Age: Baby Boomer
Number of Cruises: 25+
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Wind
Sailing Date: September 27th, 2002
Cruise Line: NCL
Sailing Date: September 27th, 2002
This was my second cruise to Hawaii this
year, and I was eagerly anticipating a return to one
of my favorite destinations, as well as meeting other
travel professionals from around the country for a seminar at sea.
Traveling from Cleveland, OH, I flew solo into Honolulu a day early in an
attempt to acclimate myself to the 6 hour time change (Something I would
encourage everyone to do anytime they cruise, but, in my opinion, an
absolute necessity when traveling through more than 3 time zones.) My
roommate, Pat, is a feisty lady from San Francisco, whom I had the
pleasure of meeting on another seminar at sea, and we
have become 'cruise buddies'.
Coming from the west coast, she chose to fly in the day of the cruise. I
planned to connect with her on board, as well as the other members of our
group. I stayed in Waikiki Beach, at the Outrigger Reef on the Beach and
was quite pleased. I would highly recommend this property for its
cleanliness, friendly and accommodating staff, excellent location,
affordable value, and variety of services.
The hotel is only a very short cab ride away from the port (less than 5 minutes), and as cabs are metered in Honolulu, costs about $10. I arrived at the Port of Honolulu well rested and ready for my Hawaiian Island cruise about noon. The embarkation process was relatively smooth and although there was a short line, it moved quickly and was on board about 12:30 pm.
I was escorted to my cabin #5068 (Deck 5, outside cabin with 2 portholes, very aft). This was definitely not the cabin of my dreams, but it was adequate. Given a choice I would not have selected this cabin, but our group of travel professionals had booked run of the ship and were assigned our cabins upon arrival at the port. I was to discover that some in our group had garnered cabins even less desirable than mine. My cruise experience has taught me that booking a guaranteed cabin category is a good bet, but I would definitely not recommend that tact when sailing the Norwegian Wind. This is one ship where cabin selection is extremely important! Overall cabin size, closet, counter and shelf space vary greatly within each cabin category.
My cabin was a prime example of the disparity. Cabin size was sufficient and there was one full closet, and a 1/2 closet with 3 storage shelves and the safe below. Limited, but ample for storing clothing for 2 women for a 10 day cruise (At least for seasoned cruisers who don't overpack). The beds were arranged in a twin configuration, comfortable, and high enough to slide our suitcases underneath. A small lighted desk with one drawer and 2 small shelves acted as our vanity. Two electrical outlets housed there are the only receptacles in the cabin (Bringing an extension cord is a wise move - particularly when women are traveling together). Four very tiny drawers and a couple of open shelves under the TV unit was the sum total of storage space. A chair, small glass table, and ottoman completed the furnishings of our room. A privacy drape separated our small sitting area from the beds. A full length mirror was well positioned on the inside of the cabin entry door. The bathroom was small, and the shower smaller. A lightweight cloth shower curtain was prone to cling to your body while showering (Bringing a couple clothespins from home to clip to the bottom of the curtain will alleviate that problem, however). There were no shelves under the sink, and we had only 1 small towel rack, the small shelf in the corner of the bathroom, behind the commode, was the only place to store clean towels. There was a small retractable clothesline in the shower for drying clothes, but ours was broken. A hair dryer is provided, but there are no electrical outlets.
In describing my cabin I would be remiss if I did not mention the extremely disconcerting noise from the engines. At times it was unbearable! (Imagine a loud rock band with an extremely dissonant, heavy base playing above your head constantly). I must admit, however, by the fourth day of the cruise I had gotten used to it, and was able to sleep to the sounds of our own private concert!
Now, move all the way forward in the ship to Cabin #5204, occupied by friends in the travel group. Although our cabins were similar, and within the same category, they had a nice sofa and chair with a much larger sitting area. They also had a thermostat control for their air-conditioning (we had none). They also had 2 full shelves under the length of the sink in the bathroom. At first glance one might assume that their cabin was much nicer than ours - well, looks can be deceiving! While a band performed in our cabin, they encountered an unusual noise that was described as a refrigerator being dropped from the upper deck and crashing through their room to the bottom of the ship. Another member of our group in Cabin #5000 equated the noise in their cabin as bowling balls being released helter-skelter against the wall of the cabin. While our aft cabin provided a gentle sway, those in the very forward of the ship were subjected to a nauseous pitch, drop, and roll as the ship cut through waves.
Another traveling companion in our group
was in Cabin #5058 (more mid-ship) and experienced no
noise or movement. Her cabin, in fact, was quite
pleasant and well furnished. A fact that adds credence to my comment
that cabin selection is all important on the Norwegian Wind.
I will start my tour on Deck 7 and move upward, as there only staterooms on Decks 4-6. Promenade Deck (7) is the location of the jogging track. The enclosed promenade circles the ship. At its center is a small, but attractive pastel lobby where guest relations, information and the shore excursion desk are located. A number of staterooms complete the configuration of this deck. It should be noted that although these staterooms are considered oceanview, the enclosed promenade interrupts the view, as well as the privacy in these cabins. Deck 8 is also just staterooms, so I will proceed to Deck 9.
Starting in the very aft of the International Deck (9) is a small pool and lounging area that can be reached only from outside stairs on Deck 10. The interior aft is the location of 'The Terraces' restaurant. Tables for two to eight are attractively arranged on three tiers. This room was one of the most attractive public rooms on the ship. Its expanse of windows, overlooking the aft pool and providing spectacular views of the ocean were a compliment to the excellent food and service. Strolling forward on an open corridor will take you through the card/game area, the 'Coffee Bar', and the 'Rendezvous Martini Bar'. It is difficult to identify these individual venues, as they all flow together along an open deck. Windows along the exterior of the deck provide continuous views of the ocean. This area was quite popular, both during the day and evening, and it was often difficult to find a seat. Tugged along the interior of this corridor is the Internet Cafe and 'Le Bistro'. The internet cafe has 6 terminals that were in use quite frequently on this cruise. Cost is a hefty $.75 per minute, or packages could be purchased, which were still quite pricey compared to other cruise lines services. As I knew I would be using the internet extensively, I purchased the 250 minute package for $100. In addition to the cost factor, the service was frequently down, consequently when there was internet access there were often lines of people waiting to use the computers. To accommodate the internet cafe, the library was relocated, and presently is nothing more than a check out desk and a few shelves of books along the entrance to the internet cafe.
Continuing to move forward on Deck 9 the sprawling 'Four Seasons' restaurant can be found midship. When the Norwegian Wind underwent its 'stretching' this area was expanded. Consequently, forward of the 'Four Seasons' are more staterooms. A downside to this stretching is the inaccessibility of these cabins. Getting to the public rooms requires an elevator ride to another floor, or the necessity of walking through the 'Four Seasons'. In addition to being an inconvenience, this public thoroughfare somewhat compromised the ambiance of the restaurant.
Deck 10, Star Deck, comprised the bulk of the rest of the public rooms. Again starting aft, The Galleria, a small banquette of shops, lined both the port and starboard side of the ship. The Photo Gallery was on the port side of the shopping galleria. Open corridors on both sides, like the one found on Deck 9, led from the shops to the other public rooms. Directly forward of the Photo Gallery was 'Lucky's Bar', which led into 'Dazzles Disco'. A number of sofas and chairs arranged in conversational sitting areas lined the exterior of the walkways on both sides of the ship. The bar and dance floor for both 'Lucky's' and 'Dazzles' was in the center of these two walkways. There was a definite design flaw in this concept. Due to the public access, listening to the talented duo performing near the dance floor, while you were seated on the other side of the walkway, was somewhat disconcerting. The other problem with the design had to do with noise distortion. Although there was a wall that separated 'Lucky's' and 'Dazzles', the open walkway on both sides allowed music from one venue to flow into the other. Very distracting to say the least.
Forward of 'Dazzles' was the bi-level Monte Carlo Casino. Due to laws in Hawaii, however, NCL was required to completely remove the casino for the Hawaiian itinerary. Presently the space is being used to showcase the various works of art that are part of the on board art auction. In my opinion, they could have used this space to much better advantage, as say, perhaps, another dining location to enhance the freestyle dining concept. Walking through the casino will take you to the entrance of the Stardust Lounge. This bi-level theater is the location of all major productions. Seating is tiered to provide good sight lines from any seat. There are a few poles that obstruct the view of some of the rear seats, but overall a well designed theater. There is a small cluster of cabins forward of the Stardust Lounge, and they suffer the same fate as the forward passengers on Deck 9. Due to the stretching midship, their most direct access to the rest of the ship is through the Stardust Lounge. Often, when a show is in progress that egress is unavailable to them, thus the saying, 'You can't get there from here' is apropos.
As we work our way upward we find ourselves on Deck 11, the Sun Deck. The Italian restaurant, 'Trattoria', is located at the very aft of the ship. It, like 'The Terraces', is tiered with wide expanses of glass to provide views of the ocean. For some reason, however, it does not exude the same pleasant ambiance as 'The Terraces'. The Kid's Corner and conference rooms round out the interior of this deck. The Kid's Corner was not very large, but as there were very few children on board, provided ample space for them to enjoy very personalized service by the capable, and energetic youth staff. Every time I had an opportunity to observe, the children and staff were engrossed in participatory activities that were being enjoyed by all.
Strolling forward will lead you to the open deck where the main pool is located. Topsiders Bar, and the Cafe/Pizzeria are tucked at one end of the pool, while cafe tables and chairs line its periphery. The Cafe/Pizzeria was the place to grab a quick cup of coffee or tea early in the morning. The deck space adjacent to this pool is also the location of the popular luncheon BBQ and can get very congested. Lines form early, and can be long. It is definitely not an ideal spot for a relaxing swim, but a great spot for people watching. You must traverse a flight of stairs to get to the other side of the deck where a wet bar, with two small pools entice you to cool off as you sit at the swim-up bar. An open deck leads to a tiered lounging area esconsed by two canopied hot tubs. Technically these are part of Deck 12, but one space flows into the other without a discernible difference. It is also the place where I could be found on any given day, basking in the sun. Between the hot tubs, is the Ice Cream Parlor that was open each afternoon. Be forewarned, however, that lines to get ice cream often wrapped around the deck, even before they opened at 2:00. Having the perfect opportunity to watch this phenomenon daily from my lounge chair, might I suggest waiting until about 3:00-3:30, when lines seemed to dissipate. Forward of the hot tubs was 'Champs', another outdoor bar, as well as the Mandara Spa, and fitness center. The fitness center, although open 24 hours, was not overly impressive. There were 5 stationary bikes, treadmills, and stairmasters of relatively standard quality in this small facility. On this cruise, it was seldom crowded, and many of the on board exercise classes were held in different locations on the ship.
The versatile, multi-purpose Observatory Lounge completed the forward section of Deck 12. During the day, its floor to ceiling windows provided an excellent sea view, whether you were enjoying enrichment lectures, health and wellness seminars, afternoon dancing, or a private gathering. From 5:30 - 7:30 each evening, the lounge was transformed into a sushi bar, where many enjoyed the Pacific Rim Buffet. At 7:30 the Oriental decor was removed, to make way for the entertainment planned there each evening. On any given evening the lounge could be a comedy cabaret, the location of the 50's/60's sock hop, or a game show. And when not being used for these entertainment venues, a very talented piano player provided easy listening, and dance music.
An open sun deck leads from the forward
Observatory lounge forward, passed the pool areas,
ending at the Sports Bar & Grill aft. Breakfast, lunch
and dinner buffets were all served here. It is not a very large space
and serving lines can become very congested. A small island within the
main serving area creates much of the problem, as the
space is it not well geared for two lines of traffic
moving simultaneously. The one beverage station for
coffee, tea, milk, and water is at the end of the buffet line. This
makes getting a quick cup of coffee, or refills very difficult. You must
either wait through the entire buffet line, or 'cut'
into line. Neither option is pleasant. Perhaps my
biggest complaint about this space is how it is
utilized. As the name implies it is also the Sports Bar. There are a
number of TV's situated throughout the room,
and was the designated location for watching football
and baseball games via satellite. For those of us who
are avid sports fans, October is a very important month in the sports
calendar. Being that the Sports Bar and Grill was also a major dining
venue, it was not conducive for relaxing and enjoying a sporting event.
Not only was the ambiance of a sports bar missing from
the equation, but I never felt very comfortable
sitting at a table watching a game, when there were
scores of people, trays in hand, searching for a place to sit and eat.
Basketball and volleyball courts could be found on Sky Deck 13, the
uppermost deck on the ship.
Food and Dining:
As part of the NCL fleet, the Norwegian Wind provides freestyle dining. There are no fixed dining times, or seating. On the Wind there are a number of dining options from which to choose. You determine, when, where, and with whom you would like to eat. From my perspective there are both pros and cons to this concept, which I will elaborate on further in the review. But, first let me share the options.
The impressive 'Terraces' was one of the two main restaurants, and also my favorite. 'The Terraces' emanates a sense of grandeur. It was elegant, yet inviting. The terraced dining area provided breathtaking ocean views from every table. The wait staff was professional and attentive, while maintaining a friendly and upbeat attitude. The quality of the food matched the excellent service. Having sampled the cuisine and service in this restaurant for all three meals at some point in the cruise, I can highly recommend 'The Terraces' as a dining pleasure. Full breakfasts (from 8-10 am), lunches (12-2 pm), and dinners (6-10 pm) could be enjoyed daily, at your leisure, with no reservations.
The 'Four Seasons' is the other main restaurant on board the Wind. The large restaurant with its low ceilings did not exude the same elegance or charm of 'The Terraces'. The decor and furnishings were derivative of 'convention dining', which did not appeal to me personally. I found the food and service to not be of the same quality as 'The Terraces', but I am all about ambiance, so that may have 'colored' my opinion. Lunch and dinner menus are the same as 'The Terraces'. A full breakfast buffet, with eggs cooked to order, is served here daily from 7:30-9:30 am.
The 'Trattoria' is the Italian restaurant on the Wind. I have already mentioned that its physical layout is similar to 'The Terraces' with its tiered dining levels and expanse of windows. The staff at this restaurant did not appear to be as attentive, or friendly as 'The Terraces', but in fairness, we chose to eat here only once, so I may not have given it a fair test. Cleveland, Ohio is an area that has a high concentration of Italians, and consequently, I have had the pleasure of dining in some of the best Italian restaurants in the country. Unfortunately, this was not one of them. Food was good, but not exceptional. The menu was somewhat limited and remained the same throughout the cruise.
'Le Bistro', the Specialty restaurant, requires a $10 cover charge, and reservations are recommended (However, they did not appear necessary on this sailing). This intimate, refined restaurant, with its pleasing ambiance, would definitely have been my favorite, if I had not already given that honor to 'The Terraces'. The decor and menu were both very cosmopolitan. Service was impeccable. As we chose to dine here on three separate occasions, it is obvious that, for us, the cover charge was well worth the experience.
I ate many quick meals at The 'Sports Bar & Grill'. As I have already described this venue, I will just share that I found the food to be typical of most cruise line buffets. At breakfast, there was a wide assortment of prepared foods, and waffles could be ordered. A bread station provided bagels, toast, and English muffins. At lunch the bread station usually became an Asian fusion station, and soups replaced the waffle station. The standard luncheon options, including burgers, hot dogs, and fries were always available. Rounding out the dining options was a luncheon BBQ, prepared poolside, providing a choice of chicken, ribs, or fish, as well as salads, and usually corn on the cob. This was a very popular venue, and lines at times were quite extensive. At lunch, if you wished to remain outdoors, and the luncheon BBQ did not appeal, pizza was served in the pizzeria, adjacent to the BBQ area. The 'Observatory Lounge' offered a nightly Pacific Rim Buffet for sushi aficionados. If you were still hungry in the evening, hot and cold canapes were served from 11:30 - 12:30 in the lounges. Add to this, 24 hour room service, and there is certainly no way anyone could complain that they did not have enough to eat on this cruise.
The Cruise: When we left Honolulu at 8:00 pm Friday night, I had no idea I was in store for the longest cruise to nowhere I had ever taken. It was also, without a doubt, the most interesting cruise for studying human nature I have encountered. An entire course in psychology could have been taught by simply observing the passengers on this cruise. I discovered the world really is divided into two distinct types of personalities. Those that see the 'glass as half-empty' and those that see the 'glass as half-full'. I most definitely belong to the latter group, and consequently my review of the cruise will reflect that philosophy.
Due to the nature of the cruise, and the events that transpired, I will digress from my usual review format of journal entries detailing each day and provide an essay of the experience as a whole.
Settling into my cabin to read the Welcome Aboard 'Freestyle Daily', I became aware of the first surprise of the cruise. The itinerary had been changed at the last minute. The days of our scheduled stops in Kauai, Maui, and Kona had all been changed. Now, being a very organized person, I had planned ahead reserving cars in each port before leaving home. I made some hasty phone calls (fortunately calls in Hawaii are included in my cell phone basic plan) and succeeded in changing my reservations. Based on the information in the 'Freestyle Daily', I canceled my car reservation in Kauai all together, as our time in port had been abbreviated and we were to be back on board by 2:30 pm. Being a beach person (and having just been on another cruise to the Hawaiian Islands in February), I had originally planned to go to Poipu Beach. With the shortened time in port, I opted to find a beach located closer to the port. This, however, as you will see, would prove to be another logistical mistake. Believing I had made all the necessary land arrangements to optimize my shore time, I headed for a lounge chair to relax and enjoy the rest of my first day.
As a side note: Although itinerary changes made at the discretion of the cruise lines is part of the fine print, and always a possibility, I believe NCL was remiss by not accepting responsibility for notifying passengers of this change. When disgruntled passengers complained, staff on board the Wind passed the blame onto travel agents who should have notified their clients of the change. I take issue with this excuse on two fronts. First, many of the passengers had booked their cruise with online agencies and had no travel agent resources on which to rely (This, by the way, is a whole other issue that speaks to the importance of booking through a reputable agent). Second, I AM a travel agent, and checked directly with NCL 2 days before sailing with regard to itinerary. At that time, NCL representatives were not aware of any changes in schedule. (If they were not knowledgeable of the change - travel agents were left as uninformed as the general public).
After enjoying the Welcome Aboard buffet in the 'Sports Bar and Grill', and a few hours in the sun, it was time to locate my roommate and make my mandatory appearance at the lifeboat drill. We then headed back to our cabin and prepared for the evening. Make sure you pack an overnight bag with a change of clothes and personal grooming items, as luggage is rarely delivered to your cabin before dinner. We met the others in our travel professional group at a cocktail party at 'Lucky's Lounge', then enjoyed our first dinner at 'The Four Seasons'. Lively conversation, and the opportunity to enjoy the company of new friends caused us to linger over dinner and consequently, we missed the 'Welcome Aboard Show'. With new friends in tow, and not ready to end our first evening, we headed for 'Dazzles Disco' and practically had the place to ourselves. The entire ship was quiet that night, but our small group of revelers managed to keep entertained.
Waking early Saturday morning to a glorious sunny day, I headed for the jogging track and enjoyed my daily power walk in total solitude. I enjoyed a tasty breakfast buffet at the 'Sports Bar and Grill' and anticipated a delightful beach break in Nawiliwili, Kauai. Having canceled the rental car, my friends and I debarked the ship to catch a cab to the Marriott. This hotel is actually within walking distance, if you are so inclined, but one of my traveling companions was unable to walk long distances - thus the need for a taxi. Well, this was another of our slight miscalculations. There were no cabs! The Norwegian Star was also in port and the small fleet of cabs available was insufficient to meet the demand. What makes this tactical error even more comedic, is, that morning, 'the powers that be' on the Wind extended out time in port. (Which would have allowed time to enjoy our original Poipu Beach plans - Had we not canceled our car reservation!) Eventually we did snag a cab and headed for the beach.
Now if you are to garner any knowledge from this review, learn from my mistakes. The beach is directly behind the Anchor Cove shopping area, and they provide continuous free shuttle service to and from the pier. We used the service for the return trip to the ship. The Marriott beach is a nice, albeit small, stretch of sand and Duke's (yes, part of the chain) is a great spot for a refreshing cocktail, or light lunch. It is very picturesque and great for people watching. Rental of water sports equipment and gear is also available for a nominal fee.
As a side note, Kauai is a lush, beautiful island that has such dense vegetation, the many remote locations are best viewed by a scenic helicopter tour. This is the only way to see portions of the island that are virtually impenetrable. From its black sand beaches, to Waimea Canyon in the outback, appreciating the awesome beauty of this tropical retreat requires a sense of adventure and a willingness to explore. Unfortunately, most cruise ships do not stay in port long enough for one to do much more than scratch the surface of what it has to offer. As the Norwegian Wind set sail for Fanning Island, we cleaned up and met others of our group for the Captain's Welcome Party. This was the first of two optional formal nights.
Part of the appeal of Freestyle Dining is the option of dressing formally for dinner. Personally, I love to dress for dinner, and although there were many others on board that had also elected for formal attire, this is one aspect of the freestyle experience that does not appeal to me. As everyone in our group had chosen formal attire, we opted to eat at 'Le Bistro', the Wind's specialty restaurant. Although reservations are recommended, on this night they were not necessary, and we were seated immediately upon arrival. Actually, dining here on any night of our cruise would not have required reservations. I do not know if that is typical of most sailings, or unique to the passenger profile on board this particular cruise. Service was excellent and the food was very good. Be aware, however, that food at this restaurant tends to be prepared on the well done side. If you like your steak medium rare, as I do - order it rare. This advise held true for the three times we ate here during the course of the cruise. The Seabass, on the other hand, got rave reviews and was prepared perfectly. This evening we managed to make the show and enjoyed a skillful performance of 'Jump, Jive & Wail!' by the lively Jean Ann Ryan Dance Company. Having risen so early, I was exhausted (as well as my body still experiencing time zone adjustments) and chose to retire after the show, leaving my traveling companions to once again close the disco.
Sunday was the first of our days at sea as we headed for our 2 day trek (or so we thought) to Fanning Island. Another beautiful day in paradise, and I was ready to spend the day baking in the sun. The clientele aboard this particular sailing was quite unusual, as to which I have already eluded. Perhaps the fact that I was one of very few bodies that occupied a lounge chair on the pool deck throughout the course of the trip, is a prime example of the atypical cruiser aboard the ship. Most spent the entire day inside playing board and card games (In fact, in order to make my way to the internet cafe to check e-mail during my occasional sun breaks, I had to weave my way through a myriad of people that seemed to occupy every bit of available inside space on Deck 9).
About halfway through the day, Captain Lindrupsen made an announcement that due to an emergency medical evacuation, we would need to turn around and head back to Kona. Well, so much for my car reservations that I had painstakingly rescheduled!! Once again I headed for the internet cafe to make quick revisions and requests, only to find that the service was down.
Nothing to do but relax, enjoy the rest of day's sun, and have a cocktail (It was 'happy hour' after all). Right before dinner I was able to use the internet service and made the necessary changes to my car reservations. Oh wait!! Just as I entered the cabin to inform my roommate that I had successfully changed our reservations - The Captain announced that due to port schedules, we would be unable to dock in Kona the next day, but would be going to Hilo instead. At that point I gave up!! All we could do was laugh and decided that I would revisit the internet cafe and just cancel all reservations - we would make no plans for the rest of the trip, just enjoy whatever came our way!
Unfortunately, this was not the attitude of many of the people on board. The mood and demeanor of the passengers turned very ugly and like a virus, the negativity spread. I do understand the frustration and disappointment of many of the passengers. If this were my first (and possibly only) trip to Hawaii I would not be thrilled with the itinerary changes and the need to cancel visiting Kona all together. On the other hand, I couldn't help but think that the medical emergency that caused this unforeseen set of circumstances was not just an inconvenience, but someone's life. It was certainly not the fault of NCL, but even with the goodwill gesture of offering guests a $50 per person on board credit, passengers on board were unhappy and quick to complain profusely!
We did not arrive in Hilo until about 2:00 pm on Monday, and were scheduled to leave at 8:00. Weather was typical of Hilo, overcast with the possibility of a shower. Visiting Volcano National Park, and Akaka and Rainbow Falls are the highlights of this stop, but, having just done that a few months ago on my last visit, I chose to pass on these activities. Consequently, we chose to catch a cab and spend some time downtown. I was not impressed! Hilo is much like Anytown, USA. There is no Hawaiian charm, or quaintness to this port.
A visit to the Observatory Lounge to feast on the Pacific Rim buffet (i.e. sushi bar) and the entertainment of comedian, Peter Sasso, awaited me upon my return to the ship. Now, for those of you who enjoy sushi, apparently this was a great taste treat. Being a Midwestern, meat and potatoes gal, this was not my favorite meal. However, one of the great things about cruising is the opportunity to try things that are new and different to you. Well, now I can cross that off my list of 'Try it, you might like it' things to do. We did enjoy this food venue one other time on the cruise (some of my traveling companions would have happily dined here nightly), but that night they also offered a Chinese buffet that was quite to my liking. The comedian left something to be desired, certainly not quite as good as the entertainment of the Hawaiian Cowboy, Wes Epae, the night before. We finished off the night in 'Dazzles Disco' (Surprise! Surprise!). By this point in the cruise, we felt like we were at 'Cheers' (You know, where everybody knows your name, and everybody has their own seat at the bar).
The disco on this particular cruise was virtually empty every night (remember, I told you this was an interesting mix of people), but we had great fun, nonetheless, and got to really know many of the staff. Duane, the DJ, was exceptionally personable, and the enigmatic smiles, and pleasant personalities of the bar staff were a welcome respite from the negativity that ran rampant on this cruise. At this point, it is probably good to mention that even though I did close the disco frequently during this cruise, it closed between 1:00 and 1:30 am every evening (Much different than most of the cruises I have been on of late). This is not a cruise for late night revelers!
We are now in our endless days at sea portion of the trip, with one day going by pretty much like the next. I love days at sea, however, so I was in my glory! My morning was spent at the first our travel seminars, which proved to be both helpful and informative. By noon, however, I was once again enjoying another fabulous day of sun and relaxation on the pool deck. Suspended in a state of euphoria, I was in heaven. On this night we tried 'The Terraces' for the first time, and the excellent service and outstanding quality of the food made it my favorite choice for dining. A 50's & 60's sock hop, and a hypnotist were the activities planned for the evening. These events were very well attended and kept many of the passengers entertained. Weather was a bit unsettled on our Wednesday at sea, but the jacuzzi is always a great place to hang when the sun isn't shining. The hot tubs were kept at a pleasant temperature (not really hot), which allowed for hours of relaxing and meeting new people. This unplanned respite from the sun was greatly appreciated by my body, however, as I had gotten a touch too much sun the day before. The Jean Ann Ryan Company performed "Forever Fame" that evening with their typical exuberant and vibrant style. This high energy troupe is quite talented and always a treat.
Thursday, day 7 of the cruise, and we had finally made it to Fanning Island, part of the Republic of Kiribati, located about halfway between Hawaii and Tahiti. The island itself is a classic circular coral atoll ringed with palm trees. As the island's only harbor is situated within a barrier reef, we tendered off shore. Most of the passengers were anxious to grab a tender and spend time on land. Tender tickets were distributed that morning, and as there was a long line to garner a ticket, we chose to wait until the crowds diminished and open tenders were called. Well, once again, one of our tactical errors! It seems that one of only two tenders that were being used to transport passengers broke, and was not replaced by another (definitely a mistake on the Wind's part). Consequently, disembarking passengers became a lengthy process, and by 1:00 pm we were still not off the ship. As there was still a long line of guests waiting for a tender, and not knowing what the return situation would be like, rather than waiting in line interminably, we decided to forego Fanning Island, and just enjoy the quiet on board.
Speaking to others in our group that did make the trek, Fanning Island got mixed reviews. Fanning Island is much like any of the cruise lines private islands with a nice beach area and an island BBQ buffet lunch. Some of our group found the beach to be quite lovely, while others were unimpressed. Some rented bikes for $10 an hour, and had a pleasant ride around the village, where they were greeted by friendly and unassuming islanders. Yet others found the island to be tawdry, and felt we had missed nothing by remaining on board. On my next trip to Fanning Island, I promise to get off the ship, and judge for myself.
That evening, our entertainment was provided by Matagi, the Polynesian cast that sailed with us. The "South Pacific Revue" took passengers on a journey of the Pacific Islands through music and dance. The young cast of this authentic replication also provided hula lessons, taught us the art of pareo tying, and helped the Hawaiian Ambassadress, June, with her daily Hawaiian arts and crafts during our cruise. A compliment to this engaging group of entertainers was the very knowledgeable expert, Kale Kumapac, who provided a number of enrichment lectures on Hawaiian history. Add to that mix the easy listening sounds of Robbie Kaholokula on Hawaiian guitar and passengers were offered a full range of Hawaiian experiences.
It is here that I must digress to inject a side note regarding the passengers on board. Many of the passengers expected this to be a theme cruise, and complained frequently that there was not enough Hawaiian atmosphere on board. At the same time there was another large contingency of passengers that complained just as loudly that they wanted less Hawaiian ambiance. They had expected the "Caribbean Cruise" atmosphere on board and were disappointed that a calypso band wasn't on board. Knowing what you want on a cruise, and what to expect from a cruise are two all important issues that must be addressed before one gets on board - not after the ship has sailed! After the revue, a number of our group headed for the "Coffee Bar", to delight in the sounds of Dixieland classics performed by the Norwegian Wind Showband. As usual, our evening ended with a nightcap at "Dazzles Disco".
By now my days were settling into a familiar pattern of the requisite morning power walk, a filling breakfast, and preparation for another day of lounging in the sun. My routine was broken up on this particular day by the second of our Seminars at Sea scheduled for the afternoon. This session was even more beneficial than the first, and gave me a wealth of information that I would be able to use once I returned to the world of work.
This was my second night to dine at the "Terraces", and once again the service and quality of food did not disappoint. Entertainment on this Friday at sea left a bit to be desired. In deference to the hard working cruise director, Steve, and his staff, this was an unavoidable result of our itinerary changes. You see, our entertainers missed the boat, so to speak. They were to board the ship in Kona, the port stop that was canceled. So, the cruise staff scrambled to develop alternative forms of entertainment to replace them. That evening, Steve enlisted the help of the assistant cruise director Dennis, the hotel director Scott, comedian Milt Abel, and juggler Peter Sasso and presented us with a rendition of the game show, "Liars Club". This was followed by a Country Hoedown Party. Neither of these activities appealed to me, so I chose to excuse myself from the evenings festivities. Saturday, day 9 of the cruise, and we were once again at sea. (By now you should understand what I meant at the onset of this review about being my longest cruise to nowhere). Awaking to another perfect day to lounge in the sun, I must admit my tan was developing quite nicely. I am sure my dermatologist would have preferred I attend the skin repair seminar, or the anti-aging skin care seminar being hosted the Mandara Spa, but I am a "suntan addict" and not yet willing to kick the habit. By now, I was in total relaxation mode, and the troubles and worries of the "real world" were a distant memory. Ah! Heaven!
This evening was the second of the optional formal nights, and once again "our group" made plans to eat at Le Bistro. We did make reservations for this evening, but as stated earlier, would not have been necessary. Before dining at Le Bistro, however, we attended a social gathering of our travel professionals group, for a photo op, and final opportunity to network. After dinner a rollicking production of "Sea Legs Circus at Sea" was presented by the Jean Ann Ryan Company. As usual, their inimitable style permeated this Broadway production show. We topped off the evening with our usual visit to 'Dazzles', followed by a good night's sleep to prepare for our next day in Maui.
We arrived in Lahaina about 8:00 am, and needed to clear US customs before we could venture ashore by tender. The process went very smoothly, and the tendering disaster of Fanning Island was not repeated. By 10:30 we were on shore and ready to enjoy our day on land. Maui is definitely my favorite of the Hawaiian islands. Lahaina is an eclectic mix of waterfront restaurants and bars, chic clothing shops, and art galleries. As it was Sunday, the craft fair under the huge Banyon tree was in full swing, beckoning us to admire (and purchase) local crafts and works of art. What was once the whaling capital of the world, this quaint village has an irresistible charm. We had planned to divide our time between shopping and the beach, so we headed for Ka'anapali Beach, just a few miles northwest of Lahaina, which was a perfect spot to do both. If you are so inclined, there is a Whaler's Village shuttle that provides transportation from the pier for $1.00. As we were anxious to get our day underway, however, we chose not to wait and grabbed a cab. A beautiful beach, with the backdrop of an avenue of fashionable hotels, and oceanfront restaurants makes this a very popular (and crowded) spot on Maui. Add to that the expansive Whaler's Village shopping complex and one could spend their entire vacation on this small strip of land.
After a wonderful afternoon on the beach, and fulfilling my shopping needs, we headed back to Lahaina for a quick stop at the Yacht Club, and Cheeseburger in Paradise. This was definitely a wonderful way to end our Hawaiian cruise, and I was sorry that our cruise was coming to an end. Back on board at 7:00, we prepared for our final night on the Wind. We chose to eat at "The Terraces" and joined others of our group for a wonderful meal at our favorite restaurant. Once again, our lively dinner conversation was so entertaining that we missed the final Variety Show. We did manage to visit the photo gallery for one last look at group shots, and final purchases. Although I am not fond of the staged photographs, sometimes they capture just the right moment that become treasured memories of new friends, and acquaintances.
On the last night, perhaps the thing I dislike most, other than the fact that it is the last night of the cruise, is the necessary packing and placing luggage outside your stateroom before retiring. It always seems to interfere with the enjoyment of the final night. It is the first step back into the real world.
Monday morning, October 7, we arrived in Honolulu early, and was thankful that we had chosen to spend 3 days in Honolulu before heading home. I could linger in paradise just a bit longer! One of the very nice things about a cruise on NCL is the final morning procedures. On most mainstream cruises you are required to vacate your cabin very early, and must wait in public a