Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Sea
Sailing Date: March 27th, 2004
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Let me start off by saying that I had read every review on this site about this ship, and about this itinerary. I was mildly concerned about all of the “bad press” the Sea had gotten in the past. Don’t believe a word of it! Yes, this was our first cruise and maybe we were impressionable because of this, but I would have to believe that for a small ship it ranks up there with the best of them.
We chose not to do the air/sea package and made our own flight arrangements. We thought this would be cheaper. We were wrong. I would highly suggest doing the air/sea package offered by the cruise line. We had lots of incidental expenses that added up to a hefty a price because we didn’t buy the air/sea package. We left Indiana on Friday afternoon so that there would not be a remote possibility that we would miss the ship. We stayed at the Sofitel in Houston. It was a very nice hotel, but the hot tub wasn’t working and that made the stay there a little less than what we were hoping for, but the on-sight bakery made up the difference! Yummy pastries!
We had a limousine scheduled to pick us up at the hotel the next day. The limousine company was Platinum Limousines out of Houston. The driver was really nice, even though he really didn’t have a clue where he was taking us. We made it to the pier in about 50 minutes.
The first sight of our ship had all five of us in awe. Our party consisted of My husband, my 18 year old son, a family friend, my niece, my 18 month old daughter (who could have cared less), and myself. We could hardly contain our excitement and couldn’t wait to get inside the building so we could get on the ship.
The cruise port is ugly! It’s just an industrial shipyard and the only thing nice to look at is the Norwegian Sea. After checking our luggage with the baggage handlers, we went inside the terminal and made our way to the counter. We produced our documents, the NCL Staff took our pictures, gave us our embarkation cards and we were ready to go through security. This process was so easy and took about 15 minutes for all 6 of us. The embarkation card is your room key and also the way you get anything on the ship. The staff will swipe your card and bring you a receipt and the amount is charged automatically to your room. (Be careful . . . it can add up)
We made our way through security and started up the path to the gangway. There were people there to greet us at the gangway. They swiped our cards and we stepped into the ship. There was a photographer waiting to take a picture, but we bypassed him because our baby had had enough for the morning. Someone was waiting right behind the photographer to show us to our staterooms. We found them quickly and I have to say that they were small. Not even small hotel room size, but smaller. However, they were adequate for the cause. The bathroom was pitiful and always smelled. I would highly suggest taking air freshener for the bathroom. We took the advice posted in another review and took an over-the-door shoe holder so that we could hang our toiletries in the pockets and it worked like a charm.
My husband & daughter stayed in one of the staterooms while the rest of went off to explore the ship. We made our way up to the pool deck where an American barbeque was going on. We decided to have some lunch and the food was very good. It was just hamburgers, hotdogs, and French fries, but it was a fun atmosphere. We sat and watched out the window for a while and talked about our planned shore excursions. We did use this time to purchase our “coke cards”. They were $28.75 each but allowed us unlimited soft drinks for the duration of the cruise. After lunch, we explored the ship and by the time we finished walking around our luggage was being delivered to our staterooms. We had some time before the mandatory lifeboat drill so we started unpacking. Closet space was ample (if you didn’t take a teenager that wanted to hog all of the space), but there were not enough hangers for 3 people’s clothing.
After unpacking we went to the lifeboat drill. This was a long procedure, but so important. Don’t take this lightly. Shortly after the lifeboat drill was over, it was time to sail. We were on the sports deck, which was also the same deck you go to in the event of an emergency and also the deck we were on. (Promenade) There was a party going on up on the pool deck, but we didn’t go up there. We watched it later on the TV in our stateroom. It was loud and funny, but not our scene with a baby. Sailing was relatively uneventful, as it took a couple of hours to actually get out of the canal to sea. You can watch the TV in your stateroom and constantly see where you are going. It’s really cool.
I am not sure what we did after that, but I know we went to the Seven Seas for our first dinner and it was fantastic. With the exception of one breakfast, we had great service in the Seven Seas for every meal. The food was fantastic and everyone in our party enjoyed it. They also have a great kids menu.
The Seven Seas is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, while the Four Seasons is only open for dinner. The Big Apple Café is open for every meal, too. We did try Le Bistro one night and I wasn’t overly impressed with the food (considering it was $12.50-$20. pp, extra – 4 of us was $73.00) However, I loved the server up in Le Bistro! We never went to the Pasta Café because the menus in the main dining rooms were always so tempting. We also did the barbeque that they had on the pool deck one night and ended up going to the dining room, too. There was absolutely no shortage of food!!! The only time you may have felt like there was nothing to eat was between 10 pm and 11:30 pm because it was between the end of dinner and the midnight snacks. However, if you wanted something, there was always room service which was 24/7 and very good.
Some of the other reviews suggested that the ship was run down and unsightly. I saw no evidence of that . . . unless I was looking. A person would have to be really picky to notice rust or wear on the ship.
There were plenty of activities to keep you busy while we were at sea on Sunday. There was sports, napkin folding, trivia, games, swimming, movies, art auctions, etc. You could find out about all of the activities by listening to the announcements from Kevin (the cruise director) or by reading The Freestyle Daily, the newsletter that was delivered to your cabin every night.
In the first port of call, Cozumel, we went to Play Del Sol Beach Break. My family enjoyed the beach and we rented Wave Runners which was great fun! The only bad side of this was the taxi ride to the beach was $60 each way. I think we got ripped on that! When we got back to the pier my husband took the baby back to the ship and the rest of us went shopping. I bought a beautiful blanket for $5 usd. I enjoyed Cozumel very much but would rethink this excursion due to the extra cost involved.
In the second port of call, Roatan, my husband and baby didn’t not get off of the ship at all. This was a very sad port. The houses were so small and the town looked very dirty and poor. However, it was a beautiful country and the people were so helpful and nice. There were lots of kids there following you around wanting money. We did the dolphin encounter/Tabayana Beach Party. This was completely awesome. The dolphin encounter was so much fun, even though we had limited contact with the dolphins. At Tabayana Beach, I went snorkeling and say a stingray. It was great. Everything was included in this excursion, including food and transportation. It was a really nice excursion.
In Belize, we didn’t do an excursion because the baby was to little to do the one we wanted. We were disappointed in Belize because of this. We will do this itinerary again when she is older so we can go where we would like. Prices on things in Belize where much higher than in Cozumel or Roatan. If you find something you want in Roatan and think you’ll wait until Belize . . . don’t.
In Cancun, we didn’t do an excursion because the baby was to little to do the one we wanted. However, the tender brings you in to the beach and we rented an umbrella and chairs right off the pier. We had a great time in Cancun. We rented Wave Runners again. My niece and I went parasailing, which was beautiful. Cancun is gorgeous and I want to go back and spend a week there. Not being able to do an excursion actually worked out better for us.
Friday at sea was spent packing and getting ready to disembark, but we did have time to sit out on deck and enjoy the breathtaking view of the Gulf of Mexico.
We did go to several shows while on board, but our favorite thing to do was gamble in the casino. The dealers in the casino were so helpful and I particularly enjoyed talking to Annika, Roxanne, Studavyn (hope I spelled them right), and a few others.
There was always something to do, something to eat, and somewhere to go. This was the trip of a lifetime, until . . . Disembarkation. What a disaster! We were one of the last luggage tag colors to be called, lines were long, and the baggage handlers just threw our luggage and ended up busting 2 bottles of rum that we had purchased. It was pouring down rain and they threw our luggage into puddles and just didn’t take any care at all. It was a very disappointing end to the cruise.
We had arranged for the same limo company that dropped us off to o pick us up and take us to our hotel, which was the Renaissance Marriott (Greenway Plaza) this time. When we arrived we were disappointed to learn that there was not a shuttle service to the airport and the cost of transportation was $20 pp and we were not guaranteed to have spots on that shuttle, so we contacted the same limo service to take us to the airport the next morning. We arranged for the limo to be there at 5:30 AM. This just happened to be the night/day of Spring Forward and the driver failed to set his clock back so he was an hour late picking us up and then he took us to the wrong gate. Our flight was to leave at 7:24AM and we got to the airport at 7:05. The lady from Platinum said they were going to heavily discount the price of the transfer. They still made us pay $105. They took $20 off of the bill. It was a disaster and I would not ever recommend this company to anyone! The driver never even apologized; he just kept saying we would make it on time. My husband is disabled and can’t walk very well, and we were traveling a small child. We had arranged for the driver to be there at 5:30 so that we would have plenty of time to get to our gate, and stop and get our daughter something to eat and drink on the plane (which was to be a 2 hour and 41 minute flight). So much for that happening. Thank goodness the flight attendants (Northwest) were kind and caring. They got us some milk and breakfast bars for her right away and they tried to help us keep her happy during the flight. She was really out of sorts and screamed a lot for the first leg of the trip. I’m sure the passengers on the flight were ready to toss her out the window (don’t mention it . . .so was I, and I’m her mother)
All in all, until disembarkation we were all really happy with our choice. I highly recommend this cruise line and this particular itinerary. I would definitely recommend NCL (except for the baggage handlers) and the Sea!