Before reading this extensive review, I want to share with you a little about me so you can understand where this information is coming from. I had originally booked this cruise in May 2011 with my mom joining me. I am a 30 year old male who enjoys the late nights onboard. This was my 23rd cruise overall and my 13th with Norwegian Cruise Line and the 2nd cruise on the Norwegian Dawn. I have sailed on other cruise lines including Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and once (and ONLY once) on Carnival. With the new Latitudes Rewards program re-vamp I was a new Platinum member.
Unfortunately events surfaced just weeks prior to sailing and mom was unable to sail and a friend stood in (who is writing a separate review under the user name philamike). Switching the reservation proved to be a little bit of a challenge as the finances were a bit mixed up but I was finally able to have Mike stand in for my mom. I was fortunate to have a friend stand in so quickly but this was a good hard lesson as to why you should always add the insurance to your cruise. You just never know when something will come up requiring a cancellation!
PRE-CRUISE STAY: Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Airport & Cruiseport
After flying into Fort Lauderdale airport, I was picked up by the complimentary shuttle at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Airport/Cruiseport. The shuttle arrived quickly and after picking up a few other people at another terminal, I was at the check in counter. The hotel's lobby is stunning and the front desk help were extremely friendly. After being checked in, I headed over to the elevators and discovered only one was working during my entire stay.
The hotel room itself was well appointed with soft comfortable double beds. I asked and was given hypoallergenic bedding. The only drawback to the room was a slow drain in the bathtub which at times just seemed to stop draining completely. The front desk was notified at check out of the problem so hopefully they correct it.
This hotel is right on top of the airport and the surrounding area doesn't have any malls or eateries so the hotel lobby restaurant is the only option. The food was good albeit a bit pricey. The service was great in the restaurant. The hotel also had a small gift shop with sundries and other items.
FLL to MIAMI TRANSFER: SAS Transportation
This company is truly a hidden gem. Since I started using them a few years ago, the company has grown and that's in large part to the positive reviews they get on Cruise Critic. They only do one way transfers from the FLL airport to Miami hotels and the cruise port for a very reasonable $15. The driver was right on time and very nice. He got us to the cruiseport safely and quickly. We arrived just before noon at the pier.
DAY 1: EMBARKATION in MIAMI, FL
When we arrived there was a small line outside which moved quickly and once inside, it moved so fast that before I knew it I was onboard the fabulous Norwegian Dawn! Nice work with the shore-side embarkation process NCL!
After boarding the ship, my friend and I sat for a quick lunch while waiting on the rooms to become available. While dining I noticed a USCG person with a thermometer in a food tray at the hot section. After lunch I noticed another USCG person by the pool testing and quickly realized it was the ship's twice a year inspection for the CDC Vessel Sanitation program. Later in the cruise I learned from two different people that the ship either scored a 97 or 98 which is great given the age of the ship. Bravo staff and crew of the Dawn for such a high score!
CABIN 10182 -- BALCONY (Starboard Side)
All the cabins except Deck 9 were available before 2PM. Given the age of the ship, the cabin was in VERY good shape. The grout and tile in the bathroom were fresh and everything worked as it should. The balcony had one regular chair and one lounger and a small table.
The room seemed cramped with a desk chair in the way so it was put on the balcony for the duration of the cruise and actually worked out great when we decided to host a party later on in the cruise. Otherwise, there was plenty of storage space for an 11 day cruise. I took over nearly the entire closet area and my friend used the storage space above the TV and the drawers. Putting the luggage under the bed gave the room a nice open feel.
The Norwegian Dawn underwent extensive refurbishment in May 2011 and the ship looked splendid. The Venetian restaurant was our favorite main dining room and this is the only main dining room we dined in. Aqua, the other main dining room mid-ship, lacked the stunning dÃ©cor and elegance of the Venetian. The Venetian does have a dress code with no shorts allowed but your pants can be anything you want them to be (jeans, khakis, dress pants).
I was eager to see the new Spinnaker's Lounge where the gift shops used to be on Deck 7 aft. When first entering the room I realized the ceiling was low and when at the bar, the green exit sign was at my head level. I checked out the dance floor and discovered and incredible arrangement of intelligent lighting but some were very low. I'm tall at 6'4" and two of the lights were just inches above my head. I had to be careful putting my hands up during the voyage for fear of smashing one of them off the rigging or otherwise damaging them. The dance floor was small but for an 11 day cruise, it was hardly ever packed. There was plenty of seating in Spinnakers for evening game shows.
The rest of the ship was very well kept. New carpeting was noticeable in several areas of the ship. The only part of the Norwegian Dawn to not get a significant upgrade during the dry dock was the Stardust Theatre stage. Everywhere else the ship was pristine and everything was functioning as it should have.
This was an 11 day voyage and most families with kids had returned back to school. As a result, the average age on our cruise was older. There was a group of 29 students from St. Angelo College in Western Texas onboard and if it wasn't for them and a handful of other couples, Spinnakers would have been largely dead most nights.
HERE IS WHAT I DID DAY-TO-DAY ONBOARD:
After checking out the ship and getting pictures of the public spaces, it was time for the lifeboat drill at 3:30PM. Our assembly station was the Venetian Restaurant. Upon entering the restaurant I was greeted by Stefani, the Dawn's Crew Trainer, who I had met just four months prior on the Norwegian Spirit. She was standing guard over the free internet room on the Spirit when the cruise was extended due to Tropical Storm Lee. It was funny to see her and she was the first familiar face of many I would recognize during the voyage.
After muster drill was complete, we went back to the room to check to see if any luggage had arrived and some had. We decided to un-pack a little bit as the ship was not done provisioning and we were delayed leaving. For cast off we headed up to the pool deck where a party was well underway and then headed forward to watch the ship sail out of the channel and into some rainy weather.
Tonight my friend and I dined in the Venetian Restaurant and had great service. After the dining room and a later eating time, we headed off to the Solo Traveler's Get Together at Gatsby's Bar (Deck 6 Mid). It was at this meeting where I met the second crew member I knew from the Norwegian Epic in 2010 named Patrick. He had come over to the Dawn and is now on their cruise staff. It was nice to see him as a familiar face that I would interact with during cruise staff events throughout the voyage. Just after this ended it was off to the GLBT Informal Gathering which was scheduled the same time as the "Welcome Aboard Show" which featured entertainment seen later on in the cruise.
I went out to the disco later on in the evening where I was pleasantly surprised by the Photo Lab Manager Liga! I had cruised with her on the Norwegian Spirit just four months ago. She knew she'd find me in Spinnakers and that's where the surprise happened! She told me she saw me in the embarkation photos she was developing and thought she'd surprise me that night! What a fantastic and pleasant surprise!! I also met For the first night of the cruise, the disco was fairly dead and I turned in early as I was exhausted from the previous day's travels.
DAY 2: SEA DAY
After breakfast, it was off to the Star Bar for the Cruise Critic Meet & Greet. I arrived early for the 10:30AM gathering. Thanks to Katherine "Kat" Quiestas, the Group Service Coordinator for the Norwegian Dawn for getting us the space, the drinks and snacks and for having the senior offices including the Captain stop by! Other senior management in attendance included the head of every department onboard including Calvin Lodge, Hotel Director and Gerry, Executive Housekeeper. The Captain posed for a few pictures and gave a nice presentation to all present. It was a very nice gathering and I really thank the Norwegian Dawn's senior management for showing up.
It was also during this meeting that I voiced my concern to the Cruise Director, Johnny Cash Sanchez, about the Celebrity DJ Semiautomatic for the first time. I told him I heard his style the first night and was not impressed. I asked him about the White Hot Party coming up later on in the cruise and just who would be spinning it. I had a discussion with him about the Celebrity DJ program and he was very well receptive to the feedback I was giving him.
After a super quick lunch it was time to go to the Stardust Theater for what was the largest gathering I have seen of Latitudes members. There were over 1,000 Latitude members onboard from Bronze tier on up to Platinum which is why it was held in the Stardust. I came in and sat in the front and they showed a presentation on the accommodations of the Breakaway (which can be viewed on NCL's YouTube channel). The Captain stepped out to talk about the Norwegian Breakaway and to give the history of the company and he seemed genuinely excited about the future for the company as well. Next was a prize giveaway and the last thing I ever do is win something at these events, of course because I couldn't drink due to the medication I was taking, I won the bottle of champagne! LOL! Oh well... it was used for entertaining in our cabin later on in the cruise.
Upon returning to the room after the Latitudes party, there was a gift basket with yet another bottle of bubbly and the chocolate covered strawberries which were part of the amenities of being a Platinum member. I enjoyed the fruit and strawberries and chilled the bubbly and it was time for a quick nap!
After watching the sunset from the balcony it was off to dinner at Venetian restaurant. Service was good and it was off to the production show called BAND ON THE RUN. I have seen this show many times on the Norwegian Jewel. It's a good 70's flashback tribute and well worth seeing.
Thereafter it was off to the Star Bar to meet up with some new friends before checking out NCL's new "Norwegians Night Out Party" which featured music from the 70s on up to today's hits in Spinnaker's Lounge. This new night featured the retro music until about 11:30PM when it switched over to the so-called Celebrity DJ Semiautomatic and for what seemed the endless playing of "Cupid Shuffle." The party after 11:30PM featured a drink special for ladies only with a free jello shot coming with every "Sex on the Beach" drink order.
DAY 3: SAMANA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Since our arrival was at 10AM there was plenty of time to watch the ship approach the anchorage from the starboard side balcony we had. NCL had arranged a free beach break for the Dawn passengers at Cayo Levantado and the tendering process started with them going there unless you were booked on a tour, which I was.
NCL SHORE EXCURSION: Rustic Samana & Las Tarrenas
From the ship we boarded an open air tender boat headed to Samana. The ship had anchored far from the Samana tender pier so the ride was long. The wind was kicking up the water and the waves were splashing into the tender boat soaking people, myself included. Upon arrival to the pier we were escorted into a tour bus and whisked off to two sites in Samana. The first was a very "rustic" church. The second stop was at a very small whale museum which featured a replica of a humpback whale's skeleton mouth. After this it was off to a small stop at a flea market where cigars and Mahogany wood carvings were sold. This was on a bumpy road but the bumpiness was a very short distance, probably less than 1 mile. The rest of the ride was very smooth to Las Terrenas.
Upon arrival at Las Terrenas we were spun off on our own and given a rendezvous time. The guide brought us to a restaurant which was suggested by the tour operator or we could venture off on our own. I had forgotten my sunglasses at home so I used this opportunity to shop for some cheap ones. That mission was accomplished at then we went to one of the beach side bars named Paco Cabana. It was beach-side and it was very homely with wicker furniture and comfy sofa pads and excellent views. The drink prices were very reasonable but the change was given in pesos. After the re-boarding the bus it was back off to Samana and the tender ride back to the ship. Overall it was a great tour. Las Tarrenas is a great place to go as there are many shops, local eateries and artists around.
Back onboard the ship we were getting read for the specialty restaurant reservation and decided to be out on the balcony to watch the ship get under way and catch the sunset again. This proved to be more interesting than one would think as the tender platform that was brought from shore-side was left loose after there was some sort of misunderstanding between the locals and staff on the ship. The barge drifted slowly towards the ship before the small speed boat towing it became aware it was going to collide with the ship. The barge did collide with the ship but didn't seemingly cause any damage before the tow was regained and it was pulled away. We got underway and it was time for our dinner reservation at...
SPECIALTY RESTAURANT: Moderno Churriscaria
For $20 per person this is the all you can eat meat restaurant onboard. I've been on the Norwegian Epic and the salad bar was smaller on the Dawn but still offered a pretty good selection. After a small salad it was time to start the parade of meats which included Spanish Sausage, Linguica, Filet Mignon, Garlic Steak, Chicken, Ribs and a few other meat items. You are issued a card with a green and red side and you keep it on green to keep having the servers come with the meats. When you go through the entire round of all meats being presented on skewers then they ask what you would like more of. At this time my friend switched his card to red and I was still on green. I must have eaten a whole cow by the time I was done but the servers kept on going to the kitchen and coming back with whatever I requested. For dessert my friend and I shared all three desserts from the menu. The rice pudding was the only thing that neither of us cared for. The rest were great! This restaurant is a great value for the money and if you are a carnivore like I am then you'll REALLY love it!
After a quick stop up at the Star Bar and my friend deciding to stay up there, I headed off to the night's show alone...
SPOTLIGHT COMEDY SHOWTIME: Dave Heenan
I caught the second show at 9PM and Dave said in his opening number that he was on the ship to reinvigorate his career. Ten minutes into the comedy routine I wanted to leave. Dave was not funny. I should say I do have a high threshold for comedy but this guy was so bad even the Captain of the Norwegian Dawn who was sitting to my immediate left got up and left. After the Captain left, I left as well. I went back to the Star Bar to meet up with some new friends and enjoy the piano player there. Since it was an early day the next day I didn't go to Spinnakers that night.
DAY 4: TORTOLA, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
The ship pulled into port just before 9AM. We had to hurry upstairs to get something to eat and then came back down to get our stuff for the shore excursion.
NCL SHORE EXCURSION: Virgin Gorda Highlights
After a fast ferry transfer from the cruise pier over to Virgin Gorda we had about a 20 minute narrative tour of Spanish Town, the island's main town, before heading to the Baths. This tour is not for those who are not stable on their feet as the way to the first beach is not supported with hand railings and contains many uneven surfaces. Older people in our tour group were having issues with stability on the surfaces. When we arrived at the first beach, the tour guide gave us about 45 minutes to enjoy the beach before we headed through the rock formations to the other beach.
The narrow passages and climbing over the rocks was incredibly fun. There are parts where the rocks open up and you can spread out and take a quick dip. If you're tall like me there are some spaces where you have to actually crawl on all fours to get through them. What waited on the other side at Devil's Bay beach were very pristine light blue water and a relaxing beach. We spent quite a while there and took a dip in the water before heading back to the tour bus. Be sure to allow at least 15 minutes for the journey back up to the bus parking area.
After returning to the ship and taking endless pictures of the ships exterior, it was time for a quick nap before heading off to an early dinner in the Venetian dining room. Tonight we managed to snag an aft window view and watched as the P&O Ventura left port backwards. We did the same thing shortly thereafter. It was then off to a fabulous show...
SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: Siobhan Phillips
Siobhan was a true highlight of this voyage. Her voice was something you'd not expect at all. Her voice could be compared to the likes of Cher as she performed Cher's "Believe" song. Her entire performance and in between comedy was great! She ended her amazing night with an opera atria and it was stunning! She was so good that I went back for the second half of her second show and grabbed a picture with her as she was signing off the next day. Siobhan is a very talented young woman was the highlight of the guest entertainers during the 11 day cruise.
After the picture it was off to the Caribbean Deck Party poolside featuring live music from the Caribbean band New Season. The party featured your typical conga line song and other Caribbean favorites. People seemed to be having lots of fun as I hung back by the bar with some friends waiting until the alternate party started in Spinnakers at 11:30PM with the in-house resident DJ Keith. The Celebrity DJ was spinning poolside that night.
ADULT PARTY ZONE: It was finally nice to meet the in-house resident DJ Keith. When we boarded in Miami I heard his music style playing in the Dawn's atrium and I had spotted his laptop which sported a "Ministry of Sound" logo on the back of it. For those who are not club music aficionados, Ministry of Sound is a high quality house music club located in Ibiza. I was so excited to meet him and give him some updated house music to play later on in the cruise at the White Hot Party. He was glad to receive the updated music and he played awesome sets that night keeping me up much later than I had planned on. A good DJ always gets me to stay later!
DAY 5: ST. MAARTEN
I got up and caught the tail end of breakfast before heading for the one and only work out of the cruise. I found the Dawn's gym to have very antiquated weight resistance equipment. In the drydock the cardio equipment appeared to be the only thing updated. The large studio was empty so I did a lot of stretches and abdominal work outs in there.
In the afternoon I ventured ashore and shared a taxi with folks heading to Maho Beach, commonly referred to as "Airport Beach." The beach is at one end of the runway and when planes land, they do so right over head and when they take off they blast you into the water. This was my second time to the beach and it was crowded with tourists both from the ships and people staying in nearby hotels. We spent the afternoon watching the planes come and go and then headed back to the ship.
Tonight after dinner in Venetian it was off to the Stardust Theater for...
SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: Magician Greg Gleason.
His magic tricks and illusions were what you would have seen at a standard magic/illusion show. His stand out performance was making a helicopter appear on stage. The funny part of it was the girl who was in the helicopter failed to get the back part of the helicopter put together fully before the curtain was dropped. The illusion started with him sliding the box containing the copter out to one side and then sliding it back to show there was nothing behind it. Even funnier was later on in the cruise I snapped a picture of the dismantled helicopter in the box to be shipped out as it was sitting by one of the I-95 exits.
SPOTLIGHT GAME SHOW: Dancing with the Dawn Stars
I've seen this on several NCL ships and the pairings are usually quite hilarious with crew members getting paired up with guests to perform different numbers. This game show definitely didn't disappoint and included one guest being dropped by her crew dance partner. Funky moves seemed to get the best nods from the judges who included the Hotel Director Calvin, a female from the Second City cast and the port and shopping consultant named Tamara. The loser's lounge was quite funny. I definitely recommend you check this out and don't be afraid to participate either! There were hardly any volunteers to do it in a room full of people!
After the Dancing with the Dawn Stars the DJ Semiautomatic took over and we stayed for a few songs until the dreaded "Cupid Shuffle" song came on and then we realized he finally switched the order of the first five songs but was still playing the same stuff. It was time to call it a night.
DAY 6: ST. JOHNS, ANTIGUA
The ship arrived on-time and the Captain announced our arrival which served as our wake up call. After breakfast, my friend and I met up with some other people we met onboard to share a taxi ride / tour over to Nelson's Dockyard which is the island's main attraction. Outside of the port entrance the taxi vendors await and are cut throat to each other. We settled on a young guy who offered us a tour for $25 per person and could speak understandable English. The tour included a drive through the island's rainforest and other historical highlights over in that area before spending an hour at the Dockyard. I had been to the dockyard before so I acted as tour guide for the other guys in the group. It worked out quite nicely.
Upon return to the ship and a quick lunch at the buffet, it was back off the ship to go souvenir shopping and to see some of the local attractions. A church in the area, quite visible from the ship, was under construction but still provided great photo opportunities. After walking around and getting some free wi-fi from the shops in the port area and yet more pictures of the ship, it was time to go back for the Latitudes Silver-Platinum party and dinner.
SPECIALTY RESTAURANT: Le Bistro
We were sat at a row of two seaters promptly upon arrival. Behind me was a lovely Monet painting and I looked down to discover the Versace plates were all gone. I inquired to the Maitre' D if they had any more and she said they were removed completely from the ships. I miss those plates! Dinner for me consisted of a mushroom soup, escargot and the duck confit. All of the menu items I sampled were incredible. My favorite part of dining at Le Bistro is the CrÃ¨me Brule dessert! My friend and I split the puff pastry dessert and it was also quite tasty. For a cover charge of $20, the food was well worth the price. Le Bistro is NCL's signature restaurant and you definitely have to give it a try for a special occasion or for just any reason!
SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: Ventriloquist -- Kenny Byrd
I have never seen a ventriloquist at sea before so this was a first for me. I have to say that while Kenny's performance started off a little slow, by the end I was laughing and enjoyed it. The performance starts off with a dummy and more of his "friends" show up in the form of animals. It was an entertaining evening overall in the Stardust. You should definitely check out his show as he's actually quite good at what he does.
DECK PARTY: Rock Night with JUMP
I'm not a fan of rock music so I did attend this for a short while. People seemed to be enjoying the tunes. Since later on in the evening the "celebrity DJ" was spinning up here I decided to head to Spinnakers and wait it out while enjoying the tunes of New Seasons.
DJ Keith took over at 11PM in the Spinnakers for the Adults Zone and he was phenomenal. He played the most incredible sets of music and I stayed out very late in the Spinnakers. The party poolside didn't last that long after the celebrity DJ started so everyone was sent down to the Spinnakers and it was a great night. Good work DJ Keith!
DAY 7: ROSEAU, DOMINICA
After a late night and a very late breakfast it was time to get off the ship for the next adventure.
NCL SHORE EXCURSION: River Tubing Adventure
Our tour started out with boarding a bus and heading into the jungle areas of Dominica to the starting point of our tubing adventure. The whole river tubing experience was awesome! The guides make you wear a lifejacket and a helmet and there's good reason. The current moves swiftly and there are rocks underwater and above and the current can make you spin in the tubes so you don't see what is coming. It's definitely a thrilling adventure tour and I loved it until when we got out of the river.
Upon exiting the river and returning to our tour bus, a lady who didn't do the tour informed us that the bus's transmission had blown just after we had taken off down the river. While they had limped to our meeting point further down the river, another bus had been called for us. After a period of about 25 minutes hanging out by the river and a local supplying some sugar cane samples, the second bus arrived. We boarded that bus and proceeded to take off up back into the mountains that we had just come from. Shortly into the second bus ride as we were climbing up a steep hill, the water line let go and the engine overheated. We were stuck in the road deeper into the Dominican jungle. Some of the guests evacuated the bus immediately and sought the shelter of a nearby home which had a porch. The bus driver summonsed a third bus and told us it was coming from Roseau and would take 25 minutes to get there. He lied and it took about 1 hour for it to show up. During this time fellow cruisers who remained on the bus were voicing serious displeasure with the excursion and it just made the whole experience negative for all involved. The bus driver did his best by carving sugar cane, papaya and coconut from fauna in the nearby area. At least he was trying to keep the people occupied. When the third bus arrived we boarded it and took off up the hill again and this time made it the rest of the way. A unanimous decision was made by the people onboard to not stop for the complimentary drink which was included in the tour but rather just head back to the ship as it was very late. We arrived back at the ship just before the all aboard time.
Some of the guests on this tour made a beeline for the Shore Excursion representative on the pier to voice their displeasure while others went later to the Shore Excursion desk to do that. My friend and I were pleased with the river portion of the excursion and felt we got largely what we had paid for but agreed the Shore Excursion desk should be made aware that the bus situation on the way back was a bit much. We didn't seek any compensation nor was any offered by the Shore Excursion desk. I also voiced my concerns about the perceived lack of safety to the Hotel Director later in the cruise. I hope NCL finds better busses to run this excursion for future cruisers. It's a great shore excursion but the transportation issues raised concerns about passenger safety and raised some passenger's anxiety levels unnecessarily.
Back onboard it was time for...
SPECIALTY RESTAURANT: Teppanyaki
This restaurant's cover charge is $25 per person. The waitress takes your main meal order and the chefs out back prepare what is needed. While a seaweed salad and soup is served, the chefs put on a show cooking your main course. It was sold out every single night and we snagged two seats for the coveted 7:15PM seating! The chef we had was exceptionally funny and at one point said something which made me nearly fall off my chair in laughter. You really have to try this restaurant and be sure to try the Green Tea Cake dessert! Yummy!!!
SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: TerranceB -- Celebrity Hypnotist
I was already skeptical when the performance started with a video showcasing this guy's talents. When he finally took the stage, he tried to hypnotize the entire audience so he could get his candidates up on stage from that hypnotism. The whole setup of this took far too much time. Usually a hypnotist will ask for volunteers and then try and hypnotize them and slowly weed out the people who are not hypnotized. It's much less setup time. A half hour into the routine and nothing fun or exciting happened so I left.
DECK PARTY: FABBA: 70's Retro Deck Party
The incredible night under the stars featured the Cruise Staff donning new 70's era disco attire. After snapping a few pictures with them the music started and the Dawn Production Cast took center stage for a few classic ABBA numbers including Dancing Queen and Mamma Mia. What I found comical was one of the female vocalists didn't know the lyrics to Waterloo except the chorus and she fumbled through it. For as little as the cast performs during an 11 day voyage that shouldn't have happened.
When the dance numbers were complete the Cruise Staff took to the dance floor to the music of JUMP who was dressed up in 70's attire. It was a great party overall and you should definitely check it out if you are a fan of disco music. I was tired after this party and went to bed. DJ Keith had Spinnakers but I just didn't have the energy to go.
DAY 8: BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS
We docked a good distance from the main area of the port so shuttles were used to ferry passengers back and forth to the terminal. Inside the terminal there are jewelry, craft, duty-free liquor and your general souvenir shops. I did some brief shopping before heading back to the ship for a quick lunch.
NCL SHORE EXCURSION: Barbados Beach Break
This tour which lasts about 3.5 hours takes you to a beach not far from the terminal after a brief tour of downtown Bridgetown landmarks. The bus drops you at Harbour Lights Nightclub which doubles as a daytime beach resort equipped with showers, a full service bar and changing rooms. There are umbrellas and deck chairs provided as part of the tour price. The beach was pristine and our section of the beach was very quiet. It was a very nice relaxing way to spend the afternoon.
Back onboard it was time to get ready for dinner in Venetian after seeing the ship cast off for our final port of call (wow that went fast).
SPECIALTY DINING: Chocoholic Buffet
I remember the day when this used to be a midnight buffet and then it was moved to 10:30PM but on this sailing it was even earlier at 7:30PM. You have to get there early to get the best selection of chocolates. The Garden Buffet port-side was the location of the event and consisted of three sections. Each section featured one unique thing with the first having the chocolate fondue fountain to dip fruits in, the second having an ice cream station and the third one I forget. After loading up a small plate with a slice of Black Forest cake, one slice of Flourless Cake and scoop of ice cream it was time to sit and enjoy all the calories! You have to experience this event as there are ice sculptures and chocolate decorations worthy of photos - even if you're not a fan of chocolate.
SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: The V(ariety) Showtime
The night's entertainment started off with a production number from the cast followed by the ventriloquist who brought back the "byrd" which was hilarious from the previous night. Lastly was a performance by the entertainer who just signed on named Greg London who hailed from Las Vegas and he was a pleasant surprise. London's ability to sing just about any artist's music while donning attire, be it a wig or sunglasses or wardrobe, was incredible to experience. This was just a sample of what was to come in a show he had later on in the cruise.
SPOTLIGHT GAME SHOW: Wild Comedy Game Show Night featuring "QUEST"
I was surprised to see the QUEST game show so early in the cruise as there are always lasting memories from it. This QUEST game show was a little more subdued. The Assistant Cruise Director Mike didn't seem to want to push the envelope too far and even went so far as to offend the group of guys I was sitting with. I guess it's ok to have two women kiss in front of him yet he would find it "disgusting" if two guys were asked to do the same. I've been on other ships and know it can be done and without anyone raising such comments. I was not offended by his comment but a lot of people I was sitting with were. This was brought to the attention of the Hotel Director later on in the voyage and I'm not sure what, if anything came of it. The QUEST overall is a great game show and I recommend anyone 18+ to attend it.
After the game show was completed, the Celebrity DJ Semiautomatic took to the Spinnakers Lounge to play his nightly round of the "Cupid Shuffle" and his other hip-hop favorites that I had heard every other night he spun so far this cruise. I left and went to bed as 1AM for DJ Keith's late night zone was just too late for me that night.
DAY 9: BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS
Our slated arrival time was 12 Noon but we arrived shortly after 11AM. I sat on the balcony and watched as we sailed past Nevis and as we swung around and backed into the dock. As a first timer to this island I was itching to get off the boat to explore the place. After lunch to let the throngs of people off, I got off too.
Right in the port area are many shops and eateries serving just about any type of food you could imagine wanting. If you go further out into the shopping area you can find little vendors who are selling local craft goods. It was here that I found some great souvenirs and gifts for my relatives. Before I knew it was time to meet up for the tour of the day...
NCL SHORE EXCURSION: St. Kitts Scenic Rail
Upon recommendations from people who visited the island before on Cruise Critic and from others, I decided to switch my tour to this one. Upon checking in for the tour, it was learned that the train had a mechanical issue on the first tour and was running late. People were given the option to cancel, return after a quick brew at the bar or just board the busses and wait. The wait was 30 minutes. A group of 17 of us had come together and we opted to go to the bar and return.
The tour operator was filling time and brought us to see a part of the island which was not usually covered in the tour, however, it was to get us underway. The bus driver narrated the extended and regular part of the overland driving tour. We met up at the train turn around before the train arrived. The passengers on the train got off and boarded our busses for the return trip and we boarded the train.
The scenic views from both sides of the train car are spectacular. St. Kitts is really a beautiful island and this train takes you through so many different towns and views of different sugar cane plantations. This narrow gauge railway used to serve as the sugar cane delivery to the port. There is narrative and singing of island songs throughout the entire journey. There's also unlimited drink options ranging from non-alcoholic sodas and water to pina colada and rum punch. This tour was astounding and I highly recommend it for a person who has never been to St Kitts before. It was well worth the money.
Since the tour started later, we were one of the last ones again to re-board the Norwegian Dawn. It was so late that the main dining room was pretty full. We were able to get in and have a later dinner. I wasn't concerned about missing tonight's featured entertainment which was the Second City comedy troupe. I have yet to be impressed by any of their performances on other Norwegian ships so I skipped it and instead went to...
SPOTLIGHT GAME SHOW: 55 to Stay Alive
There were several challenges for contestants to perform in 55 minutes or less. The best challenge was a female contestant having to dip her head in a clear container to bob for five shrimp. She couldn't see with the goggles on or off so it was quite comical to watch as she spilled water nearly everywhere. This game show provided the evening's entertainment. I fell asleep on the balcony waiting for the disco to start and tonight DJ Keith was spinning.
DAY 10: SEA DAY
This morning consisted of a leisurely breakfast and waiting for the Behind-the-Scenes tour which I received because I was a newly Platinum Latitudes member. The tour commenced on-time and was led by Valeria who was a member of the cruise staff. We started our tour with a look in the galley for the Venetian and Aqua dining rooms. The galley runs between the two main dining rooms and showcases the final preparation of the foods served there. From there the tour takes you down to the waste disposal facilities where we were met up by the Environmental Officer onboard. From there it was off to the food stores and food prep areas below decks. After this we headed forward to the laundry area where we were given a tour of the area. During our trip forward on the I-95 this is where we discovered the broken down crated up helicopter from the magician's show earlier in the week. Our next heading brought us to the back stage of the Stardust Theater. Here we were greeted by the Production Manager who showed us the back stage area and the doors to the dressing rooms. The last stop on the tour was the bridge where the First Officer greeted us and split the group in two over the two bridge wings to answer questions. I asked a lot of technical questions which surprised him but he did his best to answer. This tour retails for non-Platinum guests for $55. It is well worth the price if you are not Platinum to at least see the workings of a cruise ship.
That afternoon it was time for a nap to get ready for the incredible night which lay ahead.
SPECIALTY RESTAURANT: Cagney's Steakhouse
This lovely restaurant is one of my favorite's on the ship for its Western themed dÃ©cor and old newspaper front pages adorning the wall. For dinner tonight I indulged in the Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, New England clam chowder and had the Rib Eye steak. The steak was cooked perfectly to order and served by a wonderful team of waiters and waitresses who were exceedingly friendly. For dessert I got the sampler and the strawberry CrÃ¨me Brule and both gave me the sweet tooth fix I needed for later on in the night. The cover charge for this restaurant is $25 per person.
SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: Greg London
Greg did celebrity impressions and sang songs from Neil Diamond to Rod Stewart and Ozzy Osbourne. He was hilarious with his impressions and it was a great show. I had the opportunity to talk with him in the Spinnakers and get a photo. This guy is an all around great performer on-stage and off. You definitely want to check out his show.
>>NCL's WHITE HOT PARTY<<
The Spinnaker Lounge is transformed into a sea of white for an incredible nightclub experience. Black lights illuminate the white on the dance floor while ice sculptures adorn the back area by the bar. Drinks are served in sparkly bottom cups and the production cast dancers take to the stage to perform a few numbers. This night was made extra special thanks to the Cruise Director Johnny Cash Sanchez who made sure the early part of the party was spun by NCL's very own resident in-house DJ Keith. DJ Keith even had videos up on the screens in there to match what he was playing. I cannot say enough about DJ Keith. He was a lifesaver during the entire trip and did the White Party proud. Unfortunately DJ Keith turned over the reigns to the so-called Celebrity DJ at midnight and heaven help me for the bazillionth time I heard the "Cupid Shuffle" within the first three songs he played! The party quickly fell apart but I stayed and talked the night away with new found cruise friends. The party ended with a 2AM trip to the Blue Lagoon for some chicken tenders before going to bed.
DAY 11: SEA DAY
It was the last full day onboard the Dawn after a nice lengthy vacation. It was time to get pictures with staff that gave excellent work and exchange contact information with new found friends. After lunch it was out to the pool deck to catch up with DJ Keith and take in some pool games such as synchronized swimming and Miss. Bicep 2012 before the rain moved in.
SPOTLIGHT DAY SHOWTIME: Norwegian Dawn Crew Show
Thanks to Patrick on the Cruise Staff, I became aware that my stateroom steward Paul was going to be doing a modern dance number with his fellow crew mates on stage. My friend and I made sure we were sitting just a few rows back in the center to give him all the support he deserved. The crew is incredibly talented in their work but some of their hidden talents are just amazing. All the performers were excellent and the show closed with "FOUNTAINS" which I was ELATED to see! I haven't seen this in so many cruises and this production of "Fountains" didn't disappoint. The Cruise Director, Cruise Staff and the one shore excursion guy did a great job. Bravo!
The day flew by and before I knew it was dinner time once again and time for one last specialty restaurant...
SPECIALTY RESTAURANT: Bamboo
Situated mid-ship on Deck 7, this noisy restaurant is on top of the Teppanyaki room and surrounds the stairwell open to below where a piano bar musician was going most of the night. I had never been in an Asian restaurant on NCL ships before and wanted to give it a try. The food was exceptionally well prepared and presented. I had the lettuce wrap, hot 'n sour soup and together with my friend we split five entrees from the menu. The portion sizes were on the smaller side so it worked out just fine. All the entrees we sampled including the Szechuan chicken, lamb and shrimp were incredibly tasteful. For the nominal cover charge of $15, I felt I definitely got my money's worth. For dessert I tried the three different types of CrÃ¨me Brule with one featuring green tea. It was a unique spin on the classic dessert.
SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: Bollywood (NCL Productions)
This India inspired show featured a strong opening number and then went into a series of acrobatics, both aerial and on the ground and this is when the production seemed to slow and lose energy. The acrobats and people in the aerials seemed to be struggling throughout their performance and took more time than necessary to position themselves. The stage offered no other place to avert your eyes so you watched the performers struggle. I was stunned since the 11 day cruise only had this and one other major production at the beginning. The training, expertise, and practice should be glowing. The show ended on a high energy number but I walked away wondering how this show was supposed to be the epitome of entertainment for the cruise. Cirque Bijoux on the Jewel and especially Elements on the Spirit are far better productions with much better performers than this one was.
The best part of the show came when the Norwegian Way was performed and the hardworking crew came out for their much deserved recognition. A special performance was done by the Washy Washy girls onboard and the senior management was introduced to a standing ovation from the crowd.
After the show it was time to go back and put out the luggage before spending one last night of goodbyes in Spinnaker's Lounge. Finally at 1AM it was bed time.
DAY 12: MIAMI, FL -- DISEMBARKATION
Rise and shine came mighty early and it was time to grab some breakfast. My roommate for the trip decided to do the Easy Walk-Off and arranged an independent shuttle to Fort Lauderdale airport for his early flight. I had a later flight and booked with NCL for the transfer to FLL. While waiting for my luggage tag to be called I went up by the cool poolside area and forward to snap some pictures of the Norwegian Pearl who was in port with us. I received Blue luggage tags and was called off the ship just before 9:30AM.
When I got out of the customs area and outside, there was a guy directing people that all ground transportation was to go right. There were no busses there but rather tractor trailers dropping off their provisions. I was confused and went back and he said transfers should go left and head towards the Pearl's entrance. It was a bit confusing and none of the signs on the busses stated which airport they were going to. It wasn't until I saw the blond lady from previous trips that I knew which bus it was. I was placed on the second of two busses and we had to wait until it was full before we could take off for the airport. Disembarking the ship was a breeze and so was going through customs. I was at the airport by 11AM and checked in for my delayed flight.
The service onboard was impeccable with smiles and friendly hellos from everyone starting with the Captain right on down to the guy who was vacuuming the stairs. Specific people who stood out during my voyage and who made the trip extremely memorable include Johnny "Cash" Sanchez and DJ Keith for making the White Hot Party a fantastic night, Patrick Leyden (Cruise Staff) for being a familiar face from the Epic and insuring I was having a good time at all cruise staff hosted events. Service highlights from the restaurant department included great service from Dewi Kadek (Cagney's / Garden Cafe) who remembered what I liked and brought it to me without asking by day 3, Aubria (Cagney's), Roro (Cagney's & Garden CafÃ©) who would give me strawberry yogurt upon seeing me (it became a lasting cruise joke), Mike (Cagney's Team) and lastly Rachelle "Via" Toral (Le Bistro). Special thanks to Amin Flood at the Shore Excursion desk for his tour recommendations when I could suddenly be more adventurous ashore since mom wasn't going. Some fantastic hostesses during the cruise would always say hello no matter where they saw me onboard or where they were stationed and they included Jennice Carpio and Kristina Campos. Even though my stateroom steward seemed to be walking on pins and needles when seeing me in the hallway, Paul Amanence did an outstanding job cleaning our cabin and leaving towel animals every single evening of the voyage at turn down. Paul was also a great dancer in the crew talent show. Kathryn who was in the next section going forward on Deck 10 starboard side was always so pleasant when we walked through her section and always talked to us. Lastly I would like to send a special shout out to Margie Hobbs, piano player / lounge singer because no matter where I was on the ship she was around she always stopped by to say hello, ask how things were going and even re-arranged her playing schedule to go to the Star Bar to play for a group of us.
The Norwegian Dawn looks great for her age. She's pretty well kept overall and looks stunning. The new location of Spinnakers poses a challenge for a tall person but the lighting is very modern and they actually have two under used lasers facing the dance floor. The Celebrity DJ Semiautomatic could use replacing or better yet NCL could put the money they're spending on him towards other guest entertainers that the entire ship would enjoy. DJ Keith was incredible so be sure to check out his talents onboard any ship he is on. (He was slated for vacation after the next voyage.)
Overall, the Norwegian Dawn 11 day cruise was a great time. Any negatives were far outweighed by the 100's of positives. Everything I did was stated above and critiqued there. I always say the passengers and more importantly the crew make the cruise memorable. The crew was fantastic and the passengers for the most part (minus the Dominica excursion) seemed to be out to have a great time! I had a blast and eagerly await the Norwegian Breakaway in April 2013 if not another NCL cruise before that!
NCL is my home away from home!