This review is going to be more helpful suggestions and comments that a straight review. I am a very experienced traveller, but not a big cruiser. The only other ship I've been on was Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas. The Dawn does not have the "wow" factor. The central atrium only goes up a couple of floors and the décor of bright turquoise and coral is rather cheesy looking. The staff, however, is delightful.
On the day of departure try to arrive at the pier around 11:30 a.m. It gets very busy very quickly, and we found no problems getting dropped off curbside at that time. By noon we had established our shipboard account and got our boarding number, so got right on the ship.
You will board at Deck 7. Turn left, and continue along the walkway. After you go through the Blue Lagoon restaurant, turn right and go down the steps into the Venetian. This restaurant serves a very nice sit down lunch. The buffet is a mob scene the first day as no one realizes the Venetian is open!
You will not be able to get into yourcabin until about 2 p.m., so after lunch explore the ship. Your bags will not arrive until as late as 5 p.m., so be sure to have any immediately needed items in your hand baggage.
The Room: Not the greatest furnishings. Other than your bed, all you have is a small square table with 2 hard kitchen type chairs. That's it. There is quite a lot of storage, and there is a good number of wooden hangers provided. The problem is the hanging rail is not very long, and the wooden hangers are thick and heavy so your clothes get crushed together. If you have a number of lightweight tops, bring yourself a few wire hangers for these, and put the extra wooden hangers out of the way so your clothes have more room. There is only 1 outlet in the entire cabin, none in the bathroom (except for a shaver outlet). We brought a multiplug to give us the equivalent of 3 outlets and were glad for it. We also brought a nightlight, which I plugged into the shaver outlet in the bathroom for night time moving around.
Each person gets 1 fluffy, but small bath towel, a handtowel that's little more than a finger tip towel, and a wash cloth. I have long hair and was glad I'd brought my Turbitwist. The bathroom is stocked with liquid product dispensers which have high quality lavender hand soap, shower gel and shampoo. There is no bar soap. I suggest you bring some facewash, also a bath puff as the shower gel does not lather well without one.
Each person has the use of a bathrobe. Also in the room is a 1000w hairdryer with cold shot button. It is VERY heavy & not very powerful. The cabin also has a coffee maker and a small, stocked fridge (steep prices to use the contents). We brought a bottle of wine and put it in the fridge. No one said anything.
The beds have nice, soft, high thread count sheets. The pillows, however, are dense foam, so you may wish to bring a soft travel pillow. The mattress was "OK", nothing to get excited about, but by no means the worst one I've slept on.
There is a small TV in the room with very limited programming: about 6 channels dealing with the cruise ship, CNN, Headline News, Fox News and Cartoon Network. There are also 2 premium movie channels which show more or less the same films as in the cinema.
Restaurants: the Garden Café buffet (Deck 12) is open more or less all day and up till midnight. The food is set up on lines cafeteria style, which is not the prettiest set-up, however it allows for a lot of seating, and we never had a problem finding a table. The advantage is its wide selection and speed of service.
The Venetian serves 3 meals a day, Aqua only dinner. Most passengers have a strong preference for one or other of these restaurants. They both serve the exact same dinner menu, but some people like the open elegance of Venetian, while others like the cool, hip vibe of Aqua. Their menu offers you a choice of 9 appetizers, 9 entrées and 5 dessert choices, most of which change daily. There are also light dining options available. If you are in a balcony cabin or suite, please note that Aqua is also open to only you for breakfast Monday – Saturday. The sign will say "private function", but just go in and give your room number for seating. It took us 3 days to find the little card behind the TV offering this special privilege. It was particularly helpful on Wednesday as the first day in port everyone rushes to eat and get off the ship at the exact same time.
Reservations for the specialty restaurants can be made by phone or by visiting the desk in the Deck 7 atrium, just across from reception. The desk was staffed just about all the time, and we had no problems getting reservations.
The Bistro had very high quality French food (we found out the Food & Beverage Manager is French, which may be why). On the walls are ORIGINAL Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh and Matisse paintings. Impressions had good (not great) Italian food. Bamboo had "OK" Pan Asian food. Nothing like dining in NYC. I heard mixed comments about the sushi, so did not try that, likewise I did not try the hibachi finding the $25 cover to be exorbitant. Did not try Cagneys.
Bimini Grill is located up the staircase from the Deck 12 pool and fixes burgers, hotdogs and grilled chicken for lunch and afternoon dining. Blue Lagoon is open 24 hours and I really enjoyed their food. The tomato soup with basil cream was delicious, as was the fish & chips. Sprinkles is not a real restaurant, but rather a section of the pool bar where a guy scoops icecream cones. The New York Deli is also not a restaurant but rather a section of the Garden Café on the port side with deli meats and hotdogs available at all times.
The pool area is rather gaudy looking, but there are plenty of sunbathing chairs thanks to a tiered design. If you prefer a quieter environment, walk forward on 12 to the very front of the ship where there is a quiet zone along with another jacuzzi for quiet enjoyment. If you enjoy swimming in a nice warm pool, the small round pool closest to the pool bar is almost as warm as the jacuzzi and is really lovely.
I visited the Fitness Center the first day. There are a variety of cardio machines and weights, but the place gets very busy on days at sea. Yoga, pilates and spin classes are available for an additional fee. They want you to sign up for 3 classes for $30 (plus automatic gratuity) for the 3 days at sea. I signed up for yoga and went to the first class, but unfortunately I had to stop due to a badly pulled muscle from the day before. I got a refund of the 2 unused classes. Quite honestly it wasn't much of a loss: the yoga class was really boring -- we kept doing the same thing over and over.
If you are tempted by the spa, I noticed they ran very good deals during the days in port. These specials extended into the evening hours. The best deal was day 1 in Bermuda where you got 2 hours of pampering for $119! There is a nice lap pool, jacuzzi and sunning area inside the spa. They will try and get you to pay $99 to use it for the week. I later found out you could get a 1 day pass for $20. If the weather is really lousy it might be worth doing this.
Entertainment in the evening ran the gamut, definitely something for all tastes. Check your daily Freestyle newsletter as some days they only run 1 show at 9 p.m. and other days there are two at 7:30 and 9:30. The 7:30 show tends to be more popular. People rush through the buffet to get to the show on time. The 9:30 show always had lots of seats available.
Dave Heenan the comedian did a very funny family friendly show. I understand his late night act in the nightclub is very bawdy, but his regular show was fine. The magician continued a light, comedic banter as he did a number of classic tricks: he was very talented. There is a Second City comedy troupe on board, and if you enjoy SNL type skits, you will love their show. There is also a group of dancers that create musical shows for the other nights. The Bollywood show is definitely the best of these: a combination of dancing and circus type acts. Try to sit at least 8 rows back or you will miss some of the acts.
Bermuda: The ship docks at the farthest NW tip of the island grouping. There are 3 modes of transportation to get where you want to go: taxis (very expensive), ferries and buses. Ferries leave from right next to the ship and go to Hamilton or St. George's. Likewise, buses leave from the same area and take you to beaches and into Hamilton (change in Hamilton for St. George's). Make sure you double check with the driver as some buses go by the middle road and do not pass near the beaches. Buy a pass good for both buses and ferries from the Tourist Information booth right at the end of the dock. You can get 1, 2 and 3 day passes depending on your travel needs.
The Naval Dockyard has the Maritime Museum. Unfortunately when we visited most of the exhibit buildings were closed for renovation. For $8 I felt rather ripped off. There is limited shopping nearby, which is good for last minute purchases on Friday before departure. Check out the new pharmacy which is just past the glassworks/rum cake building. The Clocktower Mall is a lot smaller than it looks, but there are a couple of T-shirt shops as well as island crafts. The Craft Market, by the way, was rather disappointing.
If you want to go for afternoon tea, we went to the Fairmont Hamilton Princess. It was elegant and had a Bermuda twist, it was also $34 per person plus gratuity. We later found out that Mrs. T's tea shop is right on the Middle Road bus route.
The Bermuda Underwater Institute is really worth a visit. Interesting exhibits on shipwrecks, local shells, the Titanic and all sorts of other things. Take the Middle Road bus and it drops you right by the door without having to go into Hamilton and changing buses.
If you are a scuba diver, I can highly recommend Blue Water Divers at www.divebermuda.com Their main shop is at Robinson's Marina adjacent to Somerset Bridge, about 15 minute bus ride from the ship. They work with novice through expert divers and have all the equipment you need. I did a 2 tank morning dive and got to visit 3 wrecks! An awesome experience!
I realize I've written a lot here, hopefully some of my suggestions will help you enjoy your cruise even more. That's it for general passengers, read on if you are travelling with a handicapped passenger.
Information for Disabled Passengers: I was travelling on this trip with my mother who uses a wheelchair for long distance walking. Be sure to use the special check in line within the pier in New York. You will get priority boarding. Note to person pushing the wheelchair: the ramp onto the boat in NYC is VERY steep. If you are not in the best of shape, ask for assistance! When you arrive at the Venetian restaurant at the back of deck 7, push the down button for the elevator: there is a handicapped entrance to the restaurant that we had such trouble finding.
Handicapped cabins have enough space for the wheelchair, and a ramp into the bathroom (which you will trip over all week, be careful). The biggest problem we encountered was the door to the room: our last ship had a button you pushed for automatic door opening, this one did not, and the door is stiff and heavy. A disabled person without a caregiver will have problems with it.
Most of the ship is handicapped accessible, just refer to your pink sheet and you shouldn't have any problems. The biggest shock to us was when we arrived in Bermuda: you CANNOT take folding wheelchairs on buses in Bermuda! You are limited to the ferries or taxis. Apparently they have just ordered 12 specialty buses that will take them in the future, but they are not yet available. Ask when you arrive and see if they are in service yet.
Be careful negotiating around the Naval Dockyard. If you are heading to the Maritime Museum, Frog & Onion or Craft Market, take the road farthest to the right or you will end up having to cross a courtyard that is not wheelchair friendly. Also, if you decide to visit the Commissioner's House at the Maritime Museum, be advised the hill up to the house is VERY steep. There is an elevator inside the house: go all the way around to the back and enter the lowest floor. The elevator is in there among the cannon -- it's not easy to find.
We were extremely disappointed in the food. In total this ship has 12 restaurants, eight of which you have to pay for. So after we spent money already on the cruise, we opted for the no charge restaurant "Aqua." We all ordered prime rib and we all wound up sending it back. It was like shoe leather.
I have cruised many times before on Carnival. They also have a restaurant that charges a cover. But Carnival only has one. Here they have 14 restaurants. Also the lunches on both days were hot dogs and hamburgers on the buffet. There was also salad smothered in ceaser dressing.
I will not cruise NCL again. The cabin was also smaller than my bathroom at home. I realize this cruise was less expensive, but never again!
What a rip off.
When we boarded the ship we found out that we would have to pay $12 per day per person gratuity and if this wasn't enough, every drink order had a 15% auto gratuity added to the bill.
The prices of the drinks were high, paying over $5 for a bottle of beer & over $4 for a bottle of water.
The buffet meals in the evening were poor. The only two restaurants that had no cover charge had the same menu each evening. All the other restaurants had a cover charge ranging between $10 to $25.
In the French restaurant there was a further $10 charge for the chef's specials.
The prices of the excursions were over the top.
Because of the auto gratuity the waiters were pestering you for drinks. In all I paid over $200 in gratuity payments.
I would like to end this review on a positive note. I found the ship spotlessly clean with our room always clean & tidy when we returned.
My wife and I had our third cruise, on the Dawn in December and were very disappointed. When we boarded, our room was very dirty and dusty, and after complaining it was cleaned again but we paid for our complaint for the rest of the cruise.
On Tuesday night we had only one wash cloth, and on Friday we had NO wash cloths. After calling the desk we were brought 2 cloths, and after getting in the shower and shampooing my hair, I also discovered we had no shower gel. We only received turn down service one night and had no towel animals all week.
The food was only mediocre at best in the main dining rooms and buffet. We only tried one of the specialty restaurants, Salsa's, which was very good with excellent service.
In the main dining rooms the staff acted as if they were insulted if you asked for iced tea for dinner, and unless you asked for it as soon as you were seated you were almost finished with your meal before it arrived.
The staff was not as friendly as the other cruises we have been on.
Wedid like the concept of the freestyle dining where you don't have a set time, but you also lose the personal service and treatment you get from your wait staff with assigned seating.
The specialty restaurants cost from $10.00 to $25.00 per person plus the expected tips, so you could easily add another $150.00 to $350.00 to the cost of your cruise for what is included on most other lines.
The entertainment was mostly very good. The magic show was excellent, and the dance shows were very good. The comediene was average at best. Like most comedienes today they think vulgarity is the only way to be funny.
I am glad this was not our first cruise as it may have been our last, but knowing what can be, we are looking forward to our next trip, which will be Alaska or Hawaii, just not with NCL.
Embarkation Our cruise started in NYC on November 2, 2008. Embarkation was extremely fast even though we're just ordinary passengers without any permissions and special needs. It takes just half an hour and were on. Our baggage got in an hour later but our stateroom was already ready.
Stateroom We were on deck 10 in stateroom NR 1013.
The stateroom was generally really nice, clean and spacey with one thing: It smelled of cigarettes which was ugly. After a few days we got used to this smell but first impression was quite not nice. Our stateroom was inside, there was no window, but there was one really big bed for two. It had a TV with remote, quite big toilette with shower, small table with small chairs and nice and spacey wardrobe, with places for shoes. It was good enough for 2 people, but we didn't have too many clothes. Staterooms below 7 deck have a quite poor corridor but I suppose that those staterooms looked the same as ours.
We didn't want to get an outside stateroom and I was really glad that I didn't change my mind.
From NY we sailedroughly 2.5 days and the sea was really rough, with the ship rolling badly.
In the reception area they have really helpful medicines for sea-sickness.
Entertainment We are 27 and 29 years old. Entertainment was the weakest link of our trip. There was a lot of things to do for older than us, disco was poor and music was definitely not for us: swing and others of that kind. Swimming pool was too small for days on the sea but generally was ok. My fiancé was really glad that there was outside Jacuzzi (5 in all), though it smelled really strange but it was fine.
There was a really nice fitness centre (no fee) with a lot of equipment. They organized Yoga and Pilates but it was too expensive for me (15 USD per 1.5 hours if I remember correctly).
We really enjoyed the room with board games as in scrabble, monopoly, chess and puzzles and many more.
The library was technically nice but almost all interesting books in English. These were registered and we could read them inside of the small library. I could borrow books in Chinese for example.
Poolside deck was big and there was enough deck chairs for everyone.
Food First of all I must say that we didn't eat in the fancy paid restaurant. We've been to Aqua twice and almost all the times we ate in Garden on 12th deck.
I can say that the food was awesome. The Garden was great, and there were a lot of nice things to eat -- sometimes even really tasty sushi, great fruits, really nice pizza, pastas and fantastic vegetables. Buffet was a great experience but after 10 days we had an accident with salmonella or other strange disease and after that all service was really restricted. We couldn't just take what we wanted to. Everything we had to ask for and be served. This caused crowds all the time, and made for unbelievable queues. But generally everything about the food was nice and tasty.
Disembarkation We had disembarkation in Miami. It was even faster than the embarkation. We decided to takes our luggage with us and that's why we could go off the ship on our own. It was definitely faster than the more traditional way.
Ports of Call Dominicana: First impression: nothing special as everyone suggested. Second thought: let's have look around the quite nice but really small city named Samana. This was one of the greatest places to buy cheap gifts. Next after long bargain hunting, we decided to take a taxi tour. The trip takes 3.5 hours with an hour stop on a really nice beach in Las Galleras. The price was quite high (25 USD per person) but we bargained well because the first price was 90 USD.
The trip was really nice, the beach was great, secluded and exotic. The owner of the cab showed us something really beautiful named blue hole which was half the way to Las Galleras.
After this trip we spent some time on shopping and at around 3 PM we went back on the ship.
St. Thomas: We took a taxi again. Price was the same as in Dominicana which means 50 UD per 2. Taxis are everywhere and price is almost always the same. The trip was around the entire island and takes almost 4 hours which is enough. We saw a lot of beautiful places and finally went to the great Saphir Beach. I really enjoyed that tour. We saw iguanas on the beach, beautiful fish and other such things. In 2 hours we saw every part of the island (it's not too big). If you like shopping you can find great bargains in St. Thomas -- the prices are almost the same as on duty free ship and choice is bigger than in the ship's shops.
Antigua: Beautiful, secluded, exotic, hot. We decided to go to the beach on foot. It was quite far but on the way back we took a driver and for 2 USD he drove us directly back to the ship. This island is really beautiful, calm, and I think that this is a really exotic island.
Barbados: This is one of my favorite islands in the Caribbean. The weather was really bad, and it was raining. Even though, we've spent a lot of great times on Barbados. We took a bus from the bus station and for 2 USD per person roundtrip we went across the entire island twice. Because of the weather we tried to spend as much time as we could on the bus and we did. We went to Bathsheba on the other side of the island. This is really famous -- massive rocks jutting out of the Atlantic Ocean. It was difficult to find interesting gifts from Barbados and we bought only t-shirts in the duty free shop.
St. Lucia: We were there on a Sunday and probably that's why the capital of the island was a little bit empty. We deciced that we would take a bus again and that idea was perfect. We went to a really beautiful crowded beach named Reduction. Swimming was fun, and we hadn't seen the Pitons before, but did this time.
Curacao:One phrase: full of colors. Willemstad, which is the capital of Curacao, is situated on the canal and it is quite big. City is totally beautiful; houses are in pastel colors -- blue, yellow, red, pink and I suppose that in every other color of the rainbow as well. We just saw the beach, but we didn't have the time to stay longer, and even if we had, we felt that we had enough sun. Beach was sandy and quite long. We chose sightseeing and it was great. Small streets, paintings on the wall and a lot of small architectural signs of European colonization which is quite nice and looks great.
Curacao is a great place to buy gifts and the prices are reasonable.
Bahamas -- Great Stirrup Cay:There is a lot of things to do here, but finally we decided to look around on the island and see the light house. After 30 minutes of walking (the lighthouse is 2 miles from the beach, but it was 1 kilometer -- not more, I don't think). But the lighthouse is nothing spectacular, but as a walk destination it is fine.
For the rest of the day we spent it on the really beautiful beach, watching huge fishes and swimming in nice, cold water.
Summary In summary I have to say that this cruise on the Norwegian Dawn was one of the greatest holidays I've ever had.
The ship was comfortable and clean, the food was good and differential, the service was unconditionally good, and all of the ports of call were beautiful and full of attractions.
If you're looking for something longer than just a few days, this cruise on the Dawn is a great opportunity for you.
Having sailed Norwegian 2 years ago, I was looking forward to the same excellent service, entertainment and food. I was deeply disappointed in each on the Dawn.
The food was mediocre except in the restaurants that you had to pay extra for. The freestyle buffets had tons of food but it was typically the same fare everyday. The specialty restaurants appeared to be one of the only places where the service was any good.
Room service was horrible. Most times you couldn't reach them and then when you did, you would wait almost 2 hours for cold food.
Our waiter at the pool was great! But the entertainment was almost non-exsistent. There were no games with the guests poolside -- not like previous cruises where they would do so many games and poolside activities.
They did have a band that played for a bit by the pool, but nothing like the entertainment I have seen on other ships.
The overall feeling by our large group was that we would cruise again, but not on Norwegian.
I am a 20 year old female traveling with my parents (in their 40's), my sister (15), my brother (13), and my boyfriend (19). This was my first Norwegian cruise though I have sailed on Carnival 3 times and Celebrity once.
June 15, 2008 -- Day 1 I live in Philadelphia, PA, just two short hours from NYC so we had a limo pick us up at our house and drive us to the port. We didn't hit any traffic and got to the port at about 1:00.
Embarkation went very smoothly, and was perhaps the best embarkation of all the cruises I have been on thus far. However, it seemed that we moved along quickly because guests staying in balconies and mini-suites were ushered to the front, and onto the boat, while I saw a lot of other people sitting in chairs waiting for numbers to be called. Luckily, we were staying in a balcony so we were onto the boat quite quickly.
Our pictures were taken for our key cards and all those under the age of 21 had a corner of their card snipped off, so that they couldnot purchase alcohol. However, with parental permission guests under the age of 21 are able to purchase beer or wine after going to the front desk and getting a new card. My parents and I tried to do this, but were told that I would only be able to purchase wine or beer, whereas I was hoping to be able to get cocktails, etc. My parents and I decided to let it go, and whenever I wanted to order a drink, used their card. It wasn't a big deal.
We were greeted with free champagne or orange juice as we arrived on the boat, so that was a nice touch.
We went straight to lunch at the Venetian, as some other cruise reviewers had suggested. I would definitely recommend doing this as well, because there was no wait, as many people did not know the dining room was open. Most people headed straight to the buffet. The Venetian is huge with a great view of the ocean. It's a beautiful dining room with very nice murals on the wall. Our waiter Orville was great, and the food was excellent. We especially enjoyed the chilled banana soup and the American club sandwich.
After lunch, we purchased soda cards. I would definitely recommend buying a card if you are an avid soda drinker or prefer drinks other than iced tea and water because that's pretty much all that was on the boat for free. I was surprised that there was no lemonade as I had often seen on other cruises. One thing I will say about the soda cards though, is that the bartenders are not happy when they see that little sticker on your card because they do not make any money off of it, like they do when you purchase a drink.
We also made reservations at Cagney's Steakhouse for the following night with no problem.
Then we went to check out our staterooms. As I mentioned, we had a balcony. My sister, boyfriend and I shared one room that connected with my parents and my brother. The rooms were a bit smaller than we were used to from previously cruising with Carnival but they were big enough. My sister and I shared a bed which was actually two twin beds pushed together, and my boyfriend slept on a couch that pulled out into a bed. The couch was extremely hard and uncomfortable though, and my boyfriend mentioned that a few times throughout the trip. One complaint I have about the rooms was that there was not enough drawer space.
After checking out our rooms we decided to take a walk around the ship. There was a BBQ outside as we prepared to leave NYC. We were set to leave at 4:00 but left 2.5 hours late. We were told it was because we were, "waiting for necessary supplies" later which I found out was toilet paper.
While we were out walking we met the cruise director John Ibrahim, who was very friendly and went out of his way to say hello to my sister and I.
The boat finally left and we saw some very nice views of the Statue of Liberty.
Later that evening, we decided to try out the Blue Lagoon, whose wings got rave reviews on many of the sites I read before my trip, but I was not impressed by them. I did enjoy the chicken fingers though. One thing that confuses me about the blue lagoon is why it is a sit-down restaurant. I think it would do much better as a buffet, because the servers there were not very pleasant and often mixed up orders. As it is comfort food I think it would make sense to let people take as much or as little as they want, as the portions were kind of small.
We went to the Welcome Aboard show which featured a few of the different musicians and entertainers on the boat. We also listened to the comedy of Dave Heenan, who was pretty funny, although extremely loud.
We were hoping to get dinner after the show but were told that the dining rooms were closed. We were upset because it was only 10:15 and the Freestyle Daily told us that the dining rooms were open until "whenever."
June 16, 2008 -- Day 2 (Day at Sea) Because we did not get to the breakfast buffet before 10:00 AM there was only one line open and the line was very long. I didn't understand why there are 4 buffet lines with only one open. The food was okay.
It is extremely difficult to get chairs by the pool. My dad and brother woke up at 7:00 AM on a day at sea to try to get seats by the pool, or in the stadium seating area, and it was already filled! We always managed to find a few chairs on Deck 13 though. There was really no entertainment going on near the pool, which surprised me. Usually there are games and contests, and the pool is a center of activity. However, not on the Dawn.
I was also disappointed that there was no soft-serve ice cream machine like on Carnival. There is an ice cream place called Sprinkles with a server, but the ice cream is not soft-serve and is not open after 3:00 PM. Very odd.
I would recommend buying a souvenir cup for drinks because if you carry it around with you and use it whenever you buy a drink, you get $2 off your bill, which we definitely took advantage of. The Dawn didn't have as many drink options as some other cruises but I enjoyed the classic Margarita.
There is only one main pool and there are 4 hot tubs all of which are very nice.
One thing I love about cruises is the formal pictures. However, on the Dawn the layout is very strange. Instead of having a walkway for people to get through, the set for the picture takes up the whole area, and people either have to wait until you're finished taking a picture or walk through, which many rudely did.
The show was excellent tonight. We enjoyed Gleason Magic. He was truly incredible, though he tried very hard to sell his DVD's the entire cruise, which was a bit annoying.
Then we headed to Cagney's for dinner which was really nothing special and definitely not worth the extra charge. The service wasn't spectacular either. Attached to Cagney's is the Star Bar with an excellent pianist though.
After dinner, we found ourselves bored, and looked in the daily and saw that there really were no activities going on at night. I was disappointed.
June 17, 2008 -- Day 3 (Day at Sea) Today we just laid by the pool and relaxed.
We attended an afternoon memory seminar by the magician Greg Gleason who is also a memory expert. He was impressive, but once again used all his time trying to sell his DVD.
We went to dinner at Aqua, which is the other dining room. It is smaller than the Venetian and more intimate. I loved the sparkling lights on the ceiling.
We saw the show Band on the Run featuring the Jean Ann Ryan Co. which was FABULOUS. I absolutely loved the singers and dancers, and their shows were truly professional and amazing.
Later, we went and watched family karoke.
June 18, 2008 -- Day 4 (Bermuda) We woke up and we were in Bermuda, docked at Kings Wharf. I was upset to be docked there because it is extremely far from Hamilton (the main town) and St. Georges. It's about 20 minutes from Hamilton and 50 from St. George's. The weather was not great when we woke up, so we decided to go to both Hamilton and St. Georges. We purchased a 3-day bus pass for $28.00 for adults and $14.00 for kids. This is a great deal, and I would recommend it.
St. Georges was a bit boring, but we walked around and had a good time anyway.
We took the ferry back to Kings Wharf, where we learned Snorkel Park was just a 10 minute walk from our boat. It was a very nice beach, so we stayed there and relaxed as the sun had decided to come out.
We decided to go back to the boat and had dinner at the Venetian which was excellent.
Later, we went to see the show South Beach Rave featuring the Jean Ann Ryan Co. again which was great.
There was also a deck party held but not many people attended. We went and had some fun dancing.
Then we went to see the late night comedy of Dave Heenan which was okay. I was starting to get annoyed by his loudness and some of his jokes, but my boyfriend and dad thought he was hilarious.
June 19, 2008 -- Day 5 (Bermuda) We took the bus to Horseshoe Bay Beach which is absolutely beautiful and a must-see in Bermuda. The one drawback is that the bus drops you off at the top of a humongous hill that you must walk down to get to the beach, but on the way back up there is a taxi service that is $1 per person to take you back up the hill. We took advantage of it, and it was a dollar well spent.
Horseshoe Bay Beach allows people to purchase chairs, umbrellas and food. It also has public bathrooms which was nice. It was very clean and well-maintained.
My parents complained that we were on transportation more than we were anywhere in Bermuda, but I didn't mind because every bus ride felt like a tour. The views from the window were gorgeous.
We then took the bus to Hamilton and did some shopping. I would recommend going to the store Spinnakers. We bought a ton of stuff there, and everything was pretty cheap.
That night we ate at Salsa which was absolutely amazing. The one strange thing was that it's located above the lobby of the ship so people would walk through in bathing suits, etc. It was very weird. The service was not good, but I have no complaints about the food, especially the fajitas. The dinner was extremely long due to poor service, and we had to skip dessert to make the show.
The show tonight featured Second City, an improv/comedy troupe. They included the audience a lot, and were very funny. The one thing that really made me angry at every show we went to was how rude people were. When the show was winding down or the performers left the stage but the Cruise Director came on to talk, so many people stood up and left and blocked the view of the people who actually wanted to hear what was going on.
We then went to the Liars Club, which featured John and Archie (CD and assistant CD) Greg Gleason, and Dave Heenan. It was funny though Dave the comedian tried to turn it into his own personal comedy show, which was annoying.
We wanted to go to the chocolate buffet but the line was pretty much the length of the ship, and I don't have the patience for that.
Then we watched Quest, which was also a funny game sort of thing.
June 20, 2008 -- Day 6 (Bermuda) Our last day in Bermuda. We took a bus to Elbow Beach, which was nice. It started to rain though and we needed to leave.
The boat left Bermuda and we got ready to go see the final Jean Ann Ryan Co. show. The show was called Bollywood and was SPECTACULAR. It was a mix of Indian music (which didn't originally appeal to me) and Cirque du Soleil and it was absolutely amazing.
Then we headed to dinner at the Venetian where we were told we would have a 45 minute wait, and after giving them our room number were seated in 5 minutes. Balcony and suites have priority on this boat, which was nice for us, but I can understand how it would upset others.
The boat was going extremely fast tonight, and it was the only night I could actually feel it.
We went to the White Hot party in the Spinnaker Lounge for a bit, which was fun.
June 21, 2008 -- Day 7 (Day at Sea) We hung out by the pool in the morning. It was difficult to get chairs again.
Then we went to the Sleight of Hand Close up Magic with Greg Gleason, where he showed how he did some of his card tricks. I got to be his assistant for a trick which was fun.
We went to TV show trivia which was very hard.
Later we had dinner at Aqua, which was just okay.
We went to the Farewell show and saw more magic and more comedy. They sort of seemed to use the same entertainers over and over again, with no variety.
June 22, 2008 -- Day 8 (Disembarkation) Disembarkation was a NIGHTMARE. The express walk-off people had not even gotten off the ship by the time the colors were supposed to be lining up. The line took up the whole length of the ship and I was very happy to be back on solid ground after 2 hours of waiting. To give NCL credit though, they pulled into a different port than the one we left from, and it was apparently smaller.
OVERALL I enjoyed the trip. There were some definite things I would change though. For instance, the whole concept of freestyle 2.0. I did not feel relaxed of "freestyle" at all. I spent more time planning my own schedule than following one, like I would do on a different cruise line. Not having a dining time made it difficult to plan ahead and to attend shows. Also I did not like the dress code, because it was very awkward to be all dressed up and sitting next to people who just came back from the pool. I personally enjoy dressing nice, and going to eat with other people who are dressed the same. It turned a fancy restaurant into a not fancy restaurant.
Overall, I would definitely cruise again, but NCL would not be my first choice. If anyone has further questions please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Background Information Travelled with kids (2 girls ages 11 and 14, 2 boys ages 11 and 14), 2 couples in mid 40s. Half of group were seasoned cruisers on RCCL, Carnival, Holland, Cunard) and other half have never been on a cruise before. My first time with NCL (9 RCCL, 3 Carnival, 1 Holland, 1 Cunard).
We could have driven to Manhattan port terminal on Sunday morning (April 20th -- the Pope was in town this weekend) -- our friends did it in 3 hours flat from Shrewsbury, MA. Note: as of April 1st parking is now $240 for 7 night cruise at the port. We, however, took Amtrak from Prov to Penn Station RT. Taxi to hotel was $15 with tip. The train was fine.
Hotel Information Stayed one night pre-cruise at Millennium Broadway Hotel near Times Square. Excellent location, great price $284 via Travelzoo deal. Front desk service (I believe his name was Tabur?) was excellent and they checked us in early. Had renovated room on 40th floor. Starbucks, Irish Pub, Toys R Us only a few steps from the hotel -- literally. Sunday, took taxi to port. I believeit was also around $15-$20.
Embarkation The usual hurry up and wait cattle call. No one really likes waiting. However, it was well organized and we were onboard by 12:30pm.
Ship Information NCL Dawn is a beautiful well maintained ship. One of the cleanest I have ever been on. I also liked the layout of the pool area much more than any other cruise line. RCCL comes in second in that category. NCL has "stadium" seating facing the pool area -- so it is easy to see the hot tubs and the pool if your kids are swimming or walking around getting something to eat or drink. There are also plenty of deck chairs on all levels in different nooks of the ship -- people did tend to save seats near the pool, but we somehow managed to find deck chairs when we needed them.
Activities/Entertainment Pedro the cruise director was excellent, entertaining, funny and not annoying. The shows were very good. Comedian was very good, magician very good, Bollywood show was EXCELLENT (Jean Ryan Dance Group -- very, very talented). One of best I have seen on a cruise ship. Second City comedy troupe -- just okay. Plenty of things to do -- or not to do. The choice is yours. The usual Bingo, casino, spa, classes (yoga, pilates, napkin folding, sushi making, all kinds of things), wine tastings, beer tasting (which was worth $15 and fun, 5 beers to taste), a trivia quiz with prizes for each team, and some other fun things, and then with your receipt -- you get a complimentary beer of your choice when you show it at the Pearly Pub -- also have great acoustic guitarist for entertainment in there.
Service Overall -- not the best. But to be fair, seasoned NCL cruisers said that this cruise was off on service and not the usual great service that they have received on past cruises. I give it a 6 in regards to the restaurants for service. There were a few people who were stellar (Kenneth, Noel and Egbert at the pool area who went above and beyond -- I give them a solid 9).
Cabin We had an oceanview on the 8th floor midship-aft. Great location, one floor down was the Blue Lagoon, shopping galleria, Pearly's Pub, the centrum area. 2 floors down was the Venetian. Elevator to 12th floor -- right at the Buffet and pool area. Perfect spot overall. Room was clean, enough storage space, excellent professional grade hairdryer, TV was lame and small (they need to upgrade these to larger flat screens), the bathroom was laid out excellent. Toilet in separate area and the shower glass sliding door. Best layout of all cruise ships I have been on (this does not include if you ever stayed in suites, etc -- just for inside, outside and basic balcony rooms). Our room stewards -- I give them a solid 8. They were like ghosts who did an excellent job of keeping the room clean without you noticing them around -- you would go to breakfast and come back 30 minutes or so later -- and the room was spotless again. I left extra cash at the start of the cruise and asked about bath robes for the week and some extra little things -- all were delivered. Only thing missing was towel animals and perhaps some fun interaction with the kids (which you get on other lines) -- but really, does that matter in the long run?
Shore Excursions We were tendered first 2 days in Bermuda and then one day at King's Wharf dock. We decided not to participate in the planned tours. These sold out quickly. We decided to go on our own, bought bus passes (3 days for 2 adults and 1 child cost $70) -- well worth it. Taxis are very expensive. The (pink) bus service is excellent, they drive really fast -- but still felt safe and convenient -- not anything like buses in NYC, Boston, or even any other island I have been on. We visited the Fantasy and Crystal Caves near Hamilton. Very, very cool. The stairs in the Fantasy are extremely steep -- I do not recommend for kids under 8 or for the elderly if they have trouble walking or anyone with knee, hip issues. The Crystal Caves are more manageable. Wear sneakers or really comfortable shoes too. The Rum Swizzle Inn is outside of the Caves Park -- take right out of Caves entrance and right at ice cream parlor, you will see the Swizzle Inn across the street. Great pub food munchies and loved the Rum Swizzles.
The residents of Bermuda are extremely nice and very polite -- so make sure to say hello or ask questions -- they really are friendly and want to be helpful. The weather was also not that great the first 4-5 days of cruise -- cloudy, some rain, some sun, in the mid 60s -- but even a "lousy" day in paradise is better than a great day in the office. The last day in Bermuda was gorgeous though and we went to Horseshoe Bay Beach -- it is a MUST SEE.
Dining All food was very good -- even the buffet (except for the scrambled eggs -- good grief). Bimini above the pool area had awesome burgers and fries. Salsa's -- very good tex mex. Venetian and Aqua -- kind of boring menus at times, but food was good (but lobster tail was dry). Blue Lagoon Cafe was VERY good -- comfort foods like meatloaf, chicken wings, fish and chips, potato skins, etc. They were open pretty much 24 hours a day. The kids ate there a lot. And great pit stop at 3am -- haha. Like we need more food?
Cagney's's was $25 pp -- it was very good. Our friends went to Le Bistro and said the surf and turf were excellent. Impressions Italian -- they now also charge $10 pp -- we did not go. Teppanyaki was $25 pp extra -- I cancelled that one right away -- are they kidding me? We can get Teppanyaki/Hibachi at our own Japanese restaurant for that price. Didn't we already pay for meals in the cruise ticket price? Come to find out that almost all the restaurants charge $10-$25 per person (Cagney, Le Bistro, Impressions, Bamboo, Teppanyaki, Sushi (just so-so sushi -- don't bother). In fact, I would not be surprised if they tacked on a charge to Salsa's next!
Nickel and dimed to DEATH with the food and beverages. A vodka and soda in a small rock glass was $8.00. Are you kidding me? Drinks of the day were $8.95 with a souvenir glass, $6.95 without -- but in a smaller glass. You COULD get a refill with the souvenir glass for $6.95, or maybe $6.50, or even $5.95. Sometimes, they would try to charge you the $8.95 again even though you were getting a "refill". My comment on this is that the prices were inconsistent and sneaky -- if you did not look at your receipt carefully, they took advantage. The only deal was the bucket of beers (get 6 for the price of 5). I know you should not have to do this, but probably a good idea that you find a favorite pool bar server, give him or her a great tip to start off your cruise and then stick with that person. We were given some cool beer kuzis, a beer opener, etc and great service overall. To be fair, there were SOME drink specials at the Star Bar some afternoons (2 martinis for price of 1) or $4.95 margaritas at Salsa's from 2pm to 4pm -- that type of thing.
Children's Club Our kids did not participate at all. They thought it was lame. It did not look lame at all. But I find age 11 and up prefer to hang out with their friends, go in the hot tub, pool, play basketball, eat at the buffets and cafes, go to some of the shows, and hang out in the rooms. (The kids' clubs are GREAT for age 4 to 10, from my past experiences with my kids.) I felt very safe with my 11 yr old daughter walking around the ship (with the 14 yr old girl, not alone, of course). This was school break vacation for NY and MA and there were a lot of kids on board. But never did I experience any kids or teenagers acting inappropriately or feel overly crowded.
Disembarkation Always a mini nightmare in my opinion. If you do Express Debarkation, you can leave at any time you would like, taking your suitcases with you off the ship. Either boogie out of there right away or, my advice, if you do this and you don't have to catch a flight -- take your time -- have a sit down breakfast, head back to the room for a bit to freshen up and bring your bags up to the 12th floor -- sit by the pool (buffet and bars are open even during debarkation at the pool area) -- and head out around 10am. Take the elevator near the front of the ship, down to the 7th floor (near the Stardust Theater) and hopefully, if you are lucky like we were -- they will have another exit ramp open to disembark. Note that even though they may call colored tags to debark -- you have the right to join in that line out of the ship! You go thru customs -- not that bad. Then if you are catching a taxi, it might be quite congested. If you drove your car -- awesome. Our friends were out of there in no time at all! If you did not drive, better off with a limo/car service (they approach you in the terminal). It's worth the $40 to me to not have to wait, beat the traffic, and get to Penn station or airport or wherever in a less stressful manner.
Overall I give NCL Dawn a 7. If they didn't charge for so many dining venues and the drink prices were more in line with the other cruise lines, I would go on NCL again. But I think RCCL and Carnival overall are a better choice for a family vacation and more reasonably priced overall.
This was our 4th cruise with NCL.
We were very pleased the first 3 times. We will likely not choose them for our #5.
NCL has clearly fallen in almost every catagory.
They do still nickle and dime you for everything.
Food quality has fallen, service is still very friendly, but quality is very poor. Simple requests for condiments take 20 minutes or longer.
Entertainment is good but not as good as previous cruises.
Shore excursion operations are very disorganized and were a major source of frustration.
Looks like they are trying to cut multiple corners with an overall degradation in quality.
We have sailed other cruise lines before and chose Norwegian for the first time due to the "freestyle" atmosphere. We are not "professional cruisers" by any means, mainly because we are just working people that live for our yearly cruise and became addicted at Cruise #1. Here is our take on the good and the bad:
Flew into Miami the day before and spent the night at Comfort Inn. (Never want to chance a missed or cancelled flight and not make it on time.)
Embarkation Wow! I think we arrived at the terminal about 11:45 and by a little after 12:00pm, we were on the ship. Incredibly smooth and fast.
Cabin We booked this in October 2007 and chose an inside cabin, as we spend very little time in our room and it is more economical. We chose to "upgrade" and ended up in 8007. Well, this is about as far to the front of the ship as you can get. I am not sure where we would have been had we not paid more. The bathroom was much bigger than we expected and the shower door was a great surprise.Water pressure was strong. Once the beds were together, it was impossible to get around on one side. The seas were rough the first couple of days and that room moved more than you could imagine. Also, there were loud clanging sounds all night, possibly from the chains from the anchor that we must have been right next to. And when we either dropped anchor (at 4:30 am a couple of times) or brought it up, it was impossible to hold a conversation because it was so loud. Even when we were in port and not moving, the room moved. The drawers never stopped opening and closing. We were really shocked that we paid extra for this cabin.
Stewards I know one was named "Anna," but never got the gentleman's name. I don't know if they were just too busy or what, but we only got turn down service on one night. We are early risers and tend to be back in the cabin by about 7:30 -- 8:00 pm. On prior cruises, the steward always figured out our schedule early on and there were times we swore he was hiding under the bed, because we could be gone for 15 minutes and he would have been in there doing something. Not this time. We would leave the cabin at about 5:30 -- 6:00 am and come back in the late morning and the room would still not have been touched. There were times we had to seek someone out to switch beach towels. There were little dials on the door indicating "do not disturb," make up cabin," "turn down cabin," etc., and we always used it, but it didn't seem to make a difference. We would be gone from before dinner for a couple of hours at least and again, only once, was the room turned down. I will say that on other floors, we saw a flurry of activity with the stewards, but that was not the case on our floor.
Excursions In Samana, we took the Cayo Levantado beach escape. It was INCREDIBLE! What a beautiful beach! Plenty of free beach chairs everywhere. And since we were there most of the day, it was nice because there were plenty of shaded areas next to the tiki hut bar and a place we could get burgers and hot dogs for a reasonable price. There was also a straw market area. We still believe that this is one of the most beautiful beaches we have ever spent time on. We heard a lot of people complain about going into the town of Samana, as it was kind of "third world." We recommend the beach.
In Tortola, we chose to just walk around the town. We did some shopping (very expensive compared to St Thomas). We met some really nice shopkeepers and had an ice cream cone at an Italian ice cream shop in town. A very nice day.In St Thomas we had an early excursion to Magan's Bay, so we got to go thru immigration early. It was a very fast and organized process. We got off the ship and had a little time for shopping in the little mall area near the pier before our excursion. Great prices and great shopping. Our ride to Magan's Bay was memorable! Very fast and through the hills. The beach was beautiful, but very crowded. Chairs could be rented but then needed to be drug a long way to find a clear spot. We were at first disappointed that we were only going to be there for a couple of hours, but it was hot and sunny so it really was plenty. It is certainly a piece of paradise! At Great Stirrup Cay, NCL's private island, we were on one of the first tenders and the rain let loose on our way over. When we got to the beach, everyone ran for shelter. The crew was on a different tender with supplies for the bbq. They were very funny unloading in the rain. The weather finally cleared and it was a nice day. It is a very nice beach area with lots of chairs, etc.
Dining Here is where we had problems. It seems "freestyle" means eat whatever you want, when you want, as long as it is within the time frames they set and if you want good food, pay extra. Again, we are early risers and on prior cruises, we always went up to the main outdoor deck (buffet area) and there was always good coffee available 24/7. That was not the case this time. We first went to deck 12 (around 5:00 am) and were told there was no coffee until the buffet opened at 6:30 and that we could try the Blue Lagoon on Deck 7 midship. Off we went. Again, no coffee. We ran into several people also in search of coffee. Finally, one of the staff made some. After that, we started getting our coffee via room service, which was fine, but in an inside cabin, there isn't much room for the tray (not to mention the constant motion of that cabin), but at least we had our coffee. There was some little coffee maker thing in the room, but it was really a hot water maker with instant coffee, which we are not fans of.
We ate at Cagney's and Bamboo. Cagney's was okay. Probably the friendliest server we had was there. The steak and lobster were okay, but for $30 per person, I think it lacked a little. However, we were satisfied. Bamboo was fantastic. Some of the best Asian food we have ever had. The price of $10 per person seemed very reasonable. However, here was the glitch. We liked the little spring rolls (3 small ones each) for the appetizer. We chose not to have dessert, but asked for the appetizer again. You would have thought we were asking for something huge! Two wait staff came up to us and said "you want what??" And we got charged an additional $5.00 each for these three little spring rolls in lieu of dessert. We were a little shocked at that (half the price of the meal).
We also ate at Impressions. It was also very good. Making reservations wasn't too bad. We ate early so we didn't have much problem. It was a challenge getting the reservations people to answer the phone at times and it was hit and miss finding staff at the main reservations desk on 7 during the day. The rest of the time, we ate in the dining room. Here is where we were disappointed. The food was not great, really not even good. It was never hot, most times barely lukewarm. There were nights that it was hard to find something we liked on the menu. We ate at the buffet on 12 one night and found it was sub-standard, to our taste. Again, the food was never hot. Even breakfast was cold. There is something wrong about eating cold french toast. This was something we were not used to. On other cruises, the buffet food was edible. We did not find this even remotely appetizing. The Blue Lagoon had great won ton soup and burgers, but if you want lunch, don't go until at least 12:30 as they did not serve any lunch until that time. (There were times we were ready for lunch at around 11:45, but that was not an option there.) One time, we went in around noon, sat down, and the girls that worked that area were talking to each other. I went up to see about ordering and she told me to "sit down." Then, she proceeded to finish her conversation and then went about changing the menus on all the tables before she came to us. We ordered a burger and fries, but were told the cook was busy making fried rice so it would be about 20 minutes. Of course, being hungry and wanting hot food, we waited.
At the specialty restaurants and the dining room, we didn't have a long wait at dinner, because we chose to eat at 5:30, which is not really "prime time."
It was our feeling that NCL makes the "free" food less appetizing in order to steer you to the pay restaurants. That kind of defeats the purpose of an "all inclusive" vacation. We don't mind paying for a specialty restaurant once or twice on a cruise, but do not feel the need to pay for a decent meal every night. As far as "freestyle," we always wore resort casual (capri's, khaki's, etc) to the dining room on other cruises (put your clubs away -- we never did that on "formal nights") so we didn't understand the difference. The freestyle thing just wasn't what we expected. Having to decide the day before where you might want to eat the next day and then go make reservations, etc., just wasn't our cup of tea. It is a personal preference and we realize others like this and respect everyone's own desires. This is just OUR feeling. And when we arrived home the night we got off the ship, we put a pizza on the Pizza Pizzazz and you would have thought we were dining in a five star restaurant, we were so happy to have something hot and with flavor.
Activities Bingo, bingo, bingo. And expensive bingo, at that. Our first day at sea was a little rainy, so we went. Way too expensive. But, if you are a bingo fan, it is available all day, every day, it seemed. We saw some of the evening activities on the TV channel. The crew talent show was painful to watch. We wondered how the people that were there in person reacted.
We did meet several prior NCL cruisers who all said that this cruise seemed different -- that it seemed NCL had cut back a lot and that most of the crew seemed very standoffish at best. It was a relief to realize it was not just us.
Oh, and the laundry. We were never offered the "fill the bag" laundry service. On our last day at sea, we took our clothes to the laundry facility (one deck up). It seems they had big problems with their laundry on this cruise. Our clothes were stuck in a machine full of soapy water. After two calls and 25 minutes, a crew member came and pried the door open, giving us our soaking wet, soapy clothes and telling us to try another facility a deck up. (It was HEAVY carrying this -- think "Amazing Race" -- "run honey -- you can do it, just a half mile more"). We ended up having to go up two floors, but finally finished. We saw mass chaos in the laundry facilities, as we were not the only people this happened to. It was not a fun experience.
Disembarkation We were told we had to do the express, as we had an 11:30 flight out of Miami and nothing else would be available to us. It was pretty fast, but make sure you get plenty of rest before, as you have to haul your luggage a LONG way, up and down the escalators several times during the journey. I needed a second shower when that was finished. The Miami airport was a nightmare in that several cruise ships had docked that morning and the lines (had to go through several of them) were very long. But then again, the Miami airport is not a favorite place for most people.
All in all, we still had a wonderful vacation and the ports were fantastic! We just feel that NCL is not for us, based on this experience. We never felt that "special" and "welcome" feeling we have had before. The majority of the crew did not seem to acknowledge the presence of passengers most of the time. Pedro and Candy, the cruise directors were always visible and friendly, though, and always at Bingo.
We love cruising and will definitely be going again, but not on NCL. It just wasn't for us.
We have been accused on other boards as "too picky" and not knowing how to have fun and in search of only perfection. Not true. We ended up laughing about most of it (and probably will until that American Express bill comes with all the OBC charges, when in desperation for a decent meal, we went to the pay restaurants.) We are not picky by any means, but feel that we pay our hard earned money for a vacation and don't like feeling like we are an inconvenience to the staff and don't like eating cold, unrecognizable food.