Number of Cruises: First Cruise
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Crown
Sailing Date: January 17th, 2005
Itinerary: South America, Buenos Aires to Valparaiso, Chile
Unfortunately our cruise began in bad weather. We left Buenos Aires for Montevideo with sustained winds of 35 knots. The storm intensified with gusts to 65k and we were held in port in Montevideo for 14 hours, which resulted in the need to omit one of the subsequent ports of call. Initially, it was announced that we would skip the Falklands, but that was later changed to skipping a later port.
After the initial rough seas associated with the storm, the balance of the cruise was in relatively calm weather, including rounding the Cape. We had read and heard of the horrendous sailing conditions of the early explorers as they sailed around the Cape, and we were most pleasantly surprised that we found relatively calm seas, and even some sunshine. A strong wind does blow constantly, however.
After reading some of the earlier (less than complimentary) reviews of the Crown, we were pleasantly surprised at how good it looked. The ship has recently been painted, and the interior was well maintained. Our cabin was a “mini-suite” which gave us a small sitting area, and was worth the extra cost. Our cabin service was great; our steward was friendly and efficient.
Dining was “free style” which means there is no assigned seating or assigned dining rooms. Diners in the main dining room were seated by the hostesses – tables were set up for 4 persons, in most cases with another table for 2 immediately beside it, so the effect was more like a table for 6. There were insufficient tables for two, and there was pressure from the hostesses to accept seating with others. Food offerings in the main dining room were OK. Service, however, was inconsistent depending on which of the wait staff were working your table. The dining room manager was constantly walking fast, pointing and snapping his fingers. The wait staff was quite hurried, always walking fast and serving food quickly. The impression was of a “hurry up” operation.
Another restaurant was buffet style, and appeared to be somewhat different offerings than in the main dining room.
The smaller Le Bistro restaurant required reservations and an additional $15 per person charge. The menu was limited, but the food was excellent with beautiful presentation. The service was outstanding, prompt but nothing like the running around that took place in the main restaurant. My wife and I ended up eating at Le Bistro 5 times during the cruise, and felt the extra money was worth the more relaxed atmosphere, more deluxe food (e.g. surf & turf) and much better service.
The ship also featured a Pasta restaurant, which also required reservations, but no additional charge. Menu was limited to different kinds of pasta. Service was good, and a more relaxed atmosphere.
There was also a small oriental restaurant, Chop Stiks... which we did not try.
The on-board casino had minimal play throughout the cruise.
Evening entertaining was OK, with a small hard-working orchestra, some dancers. During the day, various excellent lectures were offered, as well as digital photography and Spanish language lessons.
Gratuities are not really gratuities. Rather, a “service charge” of $10 per person per day is automatically added to your bill. As is a 15% service charge for all bar service.
Although we are not novice travelers, this was the first ocean cruise taken by my wife and I. At this point I doubt we will go on another cruise, not because of a bad experience, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of being trapped and regimented, and although neither of us suffered from seasickness, I just don’t like the feeling of motion all the time, even in relatively calm water...... strictly personal preference.