Norwegian Dawn Cruise Review by LastMinuteGirl
- Sail Date: July 2006
- Destination: Bahamas
- Cabin Type: Mid-Ship Inside
ARRIVAL AND EMBARKATION: I drove to New Jersey, parked my car there and took the PATH into NY. I found the information about PATH and where to park on the Internet at http://www.panynj.gov/CommutingTravel. Parking is $8 per day in a guarded, fenced lot instead of $24 per day at the terminal. The train was $1.50 into NY and then a taxi to the pier. I got off at the WTC instead of the 33rd Street station and this was probably a mistake. The NY pier is at 55th Street which is quite a bit away from WTC. Another tip: look for the stations with the handicapped access; you need an elevator for your luggage.
I got to the cruise terminal (Pier 90) and was supposed to meet my friend there. Tip: There are SMALL white signs interspersed along the terminal at curb level on 3 foot poles indicating which ship is at which part of the terminal. I checked one big bag, and kept 2 smaller bags with me (one carry-on and my wheeled laptop case). The terminal personnel kept trying to tell me I couldnt carry my bags on board, but I had read that you can carry on anything that can be lifted and fit through the X-Ray machines. When I insisted, they let me go through with them.
So we hit the sign-in area around 12:30, registered, and literally walked right onto the ship. The lines for the Carnival ship had hundreds of people waiting. They told us our rooms wouldnt be ready until 2:00, and directed us to the Garden Cafe on 12. We were hungry so didnt check on the rooms, just went right to the restaurant. We had such a great time sitting and gabbing and admiring the great NY views from the restaurant that before we knew it they announced our rooms were ready.
Arrived at the room to find a small love-note from NCL telling me I had contraband in my luggage and that they were holding my luggage. It could be picked up in Kuala Lumpur room at 6pm. Grrrr...guess I wasnt allowed to bring on that bottle of Kaluah. Tip: The line is long to get your luggage back if you have liquor (or even a steam ironwhich were also confiscated) ---Get there early, or wait an hour. At the end of the cruise, I ended up lining up for it again on Saturday night at 6pm when they give back all the liquor. So I had one night to enjoy it.
FIRST DAY SPECIALS: So it was back up to the pool deck to watch us sail away from New York under the Statue of Liberty. It was a really nice way to start the cruise.
They had a lot of first day specials and we tried to do them all. Had to check in with the office, so I took advantage of the Internet special which was buying 100 minutes at $55 and get 20 minutes free. Ouch. Well, it was that or the 75 cents per minute. Big tip for wireless computer users: they claim wireless connectivity, but its very sketchy. It dropped my connection to my email so many times that I racked up 50 minutes in the first 2 days just trying to keep my internet up enough to read the email. I finally gave up and went to the hard-wired machines in the internet cafe. Saved a lot of minutes.
Some other first day specials involve the spa (yeah!). They will give you a tour of the spa, let you try some of the products, and give you a 5-minute hot stone massage to introduce you to the spa. Called Spa Treatment Demonstrations, this is well worth it. They also had a Complimentary Image Consultation. Their hair dresser looks you over and explains whats wrong with your look and how to fix it.
THE DAWN: The ship itself is extremely beautiful. I had been worried since all the internet photos Id seen were tacky. In real life the woods (which appeared plastic-y red in photos) were a beautiful coppery-honey shade and rich looking. The carpets were bright, but went well with everything and were extremely clean and new looking. Art work everywhere and some of it originals and exceptional. The copies were good ones and were truly enjoyable. Some of the art were made from gold/silver/copper which were 3-D and interesting. It wasnt gaudy at all, and even though it was bright, it was still elegant.
NAVIGATION was a little difficult and it took me a while to figure out why. The room signs were arranged numerically SOMETIMES. If one side had rooms from 11501 through 11650 and you came in at mid ship, the sign might have read (pointing right) 11600-11550. We would glance at the sign and knowing we were below 11600, went the other way. If all the signs read 11550-11600, I think it would have been easier. But some signs were numerically sorted, and some werent, depending on where in the ship you were. In general, the signs were great. At each elevator there was an entire list of public rooms by the decks they were on. However, the rooms were listed according to their position on the ship, not alphabetically, which made it harder. You had to read through all of them, unless you knew about where the room was to begin with. Tip: There was a Ship Tour activity in which they gave out little cards of where everything was so you may want to check this out and get one.
STATEROOM: We had an inside room on deck 11. This was the top inside room you could get category II. We got this on an inside guarantee booked at the last minute, so were pretty pleased. The room was bright and cheery and had plenty of room for 2. It actually slept 4 with a pull-down bunk and a pop-up bed stored under one of the beds. I would not have wanted to be in that room with 4 people.
The storage space was good with lots of room under the one bed for suitcases (the other bed had no spare room under it). There was a small desk with an ice bucket that was always kept filled by Henry, our truly great cabin-steward. The closet had lots of room for hanging clothes. There were 4 drawers and 4 shelves. The shelves were inside the closet to the left, but the cabin stewards used the bottom shelf to store extra pillows. Adequate for 2, it would have been difficult with 4. We also had a small, complimentary safe in the room. Despite reviews I read saying there was a coffee-maker, we didnt have one. There was a small TV above the desk. The bathroom had a full shower with sliding glass doors, and the area for the sink and toilet were large enough for me, but Im 54. They had a great shampoo and soap dispenser in the shower that was well stocked. The shower head itself was removable, and more water-pressure than many hotels Ive stayed at.
We originally only had 2 towels in our room, but we asked Henry for 4 towels the first day and he made sure we always had 4, which he changed twice a day. We also had (strangely) only one sheet on the bed. Again, Henry to the rescue, and he made sure we always had a top sheet from the first day on. I had purchased the combination night-light/air freshener before I left, and we used it, but the room never had any odor to it anyway. I had also brought a converter because I had read that the cabin had a 220-volt outlet. It did have one, but it had a 110 volt right beside it. So I just plugged in the 6-outlet power strip that I brought and we were good to go.
Our floor (I think most floors) had a laundry room with 3 washers, 3 dryers, 2 ironing boards and 2 irons. The washers and dryers were free to use. If you didnt bring your own, laundry detergent was sold in a vending machine for 4 quarters (didnt take dollars).
DINING: NCL touts their Freestyle dining and we did truly enjoy this. We wandered over whenever we wished and dined. There were 2 of us, and we always got a table for 2 which were plentiful. Occasionally we missed the traditional-cruise dining where we could have met some other people, but we attended the Murder Mystery dinner on Tuesday and this helped a lot. They sat us with a table for 8, and we spent the rest of the cruise seeing the other six people around the ship and talking to them. For someone traveling alone, Freestyle would have been harder than traditional dining.
We had breakfast twice at the Venetian, lunch once, and dinner several times. This was our favorite overall restaurant because the food was good, the ambiance attractive, and the service exactly right. Although the food is the same at the Venetian, the Aqua, and Impressions; they were quite different. Aquas ambiance lacked warmth with one monotonous painting repeated endlessly around the room. And Impressions was the most beautiful with stunning copies of Impressionistic paintings around the room, but the service was over-attentive to the point of being annoying. We ate at Impressions twice, hoping it would improve the second time, but if anything it was worse. Its hard to enjoy your dinner when literally every minute someone is asking you if its OK, or if you need fresh-ground pepper, or more water, or more butter, or more bread, or whatever.
But we truly enjoyed the food at the main restaurants and especially the Cooking Light menus. We frequently couldnt believe the meals were light as they were so delicious and decadent. The strawberry parfait with Normandy Cream was exceptional. The only bad meal we had was the lobster night. Tough lobster with an odd orange sauce over it. I heard several people complaining.
The buffet at Garden Cafe was OK. The NY Deli section of the buffet was probably the best and good for lunch. The vegetarian section had a made to order pasta section. And the kids section was just perfect for little kids complete with small tables and chairs.
We ate at La Trattoria once and it was OK too, but not as good as the main restaurants. Salsa was the better choice, and it had a nice position right over the Grand Atrium so you could listen to the small band during dinner. Both are reservation restaurants with no cover charge. We never ate at any of the other restaurants, BBQs or grills.
ITINERARY: Our itinerary was probably not a good one for people who like shore time. We were in Bermuda for about 7 hours, Stirrup Cay (again less than 7 hours), and the Bahamas was a strange one: arrive at 8pm and have to be back on ship the next morning at 11:30a.m to leave. So this only gave us a few hours in the morning, and however many you wanted at night. But once you get off the ship on Nassau, most all the shops are closed for the night.
Bermuda: I dont like lining up and waiting, so we ate breakfast first and let everyone get off the ship to walk out without a line. We dock at Bermuda, so you can walk on and off the ship. Tip: Have room service pack you some sandwiches and fruit for lunch and walk off the ship with this. We walked around at the dock, and went to the Snorkel Beach which is right around the corner from where you dock (easy walk). It has a big sign. It has bathrooms, snack bar, drinks, rental chairs and umbrellas, and a shower. Free admission, bring your own towel and plop down on the beach. There are inflatable slides anchored out about 20 feet in the water which you can wade to. I snorkeled there, but didnt see all that much as the water was pretty murky and kicked up. I forgot to bring the cereal or there would have been a lot more fish. Tip: Bring a box of breakfast cereal off the buffet, and swim out with just the sealed plastic bag part. Then you can rip it open and bring in the fish when you get to the right depth. We spent a couple of enjoyable hours and walked back onto the ship.
Stirrup Cay: This is the NCL island. Again, we ate breakfast and waited for the crowd to get over there. Theres a buffet on the beach for lunch which is mostly hamburgers, hot dogs, and corn. Drinks are available, and a small hut on the sand to order drinks too. Tip: If you have a soda card, you cant use it here. Soda cards for adults are $40. Kids are $16, and they have a special card for teens called the passport for $34.50. The passport includes smoothies. You get 20 non-alcoholic drinks of whatever you want. I had called NCL before we left and asked if adults could buy the passport. NCL corporate said yes, and verified it with a supervisor, but when I got on board they absolutely refused to sell me one. I brought in the manager and he still refused. This would have been a bargain as smoothies were $6.90 with tip and the passport allowed you to buy 20. Tip: if you have a teen, get the card and have them get you smoothies!
Theres a limbo demonstration on the island, but with only people standing on the sand, it quickly becomes impossible to actually see it. I only saw the backs of people. One guy climbed up on a picnic table, but said he still couldnt see. If you want to see it, get there early and stake out your spot.
After we were on the island for an hour, it started to pour and didnt quit. Instantly 2400 people got in line for the tenders, yuck! So our time on this island was very short. Bahamas: Again, this was a weird one. We got off the boat about 9 pm and took a taxi over to Atlantis. They pack 12 people in the taxi-vans and it is $4 fare. We walked all over, went to the casino, saw the glass sculptures (incredible), saw the aquarium and the dig, and the shark tanks. There was no charge. I heard someone say that because it was only free at night, and that there is a charge during the day, but I dont know. We ended up sitting by the pool and talking. It was very nice, quiet, and beautiful with all the colored floodlights on the palms surrounding the pool. The taxis were lined up outside Atlantis to take us back (again $4) so it was easy there and easy back on our own. Im not sure what you get with the shore excursion trip to Atlantis, which cost a lot more. In the morning, the shops are open and we walked all around shopping. As this was our only shopping trip, we bought all our gifts here, and then headed back to the ship.
Just a note, they X-ray all packages getting back onto the ship and I guess they are looking for liquor. If you have any, they take it and give it back to you at the end of the trip.
ENTERTAINMENT: Certainly theres a variety here. The Jean Ann Ryan shows are the best of the lot. They have a ballerina who just steals the show. The 2nd City Players were not so good in their big production number at the StarDust Theater. They were better in the Spinnaker Lounge later in the cruise, and at their How to Do Improv seminar at the Cinema. The Action Comedian was good in short bursts: a lot of ladder climbing (way past when you become bored with it). His jokes are pretty good with a lot of unexpected zingers. The card mechanic/magician was good, but again, better in his seminar on Magic Close Up in the cinema.
The cinema advertises one movie a day at certain times, but they actually run movies all day long (different ones). Theres no listing of what they will be running but I think it corresponds to one of the movie channels in the cabin. It would have been nice to actually list whats playing when in there.
The bars have individual groups or solo acts playing, so just go around to all of them and find the style you like. Because the Dawn attracts the gamut (families, lots of kids, middle-agers, international, and a bunch of the older crowd) they have something to appeal to all kinds. We LOVED Michael Chio who plays piano and sings in Dazzles every night. He mostly does a lot of mainstream stuff, but will do anything you request, and loves Jimmy Buffet. Seems to know everything and can play anything. Enjoy.
We also loved Fire and Ice, a man/woman duet. She sings exactly like Tina Turner and does a Tina Turner night. Youd swear you were at a Tina concert. Shes also built a lot like Tina and dances like her quite a bit. The rest of the time she runs the gamut from easy listening to rock to jazzy stuff.
DISEMBARKATION: Kind of a mess. They called Express (carry off your own luggage) for nearly an hour even though only 600 people can sign up for express. Then they called VIP, and within 10 minutes called the next color. I was off with the VIP, so I dont know how it went after that. Tip: If at all possible, do express. Ive heard people say they kick you out of your room, but on 11, I didnt see anyone getting kicked out. Maybe on the lower decks with more staterooms this happens.
SUMMARY: I truly loved this cruise. Because all ages and kinds are on this cruise, it has something for everyone. The ship is pleasing to the eye. The food is good and the variety of choices is excellent. The Freestyle go when you want, wear what you want works for me. It only tenders one port out of three which isnt too bad. The only downside is the itinerary lacks time in the Bahamas. And with only 3 ports to begin with, you only get a very short port time on this cruise.
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