Craig and Donna Bowker
Age: 31 to 40
Number of Cruises: 6 t
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Sailing Date: 29th,
Itinerary: St. Marten, St Thomas, Bahamas
This was our 7th cruise, and by far the best overall! I would encourage anyone planning to cruise on the SS Norway (or any ship) to do your homework first. It saved us a lot of headaches! Having booked our cruise late, and thus getting an awesome rate, our expectations weren't very high. What we found was that the ship far exceeded any expectations we had. We read lots of reviews (always with a grain of salt, of course) and read about the history of the ship (very interesting). Of course there were great things and not so great things about the ship, but overall we feel this was our best cruise ever. (by the way, on our first cruise our bathroom was so small you could take a shower and sit on the commode at the same time!)
Having cruised with Norwegian before, our embarkation was very smooth because of a program they have called The Latitudes Club. We got to board early, and just walked right on the ship. A definite plus! We were directed to a party for the Latitudes members in the Sports Illustrated Lounge and had a light lunch. The only down side to this was that the person who escorted us on the ship gave us the wrong directions to the lounge. Irritating, but we figured out the right way to go pretty fast. The Sports Illustrated Lounge was great! Very comfortable, and pleasant to sit in. Great smoked salmon!!!
Our room was quite small, but for the price we paid we weren’t disappointed. The room was warm, but once the A/C kicked in it was comfortable. The shower was a decent size, and the bed was pretty comfortable. The room itself was not much bigger than the bed, but for the little time that we spent in it, it was worth it. Our room steward wasn’t personable, and only left us 2 towels each night when we specifically asked for more, multiple times. There was occasionally a faint smell of urine in the hallway, and I could tell the staff tried to spray deodorizer around. The walls to the room were very thin, you could hear talking in the next room. It worked out well for us, we had family in the next room and could converse easily. Overall, it was probably the 2nd smallest room that we’ve ever had.
We were late leaving the Port of Miami. While Scuba Steve was obviously fixing something under the ship, we had a few drinks and met a couple from Norway. Personally, I didn’t care if we ever left port, as long as someone ELSE was cooking and cleaning! We finally left around 11 PM and the skyline of Miami at night was just beautiful! The stability of the ship was not any worse than any other ship we have been on. Some reviews we had read said that the ship had trouble when going from the Atlantic to the Carribean. We had no such problems. At night I could tell it was a little more rocky, and we had probably picked up speed while everyone slept. But during the day it was just like any other cruise we've been on.
Getting to know the ship wasn't too hard. Of course, it's a big ship so wear comfortable shoes. Also, make sure you have everything you need before leaving your room. It's a long haul back if you forget something. We had done our homework ahead, and knew that the elevators were not good to use (frankly, I don't think I've ever been on a ship that had fast elevator service). Luckily most of the major places to go are located on adjacent 3 floors. Since the onboard maps weren't the greatest, we carried around the map from the brochure for a few days until we got the hang of it. The Roman Spa is all the way on the bottom of the ship (quite a climb down and back up the stairs), and the prices seemed very high. A massage was $90. There were lots of shops on board. The prices seemed a little steep. I spent $60 on 2 kids t-shirts and souvenir cups.
The food was great! Gained 10 pounds! The Great Outdoor Restaurant was amazing. There are 6 huge grills going constantly at least 15 hours a day. There's lots of seating, but with as many people on board, it gets crowded. I didn't have a problem with getting away from the heat and humidity outside and going inside to sit in the Club Internationale. The dining room service and food was great. I was disappointed with the lobster on the last night. It wasn't Maine lobster, like I had expected. My husband loved it, though! We stumbled upon the sushi bar one night, and were pleasantly surprised. There was a long line, but it was well worth the wait. I would say the drinks were moderately priced. We brought some liquor and even beer onboard in our suitcase. No body ever said a word, and our cabin steward kept it on ice for us. The only time you couldn't bring on liquor was when you are in port. We never went to Le Bistro, but heard it was great. Enjoyed the ice cream bar and CD jukebox near it. Having access to a computer on board was wonderful. We sent e-mail to family, and checked on the kids. Very convenient!
The ship is decorated very subtly elegant. It's not overbearing or glitzty at all, like Carnival is (not that that is a bad thing). The lounges and bars were all very comfortable, and always clean. The staff were all extremely nice and personable. The assistant cruise directors really got into the fun with us, dancing wildly. We dined in the Winward Dining room, and liked how it had a planetarium look to it (under the stars dining--just great!) One night we had the chance to do an open seating, or alternative dining as they called it. We decided to try out the other dining room for a change. Although it was quieter, we found the decorations less formal and less appealing. I would highly recommend going to the pool on the top floor and not on the back of the ship--less crowded, but no music. The music on board left a little to be desired. The band by the pool was fantastic. The others, not so hot. The disco was usually filled with younger kids, but the DJ had no problems playing some older rock and roll for us too. The onboard activities were not constantly jammed down your throat. You really have to read the flier that's left in your room every night to find out where and when things are happening. The ship is so big that if there's a party by the pool, and you're on another deck, you'd never know it. We did see some minors being served, but also saw some being refused drinks. I guess it just depended on the bar person. Legal age on board to buy beer is 18, but hard liquor is 21.
Of the ports, St Marten left a lot to be desired. It reminded me of a slightly upscale Dutch version of Mexico (except on the French side where, by the way, a lot of things were closed because it was off season). St. Thomas was absolutely breathtaking. The private island in the Bahamas was wonderful. Since this is such a big ship, it can never dock in port. Just a minor inconvenience for booking on such a large ship. In a few reviews we read about the tender service being slow, and they suggested to make sure you got the early tender tickets so you can get off the ship quicker. Well, it didn't take us long to figure out that the tender tickets (or the show tickets for that matter) really didn't mean jack. We boarded the tenders, and saw the shows whenever we wanted. What were they going to do to us? Kick us off the ship because we didn't have a show ticket? All of the staff were willing to make us happy and let us do what we wanted, whenever we wanted. We were never refused to get on the tender or see a show just because we didn't have a ticket. All the tickets are for is crowd control, so all the ship doesn't try to get off at the same time.
Disembarkation was equally as nice as embarkation. First of all, you got to stay in your room until it was time to leave. This is the first ship we have been on that has allowed that. We saw a bunch of people with suitcases in the lounges, and just laughed. They looked so uncomfortable, while we waited comfortably in our room. Second, they regulated the people getting off-just like they had with the tender service. (Hint, Hint!). People with earlier flights were allowed to leave earlier. Hint, hint-they never checked our tickets!! We just walked right off the ship about 9:30, earlier than any other cruise!
Again, overall this was the best cruise we've been on. I found the flaws to be minor, and easily overlooked. (Not getting more than 2 towels in my room won't ruin my cruise, we just helped ourselves to extras) We met lots of interesting people, and had a blast. Frankly, I wonder if some of the reviews I've read were of the same ship we were on. I think that some of the negative comments were from people who are just always negative or who expect everything to absolutely perfect . We would HIGHLY recommend this ship!