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Joe Irwin

Age: 46


Number of Cruises: 11

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Norway

Sailing Date: July 21st; 2002

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

Cruise Line: NCL
Sailing Date: July 21st; 2002

I. Ship

The ship was about what I expected. Most of the carpeting has been replaced recently. All of the public rooms are in good shape. The plumbing was dated but it all works. The ship has a popular full basketball court and a jogging deck longer than a regular running track. The exterior painting and floor surfaces need attention. I saw maintenance personnel painting and doing floor maintenance but they are not keeping up. The ship was impressive from a distance. It’s long and narrow and has a much more distinctive look than any of the other ships we saw. Because of the length the ship was stable even in some 10”+ swells. There was a fair amount of swaying, however.

II. Cabin

The cabin was small but efficiently laid-out. There were several drawers and cabinets. The closet was large and there was another area in the cabin to hang up additional clothes. We had a cabin with a double bed that we thought would be too small but it wasn’t too bad. It had a good mattress. The bathroom was better than average. The shower was larger than some of the RCL ships we’ve sailed on. The vanity mirror storage held a lot. The cabin creaked and popped a bit when the ship was in motion. There was a vent in the door and a little space under the door that let in more noise from the hallway than we are used to. The noise from adjoining cabins was average compared to other ships we’ve sailed on. All in all it was an above average cabin.

III. Entertainment

The Jean-Ann Ryan Company was the best Broadway style production group that we’ve seen on a cruise. All of the lead singers were talented and the dancers were well above average. They performed almost every night. The sound and lighting staff were top notch. The Saga Theater was somewhat small so the most popular shows were repeated twice. The maitre d’ handed out tickets at the first dinner, which divided passengers into three color groups. Each color group attended a different show. We liked the balcony best because it’s so close to the stage and the stage was so high (about 6’ from the floor). The theater has excellent sight lines with no columns to obstruct the view.

We really liked the comedian Philadelphia. His first show was hilarious. He was at his best with his musical impersonations and improvisations. A lot of his standard stand up material was a little off-color and didn’t work quite as well. The magician, Greg Moreland was average. I saw some of comedian Chris Klauber on the TV rerun and was not impressed. The lounge entertainers were OK. Pure Souls in the sports bar was the best. The Club International was impressive and reminiscent of the 60’s. Link + Co. Trio plays the music you would expect in this venue. The Windjammer Lounge was a cigar smoking lounge and was quite smoky so we didn’t spend much time there. The music sounded fine from the hall, however. Roots Link the calypso band was just what you would expect. I was disappointed in the Norway Show band although the keyboardist and sax player were good. The Broadway production used taped music. All of the other cruises we’ve been on used live instrumentalists supplemented by tape.

Don’t bother with the disco. It’s small and difficult to find.

IV. Staff

Our room steward and wait staff were fine. We rarely had to wait for our room to be cleaned or for our water glasses to be refilled. When we asked for an additional entrée our waiter honored our request to bring just the meat instead of an entire extra dinner. He was very accommodating to each of our special requests. The wine steward was below average. She rarely refilled our glasses and the few times she gave advice she suggested the more expensive wines on the list.

The cruise director Denny was different. He had a distinct New York accent (kind of like Sipowitz on NYPD Blue) and he played the accordion fairly well. The rest of the cruise director staff was good. The shore excursion staff was helpful but some of the Information Desk staff members didn’t speak English very well.

The Fitness Center staff was quite attentive especially to the folks in the “Kick Start” program. The fitness center itself was well maintained but the equipment was out of date. The air-conditioning was inadequate in this room.

V. Itinerary/excursions

Passengers must clear immigration in the Saga Theater at 6:30 to 7:30 AM in St. Thomas. Avoid the hassle of the early morning immigration experience by booking a St. John excursion. The shopping areas in St. Thomas and St. Martin next to the pier were quite crowded. We found places to get on the Internet to check our email. The best place in St. Thomas was Little Switzerland. They have a well air-conditioned Internet café with free Internet access, upstairs in their store.

We went on two sailing excursions, the Golden Eagle Catamaran in St. Martin and the “Sailing the Virgin Islands” in St. Thomas. The Golden Eagle was pricey but they take good care of you. The crew was good- looking and very friendly. The beach was beautiful and there was free flowing champagne on the way back. The sailing yacht out of St. Thomas carries six passengers and drops you off in a cove at Buck Island. The snorkeling was challenging but worth the effort. Because of the limited number of passengers you get a lot of personal attention. Leave your water shoes in your cabin because neither crew allows passengers to wear shoes on their boats.

Great Stirrup Cay was crowded and hot. The beach was nice but the RCL island next door is much nicer. If you’ve done the private island thing before, you might want to stay onboard and enjoy a quiet day next to the pool.

VI. Food

The food in the main dining room was average. Some people liked the Windward dining room better because of the impressive ceiling and grand entry staircase. We ate in the Leeward, and I don’t think we missed out at all. We had a table on the second floor and enjoyed the view we had of the spiral staircase. I liked the beef dishes and desserts. The seafood tasted fresh even later in the week. The Le Bistro extra cost dining room had a small selection of above average food for an extra $10 per person. The restaurant was not crowded but it was right next to the pool so there were people passing by in swimwear during the meal. The service was slightly better than the main dining room. They charge an additional $7 for lobster.

The Great Outdoor restaurant was open fewer hours than any casual dining facility on any ship I’m familiar with. It closed at 6PM. The food was good and the selection was average. There were few tables available for a ship this size. The room service menu was limited but the food quality was good. Try the pizza. We went to the High Tea in the Le Bistro and it was nice but we were disappointed to see people there in shorts.

VII. Internet access

The computers in the library were nice and up-to-date. The connection speed wasn’t much faster than dial-up speed. Access was 75 cents a minute plus a one-time setup charge. The support staff member was helpful. The selection of books in the library was better than on the Carnival and RCL ships we’ve been on.

VIII. Shopping

There are a number of shops on the International deck. There was a limited stock of cosmetics compared with other ships. They had a $10 store. Everything was the same price. My wife bought a couple of watches.

IX. Formal nights

There are two formal nights on board. Almost everyone dressed up for dinner but there were only a few men in tuxes. A few people didn’t dress up and there was no casual alternative for them except for room service.

X. Embarkation/disembarkation

Check in was easy at or before noon but the lines get very long later. Immigration/Customs personnel are at the entrances and other locations in the terminal and slow things down a bit. Note: There are two terminals for check in. My wife and I became separated when I dropped her off and returned the rental car. A stevedore sent her to the west terminal and I went to the east terminal. The ship was so long that the terminals are almost 1000’ apart. It took an hour for us to hook up again and by the time we did the lines were quite long. Norwegian allows you to stay in your cabin while waiting to disembark. That’s better than having to camp out in a lounge. We didn’t get off the ship until after 10:30. We found out later that one of the employees was caught trying to smuggle drugs off the ship and was caught, slowing everything down.

XI. Best features

Several things on this cruise were the best of any of the ten cruises we’ve experienced so far.

1. The cabin storage was exceptional probably because this used to be an ocean liner.
2. The cabin lighting was very good especially the lights surrounding the vanity.
3. The sailing excursions in St. Martin and St. Thomas were exceptional. The crews were attentive.
4. The duck in the dining room was the tastiest of any of the cruises.
5. The computers in the Internet facilities were state of the art with flat screen monitors.
6. The fitness center staff were well trained and very helpful.
7. We had a New York Times fax in our cabin daily. (Latitudes member benefit)
8. The Saga Theater had the best sight lines and sound system of any theater we’ve seen.
9. The arcade was huge and had a good selection of current games.
10. The frequent cruiser program was generous. (Special reception, discounted drinks, NYT fax etc.)

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