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This was our 3rd cruise (2nd with NCL). Our first cruise last year (2/2003) was on the NCL Dawn - it was about 4 months old. We had a wonderful experience as newbee's. After crusing with Holland America (Veendam) in March 2004, we decided to try a later time of year and selected this cruise as it was before the Christmas holidays. Since my husband really liked the freestyle, we decided to go back with NCL. Let me tell you... what a difference a ship makes. The Dream was a nightmare in some respects. As the previous 12/2003 review (almost identical sailing); the Norwalk Virus was on the prior sailing and we had to santize our hands upon entry/exit of the ship.
The check-in was terribly long and at time confusing. We flew in from Baltiore, MD the same date as the departure arriving with enough time (or so we thought) to eat on the ship. We arrived at the terminal around 2:00pm and promplty stood in line and then was shepharded along to sit and "wait in line," to only stand again an enter and wait in the line for check-in. I had to inquire as to why were were sitting and waiting. No one directed us to the Lattitudes member check-in while waiting and if I had not inquired then our wait would have been much longer. By the time we boarded the ship, the lunch was over and we had to scrounge around to look for a meal.
The weather was cooler than we anticipated. It was too cold/windy to enjoy the party as the ship departs from the terminal. We were told by others that the hamburgers being cooked on the grill were raw (no wonder they had the Norwalk Virus); and they saw several hanburgers with only one bit taken out and the meat was not done.
The qualtiy of service ranged from fair to good to very good - depending on where you ate. The service was better in the seated resturants. A couple of the shore excursion staff were rude to other passengers - either very loud (and rolling of eyes) or dismissive in such was way that it was obvious to us that they did not care if the person was satisfied.
The cabin was quite a pleasant surprise - we had an outside cabin (esepecially after having sailed on Holland America - which has some very good cabins). The downside with the housekeeping staff - you have to ask to have your linens changed otherwise they do not get changed; unless they are obviously soiled. The space in the shower was quite limited and the mat for the floor always got wet from the shower overflow. The sofa bed definately need to be replaced it looked quite worn.
The biggest disappointment for the ship was the freestyle dining. We always had to wait in a line. The buffets were awful - you had to be served by the staff who wore the gloves and explain to the exactly how much and what kind of something you wanted or did not want. This action was a reason for the long lines. The ship is an older ship and had been stretched in 1998. When booking the ship; the ports was an consideration and the newness of the ship were considered. Stretching may have added addtional cabins, but the ship does not manage the flow into and out of its resturants very well, as there was generally always a wait; especially in the later hours.
The room service menu was terriblely limited and not very appitizing. My husband was not feeling well one night and I wanted to get the main course sent to us in our cabin and was told that was only for those in suites... what a difference from Holland America. There were times later in the eveing when we wanted something to nibble on and nothing was availalbe other than the poor choices from room service.
The food was mediocre at best... we had better on the Dawn and the Veendam. Would not recommend this ship to any one. It cannot accomodate a crowd and from what I have read (which I had read this before I booked the cruise) this Norwalk Virus seems to be common on this ship...what's that about!!!!
The entertainment was excellant... Jane L. Powell was outstanding... this was the one bright spot on the cruise.
The weather was up and down... Cozumel was lovely -- we have been there 3 times; Roatan was cool and overcast; we missed Belize -- water to rough... of course they did not tell us until after the time were supposed to have been there. Which leads me to the fact that with early morning stops, more resturants should have been open - but there were not and you had to stand in a line even at 6:15 am to eat - if you had a tender ticket for 7:15 am. Since we did not make Belize - we went to Costa Maya -- it was a pleasant surprise... they have really built up the place since our visit in 2/2003. The last stop was Cancun... it was too short a trip to really stop - 6 hours (including the fact that you had to tender, etc). The weather was cloudy and overcast and cool.
At no point during this cruise did I wish it would last longer... rather was glad when it was over. I'll sail again on NCL - only with the larger and newer ships, otherwise - Holland America is my favorite to date...