We live in Malawi in Africa, and this was our first time on a cruise.
We chose Norwegian Dawn because of Freestyle cruising and having a friend we wanted to visit in New York + a bit of a yen to see Bermuda in particular.
I love researching holidays, and cruise sites like this one were happy hunting grounds for me!
Embarkation was a pretty good experience, though it looked pretty grim at first sight. We got there at 10.00am just as things were opening so, not surprisingly, we were near the front of the queue. Half an hour later would probably have been a better idea as they had to finish letting people off before we could get on. They took our passports away at this point, which always spooks those of us who live in this part of the world. The next day we started to worry about the requirement for photo id at immigration as the passports were our only photo ids. I went to the guest services counter & they explained we would all be receiving a photocopy of the passport id page later that evening. I used guest services about 5 times during the cruise- ten out of ten every time.
Ports of call We didn't really like the look of Nassau very much, but we had a fantastic time on the America's Cup activity- highly recommended for all ages from about 10 upwards. One of the crew turned out to have a brother in law living in the same city as us (Lilongwe). It was really beautiful to be on these yachts with mighty masts and working the winches etc + the sense of a race all added fun and spice.
Private Island was a bit of a misnomer for us. Two thousand eight hundred passengers on one beach is private??? However, it was very pleasant and beautiful water. Mighty long wait to return on the tender boats though. I had a nice walk to the lighthouse on the other side of the island. A hat was a must- the sun is really strong.
Bermuda- we really loved this island- just what we hoped it would be. I used the official website to choose a lovely beach area called Jobson's cove next to Warwick Long beach. Taxi drivers very friendly and reliable about coming back for us. Also walked around Hamilton and generally really liked everything about the island and also the Naval Dockyard where we docked. Had a E3 bus to Greenford in the dockyard for some reason- that was the bus I used to catch to school when I lived in London!
The cruise and the ship We loved it. We all did our own things to a great extent, and met up for meals- I loved hanging around the spa ($15 per day seemed fine to me for almost exclusive use of pools and spas and saunas + i could pop up to the gym too.) I would have liked a bit more in the way of intellectually stretching or cultural activities but they did lay on a load of things every day. My wife mainly wanted to read and relax on the balcony but did pilates, golf lessons etc. A balcony is a must in our opinion- we had a mini suite between three of us and didn't feel too cramped though we are used to living in big, airy houses over here. Very well designed cabin and excellently constructed- no noise insulation problems. Our daughter (11 years old) never wanted to leave the kids club. She really liked having fairly narrow age bands like 9-12 years. Very good entertainment and theatre quality but we did lodge a complaint about people being allowed in late- we tried sitting at the front to minimize the sense of disruption this caused but some of these people went searching for a seat at the front even though they were late. At least 100 people came in during the first half hour of every show we watched- because they knew they could. Very unfair on the performers.
We mainly ate evening meals in the specialty restaurants- liked them all especially Le Bistro. Found evening meal at the Venetian (free) less impressive than the menu sounded. The buffet for lunch was a great choice we thought despite many negative reviews I had read. Venetian and room service excellent for breakfast.
We didn't think this was a great way to meet people as freestyle means families tending to dine together and our experience was lots of pleasant "drift in, drift out" conversations with fellow passengers rather than deep and meaningful stuff. Actually, we rather liked the sense of reserve we felt to be there. Thought it might be a bit of a New Yorker thing as most passengers were from there.
I really have to admire the way America manages to create fantastic value for money aimed squarely at the middle end of the market people like us.I really thought the cruise was superb value though we did run up quite a bill as one tends to do on holiday! Cruise director (Matt baker) was a tour de force- we really admired his skill in so many different situations. Disembarkation a breeze.