Number of Cruises: 22
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Wind
Sailing Date: March 31st, 2001
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
It has been 6 years since I cruised on the Norwegian Wind, before she was stretched and refurbished. I then cruised on her identical sister ship, the Norwegian Dream. My second cruise on the Wind was canceled because the refurbishment was not completed on time. I enjoyed cruising on these two ships, because their floor plans are the same; you see, I have no sense of direction.
To my surprise, I was totally lost, very little looked the same except for the cabins, the Terrace and the Sun Terrace dining rooms. One big change were the large and lush arrangements of fresh flowers everywhere. I spotted large flower arrangements in Lucky's Bar, Dazzles Disco, the Coffee Bar and I was surprised to find several flower arrangements in the Cards/Games room.
With traditional seating at dinner, the dining room gets noisy after everyone is seated. The dining rooms were now quiet and peaceful, the waiters were unrushed. The lights are dimmed and soft music plays. In the Four Seasons dining room, they had mostly tables for 2 and 4, with a few tables for 6 scattered about. Maybe people dining in small groups are quieter because they are not talking across a large table of 8-10? Another difference is, there were now more employees in the dining room than there were diners, NCL has added a lot of wait staff. The biggest difference was, at least 1/2 of these waiters and assistant waiters were women. I had never seen a female waiter or assistant waiter on NCL until now (I have seen female wine stewards, but no female wait staff). Most of the new waiters were from Romania and Indonesia. I never knew Romania had such beautiful women. We recognized Godfrey Kaye, a Jamaican waiter that we had seen on 3 previous NCL cruises, it was good to see him again. His twin brother is still on the NCL Sea.
The main dining room seemed to fill up around 7:30, so if you don't want to wait for a table, I would avoid arriving around that time. The earliest we ate dinner was at 5:30, the latest was at 10:00. We never had to wait for a table, and we never had a problem getting a table for two. The food was good, even the soup arrived hot. There is more emphasis on presentation than before. We never had to wait for fresh cracked pepper, grated parmesan cheese, mint jelly, salad dressing, etc. The wait staff was Johnny on the spot. Most of the time, we ate at the Four Seasons for dinner, but we also tried the Trattoria Italian Restaurant, which used to be the Sun Terrace. Everything is Italian in the Trattoria Restaurant, the hot & cold appetizers, salads, soups, entrees, and even the desserts (tiramisu, canoles, gelato).
With Freestyle, I expected this cruise to be more casual, but it was just the opposite. Some of the ladies wore formal gowns every night of the week. Most everyone dressed in tuxes and sequined gowns for the Captains Champagne party, but not everybody dolled up on formal night for dinner in the Four Seasons dining room.
Here was the "suggested" dining attire for the week:
Saturday - Resort Casual
Sunday - Formal
Monday - Resort Casual
Tuesday - Caribbean
Wednesday - Resort Casual
Thursday - Resort Casual
Friday - Resort Casual
You will notice that we only had one formal night on this 7-night cruise. On each and every daily edition of the NCL Cruise News, it says, "No shorts in public after 6:00, please". I do not notice what other people wear, but I made a point of trying to be more observant. I ate dinner in the casual Sports Bar one night, and I only saw 4 people wearing shorts. BTW, even though the Sports Bar is casual, the food at night was very good. The lights are turned down low, soft music plays in the background, there are flowers and candles on each table, as well as tablecloths and cloth napkins. Much fancier than the old NCL.
On formal night, formal wear is the suggested attire in the Four Seasons and the Terrace dining room. Formal wear is not suggested for dining in the Trattoria Italian Restaurant, the Sports Bar buffet, Le Bistro, or the BBQ out on deck. BTW, my biggest regret, was not trying the BBQ on Caribbean night; jerk chicken, jerk pork, ribs, etc.
One morning for breakfast, I dined at the Terrace dining room, ordering off the menu. I had a waiter who was slow, but he smiled and he was apologetic. He also brought me oatmeal, which the lady behind me had ordered. Again, he apologized, offering me extra bagels and cream cheese. This was my worst dining experience during the week, so I have no complaints about the service. The rest of the week, I went to the breakfast buffet in the Four Seasons. At first I was confused, I could not find the bagels nor the skim milk. They had cream cheese and lox, but no bagels? Aha! I finally found the bagels, they were hidden under cloth napkins to keep them hot, alongside the toasted English muffins. I also found the skim milk, it was there all along, only the label was not in English.
This is one of the nicest breakfast buffets I believe I have seen on a cruise ship. I enjoyed the Eggs Benedict and the Huevos Rancheros. They had two omelet stations, as well as a man carving fresh pineapple and melons. They had assistant waiters falling all over each other, scrambling to carry your plate for you.
One thing I love about cruising is the entertainment, and I have always thought the entertainment on NCL was the best. They usually have one strong female singer and one strong male singer. On this cruise, they had at least 4-5 powerful female singers and 4-5 outstanding male singers. A young, black female named Nadine Johnson was especially good, I wondered why her face wasn't on CD covers already. The best male singer was a tall, bald headed, black man from Reno named John. I wasn't the only female who noticed him, on the last night of the cruise, a young blonde female came out of the audience to hug him on stage, removing her blouse enroute. Security finally appeared and escorted her off the stage so he could finish his duet with Nadine. The audience laughed as John blushed.
When Star cruises came along and acquired NCL, my biggest fear was that they would get rid of the Jean Ann Ryan Company. Instead, they have enhanced it, I applaud them for that. Their rendition of Smokey Joe's Cafe was extraordinary.
One thing I noticed was, there was no "seat saving" in the showroom lounge that I had always seen before. You had one spouse saving a seat for the other spouse, but that was about it. Perhaps, since we are no longer grouped at the dining room tables with strangers, we no longer drag an entourage to the showroom lounge with us after dinner. I also noticed there was no saving of chaise lounges on deck.
There were not enough tables and chairs on deck where they have the BBQ every evening at 5:30. The Shore Excursion Desk is only open a couple of hours each day, making for long lines (I wish *I* had a job where I only had to show up a couple of hours each day! Oh yeah, I do. Nevermind). They only have small beverage glasses at the Pizzeria and at the Sports Bar buffet. Since this buffet offers the best Macadamia Nut Chocolate Chunk cookies, all is forgiven.<g>
One big positive; this was the first cruise where I didn't gain any weight. The food was great, I just didn't eat much. Perhaps, the more people you eat with, the more you eat? I dunno.
The tips were automatically added to my onboard account, and I really liked this. No more doing the math, scrambling for change, stuffing envelopes, and trying to remember how to spell their names. This made
the last night of the cruise much more enjoyable.
This was one of the best parts of Freestyle cruising. For the first time on the last day of a cruise, I could leisurely take a shower and go to breakfast when I felt like it. On my way to breakfast, I told the cabin steward (Alfredo Wright) that all of my things were packed in my carry-on and tucked away in the closet, so he was free to come in and clean. He indicated that there was no hurry, he would just change the linens on the bed. My tag color was called while I was at breakfast. I finished eating, went to my cabin to brush my teeth, picked up my things and walked right off the ship. I did not have to wait for an elevator, nor was there a line to disembark. I was off the ship by 9:30.
My flight was at 2:55, so I should have stayed on the ship instead of waiting in the crowded FLL airport. We had to wait about 2 hours for a table to eat lunch at Chili's. There was no place to sit, so people were sitting on the floor while waiting in line. A nice, quiet lunch on the Wind would have been preferable to this. Next time, I'll stay on the ship until they drag me away.
To be honest, I will really miss Freestyle cruising on my next cruise. Freestyle has really spoiled me, the atmosphere was so relaxed, so mellow. This cruise was less regimented and more carefree, like a vacation should be.