Getting to the Pier -- This was the first time that we ever went to the NYC piers, so we used a car service for transportation. The ride from Long Island went rather smoothly (about 1 hour). Only those cars using the parking garage were allowed to enter the garage area so, due to drop-offs and pick-ups, traffic along 12th Ave was horrendous. It took about an additional 30 minutes to drive from W 59th down to W 52nd St. For our return home I called the limo company and had the car meet us on 11th Ave and W 52nd St, which was much easier. For those of you that are using a cab or car service, and don't mind carrying your luggage, I would suggest that you approach the pier from below W 52nd and get dropped off across the street from the ship. Just carry your luggage across 12th Ave at the traffic light.
Embarkation -- We arrived at the pier at approx 11:15 AM, and were on the ship within 30 minutes of giving our luggage to the porters. There didn't appear to be a separate check-in for Lattitude members, however, if you identified yourself as a member to the NCL staff on hand, you were pulled out of line and sent directly to an available check-in rep.
CC Meeting -- We missed it. After returning the life preservers to our cabin following the muster drill, we found that our luggage had already arrived. We took that opportunity to unpack everything. By the time we got to the top deck, the weather turned nasty. We're really sorry we weren't able to connect with all the folks we chatted with the past few months.
Cabin -- My wife and I had absolutely no problem finding our cabin. We were on Deck 9 in cabin 9226 (starboard - aft). The cabin contained a queen size bed (which I believe was actually wider than our normal queen size at home) and a sofa that opened up into a 3rd bed. Since it was just the 2 of us, it stayed closed. The balcony had a small table and 2 chairs (1 that reclined).
The luggage fit nicely under the bed and we had plenty of space for our clothing; · Closet · 3 drawers · 4 shelves in the closet · 2 shelves to the right and left of the closet.
There's a mini fridge in the room that we kept stocked with a case of bottle water we brought on board. The electronic safe was easy to use. Plenty of room in the bathroom. The sliding doors that separated the shower, sink and toilet were a nice touch.
We actually kept the balcony doors open most of the cruise and had the TV tuned to the music stations. This made for some peaceful times whenever we were relaxing in the sun.
Freestyle Dining - Restaurants - Food Absolutely no complaints about the food or the restaurants. The only restaurants we missed were Cagney's and Bamboo. We ate in the Garden Cafe once and preferred to stay away from it because of the crowds. The Freestyle atmosphere really catered to my wife and me. We actually preferred to sit at a table for 2 each night and, with the exception of the last night on board, never had to wait for a table at all. We rarely ate dinner before 8 PM and had lunch on board only 2 times as I recall....one of which was on the 1st day we arrived. We used room service for a continental breakfast on the days we were in port to make it easier to get off the ship for the excursions. Speaking of room service, our orders were never late and consistently brought within 5 minutes of the times we requested. We always received a telephone call alerting us to the fact that the order was being delivered. We were very comfortable with the resort casual dress code for dinner. Monday evening was formal night and we did not feel out-of-place because we chose to remain casual. I did, however, wear a summer suit on Friday because it was my 50th birthday.
Shore Excursions -- We booked all of our excursions ahead of time through the NCL website and found the tickets waiting for us in the cabin when we arrived on 5/25. Universal/Orlando was great (our 1st time there). I highly recommend the margaritas at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville. We enjoyed Miami's Key Biscayne Heritage Bike Tour in addition to Nassau's Seaworld Explorer. We were a bit disappointed that we were unable to go ashore at Great Stirrup Cay. The water was rather rough which made it difficult and dangerous for the tenders to take on and drop off the passengers. Very understandable.
Entertainment -- The Jean Ann Ryan Dance Company was all they were cracked up to be. Immensely talented and high energy. Too bad they performed for only 3 nights. The David Lucas show, and the show by his wife Ava, was equally entertaining. We missed the Crew Show on Friday night. The late night shows in the Spinnaker Lounge were a great way to end the evenings. We also had a blast at the poolside parties. We always took the time to sit in wherever there was a lounge performer, whether it be a piano player or a singer. The Dixieland Band that performed in the Pearly Kings Pub was neat.
After Thought -- Our excitement going into the cruise was at a fever pitch, and we anticipated nothing short of a fabulous vacation. Our cruise far exceeded our expectations and we're already making plans to cruise the Dawn again when my wife turns 50 in 2 years. From time to time we did hear complaints. My opinion is that if you go on board looking for the negatives, you will find them. The complaint that sticks in my mind was uttered by a woman who said she could not get to the cabin door while the bathroom door was wide open. I haven't figured out if she was complaining about the cabin set-up, or the fact that she didn't have the foresight to close the bathroom door. Come to think of it, I couldn't step onto the balcony while the sliding glass door was closed (my sarcasm for the day).
My point is, for those that are booked on the Dawn and those considering it, if you go on board anticipating a cruise that will be nothing short of fabulous..... that's exactly what you will leave the ship with.