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Al Aslakson

Age: 65


Number of Cruises: 4

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Norwegian Wind

Sailing Date: October 7th, 2006

Itinerary: Hawaii

Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Wind Cruise Review

Al Aslakson

The Norwegian Wind is scheduled to be retired in Spring 2007 - whether that had any impact on our cruise experience is unknown. This was our first NCL cruise, having been with Princess before. We booked based on dates, price and cruise features. We went in aware that overall NCL doesn't usually rate as well as Princess.

The Good:
1. The crew was a extremely happy crew. We often heard them singing to themselves as they worked. With very few exceptions, they were friendly, outgoing and eager to please. It was unexpected and appreciated.
2. The top-line restaurant - Le Bistro - was absolutely fantastic. Food quality and service were both exceptional. Our only regret was not discovering this earlier in the cruise.
3. The feature entertainment in the Stardust Lounge was as good as any we've seen on Princess. The Polynesian Review and the Circus-themed show were both exceptional.
4. The on-board Hawaiian crafts classes were first-rate, due largely to June, the Hawaiian Ambassador. She's a gracious, engaging lady.
5. Freestyle Cruising. We enjoyed not being locked into somebody else's rigid meal schedule, and we enjoyed being able to pick our own restaurants and to be able to meet different folks. While there's much to be said about spending several meals with the same group, on the whole we prefer to be a little less regimented.

The OK:
1. It's an older ship, so there's wear and tear showing. Lots of creaks and groans. Everything was clean, but you could tell the mechanical things were well experienced.
2. Overall food quality was unremarkable. It was rare that everything in a meal (Le Bistro excepted) was properly prepared. And we'd expect a ship that caters to primarily a US market to at least include some standard US "meat & potatoes" type of fare. It's fun to experience new flavors and foods, but sometimes you just gotta' have a good steak or a cheeseburger (the former impossible to find, the latter available but not on any menu).
3. The shore excursion program was extensive, and the tours we took were all excellent, but the ship's excursion staff didn't seem to know as much about the tours as we'd expected. We might have made different choices given more (and better) information. Some of that may have been because this was one of the first Hawaiian cruises of the season. But still . . . .
4. Food availability was kind of uneven. While you could find some kind of food at any hour of the day, you couldn't often get breakfast after 10am, and only then if you knew where to look. We didn't use Room Service, but the menu wasn't very exciting.
5. There was always music playing in the public areas, but it was almost never tropical. You'd expect a lot of Hawaiian music on a Hawaiian cruise. There was very little. On "Italian Night" the background music in the dining rooms was oriental. On "French Night" it was Irish.
6. There was limited TV fare, although we wouldn't have spent much time watching it. The Oct 15 earthquake hit while we were near Fanning Island, and there was just one satellite news channel with any info. Ship crew had little more to add, and we didn't actually know where we'd go next until we got there two days later.

The Not OK:
1. The crew seemed unsure of what was going on the first two days. Waiters didn't know the menu items (although they were able to find out) well enough to describe them. There was confusion about what was going to happen when, with conflicting information in the newsletter and the announcements. Maybe those things shake out as the season progresses.
2. Onboard shopping selection was OK, but the prices were almost always inflated to about double over identical items on shore.
3. Fully half of the ports of call involved using the tenders to get folks on and off the ship. When the seas were calm, it was a slow process - taking 3-4 hours to get everybody ashore that wanted to go. They have four gangways available for tendering, but used no more than two at a time. Some of that might have been the inability of the shore facility to handle more tenders, but there was almost always space at the dock when folks were waiting to go one way or the other. When the seas were not calm, the whole tendering process was unacceptable. On the last stop - Kona - the lines after our shore excursion were over two hours long, in the hot sun, with just three tenders running when they'd used five to get us ashore earlier. Granted you can't control the weather, but you can - and should - accommodate it.
4. Some of the more popular drinks - Pina Colada, Mai Tai - were available only in the souvenir glasses at a premium price. Took us a couple of days to find out you can get the same drinks cheaper by ordering "refills", even if you don't already have a funny looking glass.
5. Onboard internet and cell-phone service was very spendy, but also very good. But still - 75 cents a minute for WiFi and $5 a minute for cell service? We saw folks with cell phones glued to their ears the whole trip. While in port, you got your regular carrier. While at sea, you get that $5 a minute hit. We suspect some folks were very surprised when the statements came around.
6. One of our shore excursions was scheduled when the facility to be toured was not open - never is on a Monday. While we got a complete refund, that sort of thing just shouldn't happen.

We had a good time. It was our first visit to Hawaii, and won't be our last. But we probably won't return on an NCL ship. For a few hundred dollars more, we could have booked Princess, although with a different itinerary. We don't regret this cruise at all, but we'll improve on it the next time. On a scale from 1 to 10, we give it a 7.



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