My wife and I booked a 2 week Norwegian Cruise through the old locks of the Panama Canal and came away highly disappointed. The biggest disappointment fell in two categories. First, almost all of the food served at the “Freestyle dining” restaurants was mediocre – at best. We frequently had to send food back because it was cold, or overcooked, or stale or simply not what was requested. Much of the food itself – quality, selection, etc. - was on par with a Denny’s restaurant. Most fish was heavily breaded which overwhelmed the taste of the fish and the beef was nowhere near a premium grade. Aside from some of the breads, it seemed like all bakery and dessert products came out of a box or carton – none seemed fresh or for that matter were at all tasty – even below the Denny’s standard. Norwegian touts the fact that they have 12 (?) different restaurants providing a multitude of dining options for guests. The reality was that many of the restaurants shared as much as half of their entree selections with many of the other restaurants. This meant that when trying a new restaurant, their menu may only have a couple of entrees that we hadn’t seen previously at a different restaurant.
The buffets were typical cruise fare. I asked if there were any other jams/ jellies besides Smucker’s strawberry in those little plastic spoonful size cups. Answer was no – but there is a single marmalade available. I guess buying in bulk can lower the costs but it also sends a message that NCL is more interested in the bottom line than the satisfaction of customers.
Particularly disappointing was Moderno, the restaurant that was "exclusive" for VIP/ penthouse suite level guests - but just for breakfast and lunch. Based on our experiences, we would rate it to be among the lowest for quality of food, service and breadth of menu – which according to their chef, was the same for breakfast and lunch and for all 14 days of the cruise. We were told that the menu we saw on the first day of the cruise is the same as what we’d see on the last day of the cruise. Several other restaurants had no changes between lunch and dinner further limiting entrée options. Osheean’s did sometimes offer a “Daily special”. But for the most part, the food at the Freestyle dining places was fair to poor, the selection was limited and sometimes, the wait staff seemed overwhelmed or confused about who does what. The response time and service level was below par.
The stateroom was a good size and pretty well thought out. There is about 6 feet of room at the foot of the full king size bed and another 6 feet to one side of the bed where there is a sofa bed(single). There is a standard, cruise size desk along one wall with a fairly small (26” ?) flat screen TV. Also has a DVD player with free access to a somewhat limited but adequate list of DVDs. There is a small (30” x 30”) table which can realistically accommodate 2 people. It was quite handy for room service and as a flat surface for accumulated miscellany. There were many features that utilized the space very well. The closet is a fair size (about 5 ft of hanger space) with doors on the hall/ entry side as well as the bathroom side – so it was essentially a walk-through closet. We were surprised at how many times, when both of us were getting dressed to go out, we took advantage of this feature.
The pillow-top king bed was very comfortable and had dense satin privacy curtains hanging from sliding tracks in the ceiling that completely cordoned off the sleeping space from the living area. This allowed one spouse to read or do whatever and not interfere with the other spouse napping of retiring earlier. Again, we were surprised at how often we took advantage of this feature.
The bathroom was also pretty good sized with a shower/tub combination and toilet area separated by a sliding door. It wouldn’t be considered “spacious” - but nor was it cramped.
For early risers, an especially appreciated amenity was the small espresso machine in the room. To get a good cup of coffee without having to leave the room was a great benefit. It brewed various coffees and tea.
The location of the stateroom is at the very front of the ship, one deck below the bridge. The deck/ balcony is quite large (15 ft x 15 ft approx.) and for a Panama Canal cruise really provided an optimal view of the whole lock system as well as the surrounding areas.
The butler and room steward we had were excellent. They were always prompt to respond to issues and were frequently pro-active in anticipating what would make our cruise more enjoyable. Throughout the ship, most all of the crew and staff were friendly, helpful and anxious to help out. There were only a couple of “that’s not my job” types that we ran into.
I would rate this room on a cost to value scale at a 4-½.