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Vincent Clay Parker

Age: 29

Occupation:Manager, Six Sigma Black belt

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Norway

Sailing Date: January 19th, 2003

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

Cruise Line: Norwegian Cruise Line
Sailing Date: January 19th, 2003

My wife and I have just returned from our first cruise. We were both anxious to submit this cruise review. The reason being that we hope that others may benefit from it in the same way we benefited from the reviews we read prior to sailing. The advice was helpful (especially the tips and suggestions that were given by some). We hope to build on that and also point out some specifics we noticed about our particular cruise.

I am a manager at a heavy-duty truck company in Ohio and my wife is a x-ray technician. We have 1 son who just turned 2 in January. He stayed home with the grand parents during our cruise. After going on the cruise we wish we had taken him with us (more on this later).

We sailed on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norway. The ship was built in the 60’s and has undergone a couple facelifts since then. Many of the reviews out there refer to her (The Norway) age and inherent issues involved. I must say that after reading some of the reviews that we were both concerned if we had made a mistake in choosing the Norway. Let me tell you that now that we have sailed on her, our concerns are washed away like the sands on the beach of St. Marten. In the following paragraphs I will cover what aspects helped make it such an enjoyable trip and also cover some items that made us want to turn around and go home.

Before I begin however, I need to take a minute and recognize someone that helped my wife and I out tremendously for this cruise. This would be Cyprus from Expedia Cruises. We needed to contact Cyprus when we had a major issue a few weeks after Christmas. My wife and I were reviewing cruise information on the web when we wanted to pull our cruise documents out and look at them for some reason. We were panicked when we could not find a single piece of paper relating to our cruise. This included our flight information, cruise tickets/tags, birth certificates. We turned our house upside down and the information was no where to be found. The last time we remembered looking at the file was Christmas day when our family was visiting. The worst thought was probably true – the folder with all the information was laid aside with Christmas wrapping and thrown away with the trash!

Before we panicked too much I picked up the phone and contacted Expedia to see if they could help. Cyprus answered the phone. She has to be the most friendly, understanding, and helpful person I’ve ever dealt with over the phone. She took our information and made several contacts with Norwegian and Delta and arranged everything so that we would have a “pier pickup” ready for us when we arrived at the ship. She also recommended a web site for express birth certificates that actually cost less than what we paid for them originally. She saved our vacation and we owe her dearly. Expedia is very fortunate to have people like her in their team. (On a side note, some of our information turned up in the bottom of a box of a relative's Christmas present when it was unboxed late January).

With that said… the worst part of our entire trip was the embarkation process. This has absolutely nothing to do with the Norway, and everything to do with Norwegian Cruise Lines. The ordeal began when we got off our plane in Miami. As we had read in other reviews, there was no one to greet us when we walked off the plane (many other cruise lines were standing by to assist their guests). We had to make our way to the baggage claim area and then ask around for Norwegian Cruise Lines. We finally found them behind a desk in one of the baggage claim areas. The attendants were friendly and helpful. They took our luggage and signed us up for the roundtrip bus ride to the pier ($48 for two). We were escorted outside and told to wait for 30 minutes and a shuttle would be by to take us to the pier. We waited and enjoyed the sunshine and second hand smoke from the others waiting. After about 45 minutes we noticed the attendants bringing others out and explaining to them that they would only have to wait 30 minutes for a shuttle. The shuttle eventually came after an hour and a half later. Once we got to the pier we were herded off the shuttle and into what looked like a cattle sale barn. If you have ever been to one of those 2-3 hour waits at Kings Island or Disney to ride the “new ride” that is what this was like. The differences being that those lines are organized. NCL representatives were shouting at everyone and trying to get us to fill out some sort of cards. We kept getting pulled out of line and told to wait “right here”. After waiting 15 minutes nothing happened so we would have to go back to the end of the line (which just kept growing). This happened twice! We were then herded upstairs to stand in another line. After about 3 hours we were finally aboard the ship. During this disorganized cattle drive there were times when I found myself wondering if it was really going to be worth it. Should we just turn around? The answer was thankfully no.

Once on the Norway the vacation began. The crew on the Norway made us immediately feel like we were home. We were greeted with smiling faces and any assistance we needed. It was just a very enjoyable trip. I would like to talk about a few aspects of cruising on the Norway that I found were contradictory with other reviews that I had read. These were the items that had made my wife and I nervous before taking the trip. These include the overall appearance and upkeep of the ship, the quality and quantity of the food, the quality of the onboard entertainment, and preparing for Miami in January.
 Overall appearance/upkeep – We had read that the Norway was past her prime. I would have loved to have seen her when she was on her maiden voyage. The Norway surely shined in all the rich tradition of classic ocean liners. Though the Norway may not be in the pristine condition that she was back then, she is still remarkable. When the shuttle pulled up to the pier we could easily pick her out. Her silhouette is quite stunning with the orange lifeboats and the two blue exhaust stacks puffing in the sky.

Work was constantly occurring on the Norway to keep her looking ship shape. One evening we even witnessed a crewmember refinishing one of the hardwood floors outside. The carpet all looked new. The outdoor areas of the ship were in excellent shape. The only area I saw that really needed attention was the theater. The seats looked new, but there were several lights out on the stage decorations and part of the ceiling was falling down.

Our room, P009 – We had read several reviews about the staterooms on the Norway. They were mostly favorable but were normally the more expensive larger staterooms. We weren’t sure what to expect with our inside stateroom on the Pool Deck. Our room was also one of the last ones available and only cost us $299 per person. We were pleasantly surprised to find an adequately sized room that was in excellent shape. There were two bunks, a dresser, two closets, a chair (some rooms we snooped in didn’t have the chair), TV (color w/remote), and an adequate restroom (shampoo is not provided, bring your own).

– The food was exceptional. There are several choices for food. The two that come included with the cruise are the main dinning areas and The Great Outdoor Restaurant. The dining areas serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The Great Outdoor Restaurant serves breakfast and lunch. One note about eating in the dining areas. Make sure you order something from every course of the meal. The first night everyone at our table only ordered an appetizer and the main course. We were hungry after we discovered that our appetizer consisted of only 3 breaded mushrooms (they had some fancy name). After that we were sure to order an appetizer, salad, soup, main course, and dessert.

Speaking of dessert, the Norway has complementary ice cream available throughout the day on the international deck. It is really good. There are also Haagen-Dazs ice cream bars available in the pool areas, but they are $3 a piece (we stuck with the free stuff).

Entertainment – The entertainment was absolutely outstanding. The main performers for the cruise were the Jean-Ann Ryan Company. They put on several Broadway style shows. What a remarkable and talented group. There were also several talented comedians, Jeff Harms and Billy Prudhomme. The cruise director Suzy Atkins has done a wonderful job of bringing these entertainers together.

Miami in January – Leaving Ohio in January to travel to Miami was not what we had expected. We had 4” of snow in Ohio when we left and were looking forward to the warmth of Miami. We were quite shocked when we got to Miami and realized that the temperatures were in the high 30s. We were thankful that we had been too chicken to leave our coats in our car before boarding the plane in Ohio. A note to all – pack at least one sweatshirt. It would have been comforting in Miami as well as a few days at sea when the sun was hidden behind clouds.

Stairs – Every review that I have read about the Norway recommends not using her elevators. To be honest, we followed that recommendation and didn’t use them once. The rumor is that they are slow. We found it easy to navigate the stairs and were pleased to find that we had not gained any weight when we returned home.

Goodies – Probably the best tip we got from a review was to pack goodies in our suitcase for snacking on the trip. We stored 24 cans of pop and lots of chocolate in our suitcase. We got a weird look from the x-ray operator at the airport but made it through OK. There were still a few cans of pop left when the cruise was over and it made for a nice gift for our room steward. Our souvenirs took up the empty space in our suitcase. The reason for taking pop is that it is not free on the Norway. There is a program for $24 to buy a cup that is refilled for free the entire trip. We did not do this because of the logistics of having to carry the cup around all the time, the chance that it could get mixed up with someone else’s when it is filled, and not to mention “who cleans that thing throughout the week?”. Our friends that we met at our dinner table had to buy some candy in the gift shop (diabetic). They said it was $3 and old (Snickers Bar).

St Marten – Out of the two major islands we stopped at, St. Marten and St. Thomas, St. Marten seemed to be the better deal for shopping. The prices in St. Thomas were higher than in St. Marten.

When waiting for the tender to take you back to the ship in St. Marten, wait on the beach right next to the pier. We were able to relax on the beach and wait for the last tender. This is opposed to standing in the line on the pier. We had the late seating for dinner so this was not a problem.

A room with a view
– One small item that seems to be under-publicized is that every room has a view of the ocean. Even our inside stateroom. If you turn on the TV to channel 21 (maybe 23) you see a view out the front of the ship from the bridge. Some people made fun of it joking that the Captain was sleeping and it was our time to drive, but I thought it was nifty. We were able to turn the TV to that channel when we went to sleep and wake up to the sun rising in our room. It is also a good place to view the tender boats being lowered into the sea (if you like mechanical things like that, I do).

Our trip on the Norway was very enjoyable. The food was great and plentiful (there were often delicious Mexican buffets in the Sports Bar). Our room was comfy and cozy with a view (TV). The staff were all pleasant and helpful. Whenever we needed direction to find our way on the ship someone was always around to help point us in the right direction. We look forward to sailing on the Norway again. Next time we will bring our son and family members.

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