Just got back from our Easter vacation cruise on the Norwegian Dawn. We are a family of 4 and we've cruised Carnival Imagination (1997-7 night W. carib), Norwegian Crown (1998-7 night Bermuda), Sky Princess (2000-11 night Alaska), Carnival Victory (2003, 5 night Canada).In Sum -we had a very nice cruise vacation.
Embarkation- "C" Maybe we are spoiled or maybe it's because of Freestyle and the passengers getting off late- but we got to the pier at 11:45 am and we checked our bags with the porter and then got on a long line to board. Even though they said boarding will begin at 1pm- on all of our other cruises we got their an hour or 2 early and usually walked right on. Here it was about a half hour before boarding began and another half hour until we were on board. Not bad! But we've had it easier.
The Ship = "A" She is Big (91,000 GRT), classy, clean, and well maintained. We had a catagory C outside cabin (no balcony) on deck 8. I do wonder, however, how come there are no quad outside cabins with balcony? We had a choice of inside, outside or minisuite- but there are no outside cabins with balcony for a family of 4! cabin was on the small side (approximately 160 sq. ft) but well laid out. bathroom small but glass enclosures for toilet and shower was a plus! 10 restaurants! We ate at all except cagney's Steak house. fro what I've read on these boards the prices must have recently went up. cagney's is now $20pp, Le Bistro is $15pp and Bamboo/tappanyaki/ went up too.
The bars/lounges were well placed and had nice atmosphere. The show lounge was beautiful and although someone accurately stated there is no place to place your drink, it was probably the most beatiful cruise ship theater I've seen. Pool area was very nice and interestingly had a rather nice sized deep water main pool. Plenty of jacuzzi's as well. There was another small pool off the main pool and a kiddie pool in the rear of the ship with kiddie slide. Actually great Kids facilities on this ship. There was also an indoor lap pool in the spa.
Food = B+ Food selection, quality, and service was quite good in all the main restauants. Our favorite was Le Bistro. It had a wonderful upscale atmosphere, millions of dollars of original art work, great service, and excellent food. Salsa had good (but spicey)food, a great location right off the grand atrium, great window seats, (we saw a whale and many dolphins on the Saturday evening cruise home), and very gratious service. Tampanyaki is tricky. You cannot book any of the specialty restaurants maore than a day in advance and when we finally decided to book at 8:10 in the morning-the day before it was already booked. It appears all it takes is one big party and it's booked! It only holds 18 people and there are only 3 seatings (5;30,7:30, and 9;30). Our kids got to go to lunch (first come , first serve on Saturday). They loved it! Why not an "A"? garden cafe was way too crowded and crazy for my liking.
Service= B+ Cabin steward team was great! Rarely saw them and everything was always done and ready for us. main restaurants was attentive and well paced. (maybe a tad slow) The specialty restaurant service was Excellent.
The Cruise= B+ Embarkation took alittle over an hour but we were having luch at Venetian by 1:15 pm. We cruised out of Ny on time but it was a bit chilly. Ship was rockin and rollin all night long. Show was good!
Monday- was a big dissapointment and I was begining to question my decision to cruise from Ny rather than fly to Fla. and go from there. It was too cool and windy to be outside although there were some kids in the pools. So we stayed inside and played Bingo/ read books/played cards/ate and saw the show.
Tuesday- we docked at Port Canaveral- on time at 9am and it was a beautiful day- 80 and sunny.
We took the kids to Disney's Magic Kingdom. We originally had reserved a car but we didn't need it because friends from Fla were waiting for us as we got off the ship- drove about an hour to Disney and got into the Magic Kingdom about 10:45 am. It was very very crowded and we should have gone to Epcot or MGM which had smaller crowds. But we did use fastpass and got on Big Thunder, Spash Mountain, haunted mansion, Mickey's new Philamagic 3D attraction, ate lunch and finished up with Pirates of the carribean and Jungle cruise. We left about 5:30 pm to be sure not to miss the ship. Thanks to freestyle had a great dinner@ Aqua (which I could not do on a traditional cruise). Disney didn't cost us anything beacuse we had a day left on our tickets from our last Disney vacation.
Wednesday- Miami weather Sunny 80 and we booked the Fla. Everglades tour thru the ship. adults $49 and kids $38.I usually don't book tours thru the ship but this one was rather reasonably priced. Coach bus narator tour of miami on our way to the everglades. 45 minutes each way. The airboat ride was about an hour or so and there was an allagator show afterward. we got back to the ship alittle before 2pm. Swam in the pool and read on a chaise lounge the rest of the beautiful day. First problem! When we got back to our cabin we had a message on our bed which stated that because Friday was Good Friday and all of the stores on Nassau would be closed-they decided to switch the itinerary and go to Nassau on Thursday 8am-6pm and Great Stirrup cays on Friday-7am-2pm. Normally I would love this and in fact this was the itinerary when i originally booked this cruise a year ago. But now i have Comfort Suite/Atlantis reservations on Friday!!! not Thursday!!! I called the hotel from my cell phone but they had no availability on Thursday.I left a voice mail for the manager and tried to explain that I didn't even need a room- I just want to have full access to Atlantis and it's pools and slides and aquariums but to no avail. I finally went to ship's front desk and they were very nice and tried to call them as well but I still had no Thursday reservation and i lost my $200 for the Friday reservation because you had to cancel within 5 days. finally Rhia (reservation desk) allowed me to use their office to make phone calls to Comfort Suites and manager and I was able to switch the room reservation.
Thursday- Nassau Weather Sunny 85- We took a cab to Atlantis at $4pp (15 minute ride) and had a wonderful day at Atlantis as wellas a suite at Comfort Suites. We swam in their pools, used their many slides and toured their wonderful aquariums. Instead of a 7am- 2pm day we were at Atlantis from 9:30-5pm. Ate at le Bistro that evening
Friday- Weather sunny 85, We took a tender to the private island at about 10 am. We snorkelled (saw many fish), rented a mat ($5-all day) and a view board-a floating board with a small window to see fish below you ($10-for one hour). Although it looked like everyone was having a great time- we found the private island to be a bit crowded for our liking- but we had a good time anyway. Swam in the pool/read the rest of the afternoon.
Saturday Weather 70s and sunny/p cloudy- delightful ride home. Pool/reading/Bingo/Tappanyaki for lunch and salsa for dinner. At Salsa we had a window seating and saw a whale and many dolphins.What a BONUS!!!
Sunday NYC Ate breakfast at Venetian and went back to our room to wait to be called. We docked early but didn't clear customs till about 11 am. Got off the ship at about 12:15pm.
Overall- Weather made this trip a wonderful vacation. The Dawn was beautiful,clean, with 10 restaurants, very good food and very good service. from what We've experienced 1st hand (Carnival, Princess and NCL) and our readings on this board and from Frommers, Fodor, Berlitz and other books) this ship compares favorably with other new mainstream ships from CCL/RCI/ and Princess. I recommend her highly!
One observation of mine was that I liked Freestyle (but would also enjoy traditional) and I didnot see any difference in service level. Indeed all crew and staff were very professional and friendly. What was nice was not getting that xtra friendly staff (faux) chatter on tipping day.
A few nice things about NCL- We wrote a letter to NCL about a bad hurricane day on our last cruise and they gave us a complimentary anniversary package-which made this 2oth anniversary cruise very special. And The reservation desk was very nice and helpful in helping us with our change in itinerary at Nassau.
feel free to ask questions!