NCL Dawn - first time in a suite!: Norwegian Dawn Cruise Review by DCP

Norwegian Dawn 5
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NCL Dawn - first time in a suite!

Sail Date: December 2013
Destination: Western Caribbean
Embarkation: Tampa
NCl Dawn 12/08/13 Tampa – Western Carribbean Suite 9500

We flew in a day ahead of boarding, and stayed at the Chase Suites Hotel. Was very clean and had no issues with the hotel at all. The guy who does their shuttle obviously didn’t think we tipped enough, but that had nothing to do with the hotel. Would stay there again. (and we were in one of the rooms that had NOT been updated yet) Free breakfast was good.

We were called several times by NCL and told to not be at the port before 1 pm. We didn’t have an option with the shuttle from the hotel, it was noon or 9 am. (the other times were already booked). We chose noon. We got to the port about 12:30, and the lines had just started to form. There were two lines, and each had about 20 or so lined up already. We got in line. They didn’t open the doors to customs until 1 pm sharp. Once the doors were opened, we got through customs pretty quickly. The line moved constantly.

Once through More customs we asked where the VIP line was, and were directed to another line there. NO ONE was moving in this one. We stood in that line for about 15 minutes, the concierge that was at the front was very kind and nice to talk to. There were several folks NOT happy about having to stand in this line, and they were already discussing what the concierge was going to give them to make up for them having to *stand in line*! After we got our room keys we were escorted to the VIP lounge in the corner of the building. It was just an area that was roped off. There were refreshments available there for us, we no longer got some and then it was our turn to be escorted onto the ship. It was nice to be escorted through the long line right to the front for a change! We wanted to see our room first, so we chose to go there instead of going to Cagney’s right away.

This was our first time in a suite, and I was so excited!! We were in Penthouse Forward Suite 9500. There was so much room!! The bed was heavenly…although we used the balcony more than we did the table and chairs in the room! There was an arrangement of fresh beautiful flowers on the table by the sofa, and a bowl of fresh fruit on the dining table. (which was refilled daily) A bottle of sparkling wine was chilling, and the coffee set up that I had ordered from the pre- concierge was there. (as were the pillows, the extra towels, and the menus from all the restaurants as I had requested!) Our Concierge was Roel, and our butler was Lazaro, room steward was Joseph.

Lazaro was awesome. He took really good care of us. Checked in several times a day to see if we needed anything. Joseph was top notch, our room was spotless at all times!

After checking our room and amazing balcony out, we headed to Cagneys’ for lunch. Hubby had steak and truffle fries, I had a risotto dish and shrimp cocktail, and the macadamia nut brownie dessert!! After this week was over, THIS perk, being able to eat in Cagneys for breakfast and lunch would be the one thing I would miss the most going back to a regular balcony room. We loved it. We had never had French Press coffee until then, OMG…where has that been all our lives?? (Santa brought us one for Christmas, and I fondly think of our lovely breakfasts in Cagney’s everytime I use it!) The servers were all top notch and we just REALLY enjoyed this perk.

We did not leave port until about 8:30 that night. What was explained to us was the barge did not bring enough fuel on its first trip, so it had to come back, and by the time it had filled the Dawn’s fuel tanks, our *window* to leave had passed. We then had to wait until the next available *window* was open. (and not sure if this is accurate, but it is what we were told) This is one of my only whines about the make up for lost time, the Captain had her going about full speed ahead. The ships log on the TV had us at 23 knots. Stupid me, thought I could go without my sea sick patch, so I hadn’t put it on yet.

After exploring the ship for several hours and taking a nap, we headed to the Venetian for dinner. Lobster night, and I don’t miss that. I asked for two lobsters with my dinner, and they were so good! These were nice sized ones. I hear complaints all the time on the boards that they’re too small….for us, they were perfect! Dinner was amazing…our appetizers and main courses and dessert were timed perfectly.

Going full speed ahead, and NO patch on = not feeling good. I walked around the ship some more with hubby, but ended up going and laying down in that luxurious bed. Rough life! (and I slapped that patch on too, my mistake for thinking I could go without it – but had we not been going so fast, I really think I would have been ok) We were on the VERY front of the ship. He was ok with that, his favorite room on the ship is the Cigar lounge. When I don’t feel good, he explores and always seems to end up there. I want to mention what our butler did here, that really meant a lot to me. He knew I was not feeling well with the sea sickness, and without asking, he brought me saltines and gingerale. Just a simple task, but it meant so much to me!

We were disappointed when we got back to our room – there is a HUGE door, I called it the *submarine* door, my hubby corrects me and says it is the WATER TIGHT door. Whatever. It is BIG, and HEAVY! And we wrongly assumed it was locked and we weren’t supposed to open it. Our thoughts were WHY pay for a room with a huge balcony when there is a door that gets shut so you can’t use it?? Hubs headed to the front desk to let them know our thoughts on the matter. Well, he came back with a timid look on his face – he said “How can you get aggravated at someone who is being so kind and nice to you??” LOL….the woman at the front desk said “yes, we do close them at 7 pm each night for your safety, but they are not locked. We PREFER you keep it closed at night, for your safety also.” So, once he knew we COULD open it if we really wanted to, he was fine with it. You really didn’t want it open under way full speed anyways….it was VERY windy that night!

Monday, Dec. 9 – Sea day, and I am still very sea sick, unfortunately. I missed the meet and greet because of this. I know they say looking at the horizon helps, but it doesn’t help me. The only thing I can do is lay down in a dark room until it passes. Luckily, by mid afternoon I was feeling better. Good thing, we’re supposed to have cocktails with the Captain that night! This day was really kind a blur for me – I would be up for a while, then lay down for a while. I HATE it that I get sea sick. I have tried EVERYTHING too. Oh well…I just try to make the best of it. I love cruising, and this is just a small part of it.

Cocktail party with the Captain – it was nice. I am not one that likes to dress up, so I did put on the nicest outfit I had packed (still under dressed than most at the party – but I didn’t mind, it is what it is) I wasn’t drinking alcohol because of still being kind of queasy…Hubby enjoyed the rum punch that was served though! I did eat come of the appetizers they were passing around, and they brought me a ginger ale. We visited with a couple of other couples for a while, and then left. It was pretty crowded. OH!! We got our picture taken with the Captain there too! That was the ONLY picture I have ever bought from the ship.

Time for bed, and what a bed, it was so comfy…like sleeping on a cloud. We have a temperpedic at home and I was worried about being able to sleep good – NOT a problem. They even had the right pillows for us!

We had asked for juices, coffee and pastries to be delivered at 8 am each day. We would set on the balcony and enjoy them at our leisure then get ready to go to Cagneys for breakfast each day! In a suite, they don’t just knock on your door and hand them to you…your butler rings your doorbell, then lightly taps on the door. After you say it is ok to come in, he comes in and completely sets the table for you. Tablecloth and all. These little touches really make you feel special!

Our first port was Roatan, Honduras. We didn’t plan any excursions for this trip, we were just playing it by ear (we had done this route before). After having a nice breakfast, we walked off the ship and checked out the shops in port for a little while. After that we decided to rent a taxi and driver to find a local cigar shop and just check out the island. (Hubby doesn’t like to swim in the water where there is wildlife…he was stung by a jellyfish once and never forgot it, so we typically don’t do any water based excursions) We went outside the gate and hired a driver/taxi for $30 (versus $70 inside the port) He drove us where ever we wanted to go and gave us little history lessons about different things on the island. Hubby was very happy with the cigar shop – I think it was in West End? We were gone about 3 hours and then headed back to the ship. Hubby paid the driver and tipped him for taking care of us.

One annoying thing – our room cards never seemed to work right when getting on or off the ship. They would have to take each of our cards, and manually punch something in to the computer and then let us go. This would be an issue each time. We should have just had new ones made.

Back on the Dawn, we were kind of tired, so we opted for taking a nap on our balcony. In the suite we were in, the closer you are to the door, the more shade there was, so we would shove our loungers back under the overhang and take a nice nap out in the fresh air!

Got cleaned up and ready to go have dinner. Went to the Venetian, and there was a pretty long line, so we thought we would check out Aqua – just as long. Put our name in and get a pager and a coupon for free champagne or soft drink for each of us. We’re in no hurry, so that is fine. Went into the Spinnaker and had a seat – I had ginger ale and hubby had a pepsi. Watched the show that was going on in there while we waited. It was fun to see, and not something we would have made plans to watch had we not had time to kill before dinner. ( I made a note to myself to REMEMBER to ask the Roel to make a reservation for us for dinner from there on out.)

One thing I have seen a lot of complaints about for the ships here lately is the service in the MDR. For, us this time is special and to be savored! We ate dinner in the MDR every night of this cruise, and enjoyed it EVERYTIME. We were never in a hurry, no place we had to be at a certain time, and we are on a vacation we have been looking forward to for a long time. 2 hours for a beautiful dinner that I am waited on hand and foot? Bring it! Yes, I will set at my table, with my adoring hubby and relish the time I have on whatever ship I am on enjoying a delicious dinner. I am NOT sugar coating this, we enjoyed the time we spent for dinner every night. (two nights we shared a table with another couple, and we enjoyed that also, although one couple were annoying by all of their *requests* for extras all the time – after dining with them, we preferred to set by ourselves for dinner the rest of the cruise) I truly believe these times are what you make of it. If you know you’re short on time, go to the buffet! For us, dinner was special. I know it is a little thing, but the servers even remembered our names! (and we didn’t ask for the same one each time either….another way to make us feel that much more special!

Hubby got to talking with the folks in the next cabin to us out on the balcony after we were back to our cabin and mentioned the lines for dinner, and told him we were going to learn to use the Concierge to make our dinner reservations from then on. He told us that was not possible for the MDR…only in the specialty restaurants. Well, guess what…I called, and we got reservations for dinner in the MDR. We have yet to pay for a specialty restaurant on any of our cruises. We are taken care of perfectly fine in the ones that are included in our fare.

We’re not cruising as fast now, so it is possible to set out on the balcony while under way. If you don’t like the wind, you can set up towards the back (towards the door) of the balcony and it isn’t bad at all. Down towards the front of the ship it can be windy.

Next day is Belize and we’ll be tendering there. They delivered an envelope to explain how the priority tendering would work for the next day. We had ordered a full breakfast in our room for this day. Lazaro was never late, I don’t know how he managed to ALWAYS bring or do whatever we asked at the time we asked for it. (maybe he had a clone??) Again, feeling pretty pampered, white linens on our table for breakfast in our room! It is a pretty yucky day today – pouring down rain. We opt to NOT tender first thing and keep an eye on the weather. We could see the tenders REALLY bouncing in the waves getting to Belize. After watching that, and the rain on top of it, we decided to NOT even go into Belize. We would stay on the ship and explore and enjoy our suite. I did some shopping, hubby wanted a nice scotch to take home, and I wanted to get some perfume and a new watch. So that is what we did. We met some really nice folks, there are so many people with such different life experiences to talk with! I don’t smoke, but I would go spend time in the cigar lounge with hubby and visit. Just having a really nice time not doing anything this trip. So relaxing!

The next day we would be docking at Costa Maya, one of our favorites. We enjoy going over to Tropicante and spending time just enjoying the beach there. We get an hour long massage and have lunch and a few Mexican beers and we’re good. The massages used to be right on the beach, and I prefer that to what they’re doing now. They do them in a room next to the restaurant now, so three sides are enclosed. I like having them on the beach much better. We used Steve’s phone to call home for a couple of minutes. (a nice perk – thank you Steve Uhl!) Phone hogs take note…it is not polite to be on the phone for over 20 minutes at at time, it is rude, and it is taking advantage of something that is complimentary! There was a quick down pour of rain while we were there, it didn’t last more than 15 mintures. ( guess the week before it rained every day!) We walked down the street and checked out a few shops – picked up a new bathing suit – the shop owner originally asked $45. and I ended up paying $25. At the end of the shops there is a taxi stand, we got to that point, asked for a taxi to take us back to the ship.

Back on the ship and we clean up and take a little nap once again on our balcony. After we wake up, we can hear announcements over the ship and it sounded like our names??? OMG!! I open the cabin door, and it IS our names!! They are asking us to please call guest services. I pick up the phone, and just as I am dialing them, our butler comes knocking on the door. He says they are looking for us!! Those darn room keys – when we got back from Costa Maya, they scanned our keys, but DID NOT MANUALLY KEY THEM in like they have everytime we have left or boarded the ship….we’re assuming they didn’t know we were back on the ship because of this. SO, I think they look for the suite guests, not sure if they would have come looking for us if we had been in a regular room! Hubby was NOT thrilled our names were blasted all over the ship, but it was nothing we did. Oh well.

Dinner reservations at Venetian, yes, thank you. NO pager for us this time! (and just so you know our neighbor, your concierge **at least the one we had on the Dawn** WILL make a MDR reservation for you.) It did not have to be a specialty restaurant. Or maybe we were just extra special? LOL!! Anyways, dinner was wonderful, I have mixed up all the days so I can’t remember what we had on what night, it was all good though. Steak, prime rib, lobster, pasta, everything we ordered. Not one time did we not like what we ordered. Not sure about all the ships in the fleet, but for us on this trip on the Dawn, he made reservations for us in the MDR.

Next day Cozumel. We’re not interesting folks on the excursion stuff this trip, as I said before, we did not plan any. We just played it by ear and enjoyed the ship and the perks from having a suite this time. We got off the ship about 11 am or so. It was a pretty day, we just walked through town and into a few shops. The shop people are REALLY aggressive here. ( Last time we were here we hired a driver and explored so we didn’t deal with them.) Bought a couple of souvenirs then headed back to the ship.

The only show we went to was the comedian. This was not by plan, it was thanks to me and my stupid sea sickness. I think being on the front of the ship was not a good thing for me. I loved the room, but it seemed every evening I would start to feel bad and need to go lay down….and it was always during the show times. I felt bad for hubby, he was a good sport. He would just turn off the light, hit the do not disturb thing, and leave me be. He would go explore and enjoy the ship. I was glad he did that, I didn’t want to ruin a nice evening for him every night. I was glad it just really hit me in the evenings and didn’t bother me ALL day long though. Lesson learned. NO front of the ship for us again. (but we were literally the FRONT of the ship – we could walk out to the end of our balcony and look up to the bridge!) The view you see on the webcam for the ship…..was the same view we had from our balcony! We learned that I just can’t do that kind of room again. We’ll stay mid ship from now on.

Our last day is a sea day, and that is fine with us. We have one more day to soak in being spoiled. We didn’t do anything special, just enjoyed Cagneys and our balcony, took a bunch of pics of different things on the ship (I always forget to do that!) I know I have to pack our stuff up, and that makes me sad – I don’t want this vacation to be over already! Priority luggage tags were made available to us in the concierge lounge (which was the Star Bar) but we opt to carry our own off, so we didn’t get them.

We also got an invitation to see the Chocolate buffet before they let everyone else in, which was cool. We got pics of all the goodies before they were eaten. Hubby ate a few things, but here again, it is the time I start to feel bad, so after the pics, I headed back to my cloud (I mean bed) in our suite. Hubs went on his way – and came back later to check on me. ( I liked the way they did the chocolate buffet on the Spirit better – it was so pretty set up in the MDR vs. in the buffet lines. That is the only ship we’ve seen it done that way though, so I am guessing it is the buffet for most of the ships.)

Back to Tampa, got up early, and watched the ship pull into the dock. We ordered room service and Lazaro was there on the spot with it. We’re to meet in Spinnakers to get priority walk off, again getting off and out of the port before anyone else was nice. Breezed through customs. We took a cab back to the hotel – there was supposed to be a free shuttle, but the cabs were right there and we didn’t have to wait. $25. For however many in the cab….there was another couple going to the same hotel, so we shared the ride and split the cost.

Final thoughts…..

We don’t consider ourselves *cheerleaders* but really we did not have one thing to complain about. We had a wonderful cruise (well, the sea sick part wasn’t so great) but that is something we learned. No cabins at the front for us again.

All the NCL employees we encountered were awesome. Most that we met and had any interactions with remembered our names and spoke every time we saw them. The crew were very nice, and seemed to love their jobs. I personally did not eat in the buffet one time, so can’t say how that was. Both of the MDR’s were great for us. Service was not slow by my judgment, but we were there to enjoy a nice meal, so WE weren’t in a hurry. We used the concierge to make two dining room reservations for us, and that was all we asked of him for us personally, so that service is one we really don’t need even if we are in a suite.

Our room steward Joseph, was awesome. Our room was NEVER messed up. He made me a towel animal EVERY night! (which I loved, even though I am in my 50’s!) I saved them all on the back of our sofa….hated leaving them behind!

Lazaro, our butler was very good too. We never wanted for anything. He was always there when we asked him to be. I don’t think we used him too much either though, he brought us room service 3 times, and a movie once. I know I appreciated him checking in on me when I was sea sick, even though we didn’t ask him to.

The servers in the MDR and Cagneys are great. We were always served hot, delicious food. If we asked for something, they took care of it. I am one who prefers to not set by children when I am out to dinner. One time they were going to set us by some, and I just asked that we be seated elsewhere – I never had to ask again.

The only time we encountered rude people were the one couple we had dinner with, they obviously had a sense of entitlement for some reason….and once near an elevator. (an elderly group of people shoved their way in front of us to get on an elevator that wasn’t finished unloading yet).

The crew of the Dawn rate right up there with our favorite from the Spirit. The ship was always clean, the public spaces spotless. Hubby TRIED to find a dirty restroom, and couldn’t!!

The Suite….AMAZING room, AMAZING balcony. Just not a good location for me. I don’t think we took full advantage of the *suite life*, but for us, what we did use was awesome, and we’ll have memories of that forever. We will do it again sometime, I am sure.

One thing we both agreed on too was the people on this cruise were VERY friendly, and easy to talk to and get to know. A relaxed bunch of passengers that all seemed to be having a good time.

I kind of wish I had something to write about to complain or warn others about so that my review doesn’t seem overly positive, but for us, it was a wonderful week of being pampered. We just enjoyed our suite, the ship and the time we had away from real life with one another.

Thanks NCL, and the wonderful crew and other passengers on the Dawn! Less

Published 01/06/14
Helpful? Thank DCP

Cabin review: 9500

It was huge, and gorgeous....loved the balcony!

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