First time on NCL...The DAWN...Loved our ship, love our trip. We arrived a day early Saturday 1/14 ( left a snow storm in Cleveland) Rented a car for the day went shopping for a few cruise essentials we were told we would need ( soda, ... Read More
First time on NCL...The DAWN...Loved our ship, love our trip. We arrived a day early Saturday 1/14 ( left a snow storm in Cleveland) Rented a car for the day went shopping for a few cruise essentials we were told we would need ( soda, Water prepacked snacks- crackers, cookies and fruit drops)
Dropped the car off at Hertz (downtown Miami) and had a shuttle to the port. Checked in terminal B. Embarkation was OK. At about 11:45 the boat was ready for us to board. When they called for the Latitudes members, a huge line formed. This was over half of the people waiting to board. The only negative was the pictures taking was hold up the line (so to find out, this happens every time you get off the boat). Once on board, we were ushered to the feeding "Trough" ...I joke about the Trough but to be honest we loved the buffet style food (lines can be long at the start of the line -- salad bar, you can skip to section 2 "hot Indian, Chinese, pizza" or 3 "deli" but section 3 was only open for lunch). Our state rooms were ready before 2. The luggage was delivered to the room for us by 3:30, except the duffel bag with soda, water and snacks. (More about that later)
Room: Our room was a midship interior, with rooms about us, and rooms below us. So there was very little noise. We book the Dawn, knowing that it went in for refurbishment, out friends were on it when the motor mishap happened last February 2011. The room is smaller than most other ship and cruise lines, but we were not in it much except for sleeping, and cleaning up. The room was clean and had lots of closet space. We had our bed made up to a queen/king. The only pain was the table at the end of the bed, limited the space a little. (Note: when you book your rooms, look to see if your room has tendril and bunk, unless you have 3-4 people don't book one of those, more space to store under the bed)
The Ship: The ship was set up nice, again not being on here before, didn't notice the changes (like the spinnaker lounge in aft, shops up bow). The ship was almost always clean; it seemed that the crew on this ship was pride in their work. I did make one big notice, as we were walking through buffet the second morning, one of the crew officers, who I know wasn't part of the kitchen/bar staff, was walking through, and cleaned off a table on his way to the front of the boat. This gave me the impression in my head "IT'S NOT YOUR JOB, IT'S NOT MY JOB, IT'S OUR JOB" On several occasions, I saw this occurring. I was impressed how they worked together.
Food: Having not been on a cruise before, and reading some of the reviews. Food subjective, depending on the age of your crowd, we depend on the meals that are served. We ate at the garden buffet almost every day. Why? We could try things that we never might have ordered before. The deli and Panini station was great, the Indian (south) Vegetarian dishes are great; the pizza to me was so-so. The cheese cakes in the buffet were more like pudding with toms of gelatin added (good cheese cake in Venetian -- at lunch last day at sea, and Aqua -- ate there last night for dinner) We also created a stir, we could get the pound cake/butter cake between 4-4:30, take it to the ice cream shop (only open till 5) and have the bar drizzle chocolate syrup over it. The key to beat the crowds is not to eat during the prime times. We ate breakfast about 6:45 - 7 am, lunch around 11 and dinner around 4-5 for dinner. We ate maybe a little smaller meals, but buffet was open most nights till 11pm (late night had wings, spring rolls, pizza) and blue lagoon 24x7. (I tried the wings, I was not impressed, and there are places that have wing night ever of the week). We did eat at Cagney's steak house. The filets were pretty good, we each had 10oz and girlfriend shocked the waiter and wanted a second 5 oz. Cheese cake was great.
Service: I have to say, every staff member I spoke to was happy and smiling. They always said "hello". I'll tell you something I found worked great, Take note of their name. When you address them by their name, the smile gets bigger. When I would see them every time there after, they made a point to say "good morning or good afternoon" I want to give a shout out to some of the great staff I encountered: Garry B. bar waiter in the Gatsby lounge ( made sure I had great drinks every night -- knew my name and order after 1 day ( went every night for at least 1 drink), Room steward - I Made Yasa deck 9 mid ship portside (sounds like MAR-DAY) - very friendly, took care of ever need, ice twice a day in the room. He always had a smile and address everyday always asked how our day was and what we did. We tried to make towel animals for him (we were failing) He made towels a based on what we said we had done for the day (monkeys- based on ST KITTS, not missing snow at home-made the iceman). Cosmin from the gift shop went looking for a sweatshirt in storage for a particular size. Hugo -- cook in the morning made me the best omelets. I know I'm missing some people, but these people made a huge impression on our stay.
Entertainment: First of all, I was able to get a little closer to the entertainers, since most came down to the Gatsby lounge. I got a chance to hear great stories from Dave Heenan (about New York clubs and Jay Leno), I was hypnotized when the impersonator (Greg London) and hypnotist (Tim Triplett) walked into the bar (had a blast), and the Great evening pianist Jay "Jaybird" Chalmers. We went to just about all the shows. Dave Heenan the comedian, he was funny, but he was having some trouble with the older crowd. We will be going to see him when he comes to Cleveland in May. The illusionist, since the ship had power issue back stage, he did his card trick which was projected on the BIG screen above the stage. This was GREAT, no matter how hard you watched you could not follow quick enough to see how it was done. The Hypnotist, I had a one on one the night before and volunteered during the first show. I was the shoe stealer. I also went to the late adult show (volunteered again) and gave birth to twins. Make sure you see his seminars he offers and hypnosis. I had a blast every night with Jay Chalmers in the Gatsby; he played some great music and took lots of request from the crowd. He played the piano, key board, bass peddles and drum machine. He was great and was his first cruise ship gig since river boats about 10 years ago. (He's got a lot of talent, lot of talent). We went to the crew show; make sure you don't miss this show and the fountain. The house band with Sam on bass and wife and singer Margi were great, and very friendly with guest.
Funny story: We got a note to come down and retrieve our bag. Well, I went to stand in the line for "the naughty room". Seems as though they thought I had stashed beer (coke cola) and put Vodka in my water bottles (they took a few to shake and watch for bubbles). Since I had nothing, they seem mad they didn't catch me with anything (because I didn't try to sneak anything). I have no problems with it. So people are mad they took booze (stored to retrieve later) or had to pay a cork fee for a $5 bottle of wine. BUT EVERYTHING on ALL sites say NO BOOZE, most cruises are like that. (Failure of people to read was a major issue of this cruise)
Disappointments: The only thing was the pool is small and limited amount of hot tubs. A few important jobs were filled with people that didn't speak or understand English well (hostess to book paid restaurant reservations, and front desk people at least 3 of them), and the ART AUCTION people seem to be a little full of themselves, annoying, and not very friendly unless you were bidding or buying.
Tips: come prepared to have a goodtime, be friendly and tell everyone, guest and staff, "good morning or good afternoon". Shop before you get on the boat for water and soda. If you need cash money-take advancement in a charge to your boat account in the casino. The fee was $3 per $100. Cheaper then ATM on islands and boat ATM. would have cost me $10 between my bank and machine in fees. Takes the stairs often, our cruise was an average age of 68 (lots in their 70's, 80's and 90's) so the elevator wait can be long.
Being our first cruise, we had nothing to compare to. I know cabins and ships all very cruise line to cruise line. We loved NCL because it fits our style, and the structure we are trying to get away from when we go on vacation.
The more demanding you are, the more disappointed you will be. There were a lot of people on their 8-14th cruise with NCL, there is a reason why. We are booking a trip for Jan/Feb. 2013. Let loose and go with the flow. Read Less