Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Dream
Sailing Date: n/a
Norwegian Cruise Line
This was our first cruise and I read many negative reviews on the Norwegian Dream prior to departure, but I went on the cruise with an open mind because it had an itinerary of ports we really wanted to see. I hate to say it, but the Norwegian Dream should be named the Norwegian Nightmare. The nightmare began in a hellish embarkation. The Dream was late getting into Seattle due to engine trouble and late excursion returns in Prince Rupert. The terminal was filled with 1700 tired and disgruntled passengers and we sailed 5 1/2 hours late. The embarkation process was chaos everywhere, with officials trying to placate the mob with plates of cold cuts and cans of soda. We learned that due to the engine problems, we would be sailing to Alaska with only two engines and because of the reduced speed, NCL was eliminating another port. They had already changed Skagway to Haines about 3 months before sailing, then 3 days prior to sailing we received notice that Sitka was cancelled, and then in the terminal we learned that Ketchican was cancelled as well. This was an 11 day, 10 night cruise, we were supposed to have 6 ports, we ended up with 4, and our time in Seward was cut by half besides. We had way too many sea days. I will summarize some things by category so you get the flavor of the entire cruise. I already told you about embarkation, so on to:
Food: We expected the food to be abundant and fabulous. It was abundant, but the buffets were not that great. The salads, fruits, breads and desserts were good, but the hot food on the buffet was cold. The hamburgers on the poolside bbq are pre-cooked, dumped in a pan with pre-cooked chicken, ribs, and fish (all in one pan), brought out to the bbq, thrown on the grill and warmed up. One time my husband saw the hamburgers come out in the pan, already with grill lines on them (meaning they had been grilled the day before - leftovers!) and warmed up again. What wasn't eaten on the bbq was put on the buffet line in the Pizzeria. YUK. Breakfast buffets were also cold, with the exception of fresh made waffles in the Sports Bar & Grill and omelets in Four Seasons. The food at dinner in Four Seasons, Terraces, and Trattoria was in general quite tasty, but we would have liked to have more shrimp, lobster, etc. We had shrimp one night, lobster one night (very small portion) and absolutely no crab. Imagine a cruise to Alaska with no King Crab. We did not eat in Le Bistro, as it was extra to dine there and we didn't want to spend the money. The Chocoholic Buffet was fabulous. The Ice Cream Parlor on the pool deck never had chocolate or vanilla, the world's most popular flavors. The quality of food at the Pizzeria was generally awful except for the fresh cookies and the french fries, if you were lucky enough to catch them when they came out. The pizza was unfailingly soggy. Who ever heard of keeping pizza warm in a steam table?? Duh!
Service: After receiving 1700 disgruntled, tired, and disappointed passengers on board, I have to admit the crew did an excellent job of bending over backwards trying to be helpful and provide good service, with some exceptions which will be noted shortly. Our room steward did a great job, as did all the waiters and waitresses in the restaurants and bars. I would like to commend one young woman in particular, her name was Renae from the Philippines and she served drinks in the Observatory Lounge. The dining room staff tended to be a bit tardy keeping the coffee cups filled, but maybe they weren't used to having diners that liked their coffee with their meal rather than with their dessert. Where service lacked was in the way questions, problems, etc. were handled by the reception desk, the shore excursion desk and most of all the credit desk. Reception was always polite, but we tended to get the run around. Shore excursion desk had the nasty job of trying to placate folks whose excursions were messed up due to the itinerary changes and I noticed they tended to always recommend the most expensive alternatives, which is what they did to us in Seward. We were supposed to have the train ride there, but instead of our planned 24 hours in port, we were there for about 8. That made our train ride un-doable, and the shore excursion desk set us up instead with a Kenai Fjords Nat'l Park boat tour and Fox Island Salmon Bake. We got to Seward and the wind was too strong for Kenai Fjords, so they changed us again to a six hour Resurrection Bay boat tour. What a mess. And so it went for many other passengers. The most rude person on the ship that we encountered was the woman that worked at the Credit Desk. There was no getting anywhere with her on anything. She insulted my intelligence by saying the 15% auto gratuity on drink tabs was like a "tax". Give me a break! Since when does the word "gratuity" equal "tax"? Make sure that if you do not wish to tip the bar staff, you cross it off your ticket before you sign it or you will be stuck. We also were ignored on a regular basis by a bartender at the pool bar - he liked to chat, and didn't care who was waiting or for how long.
Spa: Maybe we are hicks from Idaho, but I am not about to pay $169 for a hot stone massage, so we did not spend our money at the spa. I was disappointed in this - definitely geared to the wealthy where money is not an object. I really wanted to treat my husband and his bad back to a good massage, but alas, it did not happen. I think I'll pay $45 an hour at home for a one hour hot stone massage and be much happier.
Casino: We are not big gamblers, we reached our limit to lose and quit. We think the machines were very tight on pay-outs.
Ship Condition/Cleanliness: The ship was generally clean, but showing her age. The stateroom furniture was shabby to say the least. Stained sofas and chairs, lumpy beds were the norm. There is not a comfortable chair anywhere on that ship.
Shore Excursions: I already mentioned the problems with so many ports being cancelled and not being able to see what we really were looking forward to seeing. The excursions are overpriced, and you are herded around like a bunch of cattle. We felt we were never allowed enough time to simply enjoy the destination. We had to rush too much. Because of the short port times, we had to make a choice - do an excursion or see the town. Not enough time to do both. The White Pass train ride in Skagway is spectacular, but don't combine it with the historical gold camp called Liarsville. It's a re-creation anyhow, the gold panning is at troughs, and you get to watch a short show, pan for gold for about 10 minutes, but with no time to look around at all. In Juneau we took a tour to Mendenhall Glacier combined with a salmon bake for $59 per person. We got off the ship and saw the same bus ride to the Glacier for $5.00 per person one way. The salmon bake was delicious, but again, not enough time and certainly not worth the difference in price. The gold panning in Juneau was fun and more authentic. You actually got to go down to a creek and do it. The Resurrection Bay boat tour and Fox Island lunch were o.k. The boat tour was great - lots of sea life and birds, but the stop for salmon lunch on Fox Island was short. Rush 'em in, rush 'em out. Prince Rupert was nothing to brag about, and I don't understand why that port could not be eliminated instead of a place like Sitka or Ketchican. We were very disappointed we missed those two ports as we were looking forward to a wildlife excursion in Ketchican and seeing the totems, as well as exploring Sitka on our own by bicycle. When the cruise line changed the itinerary from Skagway to Haines, we were upset because we wanted to see Skagway. No excursions to Skagway were offered on-line at that point, so we reserved passage on the fast ferry from Haines to Skagway and figured we would just see the town, as not enough time to do the White Pass Rail and the town both. As it turned out, when we got on board the Dream, we discovered that there was an excursion to Skagway after all, so we signed up so we could do the train and still get back to the ship docked in Haines on time. But then again, there was no time to see Haines.
Activities: I guess this is up to you what you enjoy, but we did not have interest in most of them. The talent show was amusing, as was karaoke, but trivia and crafts were not our bag. What was annoying was sometimes there was a good activity scheduled, but at such a time as when we were passing through some nice scenery so you had to make a choice - see the scenery or do the activity. We always chose the scenery.
Entertainment: The production shows by the Jean Ann Ryan Dance Co. were very good, especially the Country Gold one. The magician was excellent, and we enjoyed the comedian Ross Bennett. The worst was a duo that sang in the Observatory Lounge by the name of Simply Gold. Their name should have been Simply Awful. What disappointed us overall on the entertainment was the lack of anything current. Most of the music was geared to the older set, with lots of big band dance music and Frank Sinatra. We are baby boomers, and would have liked to hear more classic rock and certainly more country. The most "recent" music was an 80's night at Dazzles Disco, which we did not attend. We felt like we were in a time warp of 1945.
Overall Impressions: This cruise was a huge disappointment to those of us that really wanted to see Alaska's Inside Passage rather than sit on the ship for days on end at sea trying to figure out what to do next.....eat? drink? sleep? and hope tomorrow would be a better day. The shore excursions are extremely over priced - don't book them with the cruise line. Do your research and book them on your own and you'll save money. We decided that cruising is not for us - we do not like the "herd mentality" of such organized excursions and activities, and enjoy exploring things on our own more. However, it was very nice to be pampered and waited on. This cruise certainly did not live up to our expectations and certainly was not worth the money spent on it. (My whole Christmas bonus was blown on this cruise). It was supposed to be our dream vacation, but reality was much different. We are going to ask for a refund, doubt we'll get one, but it truly was a gyp. Out of an 11 day cruise, we spent 7 of them at sea, and that stunk. NCL gave us a $400 on-board credit, which was use it or lose it. We had no big desire for Norwegian Dream souvenirs, and though we like a drink here and there, we aren't about to drink up $400. The cruise line should offer folks a choice of the credit or a refund they can put in their pockets. Maybe some people enjoy sitting on the ship, relaxing, drinking, eating, playing games, and shopping in port, but we like to get out and see the town and the country, and we had way too little of that. Hope this review helps some people. If you like cruising, that's great, just don't do it on Norwegian Dream.