Prefer the old Dawn
This is our second time on the NCL Dawn. We did the 12 day out of NY in 2007, we enjoyed the outside dining in the back of the ship which is now gone and turned into a Kids Pool. I would consider the Dawn a very basic ship with no frills or extras. If you're cruising with kids who may enjoy those big slides, extra pools, rock climbing, outdoor theater, ect like on other ships, you won't find that on this ship. The Feb 3 - 10, 2013 sailing had older folks on it averaging 60 yrs old. Due to it not being Peak Week with more kiddies sailing when being off for Feb break, this was a good week for older folks to enjoy a relatively kiddie-free cruise.
We found it disappointing to have more specialty restaurants requiring an extra charge then there were without. The food was OK, not gourmet, not over the top but good. Bar drinks as always and on all cruise lines and ships need to be brought up a notch. Even for the very light drinkers, the cocktails were considered weak.
We were More
disappointed the there was no offer of sushi/sashimi during lunch buffet or elsewhere throughout the week. It may have been offered to folks who stayed on the ship whiles others visited the ports of call. Last year on Carnival and the year before on RCCL it was available every day, no extra charge.
The crew works hard at keeping folks busy and upbeat.
I felt there were more perks and offers given to those who stayed on the ship during port days. Our Latitudes membership perks were very lame. I'll post info about the ports visited, Roatan, Belize, Costa Maya and Cozumel. Less
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Cabin review: BA
We had a category BB balcony on the 10th deck. It was adequate but I felt we needed more drawer space. My daughter's OV cabin on deck 5 had an extra set of drawer end tables but that cabin could also accommodate 3pax, mine was just a double cabin. Balconies are not big. The only use we get it for is to look outside when the ship is coming into port. We don't spend time on it at all, it's too small. We were right by the elevators and stairs, nice for us to have close access. Not very noisy at all. Above us were the suites. We had a very noisy family with 3 children who jumped and ran around all day, every day. It was so bad that I had to go up there to speak with them and see if I can work it out without needing to call the front desk. The family could care less. I wish I did call the front desk to talk to them. I was frustrated by the last day. We couldn't sleep in ever because of the jumping and running very early in the morning.
Port and Shore Excursions
You need to take a tender from the ship to get to the Belize cruise port. One of our group took the lead in hustling us a ride. We planned on going to the Caves, a highlight of this port of Belize but some who over indulged the night before had our group running late. There wasn't enough time to drive there, do the cave & tubing and then get back to the ship in time. So, we got a driver for $7.50 each way to go to a Beach Bar. What a bargain as the Tour Groups outside the port were trying to get $30PP. Well, we got a van and squeezed our 7 butts in with No a.c! The driver wanted to do the Belize City Tour and then to beach. SKIP the city tour! Roads are horrible and crowded. It was not comfortable with no a.c and tightly seated. We eventually got to Cucumber Beach Marina in Old Belize. $10PP to get in, wear the wrist band to use the slide, rope and beach. It did not have an actual beach, but had a "pond" type beach. At first we were wondering if we would have a good time or not, we did! It was not crowded. There is a huge 90 ft water slide. Be prepared for a climb to the top. It is steep and high and quite the adrenaline rush. I called it a "panty ripper" as you hit the water! There was also a platform and rope to swing on and jump into the water. It was a simple place but with these two activities, we really did have a blast. We ordered food at the cafe. Local fish, chicken and quesadillas, all yummy. Beer and rinks were average tourist prices, $3.00 beer, drinks $5 -$6. There was a small museum, gift shop and even small zoo but we did not know it was there until leaving. This really can be turned into a great place with a few upgrades. It has more potential if given a bit more TLC. What we did not like was on the return tender to get back to the ship, the tender stopped in the water to "hustle" the passengers for tips! This was not part of an excursion where the tours want tips for their service. This was part of our cruise fees that are necessary to get us on and off the ship and to the port.
We had been to Costa Maya years ago on the very first cruise ship to ever go there. It was a very exciting day for the small village. Schools were closed and news teams were there doing a story on the event. I remember the small Beach Bar with the large Beer Bottle on the beach to attract tourists. It's long gone, probably washed away from the damaging hurricane in 2009. My has it changed of course! If you want to buy water or beer, Do Not buy at the cruise port, do it out of the area! A small water costs $4.00 USD!! A beer $5.00 USD! Outside of the port we paid 50 cents for the same size water, large water was $2.00 and only $2.00 for beer. The port area had a very nice clean shopping center and free pool to use but you'll pay for it with the price of water and drinks!
This was our port to go see the Mayan Ruins. I had 2 in mind, Kohunlich ($10 entrance fee if you want to go there on your own)was our first choice, Chacchoben our second (only $3.00 entrance fee). We did not have enough time to get to Kohunlich which was about a 2 hr drive there. So we settled for a driver to take us to Chacchobben. You need to get out of the port gates to the back of the shops to bargain with drivers. We shared a large van with other tourists who bargained for their own price. Some paid $50PP, some $40PP. I knew what the entrance fee was, we made a deal for $35PP including the entrance fee. I thought we got a deal until we learned that a few others only paid $30PP. Good for them! The bus was part of Capritauro Tours. The cruise ship wanted $80PP for Chacchoben with an additional $5-8.00 if you use video cameras! We paid 1/2 the fee, one way, and would pay the other 1/2 when picked up again. It was a long 1 hour drive, bumpy the first part, new paving when you get closer to the ruins. Not much to see on the drive there. We got on the bus @ 10:15am, stopped for water and beer and then again to fill on gas. We arrived at the ruins at 11:25 am, only given 1 hr to tour them. You'll be approached by Tour Guides offering their services. They offered anywhere from $8.00PP, then down $5.00PP when they saw you weren't interested. We chose to go on our own. There is no signage on any of the ruins, you're on your own. We've done others in Mexico before, so didn't feel we wanted to be slowed up by a Tour guide with only an hour to spare. They were basic ruins, some climbed to the top and said the views were great. We were expected to be back on the bus at 12:30. Not enough time to take it easy. We felt rushed. No time to shop at the gift shop. On the return trip we stopped for gas again or maybe it was a pee stop for the driver! Whne we got back to port, we had wanted to go to the local town of Mahajual to go to the beach. The driver let us take the ride there for free! He brought us to Tapas Bar. It was a beautiful beach! There are tables, chairs and palapas for shade.
I felt it was a bit expensive, more than the other islands. This fishing village was supposed to be cheaper than the port area. I think the driver bought us there to give them our business. There are beach bars one after another though. The locals sell their wares and stop to ask you if you are interested. They are very humble, not aggressive or harass you. At least these are locals and not from Cancun. We bought hand made bracelets with our names weaved on them, $400 each. Another gal sold handmade beaded bracelets, very nice, $5.00 or 4 for $12.00.
We love doing our own thing at Cozumel. I've been there about 6 or 7 times. We rented a Jeep again to tour the island at our leisure, stop where and when we wanted along the way. We rented from Sol Y Mar. Make sure you bring a driver's license and credit card if you want to rent a vehicle. The rental was $70 USD and we got the extra insurance for an additional $15 USD.
Our first stop was at Mr. Sanchos Beach Club. We had gone there years ago when he first opened. I put his info on my Travel Agent Website to help draw in more business. Wow, it has grown! It is Free to enter, you have the option of buying an All Inclusive package for facilities, food and drinks. We were only staying a short time and declined the A.I option. We sat in the open restaurant, ordered some beers, chicken quesadillas, nachos and guacamole. There's a great pool there, shops, bar swings, water activities, lots to see and do. A very colorful and active Beach Club. From there we went to the other coast of the island to visit and stop at the different beaches. Wonderful views, practically untouched. There are a few Beach Bars to stop at and gift shops. There is wave action on this side of the island to enjoy. We stopped at the same Beach Bar as last year, I can't remember the name! It's near the end of the beach strip before the road goes inland to cut back to the busy cruise port/hotel zone. The bar tender made a real Margarita from fresh lime! It was so good! You can get $2 or $3 Coronas along the way. Be wary of the guy who has a sign for $1.00 beers, it is a mini bottle, not a 12oz! We had fun in the sun on our own without paying for high excursion prices!
Enjoy the local band as you arrive at the port, all dressed in tribal gear, spare a dollar to add to their tip jar! When we travel, I research the islands in advance and note how to get taxis, van drivers, buses ect. We knew we wanted to go snorkeling at this port and wanted to get to the West End. We headed out of the cruise port area to get local transportation. We were going to take the Route 2 local bus, but we had a persistent 20 yr old guy named Edy Mironda following us and doing his best to win us over to allow him to "manage" our tour. Since he knew that I knew the local bus was only about $5.00 USD round trip, (paid in lempiras), he found us a van & driver at a reasonable price.
We got a nice van w/a.c to accommodate our group of 7 provided by Island Tours, driver Juan. He stopped at a local place to buy beer ($2 - $3) and water ($1). We agreed on $5.00 each way to bring us to Bananarama Resort and Dive. There was a $10.00 entrance fee which included either a Free drink or free chair. We chose the drink and we sat at a table on the deck in the shade anyway. Those who wanted to snorkel took a short walk down the beach and had a good time. This was a very nice beautiful beach, shallow, white smooth sand. The Tabayana Beach Club was within walking distance and the cruise charge $60.00PP to get there.
At the Thirsty Turtle Bar & Grill we ordered snacks like quesadillas, fried plantains and nachos, about $6 - $8, not much difference than at home. Beers were about $3.00, drinks about $5- 6.00. A local female band played their native music and dance. I just had to join in, only because the bar made REAL drinks with the proper amount of rum, unlike the cruise ship. I felt quite up to the challenge to "shake my thing" and keep up with the fast beat!!
I bought some triton and helmet seashells from a young boy on the beach. He wanted about $15 - $20 each, I got them 3 for $30, they were in excellent condition. I collect seashells and was starting my daughters collection and knew to inspect them.
Edy stayed with us for the day and we tipped him for his job at hustling a van and driver. So, for about $30PP including tips, we had a great beach and snorkel day in Roatan.