As a retirement trip a group of 6 took the Canada/New England cruise on the NCL Dawn the last week on Sept. The destination was outstanding, even if I can not speak French. Gaspe, La baie, and Quebec are French but interesting to visit.
Embarkment was the easiest I've every had. Taxi arrived at 10:45. We were waiting to be called onto ship at 11:05. Very efficient. Room ready at 2.
Garden buffet was laid out different than on the Jewel (which I was on in June) Really liked the breakfast selection including the grits--a southern thing. Not as many regional dishes like on the Jewel. Thank goodness.
Staff officers were visible at many meet and greets. They were friendly and wanted you to have fun on their ship.
However the main dining room needed to take a clue from their supervisors. Since there were 6 of us, we made a reservation. They only allow reservations between 5-5:30. Even if you make reservations, you have to get in line until they call for you. Why make reservations if you are being put in line? On Lobster night, they wanted me to change my order as they dishes were taking so long. We were the last ones to leave the dining room that night as I was determined to get the Maine lobster. Free style dining did not impress our novice NCL traveling friends. NCL must want you to go to the speciality restaurants, which 2 in our group did twice.
As for the entertainment, two groups stood out. The atrium was always filled when Jose and Patti played. They had such variety and were so good. An Australian group, JUMP, kept the livelier people hopping.
The entertainment in the Stardust was pitiful. Singers screamed or tried to hit high notes too much. Dancers were not personable. Comedian was rude and embarrassing. All were a big disappointment. Nothing in the Stardust was worth seeing. But the biggest flop was the tour director and his staff's attempt to humor us. Their skit was called "Fountain". I hope NCL has pulled it. Many people got up and left, 6 on my row. The men spit water on each other like a fountain. Their fraternity skit was not for the age clientele (avg 70) on the NCL Dawn. I thought it was gross. Tour directer had to encourage clapping.
Two positive previous cruises, Jewel and Pride of America, will probably let me make another trip on a NCL ship if the destination is nice. My friends are hesitant to comment as the dining and big entertainment were not to their liking.
Only took two excursions which were not the best. The No Whale watching at Gaspe and Village life at La Baie. La Baie was just a bus trip around the large nearby town. We thought it was a small village. Whale watching is supposed to be excellent near Gaspe. Waiting in tender was long, then a long school bus ride to Pearce for no whales.
Dawn can not compare to the Jewel in other ways. Library seems an after thought. Very little sitting with no outside view. We also missed the upper deck viewing room or bar like on the Jewel. However the atrium was very opening and always had music from floors 7-12 entertaining esp when Jose and Patti were playing.
Best Port was Halifax (see below)
Another good port was Gaspe. We rented a car and hiked part of the International Appalachian Trail. It lead to where the mountains dropped off in the ocean. Also went to lighthouses on St. Lawrence Seaway. A nice trip for just the two of us. Ordered maps and quides online before trip.
Others in group to a whale watching trip. This is the area where whales are seen frequently. We saw two from the cliffs. Group Whale watching did not see any. Plus had to ride a school bus to pearce to get on boat.
Last port before Quebec was a quaint port of La Baie. We were first ship of season. The whole town came out to greet us in native costume. Feed us blueberry pie and maple syrup candy for free. Also had float plane and helicopter rides for purchase. Had lots of stands for excursions. Wish I had known that before purchasing one from ship. I really wanted to forest or canyon and waterfall trip offered. Nice walk to local church which had a market. I also ventured to a french speaking deli and tried poutine or fries with cheese curds and gravy. Did not like tour of city offered by ship.