CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews

Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Spirit Alaska August 14, 2004

This was our third cruise, each of which has been on a different line. For reasons outlined below, we were the least satisfied with NCL.

Most of our disappointment has to do not with any individual staff, department or destination, but with what seem to be general policies dreamed up by NCL in order to squeeze every last dime out of its captives, er, I mean, passengers.

FREESTYLE DINING: They should more accurately call this "freeforall dining." What a mess! We actually booked this line to try the "eat what you want, when you want, where you want" idea on any of the nine restaurants onboard. In actuality, only two of the nice dining rooms are available without a "surcharge" of $15-$30 pp. Those are generally so crowded that a long wait for a table is a nightly task, and there is nowhere to wait. We saw many elderly passengers and those with children in great distress because there wasn't so much as a chair to be had. Instead, people sat all up and down the nearby stairwell. Not fun, especially on a "formal" night. We ate in the "specialty" restaurants for two nights, shelling out an extra $75 or so, just to avoid this (which is no doubt NCL's intention). As for the food, I would only call it average and not terribly creative. No regional fare, and we thought cruising Alaskan waters might be good for some fresh King Crab or other Northwestern cuisine.

"NO PERSONAL ALCOHOL" -- We found out about this the hard way, after our luggage was confiscated after embarkation. Our crime? We had brought a bottle of champagne in our suitcase to celebrate our departure on our private balcony. There was a cryptic note on our cabin door telling us to come to something called the "Brig Conference Room" to claim our luggage between 3-5 p.m. When we arrived there, the bar manager sternly informed us that no alcohol, either purchased ashore or in the duty free shops on board, is allowed in the cabins. NCL has decided to use the security screening machines at the embarkation points to enforce this ridiculous policy. Clearly, the lack of any refrigeration in the cabins, and this rule, which we have not encountered on any other cruise line, is intended to boost onboard liquor sales. Another consequence of this mishap was that we did not have our bags delivered to our room until three full hours after embarking.

ROUTES/TIME IN PORT -- It was only after booking that we made the rather sad discovery that the amount of time allowed in each port was generally too short. If you chose a long shore excursion, there was no time to explore the town (we found this especially true in Scagway, where we booked an independent excursion). We met a family member in Juneau at 8 a.m., and had to be back on the boat by 1:30 p.m! We managed to cram in a lot of sightseeing with him (out on his boat whale watching and a trip to Mendenhall Glacier), but it was a pretty rushed affair all around. And why? Well, we eventually figured it out. There is a very large casino onboard the Spirit, and the sooner we were in international waters, the sooner it could open.

To be fair, I should say we were most impressed by the captain's skill in getting such a large ship up the Tracy Arm and right up near the face of Sawyer Glacier -- that was an onboard highlight for us.

Our cabin stewards were delightful fellows; they even saved me a trip to the ship's doctor by bringing me ice and helping me tend to a twisted ankle.

The bottom line -- I'd go to Alaska again, and we plan to in the near future. We will not, however, be using NCL for that trip or any other.

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