Eileen M. Healy
Number of Cruises: 6
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Sailing Date: July 28th, 2002
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
I just want to state up front that I believe the Norway is the type of ship you either love or
hate. There does not appear to be a middle ground. I loved her.
Something about us: I visited relatives aboard the Queen Mary as a child and fell in love
with that ship. As a teenager I took my first "cruise" on a ferry from Maine to Nova Scotia
and back. First cruise as an adult was on Royal Caribbean's former ship the Song of
America NY to Bermuda in 1998. That was it - hooked on cruising. Second cruise was on
the Sensation to the Western Carribean-2/99. Third on the Regal Empress - also an old girl
- NY to nowhere 8/99. Fourth was on the now out of business Commodore's Enchanted Isle
- also an old girl - 4/00 - Western Carribean. Fifth was on Carnival's Victory - NY to Canada
- 7/01. Please note that although I really enjoyed the Sensation I did not like the Victory.
We are a long time married couple in our forties traveling with an 84 year old mother. We
are not really into the shows, the games, activities, etc. We just like finding a nice, quiet
spot to watch the ocean, a nice bar with a jazz quartet, etc. However, the 84 year old likes
the shows, the casino and bingo.
I had missed my chance to sail the Rotterdam V/Rembrandt and I thought I had missed my
chance to sail the France/Norway when they did the last great transatlantic in September
2001. After 9/11 - and this coming from a native New Yorker who lost both friends and
relatives in the World Trade Center attack - the only good thing to come out of that horrible
event was the return of the Norway to Miami. I was determined to sail her now that I was
given a second chance. I booked the cruise at the end of June through Willy of
ubookcruises.com He had the best price of all the agents I solicited - especially because I
wanted specifically the former first class cabins - in addition one that could accommodate
three. Also, Willy has sailed the Norway many times and really seemed to know the
individual cabins within the various categories - Even though we only spoke on the phone
and the price was certainly discounted heavily (this from someone who paid $575 a person
for the Song of America and $499 for the Sensation) I felt he was a caring and full service
agent. NCL sent the documents to me - a week to go and I still didn't have the documents -
Willy was on the phone with NCL screaming - got them on Tuesday - NCL didn't even send
them Express Mail or Fed Ex - just regular priority mail - not even certified. Also, people
complain about the Carnival's paper folders that they send the documents in - NCL had the
documents in one clear envelope-just one - at least Carnival gives a folder per person.
We live in a NYC suburb and decided to drive to Miami since the 84 year old stresses out if
there are any delays or cancellations at the airport. Drove the first day to Florence, South
Carolina. Stayed in the Ramada that I got from Priceline for $30 a room. Note that on
Fridays the traffic around DC is impossible - apparently it is Viriginia Beach traffic - took us
3 hours to go 40 miles. Second day went from Florence to Miami - stayed in the Hyatt
Regency Coral Gables for $50 through Priceline - gorgeous hotel - wonderful pool, hot tub
and fitness room. In addition, the room was huge.
Sunday - off to the pier. Well, needless to say when we pulled up to the pier at 1:10PM and
saw hundreds of people milling about including crew - and they weren't letting any
passengers in the terminal, and there were cop cars, Miami-Dade fire engines, rescue
trucks - I knew something was really wrong. We kept the 84 year old in the car and I went to
investigate. I tried to find out some information from the crew members - they were not
telling anyone anything. The NCL reps who were around were surrounded by local officials
so they wouldn't have to deal with passengers. I did ask a Miami officer if he thought the
ship would be departing on Sunday and he assured me it would. Based on what happened
several months ago when the ship was kept from sailing by the Coast Guard because of
safety violations for several days I was concerned. I was reluctant to check my large bags
because I had no information about if the ship was indeed going to sail. This lead to
several hours of confusion. In front of us at the pier was Manny's Formal Rentals - he was
not allowed to make his delivery of formal wear. When I went back to the crew area I started
to talk to a crew member who said "someone was trying to make more money that the ship
was willing to pay him". This combined with the drug sniffing dogs and the police lead me
to the conclusion that there was some type of drug violation/search going on. Finally,
around 2:45PM they started letting passengers into the terminal. At this point we checked
the large luggage - I tipped the stevedore and asked for reassurance that the bags would
make it onto the ship. We waited until the large crowd was taken care of and then entered
the terminal. Once inside, you go up an escalator to a main processing room. NCL had set
up water and fruit punch-gee-free of charge. You then stand in line to process the
documents - they give you your boarding pass at this point - a piece of cardboard that you
sign - note - this piece of cardboard is your sail and sign card as well the identification card
you need to present to get on and off the ship. The only other ship that used a piece of
cardboard as the sail and sign was the Regal Empress - I was surprised that the sail and
sign was not laminated. After you are processed you stand in another line to go through the
x-ray and metal detector. You can then embark the ship. Despite the fact that we waited -
from the time we entered the terminal until the time we were on the ship was about an hour
and fifteen minutes. Also, note that very few embarkation photographs were taken. When
the photo gallery opened it was apparent that only about 20-30 embarkation photos were
taken - I couldn't tell if these were by the passengers first embarking or the last ones (who
would have missed the ship had it been on time). There were no photographers as we
entered the ship. When we entered the ship we were greeted by a steward that told us our
room was one flight up. Since I know that the elevators are usually being used to transport
the checked luggage we took the stairs. We got to our stateroom - Viking 178 and settled
in. Viking 178 is one of the original first class staterooms. It had two port holes, a vanity, a
table and two chairs, a single bed and a double bed. There was a dresser and two closets.
There was another area next to the closets and across from the bathroom that appeared to
have been a closet at one time. Here was the mini refrigerator, a pole with additional
hangers and the roll away bed. Above this was a shelf as well. The bathroom had a very,
very deep tub that also had the shower. The bathroom was somewhat old looking - the
room was original but looked newly original. There was a medium size television that ran
CNN and various movies continuously. Room was decorated in shades of pink and blue -
very pretty - nothing stained or in bad repair. It should be noted that our room - when she
was the France adjoined the identical room next to us and the two inside cabins also
adjoined making a four room suite for children or servants. There was a separate hall door
separating access to the two outside cabins from the hall - not used now. The only
complaint I had about the room was the room keys - both keys were difficult to use-they
were the veriprint keys and just didn't operate smoothly - always had to jiggle them. The 84
year old was unable to operate the door all together.
At this point let me talk about the room steward. I don't even know his name because I don't
process information that is not worthwhile. After embarkation I went to find him and
introduce myself. I had noticed that we had two adult life jackets and one child's life jacket. I
told him we needed an additional adult life jacket because there were three adults in the
room. His response was "no problem". I also mentioned that we would go the first night with
just the two beds made up (my husband is a big guy and we have a king size bed at home)
but that we may require the rollaway if things didn't work out the first night. His response to
this was to tell me the room could accommodate five and that we should be fine without the
rollaway. If this was the case why was the rollaway there in the first place? Well, we didn't
use the rollaway after all. However, he never did replace the child's jacket with and adult
jacket and other than giving us three bath towels only gave us two of things - two hand
towels, two face cloths, two glasses. I asked him twice for us to have things in threes but he
never got it. Also, I know this sounds whiney and corny - but no towel animals - not one. I
like my towel animals. Needless to say, when tip time came I tipped him for 2 1/2 people
rather than three-since he didn't seem to get the idea that three of us were in the cabin. In
addition, he only had to make up two beds rather than three.
After embarkation we went to the "Great Outdoor Restaurant". At this point it was well past
the four o'clock sailing time and we were still docked. I did not think the "Great Outdoor
Restaurant" was great. Not even good. Fair to poor at best. For example, at the
embarkation buffet they had various salads - but by the green salad they had bottles of
Wishbone dressing - so much for homemade salad dressing. At the grill they had
hamburgers - and - if you want a cheeseburger - they put a slice of cold, unmelted
American cheese on the cold hamburger and give it to you. Also, crowded and hot. Having
taken advice from a previous review we took the food and ate indoors at the International
Lounge. More about this magnificent later.
Our documents said that we had to seen the Maitre 'D for seating assignments. I really
wanted the Leeward Dining room late seating. Why the Leeward - I know the Windward
was the former first class dining room and was virtually unchanged since the Norway was
the France. However, I have also read from reviews that the Windward can be very noisy -
something the 84 year old would have a hard time dealing with - and something I had a
hard time dealing with on the Enchanted Isle. I also knew the Leeward was the larger of the
two giving us a better chance of getting late seating. So, we stood on line in the Leeward
dining room and saw the Maitre 'D (Mr. Plunkett from Jamaica) and we got late seating in
At this point is was around 7PM and the ship had still not departed. I went to the onboard
credit desk - they told people giving cash deposits (let's not even talk about my credit card
problem with the card expiring 7/02-and not having received the new one due to the bank's
ineptitude) should go to the casino. The casino people said to go back to the onboard
credit desk - it was at this point that the casino people told us the boarding pass was the
sail and sign card and even though we had not yet established an account we could start
charging drinks, etc. to the card. I should also say the casino people did make reference to
a drug bust as the reason for the delays. This is why previous reviews tell you not to stress
out about the onboard credit account until Monday and avoid the lines. So, credit card,
cash, traveler's checks = start charging away and go to onboard credit on Monday to
establish your account. Don't waste your time standing in line on Sunday.
It appeared we started moving around 7:45PM - first seating was already having dinner -
no formal sailaway as it was so late. There were announcements about the rescheduled
evening since everything was so messed up. I should note that during the embarkation
buffet in the International Lounge a trio was playing and they told the audience that the rest
of the band was not even on the ship yet because of the "situation".
At 8:30PM we went down to the Leeward for dinner. At 8:35 they announced that late
seating dinner would not be until 9:00PM. Then back to the cabin. At 9:05PM we went back
to the Leeward - were seated at a table for 8 - there was us, a family of four and a single
woman who we had met on the line for dining room assignments. We all hit it off although
the family of four (who were traveling with a large group) later relocated to two other tables
(the kids went to the group's kids table and the parents went to a table of four with one of
the other couples of their group). So it was us and our one remaining tablemate - Karen -
she was great. It was her second cruise - first one being on the Song of America NY to
Bermuda in 1992 - she liked Peter Gabriel music wise - had booked the same type of
cabin we had - needless to say I think we really hit it off.
We toured the Mandara Spa - absolutely the most beautiful Spa I have seen at sea. Karen -
out tablemate - booked a massage - said it was great but they do the typical hard sell on
the products - although the person giving us the tour was a lot more toned down than the
Steiner girls on the other ships - the spa has a more Asian/serene atmosphere than the
typical Steiner Spa. If we had more sea days I would have definitely booked a treatment or
would have at least used the pool, jacuzzi, sauna and steam. This was $16 a day or $69 for
a pass for the week.
Food - I already discussed the not so "Great Outdoor Restaurant". I had one breakfast
there - not impressed. Also - it should be noted that the muster drill was rescheduled for
10:30AM Monday morning. Well, based on the fact that late seating dinner did not even
start serving until 9:15PM on Sunday, plus the usual partying and exploring - we slept
through the muster drill - woke up around 12 - oh well, time for lunch. We ate all our lunches
on sea days in the Leeward. I had one exceptional waiter for the open seating meals in the
Leeward - had him twice - Pablo Reyes - he was so good I tipped him both times - I
imagine if you had him for dinner it would have been amazing. Our waiter - William from
India and assistant waiter Riache from India - were also very, very good. The assistant
waiter's service was so unobtrusive and exceptional I tipped him above the guidelines.
Regarding the food - overall, it was good, sometimes fair, sometimes exceptional. Soups
seemed to be a weak point - except for the tomato/pepper soup served the first night. Yes,
it is true - no lobster - unless you are willing to pay $17.50 a person extra to eat in Le Bistro.
Out tablemate did and said the lobster was tough although the filet mignon was excellent. I
had shrimp on Caribbean night and it was very good - the meats were better than Carnival
though not as good as Royal Caribbean, Regal or Commodore. Desserts - were good to
excellent - last night was a chocolate/hazelnut Torte - out of this world - though no soufflés.
At the private island they had the typical buffet - but at least the food was hot and not laying
around like in the "Great Outdoor Restaurant". Room service was decent - an assortment
of sandwiches, salads, crudités, etc. Room service was usually delivered within 20 minutes
Mr. Plunkett - the Maitre 'D - did come around to the table each evening to see if everything
was okay. In addition, in the two server "presentations" - the singing/dancing waiter stuff -
he directed them. Also, one day when we were confused about which direction to go in we
ran into him in the hall and he directed correctly. Needless to say, he was tipped
appropriately - NCL is now recommending $1.50 per day per person for the Maite 'D - that
seemed to have been a head waiter tip - there seem to be no more head waiters - although
there are assistant Maitre' D's - yet - Mr. Plunkett being THE Maitre 'D seemed to take all
the responsibility for the running of the lower level of the Leeward Dining Room and the
orchestration of the "singing waiter" presentation. Any questions that you have about the
food or the dining feel free to email me.
Now - the ship. She is magnificent! Beautiful! Stable! Historical!
Carpeting was in tip top condition. The slate of the indoor promenades of Champs Elysee
and Fifth Avenue was in tip top shape with sections that didn't even look worn being
constantly replaced. I loved the art work - throughout the ship - even the lithographs in the
hallways - wonderful. Previous reviewers have said there was no outside shaded area to
watch the sea - not true - Olympic Deck - under the life boats - there are chairs that allow a
shaded view of the sea - granted they are chairs and not chaise lounges and they are
attached to the area but still - you can do this. It is very clear which were first class
staircases and which were second class - all first class staircases are chrome - and grand
- second class have enamel handrails - and some are small, single stairwells. First class
stairwells for the most part have metallic gold and silver wall coverings - second class more
plain. I did find the secret corridor on Fjord deck that goes around the pool that used to be
a former first class outdoor atrium - very cool. We didn't use the pools on board - not
enough time. The Club Internationale is the most beautiful room I have ever seen at sea.
Think - Radio City - the Empire State Building. And - I must say - despite what prior
reviewers have said - at least now - there is a stage in the center of the room for the band -
it was a room we spent a lot of time in - had a jazz trio - really fabulous.
The Sports Bar - which I assume used to be Checkers - had an Asian rock/disco band in it.
We spent some time there - especially early evening when there was a Mexican buffet
there (6-9PM) I do think It must have been much more classy as Checkers.
We didn't spend any time in the Windjammer bar - primarily because it was all smoking.
Regarding smoking - people really seemed to adhere to the Port (left) nonsmoking and
Starboard (right) smoking rule. We are nonsmokers and hate smoke. The only time we
smelled smoke was in the casino when we had to retrieve the 84 year old.
Entertainment - Previous reviewers have complained that the Saga Theatre had no place
for drinks, etc. Yes, modern ships built with on board revenue in mind make sure you have
a place park your drink in the main show theatre. However, this particular theatre is like a
theatre you would encounter in any major city - I have not been in a major theatre in New
York City that had a spot for drinks! Site lines were excellent - no poles - beautiful space
again. The two major production shows we saw were good - they actually had two dancers
from the Bolshoi Ballet who did semi-classical dancing among the Broadway dancing -
definitely more of a Broadway type show than Vegas type show (Carnival). As I said - we
are not into the shows but the 84 year old is she enjoyed them. The comic the first night was
good - but forget about the comic/whatever - magician/juggler etc. - not really worth it.
Denny Anderson - the cruise director - is now second favorite behind John Heald = if you
wanted to get involved - plenty of activities. If not - he was relatively unobtrusive - only
announcements we heard in cabin were the safety emergency drills and if we wanted to
tune to channel 21.
Regarding activities - typical pool games, vegetable carving, art auctions, bridge tour
(this was only done while in port - we didn't make it), galley tour, ice carving - they did have
a lecturer on child development and psychology - I think I might contact NCL and see if I
could do three lectures and get a free cruise. There is internet availability in the Library -
nice space - I think it went for $55 for a half hour - I didn't use it.
What I found different on this ship is the beauty salon, Spa and Fitness Center are all
separate. Beauty Salon was on the Viking Deck - Spa on Dolphin Deck - Fitness Center
on Olympic Deck. The Olympic Deck is the former highest deck of the France/Norway. It is
where the Lifeboats are located. The Fitness Center is located on this deck as well as the
basketball courts, shuffleboard and ping pong. This is the former outdoor wraparound
promenade deck that is now the track. The fitness program on this cruise is awesome.
Brandon is the fitness instructor from Australia and he is amazing. On sea days up to 8
classes are offered - Carnival offered 3-4 - he is a great, motivating instructor - in addition,
the classes are offered in both the morning and afternoon - excellent if you are the sleep in
type like we are-also offers free fitness walks at the ports. There is also a personal training
group class that is offered at extra charge - if I sail the Norway again (and I hope to) I would
sign up for that. Also, hint, the fitness center has water (Shame on Steiner and Carnival) for
free. The fitness center had 5 treadmills, two older stair climbers, two older (though
excellent) rowers, an older Cybex Circuit, free weights and benches. The classes are
conducted in the middle of the fitness center so during class time it can be very crowded.
Looking at the original plan of the Norway - there was originally a fitness center in one
space and a fitness arena in the other. The current fitness center is the former fitness arena
- which I assume was the aerobic space. I don't know what former fitness center became -
it is inaccessible from passenger areas - although it seems to be below the bridge. Maybe
it's the officer's fitness center - who knows? Participation in 12 classes/events in the fitness
center earns you a T-shirt. It should not be difficult to earn unless you veg out like I did and
sleep to 12 each day.
I had planned on my husband renting a Tuxedo for formal night for this cruise since we were
driving and had limited storage space in the car. So - I only took "casual" dinner ware with
me for him. On Monday, my dear husband proceeded down to the formal wear office - well,
remember me mentioning Manny's Formal's Van sitting outside the gate at embarkation -
with ALL THOSE TUXEDOS, SHOES, SHIRTS, ETC.! Manny never made it on the ship.
As a result - there was an extremely limited amount of formal wear on the ship - my
husband is a 44 and all they had was a 42 - too tight - and a 50 - way too big. I was in one
of the stores when my husband told me - I was rather upset - store clerk said to go to
information desk maybe they could help - had an appointment with the information desk
manager - she said the dress was only a suggestion - so we went to the captain's cocktail
party with me wearing an evening gown and my husband in docker's and docksiders. The
party was good - best food of any of the parties - cold snacks for the most part including
caviar and salmon - lots of salmon - kept giving us more glasses of champagne - probably
Tott's level - not terrible.
The Captain did speak at the 7 review in the Saga Theatre and did introduce his senior
officers. It was very nice.
Ports: St. Maarten
We went to Orient Beach. The taxi drivers are somewhat wild drivers. Beach was lovely -
took a wave runner to Green Caye for snorkeling - a total bus. Terrible snorkeling. But kind
of fun being on a deserted island. We originally planned to do the America Cup's Regatta
but hubby chickened out - when he looked at the pictures of the excursion he thought he
would get sea sick. Met a nice couple from Chicago - Troy and Marica (I think)they were on
the Century - spent way too many hours in the water talking with them and not reapplying
sunscreen - needless to say - sunburn. I believe St. Maarten is on the verge of civil unrest -
the cab driver on the way back talk about French oppression on the French side and
poverty (as per road conditions) on the Dutch side. We were at the Bikini Beach
bar/restaurant-had changing rooms, showers, drinks, food, umbrella/beach chair rental was
$15 for two beach chairs and the umbrella - not bad. The 84 year old stayed on the ship
and ordered extensive room service. She seemed happy enough when we got back.
St. Thomas - I know, I know, everyone says go to St. John Trunk Bay. However, I did want
the 84 year old to get off the ship in at least 2 of the 3 ports and I felt the ferry/cab/ferry/cab
thing would be to confusing and tiring for her. So I opted for Coki Beach. We had planned
to do a resort dive there but cancelled due to the sunburn suffered at St. Martin. However,
we do have our own snorkeling equipment. Got off the tender (more about this later) took a
taxi with another couple to Coki - there appears to several bar/restaurant vendors there and
various cab drivers are loyal to certain vendors - we were introduced to this guy Roger -
naive St. Thomas guy but spent time in Queens, NY - as did some of his employees judging
by their accents - rented three beach chairs and an umbrella for $25 - a bit of a rip off but
so what. BTW - cab ride was $7 each way per person. The snorkeling - magnificent! Close
to shore - many, many, schools, swarms of tropical fish - out further - forests of coral! In my
mind it is up there in terms of snorkeling - very calm seas - no current - I was in 30-35 of
water at one point. The only negative thing I have to say is when I was in deep water I saw
the resort dive group come out - 6 divers and one dive master - one guy submerged too
quickly - hit bottom and then went to the surface just as quickly – dive master did not
appear to be assisting a person clearly in trouble. Dive master just kept doing business as
usual with the others - made me glad that we cancelled the resort dive - didn't inspire
confidence. Also, note, Coki Beach is right by Coral World - if you want to see the same
stuff not in a Sea World Environment, just go to Coki and snorkel - beats the overpriced
shore excursion to Coral World for the Helmet Dive anytime.
Great Stirrup Cay - NCL's private island. Nice-right by Coco Cay - Royal Caribbean's
Private Island - Voyager was docked there - has two sections. Facing the island off the
tender to the right - less crowded beach - rocky - decent snorkeling in shallow water. To the
left - more or a beach/sand area - snorkeling good only along the rocky wall - deep (12-20
feet) snorkeling at tip of point - good for fish viewing. They had a barbecue going on -
decent food - buffet quality - on the left beach I found several chairs and put them under a
grove of trees - the beach umbrellas there are mesh and seem to offer less than optimal
protection from the sun. There is a bar, restrooms (though no changing room or shower) the
pool band plays during the day. You can rent a sea kayak (our tablemate did) and paddle
around the island. Think beach day with a little snorkeling.
Who goes: Virtually everyone - old, young, white, black, Asian, Hispanic, European. There
were slightly more Hispanics than in previous cruises and I think it could be the nature of the
ship leaving South Florida in the Summer. Europeans seemed to be primarily German.
Kids were well behaved as were the teenagers. Not a lot of mobility challenged - this is not
the ship for you if you are looking for accessibility - they try (have accessible staterooms)
but the age of the ship make it difficult to be compliant with the ADA.
Disembarkation: Oh no, I have to leave? Yes, final bill comes and there is an error. Up at
8AM disembarkation day to the credit desk - wait 15 minutes in line - sent to the officers
office - they find out I didn't charge two domestic buckets of beer - receive my refund - go
back to cabin - breakfast is already there - have breakfast - color called at 10AM - off the
ship and in our car by 10:30
For those driving - We went from Miami to Jacksonville-stayed at the La Quinta – 2
rooms - 40 a pop from Priceline = got take out from Shoney's - after all do you need or want
multi-course dining after the cruise? Then drove Jacksonville to Woodbridge, VA - Quality
Inn - worst hotel of the stop-$60 a room through Priceline - next time would do Miami to
Savannah - Savannah to NY.
Final Thoughts - I need more sea days - I want to live on this ship. I have not yet been on a
ship as charming, as beautiful, as stable as this one. Dear husband (the green one on the
Song of America, et. al) did not take any form of medication and felt great. The public
spaces were gorgeous. I understand what people say about the surfaces - she was built
using the modern, space age surfaces of the late fifties and early sixties - all without the
wooden surfaces that exist in other antique vessels. Once you understand the heritage I
hope you too will love her. BTW, last formal night (Friday) they showed a film of her maiden
crossing - wow - try to identify the spaces. I think the Great Blue Lady is a better ship than
NCL is a cruise line. I hope there is a person out there who will buy both her and the
Rotterdam V/Rembrandt and market them to the luxury end and market them with historical
lecturers etc. I know that the four rooms that made up my area would make a dynamite
luxury suite in another life. I did get to see the original owner's suites (Viking 139 and 140).
Wow! A bigger dining room than I have a home - How wonderful - turn the whole ship into
areas like that - it would give Residensea a run for her money.
Any questions just email. I am more than happy to talk about this magnificent ship.