Our recent (April 6, 2015) cruise on NCL was not a pleasant experience. I will lay out the pros and cons of this cruise.
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.
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 cabinsuntil 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.
Alaska was awesome, what we enjoyed the most was the Glacier Bay , the Captain did everything to let us enjoy the glacier at its best, all the crew were fantastic, very helpful and smiling all the time, we try all the speciality restaurants,they were really good and our favorites were the Tepanyaky and Cagney's , the rooms were clean and cozy, Francis did a great job and he always left a nice towel figure for us.
Let me start by saying: Alaska is wonderful. Breathtaking and unforgettable.
But then, there is is pressing question: What happened to the cruise industry in US? It used to be a nice experience cruising with interesting people, having the formal nights and enjoying gourmet food for a few days.
Well, this is ALL GONE! In order to survive on a very competitive market, cruise lines gave a big welcome to middle America, white trash clientele and therefore the cruising experience became a week on a floating Wallmart, where formal night means tank tops, bad hair and shorts. The casino is like a night out... on a cheesy hotel in Reno.
It's amazing how NCL managed to make food look and taste so unattractive and stale. Even the "specialty restaurants" have below average food. The worse of them all on Pearl: The Asian restaurant. Shameless cheap and horrible presentation. Panda Express is a gourmet place in comparison.
The buffet smells like a university cafeteria and the quality is horrendous.
The main dining rooms menus offer cheap food and terrible service. Even the special lunch menu at Cagney's for Haven passengers has few options, the portions are tiny(the smallest sea scallops I have ever seen) and it never changes during the seven days.
We were "lucky" enough to stay at the Haven - that in the
end was nothing more than a misleading advertisement. Yes, you have
a bigger cabin with great views, but you pay quite a lot for that.
Then you have a "butler" and a concierge to help you - the problem
is that you will see the concierge twice during the whole cruise
and the butler is inattentive and elusive.
There is an area in the Haven with a small pool, a jacuzzi and snacks for the VIP's guests. For upscale snacks NCL offers peanuts M&Ms, gummy bears and stale cookies. I'm not kidding!
Entertainment was a mixed bag with decent productions like What a Night and Broadway Night and a horrible "magician/comedian" and a troupe of comics that will make you cry or throw up.
But in the end it's the fellow passengers that make the experience... different. Have you ever spent a week at Wallmart, eating and mingling with the other shoppers? That's exactly how I felt.
"Au revoir" NCL! I'm not your target clientele any longer.
BEWARE. We booked with Norwegian for a cruise in January 2014 and two days after they changed the full itinerary (all of the ports of call were changed). When we called to discuss the issue of the full itinerary change, they kept telling me I booked the wrong cruise. I eventually spoke to a manager and showed proof of the cruise I originally booked and what it was changed to. We were then promised that our rates would be locked in by the manager, Kathy.
I received a phone call a few days later advising that our rates would not be locked in, and if we wanted to move to another ship with the itinerary that we originally booked, we would have to pay almost double the rates. They refused to do anything for us except possibly giving a total of a $300 on-board credit. $300 does not even come close to making up for the rate changes and all of the trouble we dealt with.
We have since cancelled our cruise. We booked the original itinerary, because we had never been to those ports of call. They then changed the wholeitinerary to ports of call that we had sailed to previously. I was told by three different people at Norwegian that I had booked the wrong cruise and didn't know what I was talking about. Then we were promised our rates would be locked in when speaking with a manager, and then they weren't. Basically, we were told we were stupid and then we were lied to.
I have no idea what sailing on Norwegian is like, and now I will never know. After this booking experience and complete itinerary change, myself and my family will never attempt to sail with Norwegian again. Very, very disappointing.
NORWEGIAN PEARL NOVEMBER 27TH 2011 This was our 7th cruise, the first one on Norwegian and we were looking forward to experiencing the difference between them and Carnival and Princess, the other two lines we have sailed on before. Check in was very similar to all the other check in’s we have experienced, long lines and waiting, so nothing new there. I did like it that the Ship’s officers were waiting onboard to greet us as we stepped onto the ship and walked along the deck to the atrium doors. The atrium was much smaller then any we had seen before, this wasn’t necessarily bad or good, just different. We made our way to the Lido deck, I know the deck was called something else but to me it is always the Lido deckâ€¦lol. Pearl, my wife and I sat down and enjoyed a burger and fries, delicious! My first thought was, if the burgers are this good, I can’t wait to try the rest of the food. After my cousin Tom and his wife, Christine and son Christian joined us we went sight seeing. As a foot note, Tom andhis family didn’t know we were coming on this cruise. We wanted to surprise them and we were hoping they had boarded before we did, but they caught us as we stood at the boarding counter at check in. The layout of the Pearl was different then any of the other ships we had sailed because it wasn’t associated with Carnival Corp. like Princess and Carnival are (Basically same designs). The ship, while not gaudy in colors, was beautiful to behold and the dÃ©cor was amazing. The Bliss lounge was my favorite, it had a oriental flare with seating that looked like beds and 4 bowling lanes, 2 on each side of the lounge. The Stardust Theater, while roomy was cramped for leg room and if you sat in the middle of a row you could forget about ordering a drink as there was no room for the bar staff to walk to you and deliver your drink. The Spinnaker lounge was uniquely designed, but there wasn’t really a bad seat in the room. Bar City was a big area for watching sports and having drinks with your friends. The casino was spacious and easy to walk through. I didn’t have any luck in the casino and it seemed there were very few big winners. The Lido deck had 2 swimming pools and 3 hot tubs. There was plenty of seating and I liked it that there were very few places here for sun bathers, they were up 1 deck, so it was easier to walk thru the area. The one thing I wanted to do but never got around to was try their big water slideâ€¦it looked fun! Our room was a ocean view, a first for us, 8590. It was a obstructed view cabin having a lovely view of the lifeboatâ€¦lol. I did like the lay out as it was side ways from what most cabins are. You walk in and the bed is on the right and the closet and bathroom is on the left. Plenty of storage room in the closet and vanity, no problems there and the bathroom shower was amazing. I’m 6’3” tall and weigh 300 lb’s and normally I can just soap the walls and spin around in most showers to suds up, this shower actually had a door on it and plenty of room to move, ahhhh so nice. The toilet was a different story. I have already stated my size! I barely had room in the toilet area, another area with it’s own door I might add, but I barely had room to bend over andâ€¦well you know what I mean, I actually used a public toilet down the hall a short piece instead of our own toilet when I actually had to sit down on the toiletâ€¦if u catch my drift. But over all the bed was comfy and the room was of good size. Our room steward, Mike, did a okay job. The biggest problem we had was getting our beach towels replaced each night but other then that he was very responsive to our needs and remembered our names from day 1. What we really loved about the room was it’s location! It was on the 8th floor not 25 feet from the elevators and the Blue Lagoon dining room. This dining room was the best kept secret on the ship for breakfast for most of the cruise. It had most of the selections of the main dining room for breakfast but it was really less crowded and the service much faster. We never did eat there for lunch or supper because it just served comfort food and the food was so good elsewhere. Since I am on the subject of diningâ€¦..There are two main dining rooms on the ship. One, The Summer Palace, was huge and grand! It looked like somewhere a King would dine. The 2nd main dining room was called Indigo, which was much smaller and reminded me of dining in a nice restaurant somewhere. Both served basically the same menu, however, service was much faster and better, in my opinion at the Indigo then at the bigger Summer Palace. It was at the Indigo that we met our servers Budi and Julie. We enjoyed their service very much on the first night and then found out that we could ask for them every time we ate and they would serve us, NICE!! Â Budi and Julie even came and served us even when they were not scheduled to work or were on standby, how cool was that! We had figured that with Freestyle cruising we would miss having the same people waiting on us in the main dining room like we had on Carnival and Princess so to us, this was like having your cake and eating it too. We also was surprised as we never had to wait to be seated. We did make reservations the 2 times we ate in the pay for restaurants. We ate in the Italian restaurant, La Cucina and the Japanese steakhouse Teppanyaki. LaCucina was very good and the portions very nice. The nice thing here it was only $10.00 each to eat here. Teppanyaki had come highly recommended from another couple we had talked to in the elevator. They told us the show that the chefs did alone was worth the $25 dollars we paid to eat there. I guess that couple had never ate in a Japanese steakhouse before because it was the same old same old and I didn’t think the food was all that good. The food in the Indigo was awesome! I can tell you right now, I have never had better food on any cruise ship! Everything we ate was delicious. The buffet, The Garden Caf’e was very good and we ate breakfast there once and lunch and late night snacks a couple of times. There was also a grill at the rear of the ship and also out by the pool area that had really good burgers, dogs and fries. They even had a BBQ grill set up twice cooking Burgers, dogs and chicken that was fabulous. The entertainment on the ship was also very good. From the singers to the dancers to the comedians, all were excellent. There wasn’t a big production cast or orchestra like we have seen on other ships. What Norwegian has is a small troop of dancers, some very good singers and the Second city Comedy group to entertain you as well as a juggling act called Sharkbite who were super good and funny and a stand up comedian who was very good... There wasn’t a piano bar pianist leading songs but there was a guy playing a guitar called Tino who was very good and was fun to be around in the lounges where he played. Â There was also a Mexican singing group who played latin music and another group who played the 70’s and 80’s dance parties. There is also a huge screen T.V. in the atrium. This T.V. must have been 20 ft tall and they had the NFL games on there on Monday and Thursday night. They also played Wii on this big screen with players 3 timed your heightâ€¦cool. My cousins son, who is 15 didn’t think much of Norwegians teen program. There were very few kids on the ship and fewer teenagers, so he was kinda bored. We all did do the bowling together and let me tell you, if you think bowling is easy on a rocking ship, you have another thing coming. You could have a ball headed right for the pocket and all of the sudden it would veer right or left, whichever way the ship rocked. Either way it was fun! Christian, as we all did, loved the free icecream, whether it was from the machine or hand dipped. We visited Great Stirrup Cay, Ocho Rios Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel, MX. We enjoyed the beautiful beach at Great Stirrup Cay. There is still a lot of building going on but it didn’t interfere with all the fun. Norwegian had 3 big tender boats so tendering was a snap. We visited Mystic Mountain in Ocho Rios Jamaica. We had been there before but wanted to visit with my cousin and his family. This time we brought our swim suites and enjoyed the pool and waterslideâ€¦.nice. We were real lucky at Grand Cayman. The water was too rough for ships to tender where the cruise ships normally tender from so we moved to another part of the Island where we was able to tender. This area didn’t have many tenders though so the Carnival and Royal Caribbean ships who were there too were not allowed to stop there and had to cancel that port of call. We did the Dolphin encounter and sting ray excursion through the ship and had a blast. I really enjoyed being up close with the Dolphins and sting rays and would highly recommend this excursion. At Cozumel, Mexico, our 3rd visit there, we did the X-rail excursion thru the ship and had a great time. These X-rails are not easy to drive with standard steering and a small steering wheel that can be ripped from your hand at anytime when u hit a rock. The wife and I really had fun driving it though and we also visited a secluded cavern and went for a swim in the crystal clear water there. I will warn everyone nowâ€¦you will get muddy and the shower off area is less then desirable back at the main building being pvc pipes with holes drilled in them outside with no privacy. We were sad to see the cruise end as this was definitely our favorite cruise we have been on. Debarkation was easy, the only problem was there was a lot of foreigners on this ship so customs was really slow. We definitely will sail Norwegian again. We loved the freestyle concept and would like to see it continue to expand industry wide. The overall crew was wonderful. Not overbearing but catering to your needs and wants and they seemed genuinely happy, unlike many cruises we have been on.
"No booze in the stateroom"
We've travelled over ten cruises before this one with Norwegian Cruise Lines, so we're well aware of the restrictions that are in place regarding the bringing on board of liquor. All the previous cruise lines we have travelled with have, however, turned a blind eye to liquor packed in checked luggage.
Not NCL. On boarding, I waited for five hours for my checked baggage to arrive; eventually, I got a note telling me that I had restricted contents in my bag and that I would have to go to a certain location to have my bag searched. Proceeding to that location, I found a queue of about two to three hundred angry passengers in the same situation. After a long wait and a humiliating search, my checked two litre bottles were confiscated for the duration of the cruise.
During the lineup, I had plenty of opportunity to commiserate with fellow passengers about this appalling lack of consideration for customers on the part of NCL. One guy had brought along a bottle of his favorite Kentucky whisky which he knew would not be available on just about any cruiseship, but it was taken anyway. Without exception, all were vowing that this would be their last cruise with NCL.
So, why do they do it? Well, it must be partly because of the liquor prices. NCl charged consistently charged a couple of dollars or so more per drink than on the cruise we took with a competitor immediately following theirs. I even asked for a bar menu and the standard drinks were listed, but no prices! Clearly, NCL is aware of their predatory pricing and can't bring themselves to admit it, and do all they can to maximise their liquor profit.
Another problem is with the "free style dining." Firstly, you don't get the opportunity to get to know dinner companions in the same way that traditional cruise dining gives you. Although we were prepared to accept that, what we were not prepared for was the 20 to 30 minute wait for an available table at dinner. It was possible to make an advance reservation (at least several hours in advance), but even then you had to wait 10 minutes or so. Furthermore, if you got into the restaurant after 8.30 pm or so, in the hope of avoiding the crowds, the waiters were clearly agitated at having to serve so late, bringing on courses before you had finished the previous one.
The food itself was generally poor. At dinner, I did get excellent roast pork loin once, other times not so good. For instance, once I ordered "rack of lamb," only to be served with a couple of extremely tough regular individual lamb chops, not the delicate small juicy ones you normally associate as a rack.
There are numerous premium-priced "specialty" restaurants on board, which again tells you something about NCL's eagerness to extract yet more money from its customers. For instance, there is "Le Bistro," a restaurant offering French cuisine for an extra $25 per person. But what most diners don't realise is that once inside, to order any item you wish from the extensive menu may cost you $10 more. Check the menus carefully prior to using these establishments.
What can I say to be positive? Well, the standard of entertainment is very high and presented in a beautiful theater. There is lots to do daytime with plenty of interesting and fun activities. We had a very spacious penthouse suite with the services of a butler and a concierge fresh flowers and a welcome bottle of champagne, etc. The concierge was particularly helpful. The balcony was huge, but being forward (just below the bridge) was almost always unuseable when the ship was in motion due to the high wind.
Beware of some of the shore excursions. We went on a snorkelling trip at our Belize stop and the boat we were taken on was totally unequipped for this; no rear platform for easy access to the water and the rental snorkel gear was defective. "Lunch" consisted of dried-up roast chicken with rice and beans, worth all of $3. In fairness to NCL, after we complained about this to NCL our money ($109 per person) was completely refunded.
In summary, although NCL offers some very attractively-priced cruises, they more than make up for it once you're on board. And, because of the outrageous liquor seizure, We will never sail with NCL again.
The Pearl is a newer ship and now it is our favorite. We have been on 12 cruises and the Pearl was the most enjoyable, beautiful and well run ship we have been on in a long time. No lines anywhere, 12 ( I think) restaurants, even the buffet was amazing. They even had a juice station where you could pick whole raw carrots, celery, fruits, etc to have fresh juice made. 4 made to order omlet stations, pasta stations, too many choices to list. Quality of food was also very good. We really enjoyed the French Bistro.
So much to do too. A lounge on an upper level was laid out with sofas, beds, etc in small semi private cubbys with a stage for entertainment and 4 bowling lanes & casino slot machines. The lobby atrium has a huge floor to ceiling film screen that runs Wii games during the day inbetween movies. Great entertainment on the stages, and in the lounges.
We stopped at NCL's private island and couldn't believe how much nicer it was than Carnivals. Palm trees gave lots of shade for all the rows of beach chairs,hammocks strung between the trees, the beach lunch was on the beach not a half hour walk inland. The beach was clean and water clear, a craggy rock outcrop had many different fish to feed and snorkel around.
This is a great cruise and wonderful cruise ship.
My husband (75) and myself (65) just returned from the cruise to Alaska. Our cruise was terrible. The entertainment was a disaster. Not approriate for family oriented cruise. The service was not good. Our room attendent Sherton was very good and helpful and kept our room perfect. He is the only one that I can say was very attentive.
Children were running in the hall and I spoke to the personnel about this because they bumped into me three different times.
I have an artificial hip and if they had knocked me down I would be in a wheel chair because I cannot have any more surgery on my hip. The personnel told me they could not do anything about the running in the halls and in the resturant. We have travel with Norwegian before and had excellent service. We had planned to make this a yearly anniversary trip on their ships. Now we will never travel with Norwegian again and I will advise anyone else not to.Also too many hidden fees and having to buy our cokes all the time. This is rediculous.
Here's link to my review.
We arrived at our cruise ship early, at around 11:00, as we wanted to enjoy the ship prior to sailing. We found this to be a great idea as we were onboard by 12:15.
Once onboard we found the ship to be extremely clean and well kept.
The staff were friendly and were happy to see the new passengers.
After exploring the ship and grabbing a bite to eat, we were allowed to our balcony room 10140 at around 2:00. We found this room to be well appointed and the balcony just the right size for my wife and I. Sunrises or sunsets are best viewed from balconies.
The food on the ship was fine, with the Summer restaurant more then adequate for a sit down meal. Breakfast in the Summer restaurant was very good. The food at the buffet was fresh and fine for a quick meal if that is what you wanted.
If you wished a change of menu for dinner you could pay a fee for one of the specialty restaurants. We did eat at three of these venues and found that the extra cost was not worth it. Ourmain concern about the specialty restaurants is that if you pay extra for one of the venues, the service and selection should move up a notch. We did not find this happened. We did enjoy the Freestyle dining and had no trouble making reservations just be flexable.
The entertainment on the ship exceeded our expectations. Top notch.
The port of Roatan was our best adventure by far. We attended a small daytime resort -- Fins and Flippers -- and found the beach, pool, service and snorkeling fantastic. The price was right at $20 per person, with food being around $5 per person and beer $2 each. I found it on the internet as it is not ship-sponsored.
The other ports, Belize and Mexico, we just walked around the pier and shopped, selecting this as our choice of activity.
Norwegian Cruise Line does attempt to extract money from you at every twist and turn of the cruise ship. You do receive water, coffee and tea, but if you expect anything other then these refreshments at non-dining hours you are charged a fee. You can purchase a pop card, which we did, for $50, but this card does not include juices. You can bring pop and juice aboard at no cost or hassle. It's just nice to know what you can and cannot receive on the ship so that you can prepare accordingly.
My wife and I really enjoyed our cruise with Norwegian Cruise line and have placed a deposit for a second cruise with them in the near future. I guess signing up as repeat customers says it all.