Number of Cruises: n/a
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Sailing Date: December 30th, 2001
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
SS Norway Review - 12/30/01
A nasty ice storm has closed the school where I teach, finally giving me time to write this review! This was my ninth cruise, fifth on NCL and second on the Norway. I will include some items from my previous trip since it was just last year - not that much has changed except some carpeting and paint. I am a huge fan of the Blue Lady, so if you don't like her you might want to read a different thread.
Embarkation: One of the few negatives. I arrived at the port around two and it was fairly crowded. Since 9/11 there is an additional security checkpoint before entering the building - but no one manning the x-ray machines as you board the ship. Go figure. The Latitudes line moved slower than any other - horrible! I had pre-registered on line and unlike others who have posted, the agent did know what to do. That part was good. Plus, no x-ray screener meant no problem bringing on my bottle of bubbly. But I never had a problem doing this before, either.
Cabin: With a ten-category upgrade (for $100) this was the best cabin ever. Category DD, International deck. Large cabin with two (fairly clean) portholes, coffee table and chair, large bathroom with full tub/shower, plenty of closet space, television, refrigerator, and two beds that could have gone together had I asked. I was traveling solo, so it was all good. My location meant I didn't need to use elevators or stairs too often and I got to take plenty of walks along the beautiful Champs Elysees and Fifth Avenue promenades. My steward, Sherton, from Costa Rica, was efficient and unobtrusive. I practiced my Spanish and he kept me in ice and clean towels.
Dining service: At check-in my card read “see maitre d’” which had me concerned until I saw him (Jorge - a very nice man) and he essentially let me pick whatever spot I wanted. I chose late seating in the Windward dining room, since I had been in the Leeward last time. My table (for 8) was right by the grand staircase so I didn't really notice the noise level reported closer to the dome. Great tablemates! We had a blast. Waiter Damodar was personable and accurate although he seemed harried at times. But he brought me two helpings of cherries jubilee so I can overlook that. Busboy Johnson was outstanding! He remembered everyone's preferences from day one. The wine steward essentially ignored our table and when we did get his attention he seemed bothered. I slammed him on the comment card. One night dinner was horribly slow coming out (some problem with the shrimp appetizer, I was told) but the other nights were just fine.
Food: Wonderful! Of everything I ordered - and I ordered lots - there was only one dish I really didn't care for (a pasta dish that was mostly tomatoes). Recommended: steaks, soups, caesar salad, pate, veal scallopine, crème brulee and the aforementioned cherries jubilee. Themes: Su-Chef's Dinner, Mo-New Year Dinner, Tu-Italian, We-President's Dinner, Th-Caribbean, Fr-Captain's Farewell, Sa-Cocina Latina. This last one was my least favorite. Do try the Bistro; it's well worth the $10 for fine food and service. The only meal I ate in the Dining Room other than dinners was breakfast when there was eggs Benedict (two mornings). Check the menus each day! Warning: no lobster.
Buffet: I had most breakfasts and all lunches here since I just love eating outdoors in the tropical air. The lines were rarely long and I could usually find a seat nearby. Recommended: breakfast basics (eggs, bacon, potatoes, bagels), smoked salmon, fruits, fried chicken, rice dishes, grill (hamburgers, sausages, fajitas), pastas and pizza at snack time. There were also some Mexican snacks in the evening in the Sports Bar and evening buffets both in the Great Outdoor and in the casino.
Dress: Anything goes during the day except bathing suits in the restaurants (gross). There are two formal nights and most everyone dressed up - ladies in cocktail dresses or gowns and men in dark suits or tuxes. If you don't want to go formal you can order room service. The rest of the evenings were called “casual” or “semi-formal” but these designations were largely ignored and folks just dressed neatly. Ladies wore dresses, skirts or pant suits and men docker-type pants with a sport coat or golf shirt. The policy is no shorts or tank tops in the dining room after 6 and I'm happy to say I didn't see anyone try.
Tipping: Traditional style with envelopes handed out on the last evening. I think you can charge them to your account if you see the purser. Suggested amounts are listed in your cabin. I gave more since I thought it was deserved. 15% is added to your bar bill each time you charge a drink.
I'm a traditionalist, so the Norway is my favorite. Club International is gorgeous and features great music. I can't think of a better place on the planet to sip your New Year's champagne. My favorite pool is on the Sky Deck - never crowded, with sunny and shady spots and bar service. The main pool is more lively, with tropical music by Up Rizin' and my favorite bartenders, Arthur and Ezequiel. Dazzles disco hopped for the late night crowd. I'm not a production show fan but I enjoyed Devon, the Norway's historian, especially when he showed the promotional film from her first crossing as the France. Casino staff is friendly and helpful; games include black jack (5, 10 and 25 dollar tables), let it ride, Caribbean stud poker, roulette and craps. Slot machines abound (nickel, quarter, dollar and $5). Windjammer bar is intimate with a nautical theme and pianist. Plenty of quiet spots to read or just watch the sea go by.
Onboard activities: lots going on! Singles socials, fitness classes, shuffleboard, bingo, slot and blackjack tournaments, pool games, wine tasting, art auctions (go the first day for free champagne), trivia games, high tea in the Club International (do not miss this), dance classes, basketball, golf putting, bridge, backgammon, arts and crafts, ping pong, cooking demonstrations, the list goes on.
Ports: St. Maarten - I did the Golden Eagle Catamaran: sail to a lovely beach with open bar included. St. Thomas - lots of shopping: jewelry, perfume, liquor, crystal, porcelain, and of course T shirts. Private Island - a lot of fun! Umbrellas to lounge under, hammocks, picnic tables, chaise-side drink service, great bbq chicken lunch, volleyball, live music and dancing, walking trails, great snorkeling, bar, floats and kayaks for rent, clean rest rooms. What more could you want? Get on the first tender if you want your pick of the chairs. (BTW I don't mind tendering.)
Conclusion: I am sailing on the Norway for a third time in June. That should say it all. Choose this cruise if you: appreciate a classic ocean liner, like plenty of sea days (3), want great service from a staff who loves the Blue Lady, like open deck space to relax, want a smooth ride, don't want to spend a bundle. Choose another cruise if you: need a magnificent atrium, want to ice skate or rock climb, are used to Seabourn or Crystal, hate tendering, think "newer is better." I hope that NCL will keep the Norway nearby; she is a sight to behold.