Year Started: 1966
Ships in Fleet: 13
Summary: With the recent introduction of new ships the third biggest cruise company in the world. Free-style cruising, elaborate dining options and surprisingly good entertainment.
Regions:Bahamas, Bermuda, Caribbean, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Eastern Seaboard, Caribbean, Bermuda
Good for: Value for Money. Children`s Programs. Singles.
Regions:Caribbean, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Regions:Bahamas, Caribbean, Eastern Seaboard
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Bahamas, Caribbean
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Bahamas, Caribbean
Good for: First-time Cruisers. Value for Money. Teens.
Good for: Group. Singles. Families.
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Caribbean, Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Western, Mexico
Good for: Value for Money. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Caribbean, Inland Waterways, West Coast
Good for: Families. Value for Money. Teens.
Good for: Value for Money. Overall Service. Disabled Travelers.
his is a long review, so grab a coffee and put your feet up ...
About Us. We've been on 10-plus cruises, and this was our second time to Bermuda on Norwegian. We were celebrating our 38th anniversary with a Twin River Casino free cruise. Apparently, all that money we lost at the Casino finally paid off.
The ship departed on Friday and was originally scheduled to arrive in Bermuda on Sunday at 11:00 am. However, this was changed to 1:00 pm a few weeks before we sailed. On the other end of our time in Bermuda, we were scheduled to leave at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, but for some maintenance or mechanical issue, we spent an extra night in Bermuda, leaving Wednesday morning at 6:00 a.m. Believe me, no one complained about the Bermuda bonus! In fact, as we sailed away, we got to see both the Norwegian Breakaway and Celebrity Summit sail by on their way to take our place.
Embarkation. Living only an hour away from Boston, this port is an easy one for us. We were dropped off by a relative, making it unnecessary to park the car.A friendly porter promptly greeted us, but at first glance, it was unclear where to go next. Norwegian could do a better job of announcing which appointed time slot is currently boarding. A long line was forming to enter the building, but as it turns out, it was unnecessary to queue up unless it was your turn. So unless you have priority boarding, it really makes no sense to arrive super early ahead of your assigned boarding time. Once inside, getting through security and registration was a breeze.
First impressions. The Dawn, for the most part, is a very attractive ship. The atrium, the first thing you see when boarding, is really beautiful. It's not as grand as some of the center hot spots on some ships, but it's classy and elegant - a perfect place to gather with friends, and sounds from the piano on the main deck reaches to the restaurants and public spaces on the atrium's upper levels. Cozy window seating nooks on decks 6-8 give guests a quiet place for reading or gazing at the ocean. Tasteful artworks adorn hallways and stairways, and colors throughout the ship are tastefully muted. It's worthy to mention that this ship has a promenade deck, a classic ship feature that seems to have vanished with the new and larger ships being introduced nowadays. This one has colorful wall murals all the way around, too.
Notably, I did see a number of clogged or out-of-order toilet facilities throughout the cruise in the public areas, as well as missing stall door locks.
Fellow Passengers. Couples appeared to be in the minority, as we observed a large number of families, from infants to senior citizens, as well as many large groups. Many folks, as you can guess, were from the Boston and New England area.
Cabin-Category BA Balcony #10672.
We paid to upgrade our complimentary interior to a balcony. We found the cabin to be similar in size to most other standard ship cabins, with the benefit of a small sofa. Storage could be a lot better, though it was fine for the two of us. There are shelves in the closet, but they're a real pain to access with the hung clothing in the way. The one thing we did miss was a desk and the drawers that typically come with one. The balcony itself is tiny, barely enough room for the two chairs and pint-sized table that occupy it. In fact, the one area of the ship I saw in need of a major facelift was the balcony floor. I'm not sure what the floor covering was, but it looked dirty, worn and downright gross. It didn't stop me from spending a few afternoons out there enjoying the sea air, though. The bathroom was clean and modern, but the layout was odd and could be a definite problem if you're a super sized person. The already small space is split into 3 sections - the sink, the shower and the toilet. A half wall with glass door divides the sink and shower to the right, and an identical one divides the sink and toilet on the left, hence three sections. The shower is great, plenty of room to move. The sink space is adequate, but the toilet section, however, is crazy tight. If you're tall, be prepared for your knees to hug the wall. If you're really wide, some creative maneuvering will be required. I get what NCL's trying to do here - allow more than one cabin occupant to use the bathroom space at the same time. Unfortunately, the space is really too small for that purpose. Bring a hanging bag for your toiletries, because there is very little storage space by the sink.
Crew & Service. Our cabin steward, Roy, provided excellent service, kept our ice bucket filled and our cabin clean and orderly, all with a smile and some great towel animals. In fact, we found the crew, in general, to be friendly and eager to please. “Washy-Washy”, as the crewmember with the spray bottle of antiseptic is called, greeted us every single time we walked through the buffet, even though squirt dispensers are available everywhere. Whether this was antibacterial overkill or a friendly reminder to keep hands clean, I’m not sure. But “washy-washy” got really old fast.
Pool. There is one main pool on this ship. It's not very big and gets really mobbed on sea days. Arriving early in the morning is key to getting a lounger. If you snooze, you lose. Plus, if you come early, you'll have the pool to yourself. In fact, on our final sea day, after moving the clocks and gaining an extra hour, we noticed many chairs were saved by 7:00 a.m. By noon, every chair was filled or claimed. I do give credit to the crew, as we spotted them bagging a number of items from long-vacant chairs. Due to 4-10 foot sea swells, the pool was closed on the first sea day - but not before we had a chance to ride the pool's "waves" that were crashing over the side of the pool. What a thrill it was, being tossed to and fro, akin to being in the ocean. It wasn't long, though, before the pool police came and kicked everyone out for fear of someone getting hurt. A word about the poolside hot tubs: we tried one out after we boarded, and it felt like heaven. The next day they were scalding hot. A few comments by guests to the crew resulted in the hot tub water being reduced to the proper temp for the remainder of the cruise. In addition to the main pool, there is a kids "T-Rex" pool, slide and splash area. We had no little ones with us, but the kids looked like they were having a blast when I walked by.
Side note about the pool area and one pet peeve of mine: Spray sunscreen. It should be banned. Maybe 25% of it actually sticks to your skin; the rest vanishes in the ocean breeze or into the eyes or lungs of your fellow pool or chair occupants. Especially amusing were the folks who both sprayed and then hand-spread the stuff, defeating the whole purpose of spray sunscreen in the first place. Do everyone a favor and reach for the tube or bottled lotion instead.
Dining. We didn't eat in every venue and did not purchase a dining package, beyond one night in LeBistro. Here's our take on dining choices that we experienced:
The Venetian: Since we liked the classy European look of the Venetian, we chose this complimentary venue for dining on most evenings. Food and service were both good and met or exceeded our expectations most nights. Of particular note was a roasted turkey dinner my husband had one night that he couldn't stop raving about for the rest of the cruise.
Buffet fare: The Garden Cafe served standard buffet fare. My husband enjoyed the fresh, hot omelettes at breakfast and we both thought the coffee was good. The rest of the breakfast and lunch entrees were standard fare, and we found it was hit or miss whether the food would be appropriately hot or lukewarm. The pizza, hot dogs and make-your-own sandwich station were all good. NCL went the extra mile to please their little guests, with a buffet section just for the kids, with pint-sized tables, chairs and even a buffet counter just their height. Very cool, indeed!
Bamboo: This complimentary Asian restaurant was a nice addition to the dining options on board, and we thought the food was good. Unfortunately, the service was slow the night we dined there.
Le Bistro: We celebrated our anniversary at this specialty restaurant. My husband had the beef tenderloin, and I had the pork tenderloin. His was excellent, and mine was good, but nothing special. The room itself was darkly lit, so much so that our neighbors at the table next to us pulled out their cell phone in order to read the menu. Service was on the slow side, but the waiters redeemed themselves when they brought out a cake for us and sang - in tune, I might add. The anniversary cake was delicious, with a raspberry filling, and the best and biggest of any of the dessert celebration cakes I've had on any other cruise line.
Blue Lagoon: We came here for a quieter place to eat on several occasions, both for dinner and breakfast. The menu is limited, but it was a good place for a meal or snack when we felt like getting away from the noise and bedlam at the buffet. Plus, it's conveniently open 24/7 with a convenient self-serve coffee station.
Java Coffee Bar: I was in the mood for a cafe mocha one afternoon and tried this specialty coffee bar. I sat a while listening to the piano player and waited for quite a while for a server to come by, but then gave up and went up to the bar. It took a while to get my coffee, but it was delicious and worth the extra cost.
Bar Service: We didn't have a beverage package. Even though we drank more on this cruise than most other port intensive cruises we've done recently, we still didn't come close to what we would have paid for NCL's beverage package. Except for the lack of attention by staff in the coffee bar, we had no trouble getting a drink at any other venue, and waiter service was especially good at the pool.
Entertainment and More...
"Elements". This was by far our favorite show. We loved the choreography, with interpretations of earth, wind, water and fire very well done. Seating in the Stardust Theater, where the big shows take place, is pretty tight, but fine for an average-sized adult. For more roomy comfort, arrive early and grab one of the balcony upholstered bench seats.
Second City Comedy. We missed the adult version, but did catch the family show. We had mixed feelings about Second City. Because most of their improv depended on ideas from the audience, some material was funny, and some fell flat. Honestly, we've laughed harder at other comedy shows. Maybe the adult version was better.
Wii Bowling Tournament. We used to bowl in a league in our younger days, so this was a fun way to spend an hour and reminisce. I'm happy to say I beat my husband 3 out of 4 games, too. On the downside, I'm not sure how this could be called a tournament when the crewmember that ran it didn't really organize anything, nor did she stick around for the entire thing. It wound up just being free play.
A word about karaoke, Wii and other video activity: Unlike some ships where these activities sometimes take place in large-capacity venues where large numbers of people gather, here on the Dawn the electronics and hardware are set up in a tiny corner of a small pub. It takes the thrill out of winning when no one is there to witness it.
Name That Broadway Tune Trivia. This was a fun way to pass 40 minutes, and served to remind us that we didn't know as many Broadway show tunes as we thought we did.
Martini Tasting. We arrived early to the tasting but apparently missed the official "sign up" for this extra-fee event, and no announcements were made as to how to join in. While the martini expert was giving her talk, and others around us were enjoying their martinis, a waiter came around and asked us if we wanted a drink, to which we answered, no, we would like to join the martini tasting. They kindly made a batch for us and a few other latecomers. It was definitely worth the wait - they were delicious and made up for the lackluster welcome.
Casino. We did throw a good amount of cash down the giant money pit, but did make sure to have a voucher left to cash in on the last day so it would at least feel like we won something.
Musicians: Overall, the music was good. Of particular note, the jazz band was excellent with a dynamite piano player. The band at the pool provided the right island and pop blend. The duo was pleasant, and the piano man did a fine job. The party band we heard in Spinnaker's one night had potential, but we didn't stick around because they were too loud.
Disembarkation. Norwegian's Freestyle plan of exiting the ship looked good on paper, but in all actuality, it was more like a free-for-all, resulting in one long line from the gangway that snaked almost completely around deck 7 of the ship. Picking up your own tags and choosing the time you want to leave sounds good, but either not enough time was called between groups, or everyone just disembarked whenever they felt like it, resulting in the crazy long line. The smart people were the ones relaxing in chairs waiting for the line to come to an end when they would just get up and walk off. I'll remember that strategy for my next NCL cruise. On the positive side, we spotted our luggage right away from the escalator in an area pointed out by helpful agents, so at least that part was a breeze.
Royal Navy Dockyard. Having previously been to many of the tourist sites, such as Crystal Caves, Botanical Gardens, the Zoo, etc., we decided to stick around the Dockyard on the first day, visiting the Maritime Museum and walking the perimeter around the grounds of the old military fort. It's a great place for a bird's eye view of the cruise ships docked at the Royal Navy Dockyard as well as the folks swimming, snorkeling and sunning at nearby Snorkel Beach. We stopped and rested at the Dolphin show located in the Museum grounds and watched some excited guests in the water with them. In all actuality, it was a hot, sweltering afternoon, and we were looking for any piece of shade we could find. Having enough sun and heat, we stopped at the Frog and Onion for a break. It's a touristy and pricey restaurant, but it was convenient, the atmosphere and food were good, and the drinks refreshing on a hot Bermuda day.
Gosling Sunset Rum Cruise. We booked this independently, and it was a lot of fun. The rum expert from Gosling gave us an informative overview and sample of a variety of different rums, and by the end of the cruise, we were all feeling pretty fine! Great rum, gorgeous sunset, and a happy crowd of other rum lovers made it an enjoyable evening!
Ferries/Bus. We bought a one-day pass for the busses and ferries, and began Day 3 by taking the ferry from the Dockyard to St. George. The last time we visited St. George was in 2008, when the Norwegian Dream docked there. We walked around this quaint, historical town for a while, noticing how much quieter it is now that the cruise ships no longer come here.
Next, we grabbed a bus to the famous Swizzle Inn, a Bermuda must-do every time we come here. We grabbed a table on the upper deck, dined on what my husband described as the "best fish sandwich he's ever had", drank a pitcher of rum swizzle, and watched the people come and go. It was a great way to spend an hour or two away from the scorching heat.
We followed up lunch with a bus ride to a beautiful nature reserve called Spittal Pond. Due to the intense mid-day heat, some health and knee arthritis issues, neither one of us were in any shape to navigate the entire area. Therefore, while my husband took a nap in the shade, I grabbed my camera and a monopod to help me down the hilly path and was rewarded with the most beautiful scenic rocky cove. I sat and watched the sea waves crash for a while and then walked the path along the pond a bit enjoying the flowers, birds and serenity, before making my way back up the hill. Spittal Pond is a bit off the beaten path and doesn't draw many tourists, so if you are a nature lover or bird watcher, I highly recommend a visit to this beautiful haven. With the exception of a couple of other wanderers, I had the place to myself. We left Spittal Pond, waited for a bus, and made our way back to Hamilton. Tired and hot after a long day, we didn't spend any time in Hamilton, but hopped the next ferry back to the ship.
Horseshoe Bay. A gorgeous beach, fine pink sand, crashing waves, rock formations, colorful birds, and the clearest aqua blue water to be found anywhere; it's no wonder it's the most popular beach in Bermuda. We arrived by taxi around 10:30 a.m., found a partially shaded spot by the rocks to lay down our towels, played in the waves, dried off and left by 12:30, as the crowds arrived. We've been to other less-crowded beaches on previous visits, but this was our first time at Horseshoe Bay. In fact, if it weren't for the extra time given to us in port, we probably would have skipped it again. I'm so glad we didn't because it was one of the highlights of our cruise.
Shopping. We aren't big shoppers, but I do like to bring something home for the kids and grandson. I found the Dockyard Clocktower Mall sufficient for want I needed. So while the hubby relaxed on board, I hopped on the free trolley and made my way around the Dockyard. It's not the quickest way to get around, but on a hot day, it's nice to be shaded and perspiration-free. The Mall carries a mix of touristy stuff as well as Made-in-Bermuda items. Plus, I paid a quick visit to the Rum Cake and Hand-Blown Crystal factories, so I was happy to help the local economy.
Final Thoughts: There are relatively few options for cruises from Boston, and this one is an easy one, which is why it’s so popular with families – a cruise to a warm destination with no expensive flights and an easy drive for most folks. As with our three previous visits to Bermuda, we lucked out with some gorgeous, tropical weather with hardly a passing sprinkle. This was a relaxing cruise, as all Bermuda cruises are. It's a pleasure to dock for multiple nights in one port with the ability to come and go with no deadlines. While not the best cruise or ship we’ve had the privilege to experience, the Dawn was much nicer than I expected it would be, and we enjoyed the cruise, food and service. In fact, another certificate for a free Norwegian cruise appeared in our mailbox upon arrival home, practically guaranteeing our future return to Norwegian!
Our recent (April 6, 2015) cruise on NCL was not a pleasant experience. I will lay out the pros and cons of this cruise.
3 out of 5 of the islands we visited were nice. St Kitts, St Thomas and Antigua were nice stops and offered some very pretty beaches and interesting historical sites.
The bathroom of the mini suite that we stayed in was very generous and had nice amenities.
The cabin had some nice appointments and very generous storage.
The weather was very nice, high 70’s to mid 80’s everyday.
When we arrived at the ship we were given a letter that indicated that 5.78% of the passengers on the previous sailing had come down with acute gastroenteritis (about 125 people) and if we didn't want to travel on this cruise we would be given a credit on a future cruise (we flew in from California so that meant we would forfeit our airfare and have to buy another airfare if we were going to take their credit).
Because of this problem we were allowed to board the ship about 2:00 PM, but no one was able to go to their cabinsuntil they were thoroughly cleaned. We got in our cabin at 5:00 PM. I assume this means they disinfected all the cabins. Over 2,000 people were on the ship and could not go to their cabins and were trying to get lunch. You can only imagine the chaos.
Due to the need for sterilization throughout the entire cruise you couldn't touch anything when you were getting your food at any of the cafeteria style restaurants. You were handed a plate and utensils and you had to stand in line while waiting for the staff to dish up your food. As an example if you wanted catsup on your fries or burger you had to stand in line so the person manning the catsup bottle could squirt catsup on your food. If you were in one of the sit down restaurants and wanted salt you had to wait for your waiter to bring a salt mill over and they put the salt on your food. I can understand the need for sanitation but this was carried to the extreme.
While the cabin was roomy and clean the couch was one of the most uncomfortable things I ever sat on. It had about 2” of foam on top of a board and when you sat down you would always hit the board.
The glass on the veranda was very dirty and was never cleaned. (I’m sure that the person who was supposed to clean the glass was handing out catsup in the cafeteria!)
The service in the restaurants was OK at times and very poor at other times.
It seemed like the entire focus of the cruise was SHOPPING. There were presentations on how to buy precious gems, watches and art but not ONE presentation about the islands we were visiting or any information about the Caribbean. Our last cruise was to Alaska on Holland America and we had many presentations on the wildlife of the area along with presentations on the locations we visited and glaciers etc. The only thing we could find out on this cruise was where we could buy diamonds and watches on the islands we visited.
The NCL shore excursions we booked were spilt 50/50 we had one fairly good on and one fairly bad one. The excursion to the Virgin Gorda Baths on Tortola was a real bust. The rocks were neat but the snorkeling was terrible. No coral, no fish and the boat was a joke. Their idea of refreshments was to throw a case of bottled water on the counter on the way back to the ship. The two stop snorkel in St Thomas was nice but too short for my liking. We only had about 25 - 30 minutes to snorkel at each stop. The excursion cat was very nice and good refreshments but as we were coming back to port the captain informed us that the crew worked for tips and the recommended tip was $15 to $20 per person!!!
The Shore excursion we booked ourselves in Antigua was with Scenic Tours Antigua and I would highly recommend them. Very informative and pleasant. It was a great tour of the island.
As for the other islands Tortola was hard to get on and off of because you had to use tenders. It was a long and uncomfortable experience. Martinique is an island they could very easily skip. You are docked in what has to be the ghetto part of the island. We asked for directions to a grocery store from a port official and the last thing he said to us was “BE VERY CAREFUL” and I know why. While nothing happened to us the surroundings made you very nervous. It was not nice.
Tipping. You are assessed a $12 per person gratuity per day on the cruise, that was $240 for us for the cruise. We had the Ultimate drink package and an 18% tip was included in the package for every drink BUT there was still another place on the bill for an additional tip. Every up charge for a restaurant had a place for an additional tip. I think that gratuities have their place but this cruise took it to a new level.
In summary Freestyle cruising is not necessarily free, informative or fun. The focus of the cruise was buy buy buy and tip, tip, tip! Buy your duty free liquor, watches, diamonds, tanzanite, and art at prices that are not that good and if you don’t buy on the ship, we will tell you where to buy them on shore (the same vendor that was on the ship). I happen to be in the market for a watch and most of the watches I looked at could be purchased cheaper at Costco even including taxes.
My recommendation is to stay away from NCL and go with a cruise line like Holland America that caters to educating you about the places you are going not trying to pull more money out of your wallet.
book price 799 inside cabin.
i pre booked it, put in 1 traveller and price came up 1499.
THATS A SINGLE SUPPLEMENT !!
Our December Mexican Riviera (7 night) trip onboard the Star was a blast. The crew were terrific and the ship was fun to explore. We visited the usual ports- Cabo, Puerto Vallarta, and Mazatlan.
A little background on us: I’m 41, hubby 51, and our son is 6. We cruise 2-3 times per year, mostly with Princess and Carnival due to geographic availability (we like to drive to port- it’s so much more affordable and convenient, especially with a small child). We cruised on the Star around 2007, just before it was refurbished when the ship was doing a slightly different itinerary. We booked in this cruise 8 months prior to sailing because we got an incredible deal on a mini suite, for the price of a balcony on most similar itineraries. Our hobby is to film cruise ships (link at the end of this video), so we often spend considerable time in the first few days onboard filming as much of the ship as possible.
Impressions of the Ship:
The ship is ready for a refurb and an update, but is certainly not falling apart. We liked the layout, butin some areas (finding dining rooms), it got confusing.
The Cabin: Mini Suite 11002 is at the very end of the hall, forward, starboard side. It was SO quiet and peaceful as it’s in a low traffic area. You will see more officers coming and going from the bridge entrance next door than you will see other passengers. Our room steward was amazing, and used our names from day 1. He made the trip special. The mini bar and bathtub in the suite were wonderful, but our favorite part was the silly little coffee pot that we got to fire up every morning. No rushed calls to room service, or runs to the buffet or coffee shop for coffee. LOVE!
Day by Day Review:
Embarkation Day was smooth and the terminal staff were friendly and warm. We were in the first 10 groups to board (around noon or so), and because our stateroom wasn’t ready, we explored the ship and grabbed lunch at the buffet while my husband ventured off to start filming the ship before the crowds hit. To our disappointment, the kids buffet area was closed. Our little guy had been looking forward to it, but it’s no big deal. The layout was nice, which minimized crowds, and we all found something we enjoyed. I LOVE the Indian food they serve daily and ate it with my salad pretty much every time we visited. I get the sense that it isn’t popular because there were never many people at that end of the buffet, but it’s delicious and healthy. After lunch, we settled in to our stateroom, a reasonably priced mini suite that we loved and unpacked. Dinner in the main dining rooms on night one on most ships is always “interesting”, with lines, changes, etc%u2026but this ship was particularly frustrating. The lines were really long to get into main dining at Aqua, passengers were cranky, and in hindsight, we’d have booked Cagneys or another specialty dining room to start the trip off right. Oh well, live and learn. The food in Aqua on night one was sub par compared to other ships, but we had read this here on cruise critic, and fully expected it. Throughout the cruise, we learned what to avoid on the menu and what time to dine (7pm or later). There ARE great menu items, you just have to be patient. I think this ship puts more quality emphasis on their specialty dining than their main dining rooms, and the dining room food suffers. Don’t get me wrong, we’d sail on this ship again in a heartbeat, and overall, enjoyed the food once we figured it out.
Day 1 was a sea day, so I planned to take the latin dance (aka Zumba) class around 9am. The class was fun, didn’t cost anything, and was held in a lounge. It would have been nicer to have the class in the group fitness area of the gym, but the teacher (part of the cruise director staff) was adorable, and high energy. I even learned something new about cardio- she said you should keep your mouth closed and breathe through your nose to preserve energy (avoid getting winded) when dancing%u2026hmmm%u2026I was skeptical about this tip, but it totally worked! Who knew?!
Following the workout, we decided to “try” the Latitudes party which was around 11am or so in one of the larger lounges. I’ve found most of these parties to be dull and overcrowded on most ships, so I was reluctant. This was only our second cruise with NCL, so I was thinking “how good can it be%u2026?”, we aren’t in a high tier of loyalty with NCL, but hey, let’s check it out anyway. It turned out to be the best loyalty reception on ANY line we’ve ever attended. Kudos NCL. The drinks were flowing generously, with spot-on bar service, and the appetizers were plentiful. We arrived a little late, but still found a seat, and were instantly offered a beverage. I had a few glasses of wine, and we enjoyed the cruise presentation, and games. The officers roamed the room getting to know the guests. When they learned it was our son’s birthday on this cruise, they said they were going to do something special for him. A few days later, on his birthday, a beautiful handwritten note and an adorable cupcake were delivered to our stateroom. It was such a thoughtful touch.
For the remainder of the day, we tried lunch Versailles (beautiful views at the aft of the ship). The food was okay, but we learned what we liked after a view days and it got better. Then we explored the kids pool area- super cute- at the back of the ship, and spent some time hanging in the hot tubs and meeting other families. It was too chilly to swim or enjoy the slides, but he hot tubs were just right- and a great temperature for children.
Now for the not so good news- dinner in the main dining rooms on the first night. Ug. This is not commonly a smooth operation on most ships but ew, the lines were unpleasant and the dining room (Aqua) noisy where we sat. The food was just okay, with some weird occurrences%u2026example: the kids pepperoni pizza had the most SPICY pepperoni on it. It was inedible and very odd. Our son likes a little heat, but this was bizarre. Also, some of the servers were terrific, while others were lackluster, slow, and never even offered drinks.
Day 2- Cabo! Yah! We love Cabo! We tendered ashore after the tender crowds died down mid day, and caught a water taxi to Medano beach to enjoy our standard afternoon at Billygans, a restaurant and bar with loungers on the sand. The vendors were plentiful and pesky that particular day, probably because our loungers were in the front row, closest to the ocean, so we didn’t have any cushion around us. We enjoyed tacos, calamari and guacamole, brought to our loungers along with Coronas and a tequila shot- for me. The ocean is the perfect temperature in December, not chilly like it gets in February, so we took swim breaks in the ocean in between lounging. After a few hours, our water taxi driver (he calls himself Six Fingers Tony, and has business cards to match because YES, he has 6 fingers on each hand) picked us up and took us back to the pier where we waited in a short tender line and boarded the ship. We decided, because of our unpleant dining room experience to book Cagneys, and were in for a treat when we were given a free bottle of wine to enjoy with dinner because it was “Norwegians night out”, the optional elegant night. Dinner was excellent (filet mignons were perfect) and we could eat at Cagneys EVERY night. They treated our son wonderfully, and made him mac and cheese (there is no charge for kids if they don’t order off the Cagneys menu- this was really nice for us). Of course, he was far more interested in my steak- as always! Here's our video review of Cagneys: http://youtu.be/P7wA6iP96Ig
After dinner, we hit the first production show, which was okay. We left early because our son was getting antsy and we found the production to be a little cheesey (they got better later in the week).
Day 3 we arrived in Mazatlan but decided not to get off the ship. We don’t care for Mazatlan, so we celebrated our sons birthday on board with a terrific day of watersliding and ordering smoothies and drinks by the pool, with relatively few crowds. We had a tasty lunch at the buffet and dinner at Aqua, the smaller of the main dining rooms. By this time the lines were under control and we were ready to give main dining another try. Service was a little slow, but the food was good (chicken parmiagana for me) and they sang to our son and brought a HUGE birthday cake for him.
Day 4 we arrived in Puerto Vallarta and contrary to our normal routine of getting off the ship and visiting a resort on a day pass, we just shopped at the port and got back on the ship- very unlike us, BUT we loved the waterslides and pools so much on the Star, that we just decided to save the $$ and enjoy the sunshine onboard. We had dinner again at Aqua and by this time, were really getting a hang of what liked and didn’t like in the dining rooms. The enteraintment that night was amazing. The show was called Marambolla (google it)%u2026the couple was so talented and their little son was adorable. Don’t miss this show if it is offered when you sail.
Days 5 and 6 were our final sea days. The motion of the ship was significant and I felt a little dizzy from these last two days, which I generally do since you’re cruising on the %u2018bumpy’ direction, northward. We enjoyed a few breakfasts in Versailles, read magazines, relaxed, napped, and danced on the decks with the cruise staff, took photos all around the deck and played in the arcade. The cruise director put on a fun magic show in the main theatre one night, which was entertaining and cute.
Debarkation was really smooth on our last day and although they ran customs through a lounge on the ship, which seemed slow, it ultimately ended up taking about the same amount of time to debark.
This was a terrific ship and we would love to try the Star again someday- the mini-suite was one of our favorite cabins EVER, for the price, and we’ll be back!
Here’s the video ship tour:
And a little tour of the cabin:
Alaska was awesome, what we enjoyed the most was the Glacier Bay , the Captain did everything to let us enjoy the glacier at its best, all the crew were fantastic, very helpful and smiling all the time, we try all the speciality restaurants,they were really good and our favorites were the Tepanyaky and Cagney's , the rooms were clean and cozy, Francis did a great job and he always left a nice towel figure for us.
Just got back from taking the Norwegian Jewel for a week in Alaska. While the trip was great, the room was small but nice, the staff was nice and everything was clean and well done, the food was horrible. We did a cruise on Royal Caribbean about 6 months ago on a 7 day for the exact same price and the food in the complimentary dining room was STUNNING. I mean absolutely delicious. The Norwegian cruise food was one step up from cafeteria food, and the dining room was the same food as the buffet where on Royal Caribbean the complimentary dining room menu was an entirely different menu, obviously made to order by well trained chefs. On the Norwegian, it seemed like they sent someone to the buffet to get your meal. It was horribly disappointing. I will never never go on a Norwegian Cruise again. The food was the equivalent to Denny's, while the food on Royal Caribbean was equal to Emeril's or Manning's. Don't cruise on Norwegian.
And if you have any food intolerance or special needs, forget about it. They are not going to accommodate you. Weeat mostly gluten free, but not out of medical necessity. When we were on the Royal Caribbean, they were fastidious about making sure dietary needs were accommodated and provided fantastic and delicious alternatives. I doubt that anyone would have felt the slightest bit deprived being on a gluten free diet on the Royal Caribbean. If we had truly had a medical need to eat gluten free on the Norwegian Jewel, we would have probably been relegated to eating white rice, or ended up in the hospital. I don't think that you could possibly have figured out what was safe to eat and what was not.
Also, several other points. They have a staff member standing in the buffet entrance to make sure that you disinfect your hands. He sings a little 'washy washy' song to the tune of a children's song... over and over and over and over and over again. I wanted to punch him every time I walked by. Horribly annoying.
Also, they keep the hot tubs at 95 degrees F. This is fine in the Caribbean, but too cold when it's 50 degrees with 20 mile an hour winds. The hot tubs would have been a perfect place to be in foul weather, but not on this ship.
Last but not least, my honey got vomiting and diarrhea. While I'm not blaming the ship since we both ate all the same things and I did not get sick, what I am complaining about was the way it was handled. I'm an ER and ICU nurse, so I know what I'm talking about, and cruise ships are NOTORIOUS for outbreaks of infectious diarrhea. So, I go to medical just to let them know and see if they wanted to test him for infectious diarrhea or quiz him about what food he ate, etc. in order to contain what could have been a budding outbreak. They could have not been less interested. The ONLY way they wanted to know about his illness is if he were to pay $150 to be treated. Well, he didn't need treatment, so they didn't have any interest in him. This was extremely concerning to me and, by itself was reason not to go back.
Their lack of interest in preventing an outbreak was equivalent to their lack of care with the food. Don't EVER cruise Norwegian.
I am not a complainer or letter writer, however, our recent voyage on the Norwegian Dawn on April 6, 2014 out of Tampa, Florida, can ONLY be described as the worst cruise we have ever taken.
We were suite customers, cabin 11510 category SC. We love the suite experience, pampered, treated like your special and a genuine 1st class customer experience. Our expectations were high and excited as we entered the ship (no escort as described as a suite perk). There seemed to be a lack of maintenance in our suite and throughout the ship. Perhaps all the maintenance dollars are being funneled to the mega ships now. The balcony metal was rusting, the shower had cracked tiles with lots of glue. Entering our suite we found the bathtub faucet was leaking all over the master bath floor and the door latch to the master bedroom would not lock. We had to use a bungee to tie it closed throughout the entire cruise! We even had to put a towel in-between the doors to keep them from crashing together in the higher seas. We requested repairs but it did not appear thatany were done the entire voyage. Also, several of the public restroomâ€™s hand dryers did not work.
The first night was a surprising lobster dinner . Perhaps since most customers go to the buffet and this saves Norwegian quite a bit of money. We heard several complaints throughout the ship about this from other travelers. We were fortunate enough to receive the lobster dinner, most did not.
The next day the Captain announced we would not be stopping in Roatan. While I fully understand your concern for the safety of your passengers. An assistant cook was murdered in a robbery attempt on the island a few days earlier. This was an isolated incident and internet reports state it DID NOT involve any Norwegian passengers, just a crew member. Yet, the single perpetrator had been caught. It was not an incident of gang violence. We were forced to stay onboard and circle the seas for another day losing 25% of our port stops (one of the main reasons we chose that cruise). Funny how all of the other cruise lines continued to port there. If it was so dangerous to go there, why were we not warned in advance? We were completely taken aback when we saw that only a $8.59 credit was issued for missing 25% of our scheduled stops. Why could we not have gone to Belize and spent 2 days or any other port? If you are going to force your passengers to stay at sea, why do you not have some kind of contingency plan for entertainment onboard. It was simply a lost day.
Since they did not offer fishing on Roatan, I had pre-reserved a private fishing charter. Obviously, I never received that trip and am hoping to receive my money back. Since I missed my fishing trip, I asked our concierge, John Dâ€™souza, to try to book me for Cozumel bottom fishing, he said it was sold out and he had me on a waiting list. Two days later, in the dining room he passed by and I had to remind him about my request to get that excursion. As you can guess, I never got to go fishing and he never addressed the request again.
I received an on board credit of $300 from Norwegian for the suite, $300 in Norwegian world points, and expected to receive $300 from cruise.com. I had to keep inquiring for 2 days to receive my cruise.com credit. My concierge didnâ€™t seem to help much or get back to me and the front desk just simply did not care. I realize that the travel agencies credit was not the fault of Norwegian Cruise Lines, but the service and feedback on the inquiries were. I felt like the staff simply did not care.
Our next port, Belize City, was not pleasant. We had so been looking forward to seeing the Mayan Ruins and booked the river cruise to the Lamanai Ruins. To our astonishment at the end of the trip up river we had two elderly ladies with us, one with a walker and oxygen tank, the other with 2 arm canes and weighing about 400 lbs. Even for a physically fit person, this was a difficult trail. We were forced to wait in a boat 1 hour for the guides to find the guest to return them to the boat. WHY WERE THESE PERSONS EVER SOLD A TICKET? They should have NEVER been sold one! The shore excursion description even states â€œnot recommended for guests with walking difficulties.â€
On the positive note, our cabin attendant, Mr. Rainhard, was fantastic. We received outstanding service from him. One of the nights, I called our butler, Mansur Hasinil, requesting him to make us a reservation in the Venetian dining room. I WAS TOLD BY HIM TO CALL AN EXTENSION AND MAKE THE RESERVATION MYSELF. Certainly not what I expected to be told by a butler who is supposed to give us 1st class service. We only saw this man twice, once to deliver 4 cold breakfasts containing wrong orders, and when we were taking the priority debarking, probably awaiting any tips.
Arriving in Cozumel, my wife had purchased a dolphin encounter, since she does not swim. It was supposed to be a 2 hour excursion in shallow water. 6 Â½ hours later they finally got into a pool, wherein they had to swim out to the dolphins! Half of the participants did not swim. That is why they chose the encounter rather than the swim with the dolphins. She was very upset. Then to top it off, we were expecting to watch the ship depart, instead we saw an ambulance take away what appeared to be a deceased passenger in an ambulance. Again, I realize not controllable by Norwegian. Just another cherry on the cake of bad trips.
Our dinner that night was in the Venetian. We were seated, received water and our waiter took the order. We did not see anyone for 30 minutes after that. We had to ask for a manager to even get water and our salads as did three other tables. She compensated us with a glass of wine, but what we wanted was service, not wine. We expected more from Norwegian.
Again on the positive note, our waitress, Joann on the third night was the ONLY friendly one we encountered in the entire dining experience. Your staff is cold, unfriendly, and some could not even understand our orders, getting them wrong.
Daytime entertainment at sea can only be described as POOR . Your cruise director DAN DAN, was the worst cruise director we have ever seen on any cruise line. In fact the assistant, Dingo Dan, made most of the announcements. The comedy group Second City even made satire of the cruise director. Near the close of the cruise, most of the hand sanitizers were empty.
We usually only rent suites on our cruise vacations. If I were to compare this cruise to all of the others we have taken, it simply was the worst. As a general customer service rule, when someone receives great customer service they tell several people. When they receive POOR customer service they will tell everyone who will listen. I wonder what my 3,000 clients will think of my story? I will have to think long and hard about ever using Norwegian Cruise Lines again.
Just wanted to post a mini review of our February cruise for anyone who is booked or considering it for the future. This cruise was a first for us in that we have always cruised alone, but this time we were with our son and daughter-in-law. We had a a lot of fun, but honestly we would have probably seen and done more if it were just the two of us. The youngsters just can't keep up with us!
TIP. A great aid to anyone needing to communicate with family and friends on board is the iConcierge app. Be sure to download it to your iPhone ( or samsung in my case ) before the cruise and then activate it once on board. You can use it to message and call family or other cruisers while on board, check ship's activity schedule and info, etc. using the ship's wifi. It was a godsend in helping us keep track of each other. On the Epic the charge was a one time fee of $7.95, but service was bad. On the Getaway, it was FREE to activate, and service was excellent.
Boarding inMiami was very efficient. We got to port about 10:30, taking a short taxi ride from the Miami Downtown Hilton. TIP: There are two terminals for entry to the ship, B and C. Be sure to check your boarding pass to see which is yours. If you enter at the wrong one, you will be redirected. We did not notice this on Epic and ended up walking the length of the ship to the correct door. No lines outside or inside the terminal. Boarding started at about 11:30 and we were were in the first group on after suite passengers.
We were in an M6 mini suite which are all located on deck 8 forward. It is an ideal location close to the midship atrium areas on 6, 7, and 8 which contain many dining, shopping and entertainment venues. It is also easy access to the Waterfront Area. The cabin is only slightly larger than a regular balcony cabin, but the balcony is huge in comparison to the tiny ones everyone complains about. The bathroom is bigger, with double sinks and a glass doored shower with 6 body jets and a rain shower head. Good water pressure. Good storage. Very quiet location. We heard no noise outside the cabin or from the cabins next door. No smoke smells from the Waterfront. We were starboard side.
For debarkation, you may choose colored luggage tags which correspond with the time you think you want to leave the ship. You can pick these up in the atrium on the 6th and 7th day of the cruise. You can walk off anytime after that color is called. There is also a color for "Easy Walk Off", the first group called, but you have to be willing to carry off all of your own luggage with no assistance. Luggage to be sent to the pier is collected outside your door around midnight on the last night. Not having a flight to rush to, we chose 9:30, had a leisurely breakfast in the buffet, and then just walked off when we were ready. No lines and it was very quick. The first group off was probably called around 7:30. Luggage is grouped by color in the terminal.
Can't say enough about the Waterfront concept with the bars and restaurants with outdoor seating along the deck 8 Waterfront which wraps around the ship. We did sailaway outside at the Sugarcaine Mojito Bar. Love this place with it's comfy chairs and couches and had many Cucumber Jalepino or Pineapple Mojitos there. Try the mojito flight for $15 to find out which are your favorites, or go to the Mojito Tasting, $15 pp. Check the freestyle dailies to see when the various ones are offered. They have Beer, Margarita, Martini, etc. and all great fun.
We did the Wine Lover's Musical Lunch and Wine Tasting on a sea day. It was $25 pp. The tasting is incorporated into a musical ( no dancing ) play about a girl and guy who meet at a wine tasting. There is a full meal, steak, shrimp etc. the food was just OK . It is one of those things you are glad you did once, but would probably never repeat.
Illusionarium. We did enjoy this show which was $29 for premium seating. It gets off to a slow start, but the final act was hilarious. I hate magic shows and this kept my interest. The steak was much better than we expected and better than the one at the Wine Lovers Lunch.
Cagney's. We chose this venue for our son's birthday celebration and I have to say it was one of the best meals we have had anywhere, on or off a ship, and we do get around a little. The filet was done to perfection. Melt in your mouth good. Between the 4 of us, we sampled several things on the menu and all were excellent.
Moderno. Love the very extensive salad bar, full of dishes you won't find anywhere else, like cerviche. You could make a meal there. The guys enjoyed the nonstop meats. There is a lovely bar located inside the entrance between Cagneys and Moderno. Good place for a quiet drink, but easy to forget it is there.
Free Shows/Entertainment. Favorite show was Burn the Floor which was excellent. Legally Blonde was good. We went to the Welcome Aboard Show which had a bit of these shows as well as Illusionarium and a comedian from the Headliners Comedy. If you plan on seeing these shows anyway, I would just skip this and spend your time elsewhere. We never made it into Howl at the Moon although we really enjoyed these dueling pianos and sing along on the Epic. Also never caught any of the comedy acts. My biggest regret was not being able to spend time listening to Sammy Figueroa in the Grammy Experience. We caught only a few minutes of this as it was not my son's taste. There were activities in the atrium drawing huge crowds such as Dancing With the NCL Stars, Deal or No Deal, Newly Wed Game and so forth. We did not go to any of the deck parties such as the Glow Party, 80s Party, Fireworks show, but heard good reports from others who did.
Casino. We found it to be smaller and smoker than the one on the Epic, which I think may be billed as the largest at sea. It just seemed cramped and we did not care for the slot machine selection. Did not gamble nearly as much as we did on Epic.
Spa. We toured on embarkation day, but did not buy the passes to the Thermal Suites which were $199 per person for a weekly pass. No daily passes sold. We did buy these on the Epic which has a huge thermal suites area and a large outdoor balcony overlooking the aft of the ship. Again, this area seemed smaller on the Getaway, was located forward, and no outdoor area.
Pools/Slides/Ropes Course/Mini Golf. Did not pay much attention to the pools. They never seemed too crowded as we passed by. There were tons of deck chairs available. Wanted to try the ropes course but we never got around to it. Son and his wife did try the slides and enjoyed them. No huge line ups.
Spice H20. We had a little difficulty locating this area. Nice Adult Only area to hang out. Plenty of chairs and umbrellas. Had a drink there on a sea day and then had lunch at Flamingos Cuban ( free ) which is near. Loved the food. Parties are held here at night.
Buffet. We had breakfast here nearly every morning. Never had any difficulty finding seats and this had been a real challenge on the Epic. Excellent selection of food. Loved the French Toast with bananas foster topping. Lunch was also good here. We had dinner here a couple times. There was a seafood buffet one night, Tuesday, I believe, with lobster tail and grilled shrimp skewers as well as other seafood items. Having had poor quality lobster in the MDR on previous cruises, I was pleasantly surprised. The lobster was of good quality and was plentiful, even late in the evening when we arrived after a show. No traditional lobster night on the first night in the MDR on the newer ships. Had an excellent beef carving one evening and chicken dishes always good.
O'Sheehans Bar and Grill. Great place to watch a game on the two story screen in the atrium below or one of the game shows from the circular seating area above in O 'Sheehans Bar. The opposite side is the restaurant which is open 24 hours and free. We had breakfast here one morning and it was very good. They also had rib and prime rib nights throughout the week there in addition to their usual fare. The prime rib was just OK. A little tough. Set meal with baked potato and corn on the cob.
Tropicana/Taste/Savor. All MDRs. Menus may vary a little between the 3. Some items offered daily, others change daily. We were able to walk in to the Tropicana, which is the larger and more formal of the three, and were seated with no waiting near the entertainment and dance floor. We really enjoyed this. A guest surprised his SO with a song accompanied by the band. It was Andrea Bocelli's Con te Partiro, ( Time To Say Goodbye ) and he obviously had some operatic training. Also walked into Taste for a quick bite one night before a show. ( we ate again somewhere else later, lol ). Soup and salad for some of us and I had a chicken dish which was excellent. Service was quick in both venues and the food was excellent.
General impressions. There is a ton to do on this ship. Plan your time wisely. The specialties are an excellent value, especially Cagneys at $30 and Moderno at $20. Yes, I know you have already paid for food, but a meal like this would set you back a bundle anywhere on dry land. And if the budget does not allow, the free venues have very good quality and variety. Service all over the ship we considered to be very good. Can't say enough about the staff. Always smiling and greeting you everywhere you go. You can dress up as much as you like and never feel out of place, but a pair of long pants, close toed shoes and a collared shirt for men will get you in anywhere on the ship. Shorts are ok at all but Tropicana and LeBistro, but in general, people seem to dress up a little in the evenings, country club casual or coctail. We had no issues with crowding. Easy to get around, no real lines, even in the buffet. Great ship. We would definitely sail this ship again!
Not one of my favorite ships. The staterooms were very small. No desk or makeup area. No glasses in the room. Mini bar was not stocked. Meals were mediocre at best. Much repetition. Desserts were the same each nite with 1 new choice. Main meals just average. Ate in the Blue Lagoon (free) and got better meals. Tried the main entertainment, but was less than entertaining. Tried the other entertainment (in the atrium) and it was better. We went with a group of 10, so we made our own fun. Only 1 dress up night, but there were too many people in tee shirts and jeans at meals in the big dining room. Service as slow, only 1 person taking care of the table. No wine steward,no bus boy, no coffee and beverage person. One waiter to do it all. They allow you to carry on wine to consume, but charge a $15.00 corking fee even if you drink it in your room. You can buy liquor for your room, but they charge almost $30.00 more per bottle than other cruise lines. This will be our last NCL cruise. Goingback to Princess
NCL just hasn't got it right yet when it allows smoking on balconies.
We were on the "Sun" for 10 day cruise and couldn't go out and enjoy our mini suite balcony because of chain smokers on either side of us. Whenever we opened our balcony door our room filled with second hand smoke. My wife suffers with ASMA and the smoke was very hard on her, also my nose ran a lot along with the sneezing. We first noticed a smoke smell the first day in the hall leading to our room ( 1211 ). Quite a surprise!
If you don't smoke don't book a balcony cabin with this cruise line as you will regret spending the money for a balcony that you can't sit on and enjoy the fresh air and the sea.
We will be spending our cruising dollars with ships that have a no smoking policy on their balconies.