Number of Cruises: 4
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Sea
Sailing Date: August 18th, 2002
Itinerary: NY to the Bahamas
We have been on ships where there wasn’t an empty chair to be found near the pools. We never had a problem on the Sea finding chairs in the shade by the pool. There is a large overhang on both sides, so there were plenty of shady spots to sit back and lounge. My wife cannot be in the sun and finding outside seats with shade on some ships can be frustrating.
There is a lack of quiet area seating for lounging and reading. We think they could add a few more chairs in the two main elevator areas on each deck.
Dining – Our frugal nature would not let us think of dining in the Le Bistro. To us, the point of cruising is having a floating hotel with food and entertainment provided. We wouldn’t even think of paying extra to eat on a cruise ship. I enjoyed the freestyle dining format versus having to sit down with the same people every night of a cruise. We are early diners and we never had a problem getting immediate seating. During the week we arrived anywhere from 5:30 to 6:30 pm. We found that the 4 Seasons in mid-ship was quieter than the Seven Seas which was aft and had loud vibration noises. On four of the nights we were able to get the same table at our request served by two Romanian waitresses, Anne Marie and Romana. They were very friendly and the service was fast as could be with the freestyle setup. A dinner usually lasted about 1 hour and 45 minutes, so we had to factor that in to be able to make the first show of the evening and then see the other entertainment offered. The food in the main dining room was very good and the selection offered was able to satisfy everyone in our family. The freestyle format allows the hot meals to be made closer to when they will be needed since they do not have to have to be prepared a fixed dining session with 700 meals to be ready at the same time. The only drinks you could find available 24 hours a day were coffee, hot tea, ice tea, and water. You could get some fruit juices for a few hours in the morning only. It is too bad that they did not have lemonade or fruit punch for a caffeine free drink during the afternoon or evening. The lunch buffets were adequate and you could get sit down lunches in the Seven Seas.
Shows – The main reason we came back to NCL was the quality of entertainment over RCCL and Carnival. We found out that NCL had just switched their entertainment staffing to Paramount Entertainment [on Norwegian Sea and Norwegian Majesty only – Editor’s Note]. Since the Sea has a very small stage, we did not expect to see lavish production numbers. The production shows were OK. The singers and dancers were very good but we are hoping that the type of show was dictated by the size of the stage and not by the size of the budget. They were on the level of shows we had seen on the Sensation 2 years ago. We were very impressed by the Broadway style production of shows on the Norway several years ago and hope that other NCL ships still have that level of quality. In addition, there was a comedian (Tony Daro), a comic magician (Chris Mitchell), and a vocal entertainer (Elvy Rose) for three different shows and they joined together for a final farewell show. All three were good. They also appeared one night as the panel for a late night Liar’s Club show, which was hilarious (Although, at midnight someone yelled out that they were children in the house when a PG-13 blue joke was about to be mentioned. Why would someone have a child in that lounge at midnight and when they were told that it would be a PG-13 show?).
The musicians on the ship were terrific and you could always find something to listen to. The showtime band was a group of Russian musicians that played big band style music when they were not playing for the production shows. Their band leader looked like Boris Karloff and would talk in short sentences.
We like trivia and tried to make every contest or game show on board. We won the rock and roll trivia contest and joined two women as a team to win another general trivia contest. They were giving out tote bags, bookmarks, frisbees, and water bottles as prizes for all of the contests. They had versions of Wheel of Fortune, Win Lose or Draw, Who wants to be a Millionaire, and Family Feud that were all fun to watch. Our names were never chosen to play though.
Kevin Warner, the cruise director was entertaining. His strength is in his dancing ability. He could keep up with anyone regardless of the dance style. Several of his staff were very funny and were great in running the various games and Karaoke (or scary okee in some cases).
Our son met several kids of his age group and every night was hanging out with them. We never got a sense of being crowded. The ship was sold out, but it was rare if there was a long line for anything. About 75% of the passengers were from New York and New Jersey and the majority of people we met were friendly and courteous. But, there were a couple of large families that seemed to think that the boat was theirs and any spaced staked out was their domain. I was glad to see other passengers were of the same impression and basically told others to sit down for shows in the empty seats in front of them when there was a family member trying to save seats for 8-10 family members. We had a situation where there was an entire row near the front of the lounge being saved and the family never showed up for the show. We ended sitting farther in the back and could not see half of the stage show.
With freestyle, there are less opportunities for the intrusive photographers that seem to be everywhere on previous cruises. We were disappointed with the formal photo we posed for, though. The lighting was much too bright. You thought we were a family of ghosts from the results. We noticed about 1 out of 10 photos turned out this way. We ended up buying our “coming on board” photo as our souvenir with the ship name in the background.
Latitudes – Being return customers we were able to partake in some small benefits.
We were invited to a private Latitudes meet and greet cocktail party with the Captain and staff with free drinks of our choice available. We drink beer and do not like to drink champagne, wine, or mixed drinks. So we were glad to be able to order our beers of choice. They had a raffle and gave out several prizes.
We took a tour of the galley with other Latitudes members.
We also were able to get a 20% discount on drinks in the Stardust Lounge where half of the entertainment was located.
If we wanted, we could get 15 free internet minutes if we purchased 100 minutes for $55. Instead we just paid the $3.95 initial log-on fee and 75 cents for every minute we were on the net. One night they offered 5 free minutes which we took advantage of to clear our home hotmail account of junk mail.
Our terrific travel agent (Anita from the Cruise Outlet in Hamden, CT 800-775-1884) had given us 2 books of NCL coupons of which we used on the ship. These included free drinks, bingo cards, free photos, and casino credit. She also had sent a bottle of wine for our Bon Voyage. Too bad NCL doesn’t offer a bucket of beer for Bon Voyage gifts. The bottle of wine did not go to waste since we have other family members that enjoyed the wine on our return from the cruise.
Ports Of Call –
The weather for the entire cruise was great. The ocean was very calm for the most part. We had rain and some lightning late on the last night of the cruise.
The first stop was Nassau in the Bahamas. It was overcast and rained a little in the am (which was fine by us). We were docked next to another smaller cruise ship for the day. On other days there could be as many as 6 cruise ships docked at the piers. Nassau has the typical setup with streets filled with shops near the pier and lines of taxis to take you away for quick tours. We stopped by a few shops and straw market to buy my allotment of cheap tees that cost 4 for $10 in the straw market. The shirts are great to run in since they are usually made with light weight cotton. There is a Hard Rock Café, but only the store was open. The café was closed for renovations. I still bought a pin for our collection. After that we walked back to the pier where my son had his hair braided. He had 24 braids done for $40 and it took about 45 minutes. I walked back to the ship to bring back the goodies we bought while my wife waited with my son. Afterwards, I asked the girl who braided my son’s hair where we could find a good taxi to give us a quick tour of the island. She called over a taxi who took us to a tour of Fort Fincastle, the Queen’s staircase, past several neighborhoods of different economic levels, and then over to the Atlantis Hotel on Paradise Island where we walked around the lobby, a small part of their aquarium, and then their casino after which he brought us back to the ship for $75. The hotel is very impressive and if you wanted to go just to the hotel/casino you could get a cab to take you for $4.00 a person each way. To take the full tour of the facility the hotel charges $25 per person.
The second stop was the NCL private island, Great Stirrup Cay. This is a stop that requires tender service. They start to hand out tender tickets at 8:00 am that morning with the first tender going ashore around 8:30. I went at 8:00 am where I found a very small line and asked for three tickets to the third tender, which gave us enough time to go and have a leisurely breakfast before being called for the tender. We landed at 10:00 am and it was hot!!! Shade was at a premium so we took a right off the landing spot and found a shady spot near the one house on the island that overlooked the cove with the ship in front of us. The beach was rockier than if we had taken a left from the landing area. The water was very clear and we saw several fish swimming around as we waded in with our water shoes. They have buffet food and water available on the island and we were able to buy soda and beer as well. We saw several people taking the Parasail ride as well as renting Jet Skis, paddle boats, and rafts.
Debarkation – Freestyle is a great idea. I hate a rushed crowded breakfast and then having to wait in a public area (often sitting on the floor) waiting to be called for leaving the ship. They have sit down breakfast available from 7:00 to 9:00 am and then they start announcing debarkation by color codes around 9:45 to 10:00 am. The colors were based on your travel plans. We were able to have a leisurely sit down breakfast in the 4 Seasons dining room and then went back to our room where we lounged around watching ESPN and reading while waiting for our color to be announced. I also took a last walk on the top deck to take pictures and enjoy the perfect weather (75 degrees and low humidity). Once our color was announced, it was a short walk to get our bags in the designated area on the pier and then an escalator up to the parking lot. We were in our car in a half hour and out of the lot and on the highway in another 20 minutes.
Overall we had an enjoyable cruise on the Norwegian Sea and look forward to our next cruise with NCL.