This was our first cruise with NCL and our first time to Bermuda. The first was aboard the HAL Amsterdam in 2010, the second on board the Celebrity Solstice in 2011. Both of those being ships just launched in 2008, so relatively brand new, and both being known as slightly more "upscale" cruise lines, the NCL Dawn had a lot to live up to.
My friend and I traveled together, both in our early 30's. I'll start by saying we cruise for pure relaxation, we're not out to run ourselves ragged seeing/doing everything. We chose this cruise because it left out of Boston and being from New Brunswick (Canada), it meant we could easily drive down and avoid the hassle of flying. It is only about a 7 1/2 hr drive for us, and on the way we split it into two days to accommodate some retail therapy along the way in Bangor/Freeport/Kittery.
The cruise left on Friday. We arrived around 12:30pm at the cruise terminal and were greeted by quite a long line. However it went smoothly and we were all checked in and on the ship within an hour. We did, of course, what everyone does, headed to begin a week-long constant meal at the buffet. Our stateroom was ready before 2pm so we headed there after our meal. We were fortunate to have an entire cruise of sunshine and warm temperatures. Here I'll break it down a bit:
We were in a balcony cabin on deck 9 on the port side, aft (9690). This, we knew, would be the smallest cabin we'd had by about 50 sq feet. We typically travel with three of us, but this year it was just two so the size didn't phase us. It was a comfortable size for two people. Plenty of storage for all of our things (could easily fit three people's belongings in, as we had plenty of room). The bathroom was well done, with good water pressure in the shower. Many before had commented on the beds being too hard, we both found them fine and never asked for a mattress topper. Ladies, the hairdryer is quite good in the stateroom, so you can leave yours at home without a worry.
Having traveled Celebrity and HAL, I have to say its hard to compare the food. What NCL specializes in is the more 'comfort food' options we found, which was great as we're not ones for a week of exotic eating. They had great burgers! Food is definitely always available, though between midnight and 5am if you order room service or go to the Blue Lagoon 24-hr restaurant there is a surcharge of 5.95 for food orders. They had the best selection of juices always available that we'd experienced yet, and the alcoholic drinks were great! We're not big drinkers but the mudslides and pina coladas were so tasty we indulged quite a few times. We ate at the Blue Lagoon, the Garden Cafe (the main buffet) and both main complimentary dining rooms (Aqua and the Venetian) - both were great.
This, by far, was our favorite part. Not having to be concerned about what time your dinner reservation was, or what you were going to wear to dinner or to a show in the evenings was a big, big plus. Yes, that means that in the evening not everyone looks like they're going out to a fancy restaurant, but it also creates a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere. If you want to dress up, you're welcome too, if you want to don your jean capris and a tank top to dinner, go right ahead. There were a lot of families on the ship, and the majority (someone said 70%) were from Mass. Everyone just seemed relaxed and happy.
I cannot even begin to describe how much I love Bermuda. It is a breathtaking place. We did the Aquarium, Caves and Highlights tour with Sam, our driver. The evening cruise to the Bermuda Triangle with Jason and James our captains, and the Bermuda Island Drive with Jimmy. All were great and perfect for our first time to the island. The island has a wonderful, easy to navigate and safe transportation system by both bus and ferry.
Our cruise director was Johnny Cash Sanchez from the Philippines and he was EXCELLENT! We took in the opening show (which we could have skipped, too much just singing) the Second City comedy show and the last show, Bollywood, in the Stardust theatre. We also took in Second City's two other shows in the Spinnaker Lounge and the Perfect Couple, Newlywed and Battle of the Sexes shows in Spinnaker. All were very enjoyable. Our primary goal was to relax, read and stare at the ocean and provided you arrived early enough in the day you could find somewhere to sit no problem. Spots in the shade are a premium. There is a nice quiet area on deck 13 forward for those that don't want the hussle and bussle of the pool area.
We have to say, we did not see our cabin steward much but that being said, the cabin was always done promptly and we always had what we needed. Staff were not quite as engaged and content as they had appeared on Celebrity or HAL, but still catered to everything you could need.
Smooth. We are non-US citizens so we had to gather in the Aqua restaurant to be cleared by US Border Protection at 7am. We chose to carry off our luggage and were off the ship and in the car driving home by 9:30am.
Overall, we were very pleased. We are looking to do the same cruise next year at the same time!