This was our first time on a cruise for my wife and I so we had no point of reference or preset expectations of what to expect and were a little apprehensive of what we were getting ourselves into too say the least. The Boston - Bermuda cruise was booked only 2 weeks out when the price for a balcony suite cabin dropped substantially and looked to be good value for money and also very convenient for us with embarkation from Boston, MA. The thought was if it was a disaster cruise then we hadn't wasted too much of our hard earned money on the vacation. Our cabin was located starboard side aft on deck 10.
On board the Norwegian Dawn we had a lot families and young adults (recent high school and college graduates), so as you could imagine there was a lot of late night party activity, particularly around the Oasis pool deck. This was really no different to any vacation resort location so it didn't overly perturb us, the ship is more than large enough to find plenty of quite areas More
to hang out. In general the passengers were from a broad cross section of society with the majority from New England and the Northeast, including a splattering of "Jersey Shore" types in the flesh.
The ship had plenty of restaurants, pubs, entertainment, show productions and activities on board to keep you occupied day and night. Some more experienced cruise passengers mentioned they didn't like the freestyle dining of NCL and preferred the traditional set time and table. We found the freestyle cruising very flexible. If we wanted a guaranteed table in a particular restaurant we simply made a reservation a day or so earlier, otherwise you can just wing it and try your luck. I will say we never ate in the Garden Cafe buffet, it was always busy and seemed to have that fatty cafeteria smell all the time. Instead for a breakfast buffet or light lunch we used the Blue Lagoon restaurant, it was always quite. We used almost all the specialty restaurants on board. However, the La Cucina restaurant was located next to Gatbys Champagne Wine Bar. Unfortunately, to get to La Cucina you have to pass through the smoked filled air coming from the Havana Club cigar room and the Casino. We opted to pass on eating there for that reason. We would highly recommend Cagney's Steakhouse, Bamboo, and the Sushi Bar though.
As we are non-smokers it was disappointing to know that passengers were allowed to smoke on the cabin balconies, in the casino and at various deck locations. Unfortunately, for us the neighboring cabins had smokers and the wafting of cigarette smoke onto our aft balcony made sitting out there unpleasant. In my opinion smoking of any form on board cruise ships should be banned, it is both a fire and health hazard to passengers and crew alike. However, I'm pleased to hear that NCL will introduce a non-smoking policy on board their ships (cabin balconies) in November 2014, but not soon enough or extensive enough I say.
Our experience with the crew was that they were all very friendly and would go out of their way to help and keep passengers happy. I'm sorry to say that I witnessed a few demanding passengers with a tone of voice to the crew to be abysmal and condescending. Some passengers need to follow the mantra of treating others as you would want to be treated yourself.
Pointers: These may seem like silly pointers but for first time cruisers could be helpful...
If you print out the on-line NCL luggage labels at home, double side tape them with cello-tape and attach them to your luggage. When you arrive at the Cruise terminal at Boston just drop your labelled luggage with the identified porters. You can then walk directly on board the ship without having to wait in the line (that many passengers were doing) to label your luggage. Once your luggage arrives at your cabin you can store your luggage under the bed.
The ice bucket in your cabin is refilled twice a day (took us three days to notice!).
Prices for drinks are about the same as you would pay at your local drinking establishment on shore, maybe even cheaper, beers were around $5-$6, cocktails $6-$9 on average. We didn't purchase the drink package and feel you would probably have to drink a lot (6-10 drinks/day) to break even.
There are no irons or ironing board in the cabins so fold your clothes carefully to avoid creasing them. If you need too you can have your clothes pressed by the ships laundry service for a charge.
If you don't want to have lots of children and young adults on board and probably a more mature passenger group I would recommend sailing outside of the school holiday period, such as in May, September or October. A local Bermudian told us that May is a particularly pretty time to visit with the spring flowering taking place.
I would highly recommend the 7-day Bermuda cruise as there is no time pressure to race off the ship as you are in port for 3 days. The Bermudians are all laid back and friendly so no one will hassle you when on shore. Also look at going outside the summer holidays as it is also a little cooler and the sun isn't so intense in those months.
Cruises are extremely good value for money, you would be hard pressed to find a better value vacation. If you haven't cruised before do yourself a favor and try it out, we are already planning to cruise with NCL again to Bermuda. Less