As background: We are married 60 and 40 years old, I am retired, my Wife still works, we live in NE Indiana and have a winter home in FL. We love to cruise and hope to do more once Brenda retires in hopefully 5 years. We chose the Dawn for the itinerary and that it departs from Tampa, FL which is only 2 hours from our winter home.
We were upgraded to VIP status at the last minutes and thoroughly enjoyed the perks: breakfast (can you say steak and eggs every morning?) and lunch in Cagney’s, priority disembarkation both on port days (only used in Belize for the tender to shore, and also last day disembarking in Tampa.) We also enjoyed the snacks (chocolates and/or cheese and crackers) left in our room every afternoon. NCL also gave us one free dinner at La Cucina (Italian) that was excellent! If you can get a suite that gets you to VIP status, I would recommend, it will be difficult going back to non VIP status on future cruises.
Our Room Steward Neil was excellent! He fulfilled all of our requests without hesitation and was there when we needed him and not there (I think he hides in the walls) when we did not need his services. He cleaned out all of the booze/beer/water/etc out of the fridge and made sure we had extra towels all week, and plenty of ice in the ice bucket.
We found the food in the Aqua (5 nights) MDR to be excellent, no complaints about the food or the service. Noli was our favorite server, but all of the servers were pleasant and efficient. We only had to wait 1 time to be seated, and that only lasted about 15 minutes and they gave us each a glass of bubbly to enjoy while we waited. Dinner was never longer than 1 hour from the time we checked in with the maître de to the time we walked out. The buffet is what it is, nothing exciting but was as good as any cruise ship buffet. La Cucina had the best calamari appetizer I have had in a long time, I could have made a meal out of several plates of their calamari. Brenda had the lasagna and she mentioned it was the best she has had in a very long time if not the best.
We did not attend any of the shows so I cannot comment on them. By the time we got back from our excursion, grabbed a bucket of beer to enjoy on the balcony as we left the port, took showers, had dinner, we would hit the casino for about an hour and then time to hit the bed to rest up for the next day.
FOG day Sunday, the day of embarkation (beyond NCL control). I am going to put this under Cons, only because some people complained about having to wait outside in the sun while NCL cleared the ship. We knew there was fog off shore, checked the cruise ship trackers and saw the Dawn and Carnival Legend parked off shore, so we checked the NCL FB page and saw a notice asking people not to come to port until 2pm. We had made arraignments to be at the port at 10am, were able to move it back to 10:30am, we were fortunate that we were able to get into the terminal prior to it filling up, so we were able to sit in comfort until we were allowed to board at 2:00pm.
One night at dinner in the Aqua, a waitress walked around to each table with a tray of shots pushing shots of ??? while people were eating dinner. I found this in very poor taste. It’s one thing to push drinks in the bars or at the pool, but not shots while you are trying to enjoy a nice dinner. I did only see this one night, so either someone at NCL realized this was not a good move to try to meet the bar sales quota, or they sold enough to catch up on their sales quota.
Room service missed twice out of the 5 days I ordered breakfast (juice/coffee/Danish). Options most days for delivery started at 6:30am-7am which worked into our schedule. One day they knocked on our door at a little before 6 (still asleep) and another day never did show up.
NCL really needs to do something with the smoke in the casino!!!! We would have spent more time and therefore spent more money if the smoke was not stifling! I am an ex-smoker, and I could not stand it Some people are so rude, you are sitting at a slot machine and someone sits next to you, plops down the ashtray, lights a cigarette, places it in the ashtray and starts playing the slot machine while the whole time the cigarette sits there and smolders in the ashtray. May I suggest taking one of the pay restaurants that do not appear to be utilized to their potential, and make it a smoke free penny slot machine casino?
Roatan: Booked the Zip and Dip with Victor Boden Tours. The bus was full with cruisers from other ships in port, so we and another couple we did not know, were escorted by Victor in his personal SUV for the day. We were the 1st to arrive at the zip lines, and the Wife of the other couple did not wish to zip, so there were 3 of us with 2 guides (talk about personal service). Brenda loved the zipping more than I (I am not saying I did not enjoy it, just not as much as Brenda, even though she came in hot at one of the stands and took out the guide and the tree, no blood no foul), she is more the daredevil of the 2 of us, and was zipping (flying) no hands spread eagle by the 3rd line, I think there were 12 lines altogether? About half way through the course, they asked if we wanted to stay on the low lines or go to the high lines, I voted for the low lines, but was out voted (I could have stayed on the low lines, but succumbed to peer pressure). The monkey’s were cute at Victors petting zoo, and I have some great pictures of Toucans sitting on my head and shoulder. After zipping, Victor took us to Bananarama Beach Club where he set us up in a couple beach loungers with umbrellas. Had a couple beers and then walked back up the access road to a little hut where Mama fixed lunch for the locals. After struggling with a language barrier (they do not get a lot of Gringos coming for lunch) we had the best fried chicken, rice, beans, cole slaw, plantains, and a cold Coke for $5. After lunch walked down the beach to Infinity Bay Resort and snorkeled off the beach, very nice snorkeling, wish I had more time to explore the reef further. Victor picked us up when we had agreed, took us on a short tour with a lot of personal experience knowledge, on the way back to the ship. The perfect day HIGHLY RECOMMEND Victor Boden Tours!
Belize: Cave Tubing with ViVTours. Had a great time with ViVTours, everything went according to promised, and the guides (“Rock” and Raheem, and Paul the tube expert) were funny, energetic, and very knowledgeable. ViVTours carries (except the last 5 minutes of a leisure narrative stroll thru the rain forest) your tubes to the river for you, unlike the majority of the other outfitters that make you carry your own tube for the 45 minute hike. My only complaint is they need to do something about the AC in their vans. The drive to the river is a little over an hour, and the van was unbearably HOT! I finally opened the window and it was so much cooler than with the AC on. If you are going to do cave tubing, I highly recommend VivTours.
Costa Maya: Spent the day at Tropicante Beach Bar with Steve and his crew of wait staff. Steve provided excellent directions and when we got out of the cab, walked about 50 feet and someone asked what we were looking for? Being hesitant because I was forewarned about hawkers trying to steer you into their beach bar, I did not answer at first and then blurted out Steve at TROPICANTE! The gentleman held up a chalk board and asked if my name was on it and sure enough, there we were listed as VIP quests. He walked us to the front (beach side) of Tropicante and introduced us to Steve who is very gracious and offering to assist in what we needed/wanted for the day. We were given front row beach loungers with large umbrella, and a breathtaking view and aqua blue water and white powdery sand. Steve does not charge for the chairs/umbrella/views, only asks that you spend some money with him. We had 3 Bloody Marys, 1 strawberry frozen drink, 2 local beers, 2 pina coladas, 2 appetizers (plenty of food) and the bill came to $64 plus a nice tip for the great service, for 5 hours of beach time. HIGHLY RECOMMEND Tropicante and Steve for a great beach day!
Cozumel: We did the Cozumel Bar Hop and had a great time. You might look at the name of this tour and think booze cruise on land, but except for 4 sorority girls that were entertaining and interacted well with the older group, this is not a booze cruise. Yes you were provided a shot at each of the stops, but they were more juice than booze, and you were not forced to drink them, but they were tasty. Each stop offered a great view of the rugged side of the island, and the stops were more restaurant than bar, and the food choices were quite good! Only complaint is that the sound system in the van did not work, so we were not signing between stops and the trip back to the ship. If you want a stress free tour of the other side of the island, I recommend the Bar Hop, even if you do not drink.
This is directed to the cruisers themselves. Contrary to what you might think, the buffet is NOT going to run out of food, you do not need to push people out of your way to get that last piece of cake/pie/hamburger/etc, they have more! I am ok with you darting in and out of the line, if you know you do want salad, or you know you just want a hamburger, I am ok if there is a gap in the line to dart in, grab what you want and then dart back out. I am not ok with you darting in front of me, and then stare at the choices in front of you trying to determine if you want it, get in and get out before I get there.
Also, to the cruisers that are waiting for an elevator, if I cannot get off the elevator because you and your friends, one of which is on a scooter, are blocking my exit, do not yell at me “we are trying to get on that elevator” because you will get the response, “then get out of my way so I can get off so you can get on” and if you huff at me, you will be waiting for the next elevator.
Some people you just cannot please. First night in the Aqua, enjoying 2 lobsters and decent steak, the couple next to us (he had 3 lobsters and appeared to be enjoying his meal), the Wife was complaining about the potatoes (I do agree that NCL needs to work on their potatoes) to the waiter, “I was told that you got a new chef, these or the same terrible potatoes that you served me on the last cruise, you did not get a new chef, these are horrible!”
Another night, a different lady sitting next to us was ordering desert, they had pecan pie, she asked if that came with ice cream, the waiter informed her that he could serve it with ice cream, “I DON”T WANT ice cream, I just want pie!!!!!!” Be polite, make your wishes known, and you’ll be accommodated! I’ve NEVER been told NO to any request I’ve made on a cruise ship before
We used 717 Parking for the week. We parked in a small lot by the Amtrak Station, no fence but am told security patrols the lot. We called when we got to the lot (we were told 10 minutes before but were not in a hurry so we waited to make sure we found the lot ok) and the shuttle drive was there in 15 minutes (he even called a couple times to provide us status/eta updates), and dropped us off at baggage drop at the NCL terminal. After disembarking, we called 717 and the same driver was there in 10 minutes and loaded our luggage and we were off. We did have VIP disembarkation so we were 1st off the ship at 8am, walked thru security, out the baggage holding area (there were not even any luggage set out yet) in the shuttle by 8:15, on the road at 8:30am, NICE!
Overall I would do this cruise next week if I could. We find great value in cruising and enjoyed meeting everyone at the Cruise Critic Meet and Greet, and then running into them at different ports or on the ship throughout the week.