Occupation:Project Manager/Retired Air Force
Number of Cruises: 6
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Dream
Sailing Date: February 24th, 2007
Itinerary: Westerm Caribbean
Norwegian Cruise Lines
Norwegian Dream Cruise Review
DEPARTURE EMBARKATION FROM THE PORT OF HOUSTON (Saturday): The area around The Port of Houston is pretty shabby but getting in and out of the cruise terminal is really easy. They allow you to drive up to the terminal to unload your bags before parking in the lot right next to the terminal area (within walking distance). When you drive up, jump out and give your bags to the porters who will come to your car. It is recommended that you tip $1.00 per bag being handled. Also, ensure the baggage tags the cruise line sent you are on each of your bags completely filled out. Once the porters take your bags you can get back in the car and park, and then walk back to the terminal to check-in.
Check-in was really quick and easy. If you have used the online guest registration function which basically does the job for the agent you’ll move a little quicker. When using the online application ensure you print out the completed form and bring it with you. You’ll be asked to give a credit card which will be assigned to each of the keycards used for your stateroom for all onboard charges. You’ll also get your picture taken which is linked to your keycard for embarking/disembarking throughout the trip.
THE SHIP: The Norwegian Dream is quite an old ship. It was crimsoned by Diana Ross in 1991 but was later remodeled after an accident which severely damaged the ship. During remodeling a center section was actually added which caused the layout of the ship to be quite “cut up”. You have to “up and over” in several areas of the ship to get to lower decks and you can’t always walk straight through some of the decks. Took a little getting used too and we found we cut through the main dining room (Four Seasons) to get to most of the other parts of the ship. However, The Dream is still a good ole girl who’s kept quite clean and tidy. I had complained to my partner prior to the cruise that I wasn’t looking forward to being on a “crappy ship”. However, I was REALLY shocked at how nice it was and my opinion was quickly changed. I believe I would actually sail on this ship again sometime if an opportunity came around but it wouldn’t be my first pick by any means.
STATEROOM: Once onboard we were able to go immediately to our cabin. We boarded around 1PM and found that are cabin was already made-up and ready for our use. Bags started arriving around 2 and by 3:30 we had all our bags and had already unpacked. The stateroom (9215) was dated but very clean and well-kept. I am 6’3”and my partner is 5’10” and neither of us had trouble moving about the cabin. We have traveled first class on other cruise lines so we were used too much larger cabins but our cabin was quite comfortable with a nice sitting area near the floor-to-ceiling window on the starboard side of the ship. The furniture and bedding were comfortable. We had a really nice feather comforter which made sleeping at night very nice. There were many reviews I read that indicated that the air conditioned left much to be desired but we ran ours at the coolest temperature possible and felt like it was plenty comfortable for our taste. In fact at night it was quite chilly but made for some great sleeping with the rocking of the ship. The bathroom was small but adequate. Not room for two but that’s not always a bad thing! Being tall I’m always concerned about the shower but I still had several inches above me which made it quite nice. The water temperature and pressure were both surprisingly great. There were nice liquid soaps and shampoo’s well stocked for our use. I always ask for extra towels which gave us plenty each day for the couple of showers we took. There was a refrigerator in the room for our use but no stocked bar (not that we really needed it). Since we had a concierge cabin we had fresh fruit and flowers in the room every afternoon. - - Overall: The stateroom was very comfortable and more than adequate for our purposes. We have traveled a few times in first class on other ships and found that it was definitely worth the money. However, we decided against it this time and still had a great time. The only major complaint was that the cabin steward was NEVER around when we needed him/her. I remember several times having to hunt them down for extra towels and glasses (which we had requested upon our arrival). But that was a small issue.
THE CRUISE: The overall cruise itinerary/schedule, ports of call and activities on board the ship were average and nothing earthshaking. This was the first cruise where I chose not to part-take in any of the shore excursions but really enjoyed myself on the ship while the majority of passengers were onshore. In general…the ship was pretty much on time departing every port of call (although we left Houston almost an hour late due to some problem with the propellers. However, no one seemed to really notice as the alcohol was flowing pretty well by that time.
As for the ship activities onboard, they were all the typical activities one would find…an endless amount of bingo, shuffleboard competitions, art auctions, nightly shows, etc. We were traveling with a gay cruise group of about 75 people so we had our own entertainment booked and private activities. I was unable to review the ships general entertainment because frankly, we steered clear of most of it. The buzz from other passengers on the ship (not part of our cruise group) was that the entertainment was mediocre and on some occasions I heard people whispering that they would have preferred spending time in the casino, or just doing something else. This is typical of most entertainment on cruise ships and certainly not surprising. This ship has a much older crowd than I’ve seen on other cruise lines. In fact, I would say more than half the passengers were over the age of 50. Overall, there were a lot of smiles and people generally seemed to be having a really great time.
FOOD: I’ll keep the review on the food
relatively short as I’ve found that reviewing meals is very subjective and what
one person considers okay the other considers uneatable. However, there were a
few notes worth mentioning.
We met a few other people on the cruise the first day and ended up eating every meal with this small group all week. I took it upon myself to ensure we had nightly reservations in one of the several restaurants onboard The Dream. The one thing about Norwegian that I personally did not care for was their whole “Freestyle Cruising” philosophy. To me, I like knowing I have a table for my 8:00PM seating at dinner without having to make reservations everyday or, just taking a chance and showing up at one of the restaurants hoping to get a seat when I want. Luckily they did have a centrally located reservation desk where you could make reservations for a particular restaurant (but no more than 24 hours ahead). So every morning we would all decide where we wanted to eat and I’d make reservations. By the end of the week we tried every restaurant on the ship. A highlight for our group was the “Le Bistro” restaurant featuring French cuisine. This restaurant charges a $15.00 surcharge to eat there but we all felt it was more than worth what we got back in food and service. The food was fantastic and we rated it our top place of the week. Clearly the staff in this particular restaurant have been handpicked as they clearly showed us more attention than what we received in the other locations of the ships.
Secondly, we felt the main dining room, or, “The Four Seasons”, was a very nice choice for most meals. The service was good, food was good, portions were more than adequate and the staff was friendly and didn’t rush you through the meal. We ate several dinners there as well as a few lunches. Rated third was “Terraces”. Although we felt the food was “okay” the service was horrible and in fact, we felt it was so bad that comment cards were filled out and deposited to let them know how bad it was. And finally, the least favorite of all the ships restaurants was the Italian “Trattoria” restaurant on the aft end of the ship. On the night we dined there service was horrific, the food was bland and cold, and it took us 2.5 hours to get through the meal as they were extremely slow. Other passengers from our group had been seated, made it through their meal and left before we got half way through our own meal. We were not happy and didn’t see the hype. We heard this from other passengers as well that it was their least favorite. As for the other small buffets and eating locations on the ship, they were average but always seemed to be available for something to eat whenever your hungry geared up.
FITNESS CENTER: The fitness center was very small but had adequate workout equipment. There never seemed to be a huge crowd there, even on “at sea” days. Plus, there was the Promenade Deck that offered running and walking.
MANDERA SPA: During the first few days of the cruise I had a horrible headache and decided to indulge in a 50 minute massage with concentration on my head and feet. As a massage therapist myself I’m always skeptical on some of the work other massage therapists do but, the therapist I had did a great job on my head and feet. She had me asleep a couple of different times and that’s the sign of a good massage. Neither myself or my partner did any of the other treatments. However, my partner used the steam room and sauna daily and reported to me that it was extremely clean and well-kept. In general though any onboard spa charges way too much for the treatments they offer. And in my past experiences on several cruise lines, the treatment is usually just mediocre and not worth the money for what you get. Most treatments are completed with a sales pitch about the products that were used and a bit of arm twisting to get you to buy the products. To me that ruins the relaxing experience one would expect on a cruise.
DRINK PRICES: I drink Bacardi and Coke and each of those were around $6.00 which included the “auto gratuity”. Personally I didn’t think that was too bad. I spent an hour or two every afternoon in the “Coffee Bar and Lounge” on deck 9, starboard side. Nicely made mocha’s were $2.00 which I thought was a decent price. It was hard to gauge prices as our group spent a fortune on many rounds of drinks but overall we didn’t feel it was too bad.
DAZZLES DISCO: Actually the ship DJ wasn’t too bad. He actually played some new music. However, my partner happens to be a DJ and was the DJ for several clubs in Houston and is also the DJ for the cruise group we were with (sometimes there are more than 350 people in the group). The ships DJ allowed my partner to be the main DJ from 11PM thru 2 or 3AM. The crowd had a blast as my partner was definitely playing some of the best dance music on the Caribbean! Overall though, the disco is VERY small and typical of most ship disco’s.
SHORE EXCURSIONS: I heard reports from other passengers that the majority of shore excursions were really good and well worth the money and time. In fact, I don’t recall hearing any complaints in this area at all. Personally, I decided to stay on the ship all week and only got off in Cozumel to do a little shopping and have lunch with my partner. Ship time is great when people are away on the excursions.
FOR GAYS AND LESBIANS: As I mentioned
above, we were traveling with a gay cruise group so we had plenty of gay people
on the ship. We met other gays and lesbians that were not sailing with our
group. I added this category of the review only to say that most cruise lines do
a horrible job in doing anything gay/lesbian friendly. This was the first cruise
I have ever been on where there were a LOT of stares from people as we walked
the ship or groups of us would hangout in clusters around the pool. I attribute
this to the older age of most of the passengers. There were actually a few
negative comments sent our way by a few which is always a bad scene but we’ve
all learned to just let it go. It was be nice to come on a ship someday and
actually get to play, “The Newlywed Game” with my partner just like the straight
folks! Wouldn’t THAT turn some heads!??!
GRATUITY: Auto gratuities are calculated for all bar bills, spa services and the like. In addition, each passenger will be automatically charged $10.00 a day which will be split between the Dining Room Stewards, Cabin Stewards, and the service personnel. Adding extra tips to bar tabs or other services is optional but recommended for top performers.
DISEMBARKATION: My partner and I both agreed it was probably the smoothest disembarkation that we’ve experienced to date. Norwegian offers an “Express Disembarkation Program” allowing passengers who register a day or two before arrival to disembark early if they carry all their own luggage as they exit the ship. The great thing about this is that many people do it and it then speeds up the rest of the disembarkation process for the those who had their bags taken the night before for pickup in the terminal area. We were off the ship by 9AM and home by 9:30AM (as we live in downtown Houston). Baggage was sorted in an organized fashion at the terminal building and the customs check was a breeze. Our car was parked within a 2 minute walk from the terminal.
CLOSING: If you’re looking for upscale,
over-the-top, and impeccable service, I would suggest Holland America, Royal
Caribbean, Celebrity, and the like. However, if you’re looking for a nice,
comfortable and affordable itinerary for the average cruiser then you found the
right cruise lines. With that all being said, I would definitely sail on The
Norwegian Dream again for a quick getaway from Houston but I doubt I would fly
to find this ship in another port.