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Brent Jones

Age: 50

Occupation:CPA

Number of Cruises: 5

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Norway

Sailing Date: April 13th, 2003

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

My partner and I arrived in Miami on Saturday afternoon after a pleasant American flight from Houston. Took a 30-minute cab to Beachcomber hotel in South Beach ($18 + tip).

Hotel was Art Deco, pleasant, although the room was a little small. $85 through Orbitz.

We spent the rest of the day looking around South Beach, had a nice dinner, went out for a couple of drinks at Twist, then to bed, excited about the next day.

Sunday morning we had a leisurely breakfast at an outdoor café close to the hotel, then took a cab to Pier 1 at about 11:00. ($15 + tip).

Spent about 15 minutes waiting to enter the building, then entered the Suite line-the Concierge immediately came and escorted us to the Presidents’ Suite V-140.

The President’s Suite is one of the original S/S France Owner’s Suites, and it is absolutely opulent (although a little faded and worn about the edges, much like the Norway herself). It is about 900 sf, and includes a huge master bedroom with king bed, a living room with 2 couches and 2 chairs (overstuffed), dining table for 8, full mirrored bar, a smaller bedroom with 2 bunk beds (probably originally a servant’s room), two complete marble-lined baths, (one with bidet!), fridge and safe, and entrance hall with doorbell. The furnishings were very comfy. The master bedroom includes an original France built-in vanity. The walls in the master bedroom and living/dining area are lacquered aluminum panels, faux-wood in the bedroom and green in the living room.

Amenities that come with the suite include: 3 1-liter bottles of premium liquor chosen from a list; unlimited sodas and bar set-ups; full breakfast menu room-service; priority embarkation/disembarkation/tendering (all escorted by the Concierge); and cocktail snacks delivered daily, including shrimp cocktail, pate, sushi, chocolate-dipped fruit, chocolates, and canapés. There is also chilled French champagne waiting your arrival, and a large, beautiful flower arrangement in the entry hall. Also included is an invitation to the Captain’s cocktail party Tuesday night in his private quarters.

After Alex the Concierge escorted us to the suite, he arranged our on-board credit, reservations at Le Bistro, and arranged our seating and dining room preferences for us and the couple traveling with us. He can also arrange any port tours. All this saves time, no waiting in line. Alex was very good during the week-he went out of his way to insure that we had a good time, even to the extent of including our traveling companions who were in “steerage” in all our activities/benefits.

Sunday afternoon was spent re-visiting the Norway (this was our third Norway cruise), unpacking (our baggage arrived very quickly), then up on deck for sail-away. Sunday evening we had our first meal in the dining room-late seating, Windward dining room. I personally feel that this is one of the most beautiful rooms at sea. It is the original France first-class dining room, and is essentially unchanged. It has a dramatic staircase entrance, fabulous art-deco gold murals, and black dome with twinkling stars. We had requested a table for four at the edge of the room, as it is noisier under the twinkling-star dome. I have read many reviews with complaints of the noise in the Windward, and granted, it is noisier than the other dining room, the Leeward, but not to the point of bothering us. Besides, you may only take breakfast and lunch in the Leeward, so if you don’t have dinner on the Windward, you miss out on this absolutely stunning room. I felt that the food, on the whole, was very good, considering that upwards of 1,000 people are being served at once. The soups and salads especially were outstanding. I also believe the food has improved from our trip on the Norway in 2002. (I have read a lot of complaints about the outdoor buffet food, but I did not find it bad at all for something quick. I usually had a first cup of coffee there in the morning along with a delicious cinnamon roll.) We had a very fine waiter, Errol from Jamaica. He was always jolly and attentive. We tipped him well at the end of the week as he had earned it.

Finished Sunday night with a show at the Saga theater, did a little slot machine play, had a nightcap, then turned in.

Monday-day at sea. Slept till we awoke around 8, ordered breakfast in the stateroom, it speedily arrived. We spent the day in various pursuits-sunning, classes, spa, etc. I especially enjoy claiming a chair in the shade on Olympic deck and reading and watching the beautiful Caribbean sea go by. Had lunch in the Leeward-good. About 5:00 we met for cocktails in our suite, then went up to the pool deck at the back to watch the sun set. Absolutely beautiful, picture post-card sunset. We did this almost every night. Then went to dress for dinner (first formal night) and off for more good food. Then to another show. We always ended in the Casino (I won $200 at slots!) then a nightcap, then bed. I always went out on deck for one last time before retiring to look at the sea-the moon was full that week-absolutely wonderful. Our evenings were usually spent in this routine.

Tuesday-another day at sea. I should mention that the Norway has two pools, one at the rear and one mid-ship. There is plenty of deck space and chairs. I prefer to go up on the Sun Deck forward, as you can see all around (take binoculars and watch for other ships).

The pools are seawater and are drained and disinfected nightly. There are two hot tubs up by the mid-ship pool. Both pools have bars with waiter service. The evening was spent in our usual routine. We did go to the Captain’s cocktail party-his private quarters are on Fjord deck, very elegant and nautical. There were cocktails and champagne available, as well as some wonderful canapés. The Captain was very nice, very cordial. We enjoyed meeting some of the other passengers, as well.

A note about the entertainment-very good, in my opinion. There were Broadway/Las Vegas style variety shows, comedians, jugglers, and singers. I enjoyed all of them-especially the Jean Ann Ryan troupe numbers. There were always at least two shows each evening, and there was also entertainment in the lounges each evening.

A note about activities-there is a variety of activities available: bingo, cards, movies, lectures, classes, etc. We prefer just to relax, but you can certainly be busy all the time if that’s your thing.

Wednesday-St. Maarten. We took the first tender in. Our traveling companions wanted to do Orient Beach (the end by the nudist resort). I had done this beach before and would rather have tried a quieter beach but went with them to show them the way. Gene doesn’t like it so he stayed in Phillipsburg to shop while I went with Larry and Robert. ($5 cab per person each way).

Rented beach chairs and umbrellas ($7.50/person), and settled back to watch the show. It’s hilarious. Orient Beach is also one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. We stayed for about 3 hours, grabbed a sandwich from the café at the nudist resort (people in the dining room without a stitch on!), then took a cab back to Phillipsburg. I was tired, so I took the tender back while Larry and Robert stayed to shop. Found Gene on the ship, he had found some real jewelry bargains (personally I feel that the shopping here is much better than in St. Thomas). I went to the spa and did the hot tub and sauna/steam rooms (love to shave in the steam room), then showered and went back upstairs just in time to catch the arrival of the freshly-baked cookies (every day at about 3:30) at the Great Outdoor Restaurant (the open-air buffet at the rear of the International deck).

The evening was spent in our usual fashion.

A note about the Roman Spa-it is located on Dolphin deck, the very lowest deck available for guests to enter. It is a very beautiful spa-done of course, in Roman-Greco style. It has a large mineral water cold-plunge pool, a hot-tub, and separate mens’s/women’s showers/saunas/steam rooms. There are also Roman reclining couches to lounge in. Fluffy robes and slippers are supplied. I found it very relaxing to “clean up” there after a day at the pool or beach. I didn’t try any of the massages or other spa treatments, but those who did enjoyed them very much (although they seemed a little pricey). There is a charge to use the Spa, but you can buy a 3-day package for about $25. Also, they have one free day for Latitudes members. I thought it was worth it to be able to use a hot tub that wasn’t full of kids like the ones up by the pools.

A note on the public rooms-as I mentioned earlier, the Windward dining room is original. The Leeward dining room, the old tourist class dining room on the France, has been considerably remodeled. It has a much more modern feel to it than the Windward. It has two levels connected by a spiral staircase. The Saga Theater, a true theater with balcony, is pretty much original as well-a very handsome theater. The Club International, a two-deck lounge, is also original-a very beautiful room where one can image he is back on the S/S France. It even has a portrait of the King of Norway! The Casino is new, and very roomy and art-deco. The Northcape Lounge is where some of the variety acts are performed, as well as bingo games, etc. The Windjammer Lounge is small, comfy, and nautical. The Sports Bar speaks for itself. Most of the public rooms and lounges are located on International deck, along with the shops and information and pursar’s desks.

Thursday-St. John/St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. Up at 7:00 for the idiotic government document inspection-took about 15 minutes of waiting in line. Had breakfast in the dining room, then took the first tender into St. Thomas. We had done a little homework on the beaches in St. Thomas, and after talking to a cab driver, he took us to Emerald Resort at Lindberg Bay, out by the airport ($5 per person each way). It was a wonderful beach, and there were only about nine people on it. We had about three hours on the beach before a rare thunderstorm forced us to seek cover. We waited until it was over, then took a cab back to downtown for a little shopping before taking the tender back to the ship. We heard later that Megan’s Bay, which is the most popular beach in St. Thomas, had hundreds of people trying to get out of the rain, with nowhere to go. I should add that if you opt to get off at St. John’s you have to be off the ship by 6:30 a.m.-but you do the passport thing there, instead of on the ship. People who opted for this did report that the beaches on St. John are very beautiful and unspoiled. You have to take a ferry to St. Thomas to catch up with the ship, and the ferry tickets have to be purchased on the ship. Thursday evening-our usual routine.

Friday-another day at sea. We did our usual at-sea things. Friday night was the other formal night. We had reservations for 8:30 at Le Bistro-the alternative fine-dining restaurant, located on the Pool deck. It is a very beautiful room, the only dining room on the Norway with windows. The service was very attentive. Food was very good-escargot, filet mignon, lobster, sea bass, elegant salads and desserts. Cover charge is now $12.50/person, with an extra charge for lobster. We felt it was well worth the extra money. The rest of the evening was our usual routine.

Saturday-private island, Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas. We were on the first tender, Gene took one of the first chairs and umbrellas, Robert, Larry and I walked a ways down the beach and there weren’t many people there. The beach is very pretty there. Robert had the energy to walk down the coast about 15 minutes and discovered another beach which was deserted. He said it was very beautiful. A couple of people did show up there later to snorkel, he said. NCL has some nice facilities on this island-hammocks, rest rooms, dining area. The ship sends over a barbeque lunch with all the trimmings-ribs, chicken, burgers, hot dogs, desserts, salads, French fries, etc. It went well with a beach day. There is also a straw market which people from the Bahamas staff. It’s nice if you haven’t bought all your souvenirs. Also-the Spa people came over and set up a tent where you could buy a massage for $1/minute! We stayed until about 2:30 then took the tender back for a rest before the evening. We also packed except for what we would need on Sunday so we wouldn’t have to worry about it. Saturday evening-our usual routine. I did walk around the ship for one last look at the public areas and then spent a long time out on deck looking at the sea before I retired.

Sunday morning-we slept until about 8:00 a.m., then had the final breakfast in the room. At 10:00 we met Alex the Concierge for priority disembarkation. We were off the ship in about 10 minutes, immediately found our luggage, and took a cab to the airport for a 1:45 flight back to Houston.

In conclusion-there is no denying that the Norway is an old ship and does have disadvantages-primarily the inability to dock at most ports, thus the need for tendering. You will not find rock-climbing walls or soaring atriums. Yes, things are a little faded. Yes, it’s really not a “party ship” (I didn’t mention the Disco because we never went there), But it you want to experience a true ocean liner, with good food, pleasant service, relaxed port stops, there is no substitute, with the possible exception of the QEII. I have had three cruises on the Norway now, and I’ve stayed in the lowest category cabin with bunk beds up to the opulence of the Owner’s Suite, and I can honestly say that they have all been wonderful experiences. If you should have other questions which I might be able to answer, please e-mail me-I will be glad to answer.

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