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Copyright © 1995-2004 
Linda Coffman


Norwegian Dream
March 14-22, 2004

Norwegian Dream Cruise Reviewby Coley Coyne

Easily the worst of the six different lines I’ve cruised. A dishonest, shortsighted, petty bunch incapable of or uninterested in pleasing guests;  telling you ad nauseam about “Freestyle” cruising, hoping you won’t notice the lack of any true freedom. They make you believe you can dine anywhere and anytime you want, but you cannot reserve a table say for 7:30, or 8, or 9, or 7, etc. You end up waiting in line sometimes for an hour but always waiting at least some period of time. You often miss the nightly shows (some of which were excellent, e.g. Rudy Maccagi) because you wait so long for a table, or, the service is so spotty the show’s over by the time you’re done. The “specialty” restaurant, Le Bistro, should be call Le Joke. It’s a hole-in-the-wall afterthought with nothing special about it. There are about three entrees and the menu’s the same every night. They tend to rush you there, and try to sell you overpriced bottled water. The restaurant has no dinner music or dance floor (although the ship had an excellent piano player and singer, Ernie Scott, who unfortunately was stationed too far away to be considered dining room music). The rest of the restaurants were too few to accommodate all the “freestyle” diners and by the time you are seated, you have frequently lost your good humor and often dine to the sound of disgruntled fellow cruisers.

There is no one to address guests’ concerns or the cruise line’s screwups. For example, one couple ordered and paid in advance for the “unlimited soda” cards for their two kids. They never got them. They got shuffled from one place to another and never got any satisfaction. They ended up buying two more—for twice the price they’d already paid and then couldn’t get anyone to even credit them the pre-paid amount. A small matter, but irritating and frustrating especially to realize that no one cares about helping them out and no one has the brain or good sense to even buy the kids a coke to make up for the irritation. Stupid, shortsighted, petty and guaranteed to assure that that family will never sail that cruise line again.

Speaking of petty, they confiscated the one bottle of champagne we carried aboard to celebrate an anniversary. At the metal detector, as if we were criminals. Yes, they have a “policy” about bringing your own wine aboard. But one bottle? Other cruise lines have a policy too, but they don’t push it for one lousy bottle. Carnival for example, is smart enough to know that if the cruise line doesn’t bust your chops for bringing aboard one bottle of champagne, maybe you’ll enjoy yourself and come back. Not Norwegian, not on this ship, they just don’t care.

They lied about the itinerary knowing we weren’t going to Aruba after all (for “technical” problems with the Dream’s speed). They never told anyone in advance (though they had enough time to print up and arrange shore excursions for Roatan, Honduras, the alternate site). Many were very upset not to have been told but the cruise line didn’t apologize or care, and of course did absolutely nothing to make it right. They also took people to another, unscheduled place, San Andres, Columbia. There, they couldn’t even give us maps or offer any shore excursions, leaving passengers to fend for themselves in a foreign country some consider a little dangerous. Their in-house cable network told us to be sure and negotiate in advance with cab drivers and not pay more than the going rate of $27 roundtrip to town. Then, the morning we arrived their “agent” took the first tender in and “negotiated” with the cabs. Next thing they were telling us the new rate they negotiated was $20 ONE WAY. Yes, they actually made a “deal” that upped the rate by $13! (we made our own deal, no thanks to NCL, and did better. 

Incidentally, they continued to run the infomercials constantly all week about shore excursions to Cozumel, etc. long after we’d left those ports. they kept broadcasting about the cab rate in Colombia too long after we’d been there and even after they got us the new, higher, rate.

Really, it was like there was no brain running things, I don’t know if the captain was retiring, burned out or what, but things just didn’t make sense. Another example: the morning we were tendering in to San Andres they decided to hold a mock fire drill for the crew, using “simulated” smoke in the “pizza” room. (the pizza, by the way was poor). They could have done this anytime, but chose to do it exactly when passengers were all trying to get to deck 4 for the tenders. A lot of people for one reason or another prefer to use or need to use elevators. So, what do they do? They close all the elevators for the hour-long unnecessary fire drill thereby causing chaos and crowding on all the stairways and making it impossible or at least very inconvenient for all the “freestyle” cruisers. A lot of people felt it wasn’t worth it and never left the ship.

As it turned out, both islands had some very nice beaches and those who ventured out enjoyed themselves. Unfortunately, they then had to return to the ship.

It seemed like the ship went out of its way to frustrate guests. On the second last day we were urged to settle up our bill. I had a credit of $200, having deposited cash. I waited in line (naturally, on this ship, since waiting in line was the most reliable expectation one could have) to settle up. Those in front of me were allowed to pay. I could not get my money back, however. Not until 5:30 A.M.! (of all times!) on the day of debarkation, when, their “Freestyle” newsletter cautioned “the wait can be quite lengthy.” Why on earth would you make a guest come back again and wait in line again, when other guests are urged to settle up now? Totally stupid, totally frustrating. I couldn’t wait to get off that ship and will never sail Norwegian again.

It would be too easy to say the ship was a nightmare. It would take far too long to sum up all the many other bush league, inept, petty deficiencies and it is unfortunate, because there were some good points. They many hard working, decent young people aboard, for example, who are kind, considerate and outgoing. But privately, they too concede their great longing to be off this ship. Unfortunately, while we only had to be with NCL for a week, these poor people often sign up for ten months and of course have to endure working for the same NCL that I’m sure treats them even worse than its guests. For one thing, NCL takes the tips, from us, without asking. We don’t know who gets them, or if they get the $20 per day we were charged for “service”, in addition to the 15% “auto gratuity” they add to each overpriced can of beer, bottle of wine or glass of soda. They decide who gets what, whether you like it or not. That rude woman who takes your name for the dining room wait list (and then forgets you) may be rewarded with your money when you’d really rather she was given her walking papers.

The list goes on and on. We actually had a good vacation, but that was in spite of NCL, not because of them. The bottom line on this ship is this: Stay away from the Norwegian Dream. It’s a bad dream.

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