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Shannon

Age: 23

Occupation:Account Executive for Marketing

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Norwegian Wind

Sailing Date: November 22nd, 2003

Itinerary: Western Caribbean


BACKGROUND
I am 23 years old and my cruise on the Norwegian Wind was my 3rd cruise. It was my college graduation present from my mother. The cruise spanned over Thanksgiving of 2003. My previous cruises include Eastern Caribbean on Holland America’s Westerdam and Western Caribbean on Celebrity’s Mercury.

ARRIVAL
We arrived in Miami around 1pm, with the ship leaving at 4:30. The line was long and we waited over an hour. Either Norwegian or the port itself had staff walk through the line handing out water and orange juice (nice touch). No problems filling out paper work and getting on the ship. Our room was on the same floor as the gangway, so it was easy to find. Port staff and staff upon entrance onto the ship were very friendly.

SHIP
The ship did have a sewage smell that I did not notice until a couple days into the trip. Mostly on our floor (4th) and on one section of the jogging path. The ship has obviously been stretched making it hard to learn which elevators and which stairs go where. The ship is old, but I think it has been maintained well and is stable.

CABIN
My mother and I were very impressed with our cabin, even though it was simple and inside stateroom. It was very clean and bright and had lots of room for storage and a safe for valuables. We decided to keep our money, passports and flight tickets in the safe (I highly recommend this, but don’t forget your password to get into the safe) The shower was very very small and the toilet very very loud when flushed, but that wasn’t an issue for us. The beds were the most comfortable beds we had ever slept on, including our own at home! Our suitcases fit perfectly under the bed. I would have liked to see more hangars in the closet to hang outfits for dinner.

FOOD
Dinner was good although not as good as Holland America or Celebrity cruise lines. I had mostly the Cooking Light selections and I found them to be tasty and satisfying. I do not remember one dinner I did not like. I do suggest going to the Four Seasons more often than the other large dining room. It had a better atmosphere, more private tables, and better service. The other dining room seemed to have more kids, large families and had a cheesy décor.

I did not enjoy freestyle cruising. I like having the same wait staff every night and meeting new people at a large table like with some other cruise lines. Freestyle cruising prevented us from eating on the ship Thanksgiving night because we were told if we didn’t make reservations at least 24 hours in advance, we would be waiting 2-3 hours for a table. We ate at the Hard Rock Café in Cozumel instead. SUGGESTION: If you are in a group of more than 5 people and would like to eat dinner together, I would suggest a different cruise line. Many groups were unable to get tables together because the tables do not accommodate large groups and they would not put tables together (maybe if you had reservations every night, but that’s annoying to have to plan out)

Lunch was good; we only ate at the buffet and ate quickly because we were usually on our way to some other activity. The lines were not too bad, but the buffet was cramped and stuffy because there wasn’t any airflow.

Breakfast was terrible. The first couple days we ate at the buffet on the top floor. We could never find a seat and usually sat with our trays on the ground or on a wet bench used for the pool when it overflows. I’m addicted to yogurt and was excited when I found it in the buffet. I spit it out because it was so sour. I looked at the expiration date and it said December 22, 2002 (That’s almost one year past expiration). The eggs were cold and the only good thing from that buffet was the fruit. From that day on, we ate breakfast in the Sports Café, which was chaos. It was always hard to find a seat, but it was laid out well and the food was a little better.

FITNESS
I was very disappointed by the fitness center on the Wind. It was horribly small, only a couple windows on one wall and always full. The treadmills were facing a wall of mirrors and there were only 4 of them. The bikes were facing a couple very small windows and I think there were only four of them as well. There were a couple stair climbers and they faced the back of the treadmills. That was it. My mother and I used the facility once and opted to use the jogging track from then on.

ITINERARY
We were very impressed with the itinerary on this cruise. It had a great mix of tourist stops (Cozumel and Georgetown) and cultural stops (Roatan and Belize City). Roatan and Belize City have not been touched by tourism and on the outside seem very dirty and “third world,” but the people were very friendly and we enjoyed our experiences there. Cozumel and Georgetown are always a good time. We had sufficient time in each port and getting on to the islands from the ship was an easy process. Belize was pretty congested in getting off the ship and then waiting in lines to get through the pier into the city, but it was worth it.

SHORE EXCURSIONS
Norwegian has chosen very exciting and adventurous shore excursions. The excursions were by far our favorite part of this cruise. For the most part, they were reasonable priced and most of them were physical excursions.

We had been to Georgetown before and decided to take a tour of the island. Last time we were there we went swimming with stingrays and snorkeling. We booked that on our own through Kelley Tours (I highly recommend this excursion). Our tour of the island started with a quick (only 5 minutes) stop at 7-Mile Beach, Tortuga Rum Factory (only the gift shop), then to a turtle farm (where we got to pick up one for a great picture opportunity), and the town of Hell. It was a good tour, sort of rushed, but worth it for only $33.

In Roatan we booked a tour through the ship that included a catamaran ride up the coast, snorkeling and lunch at a local restaurant. It was a great tour, although the snorkeling wasn’t great but only because it started to rain and the water got foggy. The staff was great, very friendly and knowledgeable. The catamaran was beautiful and the route very scenic and exciting. The tour ended in West Bay (a location far from the port) and we got to do some shopping before the shuttle went back to the ship. The shopping was pretty good with lots of coconut dishes and hand made bags.

We booked a jungle horseback riding adventure through the ship for Belize. This excursion was the best we had ever been on. Although, I warn you, this is for the physically active only. On a bus ride out to the Banana Banks Ranch (about an hour out of the city) we were greeted by a man from Montana who owned the ranch, he went from person to person asking us to rank our ability for horseback riding (1 through 4, 4 being advanced). We chose 4 because we had been horseback riding at least 30 times. The bus dropped us off in the jungle and we crossed the Old Belize River in a small beat up boat and climbed steep stairs to the ranch. It was absolutely beautiful with monkeys in the trees, pelicans and amazing flowers and banana trees. We went into the lobby house and a local woman baked banana bread for us. If you take this tour, we sure to check out the bathroom in the further side of the lobby from the entrance, it’s gorgeous. Then we went on a boat ride down the Old Belize River and saw birds, iguanas and monkeys (dirty boat, don’t wear nice clothing). We had lunch in the dinner hall where there was live music, dancing and wonderful local food. The horseback riding was very intense, lots of western style galloping and dodging trees and running through mud. It was very humid and we all got very dirty but it was the most fun and intense horseback riding I’d ever done – be sure you know what you are doing if you choose 4 for your level of ability!

In Cozumel, we decided to check out the Mayan ruins because we didn’t get to the last time we were there. It was worth it, however the tour was expensive ($109), the bus ride very long (over an hour), and it made an unnecessary stop at a jewelry factory in the middle of nowhere. We did not hang out with the guides but instead ventured on our own. It was beautiful, but I think it only needs to be done once in a lifetime.

SERVICE
Service was ok. I do not like the automatic tipping and do believe it affects the quality of service. I don’t like having a new waiter every night at dinner and we only met our room steward once (in fact it was only because she accidentally took my swimming suit with the towels for cleaning, but she was very friendly and quick about getting it back to me)

We did have a particular bartender at the Disco that was absolutely great. We spent time getting to know him and the staff call him “Quick.” He always had our favorite drinks ready for us and posed for a few pictures with us. We insisted on giving him a large tip at the end of our cruise because he truly made it more fun. The DJ was lots of fun to hang out with as well because he got right onto the dance floor with us.

ENTERTAINMENT
Entertainment was very good. The shows were well done (kind of cheesy but that’s expected). The Caribbean party on the second night was a blast with everyone doing the dollar dance, a bartender competition, a cross-dressing contest and lots of dancing and music. The ship’s crew filmed it and it played on TV for the whole cruise (so don’t do anything embarrassing like we did). The karaoke was hilarious and the talent show at the end of the cruise was very good.

PEOPLE
The people on the ship ranged from families to retire people. We met lots of people in my age group and it seemed like a ship full of singles, families and people that like to party. We did not see as many younger kids compared to other cruises we’d been on.

DEPARTURE
Departure went smoothly, although we ran into some very rude staff pushing people around and even got in a fight with one of our friends as we were trying to get our luggage to the shuttle. Getting off the ship was done by colored tags and we were off the ship within a couple hours, through customs (if it could even be called that) and off to the airport.

Note: We were told over and over how important it was for us to have our passport, even though we were only asked for it once (in Roatan for boarded back on the ship). Of course, I’m not saying you should forget it at home.

OVERALL

I enjoyed this cruise because it had active and creative shore excursions not typical to every cruise. The entertainment was great; the people were great and the cabins wonderful. I did not enjoy freestyle cruising and prefer to sit and meet new people at a permanent table with the same wait staff for each night. I also did not like the fitness center, breakfast, the smell on our floor and the jogging track or the automatic tipping. Personally, weighing these advantages and disadvantages out, I would probably not go on Norwegian again, only because I really dislike Freestyle cruising.

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