Number of Cruises: 8
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Dream
Sailing Date: June 29th, 2001
Itinerary: Baltic Sea
This was our eighth cruise and we are becoming very aware of the fact that all cruises have wonderful parts as well as a few problems. This cruise was no exception.
Our check-in in Dover was smooth and well organized. My only criticism was that we were never formally introduced to our room steward we still don't know his name.
Our cabin was category "C". It was an outside stateroom with a large picture window. We really liked the living quarters and they were very comfortable. Our cabin was kept extremely clean at all times by the nameless cabin steward. We especially liked the sitting area by the window that had a room divider that could be used for privacy for early risers, like myself, that want to read by the window without disturbing their partners. This extra curtain also insured darkness while sleeping in the cabin, given that it was still daylight at midnight in some of the ports. The queen sized bed was firm and more comfortable than on most ships.
Our only complaints about the cabin were minor. The shower was too small and the carpets as well as other surface fabrics were a little tired. Our friends had an inside stateroom and it was cramped and not nearly as comfortable. This is one ship where a better grade cabin makes a huge difference.
The ship was well maintained and kept very clean at all times. The ship was full to passenger capacity due to last minute promotions and huge price reductions. I was one of the last minute shoppers who got an incredible price and we hardly have the right to complain about the crowded conditions in the public areas. (But we will!) At peak times, this ship can't really accommodate 2000 passengers. The section that was added to the ship didn't account for the additional numbers of passengers that would be using common areas.
Everyone raves about the food on cruise ships. I'm the exception. This was our first attempt at "Freestyle Cruising" and we have mixed reviews about the virtues of same. We ate in the upscale "Le Bistro" restaurant nine out of the twelve evenings. It was well worth the $10 surcharge per dinner. The food was of higher quality and prepared to order. The escargot and salmon timbale were of excellent quality for starters. The Caesar salad, although prepared table-side was so-so. It was somewhat improved by asking for extra garlic and extra anchovies. The mushroom soup was of excellent quality and sported an array of mushroom varieties. It was a must-try item. It was served in a small loaf of crusty French bread.
The Filets, lamb chops, lobster, and shrimp were all well-prepared and of high quality for a cruise ship. Most of the vegetables were crisp and served al dente. The white asparagus, however, looked and tasted limp and was not at all appealing. Ironically, the green asparagus starter was of high quality and enjoyable as long as you re-defined the "Hollandaise" sauce. It was really some sort of commercially prepared cheese sauce.(Oh well!)
The Italian Trattoria was not a good restaurant and we ate there only once. Calling this restaurant Italian is a real stretch.
The two main restaurants were noisy, crowded, and the food quality was often very poor. We saved this culinary experience for lunch when we could tolerate the clatter, the crowds, and the confusion.
Breakfast in the upscale "Le Bistro" restaurant is excellent. It is the only sit-down breakfast on board. There is no additional charge and it is well worth the extra time needed for dining. Breakfasts here were the best I've had on any cruise ship.
The breakfast buffets in the main dining rooms were dreadful. The food quality was poor. The lines were confusing and chaotic. They tear down the buffets exactly on the posted hour. Don't be late! Better yet, don't even go there. These buffets are a food fight waiting to happen. I cannot believe how rude some customers can be. In only one breakfast hour, I was elbowed four times by people who couldn't wait to get to the sloppy and runny scrambled eggs, the limp and greasy bacon, and the soggy gray hash browns. Why??? The next day we had breakfast at "Le Bistro" and never ventured to the buffet line again until the day of debarkation.
The "Sports Bar" was also a crowded and confusing place with very poor food quality. The poolside barbecues were fair at times but not special in any way.
Restaurant service was spotty most of the time. Service in "Le Bistro" was outstanding with the exception of one waiter from Jamaica. He had a little too much attitude for our taste.
The ports-of-call were most interesting. In Germany we rented a new BMW for $65 and drove 850 kilometers. We were able to see parts of Berlin, Hamburg, and a beautiful coastal village called Wismar. We had a ball. I say skip the expensive all day train/bus tours and have an Autobahn adventure. Drive the BMW at 160 km/hr; and ponder, as we did, as to why the U.S. doesn't harness wind power. The German people have been using windmills for some time and this is an aesthetically beautiful way to power their homes. We were told that each windmill can power thirty-three households. Wow! The countryside was beautiful.
Tallinn, Estonia was our favorite stop. Words cannot describe the Gothic beauty of this city and its people. Shoppers! This is the port for bargains. Russian and Czech Republic crystal was available in many charming shops and at incredible prices. Linens and textiles were amazing values. As an example, we purchased three large embossed linen table cloths that were a mere $20.00 each. I cannot help but remember last Christmas when we paid $65 to have our old holiday table covering dry cleaned.
St. Petersburg was very fascinating and we were obligated to take the usual tours due to Russia's tourism laws. My advice is to wear shorts even if the weather is cold and be prepared for poor ventilation in the museums, palaces, etc. It gets extremely warm. The tour guides were at times harsh and had poor English skills. The tour buses were new, clean, and had great air conditioning. We had very mixed reviews here.
The Scandinavian ports were beautiful and there was no need to take the costly tours offered by NCL. For us it is more fun to find our own adventures and avoid tour buses at all cost. The canal and harbor tour in Copenhagen was well worth the time and the money. Tivoli gardens was fun to see. We were late to port that day and had very little time left in the evening to really explore the park.
The on-board entertainment was of poor quality and there was very little of it during the day which made the lounges seem dull and lifeless most of the time.
The gift shops were way over priced. Identical items could be purchased in port at a fraction of the cost. As an example a blue and white Russian porcelain teapot was $159 on board. The exact teapot by the same manufacturer was $17 ashore after a mild amount of dickering. Most of the Russian items may be purchased in Estonia before you ever get to St. Petersburg. Again, do your shopping here because the tours in Russia give you almost no time for shopping.
Overall, we enjoyed our cruise and have many wonderful memories. The price was right and the cruise was a good value, all be it flawed in many areas.
This fall we are going on another cruise. (This next cruise will be our second cruise with Holland America, our favorite cruise line so far.)
Perhaps that cruise will be the perfect one of which we've always dreamed.