Norwegian Dawn Review
Sail date: 5/27/06 to Bermuda and The Bahamas
Background information: I traveled on the NCL Dawn with my 76 year old mother. She picked this cruise line after seeing it on The Apprentice and because it sailed out of New York City and seemed like a good value. I booked air travel from my home in Texas on my own to New York, met up with her (she lives in NYC) and we traveled on our own to the port.
Stateroom: We booked guaranteed outside and got a cabin on deck 8 with an obstructed view, though we could see out very well. The room itself was comfortable. Bathroom had shower only and with just a curtain to separate it from the rest of the bathroom, it more or less flooded the bathroom with every shower (there are drains, but depending on the motion of the ship, they didnt get all the water). The cabin had a small table, plenty of storage space for clothing, and a vanity area that I used more as a desk. It has the only electrical outlet in the room. I wish Id brought an extension cord or power stripthere is only the one power outlet in the room and I have way more than 1 gadget that needed to be recharged. It is a grounded (3 prong) outlet. There is also a 220 volt outlet for the hair dryer and coffee maker.
Ship Info: The ship is a beauty. Very new, clean, nicely decorated. There are a ton of public rooms on the ship and all are very nice. Only complaint is that it was tough to find a lounge chair in the sun (or even the shade). Not nearly enough chairs for the size of the ship and despite the posted signs saying it is not allowed, people reserved them all day long by leaving their stuff on them.
Dining: The food was the worst part of the experience. The food in the main dining rooms (Venetian, Aqua, Impressionsall have the same menu each night) was not very good at allmeat and fish were routinely overcooked (if you want medium, order medium rare). I was disappointed in nearly everything I tried. A lot of the items are variations on a theme (I swear I had the same fruit cocktail 4 times with different names but tasting exactly the same). Even the desserts were often a disappointmentorder 2 or more so youll find something you like. Portions also were small. Food temperatures often were not right either. We didnt get to try the specialty restaurants (getting a reservation after the first day on board was nearly impossibleapparently the rest of the passengers had heard how not-good the food was in the main restaurants and had made advance reservations). The food at the buffet reminded me of the cafeteria at my college, which isnt a compliment. But there was plenty of food there and it was almost always open. We ordered room service for breakfast most days and it was delivered on time or early (they call first, which is a nice touch). It was an acceptable continental breakfast.
Activities: Bingo is completely insanefor $75 you could purchase a wireless computer with 72 cards on it that you just hold and watch as it automatically records the numbers called and tells you when you are 1 number away and when you have bingo. You can buy the regular paper cards (3 per game for $25 or 6 for $35) but the only people who won at the 1 bingo contest we attended all had the computers. The casino was equally priceyonly a few slot machines took quarters, the rest were dollars. The nice thing is that the casino is at the far end of the ship instead of in the middle of everything like on most ships. We went to a few other on-board activities (mostly on sea days) and they were enjoyable and interestingparticularly a class on improving your memory.
You have to pay $60/cruise (or $15/day) for access to the indoor lap pool, sauna, hydrotherapy pool (it rocks) and relaxation suite. The pass is money well spent. I often had the place to myself in late afternoon and evening (its open until 10pm). If you want a quiet place to swim laps, relax, or sit in the hot tub or hydrotherapy pool, its a great investment. The fitness studio was a great size and I enjoyed using it very much. There were a dozen or more treadmills, 4 elliptical machines, and a collection of bikes and stair-climbers, plus free weights and Cybex equipment. Classes (which I didnt try) are offered for a fee (yoga, Pilates, spinning).
Service: Our room steward was very friendly and did a great job, though I wish hed kept a more consistent schedule of when he came through in the morning and evening. My mother spent a good deal of time in the cabin (she was hesitant to venture out alone and didnt always want to do what I was doing) and she didnt want to be in his way, though she often was. If we knew when generally he was going to be making up the room, we would have been certain to be elsewhere, but it varied by several hours depending on the day.
We tried all three main restaurants. The food is the same, but service was best in Aqua (its the medium-sized dining room). But even there it was often rushed and inattentive. My water glass often sat empty for 5 minutes or more and on a couple of dining occasions it didnt get refilled unless I asked. The waitstaff were generally nice, they just seemed overwhelmed and werent working as a team. Often people were waiting to be seated when there were plenty of empty tables because the hostess didnt have anyone to show the people to their tables. I didnt understand why she didnt just do it. We waited about 10 minutes one night when we were told no one was available to take us to a table.
Entertainment: We didnt go to a lot of the shows, but the ones we went to were generally good and better than previous cruises Ive been on. The cruise director was a nice enough guy and pretty funny.
Shore Excursions/Itinerary: I think this is a fairly new itinerary for NCL. We sailed from NYC, at sea, in Bermuda 8-4pm, at sea, GSC private island 8am-3pm, Nassau 8pm-following noon, at sea, back to NYC. Bermuda is beautiful and a million times nicer than most of the Caribbean (more beauty, less poverty, super-nice people). I did the Rising Son Catamaran Sail & Swim excursion. The crew was fun, but the boat was crowded. Decent snorkeling at the beach where they stop. Plenty of rum punch.
The private island was OK, but again not nearly enough lounge chairs (they had maybe 50-75 of them and all were taken by the time I got there, and I was on the second tender). The rest are sand chairs where you are sitting up straight. There were more than enough of those, but they arent as comfortable. I was surprised to see so many fish with all the people in the water. Take a packet of cereal with you if you really want to see lots of fish (but be warned that they will swarm youtoss the packet a little ways from where you are if you dont want to see the fish THAT close up). Also, be sure to pick up a tender ticket the previous day as soon as they start handing them out, or youll be stuck on the ship for hours waiting for a tender to the island.
Nassau was nice for shopping, no really incredible deals but good duty-free shopping. Some of the shops were open from 8-10pm on the night we docked, but downtown was pretty abandoned and unless you wanted to take a taxi to the Atlantis, there wasnt much to see or do. The following morning I went ashore to shop at 8:45 and discovered that the stores open between 9 and 9:30. We had to be back aboard at 11:30, which didnt leave much time. If you chose a shore excursion in Nassau you would have had no shopping time at all.
Embarking/Disembarking: In general, the cruise was very well organized. There was minimal waiting on either end of the cruise and plenty of helpful people around. NCL seems to have thought through ways to avoid crowding, except when it comes to their restaurants. I took the NCL transfer back to the airport and my mom grabbed a taxi without a problem.
One other thing to note: if you arent from NYC, you might think twice before booking any cruise that departs from there. The vast, vast majority of the passengers were from New York and they were generally rude, pushy, impatient, loudeverything New Yorkers are famous for. Having grown up in NYC and then living in the Midwest and then the southwest the past 18 years, it was interesting for me to watch the non-New Yorkers on the ship react to the New Yorkersits a clash of cultures (and FYI, the New Yorkers dont think theyre being rude at all, its just their way). If you dont think youd like living amidst a NY crowd for a week, think about departing from somewhere else.
Summary: All in all, Id say we got what we paid for, which was a value-priced cruise on a very lovely ship and a nice time away in beautiful places. The food and service in the dining room was the only downside, but if you booked early for the alternative restaurants, you might have a better experience.