It is the morning of July 4th, and I just got back from my first family cruise on the Norwegian Dawn. Hurricane Arthur loomed behind us, spinning wildly in our wake. Luckily, neither Arthur's deadly winds or the violent flushing of my stateroom toilet could engulf me before I safely arrived in Boston.
A week earlier, I first boarded the Dawn with my wife, my 22-year-old daughter, my 24-year-old son, his girlfriend, and a couple I have been friends with for many years now. We booked three rooms on the 11th floor. My wife and I booked a mini-suite, to allow for extra room for our daughter to stay. Our friends booked a Balcony room down the hall, and our son booked an inside stateroom with his girlfriend.
Upon arrival, we set our luggage down on the pavement (in my son's girlfriend's case, she set her entire closet down). Within minutes, a porter was there to check our luggage for us. Now, never having been More
on this type of vacation, I dipped into my wallet and slyly slipped the man three dollar bills for his trouble. That's just the kind of guy I am. I did not realize that my friend (a seasoned cruiser) gave him a ten dollar bill, exposing my sometimes frugal 'masshole' tendencies. I then proceeded to be teased about this indiscretion for the rest of the trip. Take my advice and tip the burly porter man.
The Mini-Suite was great when everything was working (key word: working). The bathroom size was bigger than the balcony room bathroom. The mini-suite room had a bath tub and shower, where the balcony room only had a shower and seemed smaller in size if only by a few inches. I was able to notice the difference. I noticed also that the mini-suite had a slightly bigger balcony and a bigger mini-fridge than the balcony room. However, Day 1: I noticed my mini- fridge wasn't getting cold, so I called the Service Desk and had to have the mini-fridge replaced the next day. My wife brought wine and paid a corking fee of $60, and I had to hear her sigh in contempt, "White Zin doesn't taste good warm". The ice bucket looked like a kids beach bucket. Day 2: Mini-fridge was fixed. I thought the bad part was over. Just a little hiccup; but now my wife was free to drink her wine in peace. As they say, happy wife=happy life.
Now for the Ugly. The toilet decided to stop flushing. Most of the 11th floor was out of order. This went on for up to seven or eight very uncomfortable hours (as you can imagine). They had a main line clog. This happened two more times, once while in Bermuda, and on the day we pulled out of Bermuda.
Like I said, the room was great when everything was working. But that wasn't always the case. It got to the point where we decided 'test flushing' before attempting to use the toilet was the best method.
Port & Excursions
The three days in Bermuda were beautiful. In particular, I have to say the Rum Swizzle Excursion was one of my favorite parts of the trip and well worth the money. We also visited the Crystal Caves, which was different to say the least. 83 steps down were easier than the 83 steps back up. We went to Horseshoe Bay Beach. It was flawless: silky smooth sand and no rocks on the beach or in the water. The views were stunning. We went to Snorkel Beach the last day because we didn't want to travel too far on our last day in port, knowing we would need to be back on the ship by five. It was a bit rocky, but was still a nice beach day in Bermuda. I admit it was better than the beaches in MA.
One important thing to note when visiting Bermuda: unless you are staying in the Royal Naval Dockyard, you will need to travel (i.e. buses, cabs, ferries) to get around the island. That being said, the bus drivers and cab drivers were crazy. Good luck driving a moped. Our bus driver almost ran one over. They drive on the opposite side of the street in Bermuda. No thanks.
They were friendly enough through all of our cabin problems, and our cabin steward (Guisti) didn't speak English well, but he was the best. He was very friendly. The cabin was always made up and turned down on time. He made cool animals from the towels that my whole family loved. His smile was infectious. So even when the toilets weren't flushing, it was hard to stay mad around him. Even with the tipping fees included everyday, we left him an extra tip in a thank you card. Honestly, who knows how the tips get split up by the ship's bosses, and I thought Guisti went above and beyond to help our family enjoy the cruise and deserved the extra tip.
Good luck finding a seat by the pool, especially on the days when the ship is at sea. My daughter especially always wanted to go lay out in the sun on the top deck, and was often disappointed when every single lounge chair was taken. Put your towel out early if you want a good spot. Activities were numerous and if you didn't care for them, you could just do your own thing (which is what I did).
The shows were great. Most last around 45 minutes to an hour in the Stardust Theatre at night. All are worth going to, but I highly recommend the comedian, Band on the Run, Second City, and don't miss the finale show.
Dining (Mostly thumbs down)
The food was hit or miss, but mostly miss unfortunately. The two main dining rooms serve the same menu from the same kitchen every night, The Aqua is more mid-ship and you don't feel the ship rocking as much when the seas are choppy. You are less likely to get sick there (from the sea at least).
But the only dining that was a 5 star that we ate at was Cagney's Steak House. It was well worth the $30 per person. The 16 oz. Rib eye steaks were out of this world. They use Black Angus meat. The free main restaurants do not. So do your =self a favor and book Cagney's at least once to break up the cafeteria tasting food in the Aqua and Venetian. If you are an avid Patriots fan like me, you might find yourself calling the Venetian the Vinatierian. The two are not related, if you were wondering.
The Blue Lagoon saved me for breakfast and lunch. It is open 24 hours a day. The Garden Cafe was always way too busy. We had trouble finding seating and the atmosphere was much better in the Blue Lagoon. Plus, they serve you during lunch hours. There are a lot less people there too which is a plus, because people are going to get on your nerves sooner or later. For every nice person you meet, there's one rude one.
It was not as smooth as getting on, but I think it was more of the same. Not Norwegian's fault. I'd blame it on the rude people you just got done spending 7 days on the ship with. The urge to punch them in the face reaches its peak during disembarkation. Again, there are some nice people you'll meet, but the rude and ignorant people will stand out.
Glad I went? (Yes) Would I go again? Maybe, maybe not. We'll see.
Tips: Bring bottled water. They charge for bottled water. Don't let rude people ruin your planned relaxing vacation. The elevators will drive you nuts!!!