Number of Cruises: 5
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Wind
Sailing Date: October 11th, 2003
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Day 1 - Departing Miami at 4:00 PM
Day 2 - Day At Sea
Day 3 - Grand Cayman
Day 4 - Roatan Honduras
Day 5 - Belize
Day 6 - Cozumel
Day 7 - Day at Sea
Day 8 - Arrival back at Miami
Getting to the ship: The Norwegian Wind sails from Miami for this itinerary. If you have booked your air flight with NCL, then you have no real issues and the ship will await your arrival. However, if you plan to book your own airfare, the best piece of advice I can give is for you to plan on arriving on the day before your cruise departs. We arrived the night before in Ft. Lauderdale and had arranged transportation to the pier for that morning. The Norwegian Wind supposedly begins boarding at 11:30 AM or so, but for some reason, they seem to have difficulty earlier in the process rather than later. My suggestion is to arrive a little bit after boarding begins, and by then the line will have subsided. For latitude members, there is a shorter line, but if you get there right at the beginning, you will mostl likely still have a bit of a wait. Our embarkation process was slowed by a reported problem with their computers at the time, and the crew did their best to soothe people by bringing out fruit drinks and food to try to keep people happy. We didn't let it bother us, as it was the beginning of our vacation, and we knew we would get on the ship eventually...
The cabins: We had booked an outside cabin on Deck 4. at midship. This cabin was very convenient for getting on and off the ship in the various ports. The cabins on the Norwegian Wind seemed pretty typical, and their was plenty of closet and drawer space. The shower and bathroom are adequately sized. Water temperature and pressure was fine. A hairdryer is provided, but you might want to bring your own. No irons are allowed (but if you have one, bring a travel iron). Unlike alot of ships, there is no self-service laundry area.
Deck 4 was the lowest deck, and was the entrance and exit point for tenders and shore piers. Decks 5 and 6 contained only staterooms. Deck 7 contained the lobby area (entrance when in Miami) and the running deck. Deck 8 was devoted to staterooms. Deck 9 was where most of the dining was, containing several bars, Le Bistro, the Terraces dining room and the Four Seasons dining room. Deck 10 contains all the shops, the casino, Dazzles disco, and the Stardust lounge, where all the shows are held. Deck 11 was the pool deck, also where the pizzeria was located, as well as the youth center, and the so-called Sports Bar and Grill. Deck 12 contained the sports deck, and spa, and Observatory lounge.
The Restaurants: The Norwegian Wind has two main restaurants for the nightly menu: Four Seasons, and Terraces. There is also a buffet in the Sports Bar and Grill at various times, and sometimes there are barbeques out by the pool area on deck 11. The pizzeria has odd hours that did not match what was advertised anywhere on board. There is also a italian specialty restaurant called Trattoria. Le Bistro is the only cover charge specialty restaurant. It costs $10 additional per person to dine there. The following is a breakdown of the various restaurants:
Sports Bar and Grill: This is the only buffet of the Norwegian Wind. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is also advertised as a "Sports Bar" but there was no evidence of that, being that there was a small bar with about 4 stolls in front of it. In fact it was so small, it was virtually impossible to get food or eat in there during peak times. Forget about having breakfast there, as there is very little seating and long lines. If you have a shore excursion planned, you are far better off with ordering room service to your cabin for breakfast than to attempt to join the masses in this tiny cramped space. It was porbably the single most disappointing part of the Wind. They could do alot better by utilizing unused dining room space in the Terraces dining room for breakfast buffets. Why they chose the "Sports Bar" for buffets escapes me entirely. There are food items like waffles, various egg dishes, cereal, fruit and so on for breakfast, pasta and various poultry and meat items for lunch and a separate dessert cart are always available to enjoy.
The Four Seasons Restaurant (Deck 9): This is the main restaurant (along with the Terraces) and offers the same menu as the Terraces. Service is good, but plan on requiring at least two hours for your full dinner here.
The Terraces: Located on decks 10 and 11, this is the other main dining area. Great views off the back of the shiop, and basically the same menu as the Four Seasons. However, for some reason, the service in this room was hideously slow, even for easy-going people like ourselves. In addition to slow service, meals had to be sent back as they were not prepared according to our wishes. We avoided The Terraces after that fiasco of a dinner. We were treated much better in the Four Seasons.
Le Bistro (Deck 9): Le Bistro is the french alternative restaurant that serves mediterranean style cuisine. The restaurant is a wonderful experience and offers a complete menu in a beautiful setting. The $10.00 cover charge is well worth it. We had a wonderful dinner here. The chocolate fondue dessert is to die for, and there are other great choices as well. We make sure we have one night at Le Bistro on every Norwegian ship.
Trattoria(Deck 12): This is the Italian restaurant. This restaurant seems to specialize in Northern Italian specialities, and we had a good meal there.
Pizzeria (Deck 11, midship): The Pizzeria is supposedly open 24-hours a day and offers decent and varied pizza. Wrong! It was hardly open at all, and when it was, you were lucky if there was pizza. Alot of times there was some sort of ramshackle buffet assembled there.
Midnight Buffets: The Norwegian Wind offered only one midnight buffet on this cruise. The signature “chocoholic” chocolate buffet where everything is made from chocolate was held on the last day at sea, but at 2 PM rather than at midnite. Cakes, pies, fruit dipped in chocolate, moose, cheesecake, fudge, you name it and if it was made with chocolate they offered it. I only managed to make it partially through the line before my plate was overflowing. One nice touch is that they will offer to transfer your chocolate to a "to go' plate so you may take it back to your cabin. Interestingly, there was no picture time scheduled... so if you were not first in line, it was pretty much disheveled if you wanted to take pictures. The contents were fabulous however, and very delicious.
Entertainment: Entertainment on the ship is scattered throughout. Of course, there is a casino. Every night there is a sail-away party on the pool deck. The band there was a reggae style band, and was pretty good. There was live top-40 style music in the Observation Lounge, although the musicians were not quite as talented as the poolside band. In some of the bars, there was a piano player who also sang. The main shows were adequate and were located in the Stardust lounge. They ranged from magician acts, to little broadway ensemble shows, to singers. Karaoke was also offered from time to time in the Observation Lounge, but here's a tip... if you own your own discs, bring some of your favorites, because their selection was limited. All in all, most of the entertainment was enough to keep you busy, but nothing to write home about. I think NCL could take a lesson from Carnival and improve the talent of the entertainment.
Shore excursions: There were two types of shore excursions. One were the ones categorized as "Dive-In" and the regular shore excursions. There were excellent choices among each. The Dive-In excursions involved snorkeling or diving with NCL's own instructors as well as the tour operators. NCL is the only line that actually hires it's own diving and snorkeling instructors. These guys were fun to be with and made the excursions safe and fun. We did both types of excursions (shore and dive-in) and for the most part we were very satisfied.
Freestyle Cruising: We were both veterans to the concept of Freestyle Cruising. Basically, what this allows you to do is to have the freedom of choosing who, and when, and where you want to eat every night. Basically, we choose what time we wanted to go to dinner and showed up when we felt like it. Except for the specialty restaurants, reservations are not required. You can sit with as few or as many people you like to. I would recommend that if you have a party larger than 8, make arrangements with the maitre'd of whichever main dining room you wish to be in ahead of time, as it may be hard for them to set up the proper table for you. The tipping is also automatically added in to your final bill. At a rate of $10.00 per day per person, we found this to be a bargain. It had no appreciable impact on level of service that we could decipher.
Summary: We both enjoyed this week. However, we would not go out of our way to sail on the Wind again unless there was a fantastic deal we couldn't pass up. The ship is a bit small, and they really need to rethink where they herd people in for breakfast. The sports bar is way too small. We tend to prefer the ships more like the Sky, or Dawn where you have more choices and bigger spaces. This ship might be better suited to a more traditional approach rather than the freestyle concept. We love freestyle cruising, just not on this ship.