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.
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.
Just got back from the 7-day holiday cruise on the Dawn.
It was a nice cruise with great weather and, as always, great food on the Dawn.
The 7-day cruise is almost one day too long, but it is what it is.
Just want to alert folks that cabins in the 8567 area are subject to the music from the Lounge on Deck 7.
Sport pub was fun and they did show all NFL and major college football games on the cruise.
La Trattoria was a very nice experience. Good food and great service.
One negative point is the constant selling done while onboard ship. Not sure if this is a typical thing on cruise ships or not.
All in all it was a nice cruise.
First cruise that me and my wife Coralys took for our 2007 vacation, and I must admit that after I purchased the cruise I thought I made a mistake because I read some reviews after I purchased the tickets and I found some of them to be bad, but the service that we recieved from the Dawn was nothing short of excellent.
We had the best vacation we have ever experienced yet. On the way to the Bahamas we enjoyed from the start a picnic by the pool with music, drinks, dancing and a festive atmosphere. I tell you that by the time the sun sets on that first day you have already forgotten what day of the week it is.
At night we enjoyed some nice music performed by Fire & Ice at Dazzels Lounge. I could not believe the amount of entertainment and different choices of things to do on the ship and how polite and service-oriented the crew was, and how friendly the other vacationers were.
The Bahamas were beautiful and also the Bermuda beaches. Oh, how fresh and nice. Every port is a breeze because the Dawn crewis so organized that there is practically no waiting around. The only advice I would suggest is to go with the Balcony Room, just as we did, because the room and the balcony would give you many romantic nights to remember.
On the last day I won me a "best tan men legs" award on a contest by the outside pool.
Many, many happy moments me and my wife shared with total strangers on the Dawn Cruise. We are already planning for our next vacation.
On July 22, 2006 I boarded the Norwegian Dawn for Bermuda and Bahamas. This was my fourth cruise, first Norwegian. To begin with, the boarding process was the worse of my experiences. I waited on line for 63 minutes. I then boarded the ship and, much to my surprise, none of the crew ever smiled or looked at my husband or me in the eye. It was a seven-day cruise and on rare occasions a crewmember would smile and greet us with a "good morning" or "good afternoon."
I found that the entertainment was not of the best quality. The best part of my cruise was getting off the ship at the different ports. On one occasion I grabbed a hand towel to dry my face with what I thought was a clean unused towel and found a strand of long black hair on the towel. My husband and I have hair that is about 1 inch in length and both medium blonde. On another occasion our bed was turned down for the evening and we found potato chip crumbs, obviously from the night before when we had eaten potatochips.
Now I am home and my account has a hold in excess of $850.00 because they put a hold on my account everyday that I was on the ship and then charged the total amount to my account at the end of the cruise. In other words my charges were double posted and NCL cannot release my money for another week. In total I was on hold for 46 minutes before someone answered my phone call and informed me that I just had to wait. I will never cruise with Norwegian again and I have e-mailed everyone I know informing them of my experience. I will also be sending a copy of this e-mail to my travel agent.
My Fiance booked this trip through a travel agent. The original itinerary was supposed to be a stop off in Orlando, Miami, Great Stirrup Kay, and Bermuda. I found out after I picked the tickets up that NCL decided to change the itinerary from that to Bermuda and Bahamas, despite the fact that the original destinations were in NCL's softcover planng book. But I said "what the heck, Bermuda and Bahamas sounds great as well".
Anyway, this was my first cruise and I was very disapointed. Getting on the ship was fairly easy. Once on the ship, we got to go "explore" until our rooms were ready.
The room was a state room with a balcony. Very nice and comfy. The maid staff was excellent the whole trip as well. On our first day, we set a code on the room safe and put our valuables and money in it. It opened and closed no problem as first. Then it decided to crap out and not work (it was digital). I called reception and after being on hold for 40-yes 40 minutes, I went down to the main desk and waitedin line for another 40 minutes. After al that waiting, I was told rather rudely that all the staff was busy and I would have to wait at least an hour for someone to get the safe open. Mind you, this all started at 6 p.m. and it was near 7:30, thus ruining our dinner reservations. Someone finally did come and got it opened, Later in the night, my room key wouldnt open our cabin door. That meant another 15 to 20 minutes in line for them to get me another key.
We called the breakfast buffet in the Garden Cafe the "Trough". It consisted of hundreds of people waiting on the buffet line for instant eggs, tasteless bacon, greasy sausage and rotted old grapefruit halves. The restaurants were very good, however the portions were very small and they nickel and dime you for every little thing. All inclusive means house water on this cruise line.
The pool area was like a zoo. The Oasis Pool was rather small with many cruisers complaining about there not being enough beach chairs near the pool. Soon, cruisers were taking chairs and making their own places for them next to the pool, much to the dismay of the cruise staff.
Be ready for children and teenagers bumping into you constantly. Kids ran rampant and teens relieved their boredom by doing cannonballs in the jacuzis and splashing innocent sunbathers as they tried to get a tan. There really needs to be an age limit or some kind of rules in place.
The entertainment on the Dawn was excellent. The cruise Director Matt Baker did a phenomenal job performing. The bands that played were extremely talented, never missing a beat.
As for the Excursions, we had planned on doing snorkeling in Bermuda. The lady at the excursion desk asked me if I was allergic to anything and I told her bees. She denied me buying the excursion because of this. But word to the wise: we bought a snorkel and goggles in the gift shop for $14. The excursion was for rented snorkles for $29. We made out great without the rude lady or that particular excursion.
Greta Stirrup Kay (the NCL private island) was more like Comey Island on a 100 degree day. Very crowded, unclear water, and just an overall disapointment.
We met some very nice fellow cruisers but did meet some nasty, miserable people as well. No one says hello in the elevators and we even had an altercation with a nasty woman who complained that we were in her sunlight when we passed her on the deck. My travel agent had sent my Fiance and I a bottle of Champagne to celebrate. I recieved a note in my cabin to pick it up at one of the cafes. I went to pick it up and the lady told me that I had to pay a $15 corking and holding fee to recieve our champagne!!! I was stunned. If that isnt lowballing, I dont know what is.
We will never again cruise with NCL due to their nickle and diming procedures, lack of good food, crowded decks and halls, rude staff, and incompetance to have a safe and key to your room work.
This was a great cruise to go on. They do everything right on Norwegian. I think there Freestyle dinning is a lot better than traditional dinning. They have a lot of different kinds of foods and restaurants. The Venetian and La Trattoria are the best restaurants. Venetian, Aqua, and Impressions all have the same menu for dinner. The Venetian is a lot better place to have breakfast and lunch than the garden café. The Garden café had only okay food. The main dinning rooms had a lot better food.
The cabins are a little on the small side at only 160 sq ft for an ocean view cabin. It can easily hold three people comfortably but it is very hard to sleep four people in one cabin. The cabin is very clean with a good amount of closet space and a nice size bathroom. There is also a good amount of lighting.
The entertainment on the ship was very good and there were no complaints. The only bad show was South Beach Rave which was all dancing. Our cruise director Matt Backer was very funny and his comedy shows were thebest. The stardust theater was very nice . It had plenty of seating but I wold recommend getting there early so you can get a seat on the lower level because the balcony can have some bad views. Second City was the funniest show of the cruise. They had a lot of good entertainment.
Embarkation and disembarkation were pretty smooth besides the wait to get on the ship on embarkation. If you are going out of New York I would get to the port early. I Would definitely recommend this ship and cruise to a lot of people.
The Norwegian Dawn is a colorful ship with a hull decorated with streamers and leaping dolphins, which has been in service five years, yet it doesn't show its age. This was our fifth Norwegian cruise and our first on the Dawn. We had a wonderful much needed rest and made several new friends.
Captain Hakan Svedung runs a tight ship, with high priority on safety. Monday, the first full day at sea, he announced a change in course in order to avoid Tropical Storm Olga -- we no longer headed for Samana, Dominican Republic, a pity since there are usually whale sightings in the bay. Instead, we were off to Tortola, BVI in relatively high seas. We also met Hotel Director Jacques Le Tallec, who proved to be every bit as charming as his name. He aims to please and to that end he keeps his attention on the needs and wishes of the passengers. He visited us in our mini suite and asked how we were getting along and if we needed anything. Vincent mentioned that there were no upholstered chairs and "Presto" two comfortable armchairs appeared in just afew minutes. We also met the Concierge Yahira Suazo and she was not only beautiful, but very helpful and accommodating.
Embarkation Floridians have the distinct advantage over others when it comes to cruising -- we don't have to take a plane to start our vacations, But, we still have to brave I-95 and its propensity for traffic jams and time delaying accidents. On Sunday mornings all this is much easier. From our home in Boca Raton, it is a mere forty-five minute drive to the Port of Miami; on Dec. 9th we arrived at the pier at 12:45 and had a rather slow but thorough check-in.
We were in a special check-in line for wheelchair passengers. There were mixed signals from the Pier personnel and the Norwegian personnel. The ship's workers were attempting to streamline the process, while the Pier personnel were slower and less organized: i. e., "Wait here!" "Come forward!" "Wait there!" And finally, "Come forward!" Our photos were taken, and we went all the way to the end of the pier to collect the photo boarding pass. Then we had to return all the way back to board. The logistics for this process should be improved. The on ramps were very steep, so if you are in a wheelchair put on your safety belt. They were even more necessary during debarkation. We took thirty-five minutes for check-in and one hour total to board.
We wanted to check on reservations for the Venetian Dining Room, but were told that there were none, just come early to request a table near the entrance. Freestyle Cruising is a plus for cruisers since they are not held to specific times or places for dinner, rather each evening can be a special dinner unique from all others on board.
The Ship The Norwegian Dawn was built in Pappenburg, Germany and entered service December 2002. She is 965 feet long and 105 feet in the beam. With a tonnage of 92,250, her draft is only 27 feet and her top speed is 25 knots. The Dawn has 15 passenger decks, 12 elevators, 1,112 cabins, a guest capacity of 2224 and a crew of 1,126 (a good guest to crew ratio).
The ships newspaper, "FREESTYLE DAILY" lists all twenty-two dining venues and their hours. Like the personality of this ship (easygoing), there are a whole range of dining venues from the very formal Venetian Dining Room to the very casual Blue Lagoon -- We did our utmost to try them all and were amazed by the changing ambiance from one site to another.
Midship is the airy atrium with its many crystal sculptures. This cruise the Christmas decorations added to the ship's beauty. Like all Norwegian ships the decor is simple, with beautiful woods included. We especially enjoyed the Venetian with its aft wall of windows each decorated with a huge lit wreath.
Cabin Mini suite 11616 on Deck 11 is huge and sparingly furnished, which is perfect for this wheelchair accessible cabin. However, the entrance is situated in a narrow corridor which makes it difficult to enter and exit in a wheelchair. This cabin could have been positioned several feet either to the left or the right and thus avoided this problem, since the corridor widens out in either direction, except for this one bottleneck.
When entering on the right there is an exceedingly large bathroom with safety rails all around. There is a huge shower with a seat and rails -- very handy -- a single sink and two shelves for toiletries. Next there is a king size bed with the ubiquitous heavy white quilt. We had this last item replaced with a top sheet and lightweight blanket. The bed is flanked by two night tables each with two shelves, but no drawers. There are nice reading lamps on the wall.
When entering on the left there are shelves and a triple armoire with hanger sections and more shelves. Next there is a vanity/desk with coffee/tea maker plus amenities. There is a long and rather firm couch in green; then a TV console with three drawers, a safe, a small refrigerator and then a kitchenette set of a table and two chairs. Of course, there were also the two armchairs which H.D. Mr. Le Tallec provided. There are a wall of windows to the balcony, which is twice the size of a regular one. On it were two recliners, two chairs, and a table. How nice!
The room had lots of warm cherry wood and blue carpeting with a starfish motif. Our stewards were Henriques and Marlon, both of whom were very helpful and cordial. They aimed to please and did so very well.
Food & Service The service was always tip top and given with a smile. Freestyle cruising is excellent, but passengers should always be aware that they may not encounter the same waiters more than once. Vincent always likes to tip individually for excellent service over and above the prepaid gratuities. We certainly enjoyed the variety of the many restaurants: Le Bistro, French; Cagney's, American Steakhouse, featuring surf and turf and live lobsters; Impressions, Italian with an excellent antipasti cart; Bamboo, Asian Fusion; Teppanyaki, Japanese; and the Venetian, Continental. Executive Chef Christophe Belin should be proud of the richness of the variety and superb execution of the various cuisines. He has the portion sizes exact! On many cruises we have complained of grossly over-sized portions; we have even asked if we could order one-half portions, or we resorted to sharing an entree to avoid wasting good food. But, Chef Christophe has presented the perfectly sized portions. For those really big eaters (gourmands) who want more, they will be happy to know that they can order as many appetizers, soups, salads, pasta dishes, entrees and desserts as they desire. They will all be brought with a smile.
We did our level best to sample it all and the following are some items that should not be missed: At Le Bistro, try the lobster & scallop martini, Escargot Bourguignonne, Warm goat cheese tart, Onion soup, Braised Short rib and Grilled Beef Filet, and for dessert Apple Tartin a la mode; at Bamboo, the Asian restaurant, try the Edamame (fresh Soybeans), Shrimp & Vegetable Tempura (light as feathers), Spring rolls, Pot stickers, Corn & Crab soup, Teriyaki steak and for dessert order the succulent Banana Spring roll with vanilla ice cream and strawberry dip. Forget the Matcha ice cream (green tea). Almost everyone who tried it at Teppanyaki ended up leaving it. We were told one must cultivate a taste for it, but at this time our taste buds were not pleased with it. Don't forget to say hello to Asst. Maitre 'D Rattaya Boonyrat who adds grace and charm to the experience. We are also grateful to restaurant Manager Kaya Aydin who is responsible for all restaurants aboard which run like clockwork. We spoke with him on several occasions and congratulated him on his great accomplishment.
On this cruise we did not have the opportunity to dine at Cagney's Steakhouse, but from our last cruise on the Norwegian Jewel we remember that we had an excellent dinner. Cagney's menu has some of our favorite dishes: Great Jumbo Lump Crab cakes and Cardini's Original Caesar salad; a 14oz. Prime Rib, a 12 oz. Veal chop; desserts include N.Y. Cheesecake, Banana Foster Flambe and a terrific Artisan Cheese Trolley.
Expressions is the Italian restaurant where reservations are required, but there is no fee. The antipasti are served tableside from a food cart; the minestrone is recommended; let your imagination run wild and create your own pasta course from several types of pasta and as many sauces! The Veal Marsala was great, and for dessert Tiramisu.
In the Venetian Dining Room Vincent was happy to once again have the potato gnocchi with Gorgonzola sauce. It was excellent! The Freestyle Cruising on Norwegian allows passengers to act as if they are in a small city. Thus, Norwegian has created the variety of venues on its ships which are undeniably "Cities Afloat."
Entertainment The must not miss spectacular Jean Ann Ryan Dance Company, they are wonderfully capable athletic, acrobatic and graceful dancers. The singers are in fine voice, but once again extremely loud! A sound check is definitely in order. The "FREESTYLE DAILY" nicely lists all the special activities and parties on board, while on the back were listed Bar, Restaurant, and Library hours and locations. There are excellent Spa & Gym facilities plus the usual constant array of daily activities: Bingo (high purses), Bridge & Chess Tournaments, Basketball and Trivia games, etc., etc.
Ports of Call Day 1: Miami, FL -- Depart: 4:00pm Day 2: At Sea Day 3: Samara, Dominican Republic -- Cancelled due to Tropical Storm Olga Day 4: Tortola, BVI -- Arrive: 8:00am; Depart: 3:30pm The ship docked at the cruise terminal in Road Town, a short distance from downtown where the shops are.Day 5: St. Thomas, USVI -- Arrive 8:00am; Depart 3:30pm Mandatory US Immigration inspection for all guests. Great port for shopping. Mary's favorite shop -- Mr. Tablecloth. Day 6: At Sea Day 7: Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas -- Arrive: 9:00am; Depart: 3:30pm NCL's private island has beautiful sandy beaches and crystal clear water. Day 8: Miami, FL -- Arrive: 7:00am
Debarkation The morning of debarkation, if you prefer, continental breakfast may be served in your stateroom. This is a rare occurrence since most cruise lines do not have room service on debarkation day. They also serve breakfast in the main dining room and at the buffet. We arranged to have wheelchair assistance from our room, so in less than half an hour we completed debarkation and by 9:30 we were on our way home. Excellent, fast, simple and well assisted. Kudos to the crew.
Conclusion This was a very good cruise. Even though both of us have been afflicted by limited mobility problems, we managed to get around the ship, at times sharing Mary's motorized wheelchair. Rest and relaxation have been the key words on this cruise, without much physical activities and island tours. We have enjoyed the "Free Style Cruising" concept.
We'll be cruising on NCL ships again, and while onboard we booked a future cruise. Our next cruise, however, will be on Costa Fortuna, Jan. 27th, and on Feb. 19th we'll embark on the Star Princess for a memorable cruise to Antarctica. Happy Cruising!
My wife and I just returned from the 9/1/07 Labor Day weekend "Cruise to No Where" from NYC and had a very positive experience. We booked this short getaway cruise to celebrate our 15th Wedding Anniversary without our kids (ages 7 and 9). This was our 7th cruise (2nd with NCL, 2 w/Princess, 3 w/Carnival) and our first cruise to Nowhere. You can bet that it won't be our last. We had read all the reader reviews about the Dawn, but found the one written by Cruise Critic's editor, Carolyn Spencer Brown (7/03/2007) "My Cruise to Nowhere on Norwegian Spirit" to be the most helpful in preparing for this one-night experience.
The weather was a beautiful 80 degrees, partly cloudy, summer sunny afternoon. We arrived at the port at 12:00 p.m., parked our car on the pier rooftop parking lot ($25.00) and were on the ship by 12:30 p.m. The embarkation process was orderly and organized. Once on board, we headed to Salsa, one of the ship's restaurants, to review the menus of all the other restaurants and to make our dinner reservations. Based on all of the positive reviews thatwe had read, we booked a 6:00 p.m. dinner reservation in Le Bistro (extra fee of $15 per person). Since NCL does not allow passengers to go to their staterooms until 2:00 p.m., we lugged our overnight bag down to the Venetian for a very lovely sit-down lunch experience. The Venetian is one of the ship's main dining rooms that was actually open for lunch -- very unusual compared to any of our other cruise experiences where only a "buffet" lunch is served. A lovely female waiter team (Romanian and Yugoslavian) provided us with a very cheerful and pleasant experience. After our delicious lunch, we checked out the two other dining choices and concluded that we had made the right choice for lunch.
At 2:00 p.m. we went to our balcony room (#10026) to quickly unpack and change into our bathing suits. The beautifully decorated cabin was much smaller than what we had experienced on Carnival and Princess; the storage space was adequate, but not generous. The bathroom was very unique in that it was a three-part design -- the shower and toilet areas are equipped with sliding glass privacy doors to allow multiple users at one time. There was also a mini-fridge that was empty, so we filled it with our bottle of white wine that we had packed in our overnight bag. We spent a lot of time on our balcony and highly recommend same for the one-night experience.
We then went upstairs to the open pool deck area and easily found two lounge chairs, where we placed our towels and nickknacks. Since the "pool party" did not appear to be in full swing yet, we decided to take a self guided tour of the ship's public areas and to get to know our way around the ship. We tried the "one scoop" ice cream cone at Sprinkles, but greatly missed the self serve soft ice cream and frozen yogurt machines that are typically found on Carnival ships. After the 3:30 p.m. life jacket drill, we returned to the Lido Deck for the Deck Party send-off. At 4:00 p.m., an elaborate outdoor poolside BBQ (pork ribs, hamburgers, hotdogs, and chicken) and a live Asian party band were in full swing. We picked at the delicious ribs and grilled chicken and drank our frozen Pina Coladas. When the ship finally left the pier at 4:45 p.m., we headed to the Jacuzzi tub located in the front of the ship. Here we had a beautiful view of Manhattan, New Jersey, Statue of Liberty and Verazanno Bridge. As we approached the tip of Manhattan, we left the Jacuzzi and went to our port side room, which is on the right side of the ship facing New Jersey and the Statue of Liberty. There we sat on our balcony and admired the Statue of Liberty, passing boats, Staten Island Ferry and Verazanno Bridge.Already 6:00 p.m., we headed down to Le Bistro for dinner. We were seated between the Renoir (valued at $30 million) and Monet paintings, which were both situated behind bullet proof glass. The low lighting, candle light (battery operated), soft background music and small size created an intimate, romantic atmosphere. To our surprise and luck, the female waiter team that had served us at lunch, were also assigned to our table at Le Bistro. We each ordered a glass of wine and found the four-course French service dinner to be outstanding and the food heavenly! The lobster martini, escargot, French onion soup, large salmon filet and chocolate mouse all were fantastic. Pay the extra $15 a head; you won't be sorry you did!
We were not at all impressed with the 8:30 p.m. show "Band on the Run," but sat through the same anyway. Then we went to Spinnakers and danced to the music provided by that great Asian band. At 10:30 p.m., after the band stopped playing, we participated in a very hilarious, adult only, audience participation game show called "Quest." It was raucous, R-rated entertainment that kept you laughing until midnight. During the show, the MC also entertained us with his outstanding juggling talents.
Still awake, we headed to the casino to play some video poker. I was very surprised that the minimum table was $10.00. Additionally, an elaborate hot "buffet" was set up in the middle of the casino for all to enjoy -- very unusual compared to any of our other cruise experiences where only drinks (not food) are served. This tactic was obviously done to keep the gamblers in the casino for extended periods. After playing for 45 minutes (losing only $10.00 at video poker), the smoke was getting to us, so we decided to head back to the room to spend some time on our balcony, where we heard the waves crashing against the ship and admired the clear sky, stars and moonlit ocean. What a wonderful way to end the night.
Between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. we sat on our balcony and watched the sunrise and our slow approach under the Verazanno Bridge. There were no clouds in the sky and the weather was perfect. At 7:30 a.m., we went down to the Venetian for a very lovely sit-down breakfast experience. We were seated at a table that was situated closest to the rear windows of the dining room (facing the Verazanno Bridge and Manhattan skyline). The view was incredibly awesome and a wonderful way to end our wedding anniversary celebration. At 9:00 a.m. they announced that passengers on our deck should begin to disembark the ship. We did not experience any lines and just walked off the ship.
We would definitely recommend the NCL Dawn, and especially her one-night "Cruise to Nowhere" for a quick, reasonably priced (base ticket -- $336 per couple) romantic getaway without the kids.
New Year's on the Dawn
This was my 3rd cruise, 2nd w/ NCL. I was traveling w/ friends, 3 of whom had been on many multiple cruises & 1 newbie. Two of our group had a penthouse so we were all able to board through the VIP line with them. That was great & worth the price of admission to the big category cabins. I seriously loved getting to cut what had to be at least a 2 hour wait in the terminal.
Our 1st stop on board was Pearly Kings Pub because it was the only bar open. Most passengers opted for lunch instead in the Garden Café. When our cabins were ready around 3 pm we dropped off our stuff & grabbed our life jackets to head up to our friends' penthouse for sail away. On the way we took a detour through the Garden Café to pick up a tray full of snacks -- cheese & pizza mostly -- for sail away & b/c we were all getting a bit tipsy at that point.
One member of our group had accidentally left a carry on bag on thedock. He put it down to sanitize his hands before boarding. Trying to get that back was a bit frustrating b/c the crew kept assuming we were complaining about luggage delivery, not a lost piece. It was returned before we left NY harbor. Amazingly the contents, including some cash, were all there.
We sailed a bit late because there had been some sort of problem on the George Washington Bridge and traffic in midtown was snarled. The NY Skyline at night is always breathtaking from the water.
After sail away we headed to the casino. The gamblers were anxious to get started. I was starving and we dined in Impressions. The paintings were lovely and the food well prepared. I ordered the peach soup as an appetizer but didn't care for it or most of the cold soups on board. I do enjoy cold soup but not for dinner. I wanted them at lunch where for 10 days they kept serving hot, creamed soup. I thought the Food & Beverage staff had that backwards.
We had amazing weather for the 1st sea day as we sailed down the east coast. Even the crew was surprised. Our CC meeting in the Star Bar was fun. Our wonderful CC organizers managed to get us discount coupons for additional internet time if you bought a package. You also get more minutes for signing up on sail away day and if you are a Latitudes member. Note that I paid for 1 hour, the small package, but ended up w/ 2 hours of time through these discounts. Several members of the senior staff came to meet us including JB the food & beverage director, formerly of the QM2, and Jamie the Assistant Hotel Director. Everyone I met made a point of saying hello all week. It's always fun to put names to the people you've been chatting with on the boards before your trip.
Unfortunately, I had some work to do. I found a writing & reading room on Deck 12 near the Library, the cinema, and Spinnakers. It had lovely floor to ceiling windows & good writing desks. The barrel chairs could have been a bit more comfortable. They weren't really good for curling up with a book.
Later that afternoon they held a Latitudes party with a variety of free drinks. Almost 25% of the people on board were repeat sailors. There were speeches and they raffled off some neat stuff -- beach bags, dinner at specialty restaurants, towels, spa time, etc. They even gave out a prize to the passenger who had been on the most NCL cruises.
In the afternoon we went to a martini clinic given by Carol at the Star Bar. She is very knowledge, very funny & a great mixologist. For $15 you got 5 mini martinis of different varieties. You also make new friends. We loved Carol so much we ended up meeting there every night for a cocktail before dinner. She was such a professional, she remembered what we all drank and practically had them waiting for us when we arrived.
It was warm enough to sit outside on our second day at sea. It was very crowded. I found a cubbyhole on the side of the ship near the bow but even that became packed by noon. There is a hot tub up there. But it's raised & on a ship moving at 25 knots in 8 foot seas getting up there can be tricky. Getting out I saw a teenager lean into the wind; his body was at a 45 degree angle but the wind was keeping him up.
St. Jewelry (better known as St. Thomas) was our first stop on New Years' Eve day which is also a Sunday. We shopped in Havensight but didn't bother to go to Charlotte Amolie because everything was closed. We tried to find a bar showing the Jets game but no luck. Some NFL games were available in local bars.
New Years Eve was festive. Everyone was decked out to the hilt. There was a big band in the lobby. There was a rock band on the pool deck. They drained one hot tub & filled it with champagne & ice. You could buy a bottle of your favorite bubbly. There was a big 2007 ice block carving by the pool. There was a DJ in Spinnakers (I think) for those who didn't want to be outside. We watched all the frivolity from the top deck which provided a great overview.
New Years Day we were in Tortola. Given the holiday, things were pretty quiet in town. Friends went on a Pub Crawl which was really a ride around the island with the driver stopping every so often to give people shots of 151 rum. They ended up at some bar that was more like an open air shack on the beach where they had drinks and some lunch. My excursion booked through the ship to the Baths at Virgin Gorda was cancelled because of the holiday & it didn't sound like a good idea to hop in a taxi by myself to go swim in under ground ocean waters alone so I wandered around the town in walking distance for about and hour then returned to the ship hoping to watch a Bowl game in Pearly Kings. It wasn't being shown. When I went to the desk to ask where I could go to see the game, the girl at the desk told me that the ship didn't buy the package while in port. Then I asked for a recommendation of a bar I could safely go to by myself. I was annoyed when she looked at me & said, "Go to a beach instead, honey. You'll have more fun." After I missed the game when I found out later it was shown on the TVs in our cabins I was really annoyed. Why couldn't she have just told me that?
Our next stop was St. Marteen. We took the ship's excursion to a Divi resort. I don't recommend it but it suited our group. The tour drives you to the resort where you have lunch, get 2 free drinks and can use their facilities, including the pool. There was a small reef & you could snorkel in relatively shallow water. We ended up leaving St. Marteen about 3 hours late because the dock workers dropped one of the big lines that tethers the ship to the pier into the water and it became tangled around the propellers. They had to bring in divers to untangle everything.
Around midnight we had to make an emergency return to St. Thomas. Scuttlebutt said a passenger had his appendix burst and he had to be evacuated to a hospital. I wouldn't have even known this happened except friends in the casino had to unexpectedly stop gambling when we reached port.
San Juan was, well, San Juan. Basically we were in a major city on a work day. I walked the path along the ocean side of the Fort which was peaceful but long. The streets were crowded with tourists in the old city and the sidewalks are extremely narrow. Back on board, the crew was setting up an outside pig roast. Just as they got everything in place & started carving, it began to rain. It was a surprisingly cold rain. The efficiency with which that crew cleared those decks was amazing. It was still too warm to go inside so I headed down to deck 7 -- the promenade -- for a catnap outside under the covering provided by the life boats. If you can manage to not think about what happens if one of them falls on you, it's a pretty cozy place.
I felt extremely claustrophobic and crowded on our day at sea. I was up & on deck by 9:05 a.m. but couldn't get a deck chair! The chair hogs had already staked their claims with various towels. This was on every level & even my hiding space on the bow was full. I ate breakfast & attended one of the lectures. After lunch I finally found a lounger & took a nap in the sun. When I awoke I was startled to see the pool empty. Apparently, some genius stepped onto the sides where you can cool yourself in a few inches of water and dropped his beer bottle sending glass into the pool. The whole pool had to be drained to clean up the glass. I was impressed to see that there was actually a lifeguard at the pool.
Great Stirrup Cay was about what you'd expect. It's a day at the beach. Tendering went smoothly but the beach was crowded. I was unpleasantly surprised when I came downstairs to disembark to find that unlike every other time I had ever gotten off a ship, there were no towels. I had to get out of line & go back up to the pool deck to sign out towels. What a pain. The water was cool but clear. It's a coral island. If you have the right shoes I recommend walking to the far side of the Boathouse for some alone time. I was surprised to learn that Great Stirrup Cay is next door to Coco Cay, RCCL's island, & you can actually see the other line's island from there. The snorkeling was OK but you have to swim out past and behind the lifeguard to see anything good and it is rough out there. I was actually grateful for my free life vest.
The final day was unseasonably warm but still too cool for me to sit outside in a bathing suit. I did manage to catch a few rays out on the balcony where I was relatively sheltered from the wind & very far away from the crowds. I attended one of the lectures on board and was pleased with the quality of the speaker.
Overall I thought the food was OK. It's hard to make food for 2500 people perfect all the time. I wasn't overly impressed with Le Bistro, even though we ate there twice. The first night my duck was horribly overcooked. The wait staff was slow and seemed unorganized. They do have a lot to do because certain entrees are carved tableside and they do a flourish to uncover your meal once everyone at the table has been served, but it wasn't the amazing place I had been promised. Even the chocolate fondue didn't live up to expectations. I love angel food cake but they only supply fruit for dipping. The second night everyone in our group had surf & turf but my filet mignon had no flavor. It actually required the variety of sauces they supply, which was sad.
The crew was delightful. Everyone had a smile & a story to share. I got towel animals almost every night which I loved. I was thrilled to learn that the bathrooms in the balcony cabins were bigger than the bathrooms I'd had on previous trips. On other ships there was always a nautical theme on the carpet & the fish swam in one direction, usually toward the front of the ship. This time the sea horses alternated -- kind of like a ying & yang symbol -- which confused me to no end because I could never figure out what direction I was headed.
I did get up early one day to go to the fitness center. I thought I would be taking a workout class. Instead it was a sales pitch for some herbal product. That wasn't too cool.
Although I wasn't traveling with children I saw the T-Rex pool which was absolutely adorable. The video arcade never seemed overly crowded. The best thing for kids was they had their own section with small chairs and a tiny buffet in the Garden Café. Every kid I saw seemed proud to have his or her own section.
Finally, one friend had a problem on board. Somebody from NCL input a charge to his credit card incorrectly. What should have been $2,000 was entered as $20,000. It took some doing but after about an hour was straightened out. The cruise line was extremely accommodating and provided him with great compensation for the inconvenience they caused.