I told my wife, who had never been on a cruise, that cruising is fun for several reasons: good to excellent food (and lots of it!), fun shows and activities, and night club style dancing. At least that's been my experience on both ... Read More
I told my wife, who had never been on a cruise, that cruising is fun for several reasons: good to excellent food (and lots of it!), fun shows and activities, and night club style dancing. At least that's been my experience on both Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. Not so with Norwegian.
Our cruise was to the Mexican Riviera aboard the Norwegian Star. The ship itself was fine. Norwegian touts its 'freestyle cruising' as a way to entice customers. The difference? Other cruise lines offer early and late dinner seating, often at tables with guests you've never met. This offers the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends aboard ship. You have the same waiters with you every night, and you eat with the same people every night. You also pay gratuities at the end of the cruise by handing envelopes to the staff. You can eat at the buffets as well, but I found the former more enjoyable.
With free-style cruising, on the other hand, you eat when you want, but it is rare that you eat at the same table with others. On the Star, there were other eating options besides at the buffets and main dining rooms. You could eat from numerous specialty eateries, but you paid more for the privilege. Gratuities are automatically added to your bill at the end of the cruise ($26/day for 2 people), regardless of whether on not you thought the service warranted it or not, or whether you even used the services or not. This was a nasty surprise at the end of our cruise.
So why didn't my wife and I enjoy our cruise? Several reasons. 1. The food was mediocre at best. The menus in the main dining rooms were extensive, but the food was bland and often cold. We rarely ate a dinner in either Versailles or Aqua that we found particularly palatable. The buffets were equally uninspired. We often ate breakfast at the buffet, and like the main dining rooms, the food was mediocre. I always looked forward to the breakfasts on the other cruise lines I've been on; not this one. We were on a budget, so we didn't try the specialty restaurants, but I fear they may have been as bad as the other options. There was one exception: the crepe station. Unfortunately, that did not make up for the subpar dining option elsewhere.
2. The shows were basically a wash. On the one hand, the professional dancers were quite good, some of the best I've seen. The dance shows were inventive, entertaining, and lively. The other acts were either okay, or downright boring. On this cruise, a Russian couple performed feats of acrobatics on stage that were fun to watch, but what they did were things I've seen before. I kept wanting to shout, "Hey! What's up with Putin?!" I didn't, but only because my wife would have killed me. Besides the Russians, there were two comedians on board. Neither were very good. The first act featured a comic with a magic act (or was he a magician with a comedy act?). Either way, I found myself wondering what else I could have been doing. The other was a standup comic, and between the two, I nearly chuckled once.
3. The night club was a complete and utter disaster. My wife and I LOVE to dance. We enjoy popular music as well as hip hop, R&B, 70's, Latin, old school, and contemporary hits. I got her all excited about how fun dancing is on cruises. My fondest memories of cruising years ago was dancing every night until I couldn't stand up anymore. Well, not on this ship. The reason? The DJ. On this ship, the DJ (known as 'DJ Vibe') was an idiot. His idea of great dance music consisted of Pit Bull. I'm serious! This man played no less than 6 Pit Bull songs a night! Pit Bull in English, Pit Bull in Spanish, Pit Bull as lead, Pit Bull as back up. I couldn't believe it! He did this EVERY NIGHT!! No hip hop. None! No R&B. None! We did get lots of obscure Latin songs, but Pit Bull and Latin all night? I tried to get DJ Dummass to play something, ANYTHING else, but to no avail. I noticed others trying to do the same, but when they realized that the DJ was not going to play their requests, they left! The man did not know how to do his job. In fact, several people that I met in the night club had a theory: the DJ was so bad because he wanted to end the night early. This way he could get paid and go to bed! It's my story, and I'm sticking with it! In the past, I looked forward to dancing the night away and viewed the cruise night club as a great way to end each evening. Not so on this cruise. I don't believe I am overstating when I say that I think this DJ ruined our vacation. (As a side note, the cover band who came on before DJ Ineptitude was actually quite good. I don't usually enjoy dancing to bands, but this band was an exception. They are Exotique out of Atlanta, and they were terrific. Unfortunately, when they ended their set each night, the DJ would take over, and you know how that went). Five days later as I write this, I am still fuming at the thought of DJ Latrine screwing up our vacation! Grrrr.
All this is to say, if you're looking for a cruise experience that you will enjoy, look elsewhere. I've never gone wrong with Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity is excellent (especially food-wise). I haven't tried Carnival or Princess, but I've heard good things about both. We'll see. I think the worst thing about this trip, the thing that really sticks in my craw, is that this was my wife's first cruise. In the future, I may find it difficult to convince her that there is MUCH better out there, but will she believe me? I sure hope so... Read Less