Cruising with NCL (Norwegian Cruise Liners)

In February of this year (2009), I had the pleasure of being to invited to accompany my Stepfather on a cruise of South America with a company called "NCL", or "Norwegian Cruise Liners". It wasn't going to be the kind of cruise involving bikinis and cocktails though, this was more of a maritime adventure, and was to fulfil a lifelong ambition my Step Father had to sail around Cape Horn. As my Mother was awaiting a much needed knee replacement it was a totally unsuitable cruise for her to go on, (especially with all the tours that frequently involve travelling to shore on the of the ship's lifeboats, and therefore the slightly more awkward embarking and disembarking procedures), so I was the lucky relative who got to go on the adventure with my Step Father (James) instead, plus he paid for the entire trip for me.

Now this article is not going to be about the trip itself, (I intend to cover that in a separate article), this article is to review our experiences, both good and bad, of travelling with NCL in order that other people considering this company have an idea of what to expect.

The type of cruise we were on is called "Freestyle", which essentially means things were a lot less formal than many other cruise liners, therefore smart but casual clothes in the restaurants were acceptable, and there was just one restaurant that insisted on a "no jeans" policy.  Freestyle crusing also means "eat when and where you like", so basically it is all very relaxed

The ship we were travelling on was called the "Norwegian Sun", and was a fairly large and very comfortable ship with an excellent ratio of crew to passengers.

James and I Day One

The Restaurants

The Positives.

There were a number of excellent restaurants to choose from serving various types of foods which were all excellent quality. Hygiene was of extreme importance and alcohol hand sprays were at the entrance to every restaurant to prevent germs being taken into the food areas by either guests or staff. Seating was never a problem and the service was swift and efficient with highly courteous and friendly staff.

The Negatives.

Although there were a number of restaurants, (about eleven), about half of these had a "cover" charge over and above the fact the cruise was all inclusive as far as eating went. For example, if we ate in the "East Meets West" steak restaurant we had to pay an additional $20 per person for our meal, even though the cruise includes food. Some restaurants the cover charge was only $15, and about four of the restaurants had no cover charges, but two of those restaurants served the same menu as one another, and the Garden Cafe was self service.

The wine was very expensive on board, and with the execption of one wine we found that was only available in the "Healthy Eating" restaurant for $27 per bottle, all the other restaurant's wines started at about $34. Considering passengers were not allowed to bring their own alcohol on board, or bring it back from shore excursions, (if you did it was confiscated until the end of the cruise and then returned to you upon disembarkation), this made drinking socially very expensive, especially if you wanted, (as a couple), to have two or three bottles a day, either with meals, or relaxing in the afternoons. In no time at all you had quickly spent $100 without even noticing.

The Rooms

The Positives.

The room we were in was what is known as a "Stateroom". Designed to sleep two, and with an option of a double bed or twin beds, (needless to say we had twin beds). The room was very lovely, and the staff who change the towels, make the beds etc were lovely and very polite. Each evening the beds had been turned down ready to be slept in, and there was always a chocolate mint on the pillow.

The shower was a real power shower, and water was always piping hot and the bathroom was kept scrupulously clean.

There were tea and coffee making facilities in the cabin, as well as a television and a mini bar.

The heating / air conditioning was fully adjustable within the cabin, so we were not forced to put up with any temperatures that were uncomfortable based on them being "chosen" for us.

The Negatives.

The cabin was rather on the small side compared to other cruise ships James had been on previously.

 

Internet Access

The Positives.

Well the main positive was that it was available on board and was wireless so I could use my laptop computer inside our cabin or in a number of public areas.

The ship did offer some quite large discounts if you bought further minutes once your initial purchase of minutes at full price were used up.

Certain days "free minutes" were offered if you spent more than ten (paid) minutes online between certain times. 

The Negatives.

Internet minutes were incredibly expensive, and the best deal per minute was if you opted to buy the maximum package of 240 minutes which was a whopping $100. If you paid by the minute only, it was 75 cents which was exorbitant.

Internet speeds were very slow, which is understandable being on a ship as the link is via satellite, but naturally this meant you got far less use out of your very expensive 240 minutes than if speeds were at a normal rate. I ended up spending about $150 over the two weeks, and I had to avoid surfing the internet at all in the end, and write my emails in Microsoft Word offline, then copy and paste them into an email immediately after I connected to the Internet to save precious time. 

A Glacier in the Chilean Fjords
A Glacier in the Chilean Fjords
Tierra del Fuego National Park  (Land of Fire).
Tierra del Fuego National Park (Land of Fire).

Photographs

The Positives. 

If you did get dressed up for the evening you could guarantee there would a photographer available somewhere on the ship to capture a picture of you enjoying your cruise and looking radiant and happy.

The quality of the photos taken was excellent.

Certain days you could have your photo taken with the Captain "Rune Myre", who was everything you expect of a Captain, tall, handsome and smart, (dreamy in fact).

The Negatives.

It did become a bit annoying that whenever you set foot on shore there always seemed to be a person dressed up as a furry animal, dolphin etc, waiting to throw their arm around you whilst the overkeen photographer jumped out and took your photo before you were ushered on whilst the poor victim behind you was then similarly accosted.

Eating meals, walking down ships corridors and in public areas also resulted in frequently being asked if you wanted your picture taken.

All the photos (no matter how awful) were put on large display boards in the corridor where the photographers were based. This meant everyone got to see you looking a complete mess in the photos that had been taken on a windy shore with your hair all over your face or when you had not bothered to put make up on for the evening meal etc.

If you did decide to buy one of your photos they were again extremely expensive at $22 each, and this was doubly annoying when you realise that probably about 80% of the photos are not purchased by the passengers and are destroyed at the end of the cruise. Surely they would be better off selling them at $6 each on the basis they would sell so many more that they would probably make more money with less wastage. The old rule of retail, "Reduce your margin and increase your turnover".

 

The Walking/Jogging Deck
The Walking/Jogging Deck

The Shore Excursions.

 The Positives.

The excursions offered were varied and there were lots of activities if you wanted to try them, e.g. horse riding, kayaking, river rafting, off road vehicle tours etc. Alternatively there were sightseeing trips, coach tours, boat trips, trips to see wildlife such as penguin colonies, cormorant colonies, wild sea lions etc. There was even one trip that allowed you to set foot on Antarctica.

The Negatives.

These too were very expensive, and they started at about $150 per person, going right up to $2500 per person for the trip that allowed you to set foot on Antarctica, (although this did partially involve a short helicopter ride to the location). Actually I was shocked that one family of four, two parents and two children actually did do the Antarctica trip, which must have cost them $10,000.!!!! Ughhh. Even the horseback riding trips were well over $150, and on principle I refused to spend so much on a couple of hours riding. In the end I think we did about five of the more sensibly priced trips and even this was not cheap when you added it all up.

Isla de los Pajaros (Birds Island)
Isla de los Pajaros (Birds Island)
Isla de los Pajaros (Birds Island)
Isla de los Pajaros (Birds Island)
Isla de los Lobos (Sea Wolves Island)
Isla de los Lobos (Sea Wolves Island)
Isla de los Lobos (Sea Wolves Island)
Isla de los Lobos (Sea Wolves Island)
Isla de los Pajaros (Birds Island)
Isla de los Pajaros (Birds Island)

The Entertainment

The Positives.

There were various talks and lectures that could be visited free of charge on board the ship, but none of the topics really appealed to me although James went to a couple of them.

In the evenings there was always live music in at least three of the bars or restaurants, and some of it was very good quality entertainment.

Several times during the cruise they would hold a couple of hours of karaoke in the nightclub called "Dazzles", and outside of these hours there would be either a live group, or disco music playing.

There were also other fun and free activities such as the "Murder Mystery Dinner", where groups of eight form teams and eat dinner whilst enacting a set murder plot. Only the murderer knows who they are, but the other guests have to ask set questions and try to determine who the murderer is, and why they killed Captain "Imadead". The murderer is the only one who can lie, and all the other suspects must tell the truth. This was great fun, especially as my 74 year old Step Father got cast as my twin Sister who had been in love with the dead Captain, hilarious. This was a fun way to get to know other passengers on the ship and we made a couple of excellent on board friends out of this dinner evening.

The Negatives.

Some of the lecturers (according to James), were not the most interesting people to listen to, which was not to say the topic wasn't, they just failed to put it across in an interesting way.

At least one of the singers on board (who was usually accompanied by a man playing a double bass), was truly awful and incredibly annoying to listen to. To add insult to injury she was reading most of her words from a sheet, which made her little more than an average karaoke singer. We actually used to avoid the bar they appeared in the most frequently (The Windjammers Bar), until we knew they had finished singing for the night.

Condor Rock

Facilities

The Positives.

These were all in all excellent, and included a Body Spa, swimming pools, an ice-cream bar, a gymnasium, a basketball court, a jogging track, an art gallery, a golf driving net, a casino, shops, a kids corner, a chapel, a library, a boardroom, hot tubs and a superb observation lounge at the back of the ship.  

The Negatives.

Not many really, apart from the fact that the Spa treatments did cost extra and the shops were fairly pricey.

James and I.

The Staff

The Positives.

The staff were all lovely, and it would be hard to fault any of them. They were gracious, had lovely sense of humours, treated the passengers like royalty and were incredibly attentive.

The Negatives. 

None.

So Would I Do This Again?

Well I would certainly go on a cruise again as I thoroughly enjoyed it, however, I don't think I would personally travel with NCL again as I couldn't quite get over the feeling I had been "mugged", and that they saw their passengers as a licence to print money. Don't get me wrong, I am certainly not tight with money, but I don't like the feeling of being ripped off any more than the next person does, and whilst I loved the staff, the accommodation and the food, I did feel they knew they had you cornered as far as the need for Internet access and alcohol were concerned.

I also didn't like the way they had signs up where you got back on the ship saying how clever their staff were at finding alcohol if you tried to smuggle it on board, and how it would be confiscated until the end of the cruise if you did bring any on board. This made you feel like school pupils being caught with an illicit packet of cigarettes or something, and I am sure when they xrayed all the handbags and scanned the passengers each time they returned to the ship, it was only to check they had no alcohol, as opposed to being a safety precaution against weapons or bombs etc.

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Comments 21 comments

tammyfrost profile image

tammyfrost 6 years ago from Oregon

Very nice and detailed hub...I totally agree about the cost of photo's and how they go to waste!


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks Tammy, yes it doesn't seem at all environmentally friendly does it, just plain greedy!


diogenes profile image

diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

Hello dear: Scandinavia is so expensive anyway. Sounds, as you say, good and bad. I wouldn't go, though, after reading your hub. Get sick of greed, especially when you are trapped and have no alternative. So mean with the booze! Although I don't drink these days, but must have been hard on many. Bob


dianacharles profile image

dianacharles 6 years ago from India

yeah...I too hate feeling being cheated. But your pix are great and it made interesting reading.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks diogenes, yes Scandinavia is expensive, but they seemed to have forgotten we weren't in Scandinavia, we were in South America LOL, (from what I can gather P&O seem to be about the fairest on prices etc, but even their on board prices are not cheap cheap). The booze prices on NCL were a nightmare, and if you had saved up hard to take a cruise it could have meant you had to resort to going Tee Total for the duration of the trip. Apparently some parents were buying vodka etc on shore trips, then buying and emptying small bottles of water, before refilling them with the vodka and getting their children to carry them back on board. Must have felt like they were international drug smugglers or something.

Hi Diana, thanks for the feedback, and I am not surprised that you too hate the feeling of being cheated. I often feel these kinds of practices deserve to cause the ultimate failure of the companies concerned.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

I enjoyed reading this very much. I haven't been on a cruise for several years, but I keep seeing online deals right about now. It sounds expensive, more expensive than when I went about six years ago, but the pics are BEAUTIFUL! Thank you for a lovely hub.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks Paradise, pleased you enjoyed this so much. I loved crusing, but would probably opt for P&O next time to keep the prices a bit more realistic.


awsydney profile image

awsydney 6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

Great photos Misty. I felt like being on the ship whilst reading! What a lovely 15 minute escapism! Look forward to more. Cheers.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks awsydney, it was lovely, just expensive, but I am sure you would still love it :)


Aqua profile image

Aqua 6 years ago from California

Oh my gosh Misty! I just did this exact same cruise on the Sun in January! We sailed from Buenos Aires to Santiago. It was a great cruise and we really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, although we did see the glaciers, we missed seeing the Chilean Fjords because the weather was lousy that day and the fog was too thick to see them. Other than that, it was great fun and we even took the excursion to Antarctica, which was expensive but as a once in a lifetime splurge was worth it to us. Reading this hub and looking at the pictures sure brought back some wonderful memories!


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Wow, small world, we did it the other way round. Shame you missed the Chilean Fjords as they were amazing. Stunned you did the Antarctica trip, as even as a once in a lifetime experience we could never have afforded it, (much though I am sure we would have loved it). Lucky you! Anyway, glad this brought back some great memories. Thanks for commenting :)


gwendymom profile image

gwendymom 6 years ago from Oklahoma

Great hub. I have been researching a cruise to the Mexican Caribbean for some time now and think I finally found the right cruise for me. I think it is a good idea to do as much research as possible before booking a cruise. Read the fine print, read reviews, and not just reviews from cruising magazines but reviews from the people who have taken that cruise before. I believe that taking a cruise right now is a pretty economical way to have a vacation, as like you said most of them are all inclusive, providing meals and most drinks, and with the current economy like it is the deals are getting better and better all the time. Thanks for sharing this review with us, I think it will help someone who reads this who is thinking about taking this cruise save money, and hopefully a few headaches.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks Gwendy, I am really pleased you enjoyed this article, and hope you have found a cruise that is right for you :)


CharterJetService profile image

CharterJetService 6 years ago

Hi Misty!

The pictures in this hub are amazing! It sounds like you had a great time except for the expenses of a few things! I have never been on a cruise but am looking to go soon :)


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi CharterJetService, I do highly recommend them as I did really enjoy the cruise apart from the expenses. My advice is to save up very hard before you go, but you definitely should go. If you aren't taking children with you try to avoid school holidays as the children can make a bit of a nuisance of themselves running up and down corridors etc, and the parents tend to let them get on with it!! (My Sister and Parents have just experienced this on a cruise going around the Greek Islands).


Sylber Rey profile image

Sylber Rey 6 years ago from West Texas

I thought cruises would be boring but NCL as my first cruise was fantastic. Thanks for the info on this cruise, I had not considered this one as one I would interested in but you changed that opinion. Thanks..


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks Sylber Rey, it was amazing actually, and I am sure you would love it, plus what I thought would be a "cold" cruise ended up having plenty of sunshine and hot weather too.


Joe Loo 5 years ago

Interesting hub with beautiful pictures, and wow, a lot of penguins :)


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Thanks Joe Loo, yes, there was a lot of pengiuins :) LOL


Sailor 5 years ago

Looks like you guys had lots of fun. I am looking for more NCL pictures for my blog. Do you have some for my blog?


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands) Author

Hi Sailor, I am sorry to say I haven't as all the good pics were used on this hub. Best bet is to take some of your own if you travel on NCL for work or pleasure. I wish I could help you more.

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