Freestyle Cruising: A New Alternative
I had such a wonderful time on the Norwegian Dawn. Two of the best selling points that Norwegian Dawn offers on its cruises is leaving from my home port of New York, and its Freestyle Cruising. We were on board and in our stateroom less than 2 hours after leaving our house in Queens. We had a room with a balcony on which each morning we enjoyed our room-service coffee. A convenient mini- refrigerator in the room was where we kept bottled water and dinner leftovers.
Freestyle Cruising, which means less regimen, and more options, was what got my husband, Anthony, to go on the trip with me. With this new "style" of cruising, there is no formal night, and dress is often casual. Even so, we dressed up for dinner on most nights. There are ten restaurants on board, and we ate at a different one every night at different times, waiting until we were good and hungry.
There were many activities for us to do, either alone or together. Anthony spent time in the gym, internet room and the library. I took a kick-boxing class and a German language lesson and went to the movies. Together, we took meringue and waltz classes, and walked several miles around the deck. Keeping active even earned us free t-shirts.
Speaking of free, there were many things to be had throughout the ship for free. Free champagne at the art auctions, free bingo cards left in your room; and in the casino there was free Lady Luck Rum Punch, a free raffle and free pulls on the giant slot machine for prizes. I applied for the free Casino at Sea Card, on which your slot plays accumulate points that can be redeemed for various things, but I didn't play enough to make it worthwhile.
Although I was armed with the books "Slot Smarts" and "Idiots Guide to Gambling," I didn't gamble as much as I would have liked to. There was too much to do all over the ship, and my husband wasn't into gambling on this trip. But when I did hit the slots (I visited the casino almost every day), I had a great time. Twice I cashed in my winnings and ran to the reception desk to put the money towards my tab on the ship. Several times, I found credit in the machines, and had a great time gambling with the "found money." I focused my play on the IGT red, white and blue, three wheel two coin slot machines, and enjoyed some success. I didn't keep track of how I did, but I think I probably came out even.
While food was available around the clock, (there was a 24 hour restaurant, plus room service) there were no midnight buffets like on other cruises, but there were midnight snacks served in the Casino, which was a clever way to draw people in. The food and the choices of dining venues were almost overwhelming. There were several barbecues poolside, but lines were long (although they moved fast), the smoke blew into our faces, and the hamburgers and hotdogs were overcooked, tasteless and cold most of the time. After the first barbecue, we vowed no more. The buffets were terrific, with a myriad of choices, and a great opportunity to overeat. We tried to stay away from them, and if not, to limit our selections to healthy choices, like the delicious Vegetarian Indian Buffet.
Of the on-board restaurants with surcharges for dining, we chose two: the All-You-Can-Eat Sushi buffet, for $10 per person, which was a disappointment, and Cagney's Steakhouse for $12.75 per person, which was wonderful. At the sushi bar, the food was served in little dishes on a conveyor belt. A draw back of this is that if somebody sits next to you and grabs the dish you were eyeing off the conveyor belt before it got to you, you are out of luck. In such a case, you can have the waiter bring you the sushi. Still, the selection and choices were limited.
The steak at Cagney's was superb, as was the wine steward's suggestion for a lovely bottle of wine ($22). The service was a little pushy, and for every sip of wine we took, somebody was instantly there to pour in more (even when we said no, they continued to come back). In this way, we unintentionally polished off the whole bottle before dinner was served, something we don't usually do. The next night at Impressions, a restaurant with no surcharge, we had a steak as equally delicious as the one we paid for.
On another night, all restaurants had lobster on the menu. But there was also duck, which I love, so the two of us ordered 3 entries - 2 lobster dinners plus the duck, all delicious. Here, the service was almost aggressive; the server insisted on removing the lobster from the shell despite my husband asking her not to. This surprised us.
While reservations were suggested in the specialty restaurants, we never made any and had no trouble being seated where ever and whenever we wanted.
By far my favorite restaurant was Salsa's, nearly secluded on the 13th deck, dark and cozy, with delicious tapas (appetizers), sangrias and margaritas and no surcharge.
Of all the food, the biggest disappointment were the desserts and pastries. They were bland and ordinary. Even to Anthony, who has quite a sweet tooth, they were not good enough to tempt him into over indulging.
The Freestyle disembarkation went fairly smoothly, better than other cruises I have been on. We were allowed to stay in our room until 11 A.M., and had the option of keeping our luggage. In this way we were quickly off the ship and home in Flushing, by 12:15 p.m. It if wasn't for the fact that we left our digital camera in the taxi that drove us home, the vacation would have been perfect. But even this was mitigated by our traveler's insurance, which covered the monetary loss.