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Nick H.

Age: 37

Occupation:Financial Planner

Number of Cruises: 6

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Norwegian Sea

Sailing Date: November 22nd, 2003

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

First of all, let me preface this review based on my family’s desire to cruise on the Norwegian Sea based on its’ relatively low fares, many scuba diving itinieries to Cozumel, Roatan, & Belize, & convenience of a Houston port since we live in Houston. We paid a little over $1800 for the 4 of us, w/ 2 children, for a 3rd deck inside stateroom, pretty cheap for 7 days over a popular & more expensive Thanksgiving week 2003 when the kids are out of school. My ratings will be in (_) from 1 – 10, based on previous experiences on Royal Caribbean, Holland America, & 2 older Carnival ships.

Convenience: (9). Our drive from west Houston was 40 easy minutes, w/ no traffic on Saturday. Directions were easy to follow. Easy drop-off & parking is 100 yards away (10) across from terminal, 1 minute walk back. Price (8) is $49 cash for 7 days.

Check in (10). Easiest check in ever, no lines, got there at 1pm, got onboard by 1:10. There is a long walk outside, under canopy, from terminal to ship, about 200 yds.

Ship (3) looks small & old. Center Crystal court is nice at first, but grows old after a few days. Cabin (2) is extremely small, at 114 square ft; I believe it is the smallest cabins afloat. With 2 beds pushed together, it’s about a queen size, but the center ridge still makes it 2 twin beds. The 2 overhead bunk beds were comfortable for the kids. Room aisle barely fits one person at a time. 13” TV. Bathroom (1) is old, musty, & VERY, VERY small. As the comedian onboard joked that it’s a time saver, since you can sit on the toilet & wash your face at the sink at the same time. The shower stall is the smallest space ever. I’m a muscular 200 lbs, & barely fit. I recommend if you’re a little larger, get a bigger suite or find another ship. You’ve been warned!

The room steward (2) is the worst we’ve experienced. He was not friendly, or nice. We felt we were interfering w/ his duties if we had to go back in to change clothes for 5 minutes. Although he did kept the bathrooms full of fresh towels. Service was good, but the unfriendly attitude got to us. Seems like that unfriendliness was standard across all employees onboard. We thought that was what you get for being on the oldest & smallest ship at NCL; you get the bottom tier of employees.

Walking around the ship, the “cozy & intimate” atmosphere that the brochure describes means that it really means small & old. This being the Third week back to Houston on the Texarribean cruise, they says that it is been “refurbished”; that means they replaced carpeting in some public rooms. But the carpeting & materials in our cabin still says late ‘80s & materials from late ‘90s.

The Food (3) is the worst. Most items are adequate, but very bland. The 2 dining rooms serve very small portions & food tastes bland like Luby’s cafeteria. Service (3) is slow. Depends on server, some are very good, friendly, & fast. But some are slow & very lazy. We asked for a stirring spoon to stir our iced tea, waiter suggests we use our soup spoon! Unbelievable.

We did love the Freestyle dining (9). We can eat whenever we liked, & there’s no lines. Although the 2 main dining rooms has very short hours of operation (2). There’s nothing to eat after midnight (1). I really miss the 24 hr pizzeria on Carnival. We waited for over an hour for room service (3). & when they finally brought up the food, there’s no fruit as ordered, they said they ran out (actually, we couldn’t believe that, they were just too lazy to go look for it), & my wife’s main entrée was soup, they brought up a small cup instead of a bowl. Restaurant looks nice & good views (9). Nice tables, chairs, decorations & setup. There’s various table layouts from 2, 4, 6, up to 8 or more. Very flexible. Avoid the most rearward restaurant when ship is first leaving port, it shakes like crazy.

The kid’s program is adequate (7). Our kids love it. The counselors were wonderful (9). However, the Porthole room is only for kids 2-5 yrs old. The 6-9 & 10-12 spent most of their time on the 3rd & 2nd deck elevator lobbies/stairwell area, poor excuse for a playroom (1).

Also, if you have kids, buy them the soda card (10). It’s only $16 & they can drink all the sodas they want while onboard. The best deal anywhere.

The shore excursions were OK, but very expensive. If you have connections, go by yourself & explore on your own. We mostly scuba dive. Normal 2 tank boat dives in Cozumel are $55, it’s $100 onboard plus $20 - $30 for equipment rental. It’s $106 in Roatan, & $110 in Belize + $30 equip rental, a real rip-off (1).

The ship anchors out in Belize & Cancun, so it’s not very convenient to take the water taxis in & out of port. A real waste of time of waiting for 1500 passengers to load & unload.

Freestyle Debarkation wasn’t any better than regular debark w/ other lines, just means that you wait to get off in your cabin rather than waiting in the public areas (5). Room steward was cleaning our room, so we didn’t wait in there anyway. Highly recommend that you do the express checkout (8), where you can get off very early, but you have to carry your own luggage off yourself. But then you can go straight to your car without having to go the terminal to claim your baggage ashore. & you don’t have to leave your luggage out earlier that night.

Conclusion: We recommend this Texaribbean cruise on Norwegian Sea for everyone who is taking their first cruise or anyone who doesn’t mind & who hasn’t experience other cruises where they can compare the higher standards elsewhere, for a very cheap price & convenience of a Houston departure. But if you want great service, great food, great experience, & a larger stateroom: look elsewhere or you’ll be disappointed.

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