Norwegian Cruise Line
November 5, 2005
I must say that I was quite apprehensive about the cruise as there seems so little information about this ship and this itinerary. Also the ship is older (1988) and smaller (34,000 tons) than the ones we have cruised on in the last few years so I am pleased to report that my worries were groundless.
We chose this particular cruise because most of the ports of call were so different and the opportunity to go to Peru and Chile really appealed to us. The ship sailed from Miami and called at Ocho Rios and Montego Bay in Jamaica, Puerto Limon in Costa Rica, transited the Panama Canal, crossed the equator, and then called at Salaverry and Callao in Peru followed by Arica, Coquimbo and finally, for us, Valparaiso in Chile.We are also NCL fans as we much prefer the ‘free-style’ dining to the formal times and seating.
As we arrived at the port of Miami it was an amazing sight to see RCI Legend, Norwegian Jewel, and Norwegian Crown all berthed side by side – Daddy, Mummy and baby! The boarding experience in Miami was a bit slow but we did arrive at the most popular time. It took about 30 minutes as compared to about an hour to check in for our flight from the UK.
Once on board it was apparent that this was a much smaller ship but everything was clean and the décor was pleasantly neutral. Our cabin was a ‘restricted view double’ on deck 8 and was very well appointed with plenty of storage, a comfortable bed and a large en-suite with a bath and shower.
We explored the ship and found that all the amenities were available – show lounge, disco/dance venue, main restaurant, buffet, 3 speciality restaurants, pool, casino, lounge, shop, spa, fitness centre, photo gallery etc. but everything was, obviously, on a smaller scale.
The staff members were unfailingly polite, cheerful and helpful but, thankfully, not pushy or intrusive. The food was plentiful although the overall quality was average and the choices more limited than on the bigger vessels. We used the buffet for breakfast and lunch and the ‘Seven Seas’ dining room for dinner. The wait for seating in the ‘Seven Seas’ was never more than 5 minutes and usually within 2 minutes. We ate alone occasionally but generally shared a table and met many fascinating people. We also ate in ‘Chopsticks’ but found the choice of food to be disappointing and ‘La Bistro’ where the menu was more to our taste and the food was delicious.
I would guess that the average age of passengers was around 65+ so the ship was relatively quiet and not much happened after 11:00 p.m. The entertainment team worked hard and the shows were interesting, varied and performed with enthusiasm. All the guest entertainers were good. The dance floors were very small which is always disappointing for my husband and I as we are keen ballroom dancers and we never had chance to do any of our full routines. Francine and Andre, the resident dance team, did a great job with the dance classes but there appeared to be no liaison between them and the band, disco duo and DJ so music for the dances that we had learnt were not featured that evening.
We did NCL excursions at all ports except in Montego Bay where we got the shuttle bus into town and did our own thing. We enjoyed them all but feel they are generally over priced. If we were a bit braver or travelling with friends we would probably use the local firms and there was plenty of opportunity to pick up taxis on the pier at each port of call.
One of the strangest things was the variety of weather. We experienced just about everything from hot sunshine to cool, wet and misty but, fortunately, no hurricanes!
The highlight of our whole cruise was the 3 day Machu Picchu excursion in Peru. This was very expensive (£950/$1,500) but everything was first class. On the first day we flew from Lima to Cusco, stayed in the beautiful Hotel Libertador and had a tour of Cusco and the surrounding area. There was a very early start on the second day as we had to fit in a spectacular trip through the Andes Mountains and a visit to an ancient Inca sight before boarding the train for the 2 hour journey to Machu Picchu. The groups were bussed up an almost vertical mountain to the Inca city, had a very informative tour, lunch and then an hours shopping time in the little town at the bottom of the hill before boarding the train back to Cusco. The third day was taken up with the flight back to Arica in Chile to re-board the ship. We were accompanied by very knowledgeable local guides, one of the ship’s nurses and a ship’s representative. We were informed of the possibility of succumbing to altitude sickness and many of us needed medication. A few required oxygen from the nurse! My husband was fine but I suffered with a violent headache and felt very sick during the first night. The pills worked well but, despite the discomfort, I would not have missed the experience.
Machu Picchu itself was the most extraordinary place and the views were awe-inspiring. It was hard work climbing the steep steps in the thin atmosphere but I am so glad that I did the whole thing. It was an experience that will stay in my memory for ever.
The cruise was the perfect way to visit South America for the first time. Peru was fascinating but there is a lot of poverty and that was quite distressing at times. Chile, in contrast, seems very affluent and I would love to see more.
My husband and I have put the ‘Valparaiso to Montevideo’ cruise high on our list of ‘wanadoos’ and we would not hesitate to do it on the Norwegian Crown.