1. Home
  2. Cruise Reviews
  3. Norwegian Dawn
I’ve spent the past few weeks putting together a detailed review of our vacation for our own personal memories. It took way more time than I thought! My goal was to get the review done before the end of February, but I ended up being out of town on business the last week. When we were looking for reviews prior to sailing, we couldn’t find much current info out there for the Dawn or for the 11-day itinerary. Most of the reviews seemed to be focused on the newer, larger ships. Since we’ve returned, there’s been one “live” review for our sailing, as well as a couple of other reviews of the longer Southern Caribbean cruises. Under the theory that it’s never too late and you can never have too much of a good thing, here is a summary from our cruise. I’ll follow up shortly with details and photos for anyone who is interested. About us This was our 6th cruise, the 4th on NCL. We are from the frigid upper Midwest (Michigan), in our late 40s/early 60s. The rationale for this cruise was an upcoming milestone birthday. I think we picked the best two weeks to head south. While we were gone, our city declared a state of emergency due to snow, state government shut down for 2 or 3 days – something about a polar vortex. The Cruise For the first time in almost 20 years, we were able to swing 2 weeks of vacation. When we saw the Dawn was doing the Southern Caribbean again, we were sold. Of the 9 ports, 5 of them were new to us. Plus, we’d never been to Puerto Rico (we were scheduled in 2006 on Royal Caribbean but didn’t make it due to a medical emergency delay out of Miami), so we considered it an extra bonus port. Because we booked at the beginning of December, we paid in full and were able to do our reservations and upgrade bids right away, although most of the good reservation times were already gone. The last time we cruised, the beverage package didn’t exist, so we had a pretty good idea about how much we would have spent without one. Our original booking was for a midship balcony on the port side, in the same vicinity as our first ever cabin on the Dawn. We submitted upgrade bids on a couple of suites but knew we wouldn’t be disappointed if it didn’t happen. Eleven days before departure, we got an email that we had won the bid for a 2 bedroom suite (SC, cabin 11530)! It was a fabulous cabin and we enjoyed it even more than the Owner’s Suite we had for our 2011 cruise. The owner's suite was all the way forward so we couldn't use that balcony half the time. We spent a lot of our time on the SC balcony. On the same day, we got an email from NCL notifying us that the pier we would be departing from changed to the Frontier Pier. As a planner, I got a bit anxious because the Frontier Pier wouldn’t display on any maps, but everything ended up fine. Pre/Post Cruise (Flights) Between unpredictable Michigan weather + 45 minute drive to the airport + 6:00 AM departure, we decided to book a hotel near the airport the night before our flight. That ended up being the right decision because it started spitting snow and dropping temperatures when we left home on Thursday night. Getting out just in time! We started vacation early by stopping for dinner at a restaurant with great southern food, fried chicken and craft cocktails. The hotel by the airport was comfortable and close. We were at the airport and checked in by 4:30 AM, watching the snow swirl. The flight from Michigan to Atlanta left right on time. A little snow didn’t make us Michiganders nervous, but the federal government shut down was a wild card. We heard rumors that flights in NY were being delayed due to it. Leaving Atlanta was more challenging. The incoming flight was delayed, the microphones at the gate weren’t functioning and the pilot claimed that mid-morning air traffic in Atlanta is always bad. We ended up arriving in Puerto Rico over an hour late. No problem for us, since we were there two days early. Several people on our flight were making a connection in San Juan to Tortola. Passengers were very polite and let them off first. Hope they made it! Dining With the 11-night itinerary, our dining perk covered 5 meals. I reserved all online prior to the cruise but ended up adjusting times and/or dates for most of them on board. We were flexible and didn’t have any trouble getting a new time that worked for us. We try to eat at the specialty restaurants early in the cruise. We find we enjoy them more before we get saturated with too much food. Because we were in a suite and had the opportunity to eat at Moderno’s/Cagney’s for breakfast and lunch every day, we skipped Cagney’s for dinner. Here are the restaurants we dined in: Los Lobos: The food was good but we enjoyed the drinks even more. Ordered table side guacamole based on rave reviews. It wasn’t crowded at all on the first night, maybe because we booked it late and right before sail away. Moderno: Unique salad bar and tasty Brazilian cocktails. I have read some reviews complaining about slow service, but the meat selections were coming out so quickly that I forgot to take any pictures! We got some of everything on the menu, and it was all good and fresh. I’ve never been interested enough to go to a Brazilian steakhouse on land, but I was happy to get a chance to experience once it on board. We’ve decided it’s not our favorite, though. Le Bistro: Is always a favorite. Husband loves escargot and Le Bistro does them well. In one of the refurbs after 2011, they swapped spaces with La Cucina. The current space doesn’t seem as intimate or cozy, even though we were seated in a booth. La Cucina: We never seem to order pasta but always have a good meal. This time we got veal osso buco and salmon. Both were excellent. The space seemed louder than when it was Le Bistro in 2011. Teppanyaki: This was my husband’s first time at a hibachi style restaurant (goal for the cruise was to try new things) and he loved it. More about our singing chef in the detailed review. Aqua: We only went to Aqua twice this time. If we hadn’t had the specialty dining plan this time, we would have eaten there more. I was a bit disappointed not to be able to try some of the main dining room dishes we saw posted throughout the cruise. The times that we did go there, the food was very good. Table location seemed to make a difference. Service was excellent and you could have a comfortable conversation when seated at one of the banquettes against the wall. When we were seated at a table in the middle of the room, it was too noisy and service was inattentive. O’Sheehan’s: This restaurant didn’t exist in 2011. The equivalent at that time was Blue Lagoon, which had a less extensive menu and was located in a smaller space. We ended up here much more than I thought we would. The bar food hit the spot (wings, burgers, hotdogs, fish & chips), the salads were nice to have as an alternative when the main dining room was too crowded or we came back from port too late to have lunch at Moderno. Breakfast was also a good alternative to the other options on the ship. Service tended to be a bit hit or miss, cutting the servers some slack when there was entertainment in the atrium and they couldn’t hear what you were saying. Buffet: Only got 3 things there: evening snacks when dinner didn’t work out and two chocolate soft serve ice cream cones at random times in the afternoon. Venetian and Bamboo: Never made it to either restaurant. Drinks/Bars Right before our cruise, NCL rolled out new drink menus and prices. Cruise Critic blew up. As professional drinkers (we own a fine wine and spirits retail store), we didn’t have any trouble finding drinks we enjoyed. It would have been nice to have some of the scotches and wine selections that had been part of the drink package just a couple of weeks before, but we certainly didn’t go thirsty. Because we spent most of our time on our balcony, our bar experiences primarily consisted of fetching drinks to take back to our cabin. We also would stop and get drinks before the shows we attended, or enjoyed wine and cocktails with our meals. On our first two Dawn cruises, we spent a lot of time in the Havana Club cigar lounge. My husband loves a good cigar and we met some great people there. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out this time, and we didn’t end up spending much time there. Bimini/Topsiders (pool bar): These two bars were closest to our cabin on deck 11 and provided most of our “to go” drinks for our balcony. We are too pale to spend much time sunning ourselves on the pool deck but it was nice to have these bars relatively close. Gatsby’s: We stopped there in the evenings before shows or after dinner for our evening balcony drinks. One of the bartenders, Leila, learned our favorite drinks and had them ready before we even got all the way to the bar. She also knew how to make all the more complicated cocktails on the menu. This bar had some spirits that they didn’t have elsewhere on the ship. O’Sheehan’s: Spent the one sea day morning here, watching the sushi demonstration. It was also a convenient stop on our way back from port a couple of times. Otherwise, we didn’t spend much time at the bar itself; most of our drinks from here were with lunch or dinner. The bar was also taken over by Super Bowl fans on the second Sunday of the cruise. Sake Bar: Has soju and sake that isn’t available elsewhere. Nice option for before dinner at Teppanyaki. Los Lobos Bar: Wish we had come back just for the bar after our first night dinner but it never happened. They have a nice cocktail menu, including a negroni made with mezcal. Atrium, Bliss Lounge, Cellars Wine Bar, Sugarcane Mojito Bar: Didn’t really go to any of these bars. We didn’t need any fancy coffee and didn’t go to any of the Bliss shows. Cellars Wine Bar didn’t interest us (and we never saw many other people there either). Enjoyed the caiprinha cocktails from Sugarcane as part of our Moderno dinner but didn’t sit at the bar. Shows We generally aren’t “show people”, so we don’t have a lot of input in this category. In the main Stardust Theater, we went to the comedian (moderately funny), the juggler (wish he had done more juggling) and they “physical” comedian (also moderately funny). Skipped the singing and dancing. We’ve been to some of the “gameshow” style shows in the past but skipped them on this cruise. The musicians were fine but not anything we went out of our way to catch. We didn’t pick this cruise for the entertainment, so our expectations were met. Ports We did pick this cruise for the ports! The first time we visit a new island, we generally like to explore on our own around the port. We did also schedule a couple of excursions in advance. We did not have the NCL shore excursion perk. At the beginning of the cruise, I decided that I would purchase some hand-crafted earrings at each port as my souvenir, instead of some mass-produced trinket you see everywhere. San Juan: As I mentioned above, we considered San Juan an extra bonus port. Not sure if it was because we booked late, but there didn’t seem to be many reasonably priced hotels available in Old San Juan. We decided on a hotel in the Condado Beach area, which is between the airport and Old San Juan. Since we flew in two days before, we had plenty of time to explore both Condado and Old San Juan. We had great food, lots of cocktails, and did a lot of walking. We are already looking forward to our next trip to Puerto Rico. Aruba: Our first time on the ABC islands. Friends and relatives have been to Aruba for land vacations and have loved it. After our day at sea, we enjoyed exploring Oranjestad. Generally speaking, we love all the Dutch islands. For my husband, Aruba was the perfect first port because it also has a Casa del Habano for Cuban cigars. The town itself is walkable, features a bit of history, public art, shopping and restaurants. They have a free trolley that goes from the cruise port to the opposite side of town. It’s a nice shady break from walking in the hot sun; just keep in mind that it’s free and you’re not paying for a tour! One of the people we met at the Bimini bar enjoyed her island tour excursion. Next time, we will venture out and see more of the island. Curacao: Another beautiful day, another beautiful island. The city of Willemstad is colorful and picturesque. We explored local markets, historical areas and the floating bridge. There were 3 ships in port this day so it was a bit more crowded. The locals were friendly. Bonaire: This was our favorite island by far. Because the next port is so far away, the time in Bonaire was short (6:00 AM – 2:00 PM). Everyone we met was super friendly and relaxed. Even the tour/taxi services were organized in a neat row of tents outside the port, with helpful information about their tours and absolutely no pressure. Unlike some other ports, the only greetings I heard from the tour operators were “keep smiling” and “welcome to Bonaire”. From the shops to the bars and restaurants, everyone was friendly and helpful. Even around the port, the water and the scenery is beautiful. Next time: we will book an excursion with one of the friendly drivers at the port to see other parts of the island or go to Klein Bonaire, a small undeveloped island with pristine beaches off the coast. We generally aren’t into snorkeling, but everything we’ve heard is that it is spectacular in Bonaire. Grenada: We didn’t see much of Grenada. My husband wasn’t feeling well, so I was on my own. All the locals I passed were friendly but the drivers just outside the port buildings reminded me of the aggressive tour operators from previous visits to Antigua. After navigating some dicey streets and sidewalks, followed by an encounter with a pro-Venezuela/anti-American demonstration, I decided to turn this into a “ship day.” Barbados: This has been one of our favorite islands, in part because we have had interesting excursions planned each time. First time, we did the Boatyard beach club and Mt Gay Rum. Second visit, a tour around the whole island. This time, we booked a walking food tour from Lickrish Tours. They advertise that you’ll “eat like a local”. The tour was fascinating and most of the places we went, we were definitely the only tourists. More info in my detailed port review. Next time: My husband really wanted to tour Foursquare Rum Distillery. By all accounts, their tour is great and their rums are fantastic. They are a newer, small production company. Unfortunately, they are only open Monday-Friday, which is why we booked the food tour. St. Lucia: Since we were thwarted with a Barbados rum tour, we booked NCL’s Rum Tasters excursion in St. Lucia. You get a mini tour of the island as they stop at a (very crowded) wood carving shop on the way to the rum factory. After you get through some cheesy introductory audio/video presentations, you do see the actual production rum facility, unlike Mt. Gay in Barbados. We got up close looks at the fermenting molasses and stills before heading to the self-serve tasting area. Our driver made the other parts of the tour interesting. Next time: We will make sure to see the Pitons, probably via a boat tour. Antigua: We had a bad experience with aggressive taxi/tour drivers on our very first trip to Antigua and it’s been a “ship day” for us ever since. When I got off to shop for my earrings, the drivers seemed a little bit toned down but that could have been because I got off long after the other passengers. The one excursion that had tempted us was an NCL tour billed as a “hop on, hop off” catamaran tour of 3 different beaches. However, that was apparently sold out by the time we boarded the ship. St. Maarten: Last time we were in St. Maarten in 2006 we did a catamaran tour to the French side of the island. Phillipsburg looks much the same. Enjoyed the water taxi and the shopping. Next time: Will probably hit a beach. Tortola: One of our favorite things is to sit on our balcony as we sail through the British Virgin Islands. Previously, we’ve been to Virgin Gorda (the baths) and Jost Van Dyke. This time, we hung out at the port, shopped and checked out a local restaurant. We also had the Merchant Marine TS (Training Ship) Kennedy next to us in port, which was very cool. I plan to post a more detailed review with pictures on the NCL board.

Dawn 11 Day Southern Caribbean

Norwegian Dawn Cruise Review by CurtandLeslie

1 person found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: January 2019
  • Destination: Caribbean
  • Cabin Type: Two-Bedroom Family Suite with Balcony
I’ve spent the past few weeks putting together a detailed review of our vacation for our own personal memories. It took way more time than I thought! My goal was to get the review done before the end of February, but I ended up being out of town on business the last week.

When we were looking for reviews prior to sailing, we couldn’t find much current info out there for the Dawn or for the 11-day itinerary. Most of the reviews seemed to be focused on the newer, larger ships. Since we’ve returned, there’s been one “live” review for our sailing, as well as a couple of other reviews of the longer Southern Caribbean cruises.

Under the theory that it’s never too late and you can never have too much of a good thing, here is a summary from our cruise. I’ll follow up shortly with details and photos for anyone who is interested.

About us

This was our 6th cruise, the 4th on NCL. We are from the frigid upper Midwest (Michigan), in our late 40s/early 60s. The rationale for this cruise was an upcoming milestone birthday.

I think we picked the best two weeks to head south. While we were gone, our city declared a state of emergency due to snow, state government shut down for 2 or 3 days – something about a polar vortex.

The Cruise

For the first time in almost 20 years, we were able to swing 2 weeks of vacation. When we saw the Dawn was doing the Southern Caribbean again, we were sold. Of the 9 ports, 5 of them were new to us. Plus, we’d never been to Puerto Rico (we were scheduled in 2006 on Royal Caribbean but didn’t make it due to a medical emergency delay out of Miami), so we considered it an extra bonus port.

Because we booked at the beginning of December, we paid in full and were able to do our reservations and upgrade bids right away, although most of the good reservation times were already gone. The last time we cruised, the beverage package didn’t exist, so we had a pretty good idea about how much we would have spent without one.

Our original booking was for a midship balcony on the port side, in the same vicinity as our first ever cabin on the Dawn. We submitted upgrade bids on a couple of suites but knew we wouldn’t be disappointed if it didn’t happen. Eleven days before departure, we got an email that we had won the bid for a 2 bedroom suite (SC, cabin 11530)! It was a fabulous cabin and we enjoyed it even more than the Owner’s Suite we had for our 2011 cruise. The owner's suite was all the way forward so we couldn't use that balcony half the time. We spent a lot of our time on the SC balcony.

On the same day, we got an email from NCL notifying us that the pier we would be departing from changed to the Frontier Pier. As a planner, I got a bit anxious because the Frontier Pier wouldn’t display on any maps, but everything ended up fine.

Pre/Post Cruise (Flights)

Between unpredictable Michigan weather + 45 minute drive to the airport + 6:00 AM departure, we decided to book a hotel near the airport the night before our flight.

That ended up being the right decision because it started spitting snow and dropping temperatures when we left home on Thursday night. Getting out just in time! We started vacation early by stopping for dinner at a restaurant with great southern food, fried chicken and craft cocktails. The hotel by the airport was comfortable and close. We were at the airport and checked in by 4:30 AM, watching the snow swirl.

The flight from Michigan to Atlanta left right on time. A little snow didn’t make us Michiganders nervous, but the federal government shut down was a wild card. We heard rumors that flights in NY were being delayed due to it. Leaving Atlanta was more challenging. The incoming flight was delayed, the microphones at the gate weren’t functioning and the pilot claimed that mid-morning air traffic in Atlanta is always bad.

We ended up arriving in Puerto Rico over an hour late. No problem for us, since we were there two days early. Several people on our flight were making a connection in San Juan to Tortola. Passengers were very polite and let them off first. Hope they made it!

Dining

With the 11-night itinerary, our dining perk covered 5 meals. I reserved all online prior to the cruise but ended up adjusting times and/or dates for most of them on board. We were flexible and didn’t have any trouble getting a new time that worked for us.

We try to eat at the specialty restaurants early in the cruise. We find we enjoy them more before we get saturated with too much food. Because we were in a suite and had the opportunity to eat at Moderno’s/Cagney’s for breakfast and lunch every day, we skipped Cagney’s for dinner. Here are the restaurants we dined in:

Los Lobos: The food was good but we enjoyed the drinks even more. Ordered table side guacamole based on rave reviews. It wasn’t crowded at all on the first night, maybe because we booked it late and right before sail away.

Moderno: Unique salad bar and tasty Brazilian cocktails. I have read some reviews complaining about slow service, but the meat selections were coming out so quickly that I forgot to take any pictures! We got some of everything on the menu, and it was all good and fresh. I’ve never been interested enough to go to a Brazilian steakhouse on land, but I was happy to get a chance to experience once it on board. We’ve decided it’s not our favorite, though.

Le Bistro: Is always a favorite. Husband loves escargot and Le Bistro does them well. In one of the refurbs after 2011, they swapped spaces with La Cucina. The current space doesn’t seem as intimate or cozy, even though we were seated in a booth.

La Cucina: We never seem to order pasta but always have a good meal. This time we got veal osso buco and salmon. Both were excellent. The space seemed louder than when it was Le Bistro in 2011.

Teppanyaki: This was my husband’s first time at a hibachi style restaurant (goal for the cruise was to try new things) and he loved it. More about our singing chef in the detailed review.

Aqua: We only went to Aqua twice this time. If we hadn’t had the specialty dining plan this time, we would have eaten there more. I was a bit disappointed not to be able to try some of the main dining room dishes we saw posted throughout the cruise. The times that we did go there, the food was very good. Table location seemed to make a difference. Service was excellent and you could have a comfortable conversation when seated at one of the banquettes against the wall. When we were seated at a table in the middle of the room, it was too noisy and service was inattentive.

O’Sheehan’s: This restaurant didn’t exist in 2011. The equivalent at that time was Blue Lagoon, which had a less extensive menu and was located in a smaller space. We ended up here much more than I thought we would. The bar food hit the spot (wings, burgers, hotdogs, fish & chips), the salads were nice to have as an alternative when the main dining room was too crowded or we came back from port too late to have lunch at Moderno. Breakfast was also a good alternative to the other options on the ship. Service tended to be a bit hit or miss, cutting the servers some slack when there was entertainment in the atrium and they couldn’t hear what you were saying.

Buffet: Only got 3 things there: evening snacks when dinner didn’t work out and two chocolate soft serve ice cream cones at random times in the afternoon.

Venetian and Bamboo: Never made it to either restaurant.

Drinks/Bars

Right before our cruise, NCL rolled out new drink menus and prices. Cruise Critic blew up. As professional drinkers (we own a fine wine and spirits retail store), we didn’t have any trouble finding drinks we enjoyed. It would have been nice to have some of the scotches and wine selections that had been part of the drink package just a couple of weeks before, but we certainly didn’t go thirsty.

Because we spent most of our time on our balcony, our bar experiences primarily consisted of fetching drinks to take back to our cabin. We also would stop and get drinks before the shows we attended, or enjoyed wine and cocktails with our meals.

On our first two Dawn cruises, we spent a lot of time in the Havana Club cigar lounge. My husband loves a good cigar and we met some great people there. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out this time, and we didn’t end up spending much time there.

Bimini/Topsiders (pool bar): These two bars were closest to our cabin on deck 11 and provided most of our “to go” drinks for our balcony. We are too pale to spend much time sunning ourselves on the pool deck but it was nice to have these bars relatively close.

Gatsby’s: We stopped there in the evenings before shows or after dinner for our evening balcony drinks. One of the bartenders, Leila, learned our favorite drinks and had them ready before we even got all the way to the bar. She also knew how to make all the more complicated cocktails on the menu. This bar had some spirits that they didn’t have elsewhere on the ship.

O’Sheehan’s: Spent the one sea day morning here, watching the sushi demonstration. It was also a convenient stop on our way back from port a couple of times. Otherwise, we didn’t spend much time at the bar itself; most of our drinks from here were with lunch or dinner. The bar was also taken over by Super Bowl fans on the second Sunday of the cruise.

Sake Bar: Has soju and sake that isn’t available elsewhere. Nice option for before dinner at Teppanyaki.

Los Lobos Bar: Wish we had come back just for the bar after our first night dinner but it never happened. They have a nice cocktail menu, including a negroni made with mezcal.

Atrium, Bliss Lounge, Cellars Wine Bar, Sugarcane Mojito Bar: Didn’t really go to any of these bars. We didn’t need any fancy coffee and didn’t go to any of the Bliss shows. Cellars Wine Bar didn’t interest us (and we never saw many other people there either). Enjoyed the caiprinha cocktails from Sugarcane as part of our Moderno dinner but didn’t sit at the bar.

Shows

We generally aren’t “show people”, so we don’t have a lot of input in this category.

In the main Stardust Theater, we went to the comedian (moderately funny), the juggler (wish he had done more juggling) and they “physical” comedian (also moderately funny). Skipped the singing and dancing. We’ve been to some of the “gameshow” style shows in the past but skipped them on this cruise.

The musicians were fine but not anything we went out of our way to catch. We didn’t pick this cruise for the entertainment, so our expectations were met.

Ports

We did pick this cruise for the ports!

The first time we visit a new island, we generally like to explore on our own around the port. We did also schedule a couple of excursions in advance. We did not have the NCL shore excursion perk.

At the beginning of the cruise, I decided that I would purchase some hand-crafted earrings at each port as my souvenir, instead of some mass-produced trinket you see everywhere.

San Juan: As I mentioned above, we considered San Juan an extra bonus port. Not sure if it was because we booked late, but there didn’t seem to be many reasonably priced hotels available in Old San Juan. We decided on a hotel in the Condado Beach area, which is between the airport and Old San Juan.

Since we flew in two days before, we had plenty of time to explore both Condado and Old San Juan. We had great food, lots of cocktails, and did a lot of walking. We are already looking forward to our next trip to Puerto Rico.

Aruba: Our first time on the ABC islands. Friends and relatives have been to Aruba for land vacations and have loved it. After our day at sea, we enjoyed exploring Oranjestad. Generally speaking, we love all the Dutch islands. For my husband, Aruba was the perfect first port because it also has a Casa del Habano for Cuban cigars. The town itself is walkable, features a bit of history, public art, shopping and restaurants. They have a free trolley that goes from the cruise port to the opposite side of town. It’s a nice shady break from walking in the hot sun; just keep in mind that it’s free and you’re not paying for a tour!

One of the people we met at the Bimini bar enjoyed her island tour excursion. Next time, we will venture out and see more of the island.

Curacao: Another beautiful day, another beautiful island. The city of Willemstad is colorful and picturesque. We explored local markets, historical areas and the floating bridge. There were 3 ships in port this day so it was a bit more crowded. The locals were friendly.

Bonaire: This was our favorite island by far. Because the next port is so far away, the time in Bonaire was short (6:00 AM – 2:00 PM). Everyone we met was super friendly and relaxed. Even the tour/taxi services were organized in a neat row of tents outside the port, with helpful information about their tours and absolutely no pressure. Unlike some other ports, the only greetings I heard from the tour operators were “keep smiling” and “welcome to Bonaire”.

From the shops to the bars and restaurants, everyone was friendly and helpful. Even around the port, the water and the scenery is beautiful.

Next time: we will book an excursion with one of the friendly drivers at the port to see other parts of the island or go to Klein Bonaire, a small undeveloped island with pristine beaches off the coast. We generally aren’t into snorkeling, but everything we’ve heard is that it is spectacular in Bonaire.

Grenada: We didn’t see much of Grenada. My husband wasn’t feeling well, so I was on my own. All the locals I passed were friendly but the drivers just outside the port buildings reminded me of the aggressive tour operators from previous visits to Antigua. After navigating some dicey streets and sidewalks, followed by an encounter with a pro-Venezuela/anti-American demonstration, I decided to turn this into a “ship day.”

Barbados: This has been one of our favorite islands, in part because we have had interesting excursions planned each time. First time, we did the Boatyard beach club and Mt Gay Rum. Second visit, a tour around the whole island. This time, we booked a walking food tour from Lickrish Tours. They advertise that you’ll “eat like a local”. The tour was fascinating and most of the places we went, we were definitely the only tourists. More info in my detailed port review.

Next time: My husband really wanted to tour Foursquare Rum Distillery. By all accounts, their tour is great and their rums are fantastic. They are a newer, small production company. Unfortunately, they are only open Monday-Friday, which is why we booked the food tour.

St. Lucia: Since we were thwarted with a Barbados rum tour, we booked NCL’s Rum Tasters excursion in St. Lucia. You get a mini tour of the island as they stop at a (very crowded) wood carving shop on the way to the rum factory. After you get through some cheesy introductory audio/video presentations, you do see the actual production rum facility, unlike Mt. Gay in Barbados. We got up close looks at the fermenting molasses and stills before heading to the self-serve tasting area. Our driver made the other parts of the tour interesting.

Next time: We will make sure to see the Pitons, probably via a boat tour.

Antigua: We had a bad experience with aggressive taxi/tour drivers on our very first trip to Antigua and it’s been a “ship day” for us ever since. When I got off to shop for my earrings, the drivers seemed a little bit toned down but that could have been because I got off long after the other passengers. The one excursion that had tempted us was an NCL tour billed as a “hop on, hop off” catamaran tour of 3 different beaches. However, that was apparently sold out by the time we boarded the ship.

St. Maarten: Last time we were in St. Maarten in 2006 we did a catamaran tour to the French side of the island. Phillipsburg looks much the same. Enjoyed the water taxi and the shopping.

Next time: Will probably hit a beach.

Tortola: One of our favorite things is to sit on our balcony as we sail through the British Virgin Islands. Previously, we’ve been to Virgin Gorda (the baths) and Jost Van Dyke. This time, we hung out at the port, shopped and checked out a local restaurant. We also had the Merchant Marine TS (Training Ship) Kennedy next to us in port, which was very cool.

I plan to post a more detailed review with pictures on the NCL board.
CurtandLeslie’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Shore Excursions
Service
Onboard Experience
Free Price Drop Alerts
Get Norwegian Dawn price drops
250,000+ people have entered their email

Cabin Review

Two-Bedroom Family Suite with Balcony
Cabin SC 11530
This cabin was perfect for us. As a couple, we didn't use the second bedroom for sleeping but it was very nice to have the extra room and extra bathroom. The main bath with separate shower, two sinks and jetted tub was spacious, as were the closets.

The living area gave just enough space to relax when we weren't out on the balcony. In addition to the two regular chairs and side table, our steward was able to bring a lounge chair, which fit at an angle on the balcony.

The best part was the bed area, which can be closed off with blackout curtains.
Deck 11 Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins