Number of Cruises: 21
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Wind
Sailing Date: January 31st, 2007
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Wind Cruise Review
“Flash Sale,” deeply discounted, last minute, you can’t afford not to take this cruise was how my 5th trip on NCL and 20th overall cruise began. A quick cost comparison of a land vacation in Hawaii verses this cruise lead to the conclusion that, no matter what the shortcomings of the Norwegian Wind were from the reviews I read on the Internet it was worth the risk. It’s Hawaii; it’s warm, so how could we go wrong? That is unless the ship sank. As the saying goes, “you get what you pay for” therefore I set the bar of my expectation very low. As it turns out, I didn’t need to. In short, while not the best cruise I’ve ever been on (the Crystal Harmony) it certainly wasn’t the worst (the Viking Serenade) even though it was the least expensive.
For a ship that is being transferred out of the NCL fleet in April, The Wind is in remarkably good shape. The interior décor in places is amusingly dated but generally the ship is clean and well cared for. The open deck areas for sunning were plentiful and I thought better laid out than on the newer “Star” class NCL ships. Our outside cabin located on deck 10 (Star Deck) was functional, clean, and had plenty of storage space. Yes, the shower is small, but not impossibly so (and I’m 6’5” 250lbs). On the bright side the bathroom has a ton of shelf space.
The longer the cruise the older the crowd is the general rule. The rule proved correct. The average age of the passengers was 70 +, many with mobility issues which made the tender ports especially challenging and slow. There were just a few children and families and most of the 20-something’s were employees. The crew and officers were extremely friendly and engaging.
You’ll eat well, and often, nearly constantly if you wish. I’m an unabashed “foodie”, (non glutton variety) and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and variety of the food with the possible exception of several fish dishes which were tough and dry. There are two main restaurants, Four Seasons and Terraces. I would avoid eating dinner in the elevated center section of the Four Seasons dining room unless you like the ambiance of an operating room, or prefer to eat with your sunglasses on as it is shockingly over lit. We never had to wait more than a few minutes for a table at dinner, even if the lines were long when we arrived. The service in the restaurants ranged from fair to excellent depending on the skill of the waitperson. No different than any establishment really.
All the reviews complain that The Sport Bar (the dedicated Buffet Restaurant) is too small for the number of passengers that try to use it. That is true, but you can go through the lines and take your food down one level and use La Trattoria were you’ll find open tables and a better view for both breakfast and lunch. I’m surprised that more people didn’t seem to figure that out.
La Trattoria for dinner does require reservations, which were easy to obtain, and there is no additional fee. The food was comparable to a restaurant where dinner for two would cost you between $50 to $65 without wine or cocktails. Not too shabby!
La Bistro: Reservations required and a fee of $15 per person for the regular menu or $25 for the special menu (chateaubriand or rack of lamb). The portions were huge, and the food well prepared and attractively plated. Comparable meals on land would cost you $100 to $135 for two without the aforementioned booze. I found the service a touch “showy” as they make a clumsy to-do about unveiling the food.
The Bar servers, while not overly pushy, have a keen eye for an empty glass. Beverages from the Bars come with an automatic 15% gratuity, but I always added a little extra tip per drink in “additional gratuity” section until one of the friendly servers told me not to bother as NCL corporate keeps the lion’s share. After that I would tip in cash which all the servers really appreciated….and shock of shock, my drinks actually got stronger!
Casino: One of the things I had a hard time figuring out prior to the cruise was, is there a casino? The answer is no, all the gaming equipment was removed and the space is used for displaying “the art at sea.” They also use the space for yoga in the morning.
Showroom: All the negatives of the showroom have been documented well by other reviewers. Not enough rise, small stage, pillars, etc. I found the best sight lines were either in the very front or very back. The real problem isn’t the showroom but the folks that wander in 15 minutes late trying to find a seat, in the dark with a grumpier-than-thou attitude. The production shows featuring the June Allyson oops, I mean Jean Ann Ryan dancers, were entertaining, but not for the reason they would like advertised. Tired cliché material (“Fame”), nasal off key singing, with amateurish and poorly executed choreography combined to make literally a parody of a cruise ship production show. Brilliantly bad! The Matagi Polynesian Cast on the other hand was wonderful and did several shows.
When it comes to lounge acts and bands NCL usually does a great job, and for the most part they got it right. On this cruise, besides the versatile show band (not their fault the production shows stunk) there was the talented Top Two Duo (playing in Lucky’s Bar) and the fantastic piano player “Fingers” Fred Potvin. The Wind does not have a dedicated Piano Bar so Mr. Potvin sadly is relegated to playing in the lounge between the two main restaurants which is no easy task especially when the hostesses are loudly summoning cruisers for dinner in the early evening. Distractions aside, the passengers were treated to piano pyrotechnics of the highest quality.
NCL rotates a different Hawaiian Ambassador on the Wind cruises. They are sort of cultural attachés, dance and Hawaiian craft instructors. The Ambassador for our cruise was June. Attractive, extremely funny, insightful, graceful and gracious she literally packed the show room several days teaching both men and women to make flower and kakui nut leis and several Hawaiian dances. If the other Ambassadors are anywhere near as good a June you most definitely what to check it out.
The usual cruise ship activities of bingo, trivia, pool games, etc. are scheduled regularly but seem to pale in comparison to the activities of structured Hawaiian programs. Perhaps it is because we’ve all done them before or perhaps because with the exception of the Cruise Director and Assistant Cruise Director the young Cruise Staff that hosted these events seemed bored to the point of distraction and unable to relate to the passengers on any significant level.
If you haven’t been to Hawaii before you should check out www.portreviews.com. It’s concise and informative. In Hilo I did my first ship based excursion in about 10 years to the Volcano National Park. The weather sadly did not cooperate and we couldn’t see a thing. I will remember this excursion not for getting completely drenched running into the crater observatory but for the fact that our driver “Cousin Shirley” talked every second (and I mean EVERY second) of the trip. In addition to Hawaiian lore we also learned the tax rate, name of every flower, building, restaurant, rock, homes prices, inter-island airline fares, what illegal drugs the kids are taking, traffic routes, how she lost weight and what she likes to cook for dinner for her husband. Memo to self: Bring noise canceling headphones if you ever run into Cousin Shirley again.
Due to weather related issues after Hilo we had to go back to Honolulu to take on more fuel. Kona was dropped and this threw the itinerary off by one day which had many people scrambling to re-book rental cars and outside tours. I enjoyed the sea days to and from Fanning Island which was one of the reasons to consider this cruise instead of going on the American flagged NCL ships which just meander from Hawaiian port to port.
Fanning Island is not like visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu where primitive is lush, clean and green. Fanning Island is the real thing, dusty, austere, and constantly smelling of smoke from the wood fires they cook with since there is no power on the Island. It is corrupted by civilization enough to be sort of creepy. Not pushy creepy like parts of Mexico where the children sell Chiclets. Here the children just pose in front of signs with baskets on them requesting one dollar. They don’t solicit; they don’t have too. They just pose. If you are easily affected by passive pandering you might want to consider the optional excursion to Napali Beach where for $25 dollars extra you are more “secluded”. Which in NCL speak means “fewer locals”. Since the majority of the NCL Hawaiian fleet is now American flagged and no longer needs to stop at Fanning Island, I had to wonder will the locals be better or worse off in the future?
In Kauai we docked next to the NCL Pride of America. While I will admit to a bit of “balcony envy” as she had them everywhere, I think she is the ugliest example of the new style of stubbed nose boxes, more hotels that float than ships. If you want to rent a car, make sure you make reservations in advance. We drove up to Waimea Cannon, took a few pictures and then continued up the road 7 miles to the truly spectacular Kalalau Lookout which requires an additional one mile walk up and down a steep but paved road. Well worth the effort.
On our full last day we tendered into Lahaina on Maui. They have the infrastructure that anything the ship offers regarding excursions you can do better in town. Lots of shopping there and it’s just a quick shuttle or taxi away to even higher end shopping in Ka’anapali’s ritzy Whalers Village. As we wandered along the beach trail by Ka’anapali’s huge timeshare resorts I saw something that made me feel very good about the decision to take this cruise, and put the entire trip in perspective. The pool areas at the resorts were much more crowded than on the ship. Not that I take pleasure in the discomfort (or at least over-crowding) of others, but it was nice to know that my little corner of the sun was as good as or better than theirs, and at a fraction of the price.