This review is one of the most humourous pieces of writing that I have ever come across, whether on the subject of cruising, or on any other subject.  The author's initials are shown below, and his email address is also provided for those who wish to contact him directly.

Author: RJ of Nevada, USA
Age: 60
Occupation: Company Executive
Number Of Cruises: 0
Ship: Norwegian Cruise Lines-Norway (former S.S. France)
Sailing Date: 5-13-2000
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

   This beautiful liner first entered service as the SS France in 1962.  Its gross weight tonnage is 76,049 tons,
    and its present capacity is 2,032 passengers and a crew of 920.  Its maiden voyage as the Norway was in 1980.
    Its final transatlantic voyage will be on September 2, 2001 sailing from Miami/New York, USA to Southampton, UK.
    (Note:  These photos and ship's data were provided separately.  They were not part of the actual review itself.
                The music which will play once is the French national anthem, La Marsellaise.)

This was our first cruise so we looked forward to our Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Norway. We were greatly influenced by a cruise review from a couple from Boston who traveled with a large number of friends and loved the cruise. We read every review we could find pertaining to the Norway and felt we understood both the good and bad aspects of the ship.

With great anticipation we boarded a Continental Airlines flight from Las Vegas to begin our vacation. We chose an air sea program that flew us into Miami on Friday where we stayed overnight at a Radisson Mart Hotel near the airport. Our flight was crowded but uneventful. When we arrived at the gate we were met by an NCL agent who was friendly and courteous, was not of a lot of assistance because her English was very poor and most of the people in our group could not understand what she was saying. She led us though the airport to baggage claim where we hired a porter to take our luggage to the bus. Hiring the porter was a good idea; those who did not looked like they wished they had by the time we reached the bus. Our luggage was loaded and off we went to the Radisson Mart Hotel. Our room was large and clean, well suited for a good night's sleep before our cruise the next day. We had a cocktail in the lounge before dinner and found the wine selection by the glass to be very poor quality and very limited. We were very disappointed because the hotel did not have a nice restaurant. The restaurant was food served buffet style that was average at best.

Day One: We arose to a beautiful warm cloudless day in Miami. After breakfast we waited in the lobby for the buses to load the luggage that we had left outside our door the night before. We had a carry on bag that we took on the bus. The trip from the Hotel to the dock was unusual to say the least. The bus driver trying to increase his tips provided a narrative tour of Miami, only his English was so poor that we spent the entire trip trying to understand what he said. In the end the only words that I understood was when he pointed out of the right side of the bus and said Orange Bowl.

We arrived at the dock with many buses unloading passengers and complete confusion. If our luggage had been placed in the bus we were assigned, life would had been simpler, but our luggage was loaded in two buses so when we got off the bus, we found one bag but had to find the second bus to identify the other two bags. As the bus driver unloaded bags people were tipping the driver, the porters from the ship were yelling wrong man, wrong man, tip me, tip me, $1.00 a bag; what a mess. We finally found our bags, got them to the porter and headed for check in. One of the nice things about flying in the night before the cruise was NCL handled your check in process at the hotel the night before. This was a great help as we walked though check in, avoided the picture taking line, and went directly aboard ship. We had read prior reviews so we were somewhat prepared for the poor elevator service, although the degree of poor elevator service was a shock. We had to walk half the length of deck with our carry on luggage and get an elevator near the Windward Dining Room to get up to sky deck cabin SK056.

(For a 360 degree view of a cabin on the Norway called an Ocean View cabin, click here  [ Ocean View Cabin ]  Use your browser's Back button to return to this page.  Do not use the {Close Window} button that you will see under the image.  The image will take about one minute to load;  if the image has not loaded in that time, click once on your browser's Reload or Refresh button.

Well for those of you that have never cruised before, when you get to your cabin you will be in for a shock; we had a junior suite. We understand by cruise standards that we had a fairly large cabin. By my standards it looked like a miniaturized room at Motel 6 with big towels. Our room had lovely floor to ceiling windows however, looking at the ocean from about eleven levels up. The reason I used the term levels is that a level on a ship seems much shorter than a story of a building. I felt like we were maybe three stories above that water for all you land lovers out there. The floor to ceiling widows was very nice but would have been even nicer if they had been cleaned. Ours looked like they had not been cleaned since 1980 when sky deck was added to the ship, too dirty to even take a photo from our window; what a shame. We learned our last morning on the ship that they just squirt a water hose at the windows once a week, no cleaning fluid, not squeegeed, not cleaned.

After settling into our cabin we went to sign up for the spa for the week and to sign up for a massage the next day to get our vacation off to a relaxing start. We took time to activate our on board credit account and sign up for the tours that we wanted. Because we ran around the ship signing up for all the tours we wanted etc, we missed open seating for lunch, so we ate a buffet at the Great Outdoors restaurant. We are from Las Vegas so we know good buffets. If a hotel in Las Vegas served a buffet like that they would be out of business overnight. The roast beef was particularly bad; what is so hard about buying tender beef?

(For a 360 degree view of the Great Outdoors Restaurant on board the Norway, click here  [ Great Outdoors Restaurant ]  Use your browser's Back button to return to this page.  Do not use the {Close Window} button that you will see under the image.)

We went to the bar to get an attitude adjustment and found the sports bar and bartenders to be really great. The cocktails throughout the cruise seemed a little expense and mixed on the light side but everybody has to make a profit, right?

We decided to go find our table in the Leeward dining room late seating. We had ordered a table for the two of us and found it in the back of the room right under a very noisy air duct. We tried to get our table changed but were unsuccessful, as the better tables on the baloney had been assigned to people on lower decks for some reason. We were told that the better tables are usually reserved for suite holders and penthouse guests but that did not happen for some reason. We gave up and ate in Le Bistro. We ate at Le Bistro a lot on our cruise and found the food good but not outstanding. More about the food tomorrow, but keep in mind that our comments our based upon living in Las Vegas that has restaurants as good as any found in the country, and we have eaten at the finer restaurants in Boston, New Orleans, and Los Angeles, etc. If you are not a big dine out person at expensive restaurants, you will find the food just fine.

After an after dinner exploration tour of the ship and a glass of wine or two, we decided to call it a night.

Day Two: We woke up the first morning aboard ship to a calm sea. We had ordered room service and left an order on our stateroom door before going to bed. Breakfast was prompt and good except for the toast. Now let me tell you about the toast every morning. They toast the bread dry in massive amounts. By the time it is served it is like a brick, good for bread crumbs but thatís all. No amount of butter will make the brick soft.

Our breakfast discussion revolved around two topics. The first topic was the lack of sound proofing in the rooms. We could hear every sound and conversation from the stateroom next door; not good NCL, you didnít win any awards with me for that problem. The second problem was that the toilet would not flush. A phone call corrected that problem within ten minutes.

After breakfast we proceeded to the spa where my wife and I both had signed up for a massage. The massage turned out to be way overpriced for the value received, and was more of the fluff and rub variety than the deep tissue type. My suggestion to future travelers is forget the spa; it is overpriced with an emphasis on selling oils and lotions at sharply marked up prices. The rest of the day was spent roaming the ship and sunbathing till dinner.

This will be my last comment regarding the food. We had one meal: the beef Wellington that was outstanding. The Scotch broth soup one-day was also top notch. The rest of the menu in the main dinning room ranged from acceptable to poor. The chicken at Le Bistro was good. Chicken in the main dinning room was poor. The worst meal was the duck; we could not even cut it with a knife, and it was horrible. The lobster bisque was pretty bad; how hard is it to make good bisque? The chef added imitation crab to the bisque; it was terrible. Many dishes started out well but somehow missed in the end due to poor quality meat or a sauce that did not work with the dish. I think the French chef went to a four month cooking school in France but did not attend class the last month. Enough said about the food.

We made a bad mistake eating at Le Bistro the first night on the ship. Unknown to us that is when they hand out tickets for the various shows on board the ship for the week. So we tried to go to a show after dinner and did not have a ticket to get in. Not able to see a show we tried the casino before bedtime. Did not see many jackpots paid during our cruise; probably a good bet would be to stay out of the casino. We ended our day by returning to our stateroom to again find that our toilet was not flushing. It took an hour for the plumber to arrive to fix it.

Day Three: We awoke to another nice sunny day at sea. Our day began with our toilet again refusing to flush. Two-phone call and two hours later the problem was again fixed. We were not causing the problem with two much paper; it just would not flush, the plumber said it was the air activation unit. Our day was spent, napping, sunbathing, touring the ship etc.

At lunch we met a couple that gave us some very good advice that helped us on this cruise. We were very upset because nothing seemed to be going right. The couple we sat with at lunch had been on twenty-three cruises. They said that 20 of the 23 cruises they had taken fell below their expectations. They said you just have to go with the flow and make it the best vacation you can no matter what happens. They said that if you follow their advice, in the end you could say that you had a nice vacation. So for the rest of our vacation, we began to go with the flow.

We met some wonderful people on this cruise, a couple from Minnesota on the cruise because their daughter was married on St Thomas during the cruise. We also met a couple from England and another from Australia. We enjoyed meeting another couple; he lives on St. Martin, she in Chicago. He hates Chicago and she finds St. Maarten to far from a mall. So they get together and travel one month a year. So far they say the marriage works just fine. We also met a few folks that we could not get far enough away from; so folks just go with the flow. We did not go to all the shows but the ones we did attend ranged from very good to average. I donít feel I am much of a show critic and individual taste varies so my advice is: see the shows that interest you and have fun.  We ended day three calling the plumber because our toilet didnít work.

Day Four: We again woke to a beautiful sunny day. We slept well on our cruise and enjoyed the slight rocking motion for the most part. We had read an evaluation by another couple that described the experience like being rocked to sleep in your motherís arms. My description is slightly different. If your mother was going through drug detoxification and had the shakes and was rocking you to sleep that would better describe the experience.

We boarded our tender for our trip to the island of St. Maarten and the Under Two Flags Tour. I feel so bad for the people on the island. They have been ravaged by a number of hurricanes and are still trying to recover. I understand that a few hotels on the island that cater to the rich and famous are world class. The island I saw had many run down houses with seven cars in the yard, one still running. The French side of the island is slightly better because it has been battered by fewer hurricanes. The best way I can describe the island is a Mexican boarder town surrounded by water. I didnít hear much about the other tours from passengers. Our ship had a large delegation of New Yorkers. These folks wore the big gold chains Rolex watches and diamond rings with more carrots (carats, or karats) than Bugs Bunny ever saw in his lifetime. They descended on the island to buy more Rolex watches, diamond rings, and loose diamonds. I guess they understood what they were purchasing but I would not have had a clue since I am not jewelry literate. Based on the talk in the dining room that night, the Norway must have been sitting a foot deeper in the water due to the weight of the haul.  We returned to our cabin from our trip on the island to find our toilet was again not working.

Day Five: We woke up to a cloudy day off the coast of St. John. By the time the plumber arrived again to fix our toilet, we were in St. Thomas an hour later. My wife had fallen in St. Maarten the previous day and was suffering from muscle spasms in her lower back. We decided not to go to St. Thomas so she could get a deep tissue massage at the spa and rest her back. We went down to the spa and much to our amazement all the massage therapists were ashore in St. Thomas. So we ended up spending the day aboard ship which turned out to be a wonderful day. With ninety percent of the people ashore we had the run of the ship with access to everything; no lines, no waiting endlessly for elevators. We sat and talked to the bartender in the sports bar for over two hours. We had a wonderful relaxing day aboard ship.

We did not spend any time in our cabin because our toilet was not working. About six cabins away from us, two cabins had been flooded out with sewage during the night. While the people were ashore, maintenance staff worked all day replacing carpet, removing everything from the staterooms, cleaning etc. Remembering what we had been told earlier in the week, I suggested that I go down to the flooded staterooms and tell the occupants to go with the flow. My wife thought that it was not a good idea; I probably would never be heard from again. Just before supper we were told that our toilet was again working. I never thought that I could get excited over a working toilet, but we were overjoyed. I flushed it four times just to hear that wonderful sucking sound.

We had a fun evening. The comic in the lounge was not foul mouthed, his jokes were clean, funny, and creative, and one of the best shows I have seen. Our spirits had risen to an all time high. We returned to our cabin for the evening to find our toilet was not working. I called and the plumber arrived and said he was tracing the problem. An hour later he had removed half the bulkhead sections in the hallway. Two hour later I told him I was getting really tired, he said that he was almost done and replaced the sucking sound device behind our toilet. Just like magic our toilet worked for the rest of the cruise.

Day Six: We woke up to a partly cloudy day. The ship had a lot more rock and roll; I think the captain had increased his speed to get us to the private island for six hours of sun and fun on day seven but more about that tomorrow. We spent time on the sun deck, visited the spa, shopped in the duty free shops. Now that we could find our way around the ship we explored all the accessible areas. After a number of rum and cokes I asked if I could see the on board jail and morgue but wisely the crew told me that access was denied. Since I couldnít visit the morgue I decided that a visit the concierge was long overdue. I had placed seven phone calls to him and he had not provided any assistance. So with a large amount of rum still circulating though my body I set off to meet him face to face. I soon understood why he had not been able to assist me. He was surrounded at his desk by a host of angry passengers screaming and yelling and shaking their fists. The most irate couple said they had been told they would have a cabin with an outdoor sitting area and a view. They said they were so far below deck that they could hear the water running past their cabin. They described their stateroom as a tomb with a toilet. I was tempted to tell them to go with the flow but thought better of it. After hearing all those real problems, I decided not to contact the poor concierge again.

Day Seven: We woke to a beautiful warm sunny day. Thank you Cruiseopinion ( website) for making my day. I had read one comment sheet that said get your tender tickets early for the private island because the people on the first tender get all the good beach chairs. Good advice, I went to the lounge at 9:30 AM to get early tender tickets because my wifeís back was better and we looked forward to the beach. We got the first tender and had two beach chairs with an umbrella in the very front row. The beach although not world class was simply wonderful. The water was great, the lunch was great, and the day was great. I did feel sorry for the NCL crew. While we were eating a nice buffet they were relegated to hot dogs on the crew barbecue. I hope they did not limit each crewmember to two hot dogs because the sea gulls were dive bombing the grill and stealing the hotdogs right off the hot fire. Personally, I would have felt better about how NCL treats the employees if they had eaten the same lunch as the passengers had.

One other topic that needs to be discussed: there is a very fine line between excellent customer service and extracting every last dime from every last passenger every day. I feel that NCL is probably three feet over the line. The examples are two numerous to mention here but I will cover a few. Because we got early tender to the beach our two chairs and umbrella were free. The poor people who came after the first tender had to purchase a chair to sit in at $5.00 a chair. Come on NCL, provide free seats, for gosh sakes. Having a picture taken on formal nights or with the Captain is well with reason, but probably twenty photo sessions over the cruise at $20.00 a picture; give me a break. Keep in mind that everything tends to be overpriced, spa, massages, cocktails, etc., and if you want a cocktail at the beach the price is $2.00 higher than one at the bar on board ship.

Homeward Bound: Someone wakened us on the deck above dragging something across the deck at 4:30 AM. We had our final breakfast. All the waiters and busboys had done their utmost to charm the passengers the night before, dancing through the dining room with baked Alaska and singing a chorus of "We are the World". All the tips had been dispensed, hands shaken. Now it was morning and it seemed like a real chore for them to serve breakfast; oh well, probably human nature.

The departure procedure was orderly, the luggage took a while to locate but overall it was acceptable. The flight home to Las Vegas was very crowded, no empty seats. The flight was an hour late departing Miami. The airline issued duplicate seats to five passengers; none of them could speak English. The airline had to bring on board a Spanish-speaking agent to straighten things out. As soon as he would leave the aircraft the fighting would start again. Finally we thought everything had been settled but then the airline told five standby passengers already seated they had to get off. Then it turned into a war. So much for flying in the deregulated market place. The plane left Miami an hour late. When we got to Las Vegas we went out and had a great steak dinner at one of our finer restaurants.

Would we cruise with NCL again? Yes I think we would, but we would certainly change some things. The cruise was kind of like an abusive relationship; the worse it got the more you wanted to stay in the relationship in the hope it would get better. My wife said I went on vacation sane and came home needing counseling and a center for abused cruisers. Just remember, go with the flow!

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