In October 2004, I had the pleasure of visiting Norwegian Crown while she called on a nearby port. While I enjoy all ship visits, I was especially looking forward to this particular tour for two reasons -- to view the new spaces added during a 2003 refurbishment, and to see how much of her glorious past remained.
In summary, the 16-year-old vessel, seemingly nondescript from the outside, is a delightful example of cruise ship design at its best. Beautifully decorated rooms, many adorned with fine artwork, flow wonderfully from one to the next, and many of the additions made to incorporate NCL’s signature Freestyle Cruising do not detract from the overall design.
Norwegian Crown was built in 1988 at the Meyer Werft Shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. Originally named Crown Odyssey, she was the last ship built for Royal Cruise Line and was designed for luxury cruising on lengthy itineraries. The following year, she was transferred to the then-named Norwegian Caribbean Line when it acquired Royal Cruise Line. In 1996, she was renamed Norwegian Crown, but went back to the name Crown Odyssey four years later when she was transferred to Orient Lines, sister company to NCL. The Norwegian Crown name was reborn in 2003 when the ship rejoined the NCL fleet.
The vital statistics on Norwegian Crown are as follows, courtesy of NCL:
Public rooms are concentrated on two decks -- Marina Deck 6 and Odyssey Deck 7. This is where passengers will find a welcoming two-story lobby (a rarity when the ship was built), reception desks, the lovely, single-level main dining room, and the requisite casino, bars, show lounge, and boutiques. Odyssey Deck 7 also features a wrap-around promenade and an aft pool that is open to the sea on 3 sides.
These decks are also home to impressive pieces of artwork. Leading from the lobby to the dining room on Marina Deck 6 is a corridor I dubbed "Art Alley" due to its collection of Greek artifacts, much of which is over a century old. One deck higher, a colorful sculpture of a peacock stands guard outside the Rendezvous Bar. A large brass globe adorns the lobby area at the foot of the atrium staircase. The atrium is capped with colorful stained glass, as is the ceiling of the main dining room. Even the staircase landings are decorated with colorful stained glass, giving the ship an elegant feel.
LeBistro [right] is an attractive, bright space on Lido Deck 8 decorated in light woods and offering sea views from most tables. The dining area is separated from the high-traffic areas of the ship by a gently curved partition. Both tables and booths are available. The Pasta Café, in contrast, is located atop the ship in part of the signature 360-degree Top of the Crown Lounge on Horizon Deck 11. The Pasta Café, with a menu that changes nightly, is in the aft part of the Crown just a few steps below the lounge area. The 40-seat Chopsticks restaurant, which features an Asian menu and sushi bar, is the latest addition, and is on Odyssey Deck 7.
These new restaurants complement three other dining venues -- a pizzeria/Italian café, poolside buffet, and a 600-seat main dining room. The dining room, located on Marina Deck 6, is most attractive and has large windows and a beautiful stained-glass ceiling. The meal I had here -- spicy chicken breast with pasta with slice of light cheesecake for dessert -- was prepared and presented very nicely.
The major modifications during the 2003 renovation were the addition of the three restaurants mentioned above: Le Bistro, Pasta Café, and Chopsticks; the Children's and Teens' Centers; and Spa and Fitness facilities, including a new Mandara Spa.
The Kids Center and Teen Club were built into an area on Lido Deck 8 that was previously occupied by a movie theatre. An Internet Café, Library, and Game Room are nearby.
The Spa and Fitness Center are new additions to the forward part of Penthouse Deck 10. I thought the Fitness Center was a good size for the number of passengers the ship carries. The adjoining Beauty Parlor was also roomy, and the Spa offered a number of treatment rooms and saunas. If only I had had the time to indulge.
One other aspect I noticed was the cleanliness of the ship. The public rooms appeared to be well maintained, and the crew members I met obviously took great pride in the ship. (An aside: Many have worked on board for years, including Restaurant Manager Spiros, who shared some of his memories of working onboard the ship in its Royal Cruise Line days.) I also noticed a plentiful supply of the newest shipboard amenity -- the hand-sanitizing machine. I counted no less than three during my visit.
Passengers who sailed the ship as Crown Odyssey will certainly notice some changes, ranging from the minimal (the Seven Continents Restaurant is now the Seven Seas Restaurant, and Theo's Bar is renamed Rendezvous) to the significant (the closing of the indoor swimming pool on Deck 1 and the disappearance of the theatre on Deck 8.)
Yet remnants of her past life are easy to find (the original theatre walls and lights are still intact) and familiar art pieces remain in place. Plus, most of the new additions to the ship were made so seamlessly that they seem to have been there forever. The soothing aqua tiles leading to the new spa area complement the stained glass and marble found throughout the ship.
Cruise ship passengers who seek soaring atria, expansive pool decks, and rock-climbing walls would probably be happier on a larger ship. However, those who yearn for a more traditional experience, combined with the less traditional Freestyle Dining, will likely feel at home on Norwegian Crown.
That is not to say that Norwegian Crown offers only a laid-back cruise experience. Among the activities listed on the Freestyle Daily the day of my visit were several group fitness activities (including Step Class and a Mt. Crown Stair Climb), team trivia, and a variety of musical entertainment (such as a pianist in the cozy Crown Club, the showtime extravaganza in the Stardust Lounge, and the DJ in the late night disco in the Top of the Crown). On this particular day, all of the bars offered a Beer Helmet Special (6 domestic beers for $16.25 or $18.75 for imported), a two-hour long "Happy Hour" featured martinis and Manhattans for $3.75, and the sailaway special was a Tequila Sunrise for $5.95.
Norwegian Crown runs a number of itineraries that are well suited to her small size and luxury-ship build. She spends the winters in South America on alternating 14-night Chilean Fjord cruises between Buenos Aires and Santiago. Spring and summer mark her Bermuda season, with departures from both New York and Philadelphia, followed by several Fall Foliage cruises from New York or Baltimore. Repositioning cruises feature the Panama Canal, Exotic Caribbean, or Colonial America.
Lisa Plotnick, a writer who lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Neil, and young son, has written many SeaLetter Cruise Magazine articles, cruise ship reviews and book reviews. Lisa is a fan of the classic liners, unfortunately a dying breed in the early 21st century. The Plotnicks have cruised once or twice a year for the past twelve years and have been on most of the major cruise lines as well as several lesser-known lines.
Lisa is a SeaLetter Columnist and also assists in the management of the SeaLetter Cruise Forum. She may be reached for questions or comment at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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