Review of Dawn 1-24-09
We are a couple, 68 and 72. We used our cruise reward certificate from our last sailing on NCL, which coupled with the very low prices, made it seem like it was almost free :)
We stayed at Hilton's Homewood Suites the night before the cruise. Flying in the day before at a not busy time is much less stressful than taking an early morning flight. (BTW Delta was on time for both legs of our trip). It had a free shuttle from the airport, and arranged for a shuttle to the pier for $10 each. I'd been told there was a drug store within walking distance but this simply was not true, so I did not buy a 12 pack of sodas to carry on the ship. There was a free buffet hot breakfast included, which was nice. Shuttle was ready 15 minutes early (driver called our room to tell us) so off we went.
Embarkation was delayed, we knew not why, so spent time waiting in long rows. But it was there that we met some of our roll call. We had arranged to wear Mardi Gras beads so we'd recognize each other. Great way to start the cruise.
One of the best parts of organizing the cruise was our very large roll call. Met lots of great people. I love it when you can walk around and run into people who know your name. We had a roll call of 81 people but only about 20 showed for the meet and greet which was attended by 4 staff who gave little speeches and then ran off. Suggestion for future cruisers: Make plans for several meet and greets, not just early on in the cruise. We had to set our watches ahead an hour the night before the meet & greet which must have messed up some people's schedules. Therefore, anyone who did not attend the meet & greet would never get to meet the others from the roll call.
We had a sideways inside cabin which was well laid out but the beds were not too comfy. The mattress pad was for a double bed and was folded in half. Therefore it slid around on the bed. The heat/air was also hard to anticipate. You'd go from being chilly and under the duvet to removing all your clothes and sleeping under just the sheet. The cabin was fine for two, but would accommodate 4 sleepers. It would have been wall to wall bed if we'd had 3 (a trundle bed stored under one of the twins), and a 4th would have been in a pullman.
We did not officially meet our stewards until later, but realized we'd seen them in the hall for the first two days. They were smiling and fun.
We ate in Venetian for lunch. Very nice, good service and good food. We had an informal meet & greet at the pool bar at 2:30 which was poorly attended. But we met some more members of our group in the buffet as we walked thru to the pool. Those who were not into drinking yet could have ice cream from sprinkles, which is part of the pool bar area.
I met 3 of our roll call for dinner in Impressions so I could have lobster ravioli. The restaurant was quieter than the main restaurants, and probably a little better service, but I personally did not feel it was worth the surcharge. It was fun to pick from the antipasto tray, though.
Since I get very excited about the ports of call, I sometimes felt like an insomniac and would stroll the public areas looking for others who were excited. Only one person up at 3:30 but we saw each other later in the cruise and called each other by name (my favorite thing).
As an early riser, I looked for people who seemed to "hang out" in the same locale each morning. We had a group of 4-6 women who met at Blue Lagoon and went out on deck to watch the ship come into port as we drank coffee. They let us take a carafe of decaf with us out on deck. This was something I looked forward to each day. We didn't have a precise time for meeting, so we'd just wait for one another. Then we'd report on what we'd done the previous day/evening.
BTW Blue Lagoon was never filled. They actually have hot food since there's a very short walk between the cook and the tables for the waitress to walk! At first I thought they had only pastries because those were set out. But there are menus and you may order from them for any meal. There is a separate breakfast menu.
We ate in Venetian for lobster night. I must say that everything I'd experienced on Majesty was the opposite on Dawn. The food was good on Dawn! One night I liked the appetizers so much that I ordered 5 of them and no entrEe! Oh, the bread was outstanding (freshly baked).
We did try Aqua, also, but liked the atmosphere in Venetian better. Food is the same.
SAMANA; Our roll call had 6 vans/boats reserved for Samana to take us to Playa Rincon. Therefore, the reservers were in the line for tender tickets half an hour before they started distributing tickets. We met at the Java Cafe area to go down to the tenders. Spent a lot of time hanging over the railing of the promenade deck using binoculars to watch the excursion boats and the shore line. It was gorgeous!
Casa Dorado had our vans at the pier and we boarded for a half hour or so drive to La Playita, adjacent to the town of Las Galeras. (google it) I'd have been happy to stay there all day it was so pretty, but we jumped into our boats and sped off to an even more beautiful, peaceful place with 2 miles of beach, 2 restaurants, a massage tent with two therapists (not as deep as I'm used to but still enjoyable). There was another deserted beach behind one of the restaurants, with horses tethered nearby. Very enjoyable. Plenty of shade or sun. Clear water, beautiful sand. There were very few people there who spoke English, so brush up on your Spanish phrases. If you have no Spanish vocabulary, you can pick out your food by pointing! We brought our own water. Plenty of room on the boats for all your supplies. Loungers rented for $2 a day. We were there until around 4 p.m. giving us plenty of time to return to the ship with an hour to spare.
On the way back we stopped at a supermarket to buy Dominican coffee and rum. Some of our group went to the nearby pharmacy which was a riot. The pharmacist gave my husband what she had for gas but had no "insert" from the box so did not know the dosage, nor what it contained! One of our group was walking around on a broken leg in and out of a case, and did not find anything substantial for pain, although we'd heard you could get pain meds without a prescription.
ST THOMAS. I used to live there ('65-'72) so just met up with old friends and did not try to do any touristy things at all. Were on the first tender which left at 9 for independents (they'd said it would be 10:30). Walked to the VI Legislature and met a senator and many of my friend's friends. We drove around trying to find places I'd lived, visited her husband and just went to local hangouts.
TORTOLA: Booked a ship's tour so were off the ship quickly and into our van for North Shore and Pusser's Landing. Tortola is lush and beautiful but more developed than Samana. We made several photo stops,a nd several half hour stops, too. One was at Sky World, one at Bomba's shack and the others at Cane Garden Bay and Pusser's Landing. Very enjoyable excursion for $35.
GREAT STIRRUP CAY: Looked lovely and crowded. We did not leave the ship.
Bingo was very expensive and almost non-existent payouts (which you had to split if more than one person bingoed at the same time). No one won the jackpots, either. Same with casino lotto which was up to $222,000,
We had our fuel supplements returned in the form of on board credit. Don't ask me how, but each of us had an extra $40 OBC in addition to what NCL and the travel agency and fuel surcharge gave us. Front desk could not explain it either. There was a letter in the cabin one day suggesting you use part of your fuel surcharge in the casino with the 20% extra bonus. In other words, $50 spent got you $60 of slots. My husband did this but said it was deceptive because it was only for certain machines. He had never seen any ship or land casino that paid absolutely nothing on $50!! So we do not recommend this even if you are given the extra $10.
Disembarkation time was 9:15 and we actually got off about 9:25 and were in the Miami airport at 10:10. We used a porter who whisked us to a cab, who whisked us to the Delta curb side check in which was not busy like it was inside. With lots of time to spare we stopped for coffee. I saw one of our roll call people across the way, so went over and was greeted by name again! And this kept happening in the airport. Do afford yourself the privilege of a good meet & greet.
Would I book NCL again? Sure. Bought another Future Cruise Reward in anticipation. I'd been a Celebrity fan ONLY and did not think the freestyle concept worked after my one experience (on Majesty) but really enjoyed it on Dawn.
To answer some questions I saw raised in other threads:
What did they run out of? Boxes to pack liquor purchases DAY 1. One of our bottles did break. Meanwhile I saw them breaking down boxes during Bingo. so there was no communication of a need in the stores. domestic beer by day 6 flavored tea in all venues except Blue Lagoon, which was sparsely attended, by day 5..
Were there waits for tables in the free dining rooms? Very little.We always had a table for two. The last night people were told there'd be a half hour wait. Otherwise, you could just wait in a line of no more than 2 couples, and be seated immediately. It was wonderful.
What time did the first "independent" tenders leave? St Thomas at 9 a.m. although we'd been told it would be 10:30 Samana around 11:00. We'd been told 11:30.
How long does it take from the time you leave the ship until you arrive at the airport? I timed it for you. I stepped onto the gangway at 9:35 and was checked in curbside at the airport at 10:10. This was with the use of a porter at the pier who took us directly to a cab. Our bags were all right together at the pier. I love it when Immigration says, after looking over your customs declaration, "Welcome home."
How about service when something is wrong? There were no room service menus in the cabin, so I left a note for the stewards. They left a breakfast hang tag menu. Next day I explained I wanted the regular menu. Got the same breakfast menus. Went to the front desk twice to get one. First time ineffective. Second time, after we returned hot and tired from Samana, took a shower and went with wet hair! got a clerk who knew that the menus were in a black leather bound book. Aha! There was no book in the cabin, so although she could not give me her copy, she phoned housekeeping and asked that one be immediately sent. ("You are going back to your cabin now, aren't you?" I wasn't planning on it, but did so, and within an hour it was there).
One of the lights in the cabin was burned out. I left a note. It was fixed two days later.