October 22, 2005
We had a great cruise. Of course, we didn’t go to any of the ports scheduled, due to Hurricane Wilma. We did make it into Veracruz one evening about 5 p.m. and stayed overnight until 6 p.m. the next day. Veracruz was a very welcoming port with OK shopping, but it was nothing like most ports. There had only been four cruise ships in this port, so don’t look for good buys on crystal or jewelry or even liquor. We did see a lot of handmade crafts. The food was good and the town square offered excitement. Our other stop was Progreso. There are some tours there that go beyond the port city, but the only thing at the port itself was a flea market. There were some nice handmade items, but the town isn’t clean or updated. The people at both ports were every nice. Actually, the port of Progreso is at the end of a five-mile-long pier/road.
The ship itself is still in good shape for its age. Some areas could be improved; for example, the fabric on the lounge chairs could be replaced. The only drawback about the ship is in getting from one deck to the other, or even from one end of the ship to the other. Since it was stretched several years ago, they really made getting around difficult to learn. You take an elevator up or down, get off, and realize you need to be somewhere else -- but the stairs don’t continue, or there isn’t a hallway. So you have to go up and over that blockage. For instance, from most cabins forward on the 9th floor you have to travel through the dining room to get to other areas. I didn’t find it a big problem, but the elevators are small and if there is a wheelchair you’ll have to wait for the next one.
The cabins are OK in size; I’ve had larger ones in the same category and a larger bathroom/shower. The cabins could have more storage space, especially in the bathroom. But we didn’t find it to be a problem. The bed was great; it seem to have a good mattress and was very comfortable. Our cabin steward was very nice -- not outstanding but he did a good job.
The food was OK to good. I guess being Texas/Caribbean cruise, there was a lot of Mexican food offered. And it was good. But when it came to finer cuisine, the food fell to just OK. I had lobster one evening and it was inedible. The staff in the main dining room was mixed. It seemed like one day you'd get great service, and the next the staff would struggle to make things right. One evening our waitress didn’t have any backup or assistance. We seemed to fill out a lot of comment cards for the dining room service. We did dine in La Bistro two nights, and there the food and service was great. We had lunch at the buffet and the food was OK. The pizza and hamburgers were tasteless. It seems that as hard as I tried, I could not get the hamburger to taste like a hamburger. I heard the barbecue at poolside was good, but I didn’t try it myself.
The pool area was always busy, but we always found a place to sit. One of the hot tubs didn’t fully work, and the other one was too hot. We didn’t use the spa or fitness center.
Evening entertainment was always available in small lounges and the larger lounge. The shows in the theater were good -- some better than others. Comedians are always a sure thing if you don’t like stage shows. There always seemed to be a lot of activity offered throughout the day with NCL -- there was always something to do.
Embarkation and disembarkation at the port of Houston were a breeze. We didn’t have any problems and were able to board the ship at noon. There is ample parking at the port, and porters are everywhere to help with luggage. Here's one interesting note about Houston: If you’ve ordered liquor or even champagne in your cabin, you will not receive it until the ship has left the port and is in international waters. I had ordered baskets of fruit and wine for the other couples and that was delivered. But our bar in the cabin had nothing, and we found out it was a Houston law. It was probably a couple of hours before our liquor was delivered, which made a bon voyage drink difficult. There's another liquor problem for Texas residents: Only one liter is allowed duty-free. For anything more than that, you have to pay duty. Or you're supposed to at least: But one couple traveling with us bought 10 bottles, wasn’t challenged at Customs, and wasn’t even checked. I'm not saying you should try this, but like other Customs checks, most of the time it's just 'yes sir, no sir' and you’re out of there. Non-residents can bring back two liters. I walked off the ship carrying a bottle of champagne and no one asked us if we had more to declare.
Would I sail again on The Dream? Yes. I’m not that picky and always have a good time whenever I’m on a cruise. The price was right; I have friends that are sailing in March 2006 and I’m thinking of traveling with them. We have sailed NCL several times and I think they are a full step above some of the others cruise lines but still fall short of some.