We sailed out of N.Y. on Sun. 7-6-08 on NCL dawn.Our group of 23 ranged in age from 13 to 80+.We had first time cruisers and veteran cruisers. We occupied cabins8017,8019,8021, 8139 ,8151, 8153,8155, 8157, 8159 and mine 8161.This is my 7th cruise . It was just my husband and I. We are in our mid 40`s traveling with a bunch of friends. Three came with families ( teens), some singles, some widows and widowers, in-laws and scuba fanatics. We were a mixed bunch . Leaving from the NY port was disorganized , long lines going in ,no baggage carriers at first, the lines inside were changed as two ships were both leaving .Once with NCL we could relax with our comp. Champagne. The Venetian was not open till 5:30 p.m. we waited outside of it to make sure. The buffet was open .We waited and ate at the Venetian. This was my first time doing freestyle. Our group had mixed reviews. The veteran cruiser prefers the scheduled meal times and would have liked us all to be at dinner at the same time. We were able to get reservations at Cagney`s****($20pp cover-groups should use the coupon in your coupon book it`s only good for the first night). The first thing we did on the ship was rush to book this and we had to eat at 9pm.We did groups of 14 -21 two other nights at 7 p.m..We booked last minute and only had a 10 minute wait for one night at the Venetian*** and 3 separate tables near each other for the other night at the Aqua***. I did not mind at all and on all three nights had early dinners at other restaurants at 5:30 p.m.(Yes I am an eating machine! see my food critic reviews below).Most of our group liked picking when and where to eat and going their own way. On our previous RCL cruise the kids and teens ate at Johnny Rockets every night and that had a small cover charge$$$. Here the kids and some grown ups ate at Blue Lagoon** for a similar food type and had the Salsa bar rstrnt *** , Bimini grill, pool side BBQ`s , sprinkles ice cream** (NO sprinkles just ice cream)and Garden Cafe buffet and N.Y. Deli as other no cover charge options. We also ate 2 nights at Le Bistro**** ($15 pp cover charge)(see anniversary / honeymoon package below). Others in the group ate at Impressions for Italian(cover charge $10) and hated it. No one ate at the Asian restaurants Bamboo &sushi bar and Teppanyaki (varied cover charge).A large part of our group ate at the Garden Cafe buffet as this was a very informal venue- they said it was very good. I did hear a lot of other passengers complaining that Free Style was not as free as they would have liked --it was mostly about the dress code. Certain restaurants required no shorts ,tanks or tee-shirts at Dinner. You did not need a jacket and tie --but could wear them if your wife forced you to because she likes to dress up (I was the only one on the ship in a beaded gown-poor Hubby). There were always informal restaurants to choose from so if you hate to wear pants ask before you make a reservation especially at the cover charge restaurants because canceled reservations are charged the cover for two if not canceled before 4:30 p.m. You don`t need to make reservations for most restaurants , menus are posted outside each one with the dress code so explore and pick what you like.
The ship was colorful and well laid out once you realize what floors to avoid as you can`t walk fore to aft on certain floors( just go one up or down). The restaurants went from elegant to fun in their decor. The Atrium was beautiful .The pool area was crowded and our sun bathing teens had trouble getting a lounge. We used the hot tub on a port day to relax and had it to ourselves. Our gamblers liked the casino but certificate raffle winners beware :two people won free entries to tournaments but missed them as no time was posted on them- ASK when you win them.
The Galleria gift shop holds lot`s of raffles - hold on to your receipts and get raffle tickets when you make purchases even in the atrium(they forget to give them to you-and miss print drawing times so ask).You must be present to win so on "fill in raffles" only put "family name" down so any one in your cabin can go and beware they overlap with all the other things you can choose to do or not do (a high lighter came in helpful to mark what we liked in the dailies ). The costume jewelry and t-shirts were a good buy .Free Liquor tasting was fun (if buying it`s one liter per person now) I liked it so much I was asked if I`d like a bowl!!No one used the gym but the massage service was very good.
We loved the art gallery auctions and free champagne(-I would make mimosas with my O.J.) We are not art buffs normally but loved the auctions it`s fun even while not bidding. The "not so newlywed game" was fun, the Bollywood show ***, The second city shows were enjoyed by some of our group as was the Gleason`s magic show ,the others got fair to poor reviews .The cruise director was very friendly "drop your pancakes and sausages" the staff was very friendly and very helpful 95% of the time. Some of them were outstanding. All in all a very nice ship. Our cabins were very nice. Though ours and 8159 had a lot of noise coming from above us (lot`s of kids or a mech. Room???) I loved the sliding glass door on the shower. If you bring lot`s of toiletries try an over the door shoe holder to hold your tubes and bottles but there is an adequate shelf for those with a normal amount of "stuff".Bring a blow dryer if you don`t want to use their wimpy one. Bring a multi plug or power bar if you have lot`s to plug in. Ask for an egg crate for on the mattress if you need one I have a bad back and I did. I also brought extra plastic slacks hangers as I bring a lot of clothes. The draws held our under and bed garments and hair brushes, curling iron and blow dryer (the plug is on the vanity in the room not in the bathroom). Bring an alarm clock as there is no clock in the room.
We also brought a collapsible cooler and garbage bags to line it as we like lot`s of ice our steward kept it filled and emptied it when it needed it .We brought large plastic cups for water, orange juice and cranberry juice and for my husband to use with his soda card. They do not want you to fill sport bottles as it is a health issue???At first we had trouble using the cups but I spoke to the head of food & beverage and he said he would speak to the staff and we never had trouble again. Usually you get a cup when you buy the soda card but do to the upgrade to 2.0 the new cups were not in yet . They would be adequate for a normal drinker but we drink 10 - 20 glasses a day. If you like O.J .& cran. Other than in the morning stock up at bkft and put it in your frig. Or cooler. Have your steward empty your frig of it`s stock so you have room. The frig. Is small. When taking food back to your room that you will put in the frig. Ask for the food on a small plate w/ wrap on it (there regular size plates are too big.).I always ask for desserts to go if I am full and enjoy 2 later when hungry.
Port of call :.We docked at King`s Wharf in Bermuda. Leaving the ship and getting back on was a breeze. We would come back to the ship for lunch and dinner. We got the transportation pass for 2 days ($20pp).The bus ride (ours had A.C.) to Hamilton was like a tour: try not to get on a crowded one (they stop and pick up passengers along the way). Beware they drive fast!!We shopped on front street ** and later went to the street fair(only Wed. night) for more shopping **.We took the ferry back to King`s Wharf (25 min.) and enjoyed the views and A.C.= very nice boats.
Our 2nd port day we took the ferry to St .George (45 min.) we walked around then took the bus to the Crystal caves( $46 for 2 for both caves) If you can only do one cave pick the fantasy cave (more color less broken stalactites). Then we ate at Baily`s Ice cream parlor *** ($10 for 2 two scoops w/ choc. Cone).Then we had a frozen Rum Swizzle at the Swizzle Inn ($17 + $3 tip).Then we were off to a beach. We hate crowds so we picked John Smith Bay (Jobsons cove was our 2nd choice).It was secluded and lovely, surrounded by hills and trees with grassy knolls and bordered by dark coral reefs. Then we took the bus back to ST .George to see the perfume factory (last tour is 4:30 p.m.).and Somers garden **.Then the ferry back to K.W. to the ship.
Our last day we booked the "Restless Native Catamaran"***($89pp)-the cookies and rum swizzles and cheese and crackers were great and our snorkel lovers enjoyed it.Maureen S. did an excellent job as our tour guide. We then checked out the mall* (you can buy Bermuda perfume here ) ,the glass factory *** and the Rum Cake factory **(check around for prices we found it cheaper down the road). Some of our group who did not get the transportation passes hated being docked at King`s Wharf and would never cruise to that port again. We had no trouble getting all over the island and enjoyed having 3 days at one port so we never had to rush back to the ship. Plus the ships docked at the other port had to leave 1 day early due to Bertha. I liked freestyle and would bring my 14 and 18 year old on an NCL cruise (it`s better then RCL for teens). I took advantage of NCL`s future cruise program to save on per person deposits ($250 per cabin instead of $250 per person) we got a $100 shipboard credit on this cruise and can book within 12 months for as far away as 30 months (7-12-09 to book and 1-12-11 to sail). It is also fully refundable (W/I 30 days) so if I change my mind I get my $150 back. If I do keep it I get the whole $250 deposit off my future cruise( and the previously spent $100 credit.). I hope this review was helpful. I am trying Princess Cruises next in Sept. w\ my Mom. Then NCL again with the kids. About the Honeymoon/Anniversary PKG: 1.Sparkling wine & choc. Covered strawberries in cabin 1st day *** 2.dinner for 2 at Le Bistro w/ bottle of red or white table wine **** 3.Champagne & cake party Tue 4 p.m.*** 4.5x7 portrait taken at cake party (they take a few) *** 5.canapes to cabin Fri.btwn 5-6 pm *** all this for $89 call travel agent 2 weeks before to book
Food review BKFT: Venetian: eggs benedict w/ extra Canadian bacon extra hollandaise **** 3 out of 4 days * 1 day hash brown potatoes, corned beef hash(real not canned),bacon, french toast, sausage, bagel- all rated**** LUNCH : Sun: Buffet garden café: roast beef * lamb** Mon:Venetian:.sweet&sour grouper fried rice***steak sandwich*** Tue:udon noodles prawns & pork ***veg.fried rice **** calamari**pastrami sand *** Wed:Blue Lagoon: Hotwings*** Panini**Fish n chips***Fries*** Thur: Ate in Bermuda Fri:Venetian:fish n chips *** udon noodle w/ scallops** broc. Ced. Soup** BBQ wings*** Sat: Blue lagoon: fish n chips *** wanton soup*** wings*** Fries***hamburger*** DINNER:SUN:Venetian: tart**** soup****Jerk chicken**** CAGNEYS group review:crabcake**** Portabella Mushroom W/crabmeat****Lobster bisque soup* ceaser salad*** prime rib****lobster tail($10 more)****garlic mash potato***T bone *** Cagney fries**** onion rings*** filet mignon*** wedge salad****Cag.chef salad**** shrimp cocktail*** clam chowder**creamed spinach* Cheesecake**** Lockwood and Orville were Fantabulous waiters MON:Venetian:lobster*** sirloin steak** beef wellington*tortellini** chicken*** salmon*** TUE:Le Bistro: escargot***onion soup*** cream mushroom soup in bread bowl*** seared scallops**** lamb chops****sirloin steak for 2($10pp=$20)***(not worth extra$$) crepes suz.***choc. Napoleon***anniversary cake** WED:Venetian:spring roll*chilled avocado shrimp soup** prime rib****Tilapia w/jasmine rice **quesadilla*** cappuccino mousse in choc.cup**** THUR:Aqua:artichoke salad***scallops***cauliflower soup***duck salad*flounder***beef stroganoff***sirloinsteak***farfarel sausage &peppers**peanutbutter pie***bavarian cream* CHOCOLATE BUFFET:in Garden Café got on line at 9:40 opened at 10 PM ** FRI:Salsa:Beef fajita***ribs***pork spring roll*** nacho grande*** Venetian:lobster w/shrimp scallops snapper & mussels over pasta*** SAT:LeBistro: scallops**** onion soup**** rack lamb**** assorted wursts*** Cappuccino is available for free at Bkft, Lunch and Dinner Check Daily for drink specials:$4.95 Margarita, 2 for 1 Martini, Refills on daily special drink are less, and if you like wine with dinner bring on your own large bottle for the $15 corking fee (must pay even if you uncork it)they hold it and you just request it at any restaurant or you can keep it in your room. RATINGS *poor - fair **OK ***good ****excellent Over all the food was *** The secret to not gaining a ton is using the stairs instead of the elevator. Sweet Sailings!