Norwegian Cruise Line Reviews

Year Started: 1966
Ships in Fleet: 13
Category: Mainstream

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.

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Norwegian Cruise Ships

7 Reviews

Regions:Caribbean, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic

Good for: Seniors. First-time Cruisers.

16 Reviews

Regions:Bahamas, Caribbean, Eastern Seaboard

Good for: Families. Value for Money. Teens.

3 Reviews

Good for: Value for Money. Group. Families.

27 Reviews

Regions:Mediterranean Western

47 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, Bahamas, Caribbean

Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.

98 Reviews

Regions:Bahamas

Good for: Group. Singles. Families.

56 Reviews

Good for: Value for Money. Overall Service. Disabled Travelers.

3 Reviews

Regions:Bahamas, Bermuda, Caribbean, Mediterranean Western

Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.

81 Reviews

Regions:Eastern Seaboard, Caribbean, Bermuda

Good for: First-time Cruisers. Value for Money. Children`s Programs.

28 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, Bahamas, Caribbean

Good for: First-time Cruisers. Value for Money. Teens.

40 Reviews

Regions:Mediterranean Western

Good for: Teens. Seniors. Families.

64 Reviews

Regions:Caribbean, Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Western, Mexico

Good for: Value for Money. Children`s Programs. Seniors.

73 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, Caribbean, Inland Waterways, West Coast

Good for: Families. Value for Money. Teens.

User Ratings

Overall Rating
3.97
from 543 reviews

Cuisine

Service Level

Value for Money

Ship Décor

Public Rooms

Staterooms

Kid's Programs

Daytime Activities

Nightlife

Shore Tours

Itinerary

Alternative Dining

User Reviews

543 User Reviews of Norwegian Ships
First and last
Publication Date: February 12, 2016

Had the experience and will never repeat with the Norwegian cruise line. Do yourself a favor and spend a little more for a overall better experience. If you don't mind crappy food and okay service then this ship is for you. I stay away from buffets for a reason in my home life and the restaurants served the same food at the buffet. The staff very sketchy and pool area very dirty. Met a few people who also said this was the worst cruise they've ever been on.

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spent Chtristmas on the Epic
Publication Date: January 4, 2016

a lovely ship, took me four days to finally find my way round. Entertainment good, we booked it all the day after we arrived so it was sorted and booked. Excursions expensive we paid for three and it cost us about 250$ in American dollars. Wegot a;;l inclusive on a drinks package and we were glad we did the drinks were expensive, ok if you only have two a day.......the fidge in the room was expensive so don t touch. All in all we had a good time, would I go again , no, done the Spirit ad the Epic, .......the Spirit was nice but not too much entertainment ....but not as busy......

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Service
Publication Date: January 3, 2016

The service was very bad, food was just ok excursions were cut short because of several excuses. When a bar tender doesn,t know the drink special and says I don't know what do you want? And when they do know over charge you, its time to leave. Rude waiters rude bar tenders room steward is only reason I give them two stars otherwise be 0. Cabin was clean and very nice. Won' t do NCL again. Too many other choices. They all go to same places chose wiseley,

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Remodelled Ship with LOTS of New Staff
Publication Date: December 25, 2015

I'll say at the outset that a 3 on Norwegian is often a 5 or better on a Carnival or similar. We enjoyed the cruise a lot and there were clearly some very strong high points. However, we also experienced some unusually bad service for Norwegian. I believe most of these issues will work themselves out over the next few months but they were still part of our cruise. Our Daughter got married right before the cruise so we had her and our new son-in-law along with us, but only saw them at dinner. They had a wonderful time. We had both a Balcony and a Mini-Suite this time.

What was tremendous:

1. The remodel of the ship - The ship had just come out of dry dock a few weeks before our cruise and most of the public areas and main restaurants / garden café had been completely redone. My initial reaction was simply: "Wow". They did a fantastic job on the Gem. This was our third time on the Gem and the difference was striking. The ship is absolutely gorgeous.

2. The Cruise Director - Drew was our cruise director

and had been our cruise director on a previous cruise. He was personable to everyone, very visible to the passengers as a whole, and does a wonderful job at making everyone feel at home. We were somewhat disappointed in the offerings on the ship given the number of sea days but I didn't see that as a cruise staff issue as much as a Norwegian planning issue. It was great to see him again and he did a lot toward helping many people enjoy their cruise that much more.

3. The Thermal Suites - I hesitate to say this but if there is a thermal suite available, sign up for it... it's one of the few great deals post cruise payment you'll find. It made the difference for us on those many sea days with little to do.

4. Cabin Steward - Arvin was absolutely fantastic. He was attentive without being hovering, he did his job efficiently and very effectively and used his time to advantage. He is also the best towel-animal folder we've ever seen! Given that there are about 5 days at see on a 10 day cruise, the cabin steward becomes a game changer if they know how work in between the "cracks of time" they are given and Arvin was simply amazing.

5. Garden Café - I have to make a special point to note the Garden Café which looked amazing and not "circus-y" like others we've been to and had a wonderful selection and a tremendous staff. We don't normally do a lot of the café but (see negatives) we did on this ship and found it to be a life saver. Well done to the chef's and staff; they made a big difference.

6. The Casino - This may or may not be your thing but I'm not a big gambler but like to play a bit on the ships. It's less stressful and I can admit I don't know what I'm doing and get some valuable guidance from the dealers. There were many great staff people in the casino with my favorite dealer being Sasha. He's not only a very good person, but we had nice conversations and he provided me some nice guidance from time to time. This was not an unusual experience in this casino and the I could tell the casino leadership were a bit part of it. Well done!

Neutral:

1. The Spa - We did have a couple of treatments and they ranged from very good to not so good. The spa staff was nice and the thermal spa was small, but good. Overall though, it really didn't move the needle for us; although it has in past cruises.

2. On-Board entertainment - Highs and not so highs. We had a great ventriloquist and Tim Kaminski was also on board which was a great highlight of our cruise. The "troupe" was overall talented and good but I did not find the shows they did to be a "destination event". No knocks here, just not a "wow".

Most Notable Negatives:

1. The Dining and Dining Service. Before I detail some challenges, let me say that this was the ABSOLUTE BEST Garden Café we've ever experienced. The service was very good, the food was excellent for the café. Think family casual dining at its best. That said, the other main dining rooms were no where near the Norwegian Standard. The Main Dining room was passable for dinner although the service was generally lacking. For lunch, the menu was completely unattractive (too few options, strange choices) and the service was very poor. We did go in for breakfast one morning and it was "ok" although you couldn't get a toasted bagel anywhere (new toasters perhaps?). The Pay Per restaurants were very much hit and miss. La Cucina was good enough. Le Bistro was very good. Moderno was a bit of a train wreck (Norwegian, we've been in Moderno now three times... maybe it's the wrong concept for you) and Cagney's was excellent. Seating, in general varied from a short wait to confusion with the hostesses. That said, we enjoyed things generally but having had 8 cruises before, service and quality were lacking throughout the dining experience.

2. "Enrichment Activities" - I'm not actually sure what it fully meant here, but I'm choosing to rate this based on the daily activities available while on-board. This cruise has a total of about 5 full days at sea. That's a lot of time at sea. We, thankfully, know to reserve the thermal spa and spent a lot of time there. That said, other than sitting by the pool or paying for additional things (like bingo, the Casino, paid for movies, etc), there simply wasn't a lot to do. Normally this isn't much of deal and we find some things to do, but frankly, with 5 days at sea, we need more. Yes, I can go to the daily trivia things (which take 20 - 30 minutes), I can walk, etc.... but where is the REAL enrichment. And why does anything that is remotely interesting cost so much extra. Instead of showing continual "commercials" for the photo gallery etc in the Atrium, how about providing some sessions on the "history of the Caribbean" or the pirates, or something more than kids playing Wii. it's 5 whole days at sea.... throw us a bone!

3. The Art Gallery - (Caveat: We collect art from multiple sources and ARE a VIP with Park West). One of the things we like to do on board is to attend the art presentations and the auctions. We've collected quite a bit over the years and, while we don't always buy, we enjoy the environment and seeing new works as well as the process of others collecting. This has been true for 7 of the 8 cruises. This was the exception. Perhaps we've been lucky and have never had the "pushy" group on our cruises. I'm not sure. We have always enjoyed meeting the art gallery staff, talking art, and, no question, they are initially assertive about understanding what we like, what we might be interested in etc. But, I've never felt put upon or pressured. Again, until this cruise. I don't like to use names so I will leave them out. The auctioneer seemed to love to hear himself talk, the auctions were incredibly painful to be a part of because of how long things would be drawn out just to try and pressure people to buy, and the entire staff was very, very pushy. There was also no acknowledgment or recognition of our prodigious collecting and when I did suggest some interest in a piece or two, rather than being engaging, it was like talking to used car sales people. I attended one event and tried to go to another but finally had to leave after about 20 minutes because of how poorly things were being run. So, that probably leads to the lack of enrichment activities as well.

Yes, there were some negatives. Most of these, were already recognized and were being dealt with while we were onboard. I believe by late Feb to Early March, this will be a 4 rated cruise. We happened to catch it right after it had some out of dry dock and I think we were the 3rd cruise. There were clearly many crew on board that were experience their first contract; much more than we traditionally see and I believe this contributed to the issues. I have all the confidence in the world in Norwegian and we can't wait

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The Chill and Perils of Booking a Guaranteed Cabin
Publication Date: December 17, 2015

The Chill and Perils of Booking Guaranteed Cabin on a Cruise Ship

I was booked on a guaranteed cabin on the Norwegian Cruise Line ship, Breakaway, through an agency Ucruise. The smiley agent told me that I will be assigned on level 5 to 8 and assured me that since I book and paid for in full, 4 months before the cruising date, I will, very likely, be assigned to a cabin on the higher level. So, I paid for the booking in full then and even told the agent to request a cabin on the higher level.

20 days prior to the cruise date I received the cruise package and found that I was assigned to the bottom level. I called the NCL reservation supervisor, Brandy, to cancel my booking and she told me that this booking is 100% non-refundable. She also said that if I wanted any cabin other than the bottom level, I will have to pay extra. Technically anyone booking this guarantee is assigned to the bottom level unless you have paid extra. Clearly indicating that the cruise line can use “cheap dummies” as the ship’s ballast along

with the sea water pumped in, to stabilise the ship for the comfort of those higher paying passengers on the higher levels.

In the event of a power failure, God forbid, the poor passengers on the bottom level are not only ship’s ballasts but will be swimming in their “doo doos” or someone else’s since the toilets cannot flush properly and water from the upper levels will drain down towards them, as evidenced on the cruise ship towed in on the Gulf of Mexico. These ships are nonetheless mechanical machineries and are operated long hours on days, months and years.

To protect my health and sanity, I have decided to walk away from the $2296 paid 4 months ago for this booking. This message is written to warn others thinking of jumping into a cheap cruise offered by this deceiving guarantee.

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No Nothing about Customer Service
Publication Date: February 11, 2016

THIS IS AN ACTUAL COPY OF THE LETTER i SENT TO NORWEGIAN ON 12/14/2015, i HAVE CALLED THEM 6 TIMES (AND ALWAYS SPOKEN WITH SOMEONE) SINCE THEN TO NO AVAIL. THEY ARE TERRIBLE, DO NOT EVEN RESPECT US ENOUGH TO RESPOND - JUST HORRIBLE

Dear Madam and/or Sir:

Please accept this letter as our formal complaint with regard to a problem we incurred recently during our cruise on the Norwegian Jade.

Reward #: 135626786

Reservation: # 29560743

Stateroom: # 9150

Departed: Houston, TX

Sail Date: 12/5/15

First, please know that it is not our intention to denounce anyone or disparage anyone’s character however, since the incident occurred, we find it extremely difficult to ignore/discount the fact that we feel we were ill-treated and have decided with great pains that it would be negligent on our part for the sake of future travelers should we not bring this incident to light.

In the early afternoon of 12/06/2015 we went to Guest Services to inquire about “renting” a motorized scooter to replace the manual wheelchair for Carol during the cruise. At the Guest Services desk we were told that the charge would be $275.00 for seven (7) days, we replied “okay,

but, as of today there are only six (6) days so there should be a difference,” we were then informed that we would still need to pay for seven (7) days. Perplexed, we then asked how much it would cost on the final day of sailing and was informed that it would still cost $275.00, that we would still need to pay for seven (7) days, “that’s the price, we have a contract and the price cannot be changed. In disbelief of what we were being told we insisted on speaking to someone else, we requested a “supervisor”. The Desk Clerk went into a back room, closed the door came back after about five (5) minutes and informed us that her Supervisor Claudia would be with us shortly.

Within a short time a young lady in a white uniform came over to us introduced herself as Claudia (Mitera, - copied last name from nametag). Ms. Mitera did not inquire as to why we requested to speak with her she just immediately began to inform us that the price for the scooters “cannot be changed”, “we have a contract with a company named Special Needs at Sea and the prices are set.

So now we are leaning toward the fact that we feel offended that this “Supervisor” has not even taken the time to even attempt to find out from us why we would have asked to speak with her in the first place. She stood over us pointing (like we were not intelligent enough to understand what she was saying) explaining “how contracts work” and telling us that the price is what it is.

By this time I must admit we both were becoming more and more uncomfortable, Ms. Mitera seemed to not even take a breath, with a smirk on her face it appeared she had a goal to admonish us and we were going to sit there and take/listen to it.

The whole truth is now we were done with her, I then told her “wait a minute, you are a child, I am sixty (60) and my husband is sixty-three (63) years old, you will not stand over us and speak to us like this, we are educated and are not poor here on some kind of welfare ticket. We will not be treated like this, while I was saying all of this Ms. Mitera continued to talk over me, I then told her that she could not hear nor appreciate what I was saying if she did not stop talking. I then regretfully told her “if you were not a child you would understand that the reason we have two ears and one mouth is because we should listen twice as much as we talk”. Ms. Mitera then informed us again that “the price is $275.00 and you should take it or leave it” because “nothing could be done”. We were mortified, and I am embarrassed to say that we were so dumbfounded by Ms. Mitera rude behavior it was difficult to respond.

At this point we decided that we would do neither and told Ms. Mitera (never losing her smirk) that we now wanted to speak to her Supervisor, we told her we felt she was being rude, dismissive and disrespectful, that we did not deserve this type of treatment and something ALWAYS can be done and maybe once she got a few more years under her belt she would see that as well..

Ms. Mitera got on her telephone (within earshot), informed the person she was talking to that she had “already told us” there is a contract and “NOTHING CAN BE DONE” we would need to pay for the seven (7) days and there is no way to contact Special Needs At Sea so could you come speak to them. Ms. Mitera hung up the telephone and with a smirk told us that her Supervisor Omberto would be here in just a few minutes to “EXPLAINE THE CONTRACT”.

A short while later Mr. Omberto came over sat down to our level and before he had a chance to speak I admit I said to him “I already feel insulted because I listened to her tell you her side and I feel as though you are already biased based on what you were told without ever speaking to us”. I then told him “if I am wrong I apologize”.

Omberto immediately proved me wrong by first asking us what seemed to be the problem and how could he help. We explained our initial concerns with the cost for the scooter and now most importantly how we believe we were wrongfully treated by Ms. Mitera (who was standing in front of us with the same smirk).

We explained that if we were being told correctly that we would need to pay for seven (7) days rental no matter the day we felt that we were being “cheated”. We asked why Norwegian Cruise Lines would sign a contract with a company that would cheat their customers. We explained that with simple math $275.00 divided by 7 days equated to $39.29 per day and for six days our cost should be no more than $235.74. Omberto informed us that first there were two different prices, one for 7 day and another for 1-3 days, he asked us to please give him until the end of the day and he would get back with us, we agreed. Later that evening we received a call in our stateroom from Omberto who informed us that he could credit $50.00 off the cost, Omberto said we should pay the $275.00 and he would give us the $50.00 credit. We thanked him for his time and attention to the matter.

As the day was now nearing an end we thought more about what we were offered and again with simple math we knew we were still being cheated because now it would be 5 days and $275.00 divided by 5 would be $196.45 not $225.00 (with a credit of $50.00). At this point we knew that ours and most likely others customers satisfaction was not important enough to be treated fairly so we closed our mouths.

The next morning, we encountered Omberto who immediately ask if we got the scooter we told him “not yet” as we did not want to make him think we did not appreciate his efforts but by now we were totally disheartened and just wanted to go home. The rude, insolent, trivializing treatment exhibited by Ms. Claudia Mitera and the duplicitous regulations with regard to accessibility assistance was almost more than we could tolerate, but as you know, “stuck on the ship” going home was not an option for us.

Madam or Sir, on Sunday 12/6/2015 we were appalled by the encounter with your employee Ms. Claudia Mitera and the “alleged” contract you have entered into with “Special Needs at Sea. We implore you to review contract information being disseminated by your employees and to assure customers are treated justly.

Finally if we are to continue to be completely honest it would be erroneous if at this time we failed to make it very clear that the disrespectful individual (Ms. Mitera) did not seem to be representative of your company as a whole although we all know the old saying “one bad apple”.

If Ms. Claudia Mitera acted outside the bounds of her requirements, we would like her retaught the etiquette of proper Customer Service AND Customer Satisfaction. If however, you taught her to behave this way, (highly doubtful) then we would like a written apology from your company and an assurance that none of your employees will act in such a rude and inconsiderate way to other “cruisers” wanting to enjoy vacation time.

We returned home Saturday 12/12/2015 and booked another cruise for March 2016 (3 months) we booked the cruise with Princess. We are aware that this will not “make or break” Norwegian Cruise Line however the Jones’s would like to believe that our satisfaction and loyalty is also important enough to Norwegian Cruise Line that you would address this particularly matter immediately , thank you for your time and attention.

If and when you speak to Ms. Mitera please let her know that we both apologize for assuming that her “age” had a bearing on her behavior as there is no way we could have known that and regret making those kinds of assumptions.

We both thank you for your time and any attention you give this matter and please don’t let this be our “UNFORGETTABLE STORY TO SHARE FOR YEARS TO COME”.

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Enough of NCL
Publication Date: January 2, 2016

Hawaii is gorgeous and worth the trip. NCL is not worth it, and we are Gold members but this is the last time. There was a pervert on board taking pics of underage children, asking them to do cartwheels while he snapped away. Security did nothing and could care less for the safety of the passengers. The food is average and the shows are all singing, dancing and flitting.

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Remodelled Ship with LOTS of New Crew
Publication Date: December 25, 2015

I'll say at the outset that a 3 on Norwegian is often a 5 or better on a Carnival or similar. We enjoyed the cruise a lot and there were clearly some very strong high points. However, we also experienced some unusually bad service for Norwegian. I believe most of these issues will work themselves out over the next few months but they were still part of our cruise. Our Daughter got married right before the cruise so we had her and our new son-in-law along with us, but only saw them at dinner. They had a wonderful time. We had both a Balcony and a Mini-Suite this time.

What was tremendous:

1. The remodel of the ship - The ship had just come out of dry dock a few weeks before our cruise and most of the public areas and main restaurants / garden café had been completely redone. My initial reaction was simply: "Wow". They did a fantastic job on the Gem. This was our third time on the Gem and the difference was striking. The ship is absolutely gorgeous.

2. The Cruise Director - Drew was our cruise director

and had been our cruise director on a previous cruise. He was personable to everyone, very visible to the passengers as a whole, and does a wonderful job at making everyone feel at home. We were somewhat disappointed in the offerings on the ship given the number of sea days but I didn't see that as a cruise staff issue as much as a Norwegian planning issue. It was great to see him again and he did a lot toward helping many people enjoy their cruise that much more.

3. The Thermal Suites - I hesitate to say this but if there is a thermal suite available, sign up for it... it's one of the few great deals post cruise payment you'll find. It made the difference for us on those many sea days with little to do.

4. Cabin Steward - Arvin was absolutely fantastic. He was attentive without being hovering, he did his job efficiently and very effectively and used his time to advantage. He is also the best towel-animal folder we've ever seen! Given that there are about 5 days at see on a 10 day cruise, the cabin steward becomes a game changer if they know how work in between the "cracks of time" they are given and Arvin was simply amazing.

5. Garden Café - I have to make a special point to note the Garden Café which looked amazing and not "circus-y" like others we've been to and had a wonderful selection and a tremendous staff. We don't normally do a lot of the café but (see negatives) we did on this ship and found it to be a life saver. Well done to the chef's and staff; they made a big difference.

6. The Casino - This may or may not be your thing but I'm not a big gambler but like to play a bit on the ships. It's less stressful and I can admit I don't know what I'm doing and get some valuable guidance from the dealers. There were many great staff people in the casino with my favorite dealer being Sasha. He's not only a very good person, but we had nice conversations and he provided me some nice guidance from time to time. This was not an unusual experience in this casino and the I could tell the casino leadership were a bit part of it. Well done!

Neutral:

1. The Spa - We did have a couple of treatments and they ranged from very good to not so good. The spa staff was nice and the thermal spa was small, but good. Overall though, it really didn't move the needle for us; although it has in past cruises.

2. On-Board entertainment - Highs and not so highs. We had a great ventriloquist and Tim Kaminski was also on board which was a great highlight of our cruise. The "troupe" was overall talented and good but I did not find the shows they did to be a "destination event". No knocks here, just not a "wow".

Most Notable Negatives:

1. The Dining and Dining Service. Before I detail some challenges, let me say that this was the ABSOLUTE BEST Garden Café we've ever experienced. The service was very good, the food was excellent for the café. Think family casual dining at its best. That said, the other main dining rooms were no where near the Norwegian Standard. The Main Dining room was passable for dinner although the service was generally lacking. For lunch, the menu was completely unattractive (too few options, strange choices) and the service was very poor. We did go in for breakfast one morning and it was "ok" although you couldn't get a toasted bagel anywhere (new toasters perhaps?). The Pay Per restaurants were very much hit and miss. La Cucina was good enough. Le Bistro was very good. Moderno was a bit of a train wreck (Norwegian, we've been in Moderno now three times... maybe it's the wrong concept for you) and Cagney's was excellent. Seating, in general varied from a short wait to confusion with the hostesses. That said, we enjoyed things generally but having had 8 cruises before, service and quality were lacking throughout the dining experience.

2. "Enrichment Activities" - I'm not actually sure what it fully meant here, but I'm choosing to rate this based on the daily activities available while on-board. This cruise has a total of about 5 full days at sea. That's a lot of time at sea. We, thankfully, know to reserve the thermal spa and spent a lot of time there. That said, other than sitting by the pool or paying for additional things (like bingo, the Casino, paid for movies, etc), there simply wasn't a lot to do. Normally this isn't much of deal and we find some things to do, but frankly, with 5 days at sea, we need more. Yes, I can go to the daily trivia things (which take 20 - 30 minutes), I can walk, etc.... but where is the REAL enrichment. And why does anything that is remotely interesting cost so much extra. Instead of showing continual "commercials" for the photo gallery etc in the Atrium, how about providing some sessions on the "history of the Caribbean" or the pirates, or something more than kids playing Wii. it's 5 whole days at sea.... throw us a bone!

3. The Art Gallery - (Caveat: We collect art from multiple sources and ARE a VIP with Park West). One of the things we like to do on board is to attend the art presentations and the auctions. We've collected quite a bit over the years and, while we don't always buy, we enjoy the environment and seeing new works as well as the process of others collecting. This has been true for 7 of the 8 cruises. This was the exception. Perhaps we've been lucky and have never had the "pushy" group on our cruises. I'm not sure. We have always enjoyed meeting the art gallery staff, talking art, and, no question, they are initially assertive about understanding what we like, what we might be interested in etc. But, I've never felt put upon or pressured. Again, until this cruise. I don't like to use names so I will leave them out. The auctioneer seemed to love to hear himself talk, the auctions were incredibly painful to be a part of because of how long things would be drawn out just to try and pressure people to buy, and the entire staff was very, very pushy. There was also no acknowledgment or recognition of our prodigious collecting and when I did suggest some interest in a piece or two, rather than being engaging, it was like talking to used car sales people. I attended one event and tried to go to another but finally had to leave after about 20 minutes because of how poorly things were being run. So, that probably leads to the lack of enrichment activities as well.

Yes, there were some negatives. Most of these, were already recognized and were being dealt with while we were onboard. I believe by late Feb to Early March, this will be a 4 rated cruise. We happened to catch it right after it had some out of dry dock and I think we were the 3rd cruise. There were clearly many crew on board that were experience their first contract; much more than we traditionally see and I believe this contributed to the issues. I have all the confidence in the world in Norwegian and we can't wait

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Cruise was Good, but Bermuda was Beautiful!
Publication Date: August 9, 2015

his is a long review, so grab a coffee and put your feet up ...

About Us. We've been on 10-plus cruises, and this was our second time to Bermuda on Norwegian. We were celebrating our 38th anniversary with a Twin River Casino free cruise. Apparently, all that money we lost at the Casino finally paid off.

The ship departed on Friday and was originally scheduled to arrive in Bermuda on Sunday at 11:00 am. However, this was changed to 1:00 pm a few weeks before we sailed. On the other end of our time in Bermuda, we were scheduled to leave at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, but for some maintenance or mechanical issue, we spent an extra night in Bermuda, leaving Wednesday morning at 6:00 a.m. Believe me, no one complained about the Bermuda bonus! In fact, as we sailed away, we got to see both the Norwegian Breakaway and Celebrity Summit sail by on their way to take our place.

Embarkation. Living only an hour away from Boston, this port is an easy one for us. We were dropped off by a relative, making it unnecessary to park the car.

A friendly porter promptly greeted us, but at first glance, it was unclear where to go next. Norwegian could do a better job of announcing which appointed time slot is currently boarding. A long line was forming to enter the building, but as it turns out, it was unnecessary to queue up unless it was your turn. So unless you have priority boarding, it really makes no sense to arrive super early ahead of your assigned boarding time. Once inside, getting through security and registration was a breeze.

First impressions. The Dawn, for the most part, is a very attractive ship. The atrium, the first thing you see when boarding, is really beautiful. It's not as grand as some of the center hot spots on some ships, but it's classy and elegant - a perfect place to gather with friends, and sounds from the piano on the main deck reaches to the restaurants and public spaces on the atrium's upper levels. Cozy window seating nooks on decks 6-8 give guests a quiet place for reading or gazing at the ocean. Tasteful artworks adorn hallways and stairways, and colors throughout the ship are tastefully muted. It's worthy to mention that this ship has a promenade deck, a classic ship feature that seems to have vanished with the new and larger ships being introduced nowadays. This one has colorful wall murals all the way around, too.

Notably, I did see a number of clogged or out-of-order toilet facilities throughout the cruise in the public areas, as well as missing stall door locks.

Fellow Passengers. Couples appeared to be in the minority, as we observed a large number of families, from infants to senior citizens, as well as many large groups. Many folks, as you can guess, were from the Boston and New England area.

Cabin-Category BA Balcony #10672.

We paid to upgrade our complimentary interior to a balcony. We found the cabin to be similar in size to most other standard ship cabins, with the benefit of a small sofa. Storage could be a lot better, though it was fine for the two of us. There are shelves in the closet, but they're a real pain to access with the hung clothing in the way. The one thing we did miss was a desk and the drawers that typically come with one. The balcony itself is tiny, barely enough room for the two chairs and pint-sized table that occupy it. In fact, the one area of the ship I saw in need of a major facelift was the balcony floor. I'm not sure what the floor covering was, but it looked dirty, worn and downright gross. It didn't stop me from spending a few afternoons out there enjoying the sea air, though. The bathroom was clean and modern, but the layout was odd and could be a definite problem if you're a super sized person. The already small space is split into 3 sections - the sink, the shower and the toilet. A half wall with glass door divides the sink and shower to the right, and an identical one divides the sink and toilet on the left, hence three sections. The shower is great, plenty of room to move. The sink space is adequate, but the toilet section, however, is crazy tight. If you're tall, be prepared for your knees to hug the wall. If you're really wide, some creative maneuvering will be required. I get what NCL's trying to do here - allow more than one cabin occupant to use the bathroom space at the same time. Unfortunately, the space is really too small for that purpose. Bring a hanging bag for your toiletries, because there is very little storage space by the sink.

Crew & Service. Our cabin steward, Roy, provided excellent service, kept our ice bucket filled and our cabin clean and orderly, all with a smile and some great towel animals. In fact, we found the crew, in general, to be friendly and eager to please. “Washy-Washy”, as the crewmember with the spray bottle of antiseptic is called, greeted us every single time we walked through the buffet, even though squirt dispensers are available everywhere. Whether this was antibacterial overkill or a friendly reminder to keep hands clean, I’m not sure. But “washy-washy” got really old fast.

Pool. There is one main pool on this ship. It's not very big and gets really mobbed on sea days. Arriving early in the morning is key to getting a lounger. If you snooze, you lose. Plus, if you come early, you'll have the pool to yourself. In fact, on our final sea day, after moving the clocks and gaining an extra hour, we noticed many chairs were saved by 7:00 a.m. By noon, every chair was filled or claimed. I do give credit to the crew, as we spotted them bagging a number of items from long-vacant chairs. Due to 4-10 foot sea swells, the pool was closed on the first sea day - but not before we had a chance to ride the pool's "waves" that were crashing over the side of the pool. What a thrill it was, being tossed to and fro, akin to being in the ocean. It wasn't long, though, before the pool police came and kicked everyone out for fear of someone getting hurt. A word about the poolside hot tubs: we tried one out after we boarded, and it felt like heaven. The next day they were scalding hot. A few comments by guests to the crew resulted in the hot tub water being reduced to the proper temp for the remainder of the cruise. In addition to the main pool, there is a kids "T-Rex" pool, slide and splash area. We had no little ones with us, but the kids looked like they were having a blast when I walked by.

Side note about the pool area and one pet peeve of mine: Spray sunscreen. It should be banned. Maybe 25% of it actually sticks to your skin; the rest vanishes in the ocean breeze or into the eyes or lungs of your fellow pool or chair occupants. Especially amusing were the folks who both sprayed and then hand-spread the stuff, defeating the whole purpose of spray sunscreen in the first place. Do everyone a favor and reach for the tube or bottled lotion instead.

Dining. We didn't eat in every venue and did not purchase a dining package, beyond one night in LeBistro. Here's our take on dining choices that we experienced:

The Venetian: Since we liked the classy European look of the Venetian, we chose this complimentary venue for dining on most evenings. Food and service were both good and met or exceeded our expectations most nights. Of particular note was a roasted turkey dinner my husband had one night that he couldn't stop raving about for the rest of the cruise.

Buffet fare: The Garden Cafe served standard buffet fare. My husband enjoyed the fresh, hot omelettes at breakfast and we both thought the coffee was good. The rest of the breakfast and lunch entrees were standard fare, and we found it was hit or miss whether the food would be appropriately hot or lukewarm. The pizza, hot dogs and make-your-own sandwich station were all good. NCL went the extra mile to please their little guests, with a buffet section just for the kids, with pint-sized tables, chairs and even a buffet counter just their height. Very cool, indeed!

Bamboo: This complimentary Asian restaurant was a nice addition to the dining options on board, and we thought the food was good. Unfortunately, the service was slow the night we dined there.

Le Bistro: We celebrated our anniversary at this specialty restaurant. My husband had the beef tenderloin, and I had the pork tenderloin. His was excellent, and mine was good, but nothing special. The room itself was darkly lit, so much so that our neighbors at the table next to us pulled out their cell phone in order to read the menu. Service was on the slow side, but the waiters redeemed themselves when they brought out a cake for us and sang - in tune, I might add. The anniversary cake was delicious, with a raspberry filling, and the best and biggest of any of the dessert celebration cakes I've had on any other cruise line.

Blue Lagoon: We came here for a quieter place to eat on several occasions, both for dinner and breakfast. The menu is limited, but it was a good place for a meal or snack when we felt like getting away from the noise and bedlam at the buffet. Plus, it's conveniently open 24/7 with a convenient self-serve coffee station.

Java Coffee Bar: I was in the mood for a cafe mocha one afternoon and tried this specialty coffee bar. I sat a while listening to the piano player and waited for quite a while for a server to come by, but then gave up and went up to the bar. It took a while to get my coffee, but it was delicious and worth the extra cost.

Bar Service: We didn't have a beverage package. Even though we drank more on this cruise than most other port intensive cruises we've done recently, we still didn't come close to what we would have paid for NCL's beverage package. Except for the lack of attention by staff in the coffee bar, we had no trouble getting a drink at any other venue, and waiter service was especially good at the pool.

Entertainment and More...

"Elements". This was by far our favorite show. We loved the choreography, with interpretations of earth, wind, water and fire very well done. Seating in the Stardust Theater, where the big shows take place, is pretty tight, but fine for an average-sized adult. For more roomy comfort, arrive early and grab one of the balcony upholstered bench seats.

Second City Comedy. We missed the adult version, but did catch the family show. We had mixed feelings about Second City. Because most of their improv depended on ideas from the audience, some material was funny, and some fell flat. Honestly, we've laughed harder at other comedy shows. Maybe the adult version was better.

Wii Bowling Tournament. We used to bowl in a league in our younger days, so this was a fun way to spend an hour and reminisce. I'm happy to say I beat my husband 3 out of 4 games, too. On the downside, I'm not sure how this could be called a tournament when the crewmember that ran it didn't really organize anything, nor did she stick around for the entire thing. It wound up just being free play.

A word about karaoke, Wii and other video activity: Unlike some ships where these activities sometimes take place in large-capacity venues where large numbers of people gather, here on the Dawn the electronics and hardware are set up in a tiny corner of a small pub. It takes the thrill out of winning when no one is there to witness it.

Name That Broadway Tune Trivia. This was a fun way to pass 40 minutes, and served to remind us that we didn't know as many Broadway show tunes as we thought we did.

Martini Tasting. We arrived early to the tasting but apparently missed the official "sign up" for this extra-fee event, and no announcements were made as to how to join in. While the martini expert was giving her talk, and others around us were enjoying their martinis, a waiter came around and asked us if we wanted a drink, to which we answered, no, we would like to join the martini tasting. They kindly made a batch for us and a few other latecomers. It was definitely worth the wait - they were delicious and made up for the lackluster welcome.

Casino. We did throw a good amount of cash down the giant money pit, but did make sure to have a voucher left to cash in on the last day so it would at least feel like we won something.

Musicians: Overall, the music was good. Of particular note, the jazz band was excellent with a dynamite piano player. The band at the pool provided the right island and pop blend. The duo was pleasant, and the piano man did a fine job. The party band we heard in Spinnaker's one night had potential, but we didn't stick around because they were too loud.

Disembarkation. Norwegian's Freestyle plan of exiting the ship looked good on paper, but in all actuality, it was more like a free-for-all, resulting in one long line from the gangway that snaked almost completely around deck 7 of the ship. Picking up your own tags and choosing the time you want to leave sounds good, but either not enough time was called between groups, or everyone just disembarked whenever they felt like it, resulting in the crazy long line. The smart people were the ones relaxing in chairs waiting for the line to come to an end when they would just get up and walk off. I'll remember that strategy for my next NCL cruise. On the positive side, we spotted our luggage right away from the escalator in an area pointed out by helpful agents, so at least that part was a breeze.

Bermuda.

Royal Navy Dockyard. Having previously been to many of the tourist sites, such as Crystal Caves, Botanical Gardens, the Zoo, etc., we decided to stick around the Dockyard on the first day, visiting the Maritime Museum and walking the perimeter around the grounds of the old military fort. It's a great place for a bird's eye view of the cruise ships docked at the Royal Navy Dockyard as well as the folks swimming, snorkeling and sunning at nearby Snorkel Beach. We stopped and rested at the Dolphin show located in the Museum grounds and watched some excited guests in the water with them. In all actuality, it was a hot, sweltering afternoon, and we were looking for any piece of shade we could find. Having enough sun and heat, we stopped at the Frog and Onion for a break. It's a touristy and pricey restaurant, but it was convenient, the atmosphere and food were good, and the drinks refreshing on a hot Bermuda day.

Gosling Sunset Rum Cruise. We booked this independently, and it was a lot of fun. The rum expert from Gosling gave us an informative overview and sample of a variety of different rums, and by the end of the cruise, we were all feeling pretty fine! Great rum, gorgeous sunset, and a happy crowd of other rum lovers made it an enjoyable evening!

Ferries/Bus. We bought a one-day pass for the busses and ferries, and began Day 3 by taking the ferry from the Dockyard to St. George. The last time we visited St. George was in 2008, when the Norwegian Dream docked there. We walked around this quaint, historical town for a while, noticing how much quieter it is now that the cruise ships no longer come here.

Next, we grabbed a bus to the famous Swizzle Inn, a Bermuda must-do every time we come here. We grabbed a table on the upper deck, dined on what my husband described as the "best fish sandwich he's ever had", drank a pitcher of rum swizzle, and watched the people come and go. It was a great way to spend an hour or two away from the scorching heat.

We followed up lunch with a bus ride to a beautiful nature reserve called Spittal Pond. Due to the intense mid-day heat, some health and knee arthritis issues, neither one of us were in any shape to navigate the entire area. Therefore, while my husband took a nap in the shade, I grabbed my camera and a monopod to help me down the hilly path and was rewarded with the most beautiful scenic rocky cove. I sat and watched the sea waves crash for a while and then walked the path along the pond a bit enjoying the flowers, birds and serenity, before making my way back up the hill. Spittal Pond is a bit off the beaten path and doesn't draw many tourists, so if you are a nature lover or bird watcher, I highly recommend a visit to this beautiful haven. With the exception of a couple of other wanderers, I had the place to myself. We left Spittal Pond, waited for a bus, and made our way back to Hamilton. Tired and hot after a long day, we didn't spend any time in Hamilton, but hopped the next ferry back to the ship.

Horseshoe Bay. A gorgeous beach, fine pink sand, crashing waves, rock formations, colorful birds, and the clearest aqua blue water to be found anywhere; it's no wonder it's the most popular beach in Bermuda. We arrived by taxi around 10:30 a.m., found a partially shaded spot by the rocks to lay down our towels, played in the waves, dried off and left by 12:30, as the crowds arrived. We've been to other less-crowded beaches on previous visits, but this was our first time at Horseshoe Bay. In fact, if it weren't for the extra time given to us in port, we probably would have skipped it again. I'm so glad we didn't because it was one of the highlights of our cruise.

Shopping. We aren't big shoppers, but I do like to bring something home for the kids and grandson. I found the Dockyard Clocktower Mall sufficient for want I needed. So while the hubby relaxed on board, I hopped on the free trolley and made my way around the Dockyard. It's not the quickest way to get around, but on a hot day, it's nice to be shaded and perspiration-free. The Mall carries a mix of touristy stuff as well as Made-in-Bermuda items. Plus, I paid a quick visit to the Rum Cake and Hand-Blown Crystal factories, so I was happy to help the local economy.

Final Thoughts: There are relatively few options for cruises from Boston, and this one is an easy one, which is why it’s so popular with families – a cruise to a warm destination with no expensive flights and an easy drive for most folks. As with our three previous visits to Bermuda, we lucked out with some gorgeous, tropical weather with hardly a passing sprinkle. This was a relaxing cruise, as all Bermuda cruises are. It's a pleasure to dock for multiple nights in one port with the ability to come and go with no deadlines. While not the best cruise or ship we’ve had the privilege to experience, the Dawn was much nicer than I expected it would be, and we enjoyed the cruise, food and service. In fact, another certificate for a free Norwegian cruise appeared in our mailbox upon arrival home, practically guaranteeing our future return to Norwegian!

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Eastern Caribbean Cruise
Publication Date: April 23, 2015

Our recent (April 6, 2015) cruise on NCL was not a pleasant experience. I will lay out the pros and cons of this cruise.

Pros

3 out of 5 of the islands we visited were nice. St Kitts, St Thomas and Antigua were nice stops and offered some very pretty beaches and interesting historical sites.

The bathroom of the mini suite that we stayed in was very generous and had nice amenities.

The cabin had some nice appointments and very generous storage.

The weather was very nice, high 70’s to mid 80’s everyday.

Cons

When we arrived at the ship we were given a letter that indicated that 5.78% of the passengers on the previous sailing had come down with acute gastroenteritis (about 125 people) and if we didn't want to travel on this cruise we would be given a credit on a future cruise (we flew in from California so that meant we would forfeit our airfare and have to buy another airfare if we were going to take their credit).

Because of this problem we were allowed to board the ship about 2:00 PM, but no one was able to go to their cabins

until they were thoroughly cleaned. We got in our cabin at 5:00 PM. I assume this means they disinfected all the cabins. Over 2,000 people were on the ship and could not go to their cabins and were trying to get lunch. You can only imagine the chaos.

Due to the need for sterilization throughout the entire cruise you couldn't touch anything when you were getting your food at any of the cafeteria style restaurants. You were handed a plate and utensils and you had to stand in line while waiting for the staff to dish up your food. As an example if you wanted catsup on your fries or burger you had to stand in line so the person manning the catsup bottle could squirt catsup on your food. If you were in one of the sit down restaurants and wanted salt you had to wait for your waiter to bring a salt mill over and they put the salt on your food. I can understand the need for sanitation but this was carried to the extreme.

While the cabin was roomy and clean the couch was one of the most uncomfortable things I ever sat on. It had about 2” of foam on top of a board and when you sat down you would always hit the board.

The glass on the veranda was very dirty and was never cleaned. (I’m sure that the person who was supposed to clean the glass was handing out catsup in the cafeteria!)

The service in the restaurants was OK at times and very poor at other times.

It seemed like the entire focus of the cruise was SHOPPING. There were presentations on how to buy precious gems, watches and art but not ONE presentation about the islands we were visiting or any information about the Caribbean. Our last cruise was to Alaska on Holland America and we had many presentations on the wildlife of the area along with presentations on the locations we visited and glaciers etc. The only thing we could find out on this cruise was where we could buy diamonds and watches on the islands we visited.

The NCL shore excursions we booked were spilt 50/50 we had one fairly good on and one fairly bad one. The excursion to the Virgin Gorda Baths on Tortola was a real bust. The rocks were neat but the snorkeling was terrible. No coral, no fish and the boat was a joke. Their idea of refreshments was to throw a case of bottled water on the counter on the way back to the ship. The two stop snorkel in St Thomas was nice but too short for my liking. We only had about 25 - 30 minutes to snorkel at each stop. The excursion cat was very nice and good refreshments but as we were coming back to port the captain informed us that the crew worked for tips and the recommended tip was $15 to $20 per person!!!

The Shore excursion we booked ourselves in Antigua was with Scenic Tours Antigua and I would highly recommend them. Very informative and pleasant. It was a great tour of the island.

As for the other islands Tortola was hard to get on and off of because you had to use tenders. It was a long and uncomfortable experience. Martinique is an island they could very easily skip. You are docked in what has to be the ghetto part of the island. We asked for directions to a grocery store from a port official and the last thing he said to us was “BE VERY CAREFUL” and I know why. While nothing happened to us the surroundings made you very nervous. It was not nice.

Tipping. You are assessed a $12 per person gratuity per day on the cruise, that was $240 for us for the cruise. We had the Ultimate drink package and an 18% tip was included in the package for every drink BUT there was still another place on the bill for an additional tip. Every up charge for a restaurant had a place for an additional tip. I think that gratuities have their place but this cruise took it to a new level.

In summary Freestyle cruising is not necessarily free, informative or fun. The focus of the cruise was buy buy buy and tip, tip, tip! Buy your duty free liquor, watches, diamonds, tanzanite, and art at prices that are not that good and if you don’t buy on the ship, we will tell you where to buy them on shore (the same vendor that was on the ship). I happen to be in the market for a watch and most of the watches I looked at could be purchased cheaper at Costco even including taxes.

My recommendation is to stay away from NCL and go with a cruise line like Holland America that caters to educating you about the places you are going not trying to pull more money out of your wallet.

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