Year Started: 1966
Ships in Fleet: 13
Summary: With the recent introduction of new ships the third biggest cruise company in the world. Free-style cruising, elaborate dining options and surprisingly good entertainment.
Regions:Bahamas, Bermuda, Caribbean, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Eastern Seaboard, Caribbean, Bermuda
Good for: Value for Money. Children`s Programs. Singles.
Regions:Caribbean, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Regions:Bahamas, Caribbean, Eastern Seaboard
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Bahamas, Caribbean
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Bahamas, Caribbean
Good for: Value for Money. Teens. First-time Cruisers.
Good for: Group. Singles. Families.
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Caribbean, Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Western, Mexico
Regions:Alaska, Caribbean, Inland Waterways, West Coast
Good for: Families. Value for Money. Teens.
Good for: Value for Money. Overall Service. Disabled Travelers.
We sailed the Norwegian Spirit, roundtrip from Boston to King's Wharf, Bermuda.
Roger and I sailed this cruise in a balcony stateroom, with our friend, Dave, in a solo oceanview cabin. This was our first NCL cruise and our first visit to Bermuda, and we thoroughly enjoyed both.
We stayed one night pre-cruise at the Holiday Inn Brookline, and we took the "Green Line" right outside the hotel to the Copley stop, to enjoy a pre-cruise dinner at Legal Seafood, which was wonderful.
The next morning, we grabbed a ride with King's Shuttle to the pier early, and we made arrangements for the same shuttle to pick us up after the cruise. After a short wait, we were one of the first passengers aboard the ship shortly before noon. We loved the warm greeting with a glass of champagne as we boarded the ship. We grabbed a plate from the buffet and settled in at a table to dine al fresco in the aft Raffles bar. We struck up a conversation with another couple at a nearby table, Jo and Bob, who we enjoyed meeting throughout the cruise. We dropped off our laptopsin our room by 1 pm, although the rooms weren't ready to be occupied until 2 pm.
Our next stop was a stop at the spa to book a hair appointment for our Dave, then we were off to make our dinner reservations. We booked Le Bistro for that evening, and we also booked "The Enchanted Dinner" for Tuesday night, which we highly recommend.
The muster drill was quick and painless at 3 pm, and we were sailing away by shortly after 4 pm. We were supposed to meet with some other guests at the aft bar, but it was just the three of us and Jake and Nancy, so we moved on to the Sailaway party. I enjoyed dancing by the Lido pool, while Roger watched the shore get farther and farther away. The weather was a little cool, but we were on vacation!
Our luggage was there when we returned to our room, so we unpacked quickly and dressed for a cocktail hour with our group in the Majaharini's Lounge. Our friend headed to the Singles Social in Champagne Charlie's, but no NCL staffer ever arrived, and he didn't see any other singles, so we headed on to our dinner in Le Bistro.
Got to say -- this is the best $15 per person meal we've ever enjoyed. We all ordered something different, so we could try a lot of things. My escargot appetizer won out over Dave's asparagus and scallops and Roger's scallops. And, everyone agreed my cream of mushroom soup was absolutely the best. But, Dave's tenderloin steak and Roger's rack of lamb were much better than the lobster dish I paid extra for. Our meal ended with a crepe suzette dessert prepared flaming tableside by our server, Horace, and his lovely assistant waiter, Anyu. Ask for them when you make your reservation, as they're absolutely the best. And, we highly recommend eating in one of the specialty restaurants the first couple nights, because you'll get exceptional service while they sit mostly empty. We wrapped up the evening in Henry's Pub, where Carrie Stone entertained us with her songs and guitar stylings.
We had rough seas for the next 24 hours, but everyone seemed to manage them quite well. Breakfast in the Windows dining room was just like any breakfast at sea, so we decided to have lunch in Henry's Pub, where we could choose from wings, fish and chips, and raw oysters on the half shell. We had them all, and they were great. (The oysters were a half dozen for $5 or a dozen for $10.) We met up with friends in Henry's every sea day around lunch time, before dinner, and usually wrapped up our evening there.
Our evening meals in the Windows dining room were just so so -- adequate food and service -- about what you'd expect from a dining room serving a thousand people. Shorts were prohibited in the evening in the Windows dining room, but permitted in the Garden dining room. The Garden dining room was much smaller and filled up quickly each night, probably due to the more relaxed dress code.
Sea days offered opportunities to learn to make sushi and enjoy sake, wine tastings, martini tastings, and beer tasting with food pairings, and margarita mania, so each of us enjoyed one or more of these fun activities. David visited the spa twice, once for a haircut and once for a seaweed massage, both of which he thoroughly enjoyed.
We ended up dining in Le Bistro for two evening meals, had one meal in the Garden dining room when we were dressed more casually to head back into Bermuda for an evening excursion, and all the rest of our meals in the Windows dining room, except for our Tuesday night "Enchanted Dinner."
The Spirit has a unique Art Gallery that's up one small flight of stairs from deck 7 beside one of the entrances to the Casino. Bruce Van der Boon, the concierge, met us at the bottom of the steps to welcome us to our special evening, and we were escorted to our waiting table. We had looked for Carrie Stone to enjoy her music with a pre-cruise drink before dinner, but she wasn't listed anywhere. We were delighted to find she was the live entertainment for our dinner, and our table was right next to where she performed. The candlelit atmosphere surrounded by fabulous art and Carrie singing created the perfect ambience for a wonderful dinner.
We soon learned that our server, Kelton Fox, was roommates with Horace Reed -- our fabulous server from Le Bistro, and the next time we went to the Windows dining room, we asked to be seated at a table in Mr. Fox's area, and we suggest you do the same.
For this evening, we had a choice of appetizers and soups. One salad was offered, and we had a choice of entrees, both of which were surf and turf. Shrimp Cocktail was one of the appetizers, with giant shrimp, not tiny ones like we received in the dining room. We were served champagne when we arrived, with a nice white and red wine served as the meal continued. Many of the ship's officers stopped by our table throughout the evening, including the Hotel Director, the Food and Beverage Manager, and several chefs. At the end of our meal, we were presented with a special dessert -- and all I can say is it was fabulous. The $65 per person price tag included all the wine and champagne as well.
The White Hot Party was that same evening, so we headed back to our staterooms to change into our mostly white attire and headed up to the Galaxy of the Stars to dance the night away. NCL knows how to throw a great party. This was the best party at sea we've ever experienced, and we loved dancing the night away. Thanks to Dave, Jake, and Roger, for keeping the ladies in our group up and dancing all evening.
We enjoyed a "Behind the Scenes" tour, where we saw lots of the ship, plus a preview of Thursday evening's Chocolate Buffet displayed in the Galley. Be sure to take the circular staircase in the Galaxy of the Stars down into a small room where you can watch the activity on the bridge and view where the ship is headed from the Captain's view.
We were lucky enough to catch two performances by the acapello singing group, Home Free, which were leaving the ship with us. Selwyn Wright did a great job entertaining on the piano, and Amadeus offered some great dance music. We enjoyed the Second City Troupe workshop one sea day afternoon, teaching us improv comedy, and Dave was lucky enough to perform with them in one of their evening performances.
We only caught two evening shows -- the magician and the farewell crew talent show. We were having too much fun enjoying our dinners and Carrie Stone the other nights. The Stardust Theatre was arranged to give all the guests a fabulous view of the stage, but the entrance to this theatre brings you into the front of the theatre. We arrived close to show time for our first visit to see the magician, and we saw seats on the front row available, so we slipped into them. The server slipped over to explain these seats were reserved for guests purchasing a minimum of $25 per couple in drinks so we ordered drinks, because they were great seats for a magic show! We had heard about NCL's fountain at the end of the talent show, so we were disappointed that this was not included on this trip.
Our stateroom was small, so we were glad we had a balcony. Our stateroom stewards, Butty (prounounced booty) and Day, kept it perfect, and it seemed they were always outside our room to greet us warmly as we came and went.
We loved Bermuda. When we arrived at around 11 a.m. on Sunday, we bypassed the long lines of people buying bus/ferry passes in the terminal building and got ours in the visitor information center in the town square. We took a bus to Horseshoe Bay Beach, where we relaxed for a while, then followed a beach path to several nearby beaches. We wore ourselves out doing this, and each one looked the same as the next, so we don't recommend this adventure.
That evening we took a ship excursion, the Bermuda Triangle Glass Bottom Boat excursion. It was a great evening cruise, but you definitely need to dress warm, because you're on the water. We had our first (of many) Rum Swizzles on this excursion.
Monday morning Dave headed out for a two-tank scuba dive, and we took the ferry for a walking tour of St. George's. While we know we could have visited all the highlights on a map without a guide, we highly recommend booking a guide, because ours showed us so many things we would have missed without his tour. We began the tour at noon in the town square, with a reenactment of the dunking of a town gossip. Plan to take the 11 am ferry to arrive just in time for this reenactment. And, get in line for the 11 am ferry by 10:30 or you may find there's no room!
After our tour, we enjoyed a mid-afternoon meal on the second-story terrace of George and Dragon located right on the town square, a great outdoor mall where you can people-watch. While we were dining, NCL's Majesty pulled into town! We joined their guests in a .8 mile trek to Tobacco Bay Cove, where we enjoyed a couple hours beach time, before heading back .8 miles to catch the last ferry back to the Dockyard at 6 pm.
We took Dave back to St. George's the next day, so he could enjoy the highlights of St. George's as much as we had. For that trip, we enjoyed lunch and drinks at the Whitehorse Pub & Restaurant. Try their interesting Pink Sand Margarita. The only way I can describe it is "fluffy," -- kind of like a party in your mouth!
And, we saw the announcement about the Epic's new entertainment while at sea. We can't wait to experience Freestyle Entertainment on this grand new ship sometime down the road.
Disembarkation took a really long time. They called for a few people to come to customs and/or settle their bills with the purser over and over again. Finally early disembarkation started at 9:30 am, after they had stood in line for hours. We had picked up tags for the 10:15 disembarkation, because we weren't flying out until the next day, and Dave's flight was at 2:30 pm. We loved waiting in our stateroom and on our balcony leisurely while waiting to disembark. Finally our color tags were called at 10:45, and it was almost 11 am when we reached our luggage. We phoned King's Shuttle, and they met us outside within minutes.
We had one night post-cruise at the Holiday Inn Express Airport at 69 Boston Street. We had intended to tour Boston that day, but we ended up relaxing in our hotel until dinner time. We walked to a neighborhood restaurant recommended by the hotel clerk, 224, and wow, one more great meal -- pumpkin cannelloni and organic pizza. Wonderful!
King's Shuttle picked us up one last time the next morning to take us to the airport. Our flight was non-eventful, until we arrived at our final destination but one piece of our luggage did not. When we filed the claim, they said they had already discovered it left behind in Boston and assured us it would arrive in Little Rock late that day, and they would deliver it the next morning about 7 am. And, they did, so great service American Airlines -- if only it had arrived in the first place!
Closing Thoughts I wasn't sure we'd like Freestyle dining, but we really did. And, we really loved Le Bistro, and we wished we'd visited all the others. We had heard that NCL had an older clientele, but we found all age ranges on the Spirit, with everyone looking to have a good time. And, as I said before, Bravo, NCL -- you know how to throw a fabulous Party at Sea!
We had planned to purchase minutes from our laptop, but we heard the connection was really slow, so we opted to stay offline during this trip. The Freestyle Dailies said you could connect wireless in the Library/Internet Café, and on deck 7 and 8 in the Atrium. Our stateroom was directly below the Library/Internet Café, so we thought we might have wi-fi there, but there was no connection.
My Best TipsPlan all your evening meals in the specialty restaurants. It's worth the small cover charge for a slower pace meal, exceptional service, and fabulous food. Just my opinion! Don't miss Carrie Stone! Book the Enchanted Dinner in the Art Gallery! And, if this is your first visit to St. George's, hire a tour guide. Bring white clothes and get on your feet and dance at the White Hot Party! (You can also buy a cute white t-shirt in the gift shop that has "White Hot Party" printed on the front and wings printed on the back.)
And, you can check out our photos at community webshots Feel free to email me with any questions at email@example.com
Here's link to my review.
This review is going to be more helpful suggestions and comments that a straight review. I am a very experienced traveller, but not a big cruiser. The only other ship I've been on was Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas. The Dawn does not have the "wow" factor. The central atrium only goes up a couple of floors and the décor of bright turquoise and coral is rather cheesy looking. The staff, however, is delightful.
On the day of departure try to arrive at the pier around 11:30 a.m. It gets very busy very quickly, and we found no problems getting dropped off curbside at that time. By noon we had established our shipboard account and got our boarding number, so got right on the ship.
You will board at Deck 7. Turn left, and continue along the walkway. After you go through the Blue Lagoon restaurant, turn right and go down the steps into the Venetian. This restaurant serves a very nice sit down lunch. The buffet is a mob scene the first day as no one realizes the Venetian is open!
You will not be able to get into yourcabin until about 2 p.m., so after lunch explore the ship. Your bags will not arrive until as late as 5 p.m., so be sure to have any immediately needed items in your hand baggage.
The Room: Not the greatest furnishings. Other than your bed, all you have is a small square table with 2 hard kitchen type chairs. That's it. There is quite a lot of storage, and there is a good number of wooden hangers provided. The problem is the hanging rail is not very long, and the wooden hangers are thick and heavy so your clothes get crushed together. If you have a number of lightweight tops, bring yourself a few wire hangers for these, and put the extra wooden hangers out of the way so your clothes have more room. There is only 1 outlet in the entire cabin, none in the bathroom (except for a shaver outlet). We brought a multiplug to give us the equivalent of 3 outlets and were glad for it. We also brought a nightlight, which I plugged into the shaver outlet in the bathroom for night time moving around.
Each person gets 1 fluffy, but small bath towel, a handtowel that's little more than a finger tip towel, and a wash cloth. I have long hair and was glad I'd brought my Turbitwist. The bathroom is stocked with liquid product dispensers which have high quality lavender hand soap, shower gel and shampoo. There is no bar soap. I suggest you bring some facewash, also a bath puff as the shower gel does not lather well without one.
Each person has the use of a bathrobe. Also in the room is a 1000w hairdryer with cold shot button. It is VERY heavy & not very powerful. The cabin also has a coffee maker and a small, stocked fridge (steep prices to use the contents). We brought a bottle of wine and put it in the fridge. No one said anything.
The beds have nice, soft, high thread count sheets. The pillows, however, are dense foam, so you may wish to bring a soft travel pillow. The mattress was "OK", nothing to get excited about, but by no means the worst one I've slept on.
There is a small TV in the room with very limited programming: about 6 channels dealing with the cruise ship, CNN, Headline News, Fox News and Cartoon Network. There are also 2 premium movie channels which show more or less the same films as in the cinema.
Restaurants: the Garden Café buffet (Deck 12) is open more or less all day and up till midnight. The food is set up on lines cafeteria style, which is not the prettiest set-up, however it allows for a lot of seating, and we never had a problem finding a table. The advantage is its wide selection and speed of service.
The Venetian serves 3 meals a day, Aqua only dinner. Most passengers have a strong preference for one or other of these restaurants. They both serve the exact same dinner menu, but some people like the open elegance of Venetian, while others like the cool, hip vibe of Aqua. Their menu offers you a choice of 9 appetizers, 9 entrées and 5 dessert choices, most of which change daily. There are also light dining options available. If you are in a balcony cabin or suite, please note that Aqua is also open to only you for breakfast Monday – Saturday. The sign will say "private function", but just go in and give your room number for seating. It took us 3 days to find the little card behind the TV offering this special privilege. It was particularly helpful on Wednesday as the first day in port everyone rushes to eat and get off the ship at the exact same time.
Reservations for the specialty restaurants can be made by phone or by visiting the desk in the Deck 7 atrium, just across from reception. The desk was staffed just about all the time, and we had no problems getting reservations.
The Bistro had very high quality French food (we found out the Food & Beverage Manager is French, which may be why). On the walls are ORIGINAL Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh and Matisse paintings. Impressions had good (not great) Italian food. Bamboo had "OK" Pan Asian food. Nothing like dining in NYC. I heard mixed comments about the sushi, so did not try that, likewise I did not try the hibachi finding the $25 cover to be exorbitant. Did not try Cagneys.
Bimini Grill is located up the staircase from the Deck 12 pool and fixes burgers, hotdogs and grilled chicken for lunch and afternoon dining. Blue Lagoon is open 24 hours and I really enjoyed their food. The tomato soup with basil cream was delicious, as was the fish & chips. Sprinkles is not a real restaurant, but rather a section of the pool bar where a guy scoops icecream cones. The New York Deli is also not a restaurant but rather a section of the Garden Café on the port side with deli meats and hotdogs available at all times.
The pool area is rather gaudy looking, but there are plenty of sunbathing chairs thanks to a tiered design. If you prefer a quieter environment, walk forward on 12 to the very front of the ship where there is a quiet zone along with another jacuzzi for quiet enjoyment. If you enjoy swimming in a nice warm pool, the small round pool closest to the pool bar is almost as warm as the jacuzzi and is really lovely.
I visited the Fitness Center the first day. There are a variety of cardio machines and weights, but the place gets very busy on days at sea. Yoga, pilates and spin classes are available for an additional fee. They want you to sign up for 3 classes for $30 (plus automatic gratuity) for the 3 days at sea. I signed up for yoga and went to the first class, but unfortunately I had to stop due to a badly pulled muscle from the day before. I got a refund of the 2 unused classes. Quite honestly it wasn't much of a loss: the yoga class was really boring -- we kept doing the same thing over and over.
If you are tempted by the spa, I noticed they ran very good deals during the days in port. These specials extended into the evening hours. The best deal was day 1 in Bermuda where you got 2 hours of pampering for $119! There is a nice lap pool, jacuzzi and sunning area inside the spa. They will try and get you to pay $99 to use it for the week. I later found out you could get a 1 day pass for $20. If the weather is really lousy it might be worth doing this.
Entertainment in the evening ran the gamut, definitely something for all tastes. Check your daily Freestyle newsletter as some days they only run 1 show at 9 p.m. and other days there are two at 7:30 and 9:30. The 7:30 show tends to be more popular. People rush through the buffet to get to the show on time. The 9:30 show always had lots of seats available.
Dave Heenan the comedian did a very funny family friendly show. I understand his late night act in the nightclub is very bawdy, but his regular show was fine. The magician continued a light, comedic banter as he did a number of classic tricks: he was very talented. There is a Second City comedy troupe on board, and if you enjoy SNL type skits, you will love their show. There is also a group of dancers that create musical shows for the other nights. The Bollywood show is definitely the best of these: a combination of dancing and circus type acts. Try to sit at least 8 rows back or you will miss some of the acts.
Bermuda: The ship docks at the farthest NW tip of the island grouping. There are 3 modes of transportation to get where you want to go: taxis (very expensive), ferries and buses. Ferries leave from right next to the ship and go to Hamilton or St. George's. Likewise, buses leave from the same area and take you to beaches and into Hamilton (change in Hamilton for St. George's). Make sure you double check with the driver as some buses go by the middle road and do not pass near the beaches. Buy a pass good for both buses and ferries from the Tourist Information booth right at the end of the dock. You can get 1, 2 and 3 day passes depending on your travel needs.
The Naval Dockyard has the Maritime Museum. Unfortunately when we visited most of the exhibit buildings were closed for renovation. For $8 I felt rather ripped off. There is limited shopping nearby, which is good for last minute purchases on Friday before departure. Check out the new pharmacy which is just past the glassworks/rum cake building. The Clocktower Mall is a lot smaller than it looks, but there are a couple of T-shirt shops as well as island crafts. The Craft Market, by the way, was rather disappointing.
If you want to go for afternoon tea, we went to the Fairmont Hamilton Princess. It was elegant and had a Bermuda twist, it was also $34 per person plus gratuity. We later found out that Mrs. T's tea shop is right on the Middle Road bus route.
The Bermuda Underwater Institute is really worth a visit. Interesting exhibits on shipwrecks, local shells, the Titanic and all sorts of other things. Take the Middle Road bus and it drops you right by the door without having to go into Hamilton and changing buses.
If you are a scuba diver, I can highly recommend Blue Water Divers at www.divebermuda.com Their main shop is at Robinson's Marina adjacent to Somerset Bridge, about 15 minute bus ride from the ship. They work with novice through expert divers and have all the equipment you need. I did a 2 tank morning dive and got to visit 3 wrecks! An awesome experience!
I realize I've written a lot here, hopefully some of my suggestions will help you enjoy your cruise even more. That's it for general passengers, read on if you are travelling with a handicapped passenger.
Information for Disabled Passengers: I was travelling on this trip with my mother who uses a wheelchair for long distance walking. Be sure to use the special check in line within the pier in New York. You will get priority boarding. Note to person pushing the wheelchair: the ramp onto the boat in NYC is VERY steep. If you are not in the best of shape, ask for assistance! When you arrive at the Venetian restaurant at the back of deck 7, push the down button for the elevator: there is a handicapped entrance to the restaurant that we had such trouble finding.
Handicapped cabins have enough space for the wheelchair, and a ramp into the bathroom (which you will trip over all week, be careful). The biggest problem we encountered was the door to the room: our last ship had a button you pushed for automatic door opening, this one did not, and the door is stiff and heavy. A disabled person without a caregiver will have problems with it.
Most of the ship is handicapped accessible, just refer to your pink sheet and you shouldn't have any problems. The biggest shock to us was when we arrived in Bermuda: you CANNOT take folding wheelchairs on buses in Bermuda! You are limited to the ferries or taxis. Apparently they have just ordered 12 specialty buses that will take them in the future, but they are not yet available. Ask when you arrive and see if they are in service yet.
Be careful negotiating around the Naval Dockyard. If you are heading to the Maritime Museum, Frog & Onion or Craft Market, take the road farthest to the right or you will end up having to cross a courtyard that is not wheelchair friendly. Also, if you decide to visit the Commissioner's House at the Maritime Museum, be advised the hill up to the house is VERY steep. There is an elevator inside the house: go all the way around to the back and enter the lowest floor. The elevator is in there among the cannon -- it's not easy to find.
We were extremely disappointed in the food. In total this ship has 12 restaurants, eight of which you have to pay for. So after we spent money already on the cruise, we opted for the no charge restaurant "Aqua." We all ordered prime rib and we all wound up sending it back. It was like shoe leather.
I have cruised many times before on Carnival. They also have a restaurant that charges a cover. But Carnival only has one. Here they have 14 restaurants. Also the lunches on both days were hot dogs and hamburgers on the buffet. There was also salad smothered in ceaser dressing.
I will not cruise NCL again. The cabin was also smaller than my bathroom at home. I realize this cruise was less expensive, but never again!
I've got to tell you, I was very impressed with NCL, both before we cruised and during. The Baltic 12 day cruise was awesome with the highlight being the two days in St Petersburg, Russia, particularly with our private tour guide Anya we found through the internet (guidestpetersburgrussia dot com), but more on that later. I will try to categorize our cruise experience by pre-cruise information, arraignments and preparations (telephone & internet) and then the actual resulting experience both on the ship and in the various ports. Hopefully this information will help all future cruisers.
Initially, I checked all the cruise sites and found that NCL had prices lower than the consolidators, which is a change from what I'd found in the past. So, I booked through them on the phone (this turned out to be fortuitous as I will explain). They gave me discounts for being an old guy and also for being retired military. The phone center people that worked with me were very helpful every time I called. They answered all my questions even to the point of quoting NCL guidance so there was no questions on procedures (particularly theprocedures for bringing on our own wine). I even got them to provide a partial wine list and we tried the wines before we left so we already knew what we liked (and the cost).
We don't use the cruise excursions when we cruise, so I booked everything ahead of time thru the internet. I found limited information about port visits from NCL other than their excursion information, but that is understandable. However, Cruise Critic reviews were very helpful in establishing our own excursions. We spent four days in London (6th visit) pre-cruise and stayed near the airport (and tube station) and took the tube into London which worked well and reduced costs for hotels. We had booked a Shakespearian play at the Globe Theater online which was very enjoyable. Otherwise we did the normal tourist stuff in London as there is always something new to see and, of course, the obligatory shopping for the ladies (I usually sit in a Pub nursing a beer during shopping). We had rented a car, actually a mini van, to hold the luggage, (which was cheaper to park at the hotel for 2 of the 4 days than to rent for 2 separate days) and drove to Dover, saw the Castle and dropped the vehicle off. The rental guys then took us to the ship.
We had port side rooms so we'd be able to see the white cliffs while sailing away. Embarkation was the quickest and easiest I have ever experienced. We were apparently amongst the last to get to the ship as there were dozens of check-in folks and just a few guests checking in. So it took about 15 minutes to get into the door and onto the ship for the four of us.
Ports Copenhagen: We walked from the ship into the city which was past the Little Mermaid and was a pleasant 20-30 minute walk. Wandered around down town (shopping of course, which left me in a street side café nursing a beer) toured Rosenberg Palace (location of crown jewels of Denmark), ate lunch outside next to the water in picturesque Nyhaven, and then trekked off to Tivoli which was a ways away. Good thing I had my GPS and had pre-loaded all the sites we would see (except Russia and Estonia) on the maps at all of the ports. Disappointed at Tivoli as it was $25+ per person just to get in and I had not really wanted to do the rides (and spend more dollars) and being limited on time. So I took a picture of us at the entrance and left. Overall it was a beautiful city with a mix of past and present. We had a relaxing day and saw a few sites.
Germany: I had pre-reserved a rental car through SIXT Rental as it was the only company that would rent one to us on a holiday (we arrived on 1 May -- May Day). Instead of paying a cab to take us to the rental car, I paid to have the car delivered to the port and apparently we were the only ones to do so. It turned out to be cheaper to have the car delivered than to take a cab, as we had to drop the car off at the closed rental office and cab back to the ship! As in England, the GPS was priceless getting around Berlin and Germany. We used it walking also. We had watched the news and there had been demonstrations in Berlin for May Day and when we arrived we saw street closures and politzi everywhere, and the GPS became very, very necessary. We initially tried to stay away from where we heard all the noise and cops, but it turned out they had closed off the area around the Brandenburg Gate for a huge street fair and the news media again had blown the minor demonstrations out of proportion just to confuse us. Ate a German lunch next to the Holocaust Memorial, wandered around Tiergraden Park, drove to see the "Wall" (which had cars parked in front of it and was hard to photograph), drove to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial to look around and drove the 2 hours back to the ship and arrived back about 1-1/2 hours before departure.
Tallinn: Beautiful medieval city. We just walked from the port to the old downtown (10 minutes) and wandered the cobble stone streets and took copious pictures. No set itinerary for us, we just wandered in and out of churches, etc. We ate a traditional lunch in the city square, shopped (except me, of course -- beer time), enjoyed the parks and old city walls. Another relaxing day on shore.
St. Petersburg: The highlight of the trip. Met our tour guide at the port facility and the four of us were escorted both days by Anya and our driver Nicholas. You can't get off the ship unless you have a visa or are on an escorted tour private or group. As stated before I had gotten my visas ahead of time thru the internet (handled by Anya) and had them in hand when we went thru Russian immigrations. I got us the private tour and although it was slightly higher, it was well worth the cost. Anya was able to take us to the front of each line at every venue and designed our itinerary especially for us. She even provided Ruble coins when needed to use the restrooms, something we wouldn't have prepared for! There were some last minute changes she emailed to us even after we were on the cruise due to changes at the venues in preparation for the annual celebrations in front of the Hermitage for May Day and the celebration of victory over the Nazi's military parades (I forget what they call it). We "snuck" in a back entrance and thus didn't have to wait in line at the Hermitage for entrance. We toured the city, went to Peterhof, the Hermitage (as mentioned), Yusopov Palace, Church of the Spilled Blood, Saints Peter & Paul Fortress and Cathedral. St Pete is a marvelous city, all while being continuously provided information (and funny Russian stories) by Anya.
Helsinki: Got on the "hop on, Hop off" bus at the dock and did the tour of the city first and listened to the tour (earphones provided on the bus in 9 languages). Then got on and off at various venues. Saw the White Church, Olympic Stadium with views of the city from the tower, Sibelius Monument and again a traditional meal for lunch. A very cosmopolitan city. The bus got us back to the dock also.
Stockholm: Met a friend from Norway near the Vasa Museum. The ship arrived hours before anything was open so we sat around waiting for our friend for a couple of hours at a café next to a canal. Saw the Vasa, walked a bit and took the "Hop on Hop off" boat tour (English and Swedish guide talks) around the city and went to the changing of the guard. We ate a traditional meal (again) and I did my beer thing while the ladies shopped. Mostly wandered and visited with our friend.
My wife always enjoys the sea days and we had four interspersed into the shore visits, so there was plenty of time to rest between trips, especially since we had four busy days in London before the first sea day on initially starting the cruise. We found the free style cruising more to our liking than traditional dining as we could come and go on the ship to eat as we wanted. The service and crew were exceptional. The food was good but not extraordinary, but then I am used to army food so it was well received for food prepared for 3,000 people (including crew) every meal. I WILL CRUISE NCL AGAIN!
Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Star by Dr johnny Gayton Alaska April 25, 2009
I purchased an Alaskan cruise from L.A. to Vancouver through Delta. We arrived for the cruise around 2:30. All of the porters had left. Despite having a 9 year old and a 12 year old handicapped daughter, we had to take all of our luggage on board ourselves. No one offered to help. There were plenty of cruise ship employees watching our struggle, but none offering to help us out.
The next disappointment was to learn that there were no programs for tweens and our children would have to be with the toddlers. The youth counselors also told us that the Nintendo Wii was reserved for the teens, so my children were crushed. Of course, the ad about the two-story video screen did not apply to the Norwegian Star. The kids had brought their laptop to spend time on the internet. Of course we found out that the nominal fee for WiFi was rather outrageous, which prevented them from using their laptop.
BTW, our car was broken into in downtown Vancouver and all of their electronics, including the laptop,were stolen. NCL should warn its passengers about downtown Vancouver and theft. It turns out that it is the number one area in North America for burglarizing cars.
The 3 days at sea were uneventful, but we had to be with the kids the entire time due to the lack of tween programs.
We kept hearing announcements about booking your excursion through NCL due to the guarantee and protection. We booked the Juneau Salmon Bake and glacier tour through NCL. Here is a recap of our experience:The bus left late.
It was hot on the bus, but the air conditioning did not work. Numerous people complained to the driver.
We sat on the bus for over 20 minutes after the glacier departure time. Again, no air conditioning. BTW, when my children went to get on the correct bus, the driver would not let them on. She proclaimed that she did not have any children on the bus. When we assured her that they were indeed with us, she said they must have been so quiet that she did not know they were there.
The trip to the salmon bake was without air conditioning.
The salmon bake was a disappointment. There was a line to get a container containing a paltry amount of clam chowder. The buffet food quality was poor. The promised ribs never materialized. After a long wait, the salmon was dry and had a crunchy sugar sauce. None of us ate the food. The water in the bathroom was so cold that it was painful.
Nancy complained to the staff and a nice young man named Chris took us to McDonald's, where I fed the kids. He took our cabin numbers and said that they would reimburse us for the bake.
When no reimbursement arrived, Nancy complained to the front desk staff. They told her to return the next morning and speak to the excursion director. When she arrived he was not there. She gave the details to one of the ladies who said that we would hear something that day. When we had not heard anything by the next morning, Nancy again complained and was told that she would hear by noon. I knew then that the excursion department was not going to do anything. Sure enough, when the letter arrived it basically said that we were not entitled to any reimbursement because we left the excursion early. Of course, I was dealing with three hungry people, two of which were children who were not going to eat the food at the salmon bake.
Ketchikan went fine, as did most of the rest of the cruise. The service in the main restaurant was pretty slow, but the service in the specialty restaurants was excellent.
Our steward was very helpful and pleasant. Sarah in the fitness facility was very knowledgeable and as nice as could be. The fitness juice bar person was also responsible for the ice cream bar, and that created some long lines. The cruise staff and director could not have been nicer on the cruise. The entertainment was outstanding.
In conclusion, an overall nice cruise that gave us a bad taste in our mouth because of the excursion.
I booked a cruise to celebrate my birthday from Miami to Dover with NCL on the Norwegian Jewel.ON the third day of the cruise I was walking along 7 Deck Atrium starboard, and a man from the Duty Free shop was coming toward me pushing a tolley full of unsecured goods from the Duty Free shop. As he got to me he caused the trolley to tip over and the whole contents of the trolley landed on my leg. Fellow passengers rushed to my aid and got a wheelchair and took me to the Medical Centre where I received an injection and tablets for the pain.
My leg was badly swollen so I had xray's taken -- nothing broken and the doctor said I had bruising internally which was restricting the blood flow to my foot and causing me to be in agony with pain. I was travelling with my partner and she had to push me back to the cabin where I remained for the next 36 hours. In that time no one from the ship's crew came to see if I was ok. I returned to the MedicalCentre on a further two occasions for treatment for the pain. My partner suffers with a back problem and could not push me round the ship in the wheelchair.
As we were visiting Portugal and Spain enroute to Dover I asked at reception what they were going to do for me about getting ashore in the two ports. They said I could borrow the wheelchair, but I explained to them that my partner had a back problem and could not push me around in the wheelchair, so she said in a sarcastic tone well you will have to stay on board then.
I remained in the wheelchair for the rest of the cruise. Before I disembarked the ship in Dover they told me the NCL office in Miami was aware of the accident and they would contact me when I got home. We arrived in Dover 28 April and it is now 26 May and I have had no response from NCL. I have sent emails to NCL's office in London and Miami but have had no reply. My birthday cruise was ruined by the accident, NCL was negligent under Health and Safety rules because the crew member was pushing an unsecured and unstable trolley full of goods around the ship.
I have not had an apology from NCL or nothing, and I think it is a disgrace to treat a passenger in this way. We don't care for this sort of attitude.
The ship was fine, equal to my experience with Carnival and Celebrity.
The rooms are a little smaller and the buffet is not as clean or good.
NCL advertises that smoking is allowed in an indoor cigar bar, an outdoor bar, and on the pool decks except for dining areas and the children's pool. This is not the case. There is nowhere to smoke on the entire ship except in your room or on the very top deck, at the very back of the ship. I like to have a couple of martinis before dinner, and, of course, a cigarette.
Drinking in an open air bar is great when you are swimming or goofing off, but not when you are dressed for dinner. Sweat and wind-blown hair will really ruin your dinner.
And how about those martinis? $17.00 each. That's for two measured shots and an olive. Then they add another 15% to pay the bartender, and then tax at 7% on top of that. Then they want a tip as well. Use the mini-bar in your room. It's the same price without the glass, olive or service.
And please book your ownair arrangements. We were booked on a red eye express to the islands. We arrived at 8 am and could not check into the hotel until 3 pm. That was seven miserable hours homeless and guarding our luggage. When the cruise was over, NCL booked us on a 9pm flight. We had to check out by 11 am. That was ten miserable hours more. NCL had representatives at the hotel, and while they apologized, they really couldn't do anything about it. They were just there to make sure everybody got their rooms and made their transfers.
We just returned today from the worse cruise I have ever been on. We have completed over 27 cruises. This was our second on NCL. I will never use them again!
The food was boring in all of the restaurants included in the cruise price. They had several restaurants for a fee from $10 to $20 per person, but we did not frequent them. We don't feel we should have to pay extra for better food.
The service was even worse. I had a waiter just drop my food in front of me on the table.
Our stewards were nice but not very good at cleaning. We had excessive dust on shelves and the headboard area of the bed. The room was the smallest ever on any ship we have been on.
The entertainment was excellent and we liked Bar City, and had amaazing coctails, but they were rather pricey.
Our shore excursion to the beach in Grand Cayman left a lot to be desired. The umbrellas were $5 and all broken and dangerous with metal points uncovered.
It was the first time in over 27 cruises that the day before it endedwe said "I can't wait to get home!" Most of the time we say we don't want to go home and want to just keep cruising.
I cannot recommend this line or ship to anyone. Please go elsewhere.
Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Star by Otto Mexico March 21, 2009
NCL stands for NO CASH LEFT. They charge extra for decent food, food or drink classes and crazy expensive drinks with 15% tips added. A "Soda" bracelet is over $6.00 A DAY.
Check in at LA harbor is a joke. Hey, NCL -- take note of how Carnival does it.
The staff, for the most part, tried their best. Our room stewards were excellent.
The food choices were a joke. You could eat at the buffet for breakfast or lunch, which was along the quality of a cheap all-you-can-eat place. The two main dinner places started at the begining of the week along the quality of a Sizzler, but by the end of the week it was pretty bad. You could, however, pay extra money to eat in a better place, from $10 to $25 dollars per person depending on which place you went to.
NCL spent more time trying to seperate us from our money than they did waiting on us. It is NOT a great value. You will spend more than you would on a "regular" cruise line for decentfood and services.
I will not be a return customer. Bye bye, NCL.