My cruising history has been rich, however I had never cruised with Norwegian. Toured several of their ships – but never stayed on board. So it was time to experience the brand first hand. To that end, I took a quick coastal cruise from Vancouver (stopped in Victoria) down to San Diego. Click here for the photo album. It was a definite success!
I had heard mixed reviews and of course, there are pros and cons (just like every other line) but the level of friendly service and the energy on board was really good. The Cons – Embarkation in Vancouver was a total mess as their system didn’t recognize 50% of the passengers – their online check-in never made it to the system. So that wasn’t a great start to the trip. However, once on board, we were greeted by an upbeat and friendly Cruise Director staff and a very welcoming Reception Desk staff.
Our cabin steward Sergio was great – always attentive, quicker than any stateroom attendant I’ve ever had and always had a genuine smile. Vinay, one of the head waiters in the Four Seasons dining room paid extra attention to our needs and corrected any issues we had promptly. Which leads to the second con -Freestyle Dining. Now, we never waited more than 5 minutes for a table, but the service in the dining room was hit or miss. I suggest that if you find a waiter you like, book ahead for the next evening with that same waiter.
Activities-a-plenty was the theme for this coastal cruise. We brought along books and our Rummikub game, but alas, I only got 5 pages read and we only played our game for an hour. There was too much fun going on! From dance lessons to trivia, name that tune to cooking demos and the classic Norwegian White Party dance extravaganza – we stayed up late and had a ball.
For my Celiac friends, NCL has many provisions in place – I ordered off of the regular menu and made adjustments like “no sauce” and used their gluten free bread with my poached eggs breakfasts. The dining rooms offer a standard menu and the daily menu. The standard is a good gluten-free fall back. I had the steak twice and it was surprisingly better than the standard steak I’ve had on other cruise lines – really tender and the veggies were very fresh. Lunch was more of a challenge though as the salad dressings in the buffets are not gluten free and you have to check on the meats – so pre-order your lunch and have it waiting for you on Deck 11 in the buffets. If you want gluten free pancakes or waffles in the morning, you can also pre-order them the night before in the dining room as well.
The level of service that we got from the bar staff, shops and the Reception Desk was consistently good. The Windjammer piano man Beau Tahana was top notch! Always had the crowd singing along. The Cruise Director Richard was great and Henry, Alvin and B were some of the top members of their team. They taught great dance lessons, had us competing for prizes with trivia and were really engaging. NCL has a feel that is more casual, but I feel that it’s a good competitor for RCCL. Now to try out the Breakaway and the Escape!