We are loyal NCL Cruisers having sailed only with NCL. This is our 2nd time on the Dawn.... a great mid size ship..... big enough to have lots of amenities but small enough not be overwhelming. Perhaps because this was a 2 week cruise, the itinerary or the size of the ship, this Cruise was primarily people in their 50's-70's with very few children.
So most activities and entertainment was geared to this age group and the Cruise Director and her staff did an amazing job.
We chose this particular cruise because it was 2 weeks, went to many Ports in the Southern Caribbean that we had not been and when we booked (14months prior) we received great perks including a Distinctive Voyage Pkg.
Embarkation/ Disembarkation - Due to a computer glitch, there was a delay Embarking, but once the process started, from security, through check in.... we were sitting at the Venetian for lunch within 30min. Disembarkation was the quickest we've ever experienced. Tampa Terminal is easy to get to. Parkway Parking was great.
Cabin - Balcony - Deck 9 AFT - Our cabin was perfect for the 2 of us. NCL could upgrade their balcony chairs for something more comfy but all in all, all was good. Our Cabin Steward was friendly, always greeted us and immediately took care of any requests.
We had him remove everything for sale out of our fridge etc which gave us room for our own water etc.
Meals - We enjoyed all our meals in the main dining rooms and other Complimentary Venues. We did not frequent the buffet but if you want an omelet or fresh eggs cooked the way you like, you are better going there for breakfast. We usually took our breakfast from the buffet to Los Cabos or to the pool deck to eat where it was much quieter and less hectic in the morning.
We enjoyed La Cuccina and Le Bistro was a special excellent dinner.
Water - While NCL does not use 'single use' plastic water bottles and have implemented biodegradable water 'bottles', they really need to install water filling stations for the many people ( like us) who use our own refillable water bottles.
Entertainment - We enjoyed the Stardust theater most nights. Jennifer Fair - great voice but we're not big fans of Opera type music, Soul Rockin Nights- the Dawn Production Cast were excellent. Jackson Rayne - Illusionist- very good. Tom Frankel - amazing pianist, singer and entertainer. Gary Lovini - great violinist. Derek Richards, comedian - good but can be offensive at times. Aaron Shaw- good singer, but also not one of our favorite styles. Elements - totally amazing
Music Everywhere - There were 2 or 3 other entertainment options every evening in the Lounges, Atrium and or the Bliss Lounge. Sonata, Rockaway Duo, Al Vendetti, Angel Flavors and DJ Remy - all good with the Rockaway Duo being very popular. The 7 piece Dawn Showband were excellent - played Jazz as well as accompanying many other entertainers in their performances. Stephanie is an incredibly talented and versatile young lady.
Bliss Lounge - The Cruise Staff were everywhere, very enthusiastic, inclusive and seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves. They led many Dances, 'game' show's and contests in the Bliss Lounge nightly and all around the ship at various times.
Special Events - Chef JJ Johnson was a great addition. We did not attend any of the 'fee' events but enjoyed his cooking presentation in the Atrium. There was also the usual Art Auctions, lots of Photography opportunities, some 'workshops' in the Spa/ Exercise Area (all hoping to sell you something), 'lecture' with fung shei person (not so good)
Bars- Staff at Topsiders and O'Sheehans were awesome. Also the staff at Cellars ( great wine bar) where we went most nights for a glass of wine before Dinner. Gatsby's had great staff as well, but the lounge area smelled like cigar/ cigarette smoke from the Cigar lounge and Casino which was too bad as there was good entertainment there as well. Also often crowded. Enjoyed the lounge on 9th floor surrounding the Atrium for Entertainment.
We did not take advantage of the Spa, Pulse Fitness or Photography Service's so can't comment on that. Nor did we go to other Specialty Restaurants.
NCL App - this was very helpful to check on Activities around the ship.
Pool and Sun Deck - We're not always big fans of cruise pools or needing to have a lounge chair near the pool. Instead we found great sun time on the bow -deck 13/14 … a quieter, relaxing area with views of the ocean and not crowds of people.
Ports and Shore Excursions:
Grand Cayman - Friends who lived in Grand Cayman picked us up and we had a great, personal tour of almost the whole Island..... stopping in Hell, the Rum Beach for snorkeling, the Rum Factory for a few tastings, lunch, local beers and other points of interest not always on the tourist route. Previously we had snorkeled with the sting ray and on reef - a great experience.
Aruba - Tour with Kukoo Kanuka - fun bus ride, learning lots about the local culture and sights while getting into a fun Island spirit. Enjoyed going to the little Chapel at Alta Vista - interesting ride up there, great views of the ocean and amazing amount of cactus. Casabari Rock Formation - neat to see and climb for views. Dropped at Surfside Beach -(near airport) ok but no snorkeling. Opted to stay longer and walked (15min.) back along the shore stopping at a Bar on the Beach (near Port) for a local beer.
Bonaire - Champagne Fun Cruise & Snorkel- Captain and his 'mermaids' were a good crew of their 40 foot cruiser ( not catamaran). Smaller group was nice. Quite windy morning so may be why we did not cruise very far. Stopped twice on reef in Marine Park.... not far from shore to snorkel. Good. Complimentary champagne & snack.
Double Dip Snorkel with Sea Cow in the afternoon was great if you really want to experience the reef off Klein Bonaire. This is a guided drift snorkel - great.
Wandered around the touristy port and found the Bonaire Craft Brewery - okay.
Barbados- Walked a ways from Port but since it was Sunday.... nothing open. Did the Harrison's Cave & Scenic Drive - not much of a scenic drive and our driver/ guide was 'soso'. He left us at the entrance to cave with no real explanation where we waited about 45min. to enter the cave. Found out later there were some trails we could have walked. The Caves were amazing and that part of the tour was worth it.
St. Lucia - Soufriere by Land & Sea was a great excursion. Although we wish the Bus ride through, up & down along the very winding road from Soufriere was the first part, we mostly enjoyed the Catamaran part of tour and seeing the Pitons from the water. The staff were excellent. The waterfalls stop was refreshing. The Plantation was interesting and lunch was a typical Caribbean style affair.
Antigua - Rainforest Canopy Tour - 12 ziplines, 4 swing bridges, staff were focused on safety and fun. A great adventure. Bus ride there was not guided..... just a ride.
Walked through 'town' to St. John's Church... historical, beautiful.
St. Martin - our 3rd visit here where we previously did Sailing Race, and a great day long boat tour all around the Island so this time we opted for a Bus Tour taking us from the Dutch side to the French & back. Enjoyed learning about the history & culture. Included was a 45min. catamaran tour of Simpson's Bay - best part of tour.
On our own, we went to Caribbean Brewing - a new Craft Brewery only 5 min. walk from the gate of the Port. Met the owner and had a great tour and tastings - best beer we had at any of the Ports. If you like Craft Breweries, make this part of your day for sure.
San Yuan - Bus tour to El Junque Rain Forest - Nice buses, excellent tour guide, very organized. A unique experience to be in the this well preserved rain forest.
Wandered Old San Yuan on our own and found our way to LaTaberno - a bar with huge selection of craft beers. Interesting narrow streets and local culture.
All in all, we were so glad to have two weeks on this cruise.... so much to see and do.
Very relaxing and lots of fun. While there may be little things we could critique, there were minor in comparison to all the great aspects that we chose to focus on.
Thank you NCL for all the ways you thought to make this an enjoyable experience and insuring our safety at Sea.
Balcony - Deck 9 AFT - Clean, comfortable and sufficient for the two of us.
Loved having a balcony to watch coming and going into Ports, early morning coffee and a glass of wine before dinner. Cabin Steward was friendly, attentive and responded immediately to our requests.
Friends personally toured us around the Island. Stopped in Hell to mail some post cards.... interesting rock formation looks like old volcano lava. Rum Factory - yuimmy but pricey. Rum Point - okay snorkeling, Stopped at many interesting sights along our travels. We had previously done stingray and reef snorkel....always a good option.
the Kukoo Kanuka Tour Bus was fun and our driver/ guide was very good... telling us lots about the Island history and culture. Stopped at the little Chapel at Alta Vista where we had nice ocean views and saw forests of cactus. Drive there was great. Stopped a Casabari Rock - interesting formations to see and climb. Took us to Surfside Beach (near airport) were we were given a lounge chair. Beach ok but no snorkeling. Chose to stay longer on our own and walked back along the Beach to the Port (20min.) stopping at sea side bar for local beer and snacks. A good day. Would like to go to Eagle Beach next time.View All 248 Island Tour Reviews
Champagne Cruise and Snorkel - on Lucky 7 -Cruised along past our Ship and along shoreline stopping in the Marine Park 2X to snorkel. Captain and his 'mermainds' crew were very good. Snorkeling was good. Thought we might have cruised further but it was a very windy day.
Double Dip Snorkel - with Sea Cow- took us out to Klein Bonaire in sight of the cruise ship for a guided drift snorkel. So glad I did this. Guides were great - safe and lots of explanation about reef and what we were seeing.
Port - touristy, busy.View All 171 Snorkeling Reviews
Bus tour with driver was good - learning about history and culture of the Island.
Harrison's Cave itself was very interesting. Staff at Visitor Center.... left us waiting with no explanation. Found out later, there were trails etc we could have enjoyed in this waiting time. The Bus Tour guide had just left us at the entrance.
Port - Enjoyed a couple local beers at the Coconut Bar in the Terminal area.View All 96 Harrison's Cave Reviews
Soufriere by Land and Sea- all day excursion. First we boarded a beautiful large catamaran to cruise the shore line and see the Pitons from the water. Stopped for a swim at a black beach. Wish I had known to bring my own snorkel eqipment. Boarded a bus to the waterfall.... where i enjoyed a refreshing dip - fun. The Plantation tour was okay and lunch was a typical Caribbean affiair. The Bus ride back.... not so fun. Bus was small and the road is very windy, up and down the hills. Stopped a few times briefly for a view of Pitons or ocean. Tour guides were very good.View All 300 Island Tour Reviews
Great zip line experience - 12 zips, 4 swing bridges. Staff were very safey conscience, friendly and fun. Enjoyed relaxing afterwards with great view of the rainforest and a local beer. Bus ride there and back was about 30 min. but wish the driver was also a guide who could tell us about the Island etc.View All 22 Ziplining Reviews
Bus tour from Dutch side to French was good with great guide who told us about the history and culture of both sides of the Island. Stopped at Market - ok. We're not shoppers so not of interest. The Cataramaran tour on Simpsons' Bay was great and the best part. Chose to be dropped off at the Beach area where we could walk the 15 min. back to port.
On our own we visited Caribbean Brewing - a new Brewery only 5 min. walk from the gate of the Port area. Met the Owner and had an awesome tour and tasting. Great craft beers. Would definetly go back here with more time.View All 437 Island Tour Reviews
Great tour guide. Well organized. Interesting ride up the mountain and awesome to be in this very unique and well preserved RainForest. Stops were just right.
Walked Old San Yuan on our own.... a worthwhile adventure walking the narrow, historic streets (hllls) Made it to the top where we found a great bar serving many many local beers etc. Would have walked to the Fort if we had more time.View All undefined undefined Reviews