Age: early 50s
Number of Cruises: 30+
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Sailing Date: April 28th, 2002
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
A second chance: Lunch the next day... and throughout the week at the Great Outdoor Cafe was a whole different experience! Each day two huge Weber Kettle Grills were set up and soon there were steaks, ribs, chicken, pork chops, bratwurst, brisket... all very well prepared and delicious. The 4 cafeteria lines were still there but the salads were varied from day to day (try the marinated tomatoes) and other hot dishes were served. There was a fruit station set up where freshly sliced pineapple and watermelon were available. Very nice job NCL... but please... do it from day one... put a smile on your passenger's faces right off.
BTW - breakfast at the Great Outdoor Cafe was pretty ordinary except that there were trays of lox and herring... both high quality goods. A nice touch on a Norwegian ship. Minor glitch... the morning we got to St. Thomas there was only an "Express Continental Breakfast" served. Very limited choices and a stupid thing for NCL to do. Not everyone was rushing to get off the ship at 7 AM.
The International Deck: This is the main social and shopping thoroughfare of the ship. It was very clean and even with the expanse of glass windows running the length of the ship... the air conditioning kept it comfortable. Shopping, Shore excursion desk, the "Information" desk, ice cream counter and library/internet cafe are all on this deck. In addition are three lounges. Windjammer is a tiny piano lounge with the lowest seating on the ship. A cozy place... I never got there at night when there was any entertainment. The Sports Illustrated Club is a general purpose facility where different events from Sock Hops to Karaoke were held. Lots of TV's ala every other sports bar in the world. It was a nice place to meet and sit and talk. The Club Internationale is a beautiful room... high, high ceilings and groupings of comfortable chairs and sofas... it was a great place to meet friends for drinks and conversation. Many people take their trays from the buffet to this room to have their lunch or breakfast. I don't think that is what the designers had in mind for this room, but with the lack of comfortable seating at the buffet, there is little other choice. I really liked this room a lot.
Dinner: We were in the Leeward Dining room, main level and Reynald and Isaac were our servers. Excellent service. We had 7 people at a table for 8 and after the first night, the table was set for 7 when we arrived. I requested iced tea the first night and it was served to me every night for the rest of the cruise without my asking. I also requested a chair without arms... and that was also waiting for me every night of the cruise. I make a point of mentioning this excellent service on my comment card... and I tipped these gentlemen accordingly. I prefer "Freestyle" or "Personal Choice" dining, but the service we received at our table was outstanding.
Food: I found the meals in the dining room to be very good... with some being exceptional. For the most part, the beef dishes were the best choices for me, but the Jerk Pork one night was very good! It should be noted that lobster is not served on the Norway. Not a big deal for me, but it's absence was noted by many.
Entertainment: NCL always has great entertainment and this cruise was no exception. The Ann Ryan production shows are great, staffed with some very talented singers and dancers. They work mostly with pre-taped soundtracks. The show band was small but good and the other entertainers were good. One comedian wasn't that great but the others were really good. Most of the comedy shows were held in the North Cape Lounge. This is a nice room for this... one level and the stage extends into the audience. Some seats are actually to the side and behind the stage, and there are a lot of poles in the way so sight lines aren't the greatest, but for comedy shows, this is a good room. The big production shows are held in the Saga Theater. This is a wonderful room for this type of show... no posts to impede your view, a large stage, a good balcony... good sound and lighting. The only drawback is the seating... same type of cheap seating as in my High School Auditorium. Plastic, cushioned seats with plastic armrests... but hey... when the lights went down, the shows were great.
Minor Gripe: I like dining at second seating then going to a show. I like to meet friends for a drink before dinner... but on many of the nights on this cruise, the show for people at second seating is performed BEFORE second seating... at 7 PM. I really hate this but it is not a deal breaker.
Tendering: Anyone who books the Norway should know that they are going to tender into every port. The ship carries it's own 2 tenders and each hold up to 450 people, but even then, it take about 2 hours to get everyone ashore. The do give out tender tickets so you don't wait in line forever, but it does take time to get that many people loaded onto the tenders, get to the dock, then get unloaded and back to the ship. I think NCL could hire a couple of extra tenders in St. Thomas and St. Martin and use 4 loading areas instead of 2 and get the people ashore much more quickly. Again, I know this was going to happen before I ever left home so it isn't a deal breaker, but there is a better way of doing it.
Ports: I am not going to have much to say about these ports... been to both numerous times. At St. Martin we took a cab to a place called Boo Boo Jam on Orient Beach. Nice beach, $5 chair rental, surf was high so swimming wasn't that great but the weather was beautiful and it was a nice day. There is a restaurant there... I thought it a bit over-priced but nothing outrageous. Next time I go I will rent a car and go exploring. St. Thomas we went to Megan's Bay. $6 cab pp each way, $3 pp admission. This place is beautiful! One of the best beaches I have ever been to. With it's sandy bottom, it is not a great place for snorkeling but for a day at the beach, it can't be beat. We brought our own refreshments and chairs so it was a pretty cheap day.
Pretty sight: The day we were in St. Thomas, the QE 2 was also there. Both the Norway and the QE 2 were anchored outside of the harbor. I am not an ocean liner fanatic but it was really nice to see these ships together. While I love the modern cruise ships, I have to admit that most of them look like floating refrigerators and the Norway and QE 2 looked just great... like you imagine an ocean-going ship should look like.
Cookies and Ice Cream: NCL makes great cookies and they are available daily. The Ice Cream counter was usually open from 2 to 5 PM... hand dipped, no charge, cones or cups.
Assorted Observations... good, bad and otherwise. Lifeboat drill was very fast and yes, they did take attendance. It was weird seeing the date 1969 on the life jackets. In many cases, these vests were older than the people wearing them. Too many announcements... WAY too many. The back-office at NCL needs help. Champagne ordered for members of the group wasn't delivered and wouldn't have been if I hadn't gone to the "Information Desk" to inquire. One member of our group was in a cabin that wasn't assigned a cabin steward. The daily "Drink of the Day" was usually pretty good. Did I mention that the cookies were great? Tables and chairs set up along the International Deck were a great place to snack, talk or just people-watch.
Seeing Crew members again: Having sailed on the Norwegian Sea three times in the past few years, I was very happy to see a number of the waiters on the Norway. Yes... they remembered me and we had a chance to talk during the week.
Disembarkation: One good thing about NCL is that you can stay in your cabin until your color tag is called to get off the ship. For some reason, the ship was cleared late and we did not get off the ship until about 10:30. Not NCL's fault.... but here is another glitch. We had purchased transfers from the ship to the FLL airport and when we got off the ship there were no busses. After waiting a while, we were told that a bus would be coming in about a half hour from the Miami airport to take us to FLL. As time was getting short, some of us decided to take cabins... $65. The people who did not take cabs DID make their flights, but I didn't want to take the chance... not knowing how long the lines at FLL would be (turned out to be non-existent). NCL knows exactly how many transfers they sold from the ship to FLL... not having enough busses to take care of everyone is just plain stupid.
OK... re-reading this and it sounds like a lot of petty annoyances but that is pretty much what they were, petty. As a whole, this was a wonderful cruise and like I said in the beginning, I liked cruising on the Norway far more than I thought I would. Yes, it was cheap but it would still be a good value at a higher fare. Are their deficiencies? Yep... but I can ignore them or work around them. Nothing happened to me that was more of a minor inconvenience.
Good friends, a good ship, great weather and a week away from work and a good value. What more could I want?
George in PA