Cruise Line: Norwegian Cruise Line
Ship: Norwegian Sea
Date of Cruise: May 27 - June 3, 2001
Bahamas on the Norwegian Sea
We sailed the New York City loop to the Bahamas and Great Stirrup Cays on 5/27/01 to 6/3/01. This was our eleventh cruise overall and third with NCL. We sailed on the Nowegien Sea for our first cruise, when she was the Seward in 1991.
We boarded a bus in Mount Laurel, NJ around noon and was at the pier between 1:30 and 2:00. An NCL rep. boarded the bus and quickly mentioned where to go, but many didn't hear her ( including us), so looking for the entrance was confusing. There wasn't a rep present to escort the group, so it took a while to find the elevator up to embarkation. When we arrived, I asked where the Latitudes line was, and was guided to it. There were only two people trying to process all the latitude members. The other lines were moving faster than ours, but by the time we realized it, we were among the last to board the ship. This was around 3:00 to 3:15.
We quickly found our cabin and proceeded directly to the Big Apple Cafe, where lunch was being served. This was the only restaurant open (that's what we were told, anyway), and the lines were unbelievable! We were in line for close to an hour. When the life boat drill was ordered (the only thing on time!), there was probably 100 to 150 people who stayed in line until we had food. My wife has a gastro condition (we even carried a few cereal bars on the bus), so it was imperative she ate. We never did get to the "drill". We set sail around 5:00(?), to a beautiful sunny day. It rained on the trip to NYC, but cleared before we sailed. The aircraft carrier JFK was holding drills with attack helicopters in the harbor, which was terrific! Seeing this, along with the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, and World Trade Center , certainly made me proud to be an American, especially with Memorial Day that Monday. My father and father-in-law were both Vets, both gone now, and I had a "lump in my throat" and a "tear in my eye" when we viewed the demonstration.
The rain finally found us on our first sea day, but it gave us a chance to unwind, unpack and explore the ship. I thought NCL has done a very good job maintaining the ship. There was minimal wear, and the ship was very clean. We ate breakfast each day in the Seven Seas or Four Seasons. The Big Apple Cafe was good for lunch, but the menu didn't vary much and could be crowded if you ate at peak times.
The Sun returned and temperatures were in the mid 70's to 80. This was also a "sea day", which we lounged around the pool most of the morning and early afternoon. The pool area gets very crowded by 11:00, so if your looking for prime seating, get there early. It was somewhat windy and cool early in the day, so we purchased a couple of NCL sweatshirts. They did the trick quite well.
We've been to Nassau several times previous, so we decided to take the Dolphin Encounter at Blue Lagoon. It was pricey($89 pp), but well worth the look on my wife's face as our dolphin "Stormy" interacted with us and gave us a hug and kiss! The tour lasted around three hours. We spent the rest of the day enjoying the pools and hot-tubs.
The weather was cooperating since day one, and this was no exception. Tendering to Great Stirrup Cay took around 1/2 hour, from boarding the tender until reaching the island . We managed to get on the second tender, so getting a great spot was a breeze. If you came late, it was difficult to find a good location. We rented a large float-tube for $15.00 for the whole day. The water was a little chilly when you first entered, but felt OK after a few seconds. The island itself is lay-out well, with a few small shops, changing facilities, food, rental equipment and beach chairs all within easy walking distance. We enjoy the laid-back, no schedule-type atmosphere on this island.
Day Five and Six
The last two days we spent hanging around the pool area early, then sunning in the afternoon. We found a quiet, warm and secluded spot on Deck 10, aft. I took two lounge chairs and placed them in front of the glass by the Observatory Lounge. Several others "discovered" this area too, and we enjoyed the day in splendid bliss!
Cabin Steward and Cabin
Our cabin was located on Deck 3, number 3208. We were forward the front elevators and close to the Kids Playroom. Easy to access the main deck. Our steward's name is Delroy from Jamaica. We requested to have our beds placed together the first night, which he did without any problem. He did a wonderful job with our cabin, and had our room cleaned very quickly. Although he seemed invisible, he was always close by if we needed anything.
The overall service was better than I expected. The only place it wasn't too consistent for us was dinner once in the Four Seasons Restaurant. Most of the bar, cabin and dining staff did a decent job (IMHO). Others will disagree, but our experience was pretty good.
The shows that the Jean Ann Ryan perform are done very well. Pretty of energy is put into their performances. The singer Donnie Abrahams has a great voice and performed many of the classic type songs (Elvis, Tom Jones, etc...) We saw three different comedians (already forgot their names). Their shows were PG rated prime-time, but R rated late-night. The two main comedians were a riot, especially their late shows! The third act was just so-so. The band performing at the Stardust Lounge was named "Mind the Gap". They played a good mix of music from the Sixties to present. Their lead singer (Karen?) had a great voice! We enjoyed them several nights.
My one "sore spot" was how poorly this works, at least on this ship. My wife and I enjoy traditional style cruising, but wanted an informal, laid-back cruise for a change. This concept of being able to eat "when you want, where you want, and with whom you want" sounded great. The practice of this idea isn't. Three consecutive nights we tried getting a table for "two", once at 6:15, 7:15 and 7:30. We tried both restaurants, which didn't make any difference. We couldn't even get seated at ANY TABLE for over a half hour for the first two nights. On the third night (at 6:15), the waiter attempted to seat us a table where 6 people were half-thru their meal! When I refused to impose on them, the waiter returned us to the Maitre d'. Confused, she claimed she wouldn't have a table for two for quite a while. I told her that's not where the waiter tried to seat us, and that I only want to be seated where others aren't half-thru eating. She then found a large table where another couple were seated. If you were seated within a half-hour of the restaurant opening, you could get to choose where you sat. This was the same at both restaurants. You could also choose your seating if you ate after 8:30. Many pax I had spoken with had similar problems with seating. Some enjoyed freestyle, but I don't think they tried various times. I was NOT a happy-camper!
The food quality in both the Seven Seas and Four Seasons was generally good for a mass-market line, but not many choices. The Le Bistro (ate there twice) was very nice, but the menu didn't vary the nights we were there, plus there isn't a large selection here either. This lack of variety on their menus surprised me the second night, as there is a $10.00 pp charge. Also, the escargot wasn't very good, but everything else they prepared was very good. One of our favorite places to eat was the Pasta Cafe. They divided the Big Apple Cafe after 6:00PM into a buffet and Pasta Cafe. Although a small menu, the pasta was terrific, along with the service and ambience.
NCL claims theirs is seamless, but ours was a mess. We were the second group off. Customs wouldn't allow us to debark until after 10:45 (supposed to be around 9:30), due to a problem with the luggage being removed (I think NCL held it up because several pax hadn't settled their accounts; JMO). When we got off the ship, there was a mass of people clogging the way (next sailing of pax). I couldn't find any signs referring to baggage, so I asked a NCL rep where I should retrieve my bags. He sent me where the next group would board. I finally went back and watched the next group, then followed them. The signs only show you to the "buses", and don't mention baggage claim. Maybe I missed something, but numerous others missed it too. Once we found our way, finding our bags was easy and there's plenty of porters to assist. Overall I think the cruise itself was well worth the great pricing we received, but if NCL plans to keep Freestyle on the Norwegian Sea, they should remove the traditional seating set-up in the dining rooms and add more tables for two. I think there are a large number of pax who travel as couples and would like to really have a "choice" it dining, not just rhetoric.