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Jon Baer

Age: 59

Occupation:Airline pilot, retiring

Number of Cruises: 4

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Norwegian Crown

Sailing Date: September 13th, 2004

Itinerary: New England, Canada


We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise aboard the Norwegian Crown, Sept 13-24, 2004. We were apprehensive after reading on some internet cruise sites some unfavorable reviews of the ship before we left home for Baltimore. After first-hand experience, few of the complaints we had read had any validity in our opinion.

I guess we should have expected, due to the destination and the time of the year, but we were surprised at the average age of the passengers on this cruise. Yes, we expected an older group than found on Caribbean cruises, but not as “mature” as we found. We had heard that there were three children on the cruise. If there were, we never saw them. The average age was probably 70 although it often seemed higher.

Some specific comments, and suggestions to the Norwegian
The food was, in most all aspects, excellent. There was certainly plenty of choice, not only in menu options but in seating and restaurants. There was always a vegetarian choice, all more varied than the usual plate of steamed vegetables which some restaurants consider a vegetarian entrée. And for those that didn’t want red meat, there was always a fish option. The soups, too, were all excellent, especially the cold fruit soups. All of the wait staff did an excellent job—efficient and friendly. We wound up a few times served by two young Romanian ladies, Christina and Alina who did a fantastic job. We had purchased a bottle of wine which we hadn’t finished during one evening meal. Without asking, our bottle was returned to the table the next night.

The pastries and breads were exceptionally good. We had three selections of breads at lunch and dinner, all delicious. Most of our breakfasts were from the buffet line, most lunches and all dinners from the Seven Seas Restaurant or two of the three optional restaurants. (We did not dine in the French Bistro.) Suggestions: The served portions were HUGE, far too much for this “mature” crowd. We were distressed by the amount of wasted food. The only time our request for smaller portions was honored was one evening in the Italian Café. We both asked for a small portion of pasta; my wife received a small portion but they still heaped up the plate for me. We saw plates full of food returned to the kitchen, destined for the fish in the sea, according to one of our waitresses who told us they had been instructed in “waste management.” At breakfast one morning my wife asked for a small portion of scrambled eggs. What she got was a plate piled with scrambled eggs, at least six or seven. That sort of waste just isn’t necessary. If a passenger says he’s really hungry, then yes, pile it on. But when you ask for a small portion…. We would suggest an option of a smaller portion on all meals. Some of our local restaurants have that option and we appreciate it.

We dined in the oriental-style “Chopsticks” restaurant twice. We both found the food there over salted, on both occasions. Unlike the Italian Café, there was no change of menu at Chopsticks. They had the same menu every night of the cruise. Chopsticks was the weakest of the restaurant options.

The Italian Café has a magnificent view with huge picture windows on the top deck. One evening we were seated by the window at 6:30 and watched an entrancing colorful sunset. My wife mentioned that the only thing better would be to see some whales. Three minutes later, a pod of whales surfaced granting her wish.

A cookbook is offered for sale on board, however it does not contain the recipes of the meals we were served. Perhaps, Norwegian would consider offering a book of specific cruise-served recipes, of course tailored for smaller amounts. I’d buy one, especially, if it contained the recipes of those delicious fruit soups.

Yes, our cabin was small, but this wasn’t a fancy hotel suite. There was plenty of closet and drawer space and even the largest of our suitcases fit under the bed. We didn’t feel cramped. There was always plenty of hot water and our cabin was kept immaculate by our always-friendly and smiling room steward, Warren King, who adjusted cleaning of the room to our hours, not his. Yes, we did see a few minor nicks in the dresser drawers showing this ship’s age. But if that bothers you and ruins your cruising experience, you really should stay home. Or else, choose a cabin on Cunard’s new unblemished Queen Mary II and pay $35,000 plus.

Considering that this was on board a ship and not London’s West End or New York’s Broadway, the entertainment was excellent. We didn’t miss a night. All the other passengers around us seemed to enjoy the shows as much as we did. We heard one complaint that the choreography wasn’t up to New York standards. Hey, give me a break. Anyone that wants to see New York staged musicals should stay on land and go to New York and pay New York theater prices.

We did not take any of the ship-sponsored shore excursions. In a couple of cities we had friends to meet, other towns like Halifax and Sydney, we had rented cars and scouted out on our own. We did not regret that decision as we found some interesting spots that were not covered on any of the tours. In light of the average age of the passengers on this particular cruise, that would not have been a reasonable option for most.

There were street maps included in the daily schedule left in the room. With the exception of the map of Bar Harbor, er Bah Hahbah, the maps were either too fuzzy to read, or covered too small of an area to be of any use. Fortunately, we had stopped at AAA before the cruise and brought along our own maps. Suggestion: Since the tourist bureaus at the port cities provide free maps, why not offer those on board, rather than have the passengers waste time trying to find maps upon arrival into town? Those maps would at least be readable.

We had one rough day at sea, courtesy of winds left over from Hurricane Ivan. Sixteen foot swells emptied the dining halls, except for a few hardy souls, and just a handful of iron-stomached passengers showed up for the evening’s entertainment. Unfortunately, the high seas came up on the evening following the chocoholic’s afternoon buffet. All that chocolate didn’t set well for the queasy.

We enjoyed returning to the beautiful city of Quebec, more European than Europe. If only we had been offered less time in Sydney and more time in Quebec! In fact, two days in Quebec wouldn’t have been enough.

In light of the age group it was surprising not to find hand-hold bars in the shower and by the toilet. We didn’t need them but if Norwegian is going to cater to the older generations they should consider that. Also, we saw too many instances of fearful unsteady, elderly passengers weaving shakily up and down the gangways. This was more evident on shore, especially when boarding the tenders returning to the ship. There really should have been more Crown crew there to help those shaky passengers. Passengers were helping other passengers but it should have been crew to do the helping. Sydney, Nova Scotia, comes especially to mind.

On the same subject, the crew should be constantly aware of the age factor. One evening a game ran over its time allotment, pushing against the starting time of the second show. Second show passengers had to wait until first show passengers left the Stardust Lounge but the auditorium lights were turned off before many were seated. With unadjusted eyes coupled with elderly passengers and a moving ship, this was not a safe situation with so many groping around. Airliners don’t push back from the gate until all passengers are seated for a good reason: safety. Postponing the start of the second show for three more minutes would have been a much wiser decision.

The crew posted one map of our entire itinerary with routes drawn in red. Many of us would have liked to have had updates on that map with ETAs and ATAs marked, especially when shore was in view. Every six hours would have been great. Every four hours during the day, even better. The ideal situation would be a televised map, coupled with the ship’s GPS, just like most airliners have on international routes. Those continuously updated televised maps also give ship’s speed, wind speed, outside temperature, estimated time to destination, etc. The technology is there, Norwegian. The captain did make daily announcements of our position but for those of us interested in navigation the lat/longs didn’t mean much without maps in front of us. But in lieu of GPS-coupled TV, a set of colored pins for marking positions on a posted map costs about $2.

The Crown has a small library, ten large chairs as I remember. For the full days at sea, that’s just not enough so most of us had to find other seats in other areas of the ship to do our reading. The nearby Lido lounge had plenty of seats but hardly conducive to reading with two televisions blaring. Also, smoking was permitted in the lounge. With the ventilation pattern in that lounge, one cigarette would force the evacuation of many grumbling non-smokers. We would suggest that during the day, at least until 5 PM on days at sea, that there be no smoking allowed in the Lido lounge. Also, on full days at sea, the librarian hours should be extended.

As mentioned before, we had one night of rough seas, rough enough that even some of the waitresses were seen running for the doors, covering their mouths. It was the proper time for the captain or the first officer, to make a comforting ship-wide PA message to some very concerned passengers, one of them my wife. All that’s needed in those situations is a short announcement of how long the rough seas were expected and that ships of that size were designed to sail in waters much rougher. The absence of any announcement made it appear that the crew was itself worried or unconcerned about the passengers. I’m sure that was not the case.

Would we cruise with Norwegian again? YES! Definitely. We especially liked the “free-style” cruising. In fact, we had been booked on a Princess cruise for approximately the same time period , same destinations. When we found out that we could get only late dinner seating (8:30) we changed to this Norwegian Cruise where we could dine when and where we wished. On board we talked with many well-experienced cruisers, including one man on his 76th cruise! Some had horror stories about spending an entire cruise as dining prisoners-- seated with strangers with whom they had nothing in common. In the Seven Seas Restaurant on the Crown you are asked if you mind sharing a table with others. You have that option on Norwegian. I’m surprised other lines haven’t wised up.

Norwegian has a policy of a standard tip, $10 per day per person, added to the bill. We had heard criticism that this policy discouraged incentive for good service. At NO time on this cruise did we find service below excellence.

Thanks to the crew of the Crown for a wonderful experience, a great way to celebrate a retirement.

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