Number of Cruises: 3
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Crown
Sailing Date: August 15th, 2004
This was our 3rd cruise experience and 2nd with NCL. We booked the cruise through cruise.com (I’ve booked all our cruises with cruise.com and have never had a problem) at the last minute for the destination, departure city, and cruise line (in that order). After booking the cruise, I read a large number of less then flattering cruise reviews on the Norwegian Crown – and wondered if I had made a mistake picking the Norwegian Crown over a number of other options. Needless to say, my wife and I were more than a little anxious right from the start.
For those of you who may not wish to read any farther, let me say right off the bat that our fears were never realized ... we had one of the most pleasurable weeks we could have ever imagined. Everything was superb. The ship was well maintained (reading some reviews, you’d get the idea that the Crown is a rust bucket), the entire staff was outstanding, our cabin (Suite 9018) was spacious and spotless, the food was great, the bartenders and wait staff were all friendly and attentive, and ship amenities/activities (stores, fitness center, library, game room, casino, entertainment, etc.) were more than one might expect for a ship of the Crown’s size. At the end of the cruise I vowed to submit a review that reflected the true state of the ship and its staff today.
We boarded the ship in New York City. Despite the fact that NYC’s passenger cruise facilities are in desperate need of a major renovation, we boarded without a hitch. We chose to drive to the pier from the Washington, DC area rather than take any of the alternate transportation choices. It proved to be a good choice and I would recommend it to anyone who is within a reasonable drive to NYC. The traffic on Sunday morning is fairly light and we had no problems getting through the tunnel and getting through NYC traffic to the pier. The parking lot is directly adjacent to the pier – and it is very secure. We got there early (11:30 a.m.) and would recommend the same for anyone else who wants to leave their car in the lot since you’re competing for access to the facility’s one narrow traffic ramp with all the passengers who are still departing the huge Norwegian Dawn. The NCL check-in process was very efficient.
We booked a mini-suite on the Riviera Deck (an AD suite, #9018). The cabin was well maintained, nicely decorated, clean and had an unbelievable amount of closet and drawer space. It was set up with 2 single beds, but we moved them together with no problem. The cabin steward (who was outstanding – I believe that his name was Raymond) improved on our effort later that afternoon. The whole outer wall was a picture window giving us spectacular views of each of the 3 Bermuda ports that the Crown docks in. The bathroom was spacious and contained a full sized tub/shower.
We ate almost all our dinners in the main dining room (Seven Seas) except for one night in Le Bistro. All other meals were in the buffet style Yacht Club. The quality of the food was excellent. The menu changed each night and the taste and presentation were always very good. My wife and I are used to the finer restaurants in the Washington DC area – and we both concluded that the food served on the Crown was equal to all but the most exclusive (and expensive) restaurants in our area. The service was outstanding in every restaurant. Le Bistro was a very nice change of pace – although personally, I don’t think the food is any better there than in the Seven Seas. Our Bistro experience led us to the best discovery of the week – the Lido Bar. Sunsets in the Lido bar are spectacular and judging from the number of people who frequented it, the Lido Bar has got to be the most under appreciated gem of the Crown; it beats the Top of the Crown hands down.
Lunches and breakfasts at the Yacht Club buffet were just fine. I discovered the Omlette station a couple of days into the cruise and returned every morning thereafter. Desserts were spectacular.
It should be no surprise to anyone that the overwhelming percentage of passengers boarding from New York comes from the surrounding area (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut). I would guess that the percentage on our cruise was somewhere in the neighborhood of 75-80%. This was definitely a couples (baby boomer) and family oriented cruise. Young singles looking for action would be well advised to avoid the Crown. An added benefit of NCL’s freestyle dining is being introduced to a new set of diners each evening – and we met some very nice people at each of our trips to the dining room.
Shopping - Shops reflected the size of the ship – they weren’t very large. I was a little disappointed in the limited selection of Crown-specific items and apparel – most of it was generally oriented to NCL.
Fitness Center and Spa – Fitness Center was very nice and well equipped. We didn’t use the Spa, but it seemed quite large and full serviced.
Casino – Consistent with the size of the ship. It wasn’t open during much of the cruise since it closes when the ship is docked. Although, we’re not big gamblers, it had enough variety to make the time interesting.
Stardust Lounge – Entertainment was pretty much standard fare for cruise ships ... comedian, performing troupe, jugglers, etc. All of the shows we attended were entertaining although, at times, the comedian got a little too crude for my taste since it’s a family oriented crowd. The room itself is very well designed – there isn’t a bad seat in the house.
Pool – Only one pool – and it’s not very large. The deck area around the pool (several decks worth) is well done. I have to admit that I was a little surprised that the pool contained salt water and not fresh. While the ship’s literature stresses that there is no reserving of deck chairs, it doesn’t seem to be enforced and we never witnessed anyone crazy enough to challenge those who did. Suffice it to say, if you want a good location, scope it out early and leave a book that you’ve already read to mark your location.
Shore Excursions – We only did one excursion – a 3-hour snorkel trip to a “shipwreck site” about a mile or two off shore from the Royal Dockyards. While “Diver Tom” from the ship’s shore excursion staff did his best to make a pretty boring site interesting, his commendable efforts weren’t enough for me to recommend this trip.
Other Activities – NCL makes activities available without constantly pushing them down your throat – something that we found very irritating on a Royal Caribbean cruise we took a couple of years ago. Simon, the cruise director, and his staff are excellent.
We took advantage of the express check out. It started at 8:30 and by 9:00 we were in our car and out of the parking area. Be advised that a fairly large number of passengers choose this option, so prepare early and get in line by 8:00.
This was our first trip to Bermuda. It met all our expectations ... the island was beautiful and the people were wonderful. The Crown ties up to all three port areas in Bermuda making it a little easier to explore the entire island.
We had always heard that Bermuda was very expensive. Compared to some of the Caribbean islands, it probably is. But if your frame of reference is an east coast metropolitan area, it isn’t really much different than what you’re used to at home. Shopping in Hamilton is maybe the best of any island in the world – Bermudians do not hurt for anything.
We rented a scooter during our day in Hamilton. Maybe I drew from a previous experience renting a scooter in the Bahamas, but I found the experience easier than I expected. Stay with the Oleander locations. They’re about $5 more, but they’ve got the newest and best maintained fleet on the island. We really enjoyed being able to travel at will with the scooter and explored the entire south shore. On a whim, we asked the gate guard at the exclusive Elbow Beach Resort if we could have lunch there and he let us in even though NBC had the whole place rented out for their senior affiliate executives. It proved to be the highlight of our Bermuda experience. We’ll definitely return there some day.
OVERALL RATING WAS EXCELLENT
I have to assume that there were truth in the negative experiences documented in past reviews of the Norwegian Crown ... and if so, NCL and the entire staff and crew of the Crown have worked very hard over the past months to improve themselves. Considering our initial trepidation, we couldn’t have been any more satisfied than we were with this cruise experience. My hat is off to the Crown and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this ship to anyone who was considering a cruise to Bermuda.