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Norwegian Dawn: New York to Nassau
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
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Day 7: Saturday, At Sea
At SeaDAILY DISPATCH (Noon, Saturday, December 13)
LOCATION: 3341'N, 7511'W: Off the coast of North Carolina

Perhaps I was a wee bit premature praising the weather gods. Today the skies clouded up early, and by noon it overcast and cold, with the wind blowing a solid thirty-five knots. It was deja-cruise all over again as we steamed on a collision course with another storm bearing down on the Northeast.

Actually, even without the storm, this itinerary has the quality of being a sort of climatological bungee jump, with the thermometer starting in the thirties, then gradually unwinding to the high seventies, then stopping, and, like a tape of the first part of our cruise rewound, retracing its movement back to the thirties again.

So, for this day at sea, except for those passengers ensconced in the
hot tubs, all shipboard life retreated back into our hermetically sealed environment. NCL is very proud of its multitude of steam-heated pools. On the Bridge Information Channel on the ship's in-cabin television, the water temperature for each pool appears nearly every minute.

A second sea day, the day prior to disembarkation, is a blessing. It doesn't force you to split your day between a port visit and packing, debarkation briefing, making departure arrangements, etc. In the case of this sailing, the fact that the second sea day fell on a Saturday helped keep the crowds spread throughout the ship and, even though the pool area became terra non grata, many aboard chose a variety of options, from spending the day in cabins to hanging out in the Pearly King's Pub watching college football games.

In terms of planned activities there was little different between today and the first sea day: a couple of sessions of Bingo, slots and blackjack tournaments, arts and crafts. Plus, of course, debarkation briefing. On cruises with more conventional structures than Norwegian Dawn's there would also be a Captain's Farewell Cocktail Party and second formal evening to differentiate sea days one and two. Not so here.

But a final sea day also tends to engender the sharing among passengers of opinions on the cruise, many of whom may have shared nary a word with each other up till that point. When it comes to passengers critiquing their cruises there is seldom a lack of communication. So, for me, this day was a perfect opportunity to, well, eavesdrop a bit.

Generally, most passengers genuinely enjoyed the overall experience. As I've mentioned before, just getting out of the Northeast's winter was a big plus on most passengers' scorecards. The departure point, plus the relative reasonableness of pricing on this sailing (no air expense for those within driving distance of New York, combined with a fare structure not too different from repositioning cruises), made for an interesting mix of passengers, an expanded and widely varied demographic spectrum. Not unexpectedly, residents of New York, New Jersey and surrounding states represented the vast majority of the passenger load. While we met a number of foreign guests, the Midwest and other areas of the US were pretty underrepresented. It's not a typical school vacation week but there's a lot of families onboard -- which means 200 some-odd kids also under foot and age spikes in the passenger list falling in the 40+ and below-18 range.

Certain trends emerged. The small percentage of traditional-minded cruisers felt the dress code was too loose for a ship of Norwegian Dawn's artistic decor and elegance -- and these might be the people for whom "Freestyle Cruising" isn't exactly a perfect fit. In contrast, while some miss having a traditional Captain's Cocktail Party, the ability to eat wherever and whenever you please -- and the same flexibility goes for disembarkation! -- was appreciated by many first-timers onboard. Though the food got high ratings fairly universally, ironically, I found the alternative restaurants to be undervisited. Perhaps guests had holiday expenses on their mind -- or just enjoyed the food at the main dining room (and I can't say that I blame them). I found few who didn't absolutely praise, eloquently, the entertainment

As far as the ship, itself, everyone seemed to have a specific favorite place, and that, coupled with the large number of different venues, helped the excellent crowd dispersal onboard. I had my own two favorite spots: Gatsby's outside the Impressions and Le Bistro restaurants, and the Star Bar abutting the entrance to Cagney's Steakhouse. Gatsby's sits at one end of a foyer with a two-deck high ceiling; at the opposite end is the entry to Le Bistro, and the Wine Cellar (with its table for dining off the Le Bistro menu), and cater-cornered to them is the entrance to Impressions. The sunken foyer is reached by descending an elegant, ornate curving marble staircase from Deck 7.

While Gatsby's reflects the Art Deco era of the 1920s, Cagney's and Star Bar owe their heritage to the succeeding decade, the era of Prohibition's repeal and Hollywood's "Golden Age." I found the clubby, understated elegance of rubbed wood and glove soft leather much to my liking.

That's probably why I chose Gatsby's for my last night onboard. After which, with visions of canceled flights dancing in my head, I retired for my final night aboard Norwegian Dawn.
Day 6: Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas red arrow Day 8: Disembarkation in New York

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