Age: 41 to 50
Number of Cruises: 3 to 5
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Wind
Sailing Date: September 18th, 2000
Itinerary: Vancouver to Hawaii Repositioning
After reading all the negative comments regarding NCL and the Wind, we were a little apprehensive about this cruise. We had booked it back in January, and that gave us plenty of time to read the horror stories of toilets running over, the ship smelling like sewage, rude and indifferent staff, etc. However, having just returned from our 11-day Vancouver to Hawaii repositioning cruise, I have to ask—did we sail on the same ship as the other reviewers? The Norwegian Wind we sailed on was clean, elegant, and warm. The staff was for the most part efficient, polite and enthusiastic.
Our first pleasant surprise came when we received our air arrangements—Jacksonville to Vancouver with only a one-hour switch of planes in St. Louis, and Honolulu to Jacksonville with a short (almost too short) half-hour change of planes in Atlanta. This dispelled the fears of odd hours and multi-city connections I had imagined. Our only anxious moments occurred the night before our trip wondering if Tropical Storm Gordon was going to cause of flight to be cancelled. He didn’t and we left Jacksonville on time and arrived in Vancouver late morning. Upon arrival in Vancouver, we had to wait in very long lines to go through customs, although this was certainly not NCL’s fault. After clearing customs and collecting our luggage we quickly found the NCL representative who escorted us to the busses for the trip to the pier. When we arrived at the ship, we were allowed to board the ship immediately, even though it was only a few minutes after 1:00 and embarkation wasn’t supposed to start until 1:30. Embarkation was a breeze—no lines at all!
We didn’t have much time in Vancouver, and I’m sorry we didn’t plan on a pre-cruise stay there. We have never been to Vancouver before, but the little we saw, we loved. We will definitely need to do an Alaska cruise with a stay in Vancouver.
We entered the ship through a pleasant lobby and were met by a uniformed steward who asked us our room number and then escorted us there. The room on Atlantic Deck #6 looked exactly as pictured in the brochures and website. It was very comfortable for two people and I had no problem with storage for our clothes (11 days worth) between the drawers and the closet. A few extra hangers would have been nice, though. We loved the sitting area with the large window. One negative here—we had requested, and all our documents indicated that we were to have a non-smoking room. The one we were assigned was definitely smoking. The sign at the purser’s desk said the ship was full and there could be no room changes, so we purchased some air freshener in port and this took care of the problem.
After finding our room, we took off to explore the ship. It was a good size—not a mega-liner, but certainly plenty large. It was clean, well maintained, and nicely decorated (nothing gaudy or neon lit). We were pleasantly surprised to find the welcome aboard lunch was not a buffet on deck, but a very nice open seating luncheon in the dining rooms. This was a welcome respite after having traveled all the way across the country that morning. After lunch we continued our exploration of the decks and public rooms, then back to our stateroom where our luggage was already waiting on us. We had enough time to put away our clothes when it was time to go back on deck to watch the ship leave Vancouver. Leaving the port at sundown was really lovely and peaceful.
The average age on this cruise was older than most. There were a great number of seniors, although most appeared to be active and healthy, as well as some honeymooners and middle-aged couples. There were very few families with children or teens, or young singles. I guess the length of the cruise, as well as the fact that it was after the traditional summer vacation months may have accounted for that. While there was plenty of entertainment, it was geared toward an older crowd.
We had late seating for dinner in the Four Seasons dining room at a table for eight with very pleasant table mates and good conversation each night. Our waiter, George was great—he was very anxious to please and was quite apologetic if he didn’t think we were for some reason. The busboy Andrew was funny, although he had a problem remembering things like who didn’t drink coffee, who preferred decaf, etc. The food was generally very good—some items were better than others. Steaks in the main dining room tended to be tough; seafood selections were usually very good. Soups were always excellent—combined with the wonderful dinner rolls, you could make a meal out of that! For steaks, a better choice was LeBistro, the alternative dining room. We ate there twice and had excellent meals both times. The filet minion there was as good as any I’ve had on land. We only ate breakfast in the dining room on the last day—the rest of the trip we preferred the buffet breakfast in the Sport’s Bar. They had very good made-to-order omelets and waffles, as well as fresh baked pastries, and standard breakfast fare.
Since we had late seating, most evenings our show was actually before dinner. The entertainment was excellent. There was a comedian, a cabaret singer, a musician, etc., as well as three shows by the Jean Ann Ryan Company. They were superb! This company of accomplished singers and dancers performed Bob Fosse-type productions on a relatively small stage on a moving ship. No small task! We enjoyed all the lounge performers, although after 11 days, we had heard all their numbers several times. We liked the Observatory Lounge as a place to sit and relax, but preferred the piano player in the Coffee Bar for entertainment. We spent a little time in the Casino, but tried to keep it to a minimum in order to limit our losses. There were also the usual activities of Bingo, art auctions, etc. A nice addition on this trip was the Hawaiian entertainers and activities on board the entire trip—the entertainers would perform daily on deck and well as several evenings. The Cruise Director and his staff were great—friendly and funny, without being condescending.
Our first port of call was Astoria, Oregon. The people there seemed very excited that a cruise ship was there and there were “Welcome Norwegian Wind” signs everywhere. We did not take the tours there, but instead just walked the town. There really isn’t much to Astoria, but it did allow us the opportunity to purchase a few forgotten miscellaneous items at land prices, instead of on the ship. I think I would have preferred to skip Astoria for an additional day in Hawaii.
The next five days were sea days. The first day was overcast and the seas were a little rough, which I guess is to be expected in the North Pacific. We didn’t need to take any motion sickness medication, but I understand some of the other passengers did. Overall, I thought the Wind was quite stable and handled the sea conditions well. The weather for the remaining sea days was great—warm and calm. The decks were full of people sunning and swimming, but we never had a problem finding an available lounge chair. Since the weather was so good, we had deck side Bar-B-Q’s for lunch each day, which were surprising good and varied.
After five sea days, it was good to reach land again. In Hawaii we visited in Hilo and Kona on the Big Island, Maui, Kauai, and finally Oahu. Again, we choose not to take the ship’s excursions, but instead rented a convertible and saw the islands on our own—after all we were still in the USA. We did use a good guide book (Fodor’s) and the ships excursion descriptions before hand to plan out the things we wanted to see since we had limited time in each port. We actually probably got more accomplished than most of the people who took the excursions and saved a bundle over the cost of the excursions. We were able to see Volcanoes National Park (more of it than with the tour), various waterfalls and parks, historical sites, Waimea Canyon, the Arizona Memorial and much more. We did experience some rain in Hawaii and particularly in Maui where it rained all day, so we didn’t make it to Haleakala or the beaches there. Instead we browsed the shops in the village of Lahaina which turned out to be a very nice day.
I heard some complaints that debarkation was disorganized, but I did not experience that. We sat in a lounge until our color luggage tag was called, then left the ship to find our luggage on the dock. We got a porter to help us with the luggage and he asked which airline we were flying and escorted us and our luggage to the proper bus, and made sure our luggage was put on the bus. I guess it could have been confusing if you didn’t ask for help, but there were an adequate number of porters if you requested one.
Overall, this was a great vacation. It actually was like two vacations—first the cruise half, then the Hawaii half. There were some negatives—the smoking stateroom I already mentioned, the photography staff (they were not very good and one of the few bad attitudes we encountered), but we did not allow these to ruin our cruise. I don’t know if our expectations were not as high as other people’s, or if we’re just not as demanding, but we found the ship clean and comfortable and the food and service usually very good. I hate to disappoint the NCL bashers, but I just didn’t see it.