Number of Cruises: 5
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Sea
Sailing Date: August 28th, 2004
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
The Port of Huston was dirty and smells of oil refineries but parking was easy and cost $49 for the seven days you are away. They only take cash so be ready for that as the only ATM is a few miles away at a quick stop near the freeway.
As a Latitudes member this was a snap, I dropped off my girlfriend in front of the terminal and parked the truck, she had already tipped the baggage porters and was waiting for me as I walked back from the parking lot. We arrived at about 12:30 and were able to walk to the front of the VIP line and check in, we had our photos taken and were on the ship with-in 15 minutes of arriving at the port. That was outstanding! We did a quick tour of the ship and had a few drinks up on the pool deck while waiting for the sail away party to start then went to our room and unpacked.
After we unpacked and the ship was leaving the Houston harbor we went and setup appointments for the LeBistro, the Pasta Café and our massages. I highly recommend this because if you wait you will not be able to get into any of these places. You do have to pay extra for LeBistro but it was well worth it both times we ate there the food was a notch above the other restaurants on the ship. The food overall was really pretty good the entire cruise. We ate most meals in the Big Apple café because we didn’t feel like getting out of our shorts and tee shirts after doing all the activities all day long. The Seven Seas dinner was fine for the lobster dinner on Thursday but be ready for a wait because this is really popular. We joined the waiting list and agreed to be seated with anyone and only waited about 3 minutes, so if you don’t mind sitting with strangers this is a great way to meet people and pass away a wonderful meal.
Having been here before I bypassed the ship tours and we walked the many stores to Los Cinco Sol’s and had lunch at Poncho’s Backyard, really good food and drinks that will knock you on your butt. It was a little expensive but very good. After shopping and lunch we then hired a taxi for $10.00 for me and my girlfriend to go the Chankanaab beach, to enter it will cost each person $9.00 each for the entire day. The park is very nice and clean; you can do the Dolphin experience or see a Sea Lion show or just lie on the beach and have a cold one. We rented snorkel gear for less than $20 for both of us and saw tons of bright fish right off the beach. The fish were well-feed and used to people and came right up to you as soon as you entered the water. I have hairy legs and a few of the fish started to eat the hairs on my legs thinking they were food, very funny to watch, my girlfriend was laughing at me as the fish tried to eat my hairs.
I have been here before and we did our own thing again, not recommended if you don’t speak some Spanish or are weak at heart. We hired a cab and driver for the day; he was a very nice 23-year-old college student that tried very hard to show us every thing on the island. We did a taxi tour of the island and then we went to the Fantasy Island Resort. The cruise ship recommended Tabyana Beach for snorkeling and relaxing but I knew it would be wall-to-wall people so that is why we went to Fantasy Island instead. It was $9.00 per person to get in and the rest was pay as you go for food and drinks. It had every thing you could have wanted; a full dive shop, jet skis and only three other families were on the beach. This was paradise!! We had the place to our selves and it was great. WARNING!! Beware of the sand fleas! Make sure you bring some heavy-duty bug repellant with you or you will be eaten alive (I know). We brought some with us but applied it to late. Apply it before you get on the beach or you will be sorry. Bring some benadryl to relive the itch incase you miss a spot. We spent that day snorkeling around the protected bay taking pictures of all the different fish and just laying in the sun and chilling. They have a bar, gift shop, Internet café, changing rooms and restaurant. Beside the sand fleas this was better than we could have hoped for, quite and private.
Never been here before but did a lot of reading before we left and found that the X-Stream Cave Tubing company was highly rated and seemed to have a good rep. We did the Cave Tubing and Jungle hike. When we got off the boat (this is a tender stop) we found the X-Stream guide and arranged a private tour for $65.00 per person. This was five dollars higher than the web site stated but I could deal with it and signed us up. Our group was only 6 people and the groups from the ship were in groups of 25 to 30 and paid $99 person. It took about an hour by van to get to the national park where we were to push off on the tour. We were both dressed in swim suites and water sandals and only carried our ID’s and some money in watertight bags. WARNING!! If you use the rest rooms at the park be prepared for the worst stink of your life and it is nasty!! The jungle hike was nice and we saw lots of wildlife and spent about 35 minutes walking through the jungle to the start of the cave system. You will be walking and carrying your own tube and miners light so be ready for this. That is why we didn’t bring any thing extra, not that this stuff is heavy but is cumbersome after awhile. You cross the river twice and then get to the cave mouth and put your tube in the water and put your miners light on. The water is very cold but felt good after the hike, the current at first is not real strong and we had to hand paddle to get going. The caves were long and pitch dark but the guide brought a big spotlight and pointed out lots of neat things. It was so very nice to be floating along and then see a hole in the cave and the sun light shine into it like a window and hear only the sound of the water moving along all around you. The tubing lasted about 40 minutes and we left the water where we crossed the river the first time. We then had a fine lunch of BBQ chicken, rice, beans and a piece of cake (all included). After lunch we climbed back into the van and returned to the dock. Shopping is real clean at the port and lots to look at. The seas were calm and the tender ride was no problem.
Another tender to shore but great weather, we just went shopping here and had lunch and returned to the ship for our massages.
The ship is older than most that are out there so for me it was no big deal to see maintainers working on the ship painting and scraping to keep the old girl in tip-top shape. The ship was in good repair and was well cared for. Yes it is not top of the line and you will see some rust if you look for it but not real bad for a ship that has been in service since 1988. The rooms were small but we were ready for this and didn’t spend any time in their any way except to sleep and change clothes. The room Stewart’s were two young men who were great and kept the room spotless and were there any time I needed any thing. The entire staff of the “Sea” were very friendly and always ready to help out, we didn’t run into any pushy people or mean people like I have heard about from other cruisers. The weather was perfect the entire trip.
This was the only compliant I had the entire trip. We live in Dallas and elected to do the express disembark at Houston. This involves going to Customs at 6:45am and taking about an hour to go through that line, they call you by deck number. We were on the 3rd deck so we went first and were done by 7:30 or 7:45. We then went to the café for breakfast (the only place to eat the last morning) long line for every thing. After we ate we then went up to the pool deck and waited to disembark at 9am. This is where the crazy part starts, you must carry your own bags off the ship and you are called by deck. Well that was the plan at any rate, when they announced the start of disembarking it seemed like everyone wanted off the ship NOW! So we get to deck 4 and waited about 30 minutes to move about 20 feet to the gangway and then into customs. If people would have listened and paid attention things would have gone so much smoother, but we had people wanting to get off the ship hours ahead of their posted times and they couldn’t understand why they had to wait.
At any rate the ship was fine, the ports were GREAT and we had a great time. I would recommend this trip to any one looking for a inexpensive trip to fun ports.