BACKGROUND - We had three suites (including the Deluxe Owner's Suite 12002) all in a row and one inside cabin across the hall. This was a family reunion for my sisters and I (5 of us in the graceful grip of middle age), daughter and nieces (5 cute young things between the ages of 21 and 36) and cousin and his family (3 adults handling middle age better than me and 3 adorable 20somethings). His son and girlfriend would be getting married on the cruise on the second day.
PRE and APRES CRUISE: Stayed at the Hyatt Harborside at the airport for 2 nights prior to the cruise. INCREDIBLE views from the hotel. We booked months ago and got a fabulous room rate and, when my sister checked in, she got a free upgrade to a view room. Stunning view any time of day and we sat out on the patio for a late dinner and watched the city. I realized after the cruise that I had left my toothbrush charger at the hotel. They had it bagged with a note stating the date and room number. I have never had luck getting a lost item back from a hotel before. I was dancing in the lobby. High end bathroom products in the room. I liked them so much I took them with me on the cruise (I'm not a fan of liquid bath soap).
After the cruise we stayed at the Norwood Residence Inn. Again, booked months ago for a great rate. We booked this hotel because it was a central location to family and where we grew up. The bed was not as luxurious as the Hyatt or our Deluxe Owner's Suite, but the layout of the room was very smart and the kitchen was appreciated. Also free wifi (not free at the Hyatt) was appreciated since I immediately started uploading pictures to Facebook as soon as we checked in.
EMBARKATION and DISEMBARKATION: Easy peasy both ways. Large group, priority boarding.... (and they allowed our newlyweds from the inside cabin to have all the same suite perks as us and board with us) we were probably very intimidating, but we were herded well. A gentleman of distinguished age at Boston tried to tell us (rudely) to go one way and a woman came up and got us to where we needed to be and put him in his place (she rocked!). With disembarkation we were all leaving at different times. I left with 2 sisters around 8am to avoid lines and get a rental car at the airport. I got out to the terminal and asked a sister "what about Customs?" Sister said "that was it." Huh? They never even asked me for my Customs form!
THE CREW: Renato, our room steward, was fabulous! He had a charming, engaging personality. Every time I saw him in the hallway he had a smile and a greeting. I really enjoyed seeing him and saying hi, friend! Our butler, Lozano, was quiet yet diligent. We put him to work on the day of the wedding (Saturday early evening) and he followed through with all of our requests. Actually, all the crew I encountered were friendly and helpful. They work exceptionally hard to give us an effortless vacation.
THE SHIP: The Dawn is tired. It seems as if Norwegian is trying to get as many more miles out of her as possible while ignoring some details that are begging for attention. One of the windows in our suite is broken. On previous reviews I have read, the window was broken long ago and has yet to be fixed. There is some brown moisture running down the window sill. The light in the shower didn't work for days. We never complained about it we just showered in the dimness but I guess someone decided to change the light bulb eventually. The twinkle lights did not work over the spa ever. That was a bit sad. It would have been a nice detail, but not a big enough deal to complain about. There was lots of fresh paint signs everywhere they were busy putting fresh coats on the shuffle board and cabin door frames, but the bigger stuff, such as the window, would be much harder to replace when there is such a short turn around between cruises, but it would make a big difference to the guests staying in that suite.
THE FOOD. I am always amazed that people complain about the food in their reviews. Actually, I am always amazed at how much people complain in their reviews in general. You are on vacation! Let it go! You are in control of your happiness. Stop complaining and find some gratitude that you have an opportunity to take a vacation in the first place. Such first world problems. Seriously.
I found most of the menu choices to be high quality. I had a salmon and risotto dish in Cagney's upon embarkation and found it to be excessively salty. I told our server and she immediately took it away and brought a double order of shrimp cocktail. It thought that was exceptional service on her part.
We tried a lot of the restaurants and definitely had our favorites: Cagney's Definitely the sweetest suite perk! I had breakfast and lunch at Cag's almost every day. So dignified and relaxing. The crab cakes (breakfast) were smaller than on the Pearl, but that's ok. I do not like poached eggs and they accommodated my request for over hard eggs and no sauce, no problem. Actually, whenever possible, all my requests were handled very well. I had a few lunches at Cag's and, by Thursday, learned the trick of ordering appetizers instead of the usual ap, entre and dessert. I think I ordered 3 aps that day and no dessert. LOL. There is so much food consumption on the boat that one must get creative in cutting at least ONE calorie. ;-) The running joke after any meal was ok, what do we eat next?
Le Bistro - We all enjoyed the meal, but be warned it took over 3 hours due to exceptionally slow service! We pre booked and pre-paid for the dinner before the cruise so they would be able to accommodate all sixteen of us after the wedding. It would have been impossible to seat all of us together had we waited till cruising to make the reservation. Side note: they had a drink - I never found out what it was that was to die for. The rim of the glass was coated in sugar. It was incredible enough that I think I may have had four. Or five. Not sure. By the end of dinner (3 or so hours later), I was completely trashed. It was the only time I drank on the cruise (except one night when we listened to the Bob Marley tribute band and all I had was one Long Island Iced Tea.
La Cuccina - my favorite everything we tried was fabulous especially the flatbread pizza, (which we all shared) and, between the five of us, I think we tried a little of everything on the menu. The girls (who can handle the calorie binge better than us middle aged folks) ordered multiple aps and desserts. We ate it all. Oh, the humanity!
Moderno - a new experience for me and I enjoyed the concept of gauchos walking around with stacks of meat, once I understood the procedure. I'm not a big meat eater, but all that I tried (I do NOT like lamb) was delicious and the salad bar had some really tasty options the shrimp and tomato salad was yummy.
The Venetian people complain about it, but I thought the food was very good (I had the smoked salmon) and the staff was very attentive and accommodating, even when more and more of our group kept showing up to join us.
Aqua the server seemed to have an attitude, but maybe it was an off day for her. I let it go and enjoyed a solitary lunch of wonton soup (yum) and fish and chips (good). One of my sisters joined me at the end, which was really nice, but the server was visibly unhappy with another guest. No big deal. I usually left a tip with every meal ($1 to $2), just because I enjoy giving back for good service, but that was the one meal I did not leave a tip.
The Buffet I was pleasantly surprised. On our last cruise on the Pearl, I did not like the buffet at all. On the Dawn I found lots of options. I really liked the Indian selections and got them most of the time. I think it was Friday night when they had a fried sweet potato thing. If you find it, try it. It was YUM! It was a decent option if we were looking for something to eat (because, it seemed, we were eating. All. The. Time.) during odd hours.
THE WEDDING okay, Norwegian charges an arm and a leg, plus your first child in order to give you a wedding. I am talking thousands of dollars. What did we do? Well, one sister did most of it. She coordinated with her Norwegian travel pro, butler, photographer etc and we did it for little money yet we got big bang results. We borrowed pedestals with flowers, we brought tulle, lights and ribbon with us and made an arch with the pedestals. She and I flew in from out of state so we shipped to our sisters in Boston and Rhode Island all that we needed, including rose petal, giant (20x20) paper butterflies and handmade wedding favors, then hand carried them on board. The room was transformed into a beautiful wedding setting. We ordered appetizers and got 3 cakes delivered and then we made the 3 cakes into a beautiful wedding cake. If you need more details or pictures, I'm sure my sister and I would be happy to share.
The younger girls (sister of the groom and nieces) used all of the decorations from the ceremony to dress up the inside cabin for the newlyweds. Even all the room stewards and butlers were coming in to see because it looked AMAZING! Renato created kissing swans out of towels to go on the bed, under the draped tulle oh my goodness! And my sister had a door magnet printed up from vista prints that said Just Married! with their names. It really was one of the most beautiful, intimate weddings I've ever attended.
Also, instead of paying for a photography package ($$$), we let the photographers know that we'd be having a wedding in our suite and should they have time to take pictures, it would be appreciated if they could come by. The photographer, Helena, came and did a lovely job. We didn't buy the wedding package, but between all of us, we must have purchased at least $400 worth of pictures.
Day one of Bermuda we did a dive tour with Hartley's Dive Tours. The review is below.
The second day of Bermuda, one sister and I headed out to Hamilton on the ferry (we bought bus passes highly recommend, although in my haste I bought a 3 day and only needed 2). We both found Hamilton to be really pretty, with interesting architecture, but it was gawd-awful hot and humid and all the shops were full of over-priced junk from China you find everywhere else. So, we got on a bus and met up with the rest of our sisters at a beach that wants to stay secluded and unnamed. Lots of folks went to Horseshoe Bay (Cove?) and it was really busy. Buy a bus pass and discover on your own. Don't go where everyone else goes. I wish I had made it to the caves or glass beach, but there just wasn't enough time to do everything. No worries. It just means I must go back again! Oh, bummer. ;-)
FYI: NCL strongly advises NOT renting scooters and mopeds on Bermuda. I have a very difficult time with left side driving so knew it wouldn't be a good idea for me. However, other folks did rent mopeds and that evening at dinner I saw a few people with very large bandages covering road rash wounds from moped accidents. Take the warning seriously.
The third day of Bermuda had the tropical storm Gabriel coming back in (it had blown out at the beginning of the cruise, but changed its mind). The captain came on the in room loud speaker around 8am to say that we would be leaving early (3pm) to avoid the storm. Everyone went off and did their own thing. One sister and I decided to stay close by and discover the Navy Yard. As the morning wore on the winds picked up. We got back on board with plenty of time to spare. We were supposed to set sail at 3pm, which came and went with no departure. The winds were really picking up by then. At 3:30 or so the captain came on loud speaker and announced we'd be staying in port until the next morning in order to ride out the storm. Yippee! We were allowed to get off ship so I went off to go to the pharmacy nearby to get band aids for a bad wound I got when I decided to Tango with some limestone. The pharmacy was already closed (as soon as a ship leaves, all the stores close up and everyone goes home) so I walked around some more. The wind was getting more intense, sand was blowing into my eyes and I was seriously concerned about getting hit in the head by flying debris, so I headed back to ship.
FYI: If you do need band aids you can get regular sized ones for free from the main desk in the Atrium on the 7th floor. If you need larger ones, they will give them to you for free at the doctor's office on the 4th floor. I found that out after limping to the already closed pharmacy.
FINAL NOTE ON BERMUDA - Clean and so incredibly friendly. EVERYONE we encountered was friendly and helpful. An older gentleman on one of the buses helped us find our stop and gave us some great tips. We left a shoe at a bus stop (long story) and were able to get it back by way of the manager of Captain Kirk's Coral Reef Adventures and her brother in law on a scooter. Yes, I understand that they rely on the tourists and the ships, but everyone I met was so incredibly charming and helpful. I just wish I had more time to really enjoy it and see everything.
WHAT I WOULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY I ran out of clothes. I packed sparingly. I did not take into consideration that I would go through a complete ensemble walking off ship in the middle of a tropical storm and getting completely drenched by salty sea spray. Granted, I was on a ten day trip, including the cruise and a high school reunion, but I wish I had packed more shirts, beachy dresses and underwear. Luckily, one of my sisters is a Platinum Latitudes member and she gets one free laundry drop per cruise. She let me use it. I just did underwear and jeans tho, as everything gets blasted in hot water and dryer and I couldn't trust them with my shirts.
OTHER in our party we had seven young women (my daughter, nieces, second cousin and second-cousin to be) in our party. For most of a year prior to the cruise I kept my eye out for seven items for every day of the seven day cruise so I could make suite treats. Each day's treats for 7 girls was in a ziplock bag that was labeled for that day. I gave my butler a $10 tip on the first day and then followed through with an additional tip at the end of the cruise. He and I agreed that I would leave a ziplock bag under the desk each morning and he'd place the treats in the girls suite each evening. It worked out so well that they didn't know who was leaving them lip gloss, funny head bands, wax lips, etc. and I enjoyed watching their excitement. I finally spilled the beans and told them it was me on Wednesday. Wednesday night the girls had a slumber party, all of them wearing NCL robes, wax lips and fuzzy headbands. They even crashed the buffet. You're welcome for that visual. ;-)
One last thing. For the new occupants of room 12002, I hope you enjoy the glow in the dark googly eyes (Archie McPhee's) that I stuck up all over the place, including on the inside of the commode door, in the shower, on windows, on the TV, etc. I'm sure that Renato, the room steward, didn't find them ALL.
Congratulations. You made it to the end of my review. Now go and enjoy your cruise!