Number of Cruises: 3
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Sea
Sailing Date: August 7th, 2004
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
I had had reservations about going on this ship, because we'd seen good and bad reviews. I was pleasantly surprised.
Forget about flying into Houston's big airport and taking the ship's bus (at $20each way per person) ride to port. We flew into Houston Hobby at a cheaper rate, then took a taxi (there were four of us), only a 20 mile drive from Hobby vs. over an hr from the Bush Intl. airport and the total fare was $43.
The ship is the only cruise line at La Porte, TX, so when we arrived it seemed like a large ship, although we knew it was smaller than our previous cruise ships (on Royal Carribean). Embarking was very smooth and hassle free. We were on board within 30 minutes, much faster than our previous cruise embarkations.
The ship itself was not as fancy as some of the newer ships, but our goal was to go to more ports in the same amount of time as other ships (a 7 day cruise with four stops, only one day at sea each way), so we were aware we were sacrificing some of the glitz and glamour. Still, the ship was clean and very comfortable.
A BIG BIG hats off to whomever hired the cruise director, Kevin. He made our entire trip most memorable! I've never seen anyone with so much energy! I don't know when this man slept, because everywhere we went, there he was. If anyone complains about nothing to do on this ship, it's because they didn't try! Our problem was there wasn't enough time to do all the things available. There is a thorough itinerary provided each day of happenings on board, and the cruise staff does a very good job of entertaining their passengers.
This was our 3rd cruise, and our longest to date. It was also our first time using the "freestyle dining", which we MUCH prefer having experienced it. Although there were several restaurants on board, we opted to eat our dinners in the Four Seasons each night, as our waiter Jorge was top notch. We found that you could ask for a certain table or a certain waiter and had no wait time longer than 5 minutes. (This was eating at what we thought would be peak time, 6-7pm).
Food was excellent in the main dining room as far as taste and presentation. We ate breakfast each morning either by the pool (omeletes and belgian waffles cooked to order), or in the cafe also on the same deck. The cafe is buffet style, and is adequate.
Our intinerary on this cruise was Cozumel, Roatan, Belize and Cancun. We planned a snorkel catamaran excursion in Cozumel, as we had heard about the excellent snorkeling there. In retrospect, we would probably do something else in Cozumel, as the tour didn't begin until 2 hrs after we docked, which gave us little time to look around before and after the excursion. We did find a nice little restaurant on the main street, Viva la Mexico. It is hidden by the fact that it is upstairs from a shop, and we happened upon the stairs and wandered up them. This is an open air restaurant/bar with a gorgeous view of the sea, as well as good food at a good price. We found the ship's entertainers had located this spot long ago and it was their hangout while in Cozumel.
Our next stop was Roatan. BEAUTIFUL country, although much poverty. We took the Tabayana Beach and snorkel excursion here, and the snorkeling is MUCH better than our one in Cozumel. Also at Tabayana is horseback riding- you can sign up for it on the ship, but we found the guy in charge of the horses at the beach, slipped him some $ and he took us on a private ride for less money and in an area where they don't go on the regular excursion... beautiful!!!! We would love to have had more time there!!!
Our third stop was Belize. We took the cave rafting tour, which was fun. Be prepared for a long bus ride to the Jaquar Park, where the raft tour is. The excursion package makes the last 5 miles on a bumpy, dirt road sound horrible... but you are on an air conditioned bus and the bumps are not that bad. You do have time after this tour to wander the streets in Belize and shop, as we did in both Cozumel and in Roatan.
Our last stop was Cancun. NOT ENOUGH TIME HERE. The boat cannot dock, due to the reefs around Cancun, so we had to take a tender boat to shore. These boats hold up to 400 people, so we sat forever waiting to load the boat. We had opted to go to Tulum from Cancun, thinking others on the ship would be too tired to make this trip. The tour is basically 6 1/2 hrs long, which includes an air conditioned bus ride to and from Tulum (1 1/2 hrs each way). However Tulum is WELL worth seeing. The most beautiful place we saw, and a place we definitely want to go back to. The Mayan Ruins are fascinating, and the views and water there is spectacular. The downside is between the long boat ride to shore, loading and unloading time there, coupled with the fact that there's always one couple that just can't seem to get back to the tour bus on time, we had absolutely NO time in Cancun. Our two girls bought T-shirts while standing in line to get back on the tender boat- that was the extent of our shopping in Cancun.
All in all, I would give this trip a big thumbs up, though. Norwegian's staff on this ship made our trip very memorable and the ports we visited gave us food for thought on future trips. I will definitely sail with Norwegian again!