CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews

Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Dream Western Caribbean October 17, 2004

Our expedition (three single guys) was plagued by intrigue and disunity. Prior to the trip, we tried to find a room in New Orleans on etc but nothing for Saturday night before our trip. We then flew in and nearly got stuck going standby from Houston to NO.

We rented a car at the airport and found a hotel for $40 bucks that look like you rented it out by the hour. Leaving our belongings in the car, we headed to Bourben Street for a drink. We wanderered along with a large crowd and apparently there was a gunshot the crowd moved liked a human wave and we got split up and separated. Thereafter, we headed down a sidestreet to find a place called Pat O'Brians. Had a hurricane there, and headed back to the hotel.

Upon wakening the next day, we headed to the ship. After discovering that I had misplaced my ticket, I enjoyed my glass of water while standing in line when I determined that I would not have a problem getting on board. We did notice our luggage waiting to be loaded.

There is no escaping live music on a cruise ship, and the music changes from deck to deck and lounge to lounge, so that a brisk walk can feel a little like the scan button on a car radio -- an orchestra playing Big Band standards in the ?? Lounge, Latino torch songs on the Promenade deck, Gershwin tunes in ??and, always, reggae and 80's karaoke at the ?? poolside bar. Upon boarding there was a party at the poolside bar with staff getting the groove on with the latest music; "Who Let the Dogs Out."

JB was unprepared for the music, bright colors and profusion of bars, cafes and restaurants in a dizzying variety of decors. Actually, the Norwegian Dream, has a Galleria gift shop that sells souvenirs, resort wear, jewelry, suntan lotion and batteries. The ship also has many restaurants, 14 (?) bars and lounges and a 1,000-seat theater. Almost half the cabins come with small terraces (ours didn't)overlooking the sea. There are three pools, a beauty salon and spa, a fitness center, a practice golf area, a jogging track and a Vegas-style casino.

The staff was just as varied -- Filipinos, Romanians, Australians -- and extremely pleasant, young and helpful. Each evening, our cabin stewards left on the bed a chocolate and Senior JL received chocolate strawberry's that he was afraid to eat because he might have to pay. The ship policy is no direct tipping; the company adds $10 a day to the bill per person to cover tips.

People, or perhaps just travel agents, often say that cruise ships like the Dream are so vast, so battened down with stabilizers and so crammed with amenities that passengers never really notice that they are at sea. This is not in the least bit true. While my travel companions were uneffected, I noticed many people taking large doses of Dramamine, and still complaining that they could never completely shake that woozy, drowsy feeling that can overtake you on a rolling ship. Most passengers were blithely eating, dancing and drinking all night long.

A couple from Ottawa, Canada -- she shimmering in tight, capris in the Spinnaker Lounge and he with a high pitched voice taught the scores of passengers, mostly women, who crammed the small dance floor, and JB watched, mesmerized, as Jaime and I practiced the salsa steps. There are endless lessons on ships: everything from a line dancing, swing dancing, midget tossing and art auction where JL received a free bottle of champagne.

There are no longer separate classes on most American-style cruises; people who paid for a tiny interior stateroom use the same dining rooms and parlors as those who paid for a luxury cabin with wet bar, TV and DVD player, breakfast nook and balcony. Our cabins were about 145 square feet with a window and nook with a couch that could be turned into a sofa bed. For sleeping there was a queen-size bed.

Our cruise began with a mandatory lifeboat drill; the announcement is piped very loudly into each cabin over an intercom. And sure enough, every passenger turned out to a designated area on windy decks to listen to crew members explain how to enter a lifeboat during a disaster at sea. Sonya, the assistant cruise director from Toronto, cute and perky, directed the action. There was much good will and surprisingly little facetious banter; a few younger passengers giggled and shouted ''I'm on top of the world.'' Behind me, an I could have sworn that JL, no doubt remembering an earlier Titanic movie, whistled ''Nearer My God To Thee.''

The Norwegian Dream is also in the vanguard of ''freestyle'' cruising: passengers dine whenever they want at whatever restaurant or cafe they want, instead of having to select one of two dining-room seatings and then returning to their assigned tables night after night. Some connoisseurs like myself prefer the old-fashioned system, since it requires people to befriend their fellow passengers. This is, in fact, one of the main topics of debate among passengers. There are those who like assigned settings and those who do not. Food, of course, is another topic discussed exhaustively.

Probably the nicest stop was the Roatan, Hondous; it is a small island reached by small boats called tenders, which can seat 50 to 100 people. Near the dock was a madhouse of tourists and gimcrack stores. We wisely decided to take a cab around the island ($20) to an area where my friends had stayed several years before. The cab took us through winding jungle dirt roads; several times nearly running into oncoming traffic coming around blind corners. We later met, at dinner, a gentleman who had rented a moped with his wife and had fallen off going on a dirt road and had to go to the hospital. Half of his body looked like the mummy with leaking blood!!

In a small village, we met Valarie, an older expat who ran a small rooming house with chickens running around the yard. With our limited time ashore, we went to a bar and had a drink with Valarie and an gentleman friend of hers who had imbibed too many rums. The time went too fast and we discovered our cab driver had decamped. However, we found another cab driver willing to take us back for $10.

While waiting in a long line for the tender, I noticed another ship leaving and a some passergers on that ship had "missed the boat." Luckily, for them, a police boat took them the short distance to their ship.

We also visited Belieze City which is a resort area that combines the authenticity of Fallujh with the dignity of Centreville, VA. Actually, it was a very poor area with apparent open sewers and we spent most of the time trying to confirm our flight back to the US. A former English colony, everyone spoke English and was very friendly.

In Cozemel, my friends got a haircut (needed it) and a manicure respectively. Another quick day ashore, but I did get a picture of an iguana's tail. Cancun was more of the same, but since it was the last stop we stopped and got gimcracks.

There were two at sea days. During the day, we usually could either be found at the Sports Bar (not a bar but a buffett-why the name?)or the "pools." The ship had been cut in half and extended so the various so-called pools were small and not deep. There was an area near one of the bars where you could sit in a puddle of water on a barstool and have a helmet of beer(6 for the price of 5-helmet 5 dollar deposit).

In this place, I met a couple (only beer drinkers) who, for some reason, gave me two bottles of Absolut. It may have been a gift from the staff or came with their expensive suite but you were not allowed to bring booze on the ship and the nervous wife gave it too me in a bag with her towel on top.

At night, we would go to the Dazzles Unturned lounge for C-tails. Usually quiet, they had a seventies night where the place was a rockin. Sonya had her afro on and was doin' the bump.

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