Number of Cruises: 6
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Dream
Sailing Date: December 24th, 2005
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Norwegian Dream Cruise Review
7 Day Western Caribbean
I must say I was a bit concerned about taking this cruise after reading some of the reviews on this and other cruise sites. But we had a very nice time on our sailing. My husband and I are in our 40's/50's and don't have kids. This was our sixth cruise and first on Norwegian. We chose this cruise for its itinerary (mainly Honduras) and its point of embarkation, Houston. Overall, this was a very nice value for the money.
This ship is older, smaller and doesn't have the amenities offered on the larger ships. It is more than adequate, but if the choices that can really only feasibly be offered on large ships, such as deli lines and what not, are important to you... Well, you may miss those options on this ship.
We sailed on December 24, and as with most holiday sailings there were a lot of kids on board. We found the other passengers to be well mannered enough and friendly. Overall, the kids were well behaved. But you will pretty much always run into the family or two who can't seem to be bothered to quiet their screaming offspring or worse. These instances were rather limited, considering the number of children on board. There were also a lot of families on board with several generations represented.
This was the best we had encountered anywhere. I don't know if it was because our timing was good, if it was because there was just our ship coming and going that day, or what. But we were checked in and on board within 10-15 minutes. We carried off our own luggage and were off the ship in a flash as well. One thing I particular liked was the cameras at the check in desk. When you present your tickets and identification and all that, the associate there has a camera and takes your picture at that time. This eliminates another stop on the way to the ship. I have been on other cruise lines where all passengers are routed through one of two camera stations for id photos. This can add a lot of time to the embarkation process, and bravo to NCL for eliminating all that. There is a long ramp between the terminal and the ship. If someone in your party has difficulty walking, you may want to arrange a wheel chair. The ramp is sloped, so you are going up hill during embarkation and down hill for disembarkation. If you are taking off your own luggage, this downward slope can cause you to pick up speed and all that. Be prepared to keep moving. We had someone ahead of us who kept wanting to stop and take pictures of the ship. Caused a lot of unnecessary and dangerous stopping and starting. We arranged our own transportation to and from the Port of Houston. We were early when we disembarked, and we were able to watch everyone else arranging transportation. They did a nice job managing taxis and all that, and people didn't seem to wait too long for that. The busses arranged by NCL appeared to be a slow, cumbersome process.
We had Cabin #6227, a C Class Cabin with a window. The third largest on the ship and the smallest I have ever been assigned. The closet/drawer space just barely accommodated two people, and one of our suitcases wouldn't even fit under the bed. This cabin supposedly accommodated three people, but I don't know where you would fit a third person. We had a sitting area, but we didn't sit there much, and wound up having to pile our stuff all over it. No cruise cabins have ever struck me as large, but this one seemed particularly small. The shower was smaller than an old fashioned phone booth. Again, no cruise shower stalls have ever appeared large to me, but these seemed small in comparison. Also, the air conditioning system didn't seem to be putting out much cool air. My husband used to be an air conditioner technician and said that it would be useless to ask for a repair, as the problem seemed to be an overall underpowered/overtaxed system. It put out some cool air, but often the room would get kind of warm.
I had heard about the ship having engine trouble earlier in the year and missing ports. We were originally scheduled to go to Cozumel, Roatan Honduras, Belize and Cancun. Cancun was eliminated because of hurricane damage. We made all the other stops.
These are more nature, beach/snorkeling kinds of ports and not great duty free shopping ports. Cozumel is still recovering from hurricane damage and the pier isn't serviceable yet. This means you have to be tendered to and from the ship. The Mexican government controls these tenders. There were several ships in port the day we were there, and it didn't appear that the Mexican government had enough tenders, or that they moved quickly enough to compensate for the small numbers. We don't find ship tours a good value on any cruise line, so we didn't do any ship trips. We did enjoy seeing the pretty nature sights in Belize and Honduras.
The anytime dining can work for you, if you know what you are doing and are a small group. The dining rooms had plenty of tables for two and four and several tables for six. For parties larger than that... Well, they often appeared to be seated at two or three tables near each other. The ship allowed people to make reservations at 5:30 and 8:30, any day of the week. We did this, and reseved a table for two each night at whatever restaurant for 5:30. If you are a large party, such as a multi-generational family numbering more than six, reservations are a very good idea. It may not be a bad idea to discuss dining time amongst yourselves before making the reservations as well. There was a family ahead of us in the reservation line that held things up for quite a while trying to agree on a 5:30 or 8:30 reservation. The teens wanted to eat at 8:30, since it better fit their plans for the evening, the grandparents wanted to eat at 5:30, since it was necessary for them to eat early for their diabetes, and on and on. Also, when approaching the podium for anytime seating, it is not necessary for the entire group to stand at the entrance to the dining room. Particularly since most groups had to wait to be seated anyway.
Overall, I found the food in the dining rooms to be very good. We ate in the main dining rooms, Trattoria Italian and le Bistro. Le Bistro is very nice and definitely worth the extra charge. Trattoria is very good as well. Other cruise lines seemed to have more selections offered for the main dining rooms, but we didn't have any trouble finding something we wanted at any meal.
The buffets could use some help. I'm not a fan of buffets anyway, but will eat at them from time to time. My husband eats at them more frequently than I do. Anyway, the buffets on the Dream. Yuck. The hot food sat in steam tables that only kept it lukewarm and soggy. The cold food sat on ice piles that only kept it lukewarm and soggy as well. If we had to have something to eat at the time, like when we needed to take medicine, the buffet worked, but we avoided it whenever possible.
We found drinks to be more expensive than on other lines, but had plenty anyway. There was a very large selection and you can get just about anything you want.
We aren't into shows, so we didn't go to any. The casino had enough slots and most tables, but seemed to be very, very tight when it came to payouts. Whatever. That didn't stop us. The Cruise Director is worth mentioning. She was upbeat and very funny. She had clean jokes to tell that were actually funny! She also knew how to drive home some important points about local laws, port information, disembarkation and all that. She approached this in a fun and friendly manner, but made it clear that there were hassles you needed to avoid.
We, particularly my husband, prefer larger ships and the amenities that go with them. But we still had a really nice time on the Dream. It is a good value for the money, particularly for a holiday week. We would sail NCL again, but would probably try to select a newer, larger ship.