2 Norwegian Dawn Cruise Reviews for Holiday Cruises to Caribbean - Eastern

Arrived in Miami, sailed (if you'll pardon the pun!) through check-in and was on the ship in a matter of minutes. We were starved so we headed to the buffet while waiting on our room to become available. We were a little ... Read More
Arrived in Miami, sailed (if you'll pardon the pun!) through check-in and was on the ship in a matter of minutes. We were starved so we headed to the buffet while waiting on our room to become available. We were a little disappointed in the quality of the food and the atmosphere of the Garden Cafe, but we're happy to be there. We found our room to be quite pleasant even though small. We had a balcony so the room did not seem as cramped as it would have otherwise. Our adult daughter was with us and when the soft bed was out, we had wall-to-wall beds. But a small room is to be expected on a ship unless you're fortunate enough to have the garden villa suite. The carpet was a little dirty and in need of replacing but, otherwise, everything was good. We then explored the ship, and as on other ships, you "can't get there from here." You have to learn which elevator to take to get to your destination. We dined at the Teppanyaki restaurant the first night. It was just mediocre for my husband and me but our daughter enjoyed her meal. We also ate at Le Bistro, the French restaurant, and Salsa, the Tex-Mex restaurant. We considered those quite average also. The Buffet seemed to go downhill as the cruise went on. I must say that the Cheese Tortolini at the Venetian was quite good as were the breakfasts we had there. Service was great at all venues. Our room stewards were great, very accommodating. (Hello Jose and Romel) We always enjoyed the towel animals. One thing that I was disappointed in was that if you went on an excursion, there was no time left for shopping. As we had never been to these destinations, we chose the tours over shopping but would have liked to do both. The excursion into the countryside in Samana was a really rough ride but we enjoyed seeing the flora and fauna and learning about the people. I must say that it was a little disconcerting to see that the "shotgun man" in the tour truck was literally "carrying a shotgun." The tours on both St. Thomas and Tortola were good with all the beautiful scenery. Our daughter chose to go to Magen's Bay to the beach which she said was quite nice. On arriving at Great Stirrup Cay, the cruise line's private island, my husband and I chose to stay on board as all the activities involved the water. My daughter said that the water was cold and that we didn't miss anything by staying onboard. Our favorite part of the cruise was the shows. The Jean Ann Ryan Company was spectacular, very professional. What's up with all the photography? How many pictures does a person want taken on a cruise? Just say No! Disembarkation was easy. We chose to carry our own luggage so we ate breakfast and leisurely took our time as we had a late flight our of Miami. We were off the ship in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately, customs took our jam we had bought in Samana. This was our second sailing with Norwegian. The first was on a new ship in Hawaii. Would we sail with Norwegian again? Maybe. We decided that if and when we went on another cruise that we would go back to Royal Caribbean, so we'll see. I don't really have a lot of negative things to say about Norwegian. We had a pretty positive experience both times. Our disappointment in the food was the biggest negative factor of the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We drove down to Miami from Virginia, stopping at Cocoa Beach for the night before continuing on to the port. We stayed at the Best Western in Cocoa Beach, which was fine, and reasonably priced. We arrived at the Port of Miami around ... Read More
We drove down to Miami from Virginia, stopping at Cocoa Beach for the night before continuing on to the port. We stayed at the Best Western in Cocoa Beach, which was fine, and reasonably priced. We arrived at the Port of Miami around 10:30am, which seems to be a good time to get there. Parking was very easy (although somewhat expensive). They do take credit cards at the lot across from the pier now (apparently, they used to only take cash). You have to pay up front, $20 per day). I dropped on my wife and kids and luggage and went and parked the minivan. We had the luggage tagged and then proceeded to embarkation. For some reason, the porter tagged our luggage using a yellow highlighter, so one of our bags didn't make it to our room later because it couldn't be read (duh!). Embarkation was very smooth - we were through the process and in the holding area shortly after 11am. We were not allowed on the ship until shortly before noon. When we got on board, we were greeted with glasses of champagne and shown where to store our carry-on luggage before our cabin was ready. We then went to the Garden Cafe to grab some lunch. The buffet was fine - not spectacular, but not bad. About what we'd expect our first day. We then went out to the pool area to look around and then walked around the ship to try and familiarize ourselves with it. I checked out a book from the library at that time. After we'd looked around, the kids went swimming while my wife and I people watched and waited for when we'd set sail. I must say, that looking out at the lines waiting to get into the garage, I was glad we arrived early. The ship has a "sail away" party on deck, which a Caribbean-themed band and drink specials (we didn't try the special drink, but the price wasn't anything special - $8.50, which included a souvenir "glass" that was actually plastic). We opted for the bucket of beers, which is 6 beers for the price of 5. That was a special all week, in all the bars. I would recommend bring along a bottle opener if you are a beer drinker, so that you can open them at your leisure. If you don't finish all the beers in one sitting, you can take them back to your room and store them in your refrigerator. Overall, we thought the prices for alcohol were not too bad, although we'd stay away from the souvenir glasses, all of which are plastic. Overall, we were underwhelmed by this cruise. We had not cruised for more than 10 years, and this time we brought our three boys, aged 15, 11, and 8. They made their own friends on board and did not partake in the kids programs, so we don't have a review on those programs. We hated the fact that we were constantly being hounded to buy more stuff, both on the ship and on Great Stirrup Cay. Every show began with a pitch to buy scratch-off type strips that went for 5 for $20 at first and then 6 for $20 later in the week. If you must buy those, definitely wait until the end of the week, when they start throwing in lots of inducements like t-shirts and such. We decided that the "Freestyle Cruising" concept is not for us. Even though set seating times do force you to plan, we liked the idea of meeting and eating with other people every night at dinner. On other cruises, we found it a good opportunity to discuss what we liked and didn't like about ports, excursions, shows, etc. We really missed that interaction this time around. We also grew tired of the Venetian and Aqua, both of which served identical menus, which changed little, day-to-day. The ambiance in the Venetian is really nice, however. If you have the opportunity to sit in the rear of the restaurant in the morning for a sit-down breakfast, you won't regret it - the view off the stern is really nice. We ate at two of the fee-for-eat restaurants on board: Salsa and Le Bistro. Salsa we found to be average, although our waiter was excellent, very funny and performing magic tricks for the kids. Le Bistro we ate at by ourselves, having sent the kids to the Blue Lagoon, which has pub-type food that kids love. We liked Le Bistro - the food was well prepared, and the chocolate fondue for dessert was heavenly. It was, however, the only meal we had all week that really filled us up. If you're worried about gaining weight while sailing on the Dawn, you'd have a hard time doing so. The portions at the restaurants are pretty small, and at the Venetian and Aqua the service is slow enough that you'd definitely think twice before ordering more of something, even though I'm sure you could if you wanted to. The Chocoholic Buffet was not as great as it sounds. The lines were quite long, and most of the desserts were OK, but not elaborate or exotic by any means. We ate lunch each day either at the Garden Cafe buffet or at the hamburger-hot dog buffet on deck. Those days were were in port, we ate in port. And speaking of ports, we would never again go on a cruise that requires tenders for more than one port. If we had not been scheduled for a shore excursion in Samana, we might never have made it off the ship. As it was, we were 45 minutes late getting off. We went to Cayo Levantado, which was beautiful. The snorkeling was not very good, however, just as a word to the wise. The beach was very nice. The kids ate at the hamburger buffet that was maybe a little pricey for what they got, but I figured I wasn't in the DR to eat American pub food, so I went to the other little cafe-type restaurant and ordered the fish, which they said was their specialty. It took awhile (could have been two Presidente beers worth), but I wasn't disappointed. While I have never eaten a fish presented with the head and tail still on, it was truly delicious. I was forced to buy another Presidente to go with it - what choice did I have? Before I go further - absolutely, positively DO NOT buy the bottled water on board ship before going ashore. You can easily buy $1 bottles wherever you get off, whereas they want $2.50 to $3.50 on board. Our next port was St. Thomas, the shopping mecca of the Caribbean islands. If you have not booked a shore excursion, I'd encourage you to take a quick taxi ride into town rather than shopping at the Havensight Mall, right next to the pier. The shopping in town is much better. If you plan to go to Magens Bay beach, which we did, don't bother booking the shore excursion - you can do the exact same thing yourself for quite a bit less. You just hop aboard one of the taxis that go there constantly, at $8 per person each way, and then just relax on the beach. You can book a shore excursion called "Magens Bay Beach Getaway," that involves exactly the same taxis going to exactly the same beach, with nothing more than that. Taxis go back to the ship every 10 minutes or so so there's no way you could ever miss the ship as long as you didn't cut it too close. The view from the top of the hill going to the beach is spectacular. You'll want to take photos, so have your camera out and try to sit on the end of the taxi seat. The next port is Tortola, which has a pier. We booked the Virgin Gorda Baths and Snorkel, which we were really looking forward to because we honeymooned in Virgin Gorda at a resort right next to the Baths. Unfortunately, the weather was such that our safety could not be assured on that excursion, so they took us to Norman Island for snorkeling (at $10 less per person), after giving everyone the opportunity to cancel. The snorkeling at Norman Island was very good, even if the weather was still a little iffy. On the way back they gave us rum punches that were more rum than punch, and we got back to the ship maybe a little tipsy! The final port was Great Stirrup Cay, after a day at sea. Even though NCL seems proud it has owned its private island for 30 years, it amazes us that they never seem to have noticed that GSC is too small for such a large number of guests. If you have not booked a shore excursion, you have to get a tender ticket for each member of your party, beginning at 7:30am. If you are not in the first couple hundred, you will wait and wait and wait to get ashore. And when you get there, you will have to scrounge for a decent chair and a little patch of sand to put it on. We were packed in like sardines. And to make matters worse, NCL charges $25 to rent a large float for the kids to play on - a float I seriously doubt cost $25 to begin with. And they wanted $29 to rent adult snorkel equipment and $15 for kids. They only rent them "by the day," even though you realistically cannot use them for more than about 3-4 hours. Oh, and the water was freezing cold - there's no way I was going to get in there to snorkel. One huge bright spot - the entertainment was fantastic. The Jean Ann Ryan company of singers and dancers were amazing - the acrobatics were stunning and the singing and dancing were superb. The Second City show is not to be missed - it is really hilarious. The magician was very good, as well, but the comedian has seen better days. Overall, the ship was clean and well laid out. The staterooms are decent sized, and the bathrooms are as well. We booked last-minute, so we had an inside stateroom (actually two), and we were quite satisfied with them. We never actually met our stateroom steward, which is much different than on previous cruises. Because of the automatic tipping policy, I don't think the staff have a lot of incentive to "go above and beyond." Our deck waiter, Ryan, did though, so we gave him a separate tip. We opted out of the automatic tipping policy, preferring to give our own tips. This can be done by visiting the reception desk on Deck 7. They were quite alarmed at our decision, and made us sign a form. We gave our cabin steward a separate tip for each stateroom. Because we had a long drive back to Virginia, we opted for the Express Disembarkation, which required us to take our own luggage off the ship. We were notified around 7:20am that we could disembark, and by 7:45, we were in the car and on the road. Very quick and painless. We had a very nice time on this cruise, mostly because we were warm while all our friends back home were freezing! But we are concerned that Norwegian is becoming (or has become) the new Carnival - an emphasis on mediocrity at a good price. We probably will go back to Royal Caribbean next time we cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Norwegian Dawn Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.0
Dining 4.0 3.7
Entertainment 4.5 3.9
Public Rooms 4.0 4.1
Fitness Recreation 4.5 3.8
Family 4.0 3.8
Shore Excursion 3.5 3.7
Enrichment 2.0 3.4
Service 4.0 4.0
Value For Money 4.0 3.7
Rates 4.0 4.0

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