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Julie (zimmerjulie)

Age: n/a


Number of Cruises: 8

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Norwegian Sea

Sailing Date: April 15th, 2001

Itinerary: Bahamas

Julie (zimmerjulie)

Cruise Line: NCL
Sailing Date: April 15th, 2001

My family and I sailed on the Norwegian Sea last March on her 3-night Bahamas itinerary. Before I get to all the details, let me say right off that we had a wonderful cruise. We are a family of four, two adults, 1 daughter age 7 years and another daughter age 8 months. We are CRUISE ENTHUSIASTS and this was my 8th cruise, husband’s 5th and kids’ first! We were making the pilgrimage to Disney World and I consider a trip to Florida without a cruise to be a wasted opportunity, so I began to shop around for a ship. NCL offered us, by far, the best deal. The savings even made it worth our while to drive round-trip between Orlando and Miami, as opposed to using the closer ports of Port Canaveral and Tampa.

Embarkation: This was a breeze. We were curbside at the pier at 11:45am. We sent our luggage off with the ship personnel and entered the security screening line with our carry-ons. Minutes later we were in the main room used for passenger check-in. We were scanning the area for the shortest line (approximately 2 or 3 people deep in each line) when two NCL agents at the Latitudes desk waved us over. We are, in fact, Latitudes members, but they did not know that at the time and were simply being helpful. They checked us in, quite cheerfully and professionally. We stopped at the photo opportunity on the walkway to the ship, and were on board by 12:00 noon.

We were met by two lines of ship’s personnel welcoming us aboard. One of them peeled off and showed us to our cabin.

Cabin: 8037 (Cat D, obstructed view outside stateroom) was our home base for the 3-night Bahamas Cruise. It was clean, comfortable, and had plenty of creative storage areas. The bathroom was a perfectly adequate as well. As to the beds, I must tell you that I slept so well on the Sea. I thought the mattress was more comfortable than our nice, loftily-priced one at home! I was pleasantly surprised, because vacation beds are usually something to be tolerated for me. I settled in the first night and was surprised at how comfortable I was. Our daughter used the Pullman upper, which was a great treat for her. It is quite large and sturdy and the cabin steward set it up each evening so that it was ready for her at bedtime.

I love the line she cuts in the water and the view of her from the private island. We enjoyed walking the decks at night and found that if you go as far forward as possible on the Promenade deck, you can get out of range of the lights. This allows your eyes to adjust to the darkness so that you can look out to where the sea meets the sky and enjoy the stars (one of my favorite cruise pastimes). The Norwegian Sea is not glitzy, flashy, neon infused floating hotel, and that suits me just fine! I thought the public areas were well designed and appealing.

The Buffet in the Big Apple Café was serving food as we arrived onboard. I found it to be quite nice, with plenty of main dishes, salads, and desserts. The fresh fruit and baked goods (cookies and dessert breads) were especially good. We were disappointed when we discovered the Indian food station just around the corner from the main buffet, as we were already too full to try any of the offerings there. The Big Apple Café is enclosed by a glass or glass-like window-wall and it got pretty warm there, so we didn’t dawdle.

The Bon Voyage celebration was complete with a wonderful calypso band and great, icy frou-frou drinks. My cruise tradition is to listen to the happy happy sounds of the steel drum band while I sip my strawberry colada and become overwhelmed by the happiness that this much-awaited moment brings.

Prices for bar drinks were in line with restaurants in my area and once I had my souvenir cup, I ordered my occasional refills at a reduced price. They will assume you want your drink in a souvenir cup (with extra charge) if you do not specify.

Service: We found the service to be excellent. The crew of the Sea made us feel very welcome and very well-taken care of. With the exception of one rather brusque Australian photographer bloke, everyone went out of their way to be friendly and helpful. The bar servers were omnipresent, but not pushy. The people in the gift shop were especially friendly and swarmed around our baby daughter whenever we stepped in the door. We had pleasant dealings with staff at the purser’s desk and the excursion desk. This was the first cruise ever that we did not meet our cabin steward. He/she did a good job of cleaning the room.

Kids Crew: Our 7 year old daughter LOVED kid’s crew. She had a great time and couldn’t wait to get there each night. We also purchased the Kids Crew backpack. It included a souvenir drink cup with unlimited refills throughout the cruise, shirt, baseball hat, luggage tag, as well as the backpack itself. It also had a few added bonus items not advertised (sunglasses, shoelaces). She loved being a part of Kids Crew and her special Kids Crew stuff.

Dining: We had a very good experience with Freestyle Dining. We ate only in the two main dining rooms, the Seven Seas twice for dinner, once for lunch, and twice for breakfast, and the Four Seasons once for dinner. We preferred the Seven Seas as the chances of being seated near a window are greater than in the Four Seasons. We dined early each night and were seated immediately upon entering. The food was perfectly suited to my personal taste. I ordered an excellent scallop dish the first night, melt in your mouth Mediterranean chicken the second night, and duck the third night. I love how Norwegian has such varied menus with such flavorful dishes. I do NOT prefer bland food and am not into steak or other plain meat dishes as many people are. NCL does a great job with its sauces, spices, and flavor combinations. There was not anything brought to me over the three days that I did not wholeheartedly enjoy. My husband did not rave, but had no complaints, and he is what I consider a very picky eater. Our 7 year old loved the kid’s menus, different each meal and with activities and puzzles on each one. The baby had a great time dropping spoons on the floor and eating a little bit of everything, including the garnishes.

Service in the dining rooms was friendly and efficient. Our dinners usually took about 45 minutes to complete. The night we dined in the Four Seasons, our main dishes were delayed for some reason. Our waiter was very apologetic and kept checking on them for us. We didn’t mind all that much, as we were pleasantly plied with bread, soup, salad, and appetizers. Our daughter was late to Kid’s crew, however, as this meal took nearly 1 hour, 45 minutes. We made use of our comment cards after every dining room meal, in order to commend our service personnel and to give valuable feedback as to how Freestyle was working for us in the absence of tips directly given from passenger to server. We think it works wonderfully (more about this later).

Entertainment: We agree with the experts that NCL offers some of the best entertainment afloat. We particularly enjoyed a rather hyper/slightly risqué comedian/magician in the Cabaret lounge. His act included a rather large skunk (need I warn you not to sit in the front seats? ). Overall quite a lot going on at all times and we were never bored.

Photos were $9.00 for the 5x7 size. The 8x10 portraits were $19 each, and will the purchase of 2, you got the third free. There were also some other offers for packages, etc. I found the prices to be reasonable considering the cost of professional portraits/photographs on land. Also, I have enjoyed my cruise portraits much longer than any other souvenir, some for 16 years now. At $6 apiece (at that time) it has cost me only 40 cents per year to enjoy my favorite cruise picture.

Gift shops were pleasant, offering lots of merchandise in many price ranges. We were in the budget category this trip, and were pleased to find good quality T-shirts in sizes from XS to XXL for $10 each (much cheaper than similar quality at Disney for $28 each). We also got a $10 watch or two and the 7 year old had a great selection of items also under $10 including NCL logo gear and Beanie Babies.

Ports: Our port stops were Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay. I thoroughly enjoy the Bahamas every time I go. Nassau has many things to do and very nice people (once you get past the initial “portside crowd” hawking taxi rides, hair braiding, etc.) Take some time to chat with the locals, distinguish yourself from the “ugly American” types who look down their noses and complain about how inferior this place and these people are. You will find that Bahamians to be quite friendly. This trip we took a city bus (van-like bus) from the straw market to the base of the Paradise Island Bridge, then walked over to Paradise Island. In the past, we took the walking tour, carriage ride, local Drumbeat Club tour, etc. Nassau has lots to do, and with the ship docked close by, you can always take one load of purchases to the ship, or stop for lunch, and head back out for more.

The day at Great Stirrup Cay was my favorite of all…white sand, the Caribbean Sea, snorkeling, cool drinks, beach games, a fantastic barbeque buffet, and Island music in the background to make it all perfect.

FREESTYLE CRUISING: NCL’s new Freestyle concept worked quite well for us, although we were on a ship originally designed for traditional cruising, without all the extra restaurants, etc. of the newer vessels. We did not try “Le Bistro”, the alternative restaurant, as we were perfectly happy in the main dining rooms.

Freestyle dining: As stated above, Freestyle dining worked well for us. It was INCREDIBLY convenient to be able to drift in for breakfast, lunch, or dinner whenever the kids got hungry. We never had to wait for a table, although we usually ate early at dinner. We did not want to inconvenience later diners, who may not have appreciated the presence of young children as much as earlier diners seemed to.

Freestyle attire: Although I do like to dress up on longer cruises, it was VERY convenient to not feel obliged to dress formally, even for one evening. With the baby along this time, it was nice to simply stick with the “resort casual”. Many people did dress up for the optional formal night, and I found the general appearance of folks in the dining rooms and lounges at night to be quite presentable and classy.

Freestyle tipping: A controversial subject! NCL now automatically applies a service charge to your shipboard account: $10 per guest per day for guests age 13 and above, $5 per day for children age 3-12 and no charge for children under three. These amounts may be raised or lowered at your request. As with traditional cruising, I always have the sense that these tips are well deserved and, as usual, I was happy to pay them. I found the automatic nature convenient, eliminating the need for the envelopes with cash at the end of the cruise.

Some fear (or insist) that this automatic tipping degrades the service levels. I disagree. This is a very well-thought out strategy for compensating employees based on their length of service, service skills, and passenger interaction rather than on a random levels of tips bestowed (or not!) by the unpredictable public. The tips are collected, pooled, and distributed to the service employees based on seniority, capability, supervisor evaluation, and passenger feedback. Those who provide better service get paid more.

If you feel that this policy has taken away your power to influence your service, make a point to write your waiter/staff member’s name on the comment card at the beginning of your meal. Make a point of filling it out and turning it in. You may find that this gets a more powerful response than the flashing of a bill. I have found that offering a smile and an attitude of respect also goes a long way.

If you are a good tipper and like the feeling you get when you give a great reward for great service, do not despair. If you leave your automatic tips in place, your special server can receive your extra cash tip as well. If you are one of the few who “forget” to tip, you will now have to face a person when you stiff those who have taken care of you throughout your cruise. Also, under Freestyle tipping, your slight will not devastate the month’s income of 2 or 3 employees, but will be spread out over many.

Freestyle Disembarkation: THANK YOU NCL!!! This is a wonderful change in the cruise world. Instead of being cattle called into a public room at an unpleasantly early hour of the morning to be crammed in with your fellow passengers and all their carry-ons, waiting to be called off the ship, you can now actually ENJOY your last morning on board. Relax in your cabin, go to breakfast in the dining room, leave your bags in the cabin while you stand at the deck rail one last time……whatever you choose wherever you choose, until your tag color is called and you can exit the ship. (The tags were distributed the night before, based on flight times out of the port city.) EXCELLENT POLICY!

As you can see, we greatly enjoyed our 3 night getaway. I would certainly recommend the NCL 3-night Bahamas cruise aboard the Norwegian Sea.

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