This is my 5th NCL cruise, and my first on a "freestyle" ship, and I am disappointed with the whole freestyle idea. Of course, you can do what you want when you want, but you have to pay for it! (Or as one performer at the show quipped, "Freestyle means a $10 cover charge.")
Let me start by saying that embarkation in New York was very smooth. They had a special check-in area for Latitudes members. All in all, the process went very well.
We're a bunch of traditionalists in my family, and we knew even before the cruise that we didn't want to do the freestyle dining. Rather, we wanted to have the same restaurant, same table, same server, every night. And it worked out well, since the 3 main non-paying restaurants have just about the same menu. (The other "alternative" restaurants charge between $10 and $17.50 cover.) We chose the Venetian Dining Room, and lucked out with Mario, our maitre d' and Iustina, our waitress. Originally, we were told we could only get set dinner times for 5:30, 6:00, 8:30 or 9:00 and that we should try a few restaurantsbefore making our decision, but we persisted and requested an 8:00 seating every night ... and got it. Wow! Was it great to pass by the lines of people waiting for dinner at 8 PM, so we could get to the Maitre d' (who knew our name) and say "We're here!" Freestyle may be good for some, but we like to be on a schedule.
The food was very good, but not excellent. The rack of lamb was very good, but the lobster tail was tough. Also, as an enticement to get you off the private island, they scheduled the chocoholic buffet (the only grand buffet of the whole cruise) at 2:00 in the afternoon. This was really weird! And all the sand they had to clean up in the dining room!
Also, because there is no main or late seating, the wait staff doesn't serenade or dance for you. Otherwise, they'd be doing it 5 times a night. I kinda miss this fun part of cruising.
The food in the Garden Cafe (buffet) is good. I don't know why they offer Indian food every day. Does it have mass appeal? The executive chef is Indian, but still ... Also, the New York deli is nowhere near New York quality. Otherwise, the buffet food is good and varied.
I know I'm going from topic to topic here, but allow me to comment "freestyle":
The camp: The kids' camp was a big disappointment. Unlike Carnival, for instance, the ship charges for babysitting when it is in port. We only had 2 days at sea. The camp is becoming a nice profit center! Also, the area for the 2-5 year-olds was extremely small; the 6-9 year-olds get a much bigger room. There are not as many things to do as on Carnival either. I remember the Carnival kids' program having something new every hour, but on the Dawn, there was hardly anything planned!
The ship: The ship is new and beautiful. Everything is clean. The rooms are small. The bathrooms need more shelf space. The door separating the toilet from the rest of the bathroom is a nice feature, as is the sliding shower door. We had 2 kids in our room, so one used an overhead bunk bed and the other used a trundle bed that slid out from one of the regular beds. The walls between the cabins are thin, but the ride is very smooth.
The ports: Port Canaveral has a very nice port area. We skipped the very expensive shore excursions throughout this cruise, and did our own thing. In Port Canaveral, we went to Kennedy Space Center, and paid one-third what the ship was charging. For the $28 we spent per adult ticket, Kennedy Space Center was a real bargain!
In Miami it rained all day, and we didn't leave the ship. (Of course, those with the shore excursions got very wet!) My complaint is, the ship came up with rainy day contingency plans at 11 AM, which is really late! They ran a movie for the kids at the camp, and line dancing for adults, as well as a movie in the cinema. They should have had a schedule of constant movies in the cinema all day! Another thing, this ship will be running out of New York all year round. Why did it not build a retractable roof over the pool for rainy days, as well as for cruises during the fall, winter and spring? Rather, they have a lap pool in the spa, but they charge $10 per person to get in, and no one over 15 is allowed. Again, money, money, money!
Nassau: We went to Cable Beach. It was beautiful. Well worth it. Ask your cab driver to take you to the beach at the Wyndham Hotel.
The private island: As in the past, Great Stirrup Cay is wonderful, although it can get a bit crowded. My recommendation is ... get yourselves some extra hot dog or hamburger buns from the buffet to feed the fish. They come right up to you. It's very cool! On the negative side, every toilet in the ladies' room was unflushable. It was gross.
The shows: This was, by far, the best part of the cruise. The Jean Ann Ryan Company never fails to delight and excite. They put on three shows, a South Beach revue, the songs of Andrew Lloyd Weber, and the exotic Bollywood, which I really doubt anyone in the audience under 20 understood. Also, the Norwegian Dawn band was phenomenal, full of energy and great sounds! The cruise director, Rich Clesen, is very energetic. He used to be a stand-up comic, and it shows. One of the shows not to be missed is the crew talent show. Now, I happened to be in the Star Seekers talent show, but they take it far too seriously. Whereas passenger talent shows used to be fun, they now have a big audition process to weed people out, and the ultimate goal is that the winner could possibly get a contract to perform aboard NCL ships.
My disappointments: They are marketing this freestyle biz in your face a bit too much. They put the alternative dining venues' menus in your mailbox every day, or thrust them at you in the lobby. Even the waiters wear buttons that say, "Aloha. Ask me about cruising to Hawaii." Please ... don't these poor people have enough to do ... you want them to pitch cruises, too! The gift shop is all the way in the back of the ship, not in a central location. It was always empty, and the prices are horrendous ($97 for a man's Hawaiian shirt, $150 for a pair of shoes!) Basically, NCL is cutting costs everywhere: No more bar soap in the bathrooms, you have to pump your hand soap, shower gel and shampoo. No more free fruit punch or lemonade throughout the day, just water and iced tea. The bingo games are something like $19.99, $29.99 and $39.00 for the cards. A 5x7 photo is $9.99. If you want to buy your embarkation photo, you have to buy it along with a photo of the ship and a keychain, and the whole package is $19.99. You cannot buy the photo alone. The mixed drinks at the bars cost as much as they would in the city. The restaurant cuts costs by eliminating the bus person and wine steward (there is a server and a runner). No one comes around with a selection of rolls at breakfast; there is just a small basket at your table.
Well, I guess I've done enough complaining. Here's something good:
Debarkation: This part was really good. You can hang out in your room until you leave, so you're not stuck in some lounge with hundreds of others. Our orange tickets were called last, so we got off the ship at 11:30!
Would I sail with Norwegian again? I'm not sure. This is not the Norwegian I was on even 4 years ago.
Thanks for reading.
Love and cruises, Debbie
Boarding was easy. not time consumming as advertized. The ship was perfect and new. Our only complaint is that they were charging "extras" and trying to suck every dollar possible at every turn. Examples: In three of the ten restaurants there was a "cover charge" and even in these restaurants if you ordered certain items (steak and lobster) there was a further charge of $25 per person. The rest of the restaurants were just fine. They have a beautiful exercize room
There is a $10 charge per person per day for tips for service personnel. That was OK with us.We were not stopped from bringing on board our own liquor as is advertized. Ports of call were all pretty much the same. Shore excursions were expensive, and we got much the same from independants on shore for less that half the price charged by NCL. Debarking was a zoo. We arrived in port of NY at 07:30 am and couldn't get off until after 11 am. Some had planes to catch and missed connections.
Major compdlaint on the Norwegian Dawn concerns the 4 mid-ship elevators,which run from deck 4 to deck 13.
Upon exiting these elevators, each passenger is confronted with a portrait, by Andy Warhol, of an unsmiling Mao Tse Tung, which appearin different colors. They can't be missed, they are quite prominently displayed on the opposite wall.
As a veteran of both Korea and Vietnam, I am reminded of the thousands of American servicemen, and also our Allies, who are dead, because of Chinese intervention in these conflicts, primarily under the leadership of Chairman Mao.
I am outraged and insulted that Norweigan Cruise Lines has chosen such poor taste in this display. It is an affront to every American that sails on this otherwise magnificent ship.
I have outlined my complaint in a letter to NCL and am calling for a boycott of all their ships by patriotic Americans, until the portraits are removed and a public apology is issued.
August 10 -- Got on the ship at 3:20pm went to our cabin and chilled until dinner time. than we ate dinner and went to a show an then to bed.
August 11 -- I went to the Garden Cafe for breakfast. Then I walked around. Than I went down to our cabin, watched some TV, and took a nap. After doing that, my Grandpa and I went for ice cream by the pool. (they had ice cream every day but it was really melted because they only packed it in ice). I also went for a swim in the pool. After that we went to our cabin to get ready for dinner. We went to dinner and then to a show. After the show my grandparents went to sleep and my father and I ordered room service. I had roast beef on rye while my father had turkey on French bread. We also had two iced teas to drink. And then we went to sleep.
August 12 -- Today we were in Port Canaveral, Florida We woke up at 7:30am because our tour left at 8:15am. We hadbreakfast in the Ventical restaurant. After breakfast we got on a bus to go to Universal Studios. It was really hot on the bus because they didn't have AC.
Here is a list and information on the rides we went on:
Jaws: I thought this ride was fun but it may be scary for children under 10. You ride in a boat and there is a fake shark trying to attack your boat. Also there is a part where you are close to fire and you can feel the heat of the fire on your face. But in the end you get back safely.
Earthquake: A very fun ride. When you get on the ride after they talk to you the train moves out of the station and you go to another station for the earthquake. There is a lot of noise and the train shakes a lot. Also there is fire close to you.
Men in Black (last ride) This ride was very cool. You shoot these ray guns at aliens and at the other car. (Long lines for double riders, go in the single rider line) If you go in single you will get in the same car but not in the same row. Also this ride spins a lot, it may make children dizzy. There was a long wait to get on these rides plus we had to go back to our ship. After we got back to the boat we went to dinner and a show. Then just as last night my grandparents went to bed and my father and I had room service then we went to bed.
August 13 -- Today we were in Miami, Florida. We went on the Everglades airboat ride. We got in a bus for a hour ride. We got there and we got the front seat in the airboat. They gave us earplugs so the noise won't hurt our ears. We went slow at first but then we picked up speed. We stopped and our guide told us about the Everglades. We saw crocodiles bite each other. Than we went back to the bus, went back to the ship and had dinner. Than we went to a show and to bed.
August 14 -- Today we were in Nassau, Bahamas. Went on a tour called " see and sea". We got on a boat and went out to another boat in the ocean. We changed boats and then we went down below and saw all kinds of fishes swimming outside the boat. That was cool. Than we got off the boat and we got on a tour bus and we took a guided tour around Nassau. Than we went back to the ship, ate dinner and went to a show. Than we went to the Blue Lagoon and then to bed.
August 15 -- Today we were at Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas. This is NCL's private island. We had a lot of fun swimming and eating there. Than we got back on the boat and went to our cabin to take a nap. Than we went to dinner and to a show. Than we went to sleep.
August 16 -- Today was our last day at sea. We woke up at 10:00am and went to breakfast. Than we went back to our cabin and we just chilled out to dinner. After dinner we went to the show and then to bed.
August 17 -- Got off the ship at 11:00am. Had to wait a long time for my uncle to pick us up.
I had a great cruise and I would cruise with NCL anytime.
On August 3, 2003, my father, mother and I went on board the Norwegian Dawn in New York City. After being stuck in 2 hours of traffic in New Jersey before the Lincoln Tunnel and an hour of traffic by the cruise terminal, we got to the Dawn (at about 12:45) After parking, we went in line and got on the ship pretty fast. SHIP- This is by far the most beautiful ship that I was on. Its pretty big, but you get used to it after 2 days. Colors and paintings make the ships setting nice. When we got on, the ship was very clean, unlike the Carnival Triumph, which had stains on the carpet. However, as the days went by, there were some various defects. Most were minor, but on the 4th day when we were waiting for the elevator, the doors opened and the elevator rang, but the elevator wasn't there! This is very dangerous and it should be fixed. BE CAUTIOUS!
CABIN- Although the room isn't as big as Carnival's rooms, its adequate enough. The beds are quite comfortable and the bathroom has actual sliding doors forboth the toilet and shower, instead of a curtain. The cabin is also decorated nicely, with wood trim. Our cabin stewardess, Henry, was very good and set our bed up nicely at night.
FOOD- The food was the best I ever had on any cruise line. The quality of the food is far more superior than Carnival's. Since there were various restaurants to chose from, we ate at 6 out of the 10. The Venitian had good food, but it was a little too quiet for us. The Aqua was a nice restaurant with more people and the food was very good, with the exception of Carribian night- the food had good quality, but I didn't like Carribian and neither did my parents. I highly recommend the Bamboo- a Chinese and Japanese restaurant. The food was outstanding and I tried sushi for the first time and it was good. There is a $10.00 per person fee. The Salsa serves Mexican food- it was good overall. La Tritorria is an Italian restaurant that is the buffet in the day time. We didn't like the setting because people kept walking through, but the food was good. The Blue Lagoon is a fast food joint that serves burgers, fries, fish and chips, and Chinese food. This place is good for a snack, but not to dine at.
ENTERTAINMENT-The entertainment was good for the most part. Our cruise director, Rich, was funny. The night shows included 3 performances by the Jean Ann Ryan Company and 4 performances by various performers, 1 was a juggleler and the other was a violin player. All of the night shows were top notch. Other entertaiment included Karaoke, which was good for the first 3 nights, but got worse the last 3 nights because it was the same people over and over and they weren't good at all. BINGO was good, but we never won. My mother and I did a golf putting tournament. We didn't win, but I came out 4th out of 20 people and it was fun. The last night of our cruise had a talent show. It was OK. I am in a bad age group because the activities that are for 13-17 year olds are a bit childish-like a scavenger hunt and the 18-20 year old activities include a dance from 10PM to close everynight. I am 17 years old, but I turn 18 next week. So I didn't want to do scavenger hunts and I didn't want to go the the 18-20 year old party because no one went. So I spent most of the time with my parents.
SERVICE- The service is outstanding. Anything you want is available within 5 minutes, except food at restaurants. The service in the restaurants is good too.
PORTS OF CALL- 1)Port Canavral- We took a cab for $30.00 to the Space Center. When my parents went in 1983, it was free to get in. Now it costs $33.00 per person! My father wasn't going to pay that to see fake space shuttles and fake astronauts. Since we couldn't find a cab, these very nice people brought us back to the ship. 2)Miami- South Beach might look nice on TV, but its all fabricated. There are no museums or attractions to see and the beach is nothing special. We stayed there for 3 hours and went back to the ship. 3)Nassau, Bahamas- This port was pretty good. We took a cab for $4.00 per person to the Atlatis. We spents 2 hours on the beach next to the Atlantis and then went back to Nassau to shop. 4)Great Stirip Cay- This would have been nice if it didn't rain the day we went. When we got on the ferry to go it was sunny. When we got to the island, it was pouring! It stayed like that all day, so we went back to the ship.
OVERALL- The Norwegian Dawn is a great ship- the food, entertainment and service is outstanding. The Florida ports are nothing special, but we liked the Bahamas. I recommend this cruise, but I suggest you go in the winter, when its cooler in the islands, not 93 degrees with 100% humidity.
BAHAMAS AND FLORIDA FROM NEW YORK CHECK IN - GREAT 20 MINITES FROM CAB TO ENTERING CABIN
Cabin - Poor Small inside state room 5th deck bathroom not cleaned good enough end of the cruisewe found a pee stain on the mattress cover(they did nothing to make up for it) I didnt even meet my cabin stewart till the last day of the cruise when I complained about the bed.
Over all look of the ship- Great 10th cruise I have taken and it was the best looking pool could have been bigger.
Shore Excursions- Poor Port Canaveral - Wet and Wild water park A ton of mistakes were made, to many to list Nassau - Discover Atlantis / Harbor cruise harbor cruise was a joke less than 10 min. It would have been faster cheaper and alot less walking if I would have taken a cab. $8 for cab both ways and $25 to get in Atlantis aquarium. Great Stirrup Cay rented snorkeling equipment great day really nice water
Resturants - good rated 1-10 10 being best 10 resturants Le Bistro - French -10 cover charge $12.50- $18.50 Bamboo - Asian Fusion- 7 cover charge $10.00 salsa - texmex - 10 no cover La Trattoria -Italian- n/a limted meun diddnt like Cagney- steakhouse- 8 cover charge $17.50- $25.00 Blue Lagoon - burgers, fish and chips stirfry -10 no cover Garden Cafe -buffet - 3 Main resturants Aqua, Venetian, impresstions bad food worst serive.
This is my second cruise with Norwegian Cruise Lines - we were on the Sea last April and enjoyed it immensely.
EMBARKATION/SHIP: We got to the pier about 11:15 and we weren't supposed to be let on till noon but since they docked the day before, they must have had plenty of time to get the ship ready as we were on by 11:40. After reading all the horror stories, I figured embarkation would have been a nightmare but it was a breeze. We entered on Deck 6 and made our way up to our Deck (9). We were cabin 9008 with a private balcony (which I HIGHLY recommend!). The cabin was really nice. There were three of us and we didn't feel cramped until at night when they opened the sofa bed. Because of the corner table/shelf, we had to climb over the beds to get to the balcony - but we got used to it. We had heard that there was limited space for clothes, etc. but we made good use of the many shelves, etc. and the three of us had no problem fitting our stuff allover the place. The private balcony is HEAVENLY and well worth the extra $315 to upgrade from an inside cabin. The ship is beautiful - so clean and bright colors everywhere.
The carpeting in our hallway was teal with different colored sea horses, shells, etc. - very tropical. What I was most impressed with on this ship is the Stardust Theater - it is HUGE! I am in the theater business and was very impressed with it. The pool deck was big and plenty of room for everyone. There are four hot tubs on the pool deck and one in the aft of the ship on the sun deck. Also, the kids area has a hot tub and I heard many adults say that they used it in the evenings because there were no kids around and the other adults weren't aware they could use it. But I never had a problem getting into any of the "real" grown-up hot tubs.
FOOD: I have to admit that the only place we ate was in the Garden Café and I was very pleased with the variety they had. There were also 2-3 "action stations" in there where they make omelettes, waffles, sandwiches, tacos, etc. And the dessert buffet is delightful (love the "make your own sundaes"!!). I heard that the other restaurants were very good but we did not partake in them.
ENTERTAINMENT: OUTSTANDING!!! The Jean Ann Ryan Company puts on three wonderful shows. You must not miss "South Beach" or "Bollywood" (note to future cruisers: if you go to the Bollywood Show, sit fourth row, dead center and you will be in for a fun surprise in the beginning of the show!). They had three guest performers: a comedian, Dave Heenan, who we did not care for. David Lucas, a juggler/comedian/musician (sounds weird, huh?! We thought so too and almost didn't go but he was AMAZING!) And Dominique Ava, a contemporary violinist who was outstanding.
CREW/SERVICE: Can't be beat! Our stewardesses were unbelievably friendly and helpful (Thanks Sonja and Ping! : ). Everyone was just so friendly and always smiling.
PORT CANAVERAL/ORLANDO: LOL - I have a good story for this port! We got an excursion to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure and we were supposed to depart in our bus to Orlando at 8:30 am. Well, because customs didn't clear the ship till almost 9:30, we got a late start. Then we found out that they were picking us up at 5 pm and we were worried we wouldn't have enough time to do everything (the park closed at 7 and we weren't sailing till 10 so we didn't understand the early pick up time). Half way to Orlando, we started to smell a burning oil smell. I jokingly said to my sister "Watch the bus break down!". Well, within 5 minutes, we were pulled over and everyone was off the bus. The back of the bus was burning and black and there was oil all over the road. Another bus came about 30 minutes later and got us to the park. Luckily, we were able to hit all the rides, etc. before our 5 pm pick-up.
MIAMI: Have never been there and loved it! We bought the Queen Bay Cruise/South Beach Tour excursion and it was great. We saw a bunch of stars homes and they let you shop in BaySide for a little while. That night, there was a South Beach Party on board.
NASSAU: we were there last year and enjoyed it. We did a few new things this year. My sister is a history nut and so we went to Fort Charlotte (very interesting with underground caves, etc.) and Fort Fincastle and we also climbed to the top of the water tower (beautiful views!). We also went to Ardastra Gardens - a conservation/zoo, which we enjoyed. If you are an animal lover (especially birds), this is a fun place. And they have an adorable pot bellied pig that just roams around - too cute!
GREAT STIRRUP CAY (NCL's private island): GORGEOUS, GORGEOUS, GORGEOUS!!!! I loved this island last year and I loved it again this year!!! I could live there.
The days at sea were not as good, weather-wise, as our last cruise. It rained for ¾ of the first day and the last day it was very cold and windy but there is plenty to do inside.
We loved this cruise and we are planning to go on it again early 2005.
Somewhere off the coast of Grenada while sipping a perfect Martini during Norwegian Dawn's repositioning cruise from Miami to New York via the Caribbean and New England it dawned on me - if you'll pardon the pun - that I was witnessing the (re)birth of a cruise line. I was aboard a brand new ship that seemed to be an innovative hybrid. She is part traditional, part wildly radical in concept.
She is lavishly and uniquely appointed. Her crew is genuinely warm and attentive. Service is efficient yet unobtrusive. In fact I kept wondering if this was NCL. Each time I needed assistance at the Purser, Shore Excursion or Dive-In desks I found the professionalism to be high and a concern for resolving the problem quickly and to my satisfaction.
Cuisine is varied, inventive, tasty and of high quality. There is talented entertainment in every lounge. She's part art museum and exclusive resort. The art on display throughout the ship is literally masterful; her furnishings artful. Norwegian Dawn not only carries works of art, she is a work of art. The attention to detail shows from the quality of her contemporary chandeliers to thenow round the clock availability of NCL's famous cookies in Blue Lagoon Café (once only available during 4-5pm snack time).
There's a feast around every corner both visually and gastronomically. Her ten restaurants range from greasy spoon to silver spoon. Passengers can dine amidst impressive neon or impressionists. The Impressionists: Renoir, Matisse, Monet, Van Gogh. One can dine on A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (well, actually a lovely Seurat reproduction) - even on a Tuesday if preferred. Choices range from Mac 'n Cheese to Mignon with Champagne any day of the week. Special requests were honored in the dining room within reason. A fellow diner asked if he could have a white sauce instead of red on that day's specialty pasta in the Trattoria. "Of course" was the reply. I asked if a particular featured ingredient could be omitted from an entrée served in one of the main dining rooms. "Absolutely!" A Maitre D' overheard my comment that maybe we could skip dessert, enjoy some entertainment and then go to another quieter formal dining room solely for dessert and coffee later on. The Maitre D' politely interjected "We would be delighted if you chose to do so."
Cabin décor is plush in every category and range from economically cozy insides to vast apartments boasting two and even three bedrooms with balconies and private decks.
There is very little "old NCL" about the m/s Norwegian Dawn. Had she debuted as the first ship in a brand new cruise line, this vessel would immediately be classified as premium plus. Her hallmarks would be hailed as superior to Holland America. Her chic would easily exceed Celebrity. She'd royally conquer Princess. Her innovations are more universally appealing than rock climbing walls. And her whimsical and bold interiors are more festive and yet classier than the floating Carnival midways.
Norwegian Dawn is that good. She's sexy. She sizzles! Her interiors are seductive.
However, this masterpiece isn't completely flawless. Even a diamond can be imperfect.
First and foremost, as wonderful as Norwegian Dawn is, she must defy the reputation of her heritage. NCL, once the big kid on the block in the 1970's and most of the 1980's suffered some self inflicted stormy seas. The line bankrupted several acquired and much loved cruise lines. In the late 1990's the cruise line nearly dived into the brink itself and shipboard quality across an inadequate fleet suffered. NCL's passenger ratings plummeted as quality took a nosedive and service became nearly non-existent. NCL has disappointed and alienated thousands of dissatisfied passengers who when asked about the cruise line often repeat the mantra "never again." The cruise line does have many loyalists due in great part to the popularity of its former flagship s/s Norway. I count myself included in this category. The great blue dame is my favorite ship.
NCL must somehow convince travel agents and potential passengers alike to give them one more chance. A cruise on Norwegian Dawn is almost guaranteed to convert most into believers.
This leads me to Norwegian Dawn's second flaw - or more to the point NCL's. Anyone sailing with the line for the first time aboard this ship will no doubt feel let down should they sail on her fleetmates, with the exception of near twin and slightly elder sister Norwegian Star. As comfortable, tasteful and satisfying as the other ships in the fleet may be on their own, they can't compete with Norwegian Dawn. Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Sky come closest in style, shipboard amenities and features on a smaller scale by nearly a third. However NCL will need to be inventive and honest when marketing the various other members of its fleet. A cruise on Norwegian Majesty or Sea is not nearly in the same league as Dawn in just about every respect. I'm speaking from experience, having sailed aboard nearly every class of ship in the NCL fleet on roughly 15 of my 33 cruises. I'm even reconsidering my own booking later this year for Norwegian Dream's long repositioning cruise. It may pale in comparison.
The next major flaw I observed was service in the main dining rooms which are completely open seating for dinner. Much has been written about NCL's "freestyle" (tm) concept so I won't detail how it works (a full explanation is available on the line's website: http://www.ncl.com ). Service, while good overall, is inconsistent. I'll provide a real example to illustrate. Prior to this cruise I met several people online that were also aboard. Our group grew as we met others and periodically a dozen or more of us would dine together. We were often offered adjoining tables as the fastest way of being seated. One night we arrived early enough to catch the late performance of the evening's production show. One table was finished and seated in the theater with twenty minutes to spare. The other table was first being served entrees when the final curtain came down after the show's finale.
This is completely unacceptable and I'm not sure what the answer is except that there seems to be a lack of 'extra hands' floating around the dining room. Aboard ships with traditional dining, section captains or assistant Maitre D's usually fill in as needed to keep things moving at a reasonable pace. If this concept exists on Norwegian Dawn, I didn't observe it. I did notice that when dining during off-peak hours service was nearly flawless. It was rare to wait more than three to five minutes to be seated as long as one avoided arriving as the early show was letting out. I was surprised at how many chose to see the 7:30pm show first and then eat a leisurely dinner afterwards. I settled in to a 9pm dining time with some friends during the second half of the cruise. By then the 8:30 rush had ended and tables emptied in anticipation of the late show at 9:30pm.
The final major problem, as I see it (I tend to ignore minor problems that can occur on any ship), is that freestyle dining is not solo cruiser friendly. As mentioned, I had many new friends aboard with whom I dined. But on three port day evenings I found myself on my own as most of them (nearly all couples) chose intensive days of touring and turned in early. I quickly learned that being able to share a table isn't as easy as NCL portrays. Each time I was greeted with "oh, we'll have to open a new table for you" as if it would be a problem. One night I was told in all three main restaurants "I'm sorry, but we don't have any shares available tonight." I was appalled. To make matters worse, one hostess having just told me to wait a few moments returned and asked "will that be a table for two?" I was flabbergasted and she quickly knew it! I wasn't alone in this experience. One of the other guys related a similar story later on in the cruise. NCL doesn't seem to know how to handle singles for dinner although there seems to be a very sensible solution. Each night there's a single get together listed in the daily program for late evening cocktails. Why not list "singles meet for dinner" and vary the restaurant each evening? This was the first comment included on my comment card.
These annoyances notwithstanding, I disembarked Norwegian Dawn feeling well rested with the impression that I had just experienced a very unique and classy ship. I felt that I had received more than my money's worth. I just have one wish - that Norwegian Dawn's newly announced longer ten and eleven day itineraries from New York City will be expanded. Seven days aboard this glamour gal won't be nearly enough. Neither is just one cruise. Next time you are aboard, look around. You just might find me back!
Hubby and I flew from CA to Miami the day before the cruise. We stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn Miami International Airport on South Royal Poninica Ave. The room was nothing special, the main enticement here was that they provide a free shuttle to the pier. Embarkation was a breeze. It took only about 20 minutes from the time we stepped into the terminal until we were in our Stateroom. A month before the cruise we received a free upgrade from a deck 8 forward balcony cabin to a deck 9 mid ship balcony cabin.
Before the cruise I began chatting with several my fellow cruisemates who I met through the Cruise Critic website. I encourage everyone to join this site. There were a total of 112 of us who met in person in the Dazzles lounge the day after sail. What a wonderful, fun, friendly, and crazy group of folks. We got together throughout the cruise and did many excursions together as well as a group dinner. It was a total blast, and made the cruise extra special for all involved.
Here is my 1-5 rating. 1 being poor- 5 fabulous. Food : all resturants good to very good. 4 stars Ports: Excellent itinerary. 5 stars Ship: Gorgeous 4.5 stars Service: Polite but slow, could use improvement. 4 stars Entertainment: Great 4.5 stars
Excursions: Book your own, it is much cheaper ! Montego Bay - Can't comment we stayed on the boat
Aruba - We did a snorkeling excursion to the wreck of the Antilla. The water was very rough & choppy but the wreck itself was worth the trip. It takes about 40 minutes out to the site via boat from the cruise dock. Also, did a round the island tour with a taxi driver. This guy was good! We were gone 2.5 hours, and he only charged us $15 each.
Curacao - Took the ship sponsored excursion to Caracas Bay. This was a really great spot. It is a sunken tugboat with tons of various tropical ship. Highly recommended! Grenada - Kathy one of the CC'rs (cruise critics) hosted a group of 55 CC'rs on a tour of this beautiful island through a company called Mandoo Tours, check his website on the Internet. I highly recommend taking one of his tours. Because our group was so large we paid $25 each for a 5-6 hour tour, taking in the plantations and falls, as well as the rest of the island. Thanks Kathy!
Dominica - There were 14 of the CC'rs on this trip. We took Ken Hinterlands tour he also has a website. Went around this fabulous island then to Trafalgar Falls and Ti Tou Gorge. Because our group was over 4 people the cost was $25 each for a 3-4 hour tour. I highly recommend this tour also.
Tortola - Took a cab from the dock with yet more CC'rs to Cane Garden Bay Resort. The scenery is unreal. What a beautiful place. We swam, and rented lounge chairs for $5 a piece. We asked the taxi driver to pick us up in 3 hours and he was there right on time. I can't remember the price for the cab but I think it was about $8 per person round trip. You pay the driver when he returns you to the ship. Its a bargain.
St. Thomas - got off the boat and into a taxi/open air van for a 2 hour island tour. Cost is $20 per person. Then ate lunch and went to Sapphire Beach Resort. This is another Kodak moment. It was so beautiful there. Water is very rough though. We rented lounge chairs for $5 each, and snorkeling equipment for $5 per person for one hour. Watch the snorkeling equipment! We received a total of 2 broken fins, and 1 fin which strap broke shortly after I put them on. They need to invest more money in better equipment.
Newport, Rhode Island - I fell in love with this place. We walked 2 blocks and took the trolley to see the mansions. We did not get off to see the inside of the mansions but did very much enjoy the ride. They have all kinds of cute little shops on Thames Street and elsewhere. Lots of wealth in this town.
Martha's Vineyard - We had 60mph winds and overcast weather while here. Stu, another CC'r had arranged a walking tour with a woman from the Historical Society. There were 14 CC'rs who boarded a public bus $5 per person all day pass, and went to meet her. Boy am I glad we went on this tour. The woman was a total RIOT!!! She had the best personality, not only was she entertaining, but she was extremely articulate as well. I really enjoyed my time here as well, with one exception. The tender ride back to the ship was a harrowing experience. As I mentioned there was 60mph winds so the seas were really rough. You know it is bad when they hand out "Barf Bags" when you get on board. There were some ladies in our tender who thought it was funny to laugh and scream as those LARGE WAVES, brutilized our tenders. What a bunch of pycho's!!!!
Disembarkation in NY was a fiasco. They did NOT begin letting people off of the ship until 2 hours after they were supposed too. Needless to say there were a lot of angry folks. One of the CCr's waited 3 hours for a taxi after getting off of the ship!!! Lots of folks missed their flights. We made it to the Newark airport just in the nick of time. Thank goodness there were only 5 people in front of us in the security line. Now I know why many of the airlines are filing bankruptcy. All in all it was a fantastic trip, made all the more special by our Cruise Critic buddies. Thanks everyone! Keep checking those cruise boards for more from Paljoeysmom.
God bless, wishing you all the best, health, happiness, and prosperity. Hope to see you on a future cruise.
Recently returned from our cruise on NCL. We had a great time. Embarkation went fairly well. We arrived at the pier by 11:30 and were on the ship by 1:15. Some of our group went with airfare and transfers provided by the cruise line and had to wait for 2 hours at the airport for a shuttle. Needless to say they were not pleased.
Food - was excellent and the freestyle gave you flexibility. We did not dine in any of the extra charge restruants because we were a family of five and had spent enough on cruise fares. Main diningrooms were fine and they each have the same menu each night. Salsa's was very good but you need to make reservations ahead of time. Thursday is lobster night and it was excellent. Don't be shy about ordering extra. It was no problem to do so.
Drinks- Pop card is well worth the 28.50. If you are a beer drinker I suggest buying by the bucket. You get 6 beers for 16.00 domestic and 19.00 for imports. Otherwise a glass of beer costs $4. If you like wine with dinner Isuggest you order some bottles ahead of time. They deliver them to the cabin on the first day or when you tell them you want it. We paid 18 to 20 per bottle and saved 5 - 6 dollars. They allow you to take it into the dining rooms to drink with dinner. Be aware that the drinks in the fancy glasses will cost you $8+. If you want the drink just ask for a regular glass.
Entertainment- Was the best I have ever seen on a cruise ship. This was our 4th cruise and each was on a different line. My favorite was the first show of Andrew Lloyd Weber's music. The magician and juggler were very good.
Laundry- They have self serve laundries that cost nothing but you have to bring soap. Ask at reception because they are hard to find and you have to go through crew only doors. Ours was by room 5100. Make sure you read instructions first as they are different from machines at home.
Ports- If you want to do Dunn's River Falls it is so easy to do on your own and much cheaper. They have taxis waiting at the pier. Round trip was 4.50 per person. Admission was 10.00 per person. You can rent a locker for 8.00 and get 3.00 back when you turn in the key.
Grand Cayman- we went to Royal Palms. It cost 3.00 pp to get in and 3.00 pp for taxi. They rent chairs and mats, paddle boats, jet skis. You can even parasail. Very nice beach. Even have a Subway there.
Costa Maya - Very nice facility with shops, pool, and folk shows. Spent the day by the pool and shopping. Very good snorkeling on the opposite side of pool area. The men in our group chartered a fishing boat. Went to plaza and set it up right there. They were taxied to boat and taken on a 3 hour fishing trip. They caught barracuda, grouper and other. Drinks were included in the price. I think it was 320.00 for 8 people.
Cozumel- Planned on going to Chankanaab Park but never made it. Heard the snorkeling was great but no beach to lay out on. Went to play mini golf at Cozumel Mini Golf. We had a great time. It is owned by a couple from the US. They were very friendly. You can walk to it from the dock. It takes about 10 minutes. Costs 7.50 per person. They give you walkie talkies to order drinks. It is pretty challenging with the roughs and contours. If your looking for something different to do this is it. We had 8 teens with us and they loved it. Located on Calle 1 and 15th. It opens at 11:00 am ships time.
Overall we had a great cruise. Shows were excellent, food was outstanding, ship was beautiful. It was a dream come true for our family.