Occupation:Senior Administrative Assistant
Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Sailing Date: March 16th, 2003
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
My daughter and I were somewhat
apprehensive about cruising on the Norway because of some of the negative
reviews we read. However, we just decided that this was our first cruise, life
is seldom perfect, and we were going to have a good time. If you are booked on
the Norway and are worried, I would encourage you to also read some of the
reviews of other newer, more modern ships as well. There are plenty of
criticisms of these “state-of-the-art” floating hotels. I am thoroughly
convinced that there are some poor souls in the world who will never be happy or
pleased – no matter what. Unless you are one of the aforementioned poor souls, I
think you are going to enjoy yourself.
Arrival in Miami: We opted to fly in on Saturday. I’m glad we did. It alleviates the worry of you and/or your luggage missing the ship. We stayed at the Days Inn-Civic Center hotel – it was pretty old and worn but, served the purpose of an inexpensive night’s lodging. In addition, it runs a shuttle from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the port. The shuttle service even took a group of us to Bayside Market that evening where we had great crab legs at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. There were a lot of people staying at this hotel who were leaving on cruises the next day.
Embarkation: We arrived at the port about 11:00 a.m. We chose to keep our carry-ons with us just in case our luggage was delayed in getting to our stateroom. We stood in a fast-moving line to check-in and then were directed to another area where we waited approximately 45 minutes or so before we could actually board. It was a fairly smooth process considering the number of people who were arriving. Once aboard the ship, we were shown to our stateroom. We spent a short time checking-out the room, then decided to go exploring and to see if we could find something to eat. We happened to walk past the purser’s desk and decided to go ahead and establish our on-board credit. We were glad we had later as a fairly long line developed. Luggage arrived before dinner and our departure from Miami was pretty much on time, as well.
Food: We were assigned to the Windward dining room and had requested early seating.
I thought the quality of the food was very, very good. Soups were hot – salads were cold. When I think about what we paid for the cruise and the types of meals, alone, that we ate for an entire week, we absolutely got our money’s worth and more. All of the meals and the service would rival any of the finest restaurants in our city. For people who have never been on a cruise before, every night there were at least 3 different cold appetizers to choose from; a hot appetizer; 3 different kinds of soup, 3 different salads,
3 different entrees, a pasta of the day, a vegetarian dish of the day, a spa dish of the day, and a minimum of 3 different desserts as well as a variety of ice creams, sherbets, and ices. And the menu changed every day. It was phenomenal. During the week, I only found two or three items that I didn’t really care for and that was probably more a reflection of my personal tastes than the actual quality of the food. We ate at Le Bistro one evening and found the food there to be quite good as well. I remember reading several negative reports about the Great Outdoor Restaurant. Frankly, I loved to go up there in the early morning and drink coffee, eat breakfast and look out on the Caribbean.
The food quality wasn’t bad – it
was what you would expect when you go to a breakfast buffet at a restaurant.
There was always a good supply of fresh fruit and cheese and between that and
some good muffins and croissants, I thought it was great. Everyday at lunch the
chefs would also be grilling something – steaks, chicken, hamburgers or hotdogs
out on the deck. We only ordered room service a couple of times – it is a
limited menu and the food was o.k. – nothing to get excited about but served the
purpose when we were hungry and tired. The Great Chocolate Buffet was held on
Tuesday afternoon and was an event we had waited for with great anticipation.
Tables and tables of chocolate. We emerged from the line with a large dessert
plate full of chocolate creations but found we could only eat one or two. It was
wonderful, but just too rich. I felt bad because our eyes were much bigger than
our stomachs and we threw so much away. One other thing that I feel compelled to
note and then I will move on – after a couple of nights, the people at our table
began ordering additional entrees. At first, they just shared one, which was
fine, but before the end of the week, they were each ordering all this extra
food which they were unable to eat. They ended up throwing away at least half of
both entrees. It was the epitome of wastefulness and it was embarrassing. O.K.,
that’s all I am going to say.
Stateroom: Our room was located on Biscayne Deck, which was as low as you could go, and we were very close to the front of the ship. The bathroom was what I think is pretty standard for most of the rooms – regular size sink, stool and a pretty small shower.
We were upgraded (through no actions of our own) from an “O” to a “G” level of room, so since were prepared for cubby hole, you can imagine how pleased we were. We had plenty of room, closets, and storage space. It wasn’t luxurious, but we didn’t pay for luxury. It was clean and comfortable and more than met our needs for the week. It WAS noisy when they dropped or pulled up the anchor – it sounded like it was housed next door (smile). Hint: I took one of the over-the-door shoe holders that people suggest, and it was useful to hold a variety of items.
Common Areas of the wasn’t looking for them. They were painting various areas – some inside and some out. They scrubbed the decks daily and people were always cleaning something.
Entertainment/Things to Do: We saw 2 of the Broadway-style floor shows in the Saga Theatre. They were fine – not Broadway quality, but we weren’t on Broadway. We never did make it to the comedian’s show, but I understand he was quite good. There were a variety of activities to choose from every day – so many that you couldn’t do everything. We caught the “Not So Newly-Wed” game which was entertaining and I went to a stress-reduction yoga class one morning. The Club Internationale reminded me of what it must have been like to be on the Titanic – it’s large and elegant. There are several other bars and clubs so if you like to party and dance, there are ample opportunities and venues. I thought the casino was quite large – 2 roulette wheels, 1 craps table, at least a half a dozen “21” tables, and lots and lots of slot machines. There were 6 or 7 boutiques with a variety of merchandise – perfume, jewelry, souvenirs, watches, cruise clothing, etc. The Mandarin Spa was very nice – I had 2 excellent massages. Look for the specials offered during the week where you can purchase services at discounted rates.
Service: We received nothing but the best in service. Our waiter, busboy and steward took very good care of us, to the point of remembering specific preferences. We were fortunate – not all of the wait staff were quite as experienced as ours. Most everyone we encountered was at least pleasant, if not charming. There seemed to be a genuine work ethic displayed by most and an eagerness to please.
Ports: We did not go on any shore excursions, preferring instead to investigate on our own. Be prepared to bargain on the islands. Although we had planned to go the French side of St. Martin, we decided to stay on the Dutch side and did our shopping there. You could get beach towels or pareos three for $10 in some places. If you are in the market for nice jewelry or watches, they have good buys on those. Everyone wanted to braid my daughter’s hair. Hint: she finally did have it braided on St. Thomas at the market where we were told they are required to have licenses and maintain certain cleanliness standards. There is a beach right where you arrive on St. Martin so if you want to do the beach thing but don’t want to do a shore excursion or take a cab, all you have to do is walk 20 or 30 steps and you are at the beach. This is not the case in St. Thomas (from what I could see). We also went to Paradise Point on St. Thomas and saw some beautiful blue & yellow macaws, cockatoos and some smaller parrots. The Great Stirrup Cay was fun and hot and crowded. There is a small market there, but they are limited in what they offer and are substantially more expensive than the junk stores on the islands.
Disembarkation: We were off of the ship, through customs and had our luggage in 10 minutes. Seems like should be saying enough.
The Things We Liked: The dining; being pampered by our waiter and busboy; the spa treatments, the relaxed atmosphere, beach towels were provided, and the smoothness with which even the not-so-pleasant activities (customs in St. Thomas, the fire drill, etc.) are handled. Most of these functions moved along like a well-oiled machine.
The Less Than Wonderful: You know, the tenders are just basically a pain. But in my opinion, you know this is part of the package when you sign up so if you don’t want to take tenders, go on another ship. The same thing about the elevators. This is an old ship and there’s been enough complaining to last a lifetime so everyone knows the elevators are slow. If you want fast elevators, find a ship that has fast elevators so others don’t have to listen to you complain. A couple of hints: I almost always took the stairs when I was going down and sometimes even going up – yes, it’s good exercise.
Also, if you happen to be living
in the front part of the ship, I took Elevator #1 almost all week long and it
was seldom in use by anyone. Most of the time I went directly from Biscayne deck
to International deck without a stop and all alone. This won’t happen if you
take #3 or #5 bank of elevators.
What Surprised Us: The amount of motion we felt on such a large ship. On Friday, particularly, we had a lot of motion. I heard the swells were about 20 feet. We took an afternoon nap and literally were rocked to sleep. I felt like I was moving for 2 days after we got back!
Summary: It was really a wonderful vacation. Relaxing with a lot of options on things to do. It wasn’t necessarily “perfect”, but how many things truly are? I would go again, on this same ship, in a heartbeat.