Number of Cruises: 6
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Crown
Sailing Date: May 2nd, 2004
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Three of us sailed on the Norwegian Crown from Philadelphia to Bermuda. If you read the reviews from the cruise that embarked the week before, you’ll see they had about 1% of the passengers ill with a gastrointestinal bug. Upon arrival at the dock, NCL gave you a letter to read saying they had gone to great lengths to sanitize the ship, and would give you a voucher for your entire cruise fare if you decided you didn’t want to go with them on this cruise. Great for those folks living locally with flexible schedules, but I wasn’t too concerned with getting ill, because it was not a food borne illness.
I’d estimate 75% of the passengers lived within 1 hour of Philadelphia.
Embarking (and later, disembarking) from Philadelphia was the easiest and quickest of any cruise I’ve been on. Our stateroom was fine, plenty of closet and drawer space for three, nice hangars for men’s pants and jackets, big window, and bath equipped with dispensers of hand soap, shampoo, and bath gel. On the down side, the carpet was marked with black stains and spots by one bunk, and it didn’t look like anyone had tried to clean it. The hair dryer was nearly useless- I’d rate it at maybe 300 watts. If you have thick or long hair, bring your own dryer.
The weather can’t be blamed on the cruise line, but I must report we had unseasonably rainy, cold and windy weather for the entire week. Monday was a particularly rough day at sea. Lots of folks were seasick. One older woman broke her leg on board. Be aware that the ship is not the smoothest in even 10’ seas. Lots of motion, and I’m not sure if it even has stabilizer bars. I had no problem, and I’m a landlubber.
The service in the main dining room was inconsistent, at best. One night would be nearly perfect, another night I got the wrong wine and wrong entrée. The food I would give a C+. We experienced the driest lobster I ever had, (in fact all their fish dishes were dry) uninspired sauces, strange combinations (honeydew melon and jalapeno peppers!), and unremarkable offerings. However the desserts were always bright spot. Even the sugar free desserts were good. Service at breakfast was agonizingly slow- we sometimes ate at the buffet upstairs.
Asking how good the entrees were always got the same response- “fine”. I’m not sure their command of the English language was the best. On other cruises, we’ve had our waiter say, “I don’t think you’d be pleased with that dish tonight”, if it was less than good.
Since the dining room is small, all the seniors line up when the doors open, and the line was quite long to get in. Fine- we’ll eat later. No lines later, but service was so slow you’d miss the show.
Food offerings in the Yacht Club buffet were C-. Due to the gastrointestinal scare of the week before, you weren’t allowed to serve yourself- fine-, but the portion control was never the amount I really wanted- either too much or too little. They tried to stuff cold salads in the bowl with our lettuce, and then drowned everything in dressing out the bottle.
Onboard diversions were not as many as I was used to. The bingo games were the most expensive I’ve ever played, and the payouts the smallest. The casino was ok, but the slot machines didn’t pay out as frequently as I have seen on other ships. Very few bells were heard. Casino employees could have been much friendlier, and there was no bar service to be found there. We won two trivia contests, the prize for one was a bookmark (whoopee!), the second time we got a deck of cards and foam drink holder.
Speaking of bar service, the bartenders seemed to have a limited command of English, and were skimpy on the alcohol in the drinks. Considering the price you were paying, (and they sometimes didn’t get that right either) I expected a full ration of grog!
Entertainment was a B. Enthusiastic performers, good band, nice costumes, but production was college level. One night they had two young black comedians from the inner city- a laugh riot if you were under age 40, but the older folks didn’t understand half the jokes. Another night they had a 70-something comedian straight off the Borscht Belt circuit (think Alan King or Alan Sherman), and the younger folks didn’t understand his jokes.
Due to the weather our snorkel trip was cancelled. Educate yourself before your arrival, as the port talks were mostly about shopping, and Bermuda is expensive. I’d suggest buying a couple of travel guides (I used Fodor’s) and doing your own walking tour of Hamilton and St. Georges. Take the bus to the beaches. Bus service I generally excellent; the longest we waited for a bus was 10 minutes. We did get in a 2 hour glass-bottomed boat tour- the guide and boat was great, but I didn’t think it was worth $39.
The daily schedule of activities delivered to your room was fine, but the weather report would say “68 and partly cloudy”, but no mention of “90% chance of afternoon showers”. I could find no other weather report on board, nor any updates. No updated positioning, either. To see the menu offerings, you had to visit both restaurants daily- even a scroll along the TV would be easier.
Norwegian advertised “Freestyle Cruising”- eat when you want, do what you want, dress casually etc. That’s fine if folks would dress with a little bit of forethought. Seeing hairy tattooed men in muscle shirts at breakfast turns my appetite off. Retreating to the dining room where they enforce the dress code usually meant over an hour for a breakfast of fruit, scrambled eggs, toast and a cup of tea.
The spa services were 3 times the cost of what I’d pay at home, but one of my companions had an excellent massage. If you want your hair braided, go to one of the salons on shore.
At one point in time the toilet system on the entire boat died, on two other occasions our stateroom had no vacuum because someone down the hall put too much toilet paper in it. This is a problem not uncommon to any ships’ vacuum system, but be aware.
One other minor annoyance was that you had to carry your ship I.D. card and a key. On other boats, we’ve had electric cabin locks that your pass key lets you into- no key needed, and you only carry one item.
My sister smokes, and loved the outdoors ashtrays so much (no flying ashes) she wanted to buy them, but unfortunately, they weren’t for sale on board.
I don’t think we’ll sail with NCL again- freestyle cruising isn’t my cup of tea. I expect a higher level of service for the price we paid.