New Year¡¦s Eve Cruise 2003
This was our third New Years cruise, our first on NCL. My wife and daughter (age 11) have been on Holland America (5+), Carnival (2), Celebrity (1) all thru the Caribbean, Alaska, Bermuda and New England and think we know our way around ships, so NCL¡¦s ¡§Freestyle Cruising¡¨ was an interesting new option. It had a few plusses¡K but many minuses.
We chose this cruise because it left from NYC, avoiding the needs to fly at the holidays during an orange alert. We¡¦ve sailed out of NY several times and knew the drill, but NCL¡¦s was one of the smoothest embarkations ever, thanks in part to the pre-registration process for passengers on the NCL website. We arrived at the Passenger Ship Terminal about 12 noon, paid $168 to park for the week, and were thru the lines and on the ship in about an hour. We departed spot on time at 4 pm in time to enjoy the harbor at twilight.
One of the big selling points of ¡§Freestyle Cruising¡¨ was the choice of restaurants and no fixed ¡§seatings¡¨. We tried most of them, especially enjoying Le Bistro (at asurcharge of $12.50 per person). The Tex Mex eatery was only so-so¡K sort of like a Scandinavian¡¦s idea of Mexican food. And Bamboo, the ¡§all you can eat¡¨ sushi parlor was a rip-off. There¡¦s a $10 surcharge and only a limited selection of sushi, much of it pre-made and refrigerated. Anything more exotic than a tuna roll is priced a la carte. Most nights we went to the two big restaurants, the Venetian and Aqua. The food was good, though the portions were small and service, though harried, was slow. The upstairs buffet restaurant, ¡§The Garden¡¨, was pretty good though usually crowded. It¡¦s ¡§NY style deli¡¨ was mediocre. The 24 hour ¡§Blue Lagoon¡¨ was pretty good and very popular with teens. Don¡¦t miss the ¡§Chocoholic¡¦s Buffet¡¨, an afternoon exercise in obscene consumption of mass quantities of food by hordes of morbidly obese passengers.
There were two ¡§formal¡¨ nights, both optional. I only saw a very few tuxedos and a smattering of business suits. Another plus for ¡§Freestyle Cruising¡¨¡K you can wear resort casual attire any night you wish without feeling under-dressed .
My wife and daughter both went and said they enjoyed it : massage, nails, hair. As with all cruise spas, go up to the Spa and book early as soon as you get on board, especially if you want a massage on the first day at sea. Prepare for sticker shock when you get the bill.
This kids program was a big disappointment. On Carnival our daughter could sign herself in and out and come and go and she pleased. On NCL, any kid under 13 must be signed in and out by a parent¡K at least a 15 min. inconvenience for one of us as we had to go all the way to the top rear of the ship just to do paperwork. The counselors were mediocre, often sitting watching TV with the kids instead of leading activities. The final day at sea one of them even discouraged our daughter from even showing up instead of doing her job. She was tired and seemed intent on getting some rest instead of working with the kids. As a consequence, our daughter sat around complaining of being bored instead of being engaged with kids her own age. At holiday time all of the cruise lines bring on extra staff to handle the kids¡K usually barter work unemployed young people from Canada. They get a ¡§free cruise¡¨ in return for a few hours a day working with the kids. What paying passengers get is unpaid staffers with a bad attitude¡K kids who think they¡¦re on a cruise, instead of working a job.
The staff has to be given marks for trying. With 2,700+ passengers on this sell-out cruise, they were kept busy. But the food servers need a lot more training. While gracious, always referring to us as ¡§sir¡¨ and ¡§Madame¡¨, they lacked the profession panache we've come to expect in the main dining room of cruise ships. A few examples¡K In the Venetian: My wife drinks decaf. The waiter started pouring regular coffee (about an inch) before she stopped him. He went to get the decaf and tried to keep pouring, creating a half-caf mixture. Instead, he should have removed the mistaken half-pour and brought a fresh cup. Another¡K at lunch, also in the Venetian, we had a Thai salad which we both thought was much too salty . When we mentioned this to the waiter , she said ¡§Oh, I¡¦ve never had that dish.¡¨ What she should have said was ¡§I¡¦m so sorry. Can I bring you anything else, and please let me share your comments with the Chef.¡¨ At diner in Aqua, the server inquired how I wanted my leg of lamb cooked, and I asked for medium-rare. When she brought the lamb, she said that only medium was available.... period. She should have come see me as soon as she knew the situation, explained their error, and offered me the menu to select something else if I didn't want medium. It was ungracious and not focused on the needs of the diner.
We noticed that the servers are rotated throughout the ship's various restaurants, buffets, snack bars, etc. Our head waiter one night was mopping floors in the buffet the next day. I guess NCL figures they can use a staffer anywhere, but there's a trade-off. Servers don't learn the fine points of excellent service that's appropriate in a formal dining room. In fact, we thought the servers in the Venetian seemed stressed and were often confused about where tables were, leading us to wonder if they are trying to compensate for inexperience or poor training. My wife's pet peeve about the Venetian, the main dining room: Guests arrive at the top of a flight of stairs that go down into the dining room. The "greeter" inquires about the number in the party, decides where to seat you, then calls the table number down the stairs. The space and noise in the room requires the "greeter" to call the number loudly and sometimes repeatedly, and it made my wife feel like we were dining at IHOP. Not very classy or personal, certainly not the way a formal dining room should be run.
How do you motivate a staff when they all share tips ($10 a day per person)? On most ships with fixed seatings you get to know the waiter, they go out of their way to please you and are rewarded accordingly. On NCL you may never see the same waiter again, so the service is cordial but just so-so. Some waiters, bar tenders and cabin stewards were wonderful. Most were just adequate.
We had two cabins¡K an outside twin with a balcony and an inside single. They were both fine¡K smaller than on Carnival, but well appointed. The showers were bigger than on most ships, but why no bar soap? The ship is quite new, and it shows. The public rooms are lovely and very tastefully decorated. The ship was spotless, even after a very messy New Year¡¦s Eve. Cleanliness and hygiene were a top priority with hand-washing lessons on the TV and waterless sanitizing stations greeting you at every restaurant. It paid off¡K none of us got at all sick.
We rarely chose a cruise by its itinerary. It¡¦s the calendar that dictates our choice. But we were pleased with the two US ports on this cruise¡K Port Canaveral and Miami. The tour options at both were phenomenal. Nassau was nothing new to us (and only a 6 hour stop). NCL¡¦s ¡§private island¡¨ Great Stirrup Cay was nice, but far too small for our mob. The biggest surprise was our first and last days, leaving and returning to NYC, sailing along the East Coast. I was fearful of gale winds and blizzards, but it was sunny, calm and in the 50¡¦s.
The stage shows were spectacular, especially ¡§Bollywood¡¨, one of the most creative such shows I¡¦ve ever seen at sea. The ship¡¦s big band was excellent as was the magician / comedian. But celebrity comedian Jimmy (Dyn-o-mite) ¡§JJ¡¨ Walker was just awful¡K not funny and on stage three nights! I¡¦d have much rather seen some newcomer than witness this has-been! Another plus¡K a big movie theater showing almost first-run titles (repeated the next few days on the in-cabin TV system).
A negative¡K NCL charges $3.95 for daily ¡§newspapers¡¨ (photocopied satellite versions of the NY Times, Wall St. Journal, etc.) which other cruise lines disperse for free. And the TV only offers CNN, TNT and ESPN. Why no local channels while in port???
NEW YEARS EVE
Here, NCL scored big points. Admittedly, they were hawking their own champagne all evening. But there were free glasses of bubbly for all to toast in the new year at midnight as well as hats, noise makers, streamers and little glow-sticks. The mob scene around the pool on the top deck was festive, unlike on Carnival last year where it was filled with over-boozed, under-aged teens¡K a bit scary for my daughter. The scene in the Spinnaker Lounge was even more civilized thanks to the big band and a definitely more adult crowd.
This is easily the worst part of any cruise¡K the mad crush to get off the ship. But here again, NCL¡¦s ¡§Freestyle Cruising¡¨ scored major points. While we arrived on time at 8 am at the dock in NYC, there was no mandate that we had to vacate our cabins and sit in the public rooms as on every other cruise line. So, we enjoyed a leisurely sit-down breakfast in the Venetian restaurant and lolled in our cabin for another 90 minutes before our ¡§color¡¨ was called. We strolled off the ship about noon, found our bags, cleared Customs and were in our car driving home in about 15 minutes¡K amazing!
WORDS OF ADVICE
"X As soon as you¡¦re on board, book dinner reservations at the specialty restaurants. They accept reservations 48 hours in advance (ie on Tues. you can book for that night and Wed.), so book early for the best times.
"X If you don¡¦t have a reservation, eat early (by 6 pm) or late (after 8:30 pm) and you¡¦ll never have to wait.
"X Get a soda card (actually a sticker on your key-card). It¡¦s $28.75 for the week, but worth it if you drink a lot of soda.
"X Bring your own soap. The cabins only offer liquid soap and shampoo.
If anyone has any specific questions, I¡¦m happy to answer them as best I can. Others¡¦ comments have been most helpful in the past, so I¡¦m happy to reciprocate. Just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
This was our third cruise in three years. First being Celebrity Infinity, November 2001, Carnival Imagination, August 2002 (with three young adults in tow) and now the Norwegian Dawn November 2003. We went with friends that were also celebrating a 27th wedding anniversary.
Getting to the pier was great from Connecticut. We certainly enjoyed not having to deal with an airline and hoping there would be no problems. We had received a phone call that the ship was boarding at 12 and leaving at 4. That was not the truth. We arrived at the pier at 11:30 to find that we were herded to a staging area. The best place to be is the upper seating area - they let those people aboard first. We did not start boarding until 1:30. The process was quick and before we knew it we were at our cabin with balony. It was a great room though smaller than the Infinity cabin with balcony. Our friends were in the next cabin and the cabin steward was able to open the door inbetween the two balconies so we had a much larger space to enjoy theview.
We quickly unpacked and went to find the buffet lunch in the Garden Cafe. Food was good after not eating since breakfast. The ship finally left at 5 and we braved the cold to see the Statue of Liberty. We tried the Impressions Dining Room and found it very intimate and attractive. The show was the typical ship show and was very entertaining.
by Monday afternoon it was warm enough to wear shorts outside. We explored the ship and decided that we would try some of the cover charge restaurants.
Our idea of a cruise vacation is to relax! Well we tried but there was always something we wanted to do! My husband got lucky in the casino the first night and walked out a winner. I must say that I found the slots paid out much better than the other cruise ships. My only complaint is how many people smoke. The casino was the only spot I found that there was not one area that was smoke free. Even if you stayed 5 minutes your clothes came out reeking of the fumes.
Our day at Port Canaveral we spent at the Kennedy Space Center. I thought 7 hours was going to be long enough - not! We still missed several of the major exhibits in the front of the center due to all the imax stuff and presentations we went to.
Next day we did the Everglades Boat Ride. Great seeing alligators right next to you looking hungry!
The Dawn is a beautiful ship - our cabin was always cleaned up and we certainly loved seeing what towel animal we would walk in to see in the evening. Our cabin had been decorated for my birthday by my kids our 2nd day out. A delicious cake was provided from the kitchen.
Our destinations got changed the next day - we went to Nassau instead of the private island. We took a taxi to the Atlantis. My advice - do not do the aquarium tour unless you want to hear a sales pitch on the hotel. Go to the lower floor and see the fish tanks yourself and save yourself $25.00. My husband opted out of the tour and stayed in the great casino that they had there. He saw a fellow cruise passenger win $4,000. Took a walk to Cabbage Beach but did not stay because we knew we had a beach day the next day. We ate at Le Bistro that evening - great service and food. It was certainly worth the $12.50.
Well, so much for the beach the next day - the winds were so bad they could not get the tenders to the island. We ended up with another day at sea. Once the announcment was made I went and claimed a lounge chair for the day. I must say that even on the days at sea on the Imagination there were enough chairs. It did not appear that way on the Dawn. That night was the lobster night - we ate in the Venetian Room where we had been going for breakfast most days. The seas were rough that day and once I got a whiff of the lobster I could not even stomach my grilled chicken. I was the only non fish eater of the group. That is one thing we thought - they offer alot of fish on the menu for dinner. The freestyle dining is nice but I really do like meeting people from around the country/world.
Another thing we noticed is the way that rules are broken on the ship. If it says "no children in the first three rows of the theater" what do we see? Children in those rows and no one correcting the situation. If it says "18 years old to participate in games" what do we see? 10 year olds playing the games. No consistency. I have yet to figure out how parents get their children out of school for these vacations. Another thing is the people walking around the ship with lite cigarettes - even after many notices in the newspaper every morning I always saw someone not obeying the request. Also, who would bring a newborn/toddler? I know they offer the kids clubs but I would be a nervous wreck with a toddler running around the decks.
Saturday was another day at sea and we enjoyed the outdoors as much as we could. You could tell we were going north - by later afternoon it was very brisk outside. Our last night on board and we ate at Salsas - it was fantastic and no cover charge! As far as I was concerned the meal was the best I had all week. The portions were ample and probably should have been split. My husband is still talking about the fajitas. A nice restaurant with impeccable service. It was great having the music group play in the lobby during our dinner.
Our dembarkation wasn't as bad as previous cruises since we got to stay in the cabins and wait for the announcements. What annoys us is the non US citizens that know they have to go the upper lounge to visit Customs/Immigration. They know what they have to do but procrastinate. Also the folks that don't clear up their ship accounts. That is what adds additional time to getting off the ship.
I would certainly do the Dawn again but perhaps a longer trip to get to a much warmer climate. The advantage of leaving out of NYC is fantastic. All in all I would recommend this ship to anyone and can't wait to start planning our next trip aboard a ship!
George and Linda, early 50's late 40's, forty plus cruises since first cruise in 1984. Multiple lines including NCL, Celebrity, RCL, Royal Viking, and Carnival. Obviously we are cruisaholics and have been since our honeymoon cruise on board The NCL Skyward. The smallest ship sailed would be the Skyward, 16,000 tons, the largest the RCL Voyager at 140,000 plus tons.
Staff friendliness and performance Ship Design and appearance Entertainment Aqua Restaurant-all Female staff Embarkation Room Service Disembark day room service
NOT SO GOOD Disembarkation Overall Cabin design-narrow Deck 11 Cabins under pool area and Buffet Bar Service hawking T-shirts
Having sailed Carnival Legend from NY in June we were not looking forward to an easy time. Through the years we sailed from NY piers to Bermuda every year for many years in October. It was always a great experience, minimal lines, easy on easy off. This past year numerous ships have started sailing from NY on varied itineraries. In New York City space is always at a premium and crowds place you into a hurry up and wait situation easily. This was the case with the Legend sailing where that embarkation tookan hour and a half of line waiting.
We arrived at the pier later than we normally have on the past and found it just as busy as when we had arrived early in June. The initial line for embarkation of the Dawn was longer than it had been for the Legend previously so we took our place with a groan. That was the last grown we had to make. We were surprised that the line moved rapidly being well controlled by staff at the pier. The initial lines are to pass through metal detectors and x-ray equipment. though there appeared to be only two machines the lines through them proceeded quickly aided by staff walking the line and explaining that all cell phones, keys and such would be better placed into your carry on bag to be x-rayed. This eliminated all the pocket emptying and retrieving of small items. It was amazing how such a simple procedural change worked to speed up the process. As we proceeded in that line other staff were checking on Bahamas registration cards that we all get with our documents and the prudent complete at home in comfort at the dining table long before arriving. Of course there are always those that for whatever reason decide not to or miss the fact that there are things that are best done at home, not in line. Those people were advised to complete there cards as we progressed. I've seen that before but the key here was that between the security check point and the check in desks more staff were actually checking that the forms were complete. Where they were not the people were politely moved to the side to do so while those that had completed cards continued on. Instead of waiting in line behind the unprepared as so often happens, the unprepared were stopped and the rest of us continued without uncalled for delay.
We started sailing NCL in 1984 and left the line when it declined through the years, a combination of unhappy staff and mishandling of passenger needs in our opinion. Things like $2 mandatory room service charges caused us to seek other alternative lines. Where NCL had a happy crew in during the 80's it had been replaced with a crew that for whatever reason had been simply abused or disillusioned by management decisions or handling. Nothing is more paramount to a happy cruise than a happy crew and staff! So although we had not sailed NCL in many a year we were still Latitudes ( the cruise line past passenger club ) members. Upon reaching the check in area we found that Latitudes members were afforded a separate check in area which was heavily manned. The none Latitudes area also seemed to be well staffed. We were processed almost immediately and very efficiently, documents checked and credit card account established, even security photo taken. The desk receptionist had a small computer camera right there at desk instead of making us endure yet another line. We were then advised to proceed to another desk where our room keys / boarding passes would be awaiting, being made while we were standing at reception. So after having arrived and seen one very long line we were happily standing and getting our embarkation photo being taken.
Next through to the gangway area where our boarding pass was quickly looked at by security staff and depending on where our cabin was located directed to a forward or amidships gangway. Another plus eliminating one long line to board and quickly bringing you closer to your cabin and first drink! Walking to the forward gangway we once again had to present our boarding card which was entered into a computer. There we encountered the one glitch upon embarkation. A system glitch was apparently occurring and our boarding passes / cabin keys were not properly programmed. Again a secondary system had been thoughtfully put into place so instead of the line grinding to a halt we were simply told to go directly to registration desk where our cards would be reprogrammed. We were advised that they would not open our door if we went to the cabin directly. Off to the desk where the situation was corrected in two minutes, then off to the cabin. A quick embarkation considering the crowds and even glitch repairing well though out and planned for. I have no complaints and after the disaster that was Carnival embarkation I would have to describe Dawn's embarkation as wonderful!
A MAJOR thought on this cabin and others on the 11th floor is what is above you. Many of the 11th deck cabins are located under the pool and buffet areas. This means during day you clearly can hear tables and chairs sliding across the upper deck. At night and well up to midnight the band played on. The bass rocked the cabin until end of deck parties held during the cruise. I could live with it but anyone looking for peace and quiet will not be a happy camper and should think a lower deck or spending some real time examining a deck plan to see what is above you.
We were in Cabin 11570, AF Mini-suite on Deck 11. It is a misnomer that most cruise lines are guilty of now, calling Deluxe Outside Cabins SUITES, whether mini or otherwise. In this case I already knew exactly what I was booking having toured the ship and taken cabin photos including the one we happened to book. Don't get me wrong, the cabin is more than adequate, I just get perturbed at lines calling CABINS, SUITES, when they are far from any exceptional accommodation. This is also more annoying considering that they come with very limited additional service or amenity that mike justify calling an accommodation a suite. On this ship most cabin square footage is obtained via length from hall to hull, in other words many cabins are narrow and long instead of being squared. So although you may have the square footage noted it doesn't necessarily make for a roomy feeling cabin space. This cabin is more than suitable for two people, couple of kids too if you are ready to stumble around a lot. Storage space is more than sufficient though more open shelve is provided versus drawer space. There is a good sized closet with five open shelves on the side and twenty hangars. There also two drawers, actually half drawers in the entranceway. A safe is provided where you assign your own four digit code for locking and unlocking. There is additional space in the safe are for storage. A refrigerator is also in the cabin. It appears that this was initially to be used as a minibar but instead was an empty refrigerator which was nice to have to keep bottle of wine we brought cold. We also received a bottle of white wine from NCL, a suite amenity. Fresh fruit was also provided a couple of times during the cruise.. You will also find a basket of goodies like mm's Dorito's, peanuts, and such. Before you start munching take note, they are NOT complimentary. The tiny kids lunch type bag of Dorito's will cost you $1.50, the fruit and oatmeal bar $2.00. If you are traveling with kids you may want to grab that quick and out it out of sight, maybe bring similar snacks for the cabin with you. The little basket of odds and ends would cost you about $30 if the kids were allowed to munch away. You could provide the same stuff for under $10. Bottled water is also in the room, no, not complimentary. Both Evian and Pellegrino are available at $3 a bottle.
The bathroom is roomy and contains a bathtub/shower combo, another suite amenity. In the hall entrance there is a long table that serves as a cosmetic area and a hairdryer is provided. Although it is a handheld it is the first hairdryer I have seen a ship that is comparable and powerful enough to really be used by most woman. I even included a diffuser attachment. Shower gel and shampoo is provided in mounted dispensers within the shower area. Liquid soap is also provide by the sink in another dispenser. We prefer our own bar soap but had forgotten them this trip. We were surprised to find that no soap was sold in the shops onboard. Robes were provided for use during the cruise, I believe in all cabins with a slightly more plush robe in suites. They are, of course, for sale if you like them.
The balcony was good sized and entered via a sliding door which is preferable to the regular door type on many of the ships. There were two comfortable chairs and a plastic table for furniture. The chairs recline but are not full lounges. On a recent sailing of the Carnival Legend the chairs were plastic and you needed a towel just to sit on them. A phone and small TV were also in the room. Dawn is a very hi-tech ship so it was surprising to see that the TV did not offer one of those computer systems that allows for room service ordering or account checking, it was merely a TV. Frankly I kind of liked that fact. You also have a hot water pot and instant coffee and tea on dining table. A small couch ( which I presume opens to provide a bed for the kids ) is located by the balcony doors.
I presume since mini-suite category, complimentary bottle of white wine was in room, fresh flowers and fruit were placed in room a couple of times during cruise.
The bed was very comfortable and two large sided suitcases fit under them without a problem. Four very good pillows were also provided. Nightstands were located on either side but do not have drawers, merely a four sided open space under the table top. All in all the cabin was very nice, albeit not what I would call a suite. So whether it is worth selecting is really based upon how much more it costs versus a normal outside cabin.
Dining on the Dawn is FREESTYLE, a slogan coined by NCL I believe. Basically meaning that you are not assigned either a dining room or a dining time during the cruise. I will admit that I did not believe that I would be at all happy about freestyle cruising as I enjoy meeting and getting to know my tablemates for the week. I will say that I did come to feel that there are definite pluses to freestyle cruising and does present an interesting alternative to what has been the norm of cruise dining. The most obvious plus is in the area of scheduling, and feeling un-pressed to be ready and at a certain table. Another plus is that each restaurant provides a varied atmosphere. Decor is varied between dining rooms but in our favorite, the Aqua, all wait staff are female as were the Matri-d's. The evening menu is the same in each. In addition there are several other restaurants to choose from that require reservations for most part and have ADDITIONAL cover charges or ala-carte pricing. We did not try any of those simply because it goes against my grain to pay additional for any dining on a cruise.
Food was generally very good in dining room, selection was okay although it seemed to me that little was offered in the steak category. Being that Cagneys additional charge steakhouse restaurant is highly touted I am suspicious that they are quietly trying to force steak lovers to go there for a real steak dinner. Never the less I had no problem finding something to enjoy on the menu most evenings.
There are three main restaurants that all serve the same menu and very simply in location and style of decor. We initially went to Aqua and then tried the Venetian one evening. The Venetian appears to be the largest and we found that the Aqua's smaller venue and atmosphere was more to our liking. The Impressions generally had a 25 minute wait and we simply never bothered waiting for it since we were more than happy with Aqua. We did take a look at Impressions one afternoon and other than it being based on art type decor found that we didn't think there was anything worth waiting for. The Aqua features and entirely female staff and they were simply wonderful. The Venetian felt like a normal large dining room found on most ships so again the Aqua seemed more suited to freestyle dining to us. There was also seldom a wait although they did a brisk business it also seated quite a few diners. It was also less noisy than the Venetian. The one evening we did have to wait 20 minutes the Aqua staff came out and served us champagne while we were waiting. This was the night that they have staff appear at the show, waiters, stewards and so forth, hence a portion of staff were there instead of working which is what I believed caused the lines at dinner. For the most part though we were always seated quickly no matter what time we decided to dine. A big plus for me is that you can order cappuchino with dessert at no additional charge !
The Garden Buffet area was adequate for the most part and food was varied and plentiful and seating available enough under most circumstances. Drink stations were also provided offering iced tea, water, coffee, tea, and even hot chocolate. There is a vegetarian section, regular section, and deli section. Food is also available in a little nook downstairs called the Blue Lagoon located on deck 7. This is a small 24 hour a day food are that features hamburgers, chili, fast wok type dishes. It's small and has table service, food is cooked when ordered. The Bimini Bar and Grill is located on Deck 14 and also offers hamburgers and assorted items like steak kabobs and such. A bit of a climb from the pool deck but worth it if you are looking for a spot to have a beer and some snack food.
Saved the best for last, the poolside barbecue! At lunchtime you will find several very large charcoal grills going by the pool and heaped with ribs, burgers, sausages and the like. The ribs are great and plentiful and barbecue sauce nice and tasty. Couple that with a helmet of beer ( think it is $16 for a plastic helmet with 5 or 6 beers and ice ) and many of us will feel we have found Heaven. Pizza is also found at the Garden Cafe and is very good for ship pizza. Food is not a problem on this ship.
The added charge restaurants appeared to be doing a decent business each night but as I stated we never went to one. It's not that I am cheap, it's just that I am against added charge restaurants on ship so won't use them. My concern is that if supported they will eventually become the norm rather than the exception and cruising will continue to take one more step towards being little more than a land vacation that floats.
The excellent Cruise Director, Greg Cleson, stated early in the voyage that the Dawn had been awarded some such award for best entertainment at sea or some such. Yeah okay I said to myself, ain't they all. Well I must say that the Dawn did have the best and most varied entertainment that I have seen onboard ship. They had a comedian, magician, and the standard singer and dancers that were anything but standard. I often don't bother going to the shows that feature just the dance company since to me it becomes just the same act in different costumes after a while. Well not these shows since the dance company also features acrobatic stars and some unusual effects. The shows were definitely of higher quality than most of the show companies. The poolside and lounge band the Ironics were very good although it takes a little getting used to seeing three tiny Asian young ladies singing everything from rock and roll to country western. But as I said, they were very good. There are various lounges operating in the evening featuring varied entertainment from karaoke to piano bar. You will not lack for something to do. The ship board standards like Liars Club and Newly Wed game type shows are also scheduled throughout. The Cruise Director is a very funny and personable guy who tells you that he worked for Citi Bank until he was 30 when he suddenly found himself on an operating table having open heart surgery. When he recovered he decided that life was short and he intended to enjoy what is left of it and he does. He is leaving for the NCL Star and Hawaii soon and hopefully the next CD will be as good.
ITINERARY and EXCURSIONS
This cruise is extremely unusual in that the main ports of call are U.S. mainland ports in Florida, Port Canaveral, and Miami. That was fine with us since we cruise a lot and have seen enough over crowded Caribbean ports filled with T-shirt shops. Although we don't usually book ship excursions because we find them more expensive than simply doing it yourself we decided that due to the distance of the ports from activities it might be prudent to do so this trip. We selected the Universal Tour in Orlando as one and the Everglades tour in Miami.
The Universal Studios Tour was $85 pp and included transportation and entrance to either of the two Universal parks which are side by side. One park is more roller coaster type rides and the other more studio ride oriented. We choose the regular park. Frankly I was not impressed with Universal. The ship offers EXPRESS entry to rides for a considerable additional charge which we did not take as the lines were not a big problem this time of year. Most had waits in the area of 15 to 20 minutes with exception of Shrek which was 45 minutes. JAWS was closed for maintenance which I am sure was a disappointment for many. Tour was scheduled to meet on shore at 9 am but disembark didn't actually even start until about 9:45 and there was a long line to get off the ship by then. The bus ride to the park is about an hour so we didn't get to park until about 11 am. The buses are scheduled to start loading for return at 5:30 and leave at 6 pm be on them or miss the ship. We were ready to go at 4:30 having seen enough. With the exception of 5 or 6 " rides " the entire park was mostly places to eat or shop. The rides were mostly 5 or 10 minutes in duration and less than awesome in my opinion. The only one I truly enjoyed and thought was darn good was EarthQuake. Having to do it again I think I would choose the shuttle to Disney or Epcot, or possibly the Space Center.
In Miami we took the everglades tour, again about an hour drive but this tour we enjoyed, it was something like $45 pp. Here you are put onboard a large 40 or so passenger airboat and taken out into the glades by an informative guide. You hopefully get to see some alligators which we did and learn than the glades are actually a very slow moving river which supplies much of Florida's water. After the boat ride there is a show/talk featuring some alligators and birds and even a panther, extremely interesting and believe me I am not usually all that interested in such things but this was worth it. Finally you get some time at the gift shop ( nothing that apparently interested any of us ) and snack bar where you can get gator nuggets. Like chicken McNuggets made from alligator meat. Yes we had some, I mean you just have to try them don't you. A small basket of them and a bottle of water were $9 but hey, when you going to get a chance to eat alligator again?
For the ladies! When you get to Universal Studios there are nice large enough restrooms near where you exit the buses. When you get to the everglades, ladies, be first off the bus and move fast!!! We arrived in four large buses after an hour's ride, about 160 people at least half of which were ladies. There are THREE stalls for women in the only ladies room there. Enough said!!!
There is only one formal evening on this 7 day cruise, a departure from the normal two on most 7 day cruises. The formal night was the second evening, in this case Monday. Formal night is described as " optional " and the Garden cafe turns into La Trattoria restaurant in the evening to serve those that do not wish to dress formal. Here the term " formal " varies. Knowing in advance that the level of dress was less formal than on standard cruises I didn't even bring a suit, instead a sports jacket and tie. This was more than okay for regular restaurants on formal night. The rest of the evenings were casual dress, nice slacks and shirts were all that were needed. The group that sailed this week, contrary to the group that sailed our Carnival cruise in June, were nicely, albeit casually, dressed all week. There were no tank tops or shorts like we saw on the Legend cruise.
The Dawn has a nice Internet Cafe with numerous terminals. The also offer a wireless connection to your laptop if so equipped. Block minutes can be purchased, 100 minutes for $55 or 250 minutes for $100. I used my own laptop with wireless and found that it was the same system used on Carnival Legend. It seemed to operate much slower on the Dawn however. The Cafe Manager assured me that they were almost T1 speed, something I know it is not, more DSL speed. This was something like between dialup and DSL, adequate but annoying since the same system on Legend had been so much faster. They will rent you a lap top and wireless card but it is much too costly in my opinion, in area of $33 a day with insurance.
The nice thing about using your own laptop is the ability to download your email, read and reply offline, and then upload your outgoing mail when using outlook express and other mail programs. This is a big saver on minutes used. The other advantage I found on this cruise was that the Internet Cafe is located above the Java Cafe area which is open to it. The wireless connection works fine in the Java Cafe which allows you to have your Espresso and so forth while catching up on your mail. You can even smoke there on the port side if you are an evil smoker like myself. This was a big plus for me. They have great coffee and lattes etc and even some fancy desserts in Java Cafe located on reception atrium deck area. Yes you pay for the coffee and so forth but it is a great place to relax and watch the world go by. A good cup of coffee on a ship is something I am willing to pay for since the free coffee ( with exception of free cappuccino in dining room ) on board ships is generally pretty terrible instant from syrup. So a cup of REAL coffee is more than worth the price to me.
ODDS & ENDS
Passenger Mix - Nice mix of ages, seniors to families with infants. Was actually surprised that were there quite a few with kids on this cruise. I would guess that Florida Itinerary has a lot to do with that, a day in Orlando with kids and no driving or fuss. Also surprised that there were quite a few Europeans, mostly from Germany and Spain I would gather since announcements were being made in those languages as well as English. I noted quite a few Germans and I presume that NCL is marketing heavily in Europe for this cruise since it makes sense as a US itinerary is offered. Overall it was a very pleasant group of people.
Room Service - Excellent although always a 1/2 hour early.
Main Show Theatre ( Stardust ) - Unique is the word for design. The seats span three decks without separation of levels. Rather the rows start at top and simply continue all the way down with side entrances on each deck. This makes it one big theatre they describe as ( Traditional european opera house ambiance, reaching up three decks. ) The oddity is that the rows cannot be entered on the sides only from the middle walkways and seats are close so it makes for a lot of standing up to let people into and out of rows. Also makes drink passing a necessity when someone orders at start of show. Seats were comfortable although not a lot of space between or in front. At 6' 2" I found leg room almost intolerable in most rows. Another unique feature is that the air conditioning comes out of a vent in the seat in front of you. I noted tat most of the ladies took to bringing shawls and sweaters to the shows as it was pretty chilly before theatre filled up and show began, and being so close to the air flow can also make many uncomfortable without a coverup.
Cinema - Although FREE movies are show on the cabin TV and various times this ship also features a Movie Theatre like the older ships all used to have. I can not say enough about how much I enjoy being able to take in a movie in the theatre environment while lounging around at sea. It makes for a nice break in the day for me. I found the cinema did a nice attendance as well.
Nickle/Diming - As I refer to add on charges on ships now. MODERATE and less than I expected. No pay for movies on TV, as I mentioned low tech TV system no online gambling either, this is a PLUS.....Pictures, to be honest I couldn't find our embarkation photo which was the only one I wanted so I didn't even check photo cost. I did note a sign that said unlimited photo's $199 but honestly don't now if that referred to developing, ship photographer shots or what.
Ice cream was free on deck at middle of bar area. I saw cart with Haagen Daus ice cream bars also which I presume were an extra charge.
Most was typical, book of " bargain " coupons in your cabin most of which required purchases to get anything, FREE spin on special money wheel in Casino. I WON an NCL T-shirt, ALL I HAD TO DO WAS SPEND $50 in the gift shop for my FREE shirt. Sorry stuff like that only annoys me rather than make me feel like a winner.
The only thing I saw that I really considered a little tacky was when the deck bar servers suddenly appeared selling T-shirts passenger to passenger. For a minute I thought I was in some bar on a tacky strip somewhere with people running around with t-shirts draped over their arms making strong suggestions that I really needed one.
The Casino was nice but saw no big winners, there were some winners of course but appeared few and far between. There were quarter and nickel machines, many dollar machines, and more $5 machines than are usually seen on a ship. There was even a $25 machine which I have never seen in a ship casino. Table games and craps were also in the casino. The slots use the new coupon pay out system which means you can put money in and when you cash out the machine prints you a coupon. That in turn can be cashed at window or used in any other machine just like putting in money.
FREE Bingo game card in cabin, it is for one game, third game of course so you must sit there through regular games to play FREE game. Talking BINGO something new I never saw before, electronic bingo card boxes. Interesting concept for those that like to multiple cards. This consists of a black box that is electronically loaded with desired number of cards. You then enter each number as called into the box for that game and the box tells you if you BINGO by flashing BINGO and making a sound. For final Bingo I think you can get something like 150 cards loaded into the box. You can also, purchase the regular paper cards instead. It was also interesting that when a Bingo is called they punch up the number of the paper card and it appears on a screen up front verifying if it is a winner. Very Hi-tech for Bingo.
What a mess, but NY Piers fault not NCL's. Simply, NY Piers are not truly capable of handling all the traffic that occurs with 4 ships in. Couple that with an immigration problem with a passenger on the Dawn which necessitated us not being cleared until around 11:30 am. This meant that disembarkation had to deal with people arriving for early embarkation as well. Total chaos to say the least. Although we got off the ship fairly fast and were able to get our luggage and a porter almost immediately the hard part was getting the car from long term and into the line of traffic queing for drop off and pick ups. Figure with four large ships in, say 8000 people off and 8000 people on all lining up for the one two lane access area. Then if you know the pier area, the West Side Hwy starts backing up which just starts a domino effect all around the terminal streets. We didn't actually get to street level and on the Hwy until after 1 pm. Many people that had come to pick up passengers gave up and parked on the surrounding streets and walked over to the pier and started carrying luggage back to their cars. not a fun way to end a cruise for many I would think. ( Then of course there were two cars that broke down in the car line in front of terminal just to add to the mess. )
The good part of NCL disembarkation was that like Carnival, NCL continues room service on the disembarkation morning and also allows you to remain in your cabin until the ship clears and starts disembarkation. So we may have been delayed getting cleared and off but at least we were comfortable.
We sailed NCL again after so many years not really expecting to have great voyage and were pleasantly surprised that it goes down in our books as one of the best we've had in recent times. We were also not in the gang that favors FREESTYLE concept but decided to at least try it. Again we were surprised to find that it operated pretty well. The ability to set your own dinner time each evening is very convenient. My concern would be that when traveling with other couples that we would have to get into the where and what time discussions that I hate to have. I also miss meeting and getting to know regular tablemates, yet doing Freestyle is not a bad change at all. It certainly did not hurt service at all.
The key to a cruise line for me is that they have a happy staff and so far NCL's staff appear to love their jobs. It was a great friendly and helpful crew on board. I have no complaints and automatic tipping hasn't hurt the service on this ship as yet.
NCL today is a far different product from NCL of past years since it is really and Asian accent. With maybe an exception of an actual ship Officer here and there you would be hard pressed to find anything Norwegian to indicate that this is Norwegian Cruise Lines. It is owned by Asian Star lines so that is not surprising.
I also enjoyed the US itinerary, nice for a change instead of visiting this and that t-shirt shop, over crowded island.
The week we sailed the private island was a bust for most. The weather and sea's were perfect but people that went over to the island started returning very early the complaint being bugs and insects. Most said it was really miserable and we noted that NCL was selling bug repellant on the gangway to the tenders. Having been there before we elected to stay onboard and enjoy the pool area while it was quiet but it filled up by noon with returning passengers.
Since the Dawn is staying in NY year round, the only ship to do so, and also doing some 9 and 10 day Caribbean sailings, there is no doubt that we will be onboard her again in the coming months.
ACTUALLY SAILING END of NOVEMBER again!
I tried to cover as much as possible. If you have any specific questions feel free to email me. Please put dawn review or some such in subject area since I get so much junk mail nowadays I have a tendency to throw half of it away without opening it if I don't know the sender. I also have lot's of pictures if you want a photo of something I may or may not have it. I was lucky enough to tour the ship in December when she was in for her inaugural visit so most of my photo's are from then.
My boyfriend and I did the NCL bus ($50 p.p. roundtrip) from Baltimore to NYC. Easy, on time, nice motorcoach with restroom - plus it's $27 per night ($189 for the week)to park at the port in NYC. Embarkation was slow through security - long lines - but once to check in things went smoothly.
The ship is gorgeous inside! We had a balcony category BB cabin on Deck 9 aft (note that for best views throughout the cruise, get a cabin on the port side of the ship). The cabin was spacious - little refrigerator, TV, phone with voice mail, shower gel and shampoo, full size blow dryer, etc. Note that NCL does not provide robes (so I "borrowed" one from the spa for the week). Our cabin stewards were quiet and did a good job.
We ate at most of the specialty restaurants. Our favorite was Bamboo - both the sushi bar (try the spicy tuna roll) as well as the Teppanaki (Japanese Steak House). LeBistro was also wonderful and you dine with the Masters - original paintings by Renoir, Monet, Matisse, and Van Gogh - on loan fromthe Malaysian gentlemen who owns Star Cruises which is the parent company of NCL. We also ate in Venetian, Impressions, Aqua, and Cagney's Steakhouse - all were very good and we especially enjoyed the table side service in Cagney's.
Overall the dining was very good. Note we did not eat at the 24 hour diner. Room service was also good - our orders were always correct and it never took more than 15 minutes to receive our order. Freestyle is nice! We did dress for the formal nights - about 50% were dressed and alot of other weren't - your choice - we enjoy wearing our black tie garb - where else do you get to go black tie?? I also had my hair done in the salon by Tina - she did a great job and was a lovely girl.
Ports were good. We opted to stay on the ship in Port Canaveral and had a spa day. We purchased the Deluxe Romance Package in advance of the cruise - just $330 per couple for a whole list of items which would have cost $150 more if purchased separately (see your NCL brochure for details). The spa is wonderful!! Always quiet, no children, clean, and the services (massages/wraps) were excellent. The spa manager is from Ireland and she was wonderful - very friendly and helpful.
Great Stirrup Cay was nice - good beach day - the beach is actually small (this "island" is much smaller than RCCL's Labadee) so we really didn't have alot of choice other than to pack ourselves in like sardines. But, you can rent rafts, snorkel equipment, etc and we spent the day with new found friends (total of 8 of us) and had a great time.
Nassau is Nassau. We ended up heading to Sandals to check out the resort but did stop through the Straw Market. Nassau has a new cruise building that you have to walk through to enter/leave the pier - it's nice and a little easier than the metal barriers from the past.
We stayed on the ship in Miami (hangovers from the 70 and 80's Deck party the night before) but we have been to Miami several times so wasn't a big deal. We talked with folks that did the aquarium and really enjoyed it - the Miami aquarium is much smaller than Seaworld and you can get up close to teh animals. They also have a wonderful manatee rescue program that educates folks on the habitat and boater safety.
The onboard entertainment was superb!! I have been on 15 plus cruises over the last 6 years and by far NCL was the best! They have a contract (unlike other cruise lines) with the Jean Ann Ryan Company which provides wonderful entertainment - the South Beach and Bollywood shows were both wonderful. NCL is also the only cruise line with use of Andrew Lloyd Webber' music - great show and the couple that sang Phantom of the Opera were awesome - we were on our feet screaming when the singer did the opera portion at the end - she was superb! The deck parties were great too - we met alot of great people and had a very good time. The cruise director, Rich Clesen, was also good but he told us he was leaving for another ship.
Another highlight of the cruise was the piano music in Gatsbys outside of the Impressions Restaurant. A performer, Pamela Stanley, sang and played the piano - she was incredible!! We went every evening and if she's onboard when you cruise - ask her to play Popsicle Toes - great song. We also purchased her CD she was that good! Lovely lady with lots of talent!
We particularly enjoyed the disembarkation process -with the Freestyle Cruising you can stay in your cabin until your color code is called. We got up, finished packing, went for a leisurely breakfast, then just waited in our cabin (watched a movie) until we were called about 11:00 a.m. (we were late off since we were on an NCL bus and didn't need to catch a flight, etc.). Bus ride back to Baltimore and we were home at 3:30 without the hassles of driving to or from NYC (or the parking costs!).
Word to the wise - don't have your film developed onboard - one roll of 35 mm double prints costs $20! Unlike Carnival where film developing is just $9 (and saves you the trip to WalMart when you get home) but $20 was just too much.
Also, bottled water is $3 so we take a couple of empty bottles and fill them in the spa/gym from the filtered water fountains - saves alot of money throughout the week.
We had nothing to complain about except the long line at security to board the ship. It was an excellent cruise and NCL has really cornered the market with Freestyle Cruising. We enjoyed this cruise immensely and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it!
1st time I've been on a cruise and I came away with some good and some bad. Lets start with the positives : - This is a really nice ship, clean and kept - You will never be bored, so many activities going on - You will never be hungry, 3 main restaurants(all same menu) 3 speciality restaurants(need to pay extra) and 2 ethnic based restaurants(italian, mexican) a buffet, 24 hr free room service, and a diner like 24 hr place on board. - Service was always with a smile and they do what they can to please you. - very nice gym -You get to visit many areas on one trip
Negatives- -Port of Nassua was only from 7am -1:30pm! -Spent entire entire day on NCL's private island which was WAY too small for the amount of people. -Pool was too small -South Beach port could be skipped, there's not much there. In it's prime, maybe.. but the nightlife is what south beach is all about, but you leave at 4:30pm to get back on the ship! - Most of the food onboard is bland with exception to Salsa,and Bamboo(sushi bar)
We were a couple in our early 30's with another couple in the late 20's. We both came away with the same feelings on our 1st cruise on the Dawn.
I think the food was terrible.. it was very bland, and had no taste to it. On lobster night, the lobster did not have any taste. I thought it was just me, but the very next night I ordered lobster tails at a speciality restaurant.. it was the same thing!(Le Bistro) Only two places I would suggest - Salsa(pork ribs), and Bamboo sushi bar ( all you can eat for $10) Make sure you ask for a plate of spicy tuna rolls, it's amazing.
I thought room service food was better than the dinner they were serving most of the times at the speciality restaurants. The servers who brought the room service never seemed like they expected an extra tip, but I always gave them a few extra bucks.
Nassua is amazing, go to cabbage beach on paradise Island(not cable beach which is much further) It's a public beach, but feels like a private beach! There is a hotel about 100 yards away, we used their shower and bathrooms after we were done at cabbage beach, and went to the front of the hotel to catch a taxi back to the ship($10- for 2 people)
In Nassua, you can spend some nice quiet time on the beach, shop, eat, ...TOO BAD it's only from 7am -1:30pm!!!
Overall, It was a really relaxing trip, the shows onboard were excellent, food was so-so, but just remember.. you don't have to cook, or clean up and it's included in the price you already paid.
We had plenty of room in a semi-suite on floor 11, waters were a little rough on the way back, they give you free sea-sick tablets at the front desk if you ask.
Besides that, read the other reviews, they cover pretty much everything else. I would try another cruise next time because of the ports of call on the Dawn, I'm not too thrilled with the stops they currently have.
My fifteen year old daughter and I (her 40ish yo mom)just returned from the week long Bahamas/FL run. Weather was perfect which does lend itself to a nice holiday. Our embarkation was painless. We arrived by NCL bus at the pier at 3 pm and walked on the ship in minutes. I had met some other cruisers in a chat room and hustled to the Bimini Bar above the pool deck to meet them. It is great fun to do this since you have friends around every corner. There were about 23 of us who got together throughout the week.
I went to the excursion desk to buy a bus fare for Universal and then back to party on deck and see the Lady Liberty.
That night we ate in Impression with many others in our group. It was a great dining spot that I cannot wait to try again. That week I never did get to it for a second time. It is so popular it is hard to get in. I did eat in Aqua, La Trattoria, Venetian and Salsa for dinner (didn't really care for myQuesadilla) and all were quite good. Service is slower in the Venetian as you may have heard but it is the MAIn dining room and quite popular. Aqua has an all female staff and runs like a top! No reservations are given between 6:30 and 8:30 but they move everyone in and out with grace and speed! It is an amazing thing. In honor, we ate there twice for dinner and breakfast on the last morning. Otherwise, I think only Venetian is open for breakfast, usually. Besides the buffet, of course. Blue Lagoon will have muffins and croissants but I don't know about a real meal. Lunch is similar. Impressions and Aqua are not open. Blue Lagoon does serve lunch, Bimini Bar has burgers, dogs and chicken fingers. The pubs have the fish and chips (also avail. in Blue Laggoon, yummy)at different times. Then there is the BBQ on deck which was fired up at the sail away if you were late in getting on but the buffet stayed open late as well. So, the food was plentiful and very good, we thought.
Our cabin was an obstructed view on Deck 8, 8080. This deck is always my favorite. It is mid way up and down. Only a few floors from the pool and only two above the casino, perfect!!!
Everything is pretty much on Decks 7 and 12. The ship is huge and gorgeous. A week is nowhere near enough time to appreciate it if you get off at all the ports. I would be happier to stay on board but it seems I never do. Enjoy the promenade deck for walking and jogging though the treadmills inside are first rate quality. The spa pools, jacuzzi and steam/sauna are a rare treat. The teak chairs with floor to ceiling windows are nice to gaze at b4 drifting of on a nap. Oh, the sheer luxury of it all. But you can't be a whiner/complainer type or you'll be too busy looking for something to gripe about to take advantage of all the amenities.
The Stardust Theater is really awesome, the sound system is excellent, the entertainers quite good and the band and master superb. I skipped the Liars Club, Bazilionnaire, Not so Newlywed stuff cuz I've done that all b4 several times but people do love it. Then there's 70's night, several deck parties and other fun stuff. Don't miss the crew talent show and possibly the guest talent show as well.
As for excursions, the Orlando stuff is pricey when you add car or shuttle. We did Universal and it was okay. South Beach, people there are on drugs. The prices in these shops was a joke. $200 jeans, $39 for a polyester top. Sorry, I wasn't buyin' it.
I liked the private island day alot. Nassau is a short stop now. Been to Atlantis so just got some of the freebies and looked around. Then ala Fabian it poured.
Despite the ports we had a FABULOUS time and LOVE NCL.
Do everyone a favor and do what the staff tells you on Debarkation morning. Go eat, have a last look around, weigh yourself in the gym, peek in a few of the rooms you haven't seen and say goodbye, grab a muffin for the ride and then go to the line. It will save you alot of aggravation if you don't go with the expectaion of being first off the ship. Why do that anyway when you waited so eagerly to get on? Enjoy the Dawn, she's a beauty.
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
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.
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.