Home being Montreal we selected this 12 days repositioning cruise for the convenience of being closer to home when we disembarked in Boston, it also gave us a sixth port of call.
One way flight to Tampa and spent the night at the Crowne Plaza Tampa-Westshore. The room was spacious, continental breakfast and transit to the ship for $10.00 pp.
Embarkation - Arrived at the pier around 10:30 am. Embarkation was easy and fast, we were on the ship by 11:00 am. Coming on board they offer you special deals for the cruise, soft drink card, specialty restaurant package, wine package... after some checking we took the wine package. You pick 8 to 12 bottles for the list they give you for a 20% discount. Keep in mind that you'll have to pay a 15% gratuities charge so you end up with a 5% discount.
Ship - NCL Dawn was a pleasant surprise for us. The lay out of the ship makes it easy to get your bearings, the decor is tastefully done especially the Venetian dinning room. The staff were excellent across the board. Anywhere you went they're present and always ready to help with a smile.
Sun Deck - Never had to look for a chair on deck. I mean we got up there around 09:30-10:00 am. The service on the decks is ever present but not over bearing. They came by a few times with fruit kebab or a nice cold face cloth. A BBQ at noon every day on deck. Nice spacious pool, as ship goes.
Activities - The cruise director was very good we must say as we aren't the type to participate in those games. He was very verbal and entertaining enough that we got up most of the time to go enjoy his play full games most of the time. He also seemed to be every where with his staff. The best we've seen so far after 5 cruises.
Buffet - The buffet offered a varied selection every day. It was well presented and tasty every time we lunched or had breakfast there. Above average buffet our compliments to the head chef and staff.
Venetian main dinning room - The ship's dinning room is the nicest we've seen so far in 5 cruises. Very stylish and classy, Venetian glass light fixture and Italian art. Leo our waiter was knowledgeable in every aspect of is dining room so much so we requested him every night. Our cruise mates and us enjoy a good table and conversation. Leo never rushed us, he never gave the full order to the kitchen so every plate that came out of there was served almost instantaneously hot and fresh. No waiting around on a counter while you finish your appetizers. Such a good waiter that we asked to be seated in is section 10 days in a row. We sincerely hope to have the pleasure of meeting him on a future cruise with NCL. The food quality was great overall. Again our compliments to the Venetian dinning room head chef and his staff.
Cagney's - Steak house specialty restaurant, Cagney's offers a very nice menu. The meat selection is very good. The food was well prepared and tasty. The service was a bit above average. The whole experience was agreeablee but we don't feel $30.00 pp extra is warranted.
Le Bistro - French restaurant? Nice decor helped by the fact that there is an original Van Gogh, Monet and Renoir painting on the wall. Food was good, service was attentive but average. The problem with Le Bistro (same thing on the Epic) is that they say it is a French restaurant. So this time I asked ahead how they prepared the Coquille St-Jacques. Good thing I did. The bottom line is if you can't prepare it the French way why bother putting it on the menu. I have no problem with the extra $20.00 pp as long as I get what is advertise. French cuisine is not French-American fusion...
Entertainment - We didn't attend any show as we are dining room groupies. But from what we heard from cruise mates they were good if not above.
Disembarkation - Any way you do it, self disembarked or with NCL the process was easy and efficient. 20 minutes after being call, purple in our case, 20 minutes later we were on the dock.
Repositioning - The itinerary and length is the beauty of a repositioning cruise. When we cruise for 7 days with 3 or 4 port of call when we get home bushed. This cruise with it's 5 port of call and 6 days at sea was perfectly balance for us.
A mix of western (Ocho Rios, Jamaica), eastern (St-Maarten and St-Thomas) and southern Caribbean (Curaçao and Aruba) no ordinary itinerary.
The price of this cruise made it even more tempting... like having 5 free night on board.
We are now looking to next year as me might take this repositioning cruise again.
The good news is they will stop in Grand Cayman instead of Ocho Rios. Jamaica is a beautiful island but the people are to aggressive with the tourist
Cabin 10722 (BB) balcony stateroom aft port side deck 10. At first you think there is not enough space for you clothes but inside the closet to to right you'll find 4 shelves. Nice sliding doors to access the balcony. Last port side aft cabin. You're about 10 cabin's away for the elevators. Gives you direct access to the Garden Cafe (buffet) deck 11, the Venetian Dining Room (main) deck 7 and port of call gangway deck 4. Very nicely situated.
We booked with Soualinga Destinations. Tour of the island by boat with snorkeling and a great lunch in a restaurant in a bay on the French. Due to a recent storm the water usualy crystal clear up to 20 feet had only about three feet visibility. No matter Captain Bob is quite a character and showed us a good time. The size of the boat, 12 passenger, means you have access to protected natural reserve. You go to Tintamarre Island where sea turtles swim around as you snorkel. Pinel Island where you'll find a boutique with unique souvenirs. St-Maarten Airport as you saw on You Tube but in our case the plane flies right over boat as it lands. All in all a good excursion that could have been a great one with the snorkeling.