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Sylvia Somers

Age: 53

Occupation:University Staff Member

Number of Cruises: 13

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Norwegian Dream

Sailing Date: March 27th, 2005

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

Although Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is not one of the cruise lines we regularly sail, we chose the Norwegian Dream because it sailed from New Orleans, a city which we wanted to see again, and because of its Mexican and Central American ports of call. We were all very excited about what our first “Freestyle” cruise would be like!

Having completed all registration papers online prior to the cruise ensured that our BOARDING/CHECK-IN went off without a hitch, and after having our pictures taken for security and the card keys handed to us, our family of 4 was on the ship within a half hour.

Our Biscayne Deck outside CABIN No. 5066 was available immediately for our occupancy which was definitely a nice welcome to the ship. Even though I was aware of the smallish size of the cabin when I booked the Dream, I have to say it was quite small for the 4 of us at only about 154 sq. ft. The cabin had only 2 closets which it compensated for with several extra, though small, drawers elsewhere in the room. I brought additional hangers which really helped and once unpacked, we were able to store our suitcases under the bed. Unfortunately we found that there was no upper and lower bunk for our 13 and 15 yr. old children--only a dilapidated, pull-out sofa which was about an inch off the floor when unfolded and made getting to our 2 portholes impossible. Not only would it have been unsuitable to sleep on for an older person, but it was uncomfortable when it was a sofa!! Due to the lack of space, we had the cabin attendant remove the small, oval cocktail table for the duration of the cruise. I did not like the fact that the cabin attendant did not remove the sleeper-sofa bedding or replace the small chair and footstool to their “day” position every morning. The bathroom offered 2 shelves under the sink and 3 triangle-shaped corner shelves. If you are familiar with European-size showers, then you can imagine just how minute the one in our bathroom was! A plus was that NCL still provides guests with bar soap, lotion, bath gel and shampoo even those there are also dispensers for shampoo and gel in the tiny shower, and a soap dispenser above the sink.

On boarding day, lunch was available at several venues which we later discovered, but we had lunch in the Sports Bar and Grill which is cafeteria style. We often ate here because of it was casual and had a decent food selection, warm atmosphere and great views from its high deck, fantail location. Each day for lunch there was a special ethnic-type food offered on a special set-up with a chef. We also liked the addition of the bar with its referee-attired staff and the great vintage memorabilia tastefully displayed high up on the walls. The only drawbacks were that it could have been larger, and it was very popular with families with small children.

On the first night out as we sailed the 110 miles down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, the temperature had severely dropped and the heavy winds made it almost fool hardy to be on deck, but we had a desire to try the outdoor BBQ where the chefs were doing their best to keep everything from blowing away and still provide a decent meal! In the next 7 days we planned and did DINE at the Four Seasons Restaurant, The Terraces, The Trattoria (Sun Terraces?), the Pizzeria on the pool deck, the BBQ’s midship on the pool deck and the Coffee Bar as well as had room service and we were rarely disappointed. The food in the dining rooms we all felt was excellent, and though not as good or as expansive a selection as we have had on our favorite cruise line, the chefs worked tirelessly at the BBQ & did a fine job for everyone. The reason we did not try The Bistro, the alternative restaurant, was not because of the $15 pp cover charge, but because the menu did not particularly appeal to us.

The list of EXCURSIONS
was extensive and very few were priced under $89 pp. My husband and son chose the “Deep Sea” fishing excursion out of Cozumel; the 4 of us chose the “Canopy Tour and Tabyana Beach Party” tour in Roatan, Honduras; and 3 of us chose the “Wildlife Adventure” in Belize. Although they never caught a thing deep sea fishing off of Cozumel, my husband and son were accompanied by only one other guest making it seem more like a private charter than a ship excursion. The mates of the fishing boat did everything in their power to help the guests try to catch at least something but I guess it just wasn’t in the cards that day.

The ROATAN, HONDURAS, canopy (ziplining) tour and Tabyana Beach party was severely flawed. When booking the excursion on board, the Excursion Desk never informed us that we had an appointed time for the canopy portion; we only found this out from someone else on the bus. The excursion bus driver took us right to the beach without finding out who was supposed to be where and when. We had to find a tour company woman there on the Tabyana grounds who kept a list with everyone’s canopy times, but the ship could have saved us a lot of trouble by giving us that information or at least telling us where it would be available. The beach was crowded because the Norwegian Spirit was already in port. My husband had to wait in line at least a half hour to secure a locker and lock to store our things before we raced to get back on the bus to get to the canopy tour start area. Once geared up and tutored for the canopy/ziplining adventure, the experience was scary but awesome. But this left us little time to get back to Tabyana Beach where we found that not only was the included lunch already closed, but we only had about 30- to 45 minutes for the beach which was heavily littered and the hope of decent snorkeling was not a possibility because of cloudy water and lack of fish. Daylight dwindled quickly and there was not a moment or a place to even buy a postcard before we had to get back on the ship. Thankfully the ziplining was exhilarating and there was an impromptu narration in Roatan while returning on the bus, otherwise the day would have been utterly disappointing.

We almost had not decided to go on our scheduled BELIZE excursion because the Honduras one had gone so badly, but we were pleasantly surprised and glad we did go. The only negative was that AGAIN the ship failed to inform us that the tour had been changed and that the description of the excursion in print and online was not what the reality turned out to be. The Wildlife Adventure no longer includes a trip to the Belize Zoo and no one seemed to know why. The “Baboon Sanctuary” has replaced that portion but in Belize, baboon really means Howler Monkeys. We had an excellent driver and comfortable touring bus to take us approximately 50 miles inland pass the Baron Bliss Memorial and to the Community Sanctuary. The little wildlife conservation museum, brief talk, woodland walk and the river portion of the trip were all great-- the guides so knowledgeable, and very friendly, the included lunch at the Old River Tavern in Burrell Boom was delicious. We even had a chance at a little shopping right outside the tavern. The 26-mile river journey thrilled us and we saw more wildlife than we could have ever dreamed possible….howler monkeys, crocodiles, manatees, dolphins, iguanas, and tiny proboscis bats and several species of birds. Ending at the Belize City waterfront gave us another opportunity to explore the charming shops and restaurants, listen to live music and even send a few postcards. It was a great day.

Although the first port of call on this cruise had been Cozumel, we had really looked forward to visiting CANCUN which was to be our last port of call. It was an extreme disappointment not to be able to make landfall here when the captain announced the change in plans. Because of the rocky seas, and the need to anchor and run tenders to shore, the captain decided to forego stopping at Cancun because of the danger involved with people trying to safely board the tenders. From reading other cruise reviews I discovered that this is not an uncommon occurrence, but I think alternatives for events like this should be standard operating procedure.

While normally a day at sea would be enjoyable, our day was pitiful. The ship ROCKED day and night already, but this day and the following sea day were unbearable. Everyone tried to cope but no matter where you were on board, high midship or not, the situation never got better. In fact, the ship never felt like it had any STABILIZERS at all. This second day at sea was worse than the forfeited Cancun day and many people were sick.

MY MAIN CRITICISMS OF THIS CRUISE were the severe rocking of the ship at all times; the fact that the captain apparently never tried to steer out of the rough waters, and no other suitable substitution for Cancun was found regardless of the fact that this happens often; the Shore Excursion Desk was not forthcoming or helpful while charging not insignificant fees for excursions. The disorganization of the Canopy and Tabyana Beach tour caused us to not be able to fully take advantage of what we were paying for and there was no possibility of getting the meal we were promised. We should have been refunded a portion of that excursion cost which totaled $356 for the 4 of us!!

There often was a waiting line to get into any particular restaurant, but not excessively so. Also, this was a small ship that felt small. The “stretching of this ship” did not seem to relieve this problem. Cabins were small and venues were often crowded.

Repeat NCL cruisers, Latitude Members, were invited to a private cocktail party, but the Captain’s talk was more or less perfunctory, brief and the whole affair was rather impersonal.

The generally was generally gave friendly service, but having tips automatically added to your shipboard account obviously does nothing to encourage the crew to give outstanding service.

All onboard shops were open and the ones that were open were poorly stocked because when this cruise ended, the Dream was bound for the shipyard in Mobile, AL, for mechanical work.

COMPLIMENTARY POINTS OF THIS CRUISE were the extremely convenient nature of freestyle cruising (eat anywhere, at anytime); the crew was generally friendly and helpful (except the shore excursion desk); the FOOD was very good in my opinion, and the dining rooms were nicely decorated and with excellent views. You could always find something to eat when you were hungry. The Coffee Bar was a pleasant place to gather as were many of the other public rooms.

There were plenty of activities offered onboard to appeal to any taste. You could always find at least one pool that was not crowded and there sufficient deck chairs at your disposal. There were more ship areas and tucked-away bars, plus the hot tubs which I never got a chance to experience!

The Front Desk had stamps available for purchase appropriate for each country visited in order to mail letters or postcards. (You actually had to purchase postcards of the Dream if you one!!)

The ship offered some in-room movies and CNN was continuously available during the cruise. The was significant because this was the week in which the deaths of Terri Schiavo and Pope John Paul II were to take place.

Cruise Director and staff were funny and generally tried to provide a good time for all aboard!!

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