Number of Cruises: 6
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Sailing Date: June 9th, 2002
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
Embarkation - arrived at noon at the pier after overnighting at Summerfield Suites at the Airport. Unfortunately since Avis closed their office at the pier, Dave had to return the car to the airport. So the rest of the family waited while he went back to Avis then rode back to the pier with his stepmother - who had come to see us off.
When Dave returned (about 12:45) it had suddenly gotten very busy. The initial id check line moved quickly but it was confusing figuring out where we needed to go. Finally found the penthouse/owners suite line (only one guy doing check-in for all of these) and after about 15 minutes we were at the counter. After a quick process we were told to wait for the Concierge, Caron, who would escort us to our cabin, V140. We waited about 10 minutes, and then got impatient and got on the ship ourselves! We were escorted to our cabin once we got on board. After trying to figure out where things were we went up to get some food at the Great Outdoor, and Dave stopped in to see Caron. Got credit done, Le Bistro reservations, and some other details. One thing we couldn't get done was changing our dining (late, Windward) to early. We got a note from Caron that it might not be possible but to see the Maitre D’ at our regular seating. When we did that we were told there were 14 people ahead of us also trying to change to early seating.
We ate a little at Great Outdoor (crowded, confusing, noisy) then explored until the lifeboat drill. Got the kids signed up for the teen program (they were already having a great time - said it was the best cruise ever and we hadn't left port!) We watched sail away then retired to our cabin to rest, unpack, and enjoy our Champaign and canapés. During our exploration we found the little passageway that takes you under the sky deck pool - and while there was no water in it yet, the passageway is definitely cool! We also noticed many of the France remnants - especially the walls etched with musical instruments in a little shop on the International deck.
We then wandered down to the Roman Spa (use stairtower 3 and go all the way down.) We toured the spa with a nice lady who tried desperately to get us to sign up for some kind of treatment right away. We didn't, but we might later. (never did!) The spa is very nice, very opulent. We then went back to our cabin to get ready for dinner.
Dinner the first day was fine for most of us. Between us we had prime rib, scallops, and lamb. While the first two were very good, the lamb, according to my father, was not - he thought it seemed like there was sawdust in it! Service was ok, though impersonal (maybe it will get better as the week goes on. (it didn't really!)) Some things were a bit slow - mint jelly for the lamb didn't show up until we asked, and then it took a long time. Dessert was also a long time coming, though the bread pudding and the decadence chocolate were pretty good.
Following our late dinner we went to the first night show. This show is where they typically give you a flavor of what is to come. The cruise director, Adrian, was pretty good for one of his "type" (cruise director that is!) The Jean Ann Ryan dancers did a number and then the comedy juggler (Barry John) did a bit of his routine - very funny. The show was fine, the Saga Theater unbearably HOT at times; we noticed this throughout the ship. Usually we find the interiors over air-conditioned. This time it was very warm on most decks. After the show and a stroll on the outer decks, we called it a night.
DAY 2 - Monday June 10 - at sea
We awoke expecting our breakfast from room service to arrive at 8:30 having placed an order form on our door the night before. At 9:00 it had not yet arrived. So Dave called room service to be told they didn't have an order from us. To their credit, after I reordered, everything showed up very quickly, but it was still frustrating. The kids grabbed a roll and some juice and headed off to the teen program. We didn't hear from them again until dinner time! But the report was that they had an excellent time, despite the fact that the day turned out very rainy. The only evidence we had that they were still on the ship was a pile of wet clothes that magically appeared in the middle of the living room in the afternoon. We learned later they had been playing basketball in the rain. Later in the day we arrived back at our stateroom to find that doors were open, dressers open, things scattered a bit - apparently the scavenger hunt had made its way through our room.
Most of today we just hung out here and there and explored. We had lunch in the Leeward; food was pretty good but service was awfully slow. Our waiter more or less disappeared at one point for 15 minutes after everyone had finished appetizers and were waiting for main courses. At this point (first full day) we were not in the least impressed by service. While people were friendly, they did not go out of their way at all to get things done. Maybe it's a Caribbean thing (soon come, mon!) but we expected better. Our cabin was not made up between the time we left (about 10) and when we came right before lunch (noon); our ice was not being replenished, and so on. Still, we were continuing to have a very good time, and we didn't sweat the small stuff.
After lunch we saw Devon Scott's talk about the history of the SS France held in Club Internationale. GO TO THIS! It was very interesting, and we enjoyed it a lot. Unfortunately, due to the bad weather, most people were indoors, and that included a number of people eating lunch in the same room (which is next to the Great Outdoor Restaurant.) Those folks were loud and annoying, and didn't seem to be interested in the fact someone was trying to give a talk. Following that we met some folks from the CruiseCritic Board (Hi Georgene & Rick (who we didn't actually meet yet) and Valerie, Gary and Samantha!) We all had some ice cream and talked a bit. Walked around some more, stood out in the rain, and explored. Then we went to tea at Le Bistro - very nice, very elegant. Then nap time and time to get ready for the first formal night!
The boys actually showed up in time to get dressed up - so we all got into our best (well, in my case into a rented tux) and went to dinner. We didn't go to the Captain's reception though because we weren't organized enough. Dinner was pretty good - at our table we had beef Wellington (excellent) and a shrimp dish that was also quite good. Dessert was peaches flambé for most of us, and everyone liked it very much. Service was ok tonight, though again a little slow and the waiter and assistant waiter were efficient though not especially friendly again. After dinner we went to the show "Sing, Sing, Sing." The dancers seemed competent and the music fine, but the show lacked energy. We were pretty tired so we ended up leaving before the show was over.
Before turning in for the night we ordered breakfast for the suite in the morning - omelets, pancakes, etc. - one of the perks of an owner's suite is that you can get anything from room service; not limited to just the continental breakfast. The first morning we hadn't realized this, but from then on we had the works almost every day.
DAY 3 - Tuesday, June 11 - at sea
We woke up about an hour before we were expecting breakfast. At about 8:45 (the time requested) we received a call that breakfast was on its way. Unlike yesterday, everything was on time and the order was exactly what we asked for. Food was hot and good.
The button on my tux fell off last night (the tux was rented through Floating Formals using their internet site, www. floatingformals.com.) We also finally figured out we needed to order snorkeling vests (we had the other equipment) for Great Stirrup Cay, and we decided to redo our Le Bistro reservations for tonight. So a call to Caron was in order. She took care of it all efficiently. The tux jacket was back within an hour.
For most of the day today we just wandered around the ship checking out the shops, relaxing, etc. The weather was bright and sunny - in fact, both boys got very sunburned despite repeated warnings to put on plenty of sunblock. They mostly played basketball during the morning, in the afternoon they held a bellyflop contest on the pool deck. While they were doing that we went to Devon's second history lecture. Once more really interesting. This time he focused on the interior of the France and showed us pictures of the different original rooms and explained what's there today. Then we checked out the art auction - didn't buy anything - and spent a few dollars in the casino.
Back at our cabin was a plate of pate of some type - not being pate eaters, we weren't too sure what it was, but it was pretty good. Our reservations for Le Bistro came through for 6:00pm. The five of us had a very nice time there - had filet mignon and salmon at our table, finished with cheesecake. Everything was as good as everyone says - a nice change from the regular dining. Earlier that afternoon our invitation to a cocktail party at the captain's quarters arrived. So following Le Bistro we went up to Fjord Deck forward and visited with the captain and various officers and staff. About 20 people were invited, and we spent most of our time talking to Devon, Adrian the cruise director, and Tony the art auction guy. All were really interesting and an hour flew by - we ended up being the next to last ones to leave!
Following the cocktail party we stopped in to watch Barry John, the comedy juggler on board. He was pretty funny, and really good at juggling. Then we met the CruiseCritic folks to visit cabins. One cabin was K002, the Venus Owners Suite on Sky Deck. Wonderful floor to ceiling windows, and a marble bathroom, also with windows, along with a walk in closet. After everyone came to our suite, we then went up to F054, Fjord Deck aft. This is a Penthouse Suite, with a really nice balcony (wooden decking) and a great seating area with lots of couch space. And unlike most Fjord deck cabins, this one does NOT have any obstructions!
Then off to bed, up early in the morning for St. Martin!
Day 4 - Wednesday, June 12 - St. Martin
Full breakfast in the suite once again, this time a little earlier so we would be ready for the early tender (at 8:45.) Tendering was simple - took only about 15 minutes to get from the Norway to the dock right in the middle of town. Only took a couple more minutes to get everyone off the tender. Once on shore we hired a taxi to tour the island. ($18 each). George took us around - we stopped in Marigot to shop for a bit (bought a dress and some cool carvings made from Tagua Nuts (looks surprisingly like ivory) and then at Orient Beach to hang out a bit. We didn't stay long at Orient - the kids' sunburn meant we hadn't planned to beach at all. But Aletia and I got a picture of us next to the Club Orient sign, just after some other folks mooned us all to take a picture. Then we went back to Phillipsburg and had lunch at Barefoot restaurant. After sending Bernie and the kids back to the ship, we did some jewelry shopping (OyVey!) and wandered around some more. Back to the ship to find our latest goodies: some pastries and a bottle of Merlot courtesy of the Hotel Director.
Tonight's show was Que Noche, which for us was before our late dinner seating - showtime 7:30, dinner at 8:30. Following the show - which was OK, but still lacked a bit of energy - there was a meet and greet with the cast. Turns out this cast is in its last week and a new cast begins with the next cruise. So I suspect most of these performers are focused on going home. In any case, the show, while reasonably well done on the small stage they have, was not as good as ones we've seen on Princess or Carnival.
Dinner was fine - we had a range of entrees for President's Dinner. The beef went over very well with the boys, as did the salmon with Bernie. Aletia and Dave both had the rack of lamb, this time the mint jelly showed up right away. No real complaints, though service continues to be slow and the kids continue to leave before dessert to get to their teen disco.
Knowing we had an EARLY wake up the next morning for immigration, we called it a night pretty much right after dinner. We made plans to get up at 6:15 to get into the 6:30 line, then to have breakfast delivered to the room at 7:45. The "early" tendering to St. Thomas would be at 8:45. We did not plan to go to St. John, since we had set up a Discover Scuba independently at Coki Beach for 11:00AM.
Day 5 - Thursday, June 15 - St. Thomas
As planned we got up early and joined the idiotic immigration review line. Showed our passports at the door to the saga theater; they were looked at all of 3 seconds. Then we had our boarding passes stamped "processed" and our names checked off on a list. Finally, those who needed tender tickets could then pick them up. Total time (and the line appeared really long) was about 10 minutes. It wasn't too much of a problem but I don't see any value in it at all. If someone was on the ship who shouldn't be they certainly wouldn't attend this lineup and no one would know they were there!
We finished with the immigration stuff then had breakfast - French toast, scrambled and fried eggs, bacon, etc. All came pretty hot and right on time (French toast wasn't really hot enough though.) We then joined the group stairtower 1 on Norway deck for tendering. As with yesterday tendering was pretty simple, pretty quick, and no great hassle at all. Tender dropped us right in the middle of Charlotte Amalie, which is actually more convenient than at the pier where Carnival's Paradise and RCCL's ship were docked. We walked around St. Thomas for a few minutes - stopped at the post office to mail a card (34 cents - it's the US postal service of course!) One real problem with St. Thomas - every shop had barkers at the door who really tended to hassle people walking by, trying to get them in the store. There were also swarms of taxi drivers looking to give tours. We stayed polite, but we did feel a bit hassled.
About St. John - if you wanted to go to St. John and you weren't taking a ship's tour, you had to pre-purchase the ferry tickets to get from St. John to St. Thomas to get back to the ship. Folks who did this assembled for their tender at 6:20am; they did not go through the immigration line on the Norway; instead they presented their documents on shore. We had decided to focus on St. Thomas, so this didn't apply to us.
We had made plans about two weeks ahead of time for the boys and Aletia to do Discover Scuba with Coki Beach Dive Club (www.cokidive.com) at 11:00. So around 10:00 we looked for a taxi and found Benjamin, driving a maroon van labeled "Ambassador" on the windshield. Benjamin took as to Coki Beach ($7 per person for 5 of us) and on the way he tried to convince us to take a tour with him after the scuba diving. So he took us the "long way around" to show us a hint of the tour, and he convinced us to do it. He wanted $15 per person for an hour and a half. Since it would cost us $7 pp to get back from Coki anyway, we figured a tour for an additional $8 pp wasn't a bad deal. So we arranged to meet him at the Coral World snack bar at 2:00. (Benjamin, by the way, says he was a cop on St. Thomas for 27 years, and recently retired. He showed us his badge and ID, seemed real. He turned out to be very interesting and entertaining - it was a great tour!)
The Discover Suba program was fantastic. The folks at the dive club were wonderful, friendly, and very helpful. Andrew, Greg and Aletia got fitted out even though we arrived early, and then were able to use the mask, fins, and a snorkel at no extra cost to do some snorkeling before and after the dive. They said this was by far the highlight of the trip, which itself was already great. They spent about 2 hours total time with their instructor, much of it in the water, first getting acclimated to the whole thing then eventually walking out from the beach into 30 foot water. The instructor only had the three of them, so it was very personal service. The total actual dive time was about 40 minutes, much more than the ship's tour (at around $80 each) would have been. Cost was $55 per person. We would highly recommend these folks to anyone wishing to do discover scuba!
While the others were doing scuba Bernie and Dave went to Coral World and checked out the exhibits. They watched the fish and shark feedings – pretty cool - and checked out a few other things. They were also amazed by the iguanas all over the place.
After everyone was done we took the tour with Benjamin - went to the top of the tallest hill on the island (which he claims is 5,000 feet, but is more like 1500) - incredible views. Overall this was an excellent experience and worthwhile. We were dropped right at the tender just before it was time for it to leave. Quick trip back to the ship, and St. Thomas was over.
Before dinner we watched the comedy show of John Pinney. He was hilarious – had us rolling in the aisles! Showtime for late seating is 7:30pm. At dinner, tonight was Caribbean night - dinner was good as before - nothing to rave about, but certainly good food. Tonight was also the first waiter parade with Babaloo Cake. The cake wasn't so good, though, and the parade is a bit tacky. But people seemed to enjoy themselves. We were exhausted from the early day and went to sleep early, missing the Caribbean deck party. (We found we didn't do nearly as much at night as we expected we would - we were content to just relax and hang out!)
Day 6 - Friday June 14 - At Sea
We all slept really late today, so we missed breakfast entirely. Instead we ordered some sandwiches and other stuff to the cabin and had our first lunch of the day. Caron had arranged a backstage tour of the Saga Theater for us, so we met her there at 11:00. We watched the new cast rehearse for a bit, then Andrew and Aletia went backstage while Greg and Dave went to the Windjammer Lounge to sign the boys up for the guest talent show later today. They were singing a barbershop duet (that's a quartet with two of the parts missing!) Turned out LOTS of folks signed up, the warning that only 8 acts would be accepted as was printed in the Cruise news was not true. The boys were number 10, and another 10-12 acts signed up after them. ALL the acts were able to go at the show at 4:30 in the North Cape Lounge. Unfortunately when I left to go the Windjammer, I not only missed the backstage tour, but also took the camera with me, so we didn't get any pictures of the former Chapel that is now the dressing room.
Around noon we went to the Great Outdoor and had our second lunch. Cheeseburgers, ribs, and assorted salads. All were fine, pretty much what you'd expect from a decent buffet. Not elegant, but certainly edible. After lunch we watched Devon's third and final talk about the France/Norway. It was fun and informative again. We encourage anyone interested in the heritage and future of this ship to check out his web site www.ss-norway.com. Aletia and I then went to today's art auction, since it was sports memorabilia day. The boys, who had disappeared earlier, showed up at the auction since they wanted to buy some sports related stuff. Andrew ended up spending his own money on a Bob Feller signed baseball. Greg bought a Charlie Brown piece that included drawings of Stan Musial and Charlie Brown, signed by Musial. Who knows if we got ripped off, but both boys were thrilled!
Tonight is the second formal night, so after watching the kids perform in the talent show (there were a LOT of good performances and John Pinney was an excellent MC!) we went back to the suite to get ready. We found tonight's little gift - five chocolate truffles courtesy of Caron, the Concierge.
The show was Sea Legs Goes Hollywood, and it was a LOT better than the other ones, at least for us. Maybe that's because we recognized more of the songs, and we thought the dancers' energy was stronger. Following the show a special ending show is put on with the crew - lots of people from the ship - chefs, stewards, waiters, officers, etc. coming up and filling the stage. They then sang "We are the World". The Captain came up and talked for a while - he seemed much more personable and better at this than most captains we have seen. The "We are the world" stuff is a bit hokey, but actually kind of moving as well.
Dinner was the Captain's Farewell Dinner. Food was good again - once more the beef was considered very good by those who had it. The fish dish was also quite good. Following dinner was the "Baked Alaska Parade" where all the waiters come out holding "flaming" Baked Alaska's and dance around. Frankly we could do without this - it slows the already slow service down a lot. But most of the people in the dining room seemed to enjoy it, so what the heck. The Baked Alaska itself was really good - MUCH better than we had on Princess. In particular, the meringue was smooth and creamy, not gritty like we had on our Princess Alaska cruise.
After dinner we wandered around a bit then went to Club International for the Formal on the France party. This was very nice - the music was great and they showed a film of the France's maiden voyage. Very classy all around. We talked some more with Devon Scott about the Norway and its future. Later we went to the Chocoholic Buffet which was interesting, though with late seating we weren't all that interested in eating much. We got some chocolate covered strawberries (yummy!) and retired to our room.
DAY 7 - Saturday June 15 - At sea and Great Stirrup Cay (and they don't love us anymore!)
This day started inauspiciously when our breakfast order, set for 9:30, didn't arrive, even though we had been called by room service to tell us it was on the way. After calling room service we found out that the breakfast was indeed on its way - and when the waiter arrived, he said he had gotten lost! Even the staff has trouble finding their way around here sometimes!
Breakfast done, we relaxed for a while, since we were en route to the private island. However, as the captain had announced the day before, we were well behind schedule. The weather, for the first time since our first day at sea, was dreary and overcast, though it didn't actually rain. We walked around the shops and the ship and then played cards with the boys back in our suite as we waited to reach the Cay. Finally, about 2:00 we were ready to tender to the island. Here's where the tendering was a pain for the first time. We were lined up in a stairtower on Biscayne deck while waiting for the tender to tie up to the ship. But the waves were very choppy and it took a good 15 minutes or more before the gangplank was in place. Then we loaded the tender and they tried to cram as many people on it as possible, meaning we waited for another 20 minutes on the tender before starting out. Once we began we stopped about halfway, so the "crew tender" Bahamaramamama (I think I have this right!) could get to the island before us. This would have made sense, except that the forward tender (they tendered from both aft and forward doors) had already reached the island and passengers were already in the water. So we waited another 5-10 minutes, then finally reached the island about 3:00.
The island - what can I say. We arrive about 3:00 and the last tender would head back to the ship at 6:30. Turned out this was more than enough time for us. We're not really big beach people, so other than trying some snorkeling, we weren't that excited anyway. So we claimed some chairs and umbrellas, got on our snorkeling stuff and hit the water. Now remember, it was overcast. Add to that the sand kicked up by lots of people in the water and the fact that the seas were a bit rough - meaning lots of waves. Bottom line - we couldn't see anything, and swimming against the incoming waves was pretty tough. Overall the snorkeling was a bust. However, to be fair, the boys had a wonderful time; playing volleyball and swimming (and snorkeling a bit with us). We headed back to the ship on the 6:15 tender to find our last little food present – shrimp cocktail, courtesy of the hotel director. All in all while the boys had fun on the island, we probably would have had a better time staying on the ship and taking the private bridge tour for owner's suite passengers. Live and learn!
When we returned we also arrived to find they didn't love us anymore! Our robes were already gone - this is WAY too early, especially since we needed to shower after being on the island. Our extra towels were gone too - the cabin stewardess left only 2 large towels in each bathroom, when we'd had four all week. What was left of our fruit basket was gone (having never been refilled except the one day we specifically asked for it!) And the beautiful floral arrangement disappeared too - probably to make sure we didn't take fruit or flowers off the ship, since that's a no-no.
Once back we began our final packing (boo hoo!) to be ready to put the bags out late in the evening. The Norway actually gives you until 3:00AM (all the other cruises we'd been on wanted the bags out by midnight.) Because we were coated with sand and salt water, we didn't get cleaned up in time to see the show (Ritchie from the Jean Ann Ryan cast doing a solo show.) Bernie had stayed on the ship, and he did see the show; He found it very good and worth seeing. At our final dinner I had the most disappointing meal of the cruise. The appetizers weren't anything special and the beef was really very tough. First time that happened all week. Aletia said the lamb was excellent, though, and the cherries jubilee at the end was very good.
We gave out our tips (which we had charged to our account, so we had vouchers to hand out.) We gave Mario and Julian the suggested amounts ($3.50 and $2.00 per day per person). They had been competent but had not really done anything special or were particularly friendly. As we've noted before service was generally pretty slow and not up to fine restaurant standards. But we believe this may be because the waiters have too many tables to cover - they seemed much busier than on other cruises we've been on, though we don't know for sure that this is the case. We tipped the Maitre D' only $20 - he really didn't do anything at all for us; though he came by the table and smiled once or twice. We never did get to know his name. We also tipped our room stewardess Evi the suggested amount ($3.50 pppd) since she didn't do anything above and beyond -- and in fact sometimes things weren't really as clean as we might have liked. Nothing really bad, just again not up to service standards we've seen elsewhere. The best service we got was from Caron, and she was very good. But they provide no guidance for tipping her, and we have no experience with concierges. And we were almost out of cash (apparently we have to tip her in cash, rather than by voucher, at least that's what the (mis)information desk told us.) So we tipped her $100.
Another little example of service problems - we ordered a map of the itinerary stamped and signed by the captain ($5 at the information desk) earlier in the cruise. Tonight we realized in never showed up. So I asked at the information desk and they promised to "look into it." While we were at dinner, the boys were at Karaoke, having ordered pizza and sandwiches into the suite earlier. We got to watch them sing "Jack and Diane" and then we went to dinner. They stayed at Karaoke until it was over at 10:00 and then disappeared with a bunch of kids, to reappear in our suite with a dozen kids in two around 11:00. At midnight we kicked them all out. It was time for bed and a 6:45 wake up call for the morning. We planned to go to the restaurant for breakfast about 7:30 and then to take advantage of the priority debarkation with Caron at 8:45.
Day 8 - Sunday June 16 -- Miami and Disembarking
Our least favorite day to say the least. We had a WONDERFUL time all week, despite the small hassles and somewhat below par service from time to time. Living in an owner's suite, how could we NOT have had a great time? After a relatively sleepless night - just the worry/excitement of leaving keeping us up - we did our final carry off packing then went to breakfast in the Windward room. This was the only time all week we ate breakfast in a dining room, and it was just fine. Stopped at the information desk to find out about the map we ordered. The person I talked to last night had no clue, but the one this morning got us a map and everything was set. Checked our bill - it was accurate (unfortunately!) and then sat back and waited in our room until the 8:45 meeting with Caron at Dazzles for priority disembarkation. If I had my druthers, priority would mean staying on the ship as long as you want! But dad had a noon flight so we needed to get going.
We sat in Dazzles for about 25 minutes until the ship was actually cleared by immigration/customs. Leaving the ship was way too easy once the ship was cleared. Upon leaving the ship we were directed to our luggage tag color area. The space for luggage in Miami is limited; there wasn't much room to move around. Fortunately since we were early off the ship there weren't very many people around. We found our bags and were waived through customs, got into the Avis airport shuttle bus (since the Avis office at the pier is now closed) and schlepped to the airport. We had most of the day to kill in Miami until our evening flight out of FLL. We decided to drive north on A1A and see the Art Deco district of South Beach. We then continued up to Fort Lauderdale, where we found the Regal Cinema's downtown and saw Star Wars II. That finished in time to go to the airport, where we stood in a very long line to check luggage, got flagged for extra screening, and finally made it to the gate. Very crowded flight home and by midnight we were safe and sound in Iowa City, another vacation now just history.
Some final impressions:
First, if you've made it this far, congratulations!
CABINs (V140, Presidential Suite on Viking Deck; P072 - CAT P inside on Pool Deck.)
First P072. This is a small, spartan inside cabin, about 110 square feet including the bathroom. The location is great - on the pool deck, easily accessible to lots of activities since it is right next to stairtower 2. It worked out very well for Bernie, who was on his own. The cabin has upper/lower berths and a very tiny TV on a stand. While the bathroom is small, we've actually seen smaller (RCCL's former Song of America, for example.) The cabin was comfortable and kept clean. What more do you need?
Well, what more is there? Try the opulence of V140, the Presidential Suite. This is one of two "original" suites on the Viking Deck (The other is V139, on the starboard side). Upon entering we were struck by the sense that we were walking into the past - but not in a bad way at all. We loved this suite. Others may prefer the newer cabins on the top two decks, including two owner's suites with balconies and two others with floor to ceiling windows. But we liked our seven portholes - we KNEW we were on a classic ship! The suite includes two bedrooms - a tiny upper/lower bedroom (only slightly smaller than P072) and a spacious master bedroom with king size bed and an original vanity built into in a corner. There is also a large dining/living area with a dining table and eight chairs, two couches and two chairs. Both bedrooms and the living room had TV's - the living room also had a VCR and a CD player. Décor is a mix of what seems to be 40's and 60's. The colors are kind of 60's, the vanity, a mirror, and other things gave it an art deco feel. Bathrooms are also spacious - there are two of them, one connected to the master bedroom and one off the living area. Our only problem with the suite was the air conditioning - we had a terrible time figuring out how to get the temperature where we wanted it. There are many controls, and it isn't clear what they do! Oh and the suite has a doorbell! The fan in the small bedroom was extremely loud and we couldn't figure out how to turn it down. Also, there is a very odd "carpet" thing covering an arch between the living room and what was obviously once another room of the suite and is now blocked off into a separate cabin. I should also note some 1990's Home Depot touches - a light fixture on the living room wall is exactly the same as two fixtures we put up on the exterior of our house recently, $29.95 at Home Depot. There is also another fixture above the bed that is of the same "vintage". The wall panels in this cabin are lacquered aluminum. Beautiful deep maroon/brown in the bedroom, kind of funky greens in the living room. Unfortunately, where the panels have been damaged they can't repair them properly, so there are a few obvious patches here and there.
Amenities in this Cat AA owner's suite include a long, long list of things. On arrival we were greeted with French Champaign, Duval Leroy, and a beautiful floral arrangement. There was also a large selection of fruit (though to be honest the apples were rather bruised and not very appealing.) Until Tuesday the fruit basket had not been refilled, though. We also got to choose three 1-liter bottles of liquor and received canapés courtesy of the captain the first evening. Robes appeared in our bedroom and there is a library of videotapes one can borrow through the Concierge. The second evening chocolate covered strawberries showed up courtesy of the hotel director. We also received an invitation to a cocktail party with the Captain in his quarters for Tuesday. Tuesday we received some kind of pate thing, while Wednesday we got little pastries and a bottle of Merlot. Thursday it was smoked salmon. All very nice. However, our fruit basket continued not to be refilled until I specifically asked the room stewardess (who made sure never to be seen if possible!) Then she refilled it once, but never again! Friday's goodies were chocolates courtesy of the Concierge. Saturday we received shrimp cocktail, courtesy of the Hotel Director. Another amenity of the suite is free video rentals (VHS machine) which we took advantage of. Caron brought the movies to us within 30 minutes of our asking - we didn't have to plan ahead. On Friday we received an invitation to a private bridge tour while at anchor on Saturday. There is also a long list of bathroom amenities; soaps and salts, etc.
The Concierge: Caron, was very friendly and tended to respond to us extremely quickly (probably due to our being in an AA suite - lots of staff were VERY friendly when they knew what suite we were in!) She was awfully busy the first day - when we visited her in her office the phone never stopped ringing. She just kept on smiling. We did our on board credit set up through her and she promised info on early tendering. She also made sure to include my father in P072 in everything with us.
Service in general - this was our 6th cruise, our first on NCL (others have been on Princess, RCCL, Premier, and Carnival.) The service was not quite as good as any of the others. From the "we can't do anything about the dining" (which we understand, but the attitude was rather unhelpful) to the fact that when Aletia called to have a top pressed before dinner on our first day, no one ever came to get it, though they said they would. We ordered room service breakfast for Monday morning at 8:30 - it didn't arrive until 9:00 or so. The ice in our room was not kept filled effectively. These are small things, but it's the small things you don't want to have to worry about!
Dining - We were at a table for 6 (65) in the Windward. Our waiter was Mario, our asst. waiter was Julian. The wait staff seemed extremely busy and frazzled, and not overly friendly. Maybe they have too many tables to cover. The dining room was pretty crowded, and noisy, as we had expected from other reviews. Still we enjoyed our dining experiences and looked forward to dinner each night. So while not perfect, dinners were still quite good. Our table companion was a young woman from Quebec traveling alone. She said she had not found any other French-Canadians on board. She was concerned that her English wasn't good enough, but she underestimated herself. She was fun to talk with and seemed to enjoy herself.
Kids - Our guys are 13 and 15, so they hung out with the teen program. In general they said this was the best of their 5 cruises. The highlight on Monday was playing basketball most of the afternoon in the pouring rain. Other highlights included Karaoke and the Discover Scuba we did in St. Thomas. The ice cream was also really great each day at Sven's. The teen program is well organized - lots to do for them. They had activities, sports, and a teen disco every night. Following the disco there was usually some other activity (like a game) and then the guys hung out at the sports bar dancing and talking with friends until about 1:00AM. We bought them one Teen Passport and that was enough - got them 10 frozen drinks each for a total of $30 + 15% tip. They were both able to go to the two teen passport parties, no one checked to see if they had actually bought the passport.