I have heard it said that if you cannot say something nice, don't say anything at all.. Well, I almost had to not say anything at all about this cruise. In short, I think Norwegian is sinking. It will not surprise me if they disappear from the cruising business. Are you catching on to how I am thinking? I should say at the start of my little story here that the ship does have some pretty areas and some neat features, etc, and I will try to include them in this story. But where should I start a story that is going to end badly.
This particular cruise was a nine night cruise, leaving from Miami on Friday evening Feb. 20, 2009. It would cruise as far south as St. Lucia, before returning on Sunday, March 01, 2009. I think this trip was to be a failure from day one. The first clue came when I arrived in my room, on the eight floor, and started to unpack my travel bags. When I went to place my toilet items on the shelves in the bathroom, they were covered in dust as if they had not been cleaned in a month. I wiped them off myself. Then I check the shelves where I would be placing my folded clothes. The shelves were covered with a combination of sand and dust. Again, I had to clean the shelves before I could use them. Then it is time to go to the dining room for dinner..
I was traveling with a group and as a group we were allowed to arrive a bit early so we could be seated together. For those who have not sailed with Norwegian and experienced the "Freestyle", it is much like going to a restaurant. Instead of being seated at the same time, at the same table, and having the same waiter each day as on most cruise lines, this one allows passengers to eat at the time of their choosing as long as the dining room is open. This means you will not have the same table or waiter each evening. The thing I remember most about the first meal was that it took forever to get our food, but it does not stop there. On most all other cruise lines, you are asked what you would like to drink with your meal. Not here. The booze sales person showed up fast and was ready to sell wine, etc, but to get a glass of tea, well you were out of luck. I did get tea by begging and it arrived just before my meal was finished. Refills were unheard of. When we did finally get our food, which took forever, the food was as poor as the service or worse. The dessert was also very poor. For those of us who ordered something with ice-cream, the ice-cream was melted by the time it got to our table. I took some photos of all this, but the images do not tell the real story. The second night it was even worse!!!!!!!!! I did manage to get a glass of tea, but only one. The main meal was poor and the dessert was too bad to eat. The dessert was something that looked like fish eggs with syrup poured over them, and tasted just about like that.... I gave up and left.. I never returned to the dining room for the rest of the cruise. I chose to eat the rest of my meals at the buffet line on the back of the ship.
The food on the buffet was not always good, but if you found something you liked, you could get more. But here is the twist. Norwegian will not provide trays for you to carry your food to the table. Someone checked on this and told me the company had done this to keep people from eating too much.. I can say I liked the way the serving lines(islands) were arranged. I can say there was lots of fresh fruit and veggies for those like me who want such things. But, here is the twist, since you cannot have a tray, you have get a plate and run around adding things to it. Then you have to go find a place to sit. You find one, you put your plate down and you head back to the serving lines to make your salad, you bring your salad back and sit it down.. Of course you do not know what someone could have done to your food while you are gone, but you are back.. Now you need something to drink, so you head back to the serving stations and get your drinks. You bring them back and if your food is still there, you eat dinner. The silverware and napkins are provided on each table, however you will notice while you are eating that the table attendants are not cleaning the tables after someone leaves.. They just brush the loose stuff off in the floor, put down new silverware and napkins, and leave. Now you have eaten and drank your tea or whatever, then, you want to have some desert and some coffee, so, you head off to the serving station again for a dessert and some coffee.. You get it and head back for your table, but when you get there, your plates are gone, your napkin is gone, your silverware is gone, your glass of tea is gone, and someone else is sitting where you had been eating dinner.. Now you go try to find another place to sit.
This is probably a good time to mention that the ship has an "all-night" place to eat, but the food is worse there than any greasy-spoon I have ever been to. I went there several times late at night with a group of people, mostly to be social and get a snack.. I did find an item or two, hot-dog, that was okay to eat. Most of the other stuff I could not eat. It was bad, at best.. Now here is another twist on this, though I never ate at one, there were several restaurants on the ship that were suppose to serve "good" food with "good" service, but these eating places charged extra dollars. I did not eat at one, but lots of other people did and said it was pretty good. I am assuming the poor service and poor food is a way for the company to save money, but they are hurting themselves big-time for doing this, as I for one will not be going back on another Norwegian Cruise. I expect them to sink if they do not change things fast. But, soon I expect them to stop serving food all together and just let the fast food people come on-board and sell their food. In the near future you will probably go on a Norwegian line and there will be a McDonalds, a Hardees, a Taco Bell, and the list goes on.. They are turning into a joke.
Now back to the issue with the room. My roommate and I may have been using more towels than most, but we thought it a good thing. I generally showered in the morning to wake up and get the day started, I showered before dinner and I would often shower before going to bed, if I had been out dancing, etc., This means extra towels.. I got a few, but they were hard to come by, and the room attendants were the least active I have seen. I have logged about 30 cruises and have experienced good room care. It did not happen here. Also, to add to the list, the room safe did not work and a service person had to come repair it.. This is just a sample of the things that were lacking on this ship.
Here is a note for the beer drinkers who will read this, a 25 ounce Fosters will cost you $7.21. A regular 12 ounce can of beer will cost you approximately $4.21. Back to the room and the service. On good ships, the rooms are almost constantly checked and made-up if messed up.. Not on this ship!!!!! And, here is the real kicker, when I started to go to bed the next to last night, I notice that when I pulled the covers back, it looked liked the sheets had been used for toilet paper, marked with a couple big brown spots the size of my hand, and there was a hole in the sheet the size of my thumb. I pulled the sheet off the bed and threw it in the bathroom with the dirty towels. I slept under the comforter.
The next day, I went to the registration desk and told them of my issues and that I wanted the automatic gratuity removed from my bill. There was quite a discussion of course, but they did remove it. For those who do not know, the common practice with some lines now is to automatically add the service gratuities for all your helpers to your ship charge. This time it was 108 dollars if I remember correctly. The employees have started treating it as a entitlement program rather than a tip for service. When it comes time to go to bed on the last night, I find that I do not have a top sheet!!!!!! The room attendants never replaced the nasty top sheet that I had removed!!!!!!!!!!!
Entertainment: I will have to say that the entertainment was pretty good. I love to sit on the front row in the theater, as I did this trip. Was good. Also, the musicians around the ship were quite good as well. I and many others would liked to have had more music on the sun deck. There was a small band that would come out and play at times, but not very long.
Our room was poorly taken care of but the public areas of the ship were always very clean. This particular ship does have a small area for people who want to sunbath in the nude. The exercise equipment was very good. I generally worked out in the gym each day. Also, the steam room was very nice. But, there was no sauna. To use a sauna, you had to pay an extra 20 dollars per day.
Over all, I would not recommend anyone take a trip on this ship unless it was free. Free covers a lot of things, but if you are paying for it, find a better cruise line, but do not go on Carnival, they are not good either.. Royal Caribbean has always been a good company to go with. I have not been on any of the higher grade lines, but I will in the future.
Now for the non ship portion of the cruise. Our first stop was on Dominican Republic's Samana. Getting onto the island required a ride on a tender, which is not a fun way to go. Having to use a tender means you cannot get on and off the ship when you want to, but rather when the little shuttle boat comes by. Being parked at a dock is so much better!!!!!!!!!!! On Samana one person in our group arranged for a taxi guy to take us on a tour for 20 dollars per person.. This is about the going price.. You will see our visit here and on the other islands when you view the slide shows. Samana has some great beaches.. I can recommend this island. It is primitive, but has beautiful beaches.....
The second island we visited was the British Virgin Island's Tortola. Here I joined a couple friends for another taxi-tour for 20 dollars I think it was.. Got a basic tour of the island, lost my second hat here and vowed to stop buying hats, cause I keep losing them. Our tour included a short stop at an old rum factory and then the beach for an hour or so..
Our third island was St. Johns on Antigua... This place should be avoided. It stinks to high heaven.. From what I could see and smell, the sewer just runs down the street.. There are a lot of vendor places close to the ship, but beyond that things look really unsafe to be around.. I walked around for a bit, but was not comfortable and the smell of the sewers was awful. I finally found a place that sold beer and spent the rest of my time there.
The fourth island was Barbados.... Now this is a pretty neat place.. I have been here several times and enjoy coming back. Again I grabbed a taxi-tour and went off to the see the island again. This time the tour took us to a high point where we could get a panoramic view of the island from the roof of a building. We drove through a lot of what looked to be sugar cane and stopped at another lookout point on the island. Then we made a stop at one of the old churches which had its own graveyard. This is almost the standard in the islands, to have the graveyard right beside the church.
The fifth and last island on our trip was St. Lucia. I have also been here several times and each time I have taken a tour. Each tour experience is similar but ends up being different.. This time we visited a banana growing area, we went to what we thought was going to be a wonderful water fall with mineral water. Turned out to be a pig pen with goat pee in it or something similar.. I would not get in it for any amount of money, but others jumped right in.. I expect them to all be dead by this coming Christmas... The tour continued on to a resort of some kind where we were given a little cheap lunch of some kind, I left most of the food and dessert on the plate. We did get to take a few nice photos, but the tour was too long and stopping to take photos seemed to take too much time, so the photo part stopped. We just rode and looked out the window of a very cramped up little van.. But, the funniest part of this trip was the chance to stop and go the bathroom, a stop we needed in a bad way by the time we got there. In some little town we found a restroom building where you had to pay 50 cents to pee. The price was more if you needed to do anything that required paper.. Paper was for sale by two ladies at the door to the bathroom. This turned out to be a mess as nobody had brought change. So several paid one dollar to pee.. You would expect that free peeing would be included in the tour.. Wrong. We managed to survive the tour and had about two days at sea before we returned to Miami. But, the adventure of this cruise did not end at the dock.
Due to a mix up with the bus service to the airport we had to wait a long time to get a lift to the airport, one hour away in West Palm Beach. Then, we get word that there is ice and snow at the Atlanta airport where we are headed. It took some doing and some strained nerves but some of us made it to the Atlanta airport at about 1:00 AM. One of the ladies in the group was able to get us hotel rooms and a taxi to get us to the hotel so we could go get some sleep. The hotel ended up being downtown. We got to bed around 3:30 AM. The taxi driver came back for us the next afternoon at about 1:30 PM.. We made our 4:25 PM flight headed back home and arrived back at the home airport before the sun went down. The next trip like this will be much better planned.
In spite of all the problems, the sun in the islands sure felt good. Now that you have read a summary of the cruise, I can now offer you a couple of slide shows so you can see some of what I saw while on the adventure. I am aware that there are a lot more images here than you would generally see on a website, but that is exactly the point. When I have been trying to do research for trips, there are few photos to show me what I have ahead of me.. Also, my hobby is photography. So, for those who like photography, for those who like to see places they may never go, and for those who want a good visual reference to study before they go, this site and these photos are for you.. Enjoy. To see the slide shows, click on the links below. FILE ONE FILE TWO.
A window in Tom's universe. This is more than a website of photos, it is a place to share photos, adventures, stories, opinions, and information. I hope you enjoy the time you spend here.