Swimsuit. As if you’d forget! But even on many northern cold-weather cruises there is indoor swimming and you can bet you’ll be interested.
  • Reading material. If you bring paperbacks you can finish, you can leave them onboard after departure for the crew to enjoy.