Number of Cruises: 36
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Sea
Sailing Date: January 17th, 2004
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
This 7-day itinerary includes visits to Cozumel, Roatan Honduras, Belize City, and Cancun. The ship departs on Saturdays from the Port of Houston located in La Porte, Texas. The port is about an hour from the international airport and is easily located if arriving by car.
The Norwegian Sea was built in 1988 and has been in service ever since. This ship is substandard in comparison with other ships built around that time or since. The cabins are dismally small and furnished with inexpensive materials. Many on board our cruise equated the furnishings with a Motel 4 [yep, not even a Motel 6]. Inside cabins are supposedly 114 square feet; outside cabins are an itsy bitsy bit bigger. There are no balcony cabins.
The cabins include two small beds, a mini dresser with rusty metal drawers, a couple of clothes rods and a tiny closet. There is a small TV but no refrigerator or lounge chair. I believe the mattresses and bedspreads came with the ship when it was built. The décor in the room and bath is 1960’s ‘modern’ with lime green or pallid pink Formica surfaces. Many bathrooms have chipped sinks and the showers are smaller than small. At least there was always lots of water pressure and hot water.
The public areas are drab and dark, especially compared with newer ships and the older ships of other cruise lines. Not only is the ship drab, but it is also very poorly maintained. Deep rust was apparent on numerous areas of the super structure. Some of the handrails in the hallways were broken, and there were dents, paint chips, stains, etc on walls and carpets. Large windows in the lounges and other venues looked like they hadn’t been washed inside or out in ages.
In addition to being disappointed with the ship, we ere disappointed with the minimal amount of available shore time at some of the ports. Tenders were used in Belize and Cancun. It took forever to get to and from the ship to shore. Only one gangway was used so if one wasn’t on tour, the ship was in port for over an hour before one could depart. Not only that, but the ship docked so far away from the piers that the tender rides took almost 40 minutes.
The housekeeping staff seemed inferior to those we have encountered on most cruises. They were surly and indifferent. Their workmanship was sloppy too. Some days we didn’t receive the daily bulletin, towels were missing, etc. and we never encountered a head housekeeper monitoring the work.
These were the major disappointments of the cruise. We did, nevertheless, find lots to enjoy. We enjoyed the ‘Free Style Cruising’ whereby we were free to eat in either of the two regular dining rooms, or in one of the ‘specialty restaurants’ with reservations, or in the Red Apple Buffet. A very limited room service menu was also available. The layout of the Red Apple was cumbersome. People kept bumping into each other as they looked for tables while carrying their trays.
The dress code is totally casual except in one of the dining rooms on one of the sea days when ‘formal’ is optional and encouraged. Most passengers opted for casual and were very good about not wearing shorts, jeans, etc. during the evenings.
There was an excellent kids program for children up to age 12. Activities were provided on the sea days and during the evenings.
The cast and the production shows were excellent. Their three full performances were well attended at both the early and late shows. There was also a comedian, an interesting magician, and a female vocalist as featured entertainers. The other lounges featured live music in the evenings and the disco was open until the wee hours. Live poolside music was available in the afternoons. The cruise director and his staff did an excellent job!
Food in the dining rooms was excellent for the most part. Lobster tail was offered one evening and beef Wellington was offered on another evening. Both were really tasty. The service was good too. The wait staff was friendly and efficient but we didn’t feel rushed. The dining rooms were open for seating from 5:30 pm until at least 9 pm evenings. One evening we ate in the Italian restaurant and found the food and service great. We did not try the Le Bistro at $12.50-$20 per person. The buffet breakfast ©
Gratuities are automatically added to one’s shipboard account at the rate of $10 per adult per day [$5 for kids] and the tips are pooled according to some formula. We were pleasantly surprised that the dining room wait staff performed excellently even though not serving the same people for the duration of the cruise or anticipating a tip at the end of the cruise.
The gym was pitifully small and services from the spa were conducted at several locations; massages were given in a closed off area of the pool deck; the salon was on the main deck; the sauna was located elsewhere. Some of the fitness programs required a fee.
Lots of shore excursions were offered at all of the ports and snorkel gear was provided if one signed up for one of the water programs. The Shore Excursion staff was pleasant and helpful with suggestions for independents not using one of the ship excursions.
All cruises are fun and we enjoyed being on this, our 37th cruise. That said, however, we would never return to a voyage on the Norwegian Sea nor would we repeat this itinerary.
© Bruce Baldwin