For our sixth cruise, and second on NCL, my partner and I sailed Norwegian Dawn on its August 12th itinerary from Boston to Heritage Wharf, Bermuda. We wholeheartedly embrace the concept that cruises, like people, are inherently imperfect, so the expectation of a totally flawless journey is unreasonable. Park the attitude at the dock, roll with the punches, and set your sights on having a fantastic time!
In comparison to Celebrity's Fort Lauderdale embarkation process, NCL's in Boston was at first glimpse an exercise in utter chaos. Somehow it all worked, however, and within 30 minutes of our arrival, we were seated comfortably in the VIP lounge -- signed, sealed and delivered. The lounge was a nice touch, affording suite guests a respite from the madness outside, not to mention a small buffet of sandwiches, snacks, cookies and juices. Let the gluttony begin!
While we appreciate priority boarding for suite guests, we think NCL does its crew a disservice by allowing passengers access to their staterooms before they are ready. We were escorted to suite 10500 only to find the room in disarray and the narrow corridor littered with dirty linens, trash bags and cleaning materials. Our stateroom attendant, already hard at work, was clearly embarrassed, as we were for her. We excused ourselves and told her we would return later, and she was obviously grateful for the courtesy. We understand everyone is excited to get aboard, but allowing the crew a little extra time would cause no one any hardship and ease what is already a very stressful day.
The Dawn is a beautiful ship and appears to have emerged from its recent dry dock with most of its age-related idiosyncrasies cured. There was not a drip or a bucket to be found, and while it was easy to discern the old from the new, the ship was clean and in mostly good condition. An exception was our suite on deck ten forward, tucked under the bridge. Except for two new chaise lounges on the veranda, our stateroom had not benefited from the recent refurbishment and it showed. Carpets and upholstery exhibited wear, the lamp shades were soiled, one of two small safes was inoperable and would not close, and toilet seat was stained and chipped to the point of distraction. The safe and toilet seat remained unattended all week despite our requests for repair. We might add that while storage space was abundant, it came at the expense of the bathroom, which was the smallest we have encountered in a suite at this price point. Navigating the tight bathroom/closet area demanded contortion skills neither of us possessed, particularly if we attempted entry simultaneously. On the other hand, the bed was one of the most comfortable we have experienced anywhere. Kudos to NCL for not skimping on comfort!
Our suite came equipped with a small refrigerator brimming with sodas and single-serving bottles of alcohol, and a fully-stocked coffee bar with an espresso/cappuccino machine. Curiously, we were charged for every item removed from the refrigerator but countless rounds of espresso were apparently gratis.
There was a clear difference in food quality and service between the specialty restaurants and other eating venues on board, but all were, at worst, acceptable. Cagney's Steakhouse performed double duty as a dedicated breakfast and lunch spot for suite guests, while serving as a reservations-only Chicago-style chop house at night. The food in Cagney's and the other specialty restaurants was exceptional and well worth the minimal up-charge. We found Venetian and Aqua, the main dining rooms, to be comparatively modest by cruise ship standards, and their menus were redundant and uninspired. We are still trying to equate with Bermuda the "chef's regional speciality" of Mexican Meatballs.
Few ships afloat are known for their entertainment offerings, but in that department Dawn excelled. The young troupe of singers, dancers and aerialists were highly entertaining, and the appearance of The Second City and its offbeat humor was a great juxtaposition to the usual cruise ship fare. Yes, there were the requisite comedian and magician, both forgettable, but the lounge singers were excellent and appeared to find a loyal following. A highlight was cruise director, Paul Scally, who will undoubtedly land an entertainment career all his own in short order.
We encountered two examples of crew indifference, although neither would hinder us from a future NCL cruise and, likewise, neither reflected on the crew as a whole. People have bad days, and while we were offended at the time, we offered suggestions to NCL and promptly got over it. Otherwise, we found the Dawn crew to be congenial, attentive, tireless and perpetually smiling, and we trust our fellow passengers were similarly impressed.
It goes without saying that Bermuda is a gem of the Atlantic, and we encourage cruise passengers to explore her thoroughly and experience all she has to offer. To limit your experience to the Naval Dockyard, as many people did, denies you the joy of experiencing the people and culture of this beautiful island. We only scratched the surface and look forward to returning to Bermuda someday. We would certainly do so on the Dawn without hesitation.