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Norwegian Dawn: New York to Nassau
About the Virtual Cruise
Norwegian Dawn: New York to Nassau NCL's Norwegian Dawn is the first ship in years to sail year-round from New York. We're curious: What's it like to cruise from winter to summer (okay, maybe spring) and then back again?

Join us as we sail onboard Norwegian Dawn with Cruise Critic's Senior Contributor Steve Faber -- taking us through sea days where temps don't rise much above 42 degrees to Miami's blissful (and warm) South Beach scene, from scuba diving in the Bahamas to the mad-dash-to-Disney World during a day-long call at Port Canaveral.
Day 1: Departure from New York
Day 2: At Sea
Day 3: Port Canaveral, FL
Day 4: Miami, FL
Day 5: Nassau, Bahamas
Day 6: Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas
Day 7: At Sea
Day 8: Disembarkation in New York
Related Links
Norwegian Dawn ship review
Norwegian Dawn Member reviews
Bahamas Cruises
Bahamas Messages
NCL Messages
Day 1: Sunday, Departure from New York
Departure from New YorkYou know what they say about the weather: Everybody complains about it but nobody does anything about it. That is, nobody but NCL. Not that they can control global meteorology, but knowing that the typical cruise passenger would view a midwinter voyage out of New York with skepticism and trepidation, NCL came up with a bold, innovative program for passengers booking the Norwegian Dawn on her one-week round trip winter itineraries from New York to Florida and the Bahamas. It's simply this: though they can't control the weather, NCL will guarantee you that if the ship's departure is delayed by 12 hours you get a choice of two compensations. You can either take a $100 per person onboard credit (max $200), or you can cancel unconditionally at the twelve-hour point and get a 100% credit for a future cruise. And, if the cruise is canceled altogether because of inclement winter weather, NCL will give a full cruise credit and pay "reasonable incidental expenses" for rearranging travel plans.

Pretty interesting, but not particularly pertinent; those sorts of things never happen to me, I thought, until I saw the coverage of the historically early, and nasty, nor'easter bearing down on New England and the Mid-Atlantic states. As I packed on Saturday I watched news reports of stranded travelers, closed airports, delayed and canceled flights. To make matters worse, up pops the unheard of: a December tropical cyclone, Tropical Storm Odette, which threatened to become a hurricane, and which opted to choose a path in the general vicinity of where I planned to cruise.

So, there I was, caught in a squeeze play between one storm in a season that started too early and another in a season lasting way too late, and, let me tell you, that guarantee was really starting to look like a godsend.

But, by Sunday morning the weather had improved to merely occasional snow showers in New York, and Odette was tromping off far to the northeast, and all began to seem right with the world.

NCL recommends allowing sixty minutes and a fare of $40.00 to take a cab from La Guardia to New York's Consolidated Ship Terminal in midtown Manhattan. In actuality, it took about half that on either count. As a matter of fact, of the three elements that comprise transferring to the ship, the taxi ride was the smoothest and shortest. In order:

Cab Ride to Pier: 30 minutes
Waiting for luggage at La Guardia baggage claim: 40 minutes
Going through check-in at the pier: one hour

In all fairness I did arrive at the pier at 1:00 p.m., peak check-in time, but the procedure is still unwieldy, requiring glacial creeping through four separate lines -- one line to enter the main security area, another snaking throughout the entire cavernous structure like the entry to the most popular ride at a theme park -where the payoff at the end is passing through the metal detectors and x-ray machines, only to find oneself in a mass of humanity waiting to be checked in, followed by another line to pick up room keys/charge cards. And there was a fifth line if you count the backup to have boarding pictures shot by the ship's photographer. Passenger dissatisfaction was rife and raised voices could be heard all through the room. But the crush of humanity bundled in heavy winter clothing to board a ship in New York hearkened back to the golden age of the great liners, a curious sensation amplified by the sight of snow drifts up to the gangway. (It does seem somewhat strange to be trudging through the snow with a suitcase full of dive gear, even though you know that there are warmer climes ahead.)

Entry to the Dawn is on Deck 7, one of the two main lower public decks. The spacious, airy entry/reception area forms the base of the ship's eight-deck atrium. Many ships accentuate the vertical lines of their atria, leading the eye upward to towering art installations and pistoning glass elevators. I liked the effect of Dawn's broader, more open design, which made the room feel uncrowded even in the crush of the boarding hordes.

Next stop: a visit to my Category BC outside balcony stateroom to drop off carry-on luggage and freshen up before going up to the Spinnaker Lounge on Deck 12 for a prearranged drink with a friend attending a wedding on the ship. I found the cabin cheery and warm, its bright colors and floor-to-ceiling sliding glass door teaming up to do battle with the winter gloom. The vivid turquoise carpet was spangled with colorful starfish, a theme echoed on the magenta, orange and lime green bedspread, and reflected as well in the framed prints of coral reefs and fish on the walls. The walls, themselves, as well as doors and furniture were finished in cherry-wood toned veneers, a rich, nautical look that is carried forward throughout the ship. Space was a bit of an issue, though not too bad since I was traveling solo, but space is always a tradeoff if you want to have a balcony. I found the amount of storage space limited for a cruise which requires wardrobe for at least three climate zones.

At Spinnaker I met my friend, as well as a couple of passengers from the prior sailing who were getting ready to disembark. I was curious as to the conditions they sailed through on their way to New York during the now-infamous winter storm, and they reported a very rough passage, with the ship slamming down between waves "like a thirty-foot boat." This would be another factor to be mindful of when booking this cruise midwinter, if you have motion sickness issues.

Later, at 4:45 p.m., I decided to brave the cold at poolside for the sail-away party. There was an alternate celebration in Spinnaker, but I wanted to see what it would be like in thirty degrees (with wind chills in the low twenties). I arrived on deck to find cruise director, Kieron Buffery (see photo above), bundled up in a wool scarf, heavy top coat and watch-cap, holding forth on the poolside podium, encouraging a surprisingly enthusiastic crowd of revelers to celebrate. Deck stewards, similarly clad, presided over huge, flaming barrel barbecues, and there was no shortage of takers for an out-of-doors repast, even under the brutal conditions. A group of dancers from the Jean Ann Ryan company (NCL's production musical company), took their place at the podium, soldiering on in their matching white outfits, looking more like a traveling women's ski team than a troupe of entertainers. Passengers on deck gamely participated in a ragged conga line, which fell apart as the main event of the evening transpired, passing the beautiful illuminated skyline of New York City, with its centerpiece, the Empire State Building's lights all set to red and green for Christmas, followed by a close passage to the Statue of Liberty.

After the sail-away party and unpacking, I made reservations in Le Bistro, one of Dawn's alternative restaurants. There are ten restaurants aboard, although three, the Venetian, Aqua and Impressions, are basically traditional cruise dining rooms serving the same menu (at least thus far) in differing decors. Of the remaining restaurants, Le Bistro (French/$12.50 cover charge), Cagney's (steakhouse/$17.50 cover charge), Bamboo (Asian Fusion also with sushi bar and teppanyaki room/varying cover charge), Salsa (Tex-Mex & Tapas/no cover charge) and La Trattoria (Italian/no cover charge) all require reservations. My thinking was that I would probably want to try the main dining rooms tomorrow, the ship's one formal night, then devote the rest of the dinners to the alternatives.

The decor in Le Bistro was exquisite with original art by Monet, Van Gogh, Matisse and Renoir. The menu was interesting, with a presentation they call the "fire star," which resembled an ornate, wrought iron gallows, from which descended a heavy cast iron spiked object with shrimp, monkfish and scallops impaled. The device was brought to the table, then flambeed, and, with tongs supplied by the server, the hot, freshly flamed items are plucked and dipped in an array of delicious sauces. Though the official cover price for Le Bistro is $12.50, this optional choice came in at $18.50. All the alternative restaurants follow this pattern; some are even a la carte.

After dinner, though beginning to feel the wear of a long travel day, I chose to see the welcome aboard show, which began with cruise director Kieron's welcome aboard monologue and audience participation game (if you've been on cruises before, and spoons and string jump to your mind, you know what happened next!) followed by a comedy magician I'd seen and enjoyed before, Bob Brizendine.

After that I remember little, except that the pillow was very soft.

Tomorrow Norwegian Dawn is at sea.
  Day 2: At Sea

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