CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews

Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Wind by Jeffrey Hirshberg Eastern Caribbean December 23, 2000

This is a review of our cruise on Norwegian Wind December 23, 2000 through December 30, 2000. This cruise went to Key West, Roatan (Honduras), Belize and Cozumel and was fully booked. Please note that after the Wind completes its 2001 Alaska and Hawaii cruises, it is going to be repositioned in the Far East.

We have been on a total of 14 cruises; three of these have been on NCL. This is the first time we traveled with other people. The other group included family members: two adults and one teenager; these people had not cruised recently. Our overall rating is good, although we wished we could rate it higher. We have tried to discount factors that are outside of NCL's control.

Norwegian Wind is a ship that was stretched in 1998 to nearly double the number of passengers that it can accommodate. While this enlargement appeared to increase the size of the Four Seasons Restaurant, there was little impact on the other public areas. Prior Internet reviews have indicated that the increased passengers have put a strain on public areas. We saw no problems, but a family member did report that finding a vacant deck chair on the upper deck was difficult. We were informed that the Wind is going into dry-dock very shortly to increase the size of the back pool area and to add another outside restaurant.

Stateroom: We routinely book larger outside rooms or rooms with verandahs. On the Wind, we had a ‘P1' cabin - called a Penthouse Suite. This is only one category below the Owners Suites. Our comments are based on comparable class rooms on Carnival, RCI and Princess.

We felt our stateroom was very disappointing. Not only was it small (199 square fee including the ‘verandah'), it was not designed for passenger comfort. The cabin door, the bathroom door and the closet doors all intersect at one location. Only one person could be moving in that area. The cabin was only approximately two feet wider than the bed. The three other lines mentioned had an in-room bar and plenty of counter space. Our stateroom hand a tiny desk and tiny coffee table.

The bathroom, quite frankly, was disgraceful for this cabin class. It was exactly the same layout and size as in the lowest class on the ship. We were hitting our elbows on the walls and one of us could not even stand inside. The bathroom did have a built in hairdryer.

While NCL wants to economize on ship space, it needs to be very careful about what it is selling as a suite. It simply does not fare very well against its competition. We learned that a couple booked two Owner's Suites for $24,000. They were also extremely unhappy.

We expect our plumbing in the stateroom to work; this is non-negotiable. There is a very serious plumbing problem on the Wind. The toilets intermittently fail to work. We called the help number, and it's hard to say if anything was done. The problem persisted and was not isolated to our category of stateroom. Our family members on the fourth deck reported the same problem. There was also the smell of sewage in the stairwells at various locations in the ship. Cabin service was good, not great.

Perks with a Penthouse Suite: Like the other cruise lines, you are provided with free bathrobes. These appeared a couple of days into the cruise and disappeared a couple of days before the end. There was a bottle of champagne in an ice bucket the first day, and one tray of fruit. Because of the space problems, there was really no room for the fruit.

A butler service was available for our class of rooms. We made only one request - book a reservation in the alternative restaurant. That request was not done properly.

Change in NCL Ownership: Star Cruises is now the parent company of NCL and is transitioning to Freestyle cruising. What happened on our cruise was that many of the experienced staff are overwhelmed with training large numbers of inexperienced persons. This is particularly apparent in the dining room.

Dining Service: The Wind has three ‘regular' dining rooms and one alternative dining room, LeBistro. It appeared to us that the same menus were served in all the regular dining rooms. We were assigned the Four Seasons and found it to be one of the best dining rooms we've seen. We sat a small table near a window. We also had lunches in the Terraces and enjoyed it.

Our cruise was a transition to Freestyle cruising. The breakfasts were buffet and lunches were served or buffet. We did not go to any of the ‘midnight' buffets nor were these publicized very much.

The quality of the food for our group was comparable to RCI and Princess. We felt that the presentation was excellent; the food looked nice on the plate. However, there were considerable service problems largely due to the new staff. The Wind has a real problem with food temperature in the dining rooms and especially on the buffets. Our Christmas dinner was ruined by poor service. The food was cold because it sat out a long time, and ordered courses were not served. There was no apology for the skipped course and no attempted correction. There were problems within the group about improperly cooked food.

These problems were not the fault of the waiter, who is extremely experienced. He had an assistant waiter who had no experience. When you asked for ketchup, he dumped half a bottle on your plate. There were many crashes from dropped dishes. Wine service was very spotty, although the maitre-d' did try to improve the service.

Le Bistro: The alternative dining on Wind is not a success, as the room was never fully booked during our cruise. There is a $10 per person additional charge. Le Bistro's menu is a subset of the regular menu with one ‘special'. We went to Le Bistro to celebrate a birthday. Service was o.k., but there was a real ‘attitude' when one filet was undercooked. The ‘special' was a tasteless chicken breast. At the end of the dinner, we were informed that the ‘specials' were never any good. That statement is correct.

Entertainment: The Wind had a show every night. There are singers and dancers (the Rand group) and comics. There were three production shows, including Smokey Joe's Cafe. We felt that these were well staged, and the performers did a good job. It should be noted that the showroom is on a ship built in the early 1990's. There is a real visibility problem between poles and the lack of true stadium seating. It appeared that there was enough seating at all shows.

Tours: We went on various tours every place except Cozumel. We enjoyed Key West and Roatan. The tour in Belize to Altun Ha was extremely uncomfortable, and there are no reasonable tourist rest facilities.

There were some problems in managing the tours. First, we booked group tickets as soon as we were on the ship. Only one set of tickets was delivered to us. The others were ‘lost'. We had a weather problem in Belize: there was dense fog. NCL felt it was unsafe to tender until the fog cleared. That is a correct decision. However, they made everyone wait in the showroom for two hours until it was safe to tender. Two hours is a sizeable investment of our vacation time, and this was not fun.

Embarkation: We are Latitudes members and were checked in within five minutes and were on the ship around 12:00 p.m.

Reservations: We had a lot of trouble with NCL over our reservations. Our travel agent must have called NCL 12 times to get this fixed. In addition, the tickets were not delivered on a timely basis.

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