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11 Norwegian (NCL) British Columbia Cruise Reviews

This was the third cruise on NCL for my husband and me. Previously we've cruised aboard the Pearl (our first-ever cruise, in 2010) and the Jewel (in 2011). We would've rated both of those ships excellent. We are a bit ... Read More
This was the third cruise on NCL for my husband and me. Previously we've cruised aboard the Pearl (our first-ever cruise, in 2010) and the Jewel (in 2011). We would've rated both of those ships excellent. We are a bit concerned that either the Sun has not been maintained to the level of those other two ships, or the entire maintenance of NCL has slipped in the intervening four years. The Sun shows some obvious "wear and tear" and a lack of some good thorough cleaning in the public areas (like around the gorgeous panoramic lifts on deck 8, where the carpet was very dusty and the hallway was used as a staging area for housekeeping's linen carts and cleaning supplies). The observation lounge on deck 12 shows some serious damage at the very forward set of seating, looking out over the bow, where the wood at foot level is broken and chipped in several spots. All that said, we LOVE the freestyle cruising and all the options aboard any NCL ship. The food is really excellent, whether in the main dining rooms or the Garden Cafe. (We don't use the specialty restaurants because of the cover charge.) The staff in every area and venue is friendly, always smiling and greeting us (the cabin steward called us by name from the first day, and recognized us in the halls!) The spa is great, and I enjoyed my exotic hand ritual from Mandy. The entertainment choices were awesome. We especially enjoyed Amber Strings, a trio from Poland who played several times a day in the Atrium on Deck 5 - an amazing range in their repertoire, and all of it just excellent. We submitted a commendation on them, and purchased a CD. We also enjoyed Into the Drift, playing in the Observation Lounge. Our shore excursion to Icy Point Strait, Hoonah, AK, was just simply awesome. We took a whale watching tour on the American Eagle, and saw a pod of whales. Incredible. They also had a Tlinget cultural historian on board, Kevin, who gave an excellent talk on his people and the history of Hoonah, Icy Point, and how the Native corporation that owns Hoonah achieved a place on the cruise ship ports of call. Our opinion: this is the BEST port of call in all of Alaska, with a Zipline, ATV and wilderness cruises, boat cruises, excellent shopping (all Alaska products and local artisans), delicious food, nature trails in the rainforest and on the beach, Tlinget history and culture -- just can't say enough about this port of call. We spent more money here than in any other port on any other cruise, getting our holiday shopping done 6 months early with good value for our money and nothing "made in China." This cruise was coupled with a land tour of Denali National Park first, and that 4-day excursion was also excellent. We had a great NCL tour guide for the entire four days, Michael Krudwig; were housed at three very nice lodgings in Anchorage, Denali, and Girdwood; and had several great excursions associated with this (an 8-hour wilderness tundra tour with an Alaska resident, Lisa Frederic, who was full of interesting facts, history, and knowledge, including having run the Iditarod once; a visit to an Iditarod kennel owned and operated by Martin Buser, an Iditarod champion; a visit to the Wildlife Conservation Center; a tram ride to the top of Mt. Alyeska.) Altogether, this would have been an excellent cruise rating were it not for the maintenance issues we observed on the Sun, and they did not markedly detract from our enjoyment of "cruising like a Norwegian." Of two cruise lines with which we're familiar (Princess and NCL), we will choose NCL again without hesitation. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
I am a Gold Latitudes Member and really love a lot of what NCL has to offer: great service, Freestyle Cruising, nice cabins, fantastic entertainment,etc. My husband and I cruised out of Los Angeles to Vancouver on the April 29, 2012 ... Read More
I am a Gold Latitudes Member and really love a lot of what NCL has to offer: great service, Freestyle Cruising, nice cabins, fantastic entertainment,etc. My husband and I cruised out of Los Angeles to Vancouver on the April 29, 2012 sailing of the Pearl. We were extremely pleased with our balcony mini-suite stateroom and the overall layout of the ship. We sailed previously on the NCL Epic which we majorly disliked due to the fact that it doesn't feel like a ship. The Pearl has an old-time ship feel to it, and we liked that you can walk around the entire ship. (The Epic doesn't have this and feels like a Las Vegas carnival) The ship needs updating, the artwork is not up to NCL standards, but this was minor for us. What doesn't make sense is the poor quality and presentation of the food. It is almost like no one has given thought to the menus and doesn't care about how the food is presented. We were appalled that the afternoon "snack" in the back of the ship was macaroni and cheese, potato salad, and some bready sandwich. Much of the food doesn't taste fresh. The service is lovely and accommodating, but the wait staff should not be blamed for the food. The entertainment on this cruise was superb, especially the Tribute singers for Frankie Valli. We bought the extra spa package that allowed us use of the indoor pool and Jacuzzis, this was a real plus. However, it is true that on NCL you have to pay for everything extra, and this package was $119.00 per person. In summary, it is possible to have a wonderful time on NCL if you do not care about food as much as the service, prots, entertainment, and relaxed atmosphere of this type of vacation. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
This was our 10th NCL cruise and was going to be our last. The wife and I had purchased a cruise reward and needed to use it, otherwise we would not have booked this one. Wife and I are both in our 50s, early 50s that is, and have cruised ... Read More
This was our 10th NCL cruise and was going to be our last. The wife and I had purchased a cruise reward and needed to use it, otherwise we would not have booked this one. Wife and I are both in our 50s, early 50s that is, and have cruised a lot, but try different cruise lines. NCL has been our choice most of the time but we were getting put off by the constant nickel and diming. Every time we turned around lately it seemed like someone was trying to sell us something. It was a constant 'No thank you." all over the ship. So we had vowed that this would be our last. We stayed at the Queen Mary pre-cruise and were told by our daughter and daughter in law not to because it was supposedly haunted. Didn't see any ghosts and loved the ship. It had a feeling of stepping back into history. My wife said it was like sleeping in a museum. We flew into long beach early and left ourselves an extra day to have of guided tour of LA. This was our fourth time on the Pearl, mainly because she is positioned on the West Coast in the summertime and we live in Washington State, so it is convenient for us. She was our favorite ship the when we sailed her the first time, but has been replaced recently by and Royal Caribbean ship. Boarding was a breeze compared to some of our other experiences. We got there early and we delighted to get past security and get checked in even before they started boarding the ship. We were happy to sit and wait, rather than standing in line. They let us on and we headed straight for the Summer Palace to eat. Activities were good, they kept us busy, and instead of being bored between the things we wanted to do during the day we had to hurry to the next one. We had seen a huge improvement in service. We were delighted by this. It seemed like they were putting an emphasis on this. The staff went out of their way to be helpful. Entertainment was both hit and miss. The "Oh What a Night", comedian and the hypnotist very good, but second city and Pearl Productions were just so so. The food was, well, it's NCL. They have improved over our fall cruise, but still serving Alaskan Meatloaf, which was by far my worst meal I have ever had on a cruise. We were so delighted about some of the improvements that they have done, we will take another cruise with them in the future. Service was so much improved. We even got chocolates on the pillow, something we have not seen in a long time Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
My wife and I along with two friends decided to take a weekend cruise to nowhere out of Seattle. The other couple we were with were completely new to cruising and my wife and I have only previously cruised on Disney. We thought it would be ... Read More
My wife and I along with two friends decided to take a weekend cruise to nowhere out of Seattle. The other couple we were with were completely new to cruising and my wife and I have only previously cruised on Disney. We thought it would be a great short get away to see what another line was like. When we boarded the ship I made a joke with wife that she needed to slap her wrist every time she started a sentence with "Well on Disney we did..." However, as the cruise progressed I realized just how superior service was on DCL. Overall I felt the ship was immaculate, the food was on par with other cruise lines, and the cabin was well appointed. The two major flaws with NCL were: 1.) Lack of information and abundance of misinformation. 2.) Freestyle cruising, while unique, lead to a lower level of overall quality service. The Website: A total waste of internet space. I find that the NCL website is completely unhelpful. At DCL you can check in for your cruise online, book shore excursions, reserve specialty restaurants, and even reserve kayaks at the private island. NCL only lets you print your edocs and reserve shore excursions. Embarkation: It was a complete nightmare. We arrived at port at 11:30 and started waiting in line. We eventually reached a sign that told us we were in the wrong line to check luggage and had to start our wait over again. After roughly two hours of waiting we were ready to board. The Cabin: We booked an oceanview knowing that it would most likely be far too cold to enjoy a balcony. The cabin was clean and well laid out. We had plenty of room and closet space for the two of us. The bathroom has a toilet that is separate from the shower, which makes it easier when multiple people that are getting ready in the morning. Our cabin steward was fantastic...but no towel animals? Really!? The Ship: The ship was extremely new, clean, and well constructed. Though I did not notice nearly as much maintenance going on as when I was on the Disney ship. at 93,000 tons, it was plenty big for us. Though, with cooler temperatures (more people below deck) and no ports of call, it felt very crowded at times. Bottom line, the Pearl was Beautiful. Dining: Some people love Freestyle and some don't. It's official - you can put me in the don't category. NCL makes Freestyle seem great. If I'm hungry, why not eat at the restaurant of your choice, perhaps with a minimal wait. How it actually goes - run around in the early morning to decide where you want to eat later and pray that you can make a reservation because the restaurants fill up to the point where you can't even wait for a table. I will say that some of the food we had was great and some...not so much. Cagney's fantastic and Mambo's was also very good. We felt like out visits to the buffet offered the same food every time and our lunch at the Blue Lagoon....terrible. Here is the biggest issue with Dining on Freestyle: tipping. On a non-freestyle cruise your server hitches their wagon to you and their tip depends on the level of service they give. Aboard the pearl we had some of the worst dining service on land OR sea. They were incapable of putting the right dish down in front of the right person. At one meal two of people in our party received their food around 10 minutes after the other. Ridiculous. I also was agitated that we had to hunt out where we had to make reservations for dinner. It changed every day. Why can't I make reservations at any kiosk? Summary: I am glad I got a chance to try another cruise line, but I most likely won't try NCL again unless we do an interisland Hawaiian. We'll stick with Disney when possible. Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
My wife and I planned an eight-day getaway from Vancouver to Los Angeles and back, with the southbound portion on Amtrak, two frantic days in LA, and the return trip on the Norwegian Star. I have been wanting to do this rail/sea excursion ... Read More
My wife and I planned an eight-day getaway from Vancouver to Los Angeles and back, with the southbound portion on Amtrak, two frantic days in LA, and the return trip on the Norwegian Star. I have been wanting to do this rail/sea excursion for decades, and this year the opportunity finally arose. The primary goal of the vacation was to relax and forget the real world back at home. Other goals were to try out rail travel and cruising with a minimal investment. I think that in planning a vacation, the first step should be to decide what your needs, desires and expectations are. Is your goal to be pampered at every turn? Would your vacation be spoiled if you had to wait in line for thirty minutes? Are you okay with a decent bed, or do you require a deep and luxurious mattress? Will you be disappointed if your room attendant does not form your bath towel into an animal shape while you are at dinner? Does your enjoyment of a room turn on the color choices in the decor? Do you require gourmet food to have a good meal, or will a burger and beer be okay from time to time? I think that a mistake that many people who post reviews (including me) have made, is over analyzing the experience. Enjoy the ride instead of cataloguing all of the little details. Although this was my first cruise, I am sure that none of these cruise ships is bad, as long as your expectations are appropriate for the ship. We had a wonderful trip, and our expectations were met or exceeded at almost every turn. There were a few glitches that have me rating the experience at four out of five, but none of these spoiled the cruise. PRIOR TO DEPARTURE Rail Travel If you have not travelled on Amtrak, I have two words of advice: Sleeper Car. Sitting in coach is a hit-or-miss deal, but you can always close the door of your sleeper compartment and keep the noise of your neighbors at bay. And your neighbors generally have more money than those in coach, which usually makes them more pleasant neighbors. That said, the loudest and most obnoxious schmuck on the train was a businessman who owns several properties talking on a cell phone in the observation car. RMS Queen Mary We spent our last night in SoCal aboard the RMS Queen Mary. I had been warned that I would be disappointed, but was thrilled with our king-sized outside stateroom with portholes facing across the harbour to the city of Long Beach. The bathroom was, admittedly very dated, with chipped glazing on the bathtub and some mould in the corners. The tub was huge and filled in seconds. The service was courteous and helpful, and the breakfast that we bought was fine. The self-guided tour that is included with the room rate was fascinating, and we would have spent hours doing it if we had the time. Try different approaches to get the best room rate - travel agent, the hotel's web site and the hotel's reservations phone line. Make sure to look at the special packages online - the web site's navigation is tricky, so poke around. There is a free shuttle bus from the Queen Mary around the touristy bits of Long Beach that departs every 15 minutes. Los Angeles has a commuter rail system called the Metro, and it connects with the free shuttle. You might not want to take the Blue Line from Long Beach to downtown LA at night if you feel uncomfortable rubbing shoulders with people who live in rough districts. And you need to leave LA by 10:30 pm if you want to get the last shuttle bus back to the Queen Mary from the Blue Line terminus. Otherwise the cab fare is about eight bucks from the terminus to the old liner. THE CRUISE But you wanted to know about the Norwegian Star. Most of what you have read is true: Embarkation at Los Angeles is relatively painless if you have your documentation ready. The rooms are brightly decorated, smallish, and with little storage space. You definitely want a balcony unless you are sure that you will spend very little time in the cabin. The dining is okay at the buffet, Blue Lagoon and The Grill, and good-to-excellent in the dining rooms. The service in the restaurants and bars ranges from okay to very good, depending on the person, rather than the venue. You don't need to eat in the premium restaurants to have a good meal. You should book tomorrow's dinner time as soon as you wake up or be willing to be flexible at dinner time. The entertainment venues are all very nice, and the acts range from okay to very good. Drink prices are high, and soft drinks are not included with meals. Debarkation can be a real zoo, so patience is important and you won't want a tight connection schedule. All in all, you can have an amazingly good time on this ship. Embarkation Embarkation was fairly simple and quick. Boarding started at noon, and we arrived at the terminal about 1:30. I didn't time it, but it seemed about forty minutes to get through all the lines. Make sure to print your boarding pass from the eDocs section of the NCL web site before you leave home. And, you won't get aboard without a passport or other photo id and proof of citizenship. Even if you are only dreaming about a future cruise, get your passport now. You will need it in the future, so get it now. Our Cabin We had a balcony stateroom. I will never cruise without a balcony, now that I have tried it. Other reviewers noted a lot of noise from Deck 12 in cabins on Deck 11, so we booked a cabin on Deck 10. Noise was rarely a problem, and we never heard the people in the cabin above us. We chose the port side to get the afternoon sun as we cruised northward. We chose a midship stateroom to minimize the sensation of the ship pitching. The worst sensation of pitching on the ship (and it was mild) was towards the bow. The cabin was not large, but we were not cramped. The mini-suites are only slightly bigger - the only reason I can see to booking one of them is to get off the ship early. Ee had to work to get all our baggage stored, but we managed. One of the storage closet doors was dangling on 1.5 hinges - we reported it to the room steward, but it was not repaired during our trip. The sliding door to the balcony is heavy and it can get some momentum. Use the handle every time and you will avoid getting your fingers crushed when you open the door. It hurt for a few minutes, but no real damage. On the balcony you can hear your neighbors on their balconies. Also, you can see them reflected in the guardrail glass if both they and you are sitting. Some people bring masking tape to cover keyholes in the partitions between balconies. It was too cold and windy to sit on the balcony on the first sea day, but the second was very calm, and, wearing light jackets, we read out there. Bliss. I was impressed with how little wind there was on the balcony - almost none, when the ship was moving and the sea was calm. When the wind was blowing across the ship, there was a noticeably breeze on the balcony that might actually be refreshing on a warmer day. The thermostat in the cabin seemed to work. I turned the heat up and left the balcony door open at night. There is a sign in the room noting that you are supposed to leave the balcony door shut, but I disregarded it. I like fresh air. From the standpoint of energy conservation and carbon-footprint reduction, you should leave that door closed, though. On the last night, a pilot arrived by boat. (Pilots are sea captains who have a lot of experience in local waters, and who help the ship's own captain to navigate in tricky waters.) At 2:20 am, the boat roared off and waking me suddenly. I jumped from the bed, disoriented and momentarily frightened. It took a good while to get back to sleep. If your balcony is amidships, pay attention to any announcements that the captain makes about taking on a pilot at night - you might want to close that door. I liked the bright, nautically themed textiles in the cabin. The bed was okay, although the "joint" between the mattresses was distracting. We are used to a lot of blankets, but the supplied blanket is thin. On the last night we asked for an extra blanket, and were provided with two woollen blankets that were no more than a yard squared. I am not sure what the point of that was. My wife's arthritis gives her some trouble with dexterity. This is a particular problem with round, slippery knobs. Door handles with lever arms are easy for her to use, and the door to our suite and bathroom have good handles. The knobs in the shower to control water flow are round, slippery, and difficult for her to manage. The temperature control knob clicks into a safe warm position, and you need to depress a button while turning the knob to get hotter water. This was a real challenge for her. Our ice bucket was filled every morning. The room was always acceptably clean. One evening we found a rabbit formed from towels on the bed. To be honest, turn-down service is a new experience for me, and not one that makes me overly comfortable. I am capable of pulling out blankets to get into bed. I wondered if the point was to make sure that the bedspread was removed so that we would not get it dirty. The tiny television flickered so much that it was unwatchable. That didn't bother me; I can watch TV at home. Dining It seems that the term "Free-Style Cruising" just refers to dining. Cruising, then, seems to be the same as dining. I guess that we spent about three hours a day at one dining table or another. We had dinners in Aqua, Endless Summer and Versailles, in that order. We had called at 10:00 am on day 2 for a seating at La Trattoria on day 3, but it was already booked up. But we had no appreciable wait for either Aqua or Versailles when we arrived around 6:30. The waiter at Aqua was overly obsequious - calling my wife "milady," trying to sell us bottled water, and trying to get us to buy a bottle of wine instead of two glasses. His attitude put me off, but he was the only crew member that I met who wasn't good or excellent. The meal was okay - roast leg of lamb for me and mahi mahi for my wife. Really good desserts. I liked the service at Endless Summer. Prompt, polite and reserved. I also liked the food. My wife's tostada salad had more meat on it than the beef entree I would have the next night at Versailles. She enjoyed her quesadilla. I had pork ribs that were good, but not fall-off-the-bone tender. It is hard to eat ribs with a knife and fork, and no fingerbowl was provided. The desserts were excellent. The waiter lost our payment card at some stage during the meal. Without our knowing it, he cancelled both of our cards, and at the end of the meal he brought us new ones and explained what had happened. Dinner at Versailles was okay, but I found our waitress to be unrefined. Not rude, maybe not even impolite, but unfamiliar with Western dining customs. For instance, she expected us to order our dessert at the beginning of the meal. This did not bother us, but I found her mannerisms odd. I had English cut strip loin with Yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes. I understand that English cut means thinly sliced roast beef, but I was surprised at how small the single slice of strip loin was. The three slices of potato were also meagre. The Yorkshire pud was enormous and not bad. I rarely order an appetizer, but wished that I had on this occasion - I was still hungry. As always, the dessert was excellent. Later in the evening, I filled the void at Blue Lagoon. A couple of times we had wings, potato skins or chicken strips at Blue Lagoon. We had to hover until somebody got up and then snagged the seat. Then we had to wait while the harried wait-staff failed to notice us. That place was just plain understaffed, but the crew did their best. The food was okay; the environment was noisy. On the afternoon before we sailed, I had a hamburger at The Grill: dry bun and luke-warm fries. We had our first breakfast at the buffet. If you like a big breakfast, this is the way to go. In fact, we were so full that we skipped lunch. But we had the rest of our breakfasts at Versailles because of the more interesting and refined menu. Both times, I was glad of the nicer food, but was still hungry when I left. We tried lunch at the buffet once. What I did not realize is that The Market Cafe has several buffets down the starboard side. Keep walking until you find something that you like. Bottom line: if you are hungry and the buffet is open, you can find something to eat. The environment will be noisy and the food won't be special, but you can eat. The dining rooms were the only places I had to be in the vicinity of children. Without exception, the parents had their kids very well-behaved. I complimented a couple of dads and moms for their children's behavior. My big beef with eating on NCL is that soft drinks bloody-well ought to be included with meals at no extra charge. Coke is cheaper than milk, but I could have all the milk I wanted. Coke I had to pay extra for. Iced tea is free at Blue Lagoon, so that is what I drank there, and I had water with the meals in the dining rooms. Gift Shop I wanted chocolate so I went to the gift-shop and bought a Cadbury almond bar. It was old and had been allowed to get hot. The chocolate was tough, tasteless, and had lost its gloss. Bleah. Every purchase apparently gives you a raffle ticket. You have to be there at 5:00 pm on the last day. The purpose is to get a few hundred people standing around to make impulse purchases. The prize basket seemed pretty good, but it was a waste of about 30 minutes waiting in vain hope. The gift shop features ammolite jewelry. Look it up on Wikipedia; it is interesting stuff. If it interests you, research prices before you go. I have no idea if the ship-board prices are reasonable. Entertainment I am a trivia buff. When you board, you will be given a daily schedule. Look for the progressive trivia game. It is a total-points competition that has one session per day throughout the cruise. You don't want to miss the first session if you want to win a coveted t-shirt, beach ball or deck of NCL cards at the end of the cruise. There are more trivia games each day with equally exciting prizes. Check that schedule they give you every day for shows in the big theatre. It is a very impressive room, but the seats on the right and left mezzanines have impaired sightlines. The shows were good. Even better was the Chinese acrobat show in the big forward lounge - amazing. That schedule also tells you when the various musical acts are performing at the various locations. It is good to eat at Endless Summer when a trio is performing in the atrium bar (the name of which escapes me). Watching the lounge acts is pretty relaxing. Cruise Critic Get-Togethers It is possible that you found this review through a Google search, and are unaware that CruiseCritic.com has extensive forums. If you register, you can find forums for "Roll Calls." This way you can find people online who you can later meet on the ship. That is how we came to meet SakeDad, badell, and about a dozen other nice people. We gathered on Deck 14 at the outdoor Bier Garten bar with this crowd for sailaway, and met again on the first full sea-day at a small NCL reception for us. If you are trying to meet up in a public area, it is a good idea for everybody to wear some identifying mark - but one that would not make people feel conspicuous. Maybe a blue ribbon or a happy face button? Debarkation On the last evening, visit the service desk in the atrium and ask for you bill to that point. Normally your bill gets slipped under your door while you sleep during the last night. There were some anomalies on mine that occurred when the payment card went missing at Endless Summer. If you wait until the last morning, you might have to stand in line for thirty minutes or more with everybody else who is settling up. Debarkation was a mess. The cruise director repeatedly encouraged everybody to use Express Debarkation. You fill out a simple form and drop it in a box the morning before your arrival. You put a sticker on your payment card. When you arrive in port, you haul your own luggage off the ship to Customs. All well and good, but it seemed that more than half the passengers on the ship had decided to do that. The line-up was half the length of the ship by the time the cruise director made his first announcement inviting us to line up to leave. I only saw one crew member directing traffic, and that was unacceptable. That being said, with six Border Services officers checking us through, the actual debarkation process only took about 30 minutes from the time we joined the line. I would recommend lining up thirty minutes before the announced beginning of Express Debarkation. CONCLUSION I had fun; my wife had fun. The food was good to very good; the entertainment was good; and the cabin was very good. The debarkation was poor. We were very relaxed and got our minds off our jobs for a while. Our ship-board charges were only $150. It was a great vacation. That being said, we won't be rushing to cruise again next year. Maybe in a few years we will take a higher-end Holland America or Celebrity cruise. Remember: You'll have more fun if you don't over analyze. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
Since others have already posted detailed reviews of this trip, I won't attempt a complete blow-by-blow description. Rather, I'll just mention a few things that occurred to me, especially in my capacity as a "first ... Read More
Since others have already posted detailed reviews of this trip, I won't attempt a complete blow-by-blow description. Rather, I'll just mention a few things that occurred to me, especially in my capacity as a "first time" and "solo" cruiser. FREESTYLE DINING: This really worked for me! Since I was traveling alone, I initially thought that I might eat most meals in the buffet, but it always seemed crowded and chaotic. So I turned to the "free" dining rooms. I was always asked if I wanted to share a table, I always said, "I'd rather not," and I was always given a table to myself, even on one night when the dining room was especially crowded. Excellent! I had two breakfasts (very good) in the Versailles, two dinners (good) in the Aqua (I only had jeans to wear), plus a lite dinner (OK) in the Blue Lagoon and the final morning breakfast (OK - good) in the Market Cafe buffet. I grabbed lunches (good) at the walk-up pool grill or BBQ. TIPPING: I added "additional" tips to most bar bills. However, these resulted in confusing adjustments on my onboard account statement and in at least two instances the tips were omitted (and I didn't have time to look into this before leaving the ship). If I were doing this again I would leave such "additional" tips in CASH to avoid the confusion. SMOKING: As a non-smoker, this was my #1 concern. Thus, I was very pleased to find that I could NOT detect smoke (either current or past) in my cabin. But the hallway was often smoky, especially during early evening hours. And I don't think I ever took a lap on the Promenade deck without encountering smoke, in a couple of cases bad enough that I had to duck inside the ship for a minute. I was disappointed that the "port side only" rule enforced at the pool area did not also apply to the Promenade deck. I should note that I did NOT see anyone smoking where it wasn't allowed. Thus, the "problem" resulted from NCL's policies and not from (as is often the case) the bad behavior of a few individuals. I'd guess that when compared to my "real" life in a state with tough anti-smoking laws, I encountered about 3 week's worth of second hand smoke on this 3-day cruise. Bottom line: Do NOT go on this ship if you expect a smoke-free environment! DEBARKATION: For the sake of convenience I had purchased a somewhat pricey airport transfer from NCL. But here's how it really paid off: The transfer group was the first group called after "express" (hah!) debarkation. We were escorted out a special door to the Promenade deck and were allowed to weave in line at the gangway. So I was off the ship, through Canadian security and on the transfer bus in not more than 30 minutes. Sweet! THINGS I WISHED FOR: I wish they had a "quiet bar" where you could order a drink and stare out the window WITHOUT being subjected to entertainment, organized activities, sports TV or overly boisterous behavior. I also wish that they had "free" beverage dispensers in the pool area (or, if they were there, I never found them). And/or I wish that I had taken along a small water bottle that I could have refilled in my cabin and carried with me about the ship. WOULD I CRUISE ON NCL AGAIN: Yes!!! But I'm subtracting one point from my overall rating due to the smoking situation. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
Review: NCL Pearl 9-24-07 thru 9-28-07 Repo from Vancouver to Los Angeles The start of the cruise part of our vacation was a little rocky. This was our 10th cruise on NCL, and as Gold members of Latitudes, we were hoping for a little ... Read More
Review: NCL Pearl 9-24-07 thru 9-28-07 Repo from Vancouver to Los Angeles The start of the cruise part of our vacation was a little rocky. This was our 10th cruise on NCL, and as Gold members of Latitudes, we were hoping for a little better treatment for the embarkation process. Another ship, the Coral Princess was boarding at the Vancouver pier at the same time, and everyone on the pier was herded in the same line - a LONG line. Fortunately, it moved quickly, but we were still in a line, moving or not, for over an hour,with thousands of other passengers (5500 was a number I heard). It turns out that line was just for Customs. We didn't know that. Once thru Customs, we were split off from the Princess people and herded onto another LONG line. There was a special (short) line for passengers that had suites, but there was no mention of Gold members or higher (and that's supposed to be one of the perks of the Latitudes program). Finally, after 1 and a half hours in line, we finally got on board the ship. The staff behind the counter was very nice, but the ones acting as shepherds to all us herded cows were not. Not that they were nasty, but they were not interested in answering questions and just basically did their jobs which were to push us in the right direction. Once on board (whew!), things were fine again. We ditched our carry-ons in our room and headed out for lunch at the Garden Cafe. I personally like the food there. I prefer to eat mostly veggies, and there was always a wide assortment of them there, prepared in all kinds of ways. Due to the diverse nature of the passenger base on this cruise, it was apparent that the menu was diverse enough to try to satisfy as many as they could. There was always a selection of Asian stir-fry dishes, as well as Indian foods along with the comfort foods like mac and cheese, steamship style roasts and of course the typical hamburger and hot dog assortment, etc. Our only complaint is that because it is kept hot on steam tables, the food doesn't stay hot for very long, and by the time we found a table to sit at, got our drinks, etc, the plate was frequently quite cold. Don't know how that could be fixed, however. Our balcony stateroom was beautiful, impeccably clean. Man, I just wish that NCL would consult some women, especially those that go camping in rec vehicles when designing a cabin. ALthough there was ample space, it was organized in all the wrong ways. Cubby shelves were very large, and two of them were so high that they could only be seen into by NBA basketball players. My little 5'5" frame could not even reach into it. So it became useless. There was no desk drawer. NCL issues incredible amounts of paperwork in the forms of advertising or information,much of which I like to save, and there was no place to put it. It had to be left out on top of one of the tiny vanities. The hangers in the closet are very bulky and noisy. Because of their design, it is very difficult to remove them or to take clothes off of them without making a lot of noise. On long cruises, there never seems to be enough. I usually bring my own thin ones, which are much easier to use. I would also love to see a magazine rack on the wall of the bathroom next to the toilet, for obvious reasons. There's just lots of empty space It could even be a place to store all that blasted paperwork! Our Meet & Mingle was wonderfully organized (Thank you, Tom), and the company was fun. Very disappointed that there were absolutely no staff from NCL there. Such a difference from our previous Pearl experience where we met all kinds and levels of staff! Heard a rumor that Cruise Critic functions are no longer going to be considered any different than any other group and therefore require no attention other than the refreshments that NCL provides. That's unfortunate, really. It doesn't look good on the CC boards if NCL comes across as less caring than other cruise lines. But, if the executive decision has been made in that direction, then the chips will fall where they may. In general, we were satisfied with the food, both in the buffet and Summer Palace. Let's put it this way, we certainly never went hungry. I was, however, disappointed in the sugar-free desserts in the buffet. There were 2 or 3 offerings every day, but they were the same ones, every day. There is so much that can be done with Splenda, and fruit and even Jello, and with the products that are now available and the expert chefs that are on board, you'd think that they could come up with some pretty spectacular things. I wasn't looking for spectacular, necessarily, but the offerings they had (chocolate /strawberry mousse or "cheesecake") were bland and pretty tasteless. Day after day...... Once in awhile they did have a sugar-free ice cream, or a low fat or fat-free one. That was great. But it wasn't always there. I know that there are some ice creams that are fat-free with no sugar added that are out of this world, and cost the same. THAT would be great. We had nice surprises in our room just about every day, from canapEs to chocolate covered strawberries. Sometimes got treats from the concierge, sometimes from the manager of the Latitudes program for being Gold members. The first one was a bottle of wine with a fruit basket. The wine was a special treat for sure. The other treats (with the exception of the strawberries - yum!) were nicely presented, but too often went to waste because we were already full. Maybe food isn't the best Perk on a vacation that seems to already be centered totally around food. The shows varied greatly. Having been on NCL 10 times over the last 20 years, 7 of the cruises being in the last 5 years, (ah, the wonderful empty nest), we have seen the Jean Ann Ryan shows multiple times. The same show. We were on the Pearl 9 months ago when she was brand new and first started doing her Caribbean itineraries. The shows appeared to be the same this time, at least substantially. My hubby and I happen to be theater people, he as a sound and lighting professional and I as a costumer, so watching that aspect of the shows is great. But the content gets old after a little while. The cast is very talented and well directed, and still did a wonderful job, full of energy, which is key to a stage show like that. However, the guest entertainers are fantastic. We have always been so pleased. Second City delights us always, no matter how many times we see their shows (Some parts of their routines were the same too - but still funny) and the comedian (David Nasta) made us roar. He's truly a funny guy. He frequently strayed off his prepared routine and was able to ad lib funny comments on things he got from the audience. Enjoyed Bob and Sara Trunell also (again). They do a combined magic/illusion/comedy show that is very entertaining. With two of our four days being at sea, I was disappointed in the line-up of activities. There were many activities to be enjoyed, but they were not well distributed so you could enjoy many of them. There would be stretches of hours with virtually nothing except shopping or spa, etc. Then there would come a clump of activities, all scheduled exactly at the same time. Martini and margarita clinics were held at the same time in different bars, for instance. I had a hard time deciding which one to do, since I wanted to do both. Had they split them up, I could have participated in both and NCL would have made more money off me. I don't think it would be difficult to rearrange the schedule so that passengers could flow from one activity to the next. One activity that was very well received and that I happen to love is country line dancing. I attended the class one afternoon taught by an adorable staff member named Isabel, and for once, dancing had also been scheduled in the lounge the same evening! We were in our glory. Not only was Isabel there but many of the cruise staff were on the floor, helping newbies learn and interacting with all of us. I met some fabulous people on the dance floor that day, and we all felt like old friends by the time we saw each other that night. Too bad it was the last day of the cruise. If it had been the first or second day, and then repeated throughout the cruise, we could have made some "friends" that we could look forward to meeting at other times. HINT TO NCL. MORE COUNTRY LINE DANCING, MORE OFTEN. Those of us whose partners don't care to dance really appreciate the opportunity to dance without needing a partner. And it was terrific exercise! Another thing we thought was strange was the fact that despite two full days at sea, there was no pool band. They had one for sailaway out of Vancouver, but the band looked like it felt out of place, like they'd never played in that area before. The weather, altho chilly, was not rainy, so many people congregated outside. Brave souls (and there were quite a few of them) went into the hot tubs and the pools (which were heated fresh water), and the atmosphere could have been a little more charged if a pool band was there sometimes. Perhaps because of the short repo? We did notice that many of the staff seemed brand new and unfamiliar with things in general, so maybe they had a major staff shift..... Disembarkation was pleasant, sortof. We chose the latest time to disembark, since we had a 1:30 flight from Long Beach, and plenty of time. That part was great - walked off when we felt like it. The luggage collection lines were very small at that point, so we found our bag in about 2 seconds, literally, and strolled out to get a cab. That's where it got a little hairy. We had no reservations, and it seemed that even if you did, you were out of luck. Lines were long for the Prime Time and Supershuttle, and the cars were not returning quickly - I guess the traffic, as usual in LA was bad. So we did spend a lot of time waiting for a shuttle to come back. But the weather was decent and why be in a hurry to rush to an airport to just do more waiting? It worked out fine, in the end. I did not realize how long it took to get to Long Beach Airport from the pier - on the map it seems so close. Don't know if it was closer than LAX or not. But what a cute airport! Small and personal, it is simple and short to get your pass and get thru security. I love small airports, and this one's a keeper if we do this port again. With 2 metal hips, I always set off the alarm and have to go thru the full pat down routine before I can board. This can add a great deal of time and frustration at a major airport. Things have changed so much over the years. Freestyle cruising, as well as deeply discounted fares, has created situations that are not optimal for service and put more pressure onto staff. I've heard many people complain on many cruises that service just ain't what it used to be, and they're right. HOWEVER, with cheaper prices come staff reductions. The cabin steward that used to only have a handful of cabins to attend to would so frequently be in the hall folding towels or just generally working around, available to talk, available to be more attentive to our needs. The cabin load on the stewards has more than doubled over the years, from what I can see, and they barely have time to do the essentials. Being available for my every whim is just not possible any more. The newer ships also keep the stewards work areas sequestered in secret hallways, out of view, so we just don't see them as much anymore. So if it looks like the service is lousy, it seems to reflect on a bad attitude of the steward, but may in fact be a result of too much workload. I miss the days of conversing with my steward, finding out more about his/her homeland and family, developing a rapport. I think I caught a glimpse of my steward three times this trip as he was rushing around trying to take care of what he had to do. Conversation was just too much of a luxury. But when I did ask him for a top sheet (they use duvets which are much too warm for me) and an egg crate mattress, they were on my bed that night. Cabin make-up times and turn-down times were much longer than in the past. But I don't feel I can blame the stewards. Those people work extremely hard and get what seems to be very little for it. And some obnoxious passengers can turn their lives into hell very quickly. Same goes for the staff in Summer Palace. In the traditional dining experience, a waiter would have maybe 5 to 7 tables to take care of, all of whom would have the same passengers for each meal. He/she devoted himself to those passengers. Now, it appears that there are many more tables that become the responsibility of each waiter, and if all of them are full, he has to race around to take care of everyone. One of the downsides of Freestyle. On the whole, I enjoyed my cruise greatly. I always do. I find the experience to be delightful, relaxing, and very fulfilling. The food is plentiful and delicious, the staff very pleasant and helpful, and with just a few little tweaks here and there, could be downright perfect. 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Sail Date September 2007
This was my fifth cruise on NCL which is, out of the 10+ cruises I've taken, one of my favorite lines. I enjoy the entire freestyle concept and the casual atmosphere. I have mixed feelings about this latest trip. There were definite ... Read More
This was my fifth cruise on NCL which is, out of the 10+ cruises I've taken, one of my favorite lines. I enjoy the entire freestyle concept and the casual atmosphere. I have mixed feelings about this latest trip. There were definite highlights and a lot of unnecessary lowlights. I'll get the worst out of the way first. I booked a total of five cabins for this excursion, including two Category AF mini-suites, and two category AE Penthouses. In addition there was one balcony cabin in our group of nine passengers. In short I brought a chunk of change to NCL that didn't cost them one dime of advertising. That said the worst experience I had was in trying to get one of my traveling companions the shipboard account credit which was part of the package which we were sold. He originally booked the Penthouse cabin for two people but his travel partner had to cancel due to the death of a very close friend. The deal sold to us by Expedia for that category cabin included $150.00 onboard account credit. There was no mention whatsoever in the Terms of the offer that it was a "per passenger" credit. It was clearly defined as a credit "per cabin" and even further stated that single passengers paying 200% of the fare would receive the credit. Because my friend's companion canceled so close to the cruise date there was no refund for the fare. So, in essence my friend paid for the entire cabin for one person. I will add that I had called NCL in Miami at least a week before the cruise to let them know one passenger wasn't go to go on the trip only to be told that he should be left on the reservation in case he changed his mind. Bottom line is NCL didn't convert the reservation to one passenger paying 200% of the fare. We found out on day two that the my friend was only to be credited $75.00 as he was the only passenger in the cabin. I fortunately had copies of the original Terms which I took to the Purser's desk when I went to help my friend resolve the problem. After getting nowhere with the woman who worked the front desk I asked to speak with the Supervisor. The Purser's desk Supervisor who shall remain nameless (but I'm sure NCL knows who I'm talking about) was one of the most arrogant, overbearing and rude people I've ever dealt with in a Customer Service capacity. Her response repeatedly to anything presented to her, even in writing, was to bark at us that she could not do anything to resolve the problem as it was NCL's policy. After getting absolutely no where with this woman I asked to whom she reported and she told me the Director of Finance. When he came out to speak with us we heard the same thing all over again, that it was NCL's policy even though he agreed that we should receive the credit. He told us that he would send an e-mail to the Miami office to see if he could authorization to allow the additional $75.00 credit. Eventually NCL did decide to give my friend the credit but only after a great amount of frustration and time on our parts. There were other minor issues that were able to be resolved quickly. However not one in our group could understand how there is not one person in the ship's management group who is authorized to adjust an onboard account credit issue even when they all agreed we should receive it. NCL has tied the hands of management in this regard and it is absolutely a wrong decision on NCL's part. NCL does nothing but irritate the passengers with this "policy" and it should be carefully reviewed. The other main issue I had was with the cabin itself. A category AE Penthouse is advertised on every website that I've visited as having a separate living room and bedroom. Not true on the Star. It is one large room but there is not any more separation of space than in a standard cabin. The cabin is larger but that's about it. Also, this category is advertised as having a separate shower and bathtub. It does not. It is also advertised as having a jacuzzi tub. It does not. The bathroom itself was only slightly larger than our friend's balcony cabin with the only difference in footage to accommodate a tub/shower combo versus a standard shower stall. This might sound petty but it's absolute false advertising and needs to be corrected. Our cabin Butler Carmen was above and beyond in service. We truly appreciated all the extra help from her in organizing for our entire group. Our room Stewards were efficient, but helped themselves to our snacks and beverages when we were out of the cabin. Big no-no in my book. Beds were comfortable as were the robes. We really enjoyed hot breakfast served by Carmen each morning in our cabin. She would set the table with a table cloth and serviceware as if in the main dining room. We loved that touch. Casino on this ship has terrible ventilation and the smoke will choke you. I had a sore throat every time I came out of there. There is a definite need for a smoking and nonsmoking section. The machines were pretty tight. I did OK on the craps table and the staff there was friendly and fun. Food in the dining rooms was very good to excellent. We dined at Cagney's twice, Soho, Le Bistro, Versailles, and Aqua. All were good but I think Cagney's was the best. For the $20.00 cover they offer the best veal chop I've ever had and I've paid twice that amount for just the entree in most restaurants. The buffet was poor in selection and quality. We had lunch there twice and it wasn't good. Lunch in Versailles is much better. No complaints with restaurant service except in Le Bistro where there seemed to be confusion at first when we sat down. It did eventually iron out and was satisfactory. Men's spa facilities were excellent and included steam, sauna, and soaking tubs, both hot and cold. Locker keys are provided at the spa desk. The ship was well maintained and kept clean. The only exception was the pool area and buffet tables. That's usually the case on a ship, though. Staff in general was friendly and helpful when needed. Embarkation went very well as did debarkation. I will probably take an NCL cruise again but I certainly hope NCL reviews their onboard management, policies, and advertising because all three need to be revised. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
NCL - Norwegian Star Repositioning Cruise May 1 - 4, 2007 Los Angeles, Astoria, Vancouver BC Overview Three of us took a repositioning cruise aboard the NCL Norwegian Star in May, 2007. Overall I would say that this was a good value, and ... Read More
NCL - Norwegian Star Repositioning Cruise May 1 - 4, 2007 Los Angeles, Astoria, Vancouver BC Overview Three of us took a repositioning cruise aboard the NCL Norwegian Star in May, 2007. Overall I would say that this was a good value, and a nice short-week (Tuesday - Friday) getaway. Embarkation This was very smooth. Arriving by shuttle from the airport at about 12:00 PM there was really no line, and the process was quick and painless. Fill out the online registration form beforehand to help expedite things. Your luggage can be handed to a porter and will be delivered to your cabin. Cabins are generally not ready till a bit later, but just go and enjoy lunch. Hint.... You'll be told that the Market Cafe is open for lunch, but you can also go to the Versailles restaurant with the gloriously large picture window looking out the stern of the ship, and a lot fewer people. Cabin Very clean, and efficiently laid out. I had sprung for a balcony, and although it was a bit chilly to spend much time outside when the ship was moving, it was wonderful to have the full "picture window" to look out over the ocean. There is quite a bit of storage space, but the cabin is a bit smaller than then one which I had on Carnival, but certainly adequate. As others have noted on these boards, having a shower stall with a sliding partition, as opposed to a hanging curtain, is really nice. The toilet stall is a bit small, but hopefully not somewhere you'll be spending a lot of time! Hint... There is an electrical outlet in both the cabin and the bathroom, so you can charge two electrical devices at once. If you have more than that, then the oft-recommended power strip is worthwhile. Crew Very nice, and very accommodating. However, as others have also noted, you will be frequently pestered to buy drinks when in the lounges. Also, my friends had a massage and were disappointed when their very enjoyable experience ended with a sales pitch for other products. Information could be a bit sporadic at times, for instance we were told to wait for announcement for the gangway to be opened in Astoria, but the announcement was never made and people only found out the gangway was open by looking down to see others disembarking. Also, on the final day we were told by staff at reception that we had to be off by 9:45 AM, but read the newsletter and found that we did not have to leave till 12:00 PM. Entertainment The Jean Ann Ryan Company's "Band on the Run" show was an excellent high-energy dance show, especially impressive since they were dancing on a rolling deck! The late night "adult comedy" show wasn't worth the time, and we actually thought that the comedians were audience members who had been called up on stage to help. The magic and comedy of Matt Marcy was fun. Hint….. They offer a "murder mystery" and it was even free! You gather in the cinema, are organized into teams and "solve" the crime over dinner in the Versailles or Aqua restaurant. Watch for this in the Freestyle Daily, or ask about it at reception. They don't advertise it heavily, since only 120 people can participate. Dining I really enjoyed the free-style dining. Cagney's (the steak place) was worth the extra $20 ($30 if you order the surf and turf), and was surprisingly not busy when we went there at 6:30 PM, though it had been a port day, and it was "formal night" [but you don't have to dress up if you don't want to] so people were probably eating later. Reservations are definitely recommended. You can make them for that day, or the next night but no further ahead than that. The Versailles Restaurant was also nice (no extra charge). Food was good, but if you're a high-end "foodie," you may not be satisfied. They are very flexible though about choices from the menu (if you'd like to make an appetizer into a main course, etc) and the service was quick. Market Cafe is a good place for a quicker breakfast, though the Versailles is nice for a served meal. Hint….. the port side of the Market Cafe is often quieter, so its worth walking around the corner. Dress codes….. Casual is the order of the days, but jeans are not allowed for the evening meals. You'll fit in best at night in casual slacks and a nice shirt. Jackets and ties are fine if you'd like, but definitely not mandatory. Lounges The emphasis is on colorful, light, decorating schemes. The emphasis is also definitely on selling…… In the Havana Club the server had no idea about cigars, which was disappointing since we wanted to learn more about them. Basically she was there to sell you what you pointed to. Matches and a cigar cutter were not even offered. On the other hand, the server in the martini bar knew a lot about martinis and was very knowledgeable. All alcoholic drinks come with a 15% tip added. I guess you could fight this at every turn, but it is supposed to be a vacation. I saw that they had a “Credit Desk” next to reception, so I don’t know if you could do a wholesale reversal of tips on drink purchases if you felt so inclined. The Red Lion Pub was a bit disappointing since it is basically in a hallway, and has more of a sports-bar atmosphere than that of a British pub. Disembarkation From this, and a previous cruise, I’ve learned that you definitely don’t want to plan for an early flight when leaving a cruise. Three cruise ships arrived at the same time at Canada Place in Vancouver, and very few Customs agents were assigned. The ship arrived around 9:30 AM, and we didn’t disembark till around 12:00 since we didn’t want to wait in long lines. We had chosen “express disembarkation” since we all had rolling luggage and we were staying in town for the night, so it really did not make much difference to us. The lines were huge so we just stayed in the cabin and enjoyed reading and watching the harbor go by till the lines died down. Had to feel sorry for some friends who were transferring to another ship for the one-night cruise to Seattle and so ended up going through long lines to get off, and yet more lines to get on board their next ship. With 6,000 people (2,000 per ship boarding and 2,000 unloading) the place was very packed and no taxis were to be seen. Although it would be tempting to have another night on a ship, and for a low cost by all reports, the lines probably don’t make it worthwhile. Final Thoughts I’d rate this experience as being above Carnival, but not as high end as Holland America. I think the Repo Cruise is good value for money, but be warned that you will hear the phrase “It’s a short cruise, so we’re not doing that” for certain things (such as the chocoholic – midnight buffet). The galleria (on board shop) had starting putting out all of their Alaska souvenirs, so you get the feeling that you’re on a transition trip. I assume Mexican souvenirs will be available when they do the trip back in the Fall! Overall, a nice getaway on a beautiful ship. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
We were a party of 21 going on a 3 day Pacific Coastal cruise on board Norwegian Sun. Most of us had not cruised with Norwegian before. We had 2 sets of grandparents in their early seventies, 3 sets of middle aged parents with 3 University ... Read More
We were a party of 21 going on a 3 day Pacific Coastal cruise on board Norwegian Sun. Most of us had not cruised with Norwegian before. We had 2 sets of grandparents in their early seventies, 3 sets of middle aged parents with 3 University students, one 15 yr old High school daughter and a 7 year old who had not cruised before. The other members of our group were female, travelling without their respective families and spouses. Most of us had been on cruises before with other cruise lines. Ship Details: 935 crew, 1936 guests, 78,309 Gross tonnage 11 restaurants, 11 bars and Lounges, Body Waves spa and Beauty Salon, Sports court, fitness Centre, Stardust Lounge, Sun Club Casino, Internet cafe, Lifestyle room(gym- open 24 hours), Kid's Korner, Dazzles Nightclub, 2 Swimming pools, Kid's pool and 5 Hot Tubs. Embarkation: This was extremely slow as the computers were not running. They sat most of us down and offered juice, cookies and banana bread. Once the computers were up and running, it was another slow wait as most of the crew checking us in were trainees, who were confused and unsure of what they were doing. We found it a complete waste of time for us to have completed our advance guest registration information with our credit card information etc. as they asked for the same information all over again. NCL needs to improve on this. Cabins: We received a complimentary upgrade from oceanview to Balcony for our family of 4. It was adequate and well laid out. We liked the ample pull out drawers and basketlike shelves in our closet. Bathroom was slightly bigger than what we had previously experienced on Princess. We had a queen size bed and a pull out sofa bed The queen size bed was more comfortable than the sofa bed. Our comforters were light and comfortable. But our pillows were too small and soft. Most of us had to ask for extra pillows. Places to Eat- Garden Cafe on Deck 11- This buffet eating area was small compared to other Princess and Celebrity ships we had been on. Most people were able to sit in the deck area in the aft section or towards midship where the pool was located. But this would only work if the weather was favorable. The menu choice was better than what we were accustomed to. We had Tilipia, Vegetarian Indian curries, standard choice of salads, roast beef, fried chicken, cold cuts, fruit, soups, coffee, ice tea, tea, milk. Our kids were disappointed that there was no punch or any other drinks available. Dinner - We made reservations for 18 of us on the 1st night relatively easily at the reservation desk on Deck 5 at one of the main dining rooms - Four Seasons Main Restaurant located on Deck 5 Midship Menu selection was okay. There were 2 different kinds of salads available - Caesar salad or Garden salad with your choice of standard dressing. There was a choice of hot or chilled soup. My husband enjoyed his chilled peach soup. Main entree comprised of fish, chicken, beef and vegetarian curry (somewhat similar to what we had at lunch). Dessert selection was adequate. Pacific Heights - On deck 11- Light cooking meals offered here. My parents went there with their friends for dinner on their last night . They had Boston clam chowder, perch and mussels for dinner. All booth seats were located along the window, giving everyone an ocean view. They enjoyed their dinner here. Again, would recommend making reservations here as the sitting area is cosy. No cover charge here. During lunch , you will find the pasta and pizza station here. Seven Seas Main Restaurant: Located on Deck 5 Aft - A larger dining area than Four Seasons. We had lunch twice here and dinner on our last night. This place presented the food in a more traditional way than Four Seasons. We preferred the service and food here than Four Seasons. On our last night most of us had Prime rib. I had tilapia with light Thai coconut curry sauce and Jasmine rice. We also ordered Veal. For soup, we had the choice of Tomato bisque or chilled avocado with shrimp. Dessert was sherbet, light apple pie or kiwi pie. Sandwich station - Sorry, cannot recall where it was located - either on Deck 11 or Deck 12. There were signs posted by the elevators giving people Lunch station options. I thought this was an excellent idea. Other eating places: With cover charge: iL Adagio restaurant located on Deck 5 - Italian dinner. This was one of the best dinner! 7 of us had reserved this place as our dinner choice for our second night. It cost $10 per person, but we found out after we had booked that if you booked between 5:30 pm and 6:00 pm, it was 50% off. So, we lucked out as our reservations had been made for 6:00 pm. We had 2 really efficient and friendly waitress. Sri was from Indonesia and the other lady was from Romania. They sat us in booth like seats - 4 in one booth and the other 3 in a booth right beside us. All booths faced the window, thereby giving us oceanview at all times. It was a spectacular way to dine. Our Caesar salad came with 4 huge prawns. Our table had grilled Swordfish, Rack of Lamb and Chicken Parmesan. We also had smoked salmon bowtie pasta and mushrooms as a side dish. For dessert we had a very light cheesecake made from Ricotta cheese with raspberry sauce on the side, Tiramisu and decadent chocolate ball. Our evening was topped off by a cup of Cappuccino. We highly recommend you make reservations here when you first get onto the ship as it was difficult to get reservations for subsequent nights at any hour. East Meets West Steakhouse- Located on Deck 12 - We did not eat here, but my best friend ate here with her 2 girlfriends. They preferred our Italian dinner the night before. Le Bistro French Restaurant - Deck 12 - Las ramblas Tapas Bar and Restaurant - Deck 12 Ginza - Deck 12 Teppanyaki - Deck 12 Sushi bar - Deck 12 Breakfast: Buffet at Garden cafe on Deck 11 - this is where we had our breakfast. omelette station at Las ramblas Tapas - deck 12 - 3 families went here on the day we were at Astoria. They enjoyed their choice of omelettes. Sit down at Seven Seas restaurant Waffle station at Le Bistro - on Deck 12 Bars and Lounges - We hung out mainly at Dazzles nightclub (Deck 6)- watched Comedian shows, the Newly wed and not so newly wed show, Adult only Humour show, DJ disco dancing, Motown night with a band, 70's groovy night with Village people look alike, Austin Power look alike. They had smoking section and non smoking section - which we did not enjoy as even though we sat in the non smoking area, we could still smell the smoke. NCL should have non smoking at all public places and perhaps have a designated smoking room or corner of a deck for smokers. We also went to the Observation Lounge on Deck 12 - where they had a tribute to Celine Dion and mainly ballroom dancing kind of music. Stardust Lounge - Located on Deck 5 and 6 Aft - First night's show was an assortment of the different performers on board the ship. Second night was a juggling comedian and the final night was a Broadway musical type of show featuring Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, Cats. Recommend you skip the first 2 nights and head only to the final show. Galleria Shops - Deck 7 - Good selection of jewelry, gift items and Duty free alcohol and cigarettes. Casino - Tacky colors, hot and could smell smoke as they allowed smoking in certain areas. Sports- Deck 12 - Golf Driving Net, Batting cages, Shuffle board, Basketball/Volleyball court - NCL should replace basketball and Volleyballs. Hot Tub - in them middle of the regular pool. Splash Kid's pool was located in a quiet corner with kid size colorful deck chairs. Gym- Deck 11 - Loved the idea of a 24 hour gym. Good selection of exercise equipment. Went to a stretching class from 7:30 am to 8:00 am and then joined the low impact Aerobic class from 8:00 am to 8:30 am. Jogging/ Walking track: Deck 6 - This was a good place to go jogging or to walk around the ship several times after a meal. We enjoyed doing this several times around the ship. Teen Club- For 13 - 17 year olds. Teen registration began at 5 Pm on Deck 7, Fwd on the first day. Activities for the first night - Ultimate teen scavenger Hunt, Showtime in the theatre, Battle of the Sexes - Guys vs . Girls and Teen club hangout. On the second day, while at sea, there was Ping pong Tournament, Casino Craze Poker, Roulette, Horse racing - played just for fun, no gambling involved. Man Hunt -Can you find him, Smoothie tasting, Teen only Hot Tubbing, Hunt it Down and Wear it Well, Wii Tournament. Final day - after our return from Astoria - Gong Karaoke, Matrix Hunt, Survivor Challenge and Farewell Fun. Our 15 year old enjoyed herself even though there not too many teens on board. She came back to our cabin with several door prizes - towels, back back, non alcoholic cocktail drink coupons. Kid's Korner - Deck 7 - For the younger kids. Registration also began at 5 Pm on our first day. Good assortment of activities to keep the younger kids occupied. Astoria - We had reserved 2 compacts and 1 van so that we could drive to Seaside, which is about a 20 minute drive. There is also an outlet factory with Niki, Van Huesen, Liz Claiborne, Eddy Bauer, Paper factory, Jones of New York - located just before you turn into Seaside. Seaside is also worth visiting as you can walk along the promenade and the shops as well as along the beach. Disappointment was that we had to tender in , so we ended up arriving on the Maritime museum side, while our rental cars were waiting on the pier side where Holland America had docked. We tried calling Enterprise car rental several times, but no one answered. We found out later, they offered our reserved vehicles to passengers from HAL as they said they were on a first come first served basis. Why bother taking reservations then? Guess when you are the only car rental agency in town, customer service and customer loyalty means absolutely nothing. Will never rent from Enterprise again. We ended up taking 2 van taxis to Seaside. They also arranged to pick us up from Seaside or the outlet mall once we were ready to head back to our ship. Our taxi driver Zak - gave us a short drive through the main downtown shopping area of Astoria. Name of this taxi company is Coast shuttle - offering cheap reliable transportation , 24 hours a day. They charged us $30 each way. We were able to sit 6 passengers in one van and 7 in the other. All in all, we enjoyed our first experience with freestyle cruising with NCL. Although the food quality and menu selection was not as varied at what we had experienced with Celebrity and Princess, we found the ship to be a good size, easy to get around in and relatively friendly crew. There were a few female waitress on the buffet floor who could have smiled more, perhaps they were tired and needed more shore leave. The men in our group loved not having to dress up in their shirt and tie or Tuxedo. The ladies dressed up on our final night just to have our own formal night. We also thought it was very fitting that the final song at the Broadway show - Hey, Mr. Producer was "We are Family", by the group Sister Sledge, as we were truly " We are family" on board the Norwegian Sun and we exited the Stardust Lounge singing this song! Disembarkation: Very smooth - We had breakfast around 7:45 am, left our cabin at 8:40 am and made our way to Deck 5 where the Atrium was located and walked off with our cabin luggage. Not much of a wait time at Canada Customs. It is truly amazing that Canada Customs is so much faster at Canada Place, considering we have at least 1900 passengers disembarking at staggered times. Vancouver Airport Customs could learn from Canada Place customs. We have always had huge line ups at the Airport. One slight snag was the lack of taxi service due to Vancouver Marathon which closed off many of the downtown streets, thereby diverting buses and taxis. We tried to wait for a taxi van, but was informed by NCL representatives that we would be better off walking up to Pan Pacific or any of the other downtown hotels to hail a cab. We opted for the 98B line(express bus service to Richmond) instead. We walked to the front of the Seabus terminal to catch the 98B line , but realized that there would be no buses running here either due to the Marathon, so had to go in full circle to catch the 98B line on Burrard street, infront of Hyatt Regency. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
We took 5-day the Pacific Coastal repositioning cruise from L.A. to Vancouver on 5/3/05. We have sailed on 25+ cruises on several different lines. This was our second recent cruise on NCL (went to Alaska on the Star last August/Sept.). ... Read More
We took 5-day the Pacific Coastal repositioning cruise from L.A. to Vancouver on 5/3/05. We have sailed on 25+ cruises on several different lines. This was our second recent cruise on NCL (went to Alaska on the Star last August/Sept.). Embarkation in L.A. was smooth with no wait. We arrived at about 3 p.m. to avoid the rush. Staff greeted us pleasantly and gave directions to our cabin. (Not like the Star, where we were met by a staff member who carried our carry-ons to our cabin.) There were plenty of elevators available on the ship, and we easily found our cabin. It was a Category BB balcony cabin, very clean, with a comfortable Queen (plus) mattress and four pillows, sofa, and plenty of storage space for two. It also had a refrigerator that kept our beverages really cold, and a safe. The only negative about the cabin was the size of the bathroom/shower. I have sailed on a lot of ships over the years and this was definitely the smallest shower ever! I would say 1/4th the size of the shower in our ocean view (non-balcony) cabin on the Star last summer. In addition, the chairs on the balcony were tiny---almost children's size. My husband brought out the desk chair to be comfortable. We enjoyed the itinerary. The first two days at sea were relaxing, and Seattle and Victoria are familiar but very enjoyable ports. I found it odd that the cruise staff didn't give the usual "port lectures" and did not have maps of either port available on board. We found maps in the terminal in Seattle, and Victoria had their lovely "greeters" in period dress handing out maps on shore. This was OK for us since we had been to these cities several times before, but for new visitors there was very little advance information available. Food: We love Freestyle, and that is one of the reasons we have tried NCL twice lately. However, the quality of food was our one major problem with this cruise. The quality of food in both the main dining rooms and buffet has declined noticeably on NCL in recent years. This time there were only two of the five nights where there was an entree even remotely of interest in the main dining rooms, and the buffet food at lunch and dinner was unappetizing. (The buffet breakfasts were fine, with a wide array of choices.) NCL's effort to cut food costs and steer passengers to the "alternative" (fee) restaurants is obvious. At main dining room dinners, both the combination of foods and seasonings/sauces were strange, there was no beef option some nights, the typical cruise fare of shrimp entrees, rack of lamb, prime rib or even roast turkey/dressing were nowhere to be seen. Fish was dry and I could swear that the "Mahi Mahi" was some other, cheaper type of fish (it bore no taste resemblance to any other Mahi Mahi I have ever eaten---I could only swallow a few bites), appetizers and soups were few and low in quality. Service was inconsistent---wrong appetizer delivered one night, one appetizer forgotten the next. The buffet dinner offerings the nights we looked it over were fried, overcooked, soggy, or strange combinations again. My expectations were realistic. I have been a convention/meeting planner and know what to expect in banquet-quality food. This was many steps below. We tried two alternative restaurants. The sushi bar was excellent and the whole staff in the Ginza area was wonderful. We also had the Teppanyaki one night---again, the food and service were outstanding. We also tried the East Meets West steakhouse. The appetizers and desserts were outstanding, service very professional and friendly, steak was good. Entertainment: We enjoyed the Jean Ann Ryan dancers and singers. They are a step above the dancers/singers on other lines. We also enjoyed the musicians in several smaller venues. The variety and types of music offered were very much to our taste. Internet access: The ship's personnel promoted it actively throughout the cruise, but when I went to sign up for a time package in order to check in to our return flights, service was down and not expected to be restored any time during my cruise. I guess that message never got to the promoters. Staff: In general the staff members at all levels were professional, friendly, and courteous. The reception desk ("pursers" on most ships) staff we encountered were the only exception---but that is typical of many ships. They remind me of those credit card commercials where the staff is trained to say "no" in all situations. Can you exchange U.S. for Canadian dollars---no. Do you have any one-dollar bills---no. Do you have a map of Seattle---no. Do you have a Seattle yellow pages---no. Do you have a copy of the menu for tonight in the Seven Seas---no.......... Conclusions: Despite the very nice ships and staff, I don't think we will choose NCL again due to the poor food quality. In fact, we had been considering whether to do a land-based vacation or a cruise on NCLA to Hawaii next year, and this cruise caused us to choose the land-based option. Read Less
Sail Date May 2005
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