Back home in frigid Canada after a week aboard the Norwegian Sea - Jan. 24 - Jan. 31.
So much to say but will try keep it short.
Four of us drove to Houston from Central Canada (Winnipeg) - 28 hours over three days. Could have done it in two days if we had really wanted to. (Cheaper than flying and the driving made the whole holiday seem that much longer.) Arrived in Houston Jan. 22 and stayed at Best Western in La Porte. Nice place, very close to terminal (about 10 minute drive). Nice to have extra time to relax, head to Wal-Mart to pick up any odds and ends we forgot.
Arrived at terminal building about noon. Dropped luggage off right at the entrance and driver parked car. Too easy. Checked in with NCL and got through customs and on board in about 20 minutes. Nice stroll up ramp. A snap.
Wandered around ship for an hour or so, checked out room. Small but ok. Showing its age but neat and clean and that's all I ask. Bathroom small but no problem. Shower very small but manageable.
Tons of storage area. More than we needed. One electrical outlet outside the bathroom so take an extension cord - and extra hangers. We took about 6-8 but needed more so asked staff and had extras delivered pronto. Housekeeping staff very efficient, etc. Do up rooms twice a day. Joke of the day: "I got up at 3 a.m. to go to the bathroom and someone made my bed." Hey - that's not far from the truth.
Luggage delivered to room within two hours of boarding. Very efficient.
The ship: although one of the smaller cruise ships, the Sea did not feel or look crowded at all. Some ocean motion on Sunday and heard reports of some passengers getting sick. But didn't speak to anyone who did get queasy. We enjoyed the motion and from what we saw so did most other passengers.
Mandatory lifeboat drill was a hoot. Our group had a great time while the crew counted heads. We decided the whistles on the lifejackets were for attracting sharks.
Restaurants on Deck 4 were excellent. Casual wear, great food and even better service. No line-ups at meal time. Highly recommended.
Went to La Bistro (needed a reservation) instead of the captain's formal dinner. $12.50/each cover charge but well worth it. Great atmosphere and service. Food was top notch.
Big Apple Restaurant - cafeteria style. Food not bad but like any cafeteria food, temperatures ranged from just right to cold. Take your chances. But good for quick bites or coffee. Didn't try Pasta Cafe or Gatsby's.
Oscar's Bar - nice; Tom Theobold on the piano. Great pipes - sounds like Roger Whittaker which thrilled my wife to no end.
Cabaret and Lounge - entertainment, bingo, themes, etc. pretty well all day and all night. Good way to spend some time. Evening entertainment - comedian Jeff Harms - pretty funny. Music was OK but not spectacular. Also stuff like Liar's Club, joke telling, etc. Ship's entertainment troupe not bad but I only took in one night. Friends were more impressed. Think of a so-so dinner theatre when it comes to troupe's performances. Karaoke every night.
Casino - ok - larger than I expected. Staff seemed a little cool.
Shore stuff - we skipped the excursions and found our own entertainment. Went to Playa del Sol in Coz. Short cab ride. About $10 for the beach and amenities. Food and drinks were extra or you could pay $30 or $40 for the full deal. Nice beach, etc. Lots of surf, however, so not really relaxing in the water.
Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras the next day. Again skipped excursions and hired a cab to take us to Half Moon Bay. $15 per person round trip. Remember: Pay the driver only after he returns to pick you up and delivers you to the ship.
Half Moon was not bad - quite uncommercialized but quiet and very relaxing.
From what I heard others say, Tabyana(?) would have been a better choice.
Belize on the next day. Friend signed up for countryside tour - about 6-7 hours. He was not impressed. Bus driver seemed to trying for a landspeed record - many sites were there and gone in a flash. Too much time spent on the bus. My wife and friend went ashore and poked around the markets on waterfront. Not bad, they say, but nothing spectacular.
Three of us went ashore in Cancun the next day. Again - tendering (after the excursion rush was over) was quick and easy.
Final day at sea. Weather was iffy but plenty to do inside. You have to take in the midnight chocaholics buffet. Terribly decadent. Big crowds so get there early.
Summary: great experience. As good or better than the week we spent at a budget all-inclusive in Cancun last March.
Many older passengers. I would guess average age about 50. I'm 54 and often felt a lot younger. Some young families with children and babies.
Avoid the Internet Cafe unless urgent or you have plenty of money. Very expensive. Ditto phone calls - friend had a family emergency back home so she had to make a number of calls. $6 or $7 a minute. Like the Internet, those minutes just fly by. Ouch!
De-embarkation: We chose express, as did many others, and got off very quickly. If you don't mind hauling your own luggage, express is the way to go. Ship docked at 6 a.m., de-embarkation process (immigration, etc.) started at 8 a.m. and we were driving away from the terminal before 9:30 a.m.
They make it way too easy to spend money - drinks, souvenirs, casino, etc. - just jot down room number and sign. A little self-control and you can make the cruise very affordable.
Would recommend Coz and Cancun (lots of markets and nice beaches). Also Roatan if you choose the right beach. Belize - iffy at best.
I (remember, we were first timers) would rate the Sea and the cruise as 7 or 8 out of 10. Would we cruise again? Absolutely! On the Sea? Absolutely! Freestyle? - The only way to go!
Thank you so much for posting your experience. I sail in 3 days also on the Sea and have been talking to a few people who have been. I am really looking forward to my trip (my 1st cruise). I too will post my experienc once I return. The only thing that seems to bother me is the "shower" issue. I have a huge shower at home and just can't begin to imagine what it will be like to shower in a shoe box.
Thanks again Frozen Stiff in Canada for taking the time to share your adventure with all.
Glad you enjoyed your first experience. There is nothing quite like the first cruise. Finding a hotel near the pier is very encouraging. We did the trip many years ago and had to stay near Hobby Airport. I guess a few things have changed. AS for the cool casino staff, I would agree. I have this to be true on about all cruises especially NCL. Why I don't know? You would think they would smile as they are taking your money. .
Shower in shoebox. A good description. But, hey, you'll get used to it. Plus a shower curtain rather than a solid door gives you a bit more elbow room.
Speaking of the bathroom - be warned that the toilet (vacuum type) sounds like hurricane. That first flush will really get your attention. They warn you about the toilet.
Forgot to mention: The Sea's crew is 99 per cent Indian, Filipino, Indonesian, plus a few from Jamaica, Barbados, Eastern Europe (Poland, Romania, etc.) Lots of accents and some struggle a bit with English so you really have to listen when they speak. Try track down an Indian waiter named Vikram (sp) nicknamed Vikki. An absolute gem. He's just great and funny as all get out. He rotates shifts through the various restaurants. Ask the maitre d' for him when you ask for a table and if he's working, request to be seated at one of his tables. We did a number of times and always got him. Didn't have to slip the maitre d' a tip either but it might not hurt if it's really busy.
Also on dining: we were a group of four and usually got seated by ourselves which was OK but a few times they asked if we would mind joining two or four other diners at a larger table. Go for it. Some really nice people and always lots to talk about - where's home, number of cruises, jobs, how the poor folks back home are coping with the weather, etc.
Speaking of weather - we were a little disappointed in the weather. Had hoped for walks on deck in the evening, sunsets, etc. However, usually pretty windy - speed of ship plus whatever wind there was. Windward side of promenade deck frequently closed (usually only in the evenings) because of the wind but leeward side almost always open. (Here I am, a prairie boy, using terms like windward and leeward. I'm ready for another cruise!)
Frozen Stiff...thanks again for your tips and pointers. I can't wait to sail in two days. Have been looking at the weather channel on the internet and weather looks a little nasty when we dock in Cozumel and Roatan......hope that changes soon. Hey, one question...is it true you can purchase a soda "card" for a certain price to have all the soda water you want while on the cruise? If this is true, then all my drinking problems are solved. I usually drink bourbon and coke or rum and coke and I am taking my own stash nicely disguised!!!
Yes. Bottomless pop -Coke, etc. - is about $20 - $30. I think they give you a cup that entitles you to all the refills you want.
Good luck with your stash.
Sure beats the $5 and $6 drinks, although they do have daily drink specials for $3.95.
Re: weather - our's wasn't great, but not bad. Guess it's the time of year. However, we lucked out on the various stops. Always nice beach weather when we went ashore.
I was expecting hot, hot like we had in Cancun last March. Not to be, but as I said, still not bad. Only had one really nice day for tanning on ship. Rest of it was pretty much coolish and cloudy. Those were the casino and lounge days.