To gauge if my review is for you, you need to know a little about me. I'm a 30 year old Bostonian male who cruised with another fellow Cruise Critic member (philamike). I've taken several cruises over the years with many mass market lines including Celebrity, Princess, Royal Caribbean and one time even Carnival (ICK!!). Since 2009 I have sailed exclusively with Norwegian Cruise Line with this being my 14th cruise with them and second time sailing with Platinum Latitudes status. Overall this was my 24th cruise so as you can tell I am a seasoned cruiser.
How I prefer to write the rest of my review is in a journal format reviewing things in the order in which I experienced them with special headers for entertainment and specialty dining.
DAY 1: EMBARKATION -- BOSTON, MA
I arrived to Cruiseport Boston early (10:30AM) and upon arrival I discovered cruisers from the previous sailing were still disembarking. The porters were not busy and we quickly got rid of our luggage and headed up the escalators to the security checkpoint. There was no line to get through security and we were through in a flash! There was no line at the check-in counter for Platinum Latitudes and before I knew it, we had keycards and a number for boarding.
Cruiseport Boston underwent a multi-million dollar refurbishment and basically changed the entire process and look of the building since the first time I cruised out of Boston in 2008. The entire system flows with ease. For cruisers waiting in the terminal, it's not the white walls as it was before but rather more vibrant and colorful with natural sunlight and tons of nostalgic ocean liner pictures on the walls. I was very impressed with the new look of the terminal. I skipped cruising from Boston in 2011 so this was the first time I got to see the completely renovated terminal. It was still under construction in 2010. Very nice job Cruiseport Boston!
After meeting up with a shore-side friend at Cruiseport Boston, it was time to begin the embarkation process with the embarkation photo and next thing we knew, we were onboard and dining in the Venetian Restaurant for embarkation lunch. The lunch menu didn't change from the January cruise so I had my typical lunch fare of Vietnamese Spring Roll with that awesome sauce and my first of many New York strip steaks. It was all very tasty. During our lunch service we inquired about some crew members from January who may or may not still be there. To our surprise Michael from the Philippines was still onboard and stopped by. He let us know some of our other favorite wait staff was still there. Most of them were assigned to Aqua Restaurant.
OCEAN VIEW CABIN: Stateroom 5630
After lunch cabins were already available for occupancy. They were ready just after 1PM which is earlier than usual. We went down to the cabin and began unpacking. Here we met our very nice cabin steward Owen and he delivered our bags shortly thereafter. The cabin was in great overall shape. Everything was neat and clean with the bed split into a twin configuration. The only bad thing was a bathroom door that failed to close easily unless you slammed it. This was more problematic at night then during the day but nothing to scream about. We were completely unpacked and in vacation mode before muster drill which was at 3:15PM! Now that's a way to start things off!
Our muster station was in Aqua Restaurant and even though I was on an 11 day in January 2012 on the Dawn I had never once set foot in the restaurant! The decor was very white and very well... ugly in comparison to all other dining venues on the ship. I am very happy this is the true FreeStyle dining room where if you don't want to dress in anything particular, you don't have to. I stuck with Venetian like January where the decor is MUCH MUCH better and dressed in resort casual attire like always. It was disappointing since our favorite teams were in Aqua except when they had a lunch rotation in Venetian.
After muster drill it was time to go topside and get the party started! Bought my first drink of the cruise in an NCL signature plastic hurricane glass and waited for the ship to leave. We left later than 4PM but that gave us time to take in the dance number from the dancers onboard at the party. Finally we left and for the first time I can say I didn't freeze while leaving Boston. It wasn't cool or cold but nice and HOT and a perfect sail away! We also got to meet up with the ship's resident DJ Keith Armian who is one of the better NCL resident DJs. We also got to meet the Celebrity DJ Suga Ray (NYC). So far things in the music department were off to a great start!
SPECIALTY DINING: Le Bistro Restaurant
In early August 2012 NCL introduced a book ahead dining package for their specialty restaurants. If you booked Le Bistro (French), Cagney's Steakhouse & La Cuccina (Italian) then you would save $8 per person on the cover charge. We took advantage of this and started with a 7PM reservation at Le Bistro.
I had the escargot and the French onion soup along with the lamb. All were very good dishes. I had the lamb which was cooked to order and nice and tender. For dessert I had the crÃ¨me brule. We also took advantage of NCL's Facebook Fan special offer with a free bottle of wine if you dined in a specialty restaurant on embarkation night! It was a nice way to start off the cruise and it was great service provided by Pamela Estipona and Emilio Andrews.
We skipped tonight's featured Stardust entertainment which was a variety show of the acts coming up in the cruise and instead sat at the Star Bar to meet others on our sailing and take in the sounds of the pianist. It was a great little gathering and lots of folks showed up!
Next, it was off to the Spinnakers Lounge for the first of many nights this cruise to catch the tail end of Southside performing the Dawn Breakaway Dance Party and then DJ Suga Ray took over. It was here we were finally able to meet up with my crew friend who I've sailed with many times before. It was so nice to see her again and be able to hang out. A great night in the disco between DJ Suga Ray but an early rise prevented us from staying for DJ Keith's session.
DAY 2: SEA DAY
After our 8:30AM wake up call by room service and a very brief CODE BRAVO in laundry, it was off to the Cruise Critic Meet & Greet at 10:30AM. It was attended by all senior management who were kind enough to provide our group with complimentary pastries, coffee and some juice. Captain Paul also stopped by as well to give us an update on the laundry area and Leslie, a Tropical Storm threatening our trip. All was well and then it was off to a Cruise Critic organized Poker Cabin Crawl! Featured in our trip was an interior, balcony, mini-suite and aft-penthouse suite and culminating in the Owner's Suite forward on Deck 10. It was a great way to see other accommodations onboard the vessel and what I could do with my money if I crOuise less (and that's not going to happen)!!
The afternoon was relaxing after a small buffet lunch. I went up on the pool deck in the Quiet Zone forward and sunned for the afternoon before coming back for dinner at Venetian Restaurant. Tonight I had two signature appetizers including the Spring Roll and the Tortilla Crisp (aka Quesadilla) along with some main dish I can't remember. It was all good though and then it was off to the early show.
STARDUST SHOWTME: Band on the Run!
As mentioned previously I did an 11 day on this ship in January 2012 and since then they had changed the production cast. This show features 70's club hits with live band music. I can say this new production cast had great choreography this time compared to January and were spot on with each other but the singers; especially the male lead one with blond hair (Trent?) was so horrible and murdered most of the songs! I wanted this man to stop singing and let the other guy do it but it never happened. One of the two female vocalists was also off on their singing but Trent took the cake. The good part the dancing was back up to par though.
SPINNAKERS: Norwegians Night Out Party
DJ Keith spun the beats and it was a great night out at the club. We left before Suga Ray took over because the ship's clocks were springing ahead one hour. It was a great night out in Spinnakers!
DAY 3: NOW ARRIVING -- BERMUDA!
It was our intent to get up and watch the ship sail into Bermuda but that didn't happen. A look outside the window showed a tug boat and the coast line and we weren't moving! After having a leisurely lunch in Venetian where we re-united with Dewi (Aqua Restaurant Waitress) from January, it was time to go shore-side to take a tour of the Dockyard for Mike who had never been before.
After some shopping and seeing the Dockyard sites including the glass blowing demonstration at the Bermuda Glass Factory, it was time to head back on the ship for the show and dinner.
STARDUST SHOWTIME: Duo Volgyi
The opening act was a ballet number from Marsha and then it became a show of aerial artistry with silks and ropes. It was a great show and it wasn't going to be the only time during the cruise we got to see them as they appeared in Band on the Run and more so in Bollywood. Definitely worth checking out!
SPECIALTY DINING: Moderno Churriscaria
Located on Deck 8 opposite the Blue Lagoon, this lovely dining venue will satisfy any carnivore's appetite. Our seating was at 9:30PM and one of the last ones. After a small salad at their expansive salad bar, it was time to start the flow of meat by flipping the handy little card to green!
After sampling each of the meats, which for the most part were very tender, it was time to get some more! My roommate flipped to red. I kept going with more Filet Mignon and a few other meats and finally flipped to red. Mike was ready to fall asleep at that point! Dessert consisted of a papaya cream and a flan! This restaurant is amongst the options available to Platinum members instead of dining in Le Bistro (which we purchased before sailing as part of the new NCL dining package).
ATRIUM ENTERTAINMENT: Arvin & Emily
While dining at Moderno we were being serenaded by Arvin & Emily. It was a nice addition to the dining experience. This duo knew all sorts of songs from every genre from Broadway to Country, Pop to Rock 'N Roll. They were always a great time throughout the cruise but this night in particular we were able to catch them for more than just a few songs due to our length of dining at Moderno.
We dined so late into the evening that we missed the 70's Groove Party in Spinnakers and instead decided to grab a drink topside. The bartender was fantastic and I wish I caught his name but he was at Topsiders during the deck party with DJ Suga Ray. We moved down to Spinnakers to finish out the night with DJ Keith at the turntables! I stayed until the wee hours of the morning and grabbed breakfast at Blue Lagoon.
DAY 4: BERMUDA
During our sailing it was the US and Bermuda's Labor Day holiday. As such there were a lot of places that were closed to tourists but shopping and beach options. This day after a late rise and lunch in Venetian we went ashore to Horseshoe Bay Beach. A friend of ours from the ship showed us a more quiet area of that place and we went there and hung out for the afternoon. Great photo opportunities to be had and the waves were crazy due to the storms in the Atlantic. It was a great afternoon at the beach. Handy tip for new people traveling to Bermuda: Cab fare is $33 to Horseshoe Bay from the Dockyard in each direction.
Back onboard the vessel it was an early dinner at the Venetian Restaurant where Asheesh and the newly embarked Danielo from the photo gallery stopped by to take our pictures. This night will be memorable for the picture they took and how it all came about! LOL!
Having been to Bermuda three times before, there is a night for each cruise that is either in Hamilton or in the Dockyard. All the other times I've been to Bermuda it was cancelled due to bad weather. This trip it was actually held at the stage by Clocktower Mall and it was a great time. There were percussion (drum players) and Gombey dancers. The police were out to make sure there was peace and were also kind enough to pose for pictures! We stayed out and walked around to the vendor tents outside before heading back to the ship for...
STARDUST SHOWTIME: Extreme Vegas (Second Show)
We had missed their opening act in the Variety Show on embarkation night. We had heard their section was really good and to check it out. This duo did a fantastic job of entertaining with illusions, one of which is in the show ELEMENTS on the Norwegian Spirit. I can't really describe how great this show was and entertaining. I was happy I checked it out and I recommend you do as well!
After a quick wardrobe change and meeting up with some folks in Spinnakers it was time to get off the ship for a night of dancing shore-side! The crew party ashore has more energy to it then most nights in the disco onboard. I love the Bermuda overnights for this one night! Otherwise, the Dockyard is deadsville and the cab fare to Hamilton is INSANE! Great night ashore with so many memories!
DAY 5: BERMUDA
I continued partying until the wee hours of the morning. I didn't get back to the ship until sometime after 3AM and then went to Blue Lagoon for yet another breakfast of chicken tenders and fries before retiring. My roommate left the party earlier and got up early to head off to St. George's.
I stayed onboard for a little while longer until the crew muster drill began and the announcements were being made in the passenger cabins! Numerous announcements were made in the cabin to the point where I was so annoyed I called up guest relations and told them to knock it off already! If it was a crew drill then keep it in the crew areas and general public areas. I got an apology and sorry for the inconvenience but it was going to continue. Being wide awake I went shore-side to get away from the noise of it all and went to BUZZ at the Dockyard Pharmacy for my second green tea latte of the trip!
If you don't know where BUZZ is, ask for the Pharmacy in the Dockyard. It's the only pharmacy there and inside is this neat little coffee shop which is basically a Starbucks. They have Starbucks coffee and they make all the same drinks as Starbucks does. With some explanation they even make a Green Tea Latte which is charged the same as their chai lattes.
I watched the Enchantment of the Seas pull out before getting back on the ship since the announcements had stopped. I plunked down in the Quiet Zone on deck and slept a few hours. When I awakened it was just before the Starboard Promenade Deck & Pier-side Party!
This new party featuring music and housekeeping department folks dancing shore-side is a neat and fun way to welcome guests back onboard. Some guests would get involved in it and it made waiting for cast off a little easier. DJ Keith was spinning and the three male housekeepers seemed to make up their own dance for the new "Cruise Like a Norwegian" theme song which was played every half hour until 5PM when it all ended. There was a female housekeeper, who bless her heart for her age and still working on ships, was keeping up with the guys pretty well! I saw her later on in the cruise by chance and told her she was awesome!! What a great time!!
After a nice relaxing dinner again in Venetian, we went up to the Star Bar for more drinks with new friends made onboard before I retired for the evening. I was informed by some of these people when I described the Second City's usual routines in their main show that it still hadn't changed. Second City definitely needs new material, especially for repeat cruisers.
DAY 6: SEA DAY
It was nice to sleep in and have no interruptions this morning. A quick breakfast in Venetian lead to the Captain & Senior Officers Question and Answer session in the main atrium and then next thing you know it was time to go to the Latitudes past passenger party for all tier level members. It was at 1PM and Captain Paul came by to talk with us. We were also showed a video of Norwegian Breakaway, joining NCL's fleet next May 2013. Thereafter we returned to the cabin and relaxed for the duration of the afternoon until dinner time.
SPECIALTY RESTAURANT: Cagney's Steakhouse
I have dined in Cagney's several times over the years cruising with NCL. I truly miss their Porterhouse steak option. It was great for carnivores like me to have as a single dinner option. This trip I decided to try the ribeye after having appetizers of shrimp cocktail and New England clam chowder. The dinner was great overall and the service provided was great.
STARDUST SHOWTIME: The "V" Show
The Norwegian Dawn cast basically makes up their own show for this one-time only showing. It features dancers doing their numbers, aerialists and the singers. The blond haired singer got to be interesting in seeing just how well he could butcher any song he got his vocal chords on. I was so hoping for a good cast this cruise but this one guy who sang so much just stunk so badly! The other singers were great compared to his vocal abilities but it seemed they were hardly singing. I would pass if you see this guy with the ripped abs and bleached blond hair in the earlier Band on the Run performance.
STARDUST SHOWTIME: The Paul Scally Show -- LIVE Comedy (Adults Only Show)
This was my fourth cruise with Paul Scally as the Cruise Director. I met up with him several nights out at Spinnakers while he was in the back checking how things were going. He encouraged me to come and check out his new show this night and I did. It was a great time and all of his jokes were good. I would recommend this show as an alternative to the earlier "V" show.
SPINNAKERS: White Hot Party!!!!
A quick wardrobe change once more led me to the entry way of Norwegian Cruise Line's best party on the high seas! The dancers come out and do a number on the dance floor and the cruise staff have their angel wings on. Cruise passengers, including myself, really get into the act with their attire and it's just a great night of music and dancing and it goes ALL night long! DJ Suga Ray (NYC) kicked it off before the resident DJ Keith finished out the night in the wee hours of Thursday morning.
DAY 7: SEA DAY
The day actually started off right at midnight with the continuance of the White Hot Party and an early morning breakfast of Blue Lagoon chicken tenders and fries. The rest of this day I spent in my cabin until it was time for dinner! I wanted to relax and that is what I did. I ordered room service and watched some of the movies on their movie channels including "Ghost" and "Up." It was cloudy so it wasn't really good sunning weather. Relaxing in the cabin was a great alternative option.
SPECIALTY DINING: La Cuccina Restaurant (Italian)
Out of all the Norwegian cruises I've done, I have only eaten in this restaurant one other time. The decor of this restaurant is by far the second best on the Dawn (just behind that of Le Bistro). The food was nice and there were other options available besides just pasta and pizza like most Italian eateries state-side have. I tried the Risotto and it was fantastic. My dessert stole the show though as it was a flourless chocolate cake. For the price of this specialty restaurant, the decor and food alone make it a great value.
STARDUST SHOWTIME: Bollywood
This was the best performance by the new production cast. This premiere night of entertainment features more dancing, aerialists, acrobats than singing so it was by FAR the best show of the entire cruise. Furthermore, compared to January 2012's show, this new cast brought a lot of new items to the table making it far more engaging for the audience. I do give props to NCL for getting this show back to a level of somewhat equivalence to the show of the same title I saw originally back in 2003 with Jean Ann Ryan Productions. NCL Productions definitely stepped it up a notch for this show. "Jai Ho" the main song was butchered again by that singer but since he didn't sing much this production, the production was THAT much more enjoyable! Bravo NCL productions on this new edition of Bollywood.
Upon completion of the show was the premiere of the new Norwegian farewell song. I missed the Norwegian Way / Wave farewell but sometimes new things are good! The crew and staff came up to wish us farewell one last time and the Captain accepted flowers from a kid in the audience as he was signing off for vacation this Boston.
After the show, we headed upstairs to say goodbye to new found friends at the Star Bar. Our meeting time had changed this last night but we didn't care and arrived at the time we'd had all the rest of the cruise. The pianist this night seemed to be a little overpowering and it was unclear why but he finished up and we could actually continue talking without yelling.
It was time to go back and finish up packing before heading out to Spinnakers for the remainder of the night.
SPINNAKERS: The Second City Unplugged (Adults Only)
Most of this is show is improv and not sketch comedy so it can be sometimes more interesting. I went to get seats for the show after this one but it turned out to be an ok time.
SPINNAKERS: Adult Quest Game Show
Now this always provides for a fun time. I forewarn anyone to go and be a spectator but don't participate unless you are very open-minded. It's amazing what people will do for a grand prize of a free shot at the bar! This cruise didn't disappoint and we were joined by some crew friends and other friends made onboard before this concluded.
SPINNAKERS: Norwegians Farewell Party featuring DJ Keith
This disco was short and sweet. It lasted only 1.5 hours until the crew and passenger curfew at 2AM. Afterward, a few of us passengers popped over to Blue Lagoon for one last breakfast of chicken tenders and fries before retiring.
DAY 8: DISEMBARKATION -- BOSTON, MA
Woke up at 8AM and headed off to Venetian Restaurant for one last breakfast meal before clearing out of the cabin. NCL prefers you clear out of the cabin by 9AM and we happened to stay just a little longer than that. We decided to head up to the Star Bar and wait for the last call on disembarking the ship. I had a ride coming to get me at 11AM and my friend had to wait to check into his hotel so we stayed until the very end. Last call came at 10:15AM and we were off the ship shortly thereafter.
Cruiseport Boston simplified the disembarkation process by just having the collection of the US Customs Forms. Baggage claim was accessed by a new type of escalator walkway but instead of there being steps; it was just a slanted drop to the bottom floor. Coming down this moving walkway, our bags were the only ones left to pick up! It made fishing for them that much easier!!
FELLOW CRUISERS ON THIS SAILING:
I have sailed out of Boston four times with Norwegian. By and far this was this worst cruise behavior by fellow cruisers of any NCL cruises departing anywhere! Parents were not watching their kids on this sailing resulting in a wake up call in ALL passenger cabins at 4:30AM on Saturday morning looking for a 15 year old boy who later turned up in another passenger's cabin. Rumor had it the boy was in a cabin with women (plural). Furthermore, later on in the cruise yet more announcements were made during the daytime but in the cabin for a missing 7 year old girl. It was so bad even Paul Scally cracked jokes about the kids being sucked down the toilets for heaven sakes since so many went missing and weren't being watched closely by their parents.
Furthermore, guests who chose to be in the Star Bar at a certain time were either illiterate or were there to heckle and be a pain. You have so many other things to do on vacation then to stare people down and make other fellow cruise passengers uncomfortable with your staring and comments - go elsewhere! There are several other public venues to hang out around the ship. There really shouldn't be any need to call up ship's security to have them come up and speak with you about your behavior. What is wrong with cruisers nowadays, especially on a ship that originates out of BOSTON of all places given our history on individual freedom? Thankfully security did patrols of this venue for the rest of the sailing and things were kept well under control thereafter but I'm still irritated that fellow cruisers would act in this manner at all when everyone is there to have a good time. I don't blame NCL but rather these intolerant people. NCL's security response was above and beyond!
Not all the fellow cruisers were bad; I did make some new friends off this sailing who were repeatedly in Spinnakers each night. These folks were fun and didn't care about anything. Bravo to them for being the coolest people to hang with outside of crew this vacation!
WRAPPING IT ALL UP:
I couldn't have asked for more of what I wanted which was relaxation balanced with a healthy dose of partying. Having crew members onboard who are like family just made it that much more special and without the following people, this cruise wouldn't have been as good as it was: Liga (Photo Lab Manager) & DJ Keith Armian first and foremost, Relizon (Bar Waiter -- Spinnakers for always keeping me hydrated with my drink. You just give the man the card and you get your drink, nothing simpler than that!), Captain Paul, Paul Scally (Cruise Director), Les Riley (Hotel Director), Dewi (Aqua Restaurant Waitress), Michael (Aqua Restaurant Waiter), Asheesh (Photo Gallery), Justin Short (Cruise Staff), Blue Lagoon early AM shift staff and every dining room hostess we encountered who seem to know my name without me telling them! A special shout out to the Norwegian Dawn Security team for their service during this voyage as well! What a great trip with a great crew! I highly recommend the ship and its crew to anyone (just leave that bottle blond singer guy on the pier)!!!
I look forward to my next voyage on Norwegian's newest ship Norwegian Breakaway in 2013. Until then, it's dreaming like a Norwegian!