My partner and I eagerly awaited our recent cruise from Dover, UK to Ft. Lauderdale, FL. This time, we were off on our Summer vacation cruise. We started by spending 4 days in London and were glad the ship was going to take us home without having to fly. This was my 21st cruise and my partner's 22nd.
Embarkation at Dover was interesting. We took the National Express bus service from Victoria Station, London, which was absolutely wonderful and very reasonable. For the both of us, the cost was $40, not bad for a 55 mile (2 hour) trip to Dover. It can be quite expensive otherwise.
The Princess Representatives were courteous, but all of our records were not on the system upon arrival. We were asked for name, address and telephone number. They didn't have our Captain Circle information or Shipboard Credit information. This is why we travel with a file folder of all documentation and confirmations. We boarded the ship and, though the Dawn is older, it was quite nice, as it had been refitted not long ago.
We went to our cabin on the Dolphin deck, which was a spacious obstructed outside cabin with the usual small Princess bathroom. We met our new steward, James. He was wonderful throughout the entire cruise and took care of all of our requests.
Our next stop was the Venetian Dining Room (late seating dining) to see our table location. We visited with Rui Pereira, the Head Maitre D' - we had sailed with Rui on the Sun Princess several years ago. He was happy to assist us and also was involved with setting up luncheons for our Cruise Critic group. After lunch at the Horizon Court, we went back to our cabin and our luggage had already been delivered, so we unpacked and were set for the cruise. After Muster Drill we met our fellow Cruise Critic members at the Tradewinds Bar for a Sail Away Party.
We were fortunate to have a wonderful and congenial table for 8 (Table 108) in a good location with Zosimo as our Waiter and Levi as our Assistant Waiter. They did an excellent job and were happy to bring you whatever you wanted. Assistant Maitre D's Andrew and Pedro were helpful and attentive. The table was only ourselves and two lovely ladies from Australia for most of the time, as many older cruisers wanted to eat earlier and chose to eat in the buffet, than at the late seating. Over the course of the cruise, four others joined our table and it was quite nice.
The food in the dining room was good to very good (not excellent). The food was a bit uneven though we never went away hungry. They had Prime Rib, Medallions of Beef, Lobster Tails, Rack of lamb, as well as fish, pork and chicken dishes etc... Don't miss out on the Fettuccini Alfredo. As an example of the unevenness, salmon in a puff pastry was served as an appetizer and a similar dish as an entree; and several dishes were served two or three nights in a row.
Only one specialty restaurant was available, the Sterling Steak House - which is actually a sectioned-off area of the Horizon Court Buffet. We met several other people from the states and a group of 8 had dinner together. It was quite nice and the food and service was excellent.
In this venue, we chose the Colossal Prawn Cocktail and I had the New England Clam Chowder and my Partner had the tableside Caesar Salad. We both had the 10 oz. Filet Mignon We had some of the side dishes brought to the table (very good) and we both had coffee and my Partner had a Souffle for dessert and I had the Chocolate Mousse.
The buffet was generally fair to good. The buffet area was generally rather good for breakfast though I had to ask for smoked salmon daily, as a tray was not placed out on any morning. They did have other dishes, but were generally geared to the majority of the Australian passengers. Lunch tended to be rather repetitive until a larger number of Americans who boarded in Dover requested that there be some "creativity" in the menus. Amazingly, we started to see "theme" lunches each day, i.e. Asian, Mexican, Italian. We never went away hungry; burgers and hot dogs were at the outside grills, but one day another incident occurred. We were not in the mood for the buffet, so we went to get a burger after exploring the port in the morning. We were told they were out of hamburgers. I said "how could you be out of hamburgers? -- No one has been on the ship all day." I found the Food and Beverage Manager who got a hold of the chef who I heard screaming at the grill person and lo and behold the hamburgers were there in a flash. We found that several areas needed additional training on what to do (who to call,etc..) such as this area and Guest Services (to be discussed later) Soft ice cream is available near the pool area in the afternoon at no charge.
We were glad to see that the shows were after dinner rather than pre-dinner shows and they received excellent attendance by passengers. On our Christmas cruise on the Ruby, we only saw one or two shows because many of them were scheduled as pre-dinner shows and we do not like to rush before dinner. Following that cruise, we gave negative feedback on this issue because so many shows were pre-dinner. Apparently, someone at Princess read our review and comment cards because most of the shows this time were after dinner. The theater was full each night for the after dinner show format.
The production shows were fair, but they were a hodgepodge of songs without rhyme or reason. The second production show was similar to the first. The standouts were Charmain and Heather, who actually did her own show one evening and it was wonderful. They also had several comedians and singers. Since the passengers were mainly Australian, the people really didn't get American humor and more thought should go into who are the main population of the ship when hiring entertainers.
Many activities took place in the Piazza --The Champagne Fountain, The Captain's Welcome Party, various entertainers throughout the day, etc. Cruise Director Warren Smith was very charming, visible and very busy. He was always somewhere doing another activity. His Assistant Dave did a great job too. The morning wake up news was great and especially Captain Toddy Bear (named for Captain Todd McBain. The Officers were only somewhat visible and visits were limited.
There were several other venues for entertainment-- the Magnum Bar was a wonderful Martini Bar in a great location. Anthony and Santi were the fantastic bartenders/waiters at the bar. Santi is now on leave between contracts. We hope he comes back. In the meantime, you are in good hands with Anthony. Anthony keep making those Peach Martinis and Dr. Nos...
The Jammers Lounge (Disco) was generally quiet and Lee did a great job as DJ trying to have passengers attend, but again the age of the crowd did not lend itself to making it busier. At the Casino Bar, Daniel did a great job as waiter, always happy to make us Long Island Ice Teas.
Casino staff was very personable. Black Jack tables were generally quiet, as Australians are not big gamblers and Craps table was removed; amounts to play were generally $5 per hand. Additionally, slots were also removed to allow for more card tables for Bridge and board games in the casino. The Casino also had Three Card Poker and a form of Caribbean Stud. Slots were limited and mostly video slots and were tough to beat.
Amsterdam - Cancelled due to high seas.
Bergen, Norway - Very nice stop to see and explore. Very expensive $5 for a coke; $40 for a hamburger. We went back to the ship to eat.
Glasgow, Scotland - Lots to see as there is so much history here. Great buys on wool and cashmere items.
Dublin, Ireland - What an unexpected surprise. Great city; can't wait to go back; very upscale and lovely younger crowd.
Cork, Ireland- A charming smaller city. We docked at Cobh and the townspeople came out and had an all-day celebration with bands, etc. They gave us quite a sendoff.
Bermuda- Went with a group to Horseshoe Beach. Beautiful with crystal clear water. Take your snorkeling gear.
The service overall was very good. There were some wonderful standouts on the ship, as noted above, and they were rewarded accordingly, beyond the daily automatic tips.
The only person to be able to answer all questions and handle all problems was Lola, the Captain Circle Hostess. Due to all of the missing files in Dover, she had a line 50-60 feet long of passengers. She got everything straightened out for us including Captain Circle level, ship board credits, stockholder credits, etc.
One comment regarding Guest Services -- again better training needs to be done as we had heard there was screaming and yelling due to the stop in Amsterdam being missed - a ship's Senior Officer should have handled that situation, as many were to have family reunions and get-togethers, rather than leaving it to Guest Services. We personally had a situation that we needed to know when customs would be onboard to deal with the VAT Tax refunds and Guest Services could not answer these simple questions. Again, only Lola seemed to have answers to questions and made one call and in 10-15 seconds had information on the EU VAT Customs visit (correct day and time). People in Guest Services need to be better trained to know how to seek out answers to passenger questions.
Overall it was a nice trip and we would overall recommend the Dawn Princess. The layout of the ship is very good (small and intimate) and staff was very nice.
We were so happy to meet all of the Cruise Critic members. We thank Ann and John for all of their hard work in putting luncheons and M&G's together.
Debarkation was smooth in Ft. Lauderdale and we were off the ship quickly and on to our 40 minute trip home. We said goodbye to everyone and hope they continue to have a safe journey on the Dawn.