George Smart and Eleanor Stell
Number of Cruises: 10
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Sea
Sailing Date: November 19th, 2001
Itinerary: Key West and Cozumel
Best Tip: Once you get on board, go to the Seven Seas dining room and make a standing reservation for the same table for the same time for the entire cruise. This will avoid long waits and assure a great table with the same wait team. We got table #1 for four with a splendid view.
We arrived at 12 and embarkation took 10 minutes for four people. If you fly in to Lauderdale (FLL), renting a car is cheaper than a taxi to the Miami port ($65 with tip). We rented a car from Hertz at FLL, dropped it off at the Miami airport after touring around Miami Beach, then took Hertz' free shuttle to the port, all for $46. Norwegian charges $30 per person roundtrip from FLL to the port, and there are often long times sitting waiting for the bus to fill up.
The wines are reasonably priced as is all the merchandise in the gift shops. They even offer a price guarantee to give you a refund if you find their merchandise cheaper within 60 days.
In Cozumel, the best way to tour the island is to rent a jeep, which is cheaper in town than by the piers. Go to Chakanaab, a national park that is great for snorkeling, swimming, swimming with dolphins, sitting under a palm shelter and drinking pina colada's out of pineapples! There are many beaches all around the island that are quite gorgeous. The Horseback Riding tour is a big favorite, with part of the ride going to Mayan ruins.
We took the Jeep Safari tour which puts people in 4WD jeeps heading into the deserted beaches of the eastern island. What a trip! They provided lunch and a short tour of a Mayan ruin to the Goddess Ixchel. The hosts Eduordo and Shelley are wonderful.
The Jean Ann Ryan Dancers put on three extraordinary shows. I mean, these are top notch - the best we've *ever* seen at sea. They have two acrobats that are astounding, a husband and wife couple from Hungary that will amaze you. The farewell show where the dancers and the crew sings to you is charmingly sweet.
Cruise Director Patti Honecki was always perky, helpful, friendly, and didn't camp on the PA to sell things like some CD's do.
Norwegian automatically charges $10 per person per day for tipping your waiter, asst waiter, and cabin steward. The traditional Captain's Welcome was nice. Unlike many Carnival ships these days, you actually get to shake hands with him. The Photo staff was pretty laid back and didn't hover too much.
The Not So Good
The Norwegian Sea started out as the Seaward in 1988. But it looks and feels much older. The decor screams late seventies. Signs point to rooms (like the Ice Cream Parlor and the Palm Tree Restaurant) that no longer exist or have been moved or renamed. The ship rolls, clangs, and shudders, especially about 6:30pm each evening in the Seven Seas. Dishes and glasses would rattle with a roar that filled the room for about five minutes at a time.
The cabins are small. Way, way small. Ours in Biscayne 2019 was 110 square feet, including the bathroom. Measure this out in your living room and you'll see how small we're talking. The bathroom is tiny, with a shower only about 6" high and 2" across. Tall or fat? You'll be hitting the shower wall or ceiling. If you push the two twin beds together to make a queen, there's only a few square feet left to stand in, and you'll be getting in and out from the foot of the bed most of the time.
Food by the pool and at the Big Apple was average at best. Dinners in the lower deck restaurants were quite nice, though not exceptional. Best item: almond-encrusted fish. And forget about the Flaming Babaloo on Parade dessert. It's no longer flaming, and there's no longer a parade (Freestyle cruising eliminates entertainment by the wait staff during dinner).
Norwegian touts Freestyle Cruising as just the most wonderful thing. In theory, this means more choices about where and when you eat. Except on this ship where your only choices are the poolside buffet, the main buffet, Le Bistro ($10/person surcharge), and the two main sit-down restaurants. The bigger NCL ships have multiple small restaurants where you can dine in a different place every night. What Freestyle means on the Norwegian Sea is long lines and 30 minute waits to get into the Four Seasons or the Seven Seas, unless you want another average buffet poolside. Make a standing reservation for the same table at the same time each night, and you'll avoid the mess.
We did not try Le Bistro but heard not a single rave about it from anyone. Buzz on the ship was that the food wasn't any better than in the main sit-down restaurants.
Unlike Carnival and other lines, Norwegian does not sell adult soda cards which give unlimited soft drinks for a fixed price (which is nice if you're not a big drinker). They do sell cards for kids. Got your gas mask handy? Try the hot tub. NCL takes pool additives to a whole new level. Within three minutes the chlorine fumes were so overpowering we had to get out to attend to burning eyes and skin. That expansive bow view on Norwegian's web cam with the little pool? You'll also see it on the ship's TV. Forget about going there. It's only for the crew.
Bingo is incredibly expensive, so much so we didn't play. $29-39 for strangely named "Cheeseburger" packs of cards and Bingo "computers" which manage six cards at a time. Payouts did not match the cost of playing, unless you achieved a hard-to-do coverall bingo in less than 51 numbers.
If you're looking for a good short cruise, the Norwegian Sea brings travelers a wonderful combination of charm and entertainment for not much money. We especially liked the Cruise Director, Patti Honecki, who besides being a smart, lovely host can also sing.