Age: 31 to
Number of Cruises: First Cruise
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Wind
Sailing Date: May 15th, 2000
Itinerary: Vancouver - Juneau - Skagway - Haines - Ketchikan
The food onboard was, for the most part, of average quality, not the 5-star quality the brochures and travel agent had led us to believe it would be. About 5 minutes into our first course during our first meal my dad lost a cap on a piece of crusty bread... about 15 minutes later he lost a bridge on the other side of his mouth to the prime rib... we both sat there stunned for a few minutes... then started to laugh. There was no dentist on board the ship and it would be two some 40 hours before we hit our first port... (my father ended up spending the entire cruise without those teeth - thankfully they never started hurting, the only affected his chewing ability). The only items on the menu during our cruise that are worthy of praise were a few of the cold soups (there was a chilled carrot-orange soup that tasted just like an orange creamsicle... very tasty), the sea bass in champagne saffron sauce, and perhaps the beef wellington. I should note that I finally got to experience cherries jubilee, crepes suzette, and baked Alaska... things which one has always heard about, but until this cruise I had never actually had the opportunity to try. Unfortunately some of the meals were noteworthy only in their level of "averageness", the prime rib was ok, but not spectacular, the lobster was overcooked and rubbery (Fish House Vera Cruz here in San Marcos does a much better lobster), the grouper was lost to the scallion sauce, mousses were always rubbery, never creamy, pastries were always dried out...
I think the worst food item on the ship was the hamburgers which we got in the Sports Bar... I never knew you could ruin a hamburger... Despite the quality of the food, I would like to say the our waiter was EXCEPTIONAL... we had an assigned table in the dining room for the entire cruise, Barrett and his assistant Roman took very good care of us, Roman would come along in between courses and remove silver ware that we would no longer be needing (there were 4 forks, 3 spoons, and 3 knives at each place setting when we first sat down), and kept our water/tea/coffee full. Victor, our maitre'd lives here in SD and also made sure that we were well taken care of, checking daily on the status of my dad's tooth situation (we had asked Victor if there was a dentist aboard).
As indicated above we had what they call their Penthouse suite, it was probably 8 feet wide, maybe 15' long... two twin beds, but not really as wide as a twin bed, a small sofa (that converted to a twin bed) and a small stand that housed a tiny fridge and 12" tv... Our patio had an unobstructed view out, but the life boats were immediately to beside us to the right, and four rooms forward, still, we spent many hours kicked back on the patio watching the waves go by.... The tv, by the way, had CNN, a channel that showed a map of where we were, a camera view of what was ahead of us from the bridge, a couple of channels where they re-ran ship lectures, and one station that ran the same 3 movies over and over again (there were actually a total of 9 movies shown during the course of our 7 day journey)
The Norwegian Wind is an older ship and it shows, the carpet is worn and faded, there are many places where the seams are coming apart. Thankfully it was cold enough that we weren't interested in using the pools or hot tubs, as they were in desperate need of a water change (the aft pool water was a weird milky green color). The layout of the ship was nice in that there were numerous places where one could sit and just watch the scenery go by... our favorite was the Observation Lounge on the top of the ship where you could see both sides of the passage at once.
The Ports Of Call:
On Wednesday we were in Juneau, we took the Mendenhall Glacier/Salmon Hatchery tour...
The glacier was not what we expected based on too many National Geographic specials, it was dirty, and not terribly large looking. (We got a more impressive view of the glacier from a vantage point a few miles away that we stopped at after leaving the glacier). It was not salmon season, so there was nothing to see at the hatchery except empty tubs and dry salmon ladders. We did see our first bald eagles in Juneau... After we were returned to the ship we walked into Juneau and shopped... all of the ports were "tourist traps" and we joined the rest of lemmings leaving our money behind...
Thursday found us in Skagway... a town of 875 that receives 300,000 visitors during the 5 month cruising season... After the disappoint of the tour in Juneau we decided against wasting any more money on the tours (tours are NOT included in the cost of the cruise) and simply spent the day shopping (gotta do our part to keep the Skagway economy booming ya know)... Though it was cold and rainy in Skagway, it was still a neat little tourist town. The rock wall opposite the dock where we were moored was covered in graffiti of ships logos and captains names... some of them so far up the cliff's walls that you have to wonder if anyone got hurt in the process of painting them... these were some very elaborate "murals" mind you, some obviously used stencils to add the ship logos... we found on of our ship back when she was named the Windward (The Windward was stretched 130 feet in '98 and then re-named the Norwegian Wind)... it was kinda cool to sit on our patio and just read all the different "murals"... I took pictures of some of the more colorful ones... We left Skagway around 5pm and sailed for an hour and a half to Haines... Haines had two streets visible so we never even left the ship...
Friday was Glacier Bay... this was what we had been waiting for, even got up early so we wouldn't miss anything... I saw a couple of seals as we entered the bay, but it was to be about the last marine life we would see for the entire trip... Glacier Bay was pretty, lots of little icebergs, may where the ice was still that distinctive glacier blue... the ship stopped in front of a glacier called Margarite, and we actually got to see it calf a couple of times, including on very spectacular chunk that broke off sending probably a ton of ice into the water below... now THAT was cool! As we headed out of glacier bay we saw a few whale spouts, but no orca's <pout>... Still, Glacier Bay was probably the most scenic part of the cruise.
Saturday found us in Ketchikan, this is actually a working town, with a tourist trap downtown area. I should note that by the time we hit Ketchikan my father had decided he wanted to find a stuffed polar or grizzly bear for his living room... We spent pretty much the last of our money in Ketchikan... We did find a stuffed polar bear... my dad offered to buy it, but was told it was only for sale if he bought the store... he offered to buy the store, but was then told that the store wasn't for sale... My dad was heartbroken... He really wanted that 9 foot polar bear. I offered to buy him a little stuffed bear, but that wasn't what he wanted... good thing he's not a hunter, or I'd worry that he might actually go back and go bear hunting. <haha>
In general I was amazed at the number of jewelry stores in these little port in the middle of nowhere...
I admit I fell prey to their seduction and returned with about 12 carats of pareba topaz (my birthstone) which I be making into a ring and earrings for myself, and either necklaces or rings for Stephie and Meaghan (I brought a total of 7 stones back). I was struck by the friendliness of the locals in each of our ports... yes, we were spending money, but it seemed to go beyond that, after all, we didn't spend money in EVERY store....
It was cold and rainy most of our trip, but not as cold as we had feared (except in Skagway, where to cold and wet was accompanied by lots of wind). Seeing the sun was rare and the pictures I took I'm sure will reflect it.
Leaving Vancouver we saw a pod of dolphins which entertained us for about 20 minutes, and also a few gray whales, including one about 10 feet from the ship right below our patio. As I said we saw seals and whale spouts in Glacier Bay. We also saw lots of eagles... Kinda disappointed we didn't see any orca's or bears or moose but <shrug>
Summing it up:
The trip did not live up to the hype of the travel agent and the brochures... the food was good, but not exceptional, the cabin was clean, but we were put on the smoking side of the ship instead of the non-smoking side so there were mornings I woke up and couldn't breathe, it was difficult to regulate the room temperature (thank goodness there were down blankets on the beds), the tours were incredibly expensive, the drinks were expensive and even soda was not included in the fare.
On the plus side the personal service we received in the dining room was exceptional - unfortunately it was not enough to offset the other experiences on board...
Overall rating of the cruise would be maybe a C+...
HOWEVER... the opportunity to spend time with my dad away from "reality", and to not have to even think about work or housecleaning or dishes for a whole week.... made the trip an A++.
Would I recommend an Alaskan cruise to my friends? Yes, but I would not recommend Norwegian Cruise Lines... Next time I cruise I'm gonna try Holland America - one of their boats followed us to every port, it was bigger, faster, and in talking to other passengers that had cruised before, I understand they have better food....
So, I'm home... back to the real world... So can someone tell me why I can still feel the motion of the ship? It's getting to be a bit annoying!