Number of Cruises: First Cruise
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Wind
Sailing Date: August 27th, 2001
What a wonderful cruise. It was my first and I was worried about Freestyle cruising. I was hoping for the old movie glamour of a cruise. Not to worry, I dressed up as much as I wanted and really enjoyed the formal night.
The Wind is a nice ship. It never felt crowded even though there were 1700 guests on it. I found getting around the ship easy. I didn't like walking through the Four Seasons dining room and soon learned how to avoid that. The number of public areas with windows was great. Yes, if you look very carefully there are some spots where the carpet is a little stained or worn, but you really have to look for it. The ship lacks the big atrium on many ships, which would have been nice for pictures on formal night.
Our stateroom with balcony was great. It was actually bigger than I thought it would be. By all means if you can at all aford it, get a balcony. We were on it extensively. The day we were at Mendenhall Glacier alone made the extra cost worth it. The shower was cramped and I'm not a big guy. However, it's a space that only gets used a few minutes a day. So, it's not a problem. The shower head was removeable and that made a big difference.
The food was good/very good. I was previously a waiter and I know how difficult it would be to serve this many people Freestyle. The food was hot/very warm. Soups were particularly good. I heard from a lot of others that they thought the waiters weren't quite as attentive since they weren't working towards tips the same way. The meals did seem a bit rushed too. The food came out of the kitchen very fast, so that made the meals fast. Le Bistro's food was a step above the dining room. It has a $10 per person cover charge, but worth it. However, Le Bistro's menu doesn't change so we only ate there once. The most successful items were the lamb shank and the lobster. Desserts were good, but not outstanding.
Overall, the service was very good. As I stated before meal service was a bit rushed. Our cabin stewardess was a joy. She was attentive, always greeted us in the hall and kept our room in shape without ever disturbing us. The cruise staff and captain kept us well informed of what was going on. "Whales off the starboard side", etc.
The Entertainment was a mixed bag. The shows put on by the Jean Ann Ryan Company were loud and jazzy, but the singers were out of their league. They barely kept a tune. We cringed to hear them sing together in harmony. They need to hire a vocal coach. The comedians did a much better job. The acts in the lounges were pretty good. Bobby Hamilton played jazzy piano. Odessa and the Big Time Trio were also good.
We took two excursions in Juneau. The Whale Watching by Jet Boat was excellent. We saw a dozen or so whales and watched them for about 1 hour. The last one surfaced only 30 feet away from the boat. The guides knew all about whales and were excellent. The Mendenhall Glacier via Helicopter was also excellent. What a thrill to stand on a glacier
Ports of call
Skagway - cute town, cute shops
Haines - why did we stop here?
Juneau - we wished for more time here
Ketchikan - cute town, nice shopping, lots of rain
Both embarkation and debarkation were a breeze. The staff was very efficient. Customs in Vacouver on arrival was horrendous!!! We waited in line over 1 hour. Plan your trip with plenty of time to get through customs and to the ship. Plus going through customs so many times seemed silly. I might plan to leave from Seattle next time just to avoid this hassle.
We saw whales and a HUGE pod of dolphins from the ship. What a treat. Bald eagles were also in the trees across from the dock in Juneau. If I do this cruise again, I'd go a little earlier in the season to try for better weather. However, it's really just luck. We had mostly clouds with some sprinkles. Ketchikan showed us why it gets 275 days of rain a year.
The pros of Freestyle Cruising outweigh any cons. It's great to have the flexibility to sit alone or join a table. We generally sat with others at breakfast and lunch and a couple of times at dinner too. It made it nice to meet others and we ended up going to dinner with new friends a couple of times. They suggest no jeans in the dining rooms at night. I wish they would make it mandatory.
The Internet Cafe was quite expensive. It was $90 for unlimited access or $.75 per minute plus a $3.95 activation fee. We used internet cafes in port more.
The shops on board were pretty good with different sales each day. The watches available on the last day were a real bargain.
We had such a good time and will certainly consider NCl for our next cruise.