Discover the world of cruise travel

Make the most of your cruise vacation with information from

Get ready to cruise with Cruise Wear, Luggage & More from
The Cruise Shop

 Cruising by the Book ~ Top Picks in 
Cruise Guidebooks

The favorite of serious cruise travelers:
Cruise Travel Magazine
Cruise Travel

Have a question or a review to submit?

Copyright © 1995-2002 
Linda Coffman


SS Norway
December 1, 2002

by B.L.

I just returned from the December 1 sailing of the Norway. This was my first experience with Norwegian Cruise Line. I have sailed four times previously - once on the Voyager of the Seas and Adventure of the Seas, and twice on the Explorer of the Seas. I decided to try the Norway because of the inexpensive rates and because the ship is the last transatlantic passenger ship built. Hopefully my remarks will be helpful to those thinking about a cruise on the Norway.

The Norway gets high marks from me for the food served in the dining room. The dishes ranged from good to very good and the selections were varied. There was not one selection that I could complain about. The appetizers and soups were especially good. Soups were served hot and entrees were at the proper serving temperature. This was a change from the Voyager class ships on RCI. None of the soups I ate aboard RCI were ever hot enough, and the entrees were just lukewarm. Another nice touch was that the breakfast menu in the dining room changed daily on the Norway. Because of these factors, I rank the Norway above the Voyager-class ships for breakfast, lunch, and dinner served in the dining room.

There are two negative aspects about the Norway in the food category. The food served in the Great Outdoor Café (buffet) was fair to poor. Passengers do not have the option to take lunch in the dining room on port days. This is unfortunate because the food in the buffet pales in comparison to that served in the dining room. The other problem is that there are certain times of day that food is available ONLY by ordering room service. Room service choices are very limited and not very appealing. Also be aware that you only have two choices at dinnertime - the dining room or room service.

All of us traveling together rated the coffee on the Norway as excellent. The Voyager class ships, on the other hand, do not get high marks for their coffee. Iced tea is not very good on either the Voyager ships or the Norway. We often made our own iced tea by brewing a cup of tea and pouring it over ice. There are only five beverages available free of charge at all times on the Norway in the Great Outdoor Café: water, premixed iced tea, hot tea, coffee, and hot chocolate. Lemonade is unavailable. Juices are available at breakfast and from room service. None of us ordered mixed drinks aboard. We didn't hear any complaints about mixed drinks from fellow passengers.

Dining room service was good on the Norway. Two things I found interesting were that the majority of waitstaff on the Norway appeared to be from Indonesia or the Philippines, and that there were NO female waitresses or assistant waitresses among the servers. (There were some female sommeliers, however.) This contrasts with the Voyager class ships were the majority of waitstaff seemed to be from Eastern Europe and the Caribbean countries. The age of waitstaff on the Norway appeared range from 35 to 50, whereas the staff on the Voyager ships appeared to be from the mid-20s to the mid-30's. Although the service was good on the Norway, I preferred the service on RCI because the waiters and assistant waiters I had on that cruise line were more personable and engaging. The maitre d'hotel on the Norway, however, was the best of any that I have experienced on any of the previous cruises. Each night he spent a considerable time with the guests in his section, in addition to making several of the desserts and salads during the week.

On every sailing of the Voyager-class ships, the room attendant appeared within five minutes of us entering our cabin to give introductions and to welcome us aboard. On the Norway, we didn't see our room attendant until the last night, and then we had to ask if he were the one taking care of our room. (We still don't know his name.) Our traveling companions only saw their room attendant twice during the week. Once to have nasty pillows exchanged for new ones and on one other occasion. The service was fine, however. The rooms were cleaned and made up properly. There weren't any towel animals or pillow creations. We missed the personal touch of the room attendants that we received on Royal Caribbean.

Room service was very prompt on the Norway, though the menu is very limited. Items such as a small cheese and cracker platter available without charge on the Voyager class ships cost extra on the Norway.

We only saw the "Sing, Sing, Sing" and "Sea Legs Go Hollywood" productions. I would rate both as fair. Two of us voted thumbs down on "Sea Legs Go Hollywood." The songs were uninspiring and the production itself was disjointed. The singers and dancers gave a better performance in "Sing, Sing, Sing." In contrast to the live musical accompaniment provided in the Voyager-class productions, the music for the Norway productions was prerecorded. The Norway cast also took a page out of the Millie Vanille playbook. Several of the song numbers were recorded and the singers merely mouthed the words. I don't think many people were fooled. The Saga Theatre itself offers good sight lines and is comfortable.

The lounges were nice and offered good live music.

Upon boarding the ship, the first sight that greeting me on the Sun Deck was a bearded man in his mid-50's wearing a T-shirt with two copulating squirrels emblazoned on the back and front of the shirt with an accompanying obscene caption. (I am not making this up.) About half the passengers appeared to be family members of this gentleman.

Average age of passengers appeared to be mid-50's to mid-60's.

Unfortunately, the reviews that complain about how poorly NCL maintains the Norway are correct. While some Norway enthusiasts kindly have stated that the ship is showing "some wear," this description grossly understates the problem. One of our party had sailed the Norway seven years earlier, and felt that the deterioration in the ship's appearance is profound. The carpet in many areas of the ship is stained and worn. Some hallways actually have pieces of carpet thrown over existing carpet. Windows and portholes throughout the ship are not washed and afforded a hazy view of the outside world. They appear to be double-paned with salt deposits having accumulated between them. If that's the case, then washing them might not give much improvement. Tinting on the widows on the International deck is peeling and is in need of replacement. The blue jogging track on the Olympic desk is in especially poor condition and looks to have been installed during the conversion of the
France in the early 1980's. The wooden decks are also in need of refinishing. Even if NCL can't afford to fix the problems evident in the cabins, I can't understand why the company doesn't spend a modest amount of money to fix up the public areas. While I expected the ship to lack the glitz and polish of the new ships, I wasn't prepared for areas of the ship that looked seedy. 

The cabins also show signs of neglect. Our cabin (N106) had stain marks on the cabin and bathroom walls, tiles separating from the wall underneath the sink, severely stained shower stall, wallpaper peeling in the area where the double bed fit into the wall, and rust areas. Attention to detail is lacking at every turn. The bedroom area was, however, clean. While our plumbing worked well for our room, the sink in our traveling companions' room (B200) clogged on the second day. It took 36 hours and three separate complaints to correct the problem. The pillows in that room can only be described as nasty and filthy. They were so badly soiled that the stains actually could be seen through the pillowcase. After three complaints the room steward supplied new pillows. The pillows in my room were yellowed with age with moderate staining, and were so old that they were flat. I don't see how a cruise company could ever justify not replacing pillows when they have become soiled and worn out with age. What message does this send to public? Such neglect is a poor reflection on NCL. It is a shame that NCL has let this beautiful ship decline so. Instead of building a new ship, I would like to see a couple hundred million spent on returning the Norway to good condition. If have read reports that she will be sailing into the 2004 season. If that's the end of her sailing career in the Caribbean, I would guess that NCL won't spend anything on her. If rumors are correct that NCL plans to sail her through 2008 and beyond, one can only hope of a major overhaul.

Believe people when they say they are slow. The two main topics of conversation overheard on the ship were: (1) how unbelievably small some of the rooms on the ship were, and (2) how slow the elevators were. If you cannot negotiate stairs, this ship is NOT for you. On the second day of the trip my friend and I had to pry the elevator doors open from the outside on the Sun deck. The door wouldn't open, and the car wouldn't move. The elevator was packed with people and we believe it simply exceeded the maximum weight capacity. We heard them yelling from inside the elevator, so he pulled on one of the doors and I on the other and managed to get the doors open.

Count on one hour from the time you line up on the Biscayne deck until you reach your destination. (That doesn't include the time spent in line for tender tickets.) Skip the early tenders if you have already been to these ports.

Tight. Staff looked and acted unhappy.

Didn't use. Many said that the per day charge to use the spa's facilities were not worth the cost.


  • The telephone in the room is just that, a simple telephone. It is impossible to leave messages on the Norway's system.
  • No automated purchasing system aboard. All charges are still done by hand. There is no interactive television system like on the Voyager class ships to keep track of shipboard account balances. One has to check balances at the onboard credit desk.
  • Air conditioning. There is little control over the temperature of one's room. The air conditioning was adeqate in N106, but B200 had problems as the floor was quite warm and the air conditioning could not compensate adequately.
  • Room noise. The air conditioning is noisy. Biscayne deck has noise coming from many different areas. Both rooms N106 and B200 and their beds creaked some nights when the sea wasn't calm. A couple of us were light sleepers and the creaking was enough to interfere with a good night's sleep.
  • Tenders.
  • Elevators.
  • Embarkation. We got there early at around 11:00 a.m., and wasn't on the ship until about 12:45. RCI definitely has an advantage over NCL in the embarkation process.
  • Small hot tubs, some of which did not work properly on occasion.
  • Deck chairs that are dirty and past their prime and which are stowed away at sunset.


  • Cabin N106 has a clock and a thermometer affixed to the wall (both worked) and they appear to be from the original SS France days.
  • Afternoon Teas.
  • Good ice cream available every afternoon. It's good, it's real and it's free. RCI should follow the Norway's lead on this. (The "ice cream" available 24 hours a day on the Voyager-class ships is the soy-based soft serve kind. About all I can say for it is that's it's free.)
  • Pins for Latitude members.
  • Free one-play Bingo cards.

Although the ship has a lot of problems, we liked her. She's hard to get around on, but that made navigating her hallways an adventure. The cruise was slow paced and relaxing. Pool-side parties were well attended, and people seemed to be having a good time. Was this my favorite cruise? No. Am I glad that I sailed on her? Definitely, yes. If you are aware of the ships problems - and there are many - and those problems won't spoil your cruise, then it's worth sailing on her once. 

The Norway is definitely not for everyone. People we met were mixed in their opinions as to whether they would sail her again. One woman however, had sailed her seventeen times previously. Would I book her again? Yes, but only if I could get a large cabin at an extremely good price. Her cabins are discounted for a good reason. Actually, on many sailings, the price difference between the Norway and a Voyager-class ship isn't sufficient to compensate for the short-comings of the Norway in its present condition. For my particular week, the price difference was only around $150.00 per person. Not enough to justify the Norway. With inside staterooms available on new ships often available for around $500.00 including port fees, it's hard to defend spending $350.00 for a 66-100 square foot P category room with bunk beds on the Norway. Know what you are getting into before you book. If you only plan to take one or two cruises over the next five or ten years, I would not recommend the Norway. If, however, you cruise more often, the Norway is a nice change of pace.


  • Expect a modern ship
  • Would be bothered by the run-down appearance of this ship
  • Cannot use a stairway on a regular basis
  • Prefer a buffet setting rather than in eating in a dining room
  • Are light sleepers
  • Want to be able to walk off the ship at ports of call
  • Like inside rooms with adequate space.
  • Stress when things don't go according to plan


  • Enjoy history
  • Want to experience what an ocean liner once was like
  • Want a stable ship in rough seas
  • Want to relax on a cruise
  • Don't want a port-intensive itinerary
  • Won't let problems affect the enjoyment of a cruise

Photos Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line - Cruise Reviews

Norwegian Cruise Line Profile