Well here is my trip review--booked this trip only 19 days before departure and then spent the days scrambling to get it together and learn about the island, replacing swim suits that were making that dreaded crinkly elastic noise and thanks to all the amazing Mega Breakaway reviews it was a lot easier. We knew we wanted to go to Bermuda and were able to snag the last SC-2 bedroom available for half the price of the Breakaway (if one were available according to CFsh). We had a SC suite on the Star Dec 2011 and it was OK, not great, loved the suite but were underwhelmed by the perks. I am happy to report that the perks on the Dawn were outstanding!
So on Thursday afternoon 6/6 my family flew to Boston and stayed in the Hampton Logan. It was OK. The free shuttle never picked us up at the airport, so we took a cab, and there were some issues with the front desk regarding getting two rooms close together (were promised connecting when booking directly with the hotel). Would probably choose another hotel if staying in Boston again, but late bookers take what's left. Ate dinner at Jeveli's in North Boston--a classic Italian-American old school restaurant. Food was good and prices were reasonable--and the theme from "The Godfather" kept running through my head.
Woke up on Friday to rain and the beginnings of Tropical Storm Andrea--very ugly, but we were all excited to get on the ship. Cab to ship was pretty painless, stopped to pick up some cans of Coke at a mini-mart on the way. Checking in around 10:40 was easy, no lines even if we were not priority. Escorted to the suite area around 11:00 and met Virginia our Concierge, and Flor our Butler. Flor escorted us onto the ship at around 11:45. We were able to drop off our carry-ons and had a great lunch at Cagney's. We all felt that the food and service at Cagney's was much better than Dec 2011 on the Star.
Before sailaway, the Captain came on and said that the tropical storm would be effecting us starting after dinner. Captain Paul said it would get a little worse--and then a little more worse, and then worse than that and then a little more worse than before and then it would start getting better late in the afternoon of Saturday. Boy was he not kidding! It was a wild ride and very few left their cabins on Saturday morning. The weather in Bermuda was beautiful all three days to make up for the stormy passage.
My ten year old daughter was not excited to be signed up for the kids club. She had a great time on the Spirit and a horrible time on the Star and hardly used it at all--there were just too many kids in too small a space. On the flight to Boston we had a discussion about going to the kids club--she didn't want to even check it out. So on Friday afternoon we (yes I forced her) to go take a look at Splash Academy. It has been remodeled and is much better than the dark curtains separating the areas on the Star. She got her wrist band which is not removable--much to her dismay. We met Janet from NCL corporate who is in charge of the program, and shared our likes and dislikes of past ships and programs. She wants feedback and seems to be a go-getter. My daughter ended up loving the kid's club--she learned to juggle and balance feathers and throw and catch devil sticks for the circus show. The theme nights were fun--pirates, survivor and spy stuff, to name a few. The counselors were outstanding and all knew her name. There were about 160 kids under 18 on board. That number is expected to more than double in the next couple of weeks as NE schools start summer vacation. So Kudos to Splash Academy for a great week.
My soon to be 18 year old had a good time in the teen club. there were 16 teens signed up. The room was great with large flop pillows and game systems and dance floor. She had a good time with many of the activities--Would You Rather and learning some new dances, and made some friends by the end of the week.
She really liked the counselor Simba from Canada.
Our room steward was Terry. He was fabulous and when we would turn the dial on our room to "make up" or "turn down" it was done quickly. He made an amazing array of towel animals and was very personable. He hosted the towel animal demonstration this week.
Flor, our butler, was sweet and efficient. We didn't do any in-room dining this week, but she did always answer the phone quickly. Our toilets stopped working and I called her and within minutes they were fixed, and she followed up with us to make sure it was fixed. Our fruit bowl was replenished and we received more cookies and treats than could possibly be good for us.
Virginia the Concierge was great. We waited in no lines, we had invitations to all the parties, early admission to the chocolate buffet, priority disembarkation on our first day in Bermuda, reserved seating, etc.
My husband has some medical issues that are not obvious to the casual observer due to after effects from chemo, so what the average able-bodied visitor to Bermuda might do was not practical for us. Long walks and standing on packed buses or lines was not an option for us as a group. So we spent more than the average visitor on taxis. On Sunday we reserved a day pass at Coco Reef,(just east of Elbow Beach) which included lunch, pool, private beach, chairs, and umbrellas, showers and bathroom facilities for $49 for those over age 12, just the cost of lunch for children. I thought it was a good deal and the lunch was yummy. It cost about $42 for the taxi (25% Sunday surcharge). Did see a few washed up Portuguese man of war jellyfish, so do watch out for these.
On Monday we spent the day at Horseshoe Bay Beach. Took a taxi for around $27 + tip and rented chairs and umbrellas. The surf was very high but It was fun for us to body-surf. It also was fun to explore the coves on both sides and there were some large, well fed parrot fish in the cove just to the right as you enter the beach. The beach truly is spectacular with the rocks and soft sand and clear water.
On Tuesday we thought about going to St George, but really wanted more time in the water, so we returned to Horseshoe very early in the morning and stayed until lunchtime. The surf was a little less rough and my youngest really enjoyed playing in the water and snorkeling in the cove. We grabbed a taxi back--which was very easy--and had them drop us at snorkel park. We were curious about what was out there, and having our own gear made it inexpensive. A good ways out there was quite a bit of some purple coral and sea fans and a variety of fish and one cannon. There was a pretty good rip current that was trying to pull me further out, so do be careful. This is also definitely a place to wear your water shoes, as the rocks are rough. Maybe next time we will book a snorkel tour from a boat, but after going through the tropical storm, I just wanted some land time. The beach at snorkel park was very crowded--we just snorkeled a while and walked back to the ship to shower and change. We shopped for a few hours in the dockyard--fun to watch the glass blowing, and made a few purchases for co-workers and family.
The food we had on board was overall very good. We only ate in one specialty restaurant--Moderno. It was good, though it was kind of strange--the picador kept walking past us with the meat and did not serve us even though our table was green side up. I finally said something to the waiter after only getting five of the courses and it taking an hour and a half. It was just too long a wait for me and truth be told I am more of a seafood/chicken person. I didn't think the salad bar was that great either. Good concept, poorly executed. The meat eaters in my family thought the meat was good, with the exception of the pork ribs which were tough.
Breakfast and lunch at Cagney's was soooo much better than on the Star. We didn't feel like dinner after the large lunches. We ate twice at the aft main dining room, twice at the mid ship main dining room, and once each at blue lagoon, Moderno and the buffet. We were happy with the selection and quality of what was offered.
The entertainment was a mixed bag for us. We really enjoyed the band Midnight Review on the Star, on the Dawn, there was no real bluesy/rock music to dance or listen to which was disappointing. The acrobat team put on an excellent show. Band on the Run was OK and Bollywood was entertaining. Second City was having an off night or the group just didn't work well together for us, and we usually enjoy them. That brings me to the comedian, Tim Kaminsky. His shows were a riot. He was also very visible on the ship, often to be found in Pearly Kings. In fact, he was there for trivia, and lo and behold he wanted to switch papers with my group--all I could think was please let a few of my answers be right!! I don't want to be an elephant or flying monkey or the butt of jokes for cruises to come. We actually ended up winning and he was very funny with my 10 year old playing with the popcorn handshake gag. (check out his bling! wow is all I can say!) . They no longer make you carry around slips of paper for chatskies at the end of the cruise for participating in games. We won 2 beach balls, a deck of cards and 4 can coolers during the week. We all liked Gio the Cruise Director and staff with the exception of the assistant who we found overbearing. Fountains was great with Tim Kaminsky participating. I tried out Bingo for the first time--guess I'm not a bingo fan--cause I would like to have that hour of my life back.
The week was over all too soon--boy those last sea days go quick! We did priority disembarkation with assistance. We left our stateroom at 8:40 walked off the ship at 8:45, through security, found our luggage and were in a cab at 9:00. We got to the airport by 9:15 ($27 cab ride +tip) and were at the gate bored to tears at 9:30 for a 11:40 flight. There was no line to get through security at 9:15, but by 10:00 there was a long wait--so if you have a early flight and no priority disembark you might want to do easy walk off.