Norwegian Dawn Cruise Review by Cruisingator2
- Sail Date: July 2007
- Destination: Bermuda
- Cabin Type: Forward-Facing Penthouse with Large Balcony
This was my first cruise with NCL in thirteen years. My last cruise was on the Norway back in 1994. That cruise left a bad taste in my mouth with NCL. The Norway herself was outstanding and a one of a kind ship but the rest of the cruise left a lot to be desired. This cruise renewed my faith in NCL once again as this was the cruise line that started my addiction to cruising back in 1986 with the tiny 16,000 ton Starward. I am not going to go into the ports of call as that is discussed enough on the boards. I will keep my comments to the ship, NCL and some comparisons between NCL and RCI.
Pre-Stay - Stayed in New York at the Doubletree Suites in Times Square. http://www.doubletree.com/en/dt/hotels/index.jhtml?ctyhocn=LGASFDT The hotel is in the heart of the theatre district. The hotel itself was nice with a very friendly staff. The only drawback was once stepping outside of the hotel it felt like I walked into a blender. People going in every direction. It was Crazy. Other than that I would stay here again. Also the hotel was only about a fifteen minute ride to the pier on a Saturday morning. Not bad at all.
Check-In - Arrived at the pier in New York around 10:30 and there were already about 100 guests there for check-in. Due to the cabin that we booked we were able to receive VIP check-in and we were on board around noon. Luggage arrived around 2:00. We snuck to the room to drop off our carry-on luggage and then went to find lunch. Decided to skip the lido dining room and eat in Venetians which was very good that day. All together a very easy check in process. As good as I have received on Royal Caribbean. One note about the pier in New York. The traffic is a nightmare of trying to get in and out here. The cab drivers do not have a lot of patience with one another. Thank goodness we did not have a lot of ships in port. I can only imagine how that would be.
Ship - The Dawn entered service in late 2002. She comes in at just under 92,000 tons. Just about the same size at the Radiance class ships. Prior to the cruise I had looked at many photos of the ship and was not sure about the bright colors but I have to say that the ship was very nicely decorated. Yes she is colorful but is done in a nice tasteful way. She does not have the WOW effect that you find on the Radiance class ships of RCI but she was very well maintained and clean. She did not look five years old. It was also easy to find your way around the Dawn. She does lack an adult's only solarium and has one main pool area with a smaller pool for the kids located on the aft area of the ship. There is also a pool located indoors in the spa area. I liked that the Dawn had a bar and grill out near the pool area called the Bimini Bar and Grill. Here, burgers, dogs, fries were served along with pizza and drinks. This is one area lacking on the Radiance class so that folks do not have to go to the Windjammer and can stay near the pool. One thing that I did not like about the upper decks is the glass railing that runs around deck 13. The glass is head high with about a five inch space in between the glass but I missed the lower railings. You had to walk towards the aft section to get the lower railings. One nice thing on the Dawn was the laundry rooms for those wanting to wash clothes. The laundry rooms contained three washers and dryers. They were free. The only thing that you had to pay for was the detergent which was $1.00 a box or bring your own. I'm not sure how many were on each deck or if each cabin deck had them but this room was located midship on deck 10. The ship also has one of the best cinemas at sea and they did a much better job than RCI with the show times of their movies. NCL has also added hull art to the ships in their fleet. I was not a big fan at all of this but the more time I spent on the promenade deck looking at it, the more it grew on me. It is different and by the end of the week I decided that I liked it.
Dining - Okay this is where the big difference between RCI and NCL comes into play. Prior to this cruise I had read so many different opinions on the Freestyle concept that I wasn't sure about it. IMHO it all comes down to what one likes in cruising. Having now cruised for twenty-one years, I am over the dressing up, being at dinner at a certain time and sitting with folks that I do not know. I want to be able to eat dinner when I want, dress casually and enjoy a table with just my immediate party. NCL delivered and I did not have to go to the lido dining room to get it. Again due to the cabin booked we had the use of a concierge to book all of our reservations for the various dining rooms. We actually only used the Concierge twice and booked all of the other nights on our own as it was just as easy to call the reservations desk as it was the concierge. Only once did we not get the time wanted but it was my fault as I had actually forgotten to call and reserve until 3:00 in the afternoon. It still worked out as we just chose a different dining room to eat in.
The Dawn has several different dining areas on board. Two regular dining rooms called The Venetian located aft with very nice large windows and a view of the ships wake and Aqua located midship. Both dining rooms offer the same menus which change each night. Also on board is the Asian themed dining room Bamboo that also contains a Sushi Bar, Sake Bar and Teppanyaki. Italian Impressions serves up great Italian and Salsa satisfies your cravings for Tex-Mex. Le Bistro for those wanting French and Cagney's Steakhouse for the beef lovers. Of course there are the casual dining options such as the New York Deli, Garden Cafe (lido dining room) and Blue Lagoon which is a 24 hour cafe where one can order snacks such as burgers, wings, etc. Plenty of dining options to satisfy most anyone.
I have always thought that when it comes to food that the subject is highly subjective so each person's opinion may differ from mine. I found the food on the Dawn to be overall good but lacking in some areas. Several of the dining rooms have a cover charge. Le Bistro, Bamboo and Cagney's have a cover charge that ranges from $10.00 to $20.00. We ate at Cagney's and were disappointed. The steaks were tough and fatty. Not what I expected at all. A few lunches in the Venetian were not that good but I do believe that I made some wrong choices from the menu. The most disappointing thing was the buffet. Very poor. Tried it one day early in the cruise and did not return. Also NCL only offers up water and tea in the lido dining room. The tea was instant and undrinkable. It looked like mud water it was so dark and brown. RCI blows NCL away with the Windjammer. Many more choices. NCL did use charcoal grills on the sea days by the pool and grilled up burgers, hot dogs and chicken which were great. Salsa's and Italian Impressions were very good. We ate at these two locations a total of four nights. Dinner one night in the Venetian was underwhelming as my steak was once again tough. It basically tasted the same as what was served up in Cagney's that cost an extra $20.00. Overall I liked having the choice of different dining locations with different themes and menus. Also being able to pick the time each evening was nice as there was no rush to get back to the room and to get cleaned up for dinner. Left plenty of time for pre dinner drinks and the best thing was no formal nights. I truly believe that the Freestyle/Anytime dining concept is the future of cruising as more and more cruise lines are now trying this concept and are also working hard to bring in new cruisers. I hope that it works on RCI so that guests who prefer this type of dining can be accommodated along with the guests that prefer traditional. Both types of dining should be able to co-exist.
Cabin - We had cabin #10500 which is located on deck 10 all the way forward overlooking the bow of the ship. I wasn't sure how I would like a cabin facing the front of the ship and the wind but it was not a problem at all and would book it again. This was a category AC Penthouse. I would compare it to the size of a Grand Suite on the Radiance class. It was very nicely set up with a sitting area, dining area, a large two sided closet that could be opened from front or back. The bathroom contained a tub and a separate water closet. I do think that NCL takes care of their suite guests a little better than RCI. The prices are about the same on each line but NCL does include a butler and concierge. Also we were allowed to order from any of the dining room menus on the ship for dinner and a full breakfast. There were no limitations as to what we could order. Non suite guests have a more limited breakfast menu. This is a negative compared to RCI. The butler would bring in the food and set up everything for your breakfast, lunch or dinner. He would return after you were finished and clean everything up. This was a nice touch that RCI should look into. When arriving the first day you had in your cabin a fresh fruit basket, a bottle of Evian and champagne on ice and fresh flowers which I believe is what RCI is now giving suite guests. Each day a plate of special treats are dropped off in your cabin which is again similar to what RCI does. All very nice. Each evening during turn down service, the room steward would remove the bed spread and replace it with a duvet similar to the ones that RCI uses. The sofa in this room makes into a single bed and was more comfortable than those on RCI.
Service - I found the service on the Dawn equal to what I have experienced on each of my RCI cruises. Very professional, friendly and working very hard to make my sure that each guest had a great time. We only had two crew members the entire time which were not friendly. Both were in the Venetian dining room. Maybe they were just having a bad day. A lot of the CC members write about the service lacking when tips are added to ones on board account. We did not find this. The crew worked just as hard as if they were expecting the gratuities at the end of the cruise and of course those folks received more from us. We had the best bartender that I have ever met by the name of Eka. She tended the bar in Gatsby's. This was the every night place for drinks. All in all, very impressed with the level of service on this ship. A+!!!!!!!!!!
Closing thoughts - The Dawn has been having difficulty with her engines and was dry-docked in late May and early June to correct the situation. We had problems on our cruise that made us arrive late at our first port. We received a $50.00 per cabin credit to our on board accounts. Many folks were not happy but Nassau is Nassau and I can take it or leave it.
I feel in many areas that NCL equals that of RCI. Very good service along with clean and well maintained ships and good entertainment. The food was hit or miss but overall not bad even though I may have sounded critical in some areas. There are things that I like about both cruise lines. IMHO no one can match the beauty or WOW factor that RCI has with their ships. RCI has a very nice past guest program that I think is the best in the industry. IMHO they are truly the leader in these two categories. On NCL I loved the Freestyle concept by being able to choose from all the different dining venues on board and when I wanted to dine. The suite amenities were nicer on NCL. Other than that I did not see a huge difference between the two. I have booked another cruise on NCL for next year along with a cruise back on the Liberty of the Seas. I now have two cruise lines to choose from but truthfully RCI is still my favorite because no one can match the WOW factor.......
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