This was the much discussed Nov 3, 2917 repositioning cruise from Boston to San Juan. It was the most stressfull vacation ever because of the lack of hotels in San Juan and not being able to trust any new reservations we tried to make. NCL gave us very little time for late air travel changes and we ended up spending 15 hours to just go from San Juan to Boston.
Embarcation went fine and we were onboard by 11:45 and had lunch in O'sheehans and we had the drinks package and did pay about $8.00 in taxes while in port waters and for a couple of hours after sailing.
Dining was still overall very good. We ate 7 dinners in Venetian and the food was good enough and we only had one bad waiter. We were never there too long and they did not cause us to miss any shows. One meal in Cagneys was excellent. One meas in Bamboo was good but we did not care for their fried rice and the menu lacks variety.
Entertainment was excellent and we were blessed with Patti and Jose playing for us almost every night in the atrium which is a nice place to relax on three different levels all with at least decent to good drink service. We always found the variety of shows every night to be excellent and on two nights the early and late shows were not the same. We had two shows with an outstanding comedian and I am sorry I didnt save any of the daily's so I could look up his name.
Drinks package promotion worked perfectly for us. I was able to order two drinks or one double any time I wanted to with just one stateroom card and always kept some beers in the room fridge for out on the balcony or for my cooler for shore excursions. My cousin who traveled with me does not drink and he found several good carribean non alcoholic drinks that he enjoyed but there is not a specific non-alcoholic menu so you have to ask. Also no bar would give me canned soda to keep in the room for him. He was only allowed fountain soda. If you want plenty of wine with dinner just order a double glass and they will bring both at once and you will have to do this when you first sit down because you will not see the wine steward again this easily. If you got to the Stardust a little early for your show you could order drinks there too. Service in the pool area was inconsistent especially if you were in a hot tub so call out when they come near and hold up your key. On the three sea days they came up to the hot tub in the bow on deck 13 very half hour or so. For some reason the Bimini bar on deck 13 was closed for the last day and a half of our cruise with no reason given so the pool bar was very over crowded on our last day.
Be sure and read my cabin review below -this was the low point of the cruise....
My cousin went to bingo one sea day and he did not find it relaxing at all and about the least you can spend is $49.00 for a decent setup. He liked the old style cards where you just used a marker instead of the punch out cards they use now. This was my third time on the Dawn this season and the Stench of smoke in the casino was not so bad on this cruise yet it smelled real bad in the atrium area that has the champaign bar and the italian and french restaurants and the Bamboo area on deck 7 also smelled real bad on sea days.
Disembarkation was the worst I have ever had in over a dozen cruises. We were told ahead of time that it would be difficult because of the lack of power in the Pan American port to work the heavy lifts for the regular gangways. We knew that we would have to line up for a single very small gangway like they use for port days on deck four. We had alot of people in wheel chairs and it was very hard to get them off in such a tight area. The port from the outside looks like a bomb hit it. Large portions of the tin roofs totally missing, especially at the other building that RCI usually uses. No air conditioning inside the terminal and the rest rooms could be found by just following the stench that made its way outside the bathrooms. We were pre-warned to expect a shortage of taxis but there were actually plenty there as well as some tour operators who took lots of people like us who needed to kill time before going to the airport. Went to Old San Juan and many things were no longer open even though that part of town has power . The airport was a mob scene but at least it was actually cold inside. Ladies were taking Boston warm clothes out of their bags and putting them on...Do not forget to go through Agricultural screening as soon as you enter the airport.
My final thoughts....We did not want to go to San Juan even though the economy needs our money because crime is much higher now and there is also not alot to do there because most of the island still has no power and we saw no power crews anywhere even though most of the way to the airport there are some badly damaged sub stations with whole neighborhoods with power lines strewn everwhere. Yes they need our money but there is no hotel space and travel outside the city is less safe , you can reed online daily Puerto Rico newspapers to get an idea on how really bad they have it.
We feel sorry for people taking cruises from San Juan on NCL because they will be now calling on St Thomas as we did (last minute port change with very poor onboard communication until the night before) We took a 2.5 hour island tour and it was depressing to say the least. The port area looked better than the rest of the island and most port shops are open.. There are thousands of shattered power poles and shreaded cell phone towers. They will tell you that Megans bay and some other beaches are open but you wont want to go there. RCI paid for new buildings/rest rooms and cleanup to reopen Megans bay but that area is one of the most badly damaged on the whole island and traffic is a nightmare due to power cables and poles everywhere and alot of power company crews actually working in convoys to get things fixed. They are going to start visiting St Martin again along with St Thomas on the NCL cruises from San Juan so they will get to see two examples of what the two storms have done and see poverty and devestation that just cannot be described. What a vacation that will be.
Excellent location near the foward elevators and pretty quiet at night because there no rooms beside us on one side and no inside cabins across the hall from it. We found the balcony to be filthy and rust stains running from top to bottom in this enclosed balcony room. Also just like our other three cabins on the Dawn this summer one of the beds has a mattress that you just could not sleep on. I went to guest services and told them to replace the mattress and they would only shove folded up mattress pads under the damaged springs to make it look level. It did not work and they would not replace it. It took two visits to guest services to get the balcony painted but now it looks great for the next people to have that room. They do not clean the balcony glass or the railings or the chairs or the floor to any satisfaction and I already knew that. I scrubbed the glass inside and out for 15 minutes and now the next occupants will be able to see through the glass. The people in 8058 washed sand out of their things on the balcony and the sand and mess was everywhere on their side and ours and that was never touched.
We live near enough to take public transportation to the port. Very easy for us.
Booked with Sunshine tours for a private tour and they did not shop up when and where they stated in their confirmation. We ended up taking a private tour with a Gordon of Antigua guide in a van with just two other people from the Mein Schiff who did speak English. We already did the standard island tour last year so we went to the Devils bridge and Bettys Hope and the criket stadium which is housing evacuees from Barbuda and then to a beach near the Devils bridge.
Amazing area where nearly 28000 people died in just minutes from the pyroclastic flow of the eruption in 1902. Alot of the city was rebuilt on the ruins and the museum has alot to see and read . beaches on this side of the island are black volcanic sand if you like that stuff.View All 5 Fort-de-France Reviews
Went through the rain forest to Mt Pele and to the oldest rum distillery still family owned and then to Fort-de-France to see both the ruins and the rebuilding. Best rum shopping on the whole cruise. You can sample and buy rum in up to three liter boxes for less than $25. Never seen boxed rum before and it was 110 proof rum as well.View All 29 Rum Distillery Reviews
You walk into the port and sign up for a shared ride to either Reduit beach or to Pigeon island. It did not take too long for the van to fill up and then we left. The shuttle van is a red Toyota piece of crap with almost no suspension left and very hot inside and seats all torn etc. The beach was not crowed at all and there is a hike up to the top where the fort was. Outstanding views from the fort. There is an $8.00 admission fee . You set up a pick up time for the same driver and van to come and take you back to the ship and he was right on time and everyone said they had a good day.