This was my tenth cruise, third on Norwegian (second time on the Dawn, once on the Gem). We will be going on Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas next February (we booked that before this.) We have been on 3 Royal Caribbean cruises (with another booked for February, a 10-night E. Caribbean cruise on the Legend of the Seas), 2 Holland America cruises, one Carnival, and one on MSC.
Embarkation / First Day
If you have read my previous reviews, including mine from the Dawn this week last year, we have had some extremely easy check-in/embarkation processes (Baltimore, Boston, Cape Liberty, etc.), as well as some more difficult ones (Manhattan). Last year, embarkation was very easy in Boston. Last year, we waited on a 20-minute line for a porter and then we were on the ship within 5-6 minutes. This year, we had no line for a porter and we were on the ship about 10 minutes after arriving at the pier.
Getting off the gangway gave that same party-esque feeling that felt like a corny gimmick they picked up from Carnival. They did a bit too much to entice guests to buy soda and spa packages, and it started to get annoying quickly. The ship left the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal at around 4 p.m, and we were off.
Service on the Norwegian Dawn is 1000% better than on the Gem, but then again, that's the difference between New York and Boston (I'm a New Yorker and I'm saying this.)
Staff in the restaurants were great as well, though sometimes unresponsive and forgetful.
The cruise director, Gio (or Antonio Banderas, I couldn't tell), was a bit mediocre. I didn't even see him until the day we left Bermuda (the fifth day). But after that, he was everywhere I was.
The worst part of the cruise was that we NEVER (not once) met our Cabin Steward. Actually, he didn't even clean our room half the time. We had to make our beds by ourselves. Guest Services tried to fix this, but to no avail.
Other than that, however, we had no real problems with service like we did on the Gem.. Service in the dining rooms was mostly fine. Guest Services was fine. No problems, other than the cabin steward.
Other than having no cabin steward, our room was pretty poor as well. First off, it was isolated in an area of four rooms, RIGHT next to the Stardust Theater and across the hall from the Casino. The other bad thing about our cabin was that it showed many signs of wear & tear, and it looked as if it were on its last legs. Our window was so dirty that it was 75% covered in dirt and dried streams of water, making it very hard to look out. There were also paint chips, missing pieces in the shower, a toilet that only flushed half of the time, and many more problems. Our other family cabin, 5132, was the complete opposite, and was operated much better than ours.
It was amazing how much nicer and friendlier the crew were on this ship were compared to that of the Gem. Everyone would say 'hello', 'how are you?', etc. and it even got to the point where some of them would randomly run down a line of people high-fiving them. Crew was much better than on the Gem.
On the first night, one of the cabins complained about noise and required that the HEAVY fire door to be closed. Sure enough, it kept closed and we had to open and close it ourselves, or else the guy would complain to Guest Services. There was one time, on night 5, that we opened the door for the pizza delivery guy for thirty seconds. The guy complained and demanded that I be kicked out of my own cabin. Sure enough, because he was a Gold Latitudes member, security responded quickly and asked that I stay out of my room.
The other bad thing about our cabin was that it showed many signs of wear & tear, and it looked as if it were on its last legs. Our window was so dirty that it was 75% covered in dirt and dried streams of water, making it very hard to look out. There were also paint chips, missing pieces in the shower, a toilet that only flushed half of the time, and many more problems. Our other family cabin, 5132, was the complete opposite, and was operated much better than ours.
Entertainment, in my opinion, took a step down in comparison to last year (but not compared to February on the Gem). The one thing that was better entertainment-wise was the comedian, Tim Kaminski. Tim, a 2001 Comedy Hall of Fame inductee, had 3 shows, hosted the Quest, and made more of an appearance than Gio, the cruise director. It was actually Tim's final cruise on the Dawn after a span of 12 straight weeks, but he will be back early August. He was great, while the other guest headliner, wasn't. Allexy and Sally are a duo telling a love story supposedly through opera, but nothing was made clear during the show and it was one of (if not the worst) show on the cruise. The Second City was bland, as it was on the Gem and last year on the Dawn.
The Three Production Cast Shows:
Pure Variety (night 3, or 4? I don.t remember): Didn't see this show, but I heard it was just OK.
Band On The Run (night 5): As it was last year, this was my favorite show. Featuring the songs and life of the '70s, the grand opening of Club BOTR (Band On The Run) has arrived and everyone is celebrating, through music that it.)
Bollywood (night 7): This was the weirdest show of them all. A Hindu-Indian themed Acrobatics show that made no sense. The only reason that I saw this show was to see the Crew finale song afterward, something I always enjoy seeing, though often a depressing sign.
Activities once again lacking on Norwegian ships. Not much to do last year, not much to do on the Gem, not that much to do now. Although there were more scheduled OSA (Organized Ship-wide Activities) than last year, there was still a lack of things to do. The Freestyle Daily (the ship's program and scheduling paper) was not as packed with activities as, let's say, Royal Caribbean's Daily Compass, but it had ENOUGH things to do to keep everyone busy. Things were especially slow on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, the three days that we were in Bermuda.
Splash Academy Kid's Club / Entourage Teen Club
The Splash Academy was great as always, and the Entourage Teen Club have both taken a big step up compared to how they were on the Gem and on the Dawn. These little things are what matter, and NCL has definitely addressed SOME, not all, but some of these issues. The Teen Club was still hardly ever open, only opening from 8 p.m.-1 a.m. on port days and 2 intervals of 3-4 hours throughout the day on Sea Days. Also, unlike Royal Caribbean and Carnival who divide their Teen Programs into two age groups (12-14 and 15-17), NCL keeps their teens all in one age group, 13-17 year olds. They also make no exceptions to let 12 year olds in, which other lines have 12 as the starting age for the program. Splash Academy was divided into three age groups, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. But still, both programs took a step up from last year.
The food was about the same as it was on my previous two NCL cruises. The food was just OK. Nothing special, but it wasn't bad either. Here's a rundown of all the restaurants that we went to:
Garden Cafe: This was the Lido Deck buffet on the ship. It was nothing special, but it wasn't great either. Choices were very limited, and it had the same foods every day/night. I have to say, the Garden was better on the Gem, which at least had rotating menu choices nightly and a better layout.
Aqua Main Dining Room: The Aqua was one of two MDRs on the Dawn, the other being the Venetian. These restaurants have the same menu which rotates nightly. We ate at Aqua on the first night, but we did not get to go to the Venetian (although we did last year.) The food was pretty good, but it still can't compare to the food on Royal Caribbean. One thing that I still don't understand that NCL does is that they have Lobster night on the first night.
Moderno Churrascaria: Moderno is the Brazillian Steakhouse on the ship. This was one of our favorite meals on the ship (although it was our least favorite on the Gem.) Conquistadors (as NCL calls them), come around slicing meats off of huge "kabobs". That was in the top three meals on this ship, in my opinion.
Cagney's Steakhouse: A New York-style steakhouse that had several kinds of steaks and other meats. It was pretty good, but no Peter Luger.
Bamboo Asian Fusion: As was the case last year, Bamboo was not very good. This happened to be one of our favorite meals on the Gem, but our least favorite on the Dawn. For what seemed to be an extensive menu, the menu was still very limited.
teppanyaki: Our favorite meal on the ship. teppanyaki is the Japanese Hibachi-style restaurant on the ship. With seating for just 24 people, we weren't even able to get a reservation here until the last seating on the last night. There were several different menu choices that chefs would then cook right in front of your eyes. It's dinner and a show.
Blue Lagoon: The ship's 24/7 diner-style restaurant. This was my go-to place at 1 a.m. every night for pretty much all-American food. I loved the Blue Lagoon.One night, I was there at 3 a.m. The guy at the table was ordering an he wanted a grilled cheese. He was angry to find out that they couldn't make him a grilled cheese, so he said "Do you have bread (yes). Do you have cheese (yes). Just take them both, slap them together, and put them on a grill and there you go, a grilled cheese." The guy said they couldn't do it. Then the guy said "I see you have a cheeseburger. Let m have a cheeseburger without the burger." The waiter walked away, murmuring to himself. That may not sound funny, but it may have been the funniest moment of the trip for me.
NCL's Pizza 24/7 service: NCL's $5 pizza happened to not be that bad. Not that good, but not that bad. I wouldn't compare it to Pizza Hut, but I wouldn't say that it's as good as a fresh pie from the best NYC pizzeria. Let's not get carried away here.
The Shops Onboard (Dufry Shops): The shops were good, IF you weren't looking for Norwegian Dawn merchandise. There was no apparel that said "Norwegian Dawn"on it. Things that said "Bermuda" and "NCL" were the norm. Jewelry, Bijoux Terner merchandise, liquor, and tobacco were all up to par, and everything was duty free.
Disembarkation on the Dawn was set up in a very odd way. Once our tag color was called (we happened to have the latest one), we would be called to the exterior promenade, Deck 7 mid. From there, the line to get off the ship went all the way around the promenade, to the gangway on the Port side of the ship (we were starboard). We were on line, with at least 25-30 other people behind us. Those people all found a way to cut in front of everyone and we ended up being the LAST (literally, the last) people off the ship. It was a bit creepy, actually. From there, a Customs officer was waiting at the tail-end of the gangway to just take our Customs form. No questioning, no searching, no passports needed. From there, we took the escalator down to the luggage area. We found our luggage as soon as we got down (we were the last ones off, so we had the last luggage), and we left the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal about 6 minutes after getting off the ship.
Bermuda, as it was last year, was beautiful. We docked around 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, 4 1/2 hours ahead of the scheduled 11 a.m., due to a medical emergency. On Sunday, we did a Glass-bottomed Boat Tour of the island. That was pretty fun, getting to see to island's coral system and fish. Monday, we went to Horseshoe Beach, the most acclaimed beach in Bermuda. We got there via a taxi, Psalm's Mini Bus Service. We tipped him extra to then come back and take us to Hamilton, where we wanted to spend the night. He completely stuck us up, and ditched us. DO NOT TAKE THIS TAXI SERVICE!!!!!! Use anyone else, there were boatloads of them by the ship (Pun intended.) On Monday night, we went into Hamilton to have dinner. We ate at the Pickled Onion,which happened to be very good. On Tuesday, we stayed local and did a very challenging mini golf course right in the Dockyard. Also, we had the Dockyard to ourselves, as there were no other ships in port over that three day span (the Grandeur of the Seas was supposed to dock adjacent to us at King's Wharf, but the ship was still under repair from it's fire back in May.) Heritage Wharf, where we docked, was still under renovation as officials continued to extend the wharf to comfortably berth the brand new Norwegian Breakaway
Overall / Final Thoughts
Overall, the ship happened to already show some signs of wear and tear, as well as some aging. For a ship that was just refurbished in 2011, that wasn't the best sign for NCL. But still, this time around on the Gem happened to be better than the first. We all had a great time. The second day (a sea day), happened to be EXTREMELY rough as we caught wind and rough waves from a storm off the coast of Washington, D.C. Nearly half of the ship was bedridden, an that was the cause of the medical emergency that forced a passenger off the ship early the next morning. The ship was nice, despite it's aging interior. Boston to Bermuda on the Dawn is actually the only itinerary of its kind from Boston, and it was definitely unique. We also had the Dockyard to ourselves, as there were no other ships in port over that three day span (the Grandeur of the Seas was supposed to dock adjacent to us at King's Wharf, but the ship was still under repair from it's fire back in May.) Heritage Wharf, where we docked, was still under renovation as officials continued to extend the wharf to comfortably berth the brand new Norwegian Breakaway. But still, we all had a great time and remember to Cruise Like a Norwegian on the Norwegian Dawn.