208 Norwegian Dawn Caribbean - Southern Cruise Reviews

We had a fantastic cruise, overall beautiful weather, great ports of call, wonderful crew & staff and surprisingly good meals. We took our parents on this cruise for their 50th Anniversary and we were celebrating our 14th Anniversary ... Read More
We had a fantastic cruise, overall beautiful weather, great ports of call, wonderful crew & staff and surprisingly good meals. We took our parents on this cruise for their 50th Anniversary and we were celebrating our 14th Anniversary on Valentines Day. We were worried after some of the reviews but if you're booked on this --don't worry. You're going to have a great time! The only real negative was an NCL corporate decision that ruined our Samana stop that hopefully won't impact any other cruises. Read below under ports for more details. We flew in a day early and stayed overnight at the JW Marriott. Very nice hotel-we were using points but they gave us beautiful corner rooms. Good location, very close to the port, great French bakery across the street for breakfast & coffee and we were able to walk in the morning on a nearby jogging path along the water. Embarkation went quickly, we got settled in and had a wonderful 1st dinner. We lined up for Aqua but to accommodate everyone they seated us in a cozy booth in La Cucina. Lobster was on the menu and the guys ordered surf & turf (Ribeye's) and Mom and I had 2 lobster tails (they're the smaller Caribbean lobsters). The server Joanna could not have been more accommodating or professional and everything was delicious. This was the best meal we had in the main dining rooms but all meals ranged from good to very good. I think 10 nights would have gotten a little repetitive but we also ate in Le Bistro, Cagneys, Bamboo and La Cucina. Le Bistro and Cagneys were excellent but Bamboo and La Cucina were a nice change of pace. We really like the freestyle option of eating when we want, where we want. My parents ate in the Venetian every day for breakfast and really enjoyed the quiet, the service and how accommodating the servers were. We mostly ate in the buffet for breakfast. By the time we got up, had our coffee on the balcony and worked out & showered it was towards the end of the service in the Venetian. We liked the made to order eggs & omelettes in the buffet and overall variety offered. But it was always very crowded and hard to find tables. They had an outside BBQ for lunch which was great but again, very long lines and hard to find seating. We did really miss having the aft dining that's offered on most other boats. Entertainment was overall very good and Claire Maidin was OUTSTANDING! Fabulous voice and amazing pianist. She's a vocal mentor for X factor and Britains got Talent. We were lucky to have her on our cruise-she was flying back to London after her show. Really enjoyed Bollywood. Extreme Vegas was also very good but scary as we had a really rough sea day (the only one) on their night and the acrobatics tricks were not meant to be done on pitching seas. The guy took a fall at one point-TG he was ok. Really gutsy of him to continue. We went to see the mandolin player not expecting to stay long and really enjoyed it. Talented, charming, great stories. Only must miss for us was Dave Heenan the comedian. CD was Paul Scally-we thought he was hilarious and a lot of fun. He did a brief standup routine and that wasn't his best moment-he's better when he's ad libbing. We normally don't even notice who the CD is but really thought he did a fantastic job. Ports Our 1st stop was Samana in DR. We had read that NCL had begun offering the Caya Levantado beach excursion for free a couple of months before we cruised. We wanted our 1st stop to be a beach day so I called NCL to verify they would be offering this on the 2/5 cruise, she put me on hold and was able to confirm they would be. When I got the Freestyle the night before they didn't specifically mention the tenders to Caya only to the shore. Thought this was odd so called down to the front desk. That's when I was informed that the NCL Pearl had chartered the entire beach for their personal use and no one on the Dawn would be allowed to go to Caya! And this had been booked a YEAR ago! She said an announcement had been made that aft....no one in our group heard it. I tried to go to the shore excursion desk the next morning but they were as frustrated as we were-sounded like they had been told the day before also. The poor couple in front of me had booked the whale watching/Caya tour way in advance & they got cancelled with no notice. They tried to get on the whale watching tour but it was full so they were out of luck. REALLY poor decision of NCL corporate to allow this and even worse was the lack of communication. It truly was like they were trying to hide it vs. at least being up front about it so their customers would have time to make another plan. We wound up staying on the boat due to the last min. notification-wasn't a great way to start our trip but we put it behind us. Tortola-went to Virgin Gorda to see the Baths on our own and had a fantastic day. We'd originally booked a charter catamaran with Patouche but we didn't have enough people signed up by the time we sailed. If you're going to take a sail this is a great day to do it-the BVI's are so beautiful. We took Speedys ferry over (10:30a) to VG and prepaid for the taxi to the Baths. $3 to get into the park. Hiked down the path-its rugged but not bad. No issues for my 70 yr old parents. Exploring the baths is more challenging, you have to squat, waddle, climb small ladders & squeeze thru tight openings. I would not recommend flip flops. The day we were there the water was chest high in one of the area's and my mom doesn't swim so she wasn't comfortable. We just moved on to the next area. My parents did great but they are pretty fit so not sure all 70 yr olds would be ok with this. The beach on the other side was beautiful and we got some gorgeous photos. We hung out for awhile then headed up the path back up to the car lot (you don't have to go back thru the boulders, there's another path). Had a great lunch at the Top of the Baths restaurant, took the 3p taxi back and the 3:30 ferry back to port. GREAT DAY! St Maarten-6 cruise boats in port UGH! Traffic is very congested when you have this many people so we decided this would be a shopping day vs. spending half the day in traffic trying to get to the French side. (we've vacationed on the French side so we didn't feel we were missing out-we did really love the French side of the island).The guys didn't last too long but Mom and I had a nice day and a great lunch at a little French bistro-wish I remembered the name. St Johns, Antigua-we pre-hired Gordons taxis to take us to Long Bay. HIGHLY recommend! He was waiting for us when we got off the boat. Turned us over to Leon who was SO knowledgeable & professional and allowed us to make a stop on the way at Devils Bridge where we got some awesome photos. We had been in Antigua once before and had done a day pass at Pineapple Beach resort. Had a great day but we were leaving earlier and the cost of the day pass didn't make sense. Long Bay is the same beach, just a little further down. Its about a half hour drive but worth it-BEAUTIFUL! Rented chairs, umbrellas were limited but we found some shade. We were able to get sandwiches & GREAT pina coladas at the Beach Shack and with a purchase you can use their restroom. For a more upscale lunch there's La Tartuga. Another GREAT day! Barbados-reserved a day pass at the Hilton which included lunch. GORGEOUS resort and beach and wonderful lunch. I got the fish taco's-SO GOOD! Chaise lounges with thick cushions and umbrella's. Another fantastic day in paradise. St Kitts-didn't arrive until 1p-we booked GREGS SAFARI's on our own, the off the beaten path Plantation tour and cannot recommend this highly enough! Greg is a 5th generation St. Kitts resident and is so knowledgeable about his islands history and natural resources. St Kitts is a beautiful island with peaks covered in rainforest-we even had a green monkey sighting! We all LOVED THIS TOUR! I heard someone on the boat say there was nothing to see in St. Kitts-are you kidding me? This was our favorite day and we had some amazing days! 2 Sea Days-we signed up for the Behind the Scene Tour. Really interesting and impressive. The crew was terrific and most went above and beyond, including our great cabin steward Jason. Enjoyed relaxing and soaking up what sun we could on our last 2 days! Casino-not big on this but my husband did drop some money on blackjack and won on slots of all things! My Dad enjoyed the poker tournaments, placing in 2 of the 3. The Dawn-this is a lovely boat and we really enjoyed our 10 days. I do have to say I was surprised they didn't replace the carpet (showing its age) in the rooms when it went into dry dock. TVs were the only update I could see in our balcony room. Nice layout though and we were very comfortable. Spinnaker was moved to make way for the new family suites so its all brand new. Library still there but Card and game rooms are also gone to make room for the new suites. The Dawn lacks the interior space of other newer boats (noticeable when it rained) and we really missed the aft dining but this was a wonderful cruise. If you like the mega boats this will probably not be the boat for you but we like the more intimate feel of this sized boat and LOVED the amazing ports we were able to visit.   Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Norwegian Dawn Review R/T Miami 02/05 -- 02/15/2012 Background -- We are John and Mary, both in our mid-sixties. We are retired, but workcamp part time in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania for six months and full time RV for the ... Read More
Norwegian Dawn Review R/T Miami 02/05 -- 02/15/2012 Background -- We are John and Mary, both in our mid-sixties. We are retired, but workcamp part time in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania for six months and full time RV for the other six months. We love RV'ing, but also enjoy our yearly (or bi-yearly!) cruise. Our philosophy is to go with the flow, we're both low maintenance, easy to please. This is our 17th cruise, the sixth with NCL. We have also cruised with Carnival, Holland America and Princess. Pre-Cruise - Presently we are staying a bit north of Tampa, about a six hour drive from Miami. To avoid a long drive before cruising we left a day ahead of time and stayed at the Quality Hotel. At best, I would rate this as a two star hotel. Suitable as an overnight, I wouldn't return. One reason we choose this hotel was because it advertises complimentary "on demand" shuttle service to the cruise port. Actually you are offered a choice of two times, either 9:30 or 12:30. We like to arrive around 11 or 11:30, so these times weren't right. We decided on 9:30, knowing that we would have to wait for a little while. The driver was prompt, with traffic we arrived at the port shortly before 10, dropped our bags with a porter who actually said "Would you like to leave me anything?" Yes, there are signs all over about not needing to tip, but we always give a generous tip anyway. We waited in a short line outside for about 15 minutes before we were let in. The free shuttle is only to the port, you make your own arrangements for returning. The hotel uses a transportation service that you can arrange for your return at $12.00 per person. In retrospect, we should have done that. We used a taxi, had a driver that we couldn't understand, also had an address mix up, and ended up paying $50.00 for our return to pick up our truck at the hotel. Embarkation - Since we were almost the first to arrive we were quickly checked in and seated in the waiting area by 10:30 with our Group 1 ticket. After people needing assistance were boarded, our Latitudes Group 1 was able to get onboard at 11:45. Onboard -- By combining our BOA rewards, TA OBC, and OBC for purchasing a future cruise, we had $500.00 In OBC. We started with a soda card ($71. and change) It was worthwhile for us, and only came across one bartender, a middle-aged man who wasn't happy about filling my glass. I saw him a few more times on Lido and he never looked happy. Aside from him, all the other staff was very pleasant. Next stop was to make reservations at two of the specialty restaurants, Moderno Churrascaria and Cagney's. More about them later. BTW, on embarkation night the specialty restaurants are $5.00 off. Not a big deal, but something. We then went on to purchase the Thermal Suite Spa package. This was a first for us, but this time we wanted to experience the calmness and sereneness of the spa. The pool is larger, big enough to do laps, the whirlpool is great, and there was another whirlpool with a massaging lounger in it. Then there is a sauna, steam room, showers, etc. While relaxing the view is all glass from the stern of the ship. Complimentary beverages are offered, but after one long steam session I did have to wait ten minutes while someone went to find more cups. When they finally returned, it was with a few plastic glasses from lido, not the regular paper cups. Only once did I have check the sign "Relaxation Area, Quiet Please", when a few men spoke in very loud voices, telling lloooonnggg stories. John's package was $149., mine was $194., which included five scrub treatments. Since we avoid the loud music and crowds by the outdoor pool we enjoyed our time in here and wondered if we're spoiled now and will look for spa packages on future cruises. Cabin -- Two days before sailing we received a call from our TA. He had NCL on the other line and was offering us an upgrade from our balcony cabin on Deck 9 to a mini-suite on Deck 11 at no extra charge. We took it, of course. The cabin was very nice, located mid-ship, had plenty of storage, and a tub in the bathroom. I found the firm bed to be very comfortable. The firm sofa could fold out to sleep two more people, but four people in here would have been very tight. We enjoyed coffee on the balcony several mornings. We found room service coffee to be better tasting than using the coffee maker in the room. For some reason, even the tea brewed in the room didn't taste good. Meet and Greet -- This was held on the first sea day at 10:30 in the morning. It looked like about 40 or so people attended. It's always nice meeting the people who have been posting on these boards for months. As usual, a nice spread of beverages, muffins and danish was provided. We met many of the senior officers. The Captain was very friendly, informative and accessible. I had fun speaking my few Turkish sentences with the Food and Bar manager, who is from Turkey. We had a gift exchange, I felt bad when a diabetic picked my gift. Since we are originally from outside Philadelphia and spend six months near there and Philly is known for its Tastycakes, we gave Butterscotch Krimpets along with Key Lime coconut candy. My gift, on the other hand was perfect. It was from Jojob from Maryland, the state known for its blue claw crabs. I received a crab restaurant tee shirt, in my size and favorite color! And she didn't even know me. Everyone at the gathering had the opportunity to sign up for a tour. Previously, on the Jewel, we had a bridge tour. This time, on the second sea day, it was a galley tour. It was quite impressive, and Christain, the restaurant manager was very candid and informative. Latitudes Party I've enjoyed previous Latitude Parties much more than this one. (Except for the one where John won a door prize of ONE island tour in Bermuda, and I had to buy one for almost $100!) Anyway, when the doors opened, we were instructed to go to the front rows and fill in every seat. Being obedient children we did as instructed but wondered why many people were ignoring the staff and scrambling for the front row and aisle seats. We soon discovered that if you were seated past the second row or didn't have an aisle seat you were never going to get a second drink or hor doerve. We sat (thirsty) watching the servers working hard but being monopolized by the people who knew where to sit. Bottle after bottle of wine and tray and tray of rum punch flew from the serving area but nothing could even come close to where we instructed to sit. The front of the Stardust Lounge is definitely not conducive to being served. This is an observation, not a complaint, because I know where to find food! If it's a concern to you to get a little "free" wine, know where to sit! Exclusive Gathering This was another party for Gold, Silver and Platinum Latitude Members. It was held later in the week in the Spinnaker Lounge. This lounge is a much better place to host a gathering. When you entered here a table was set up loaded with cheese, crackers and fruit for you to help yourself. Then you passed the servers carrying trays of champagne and wine. I couldn't count how many times a fresh glass of wine or a re-fill was offered. All were refused because we were on our way to Cagney's for a birthday dinner. I was looking forward to a cocktail and lobster, couldn't fill up on wine and cheese! Ports As we've been to all of these ports before, and done many of the tours, this time we mostly did relaxing walk arounds. Samana - We stayed on the ship, as did many people. It was prime whale watching time in these waters, but we've been on several and have seen incredible sights. Cayo Levantado was not offered. We were told that a business had reserved the NCL Pearl along with Cayo Levantdo privately. We were a little disappointed as we had read so many good things about going there and were looking forward to it. Tortola -- After gleaning information from these boards, we decided to go on an island tour. Last time here we spent a bit of time in Pussers and didn't see much of the island. The tour included some of the highlights we had read about including Callwood Distillery, the oldest continuously operating pot distillery in the Caribbean. They make rum from pure cane juice. We did buy a bottle, haven't tried it yet. The man at the distillery suggested it would be best in rum punch. We'll most likely wait tile summer to try it. The man hawking the tour told us we would have 45 minutes at Cane Garden Beach, another place we wanted to see. Since we're not sun worshippers, this time would have been perfect for us. In reality, we had less than 20 minutes to get a drink, have a bathroom break, and enjoy the beach. After getting a drink, we vainly stood by a chair for several minutes looking for a sign or someone to check with about a chair fee for a few minutes. Finding no one, I placed my bag on a chair and got in the water while John stood there. Immediately a woman ran up to him demanding $8.00 for the chair. Being the obedient one once again, he gave her a $20.00 bill and waited for change. We had to go find her as she didn't appear to have any interest in returning to us. When I questioned her as to the fee for a bag on a chair for two minutes this miserable woman had the audacity to blame John for paying her. And then tried to blame me for not buying a drink. I did buy a drink! This is such a beautiful place, with lovely people; it's too bad that there are still people with this greedy attitude towards tourists that bring so much to their economy. In these times of the web and people interested in giving good customer service this woman's behavior amazed me. OK, I'm over it...on to more good times. St. Maartin We've been here three or four times previously and as I have a cousin who spends time here in the winter, we were fortunate in having a personal tour guide. This year we were on our own, and found it to be a relaxing change of pace. We leisurely walked several streets, having time to make many stops. One place I was in search of was "The Candy Store". I saw a picture of it on-line while doing research and it looked very attractive. It is a really cute, colorful little store. We had a nice chat with the owner "Candy Man". He has been here for 11 years, came here first on a cruise and came back to open his store and stay. We purchased a small bag of home-made peanut brittle which had an extra kick to it with the addition of ginger. Yum! Candy Man offers free wifi and has benches set up outside in front of his store. He said it's okay to give out the passcode "skittles" and to tell all no purchase necessary. There are benches only, lap top needs to be on your lap. Originally we had planned on going to The Greenhouse, a restaurant we had been to last year, for Wi-Fi, but it was early and they weren't open yet, and you do need to purchase a meal. We walked some more and were pleased to come across a church. We enjoy looking at the different architecture and stained glass. For Wi-Fi we ended up in a cyber Wi-Fi place, paid $5.00 for an hour. Ship's Wi-Fi is outrageous. We were glad we did this as both John and I have elderly relatives dealing with health issues and we were able to keep up. John found a hat pin he liked "SMX" and I, liking glittery things and an occasional well- made martini, found a tee shirt with a rhinestone martini glass saying "ST. MARTINI". Cute! Antigua We went to Fort James in search of a geocache. We've read that some cachers have walked to it, but it is a fairly long walk. We used a taxi, their rates are set by the government, from 1-4 passengers it is $12 per cab each way, $24 R/T. So if you're planning on visiting any of the 365 beaches on Antigua, find a couple to share the ride with you. Our cab driver was Norman, a very nice older gentleman. When we arrived at the fort Norman insisted on waiting for us as it is in a deserted area. We told him we would only be about 10 minutes or so. The cache was an easy find, with help from a very good clue. John needed to hold on to my hand once on an incline so I wouldn't slip and fall into the sea. Lol. We brought the cache to Norman and explained it to him. Any cachers out there ask for Norman, from where he parks, you'll be about 75' from the cache. Norman then took us to the Fort James Beach; we spent a little time here in the water while Norman waited for us again. We all agreed that it would be better if he waited rather than leaving and coming back for us. Barbados We were the last ship in; the cruise terminal was a 15 minute walk or a 3 minute free shuttle ride. After arriving at the terminal we walked another ½ mile for a geocache. After locating it we continued towards another cache, went another ½ mile, and still had another ½ mile to go. The sun and heat was starting to get to me so we decided to turn back. On the return walk we stopped at a place called Sylvester's in the Craft Market for a cold drink and Wi-Fi. Barbados has free Wi-Fi Island wide to make the island tourist friendly. For some reason we couldn't connect while in Sylvester's, they wanted a fee. After finishing our drinks we returned to the cruise terminal and joined the throngs of crew on their laptops, some of them skyping with family they spend months separated from. St. Kitts Another walk around stop, a little shopping, a cold drink, a little sightseeing. The place we stopped at was Sweet Lime, which had a big sign at the entrance "Free Wi-Fi" The young woman bartender didn't know much about it and wasn't interested in finding out anything about it anyway. Now, if I gave lessons in customer service........................lol. Food We enjoyed the food in all the different venues. As many other reviewers have noted, yes, the Aqua can be noisy. Oh well, people talk. And some of the tables are ridicuously close together. The Venetian is beautiful. My only complaint about the MDR's is what I complain about in every review. Vegetables....three string beans is not a serving, one tablespoon of sauteed garlic spinach is not a serving.... I want a full cup of these things! Solved, all I have to do is ask! And it is brought with a smile! We had the wings in the Blue Lagoon that people rave over, they were okay. Moderno Churrascaria was wonderful; the salad bar in there is exquisite! The sides (potatoes, rice, beans, and something else) come in small covered metal dishes. These could have been hotter. By the time the first meat was brought out they weren't even a little hot. It is well worth the additional charge of $20.00 pp. ($15.00 on embarkation night) Cagney's was also wonderful. We both had steaks, John the prime rib, I the filet. Lobster is an add on at $8.00 for a six ounce tail. I could definitely tell the difference in food quality between the specialty restaurants and the MDR. The most obvious difference I noticed was in the crab cakes. My appetizer in Cagney's was delicious and had lots of crab. The crab cake appetizer in the MDR tasted and looked like a fish cake. It was good, but I couldn't tell that it was crab. We both liked the pizza, the deli, the crepe station. I could go on and on, it's all good. As simple as it is, one of our favorite things for breakfast is the muesli in the garden cafe. Topped with a few pecans and berries, delicious! Oh, the coffee...not good. MDR is okay, sometimes the buffet coffee was okay if you drank it while it was really hot. As I mentioned earlier the room brewed coffee is nasty, but room service coffee was okay. A few mornings we resorted to buying Cafe Americano in the Java Cafe. The "free" coffee set up on a side table in the Java Cafe is okay, but not always hot enough. The omelet guys were great and the washy, washy girls fun. Entertainment Our CD was Paul Scally, he does a nice job. Most of the entertainment was very good. Some of the things we enjoyed most were Second City Improv, (both their regular and adult shows) TerenceB the hypnotist, New Season Band has a great vocalist (that black man sings white boy songs better than most of us white boys) Jump Band, their Salute to the Sixties was great, Claire Maidin is a gifted vocalist and pianist, Radim Zenki, the champion mandolin player was outstanding (can't understand why a previous reviewer didn't like it, did you see everything he can do?) And of course, Bollywood. The acrobatics are amazing. Our least favorite was Extreme Vegas. We couldn't find much Vegas about it. The woman (Daniela) was great with her athletics, the man (justino) spent too much time trying to balance on big rolling cans. And what does an opera skit have to do with Extreme Vegas? I think it would make more sense with some magic or illusion acts. Or change the name to Variety Something. Oh, can't forget Jose and Patti. They seemed to have SRO no matter where they played. We listened to Eric Lilley in the Star Bar with his more relaxing piano tunes and enjoyed the wit of Magdelena who was bartending that night. Casino/Bingo We're not big gamblers, but won't pass up a bargain either. In John's research he found Slot Play certificates, you pay $25, you get $50 in slot play. Together we came out a little ahead. Didn't stay there too long at night, it gets way too smoky. Early in the morning it's not too bad. Yikes! Bingo is expensive, especially with the amount given to the winners. I played twice, once for $69.00 on buy one, get one day, and once for $39. I shared the cover-all with one other person, we each got $137.00 Observations There was no little basket of welcome toiletries in the bathroom, I guess another cutback. Same with the champagne that used to be served as you boarded. It really bothers me when I see anyone getting reprimanded in public. If an issue needs to be addressed, please do it in private. I've seen it happen many times. This time a superior scolded a couple of the servers in Cagney's. It was something about "$10.00 is $10.00!" These servers were working very hard, what possible infraction could they have committed? Perhaps they weren't pushing sparkling water versus tap hard enough? To make this matter worse, I saw this same person in the Garden Cafe the next morning. It was very quiet where we were, we always go to the back away from the crowds. There was no one else at this section of the buffet. The person who had scolded servers was spending an unusually long period of time at the fresh fruit bowl stirring and stirring. Curious, I watched. She was meticulously picking out every single piece of pineapple. It took her almost five minutes, but she did find every single piece! Elevator etiquette, especially on the mid-ship glass elevators. Picture a light bulb, narrow at the neck then widening. Many people don't move to the rear and block the entrance making others squeeze by. Or when trying to exit from the rear they refuse to move. Some of our way northern friends don't understand "Excuse me, getting out". One time laid back, mild mannered John saying "Pardon" didn't work either. And then there was the time I heard john's voice coming from the back saying "coming out" Not realizing he was assisting someone else in trying to get out past the people who don't understand English I immediately got out and watched the door close leaving me to walk the remaining flight. And some boorish behavior- we saw a man clipping his toenails out on the promenade deck and leave the clippings. Disgusting. And a woman using two chairs (one for her feet) getting annoyed when a man needed to sit and asked to use one of "her" chairs. As Paul Skally always ends his chatter "People, look out for each other, take care of each other". Conclusion We love cruising, we like NCL and have purchased our future cruise certificate. We will be back! Not exclusively, but we will be back. We're looking for Panama Canal in November, you don't go there. Sob. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
We took a 10 day cruise to the Caribbean on January 15, 2012 which stopped at Samana DR, Tortola,St. Martin, Antigua, Barbados, St, Kitts. The food was bad. There wasn't much options. Our anniversary cake tasted like refrigerator. ... Read More
We took a 10 day cruise to the Caribbean on January 15, 2012 which stopped at Samana DR, Tortola,St. Martin, Antigua, Barbados, St, Kitts. The food was bad. There wasn't much options. Our anniversary cake tasted like refrigerator. The appetizers were the same at both the Venetian and the Aqua Restaurant. Service in the Venetian was bad. It took them forever to get our order, bring our food, refill our water. And the food wasn't great! My husband has never complained of a lobster until this cruise. Our room was soooo noisy. It literally cracked all night. All my previous cruises have been pretty much quiet but this one was out of control. The bathroom door would open along with the cabinets. One night I woke up from all the noise because there was something banging outside my window. I had to call the front desk to ask what was going on. Someone came to my room to hear what I was complaining about and told me all the cracking was just part of the room! At that moment I thought "I don't know how I am going to survive another 7 days here"! Our room steward was rude. The first day I nicely asked him to change our duvet cause there was a big yellow stain in it, the size of a large plate. Instead of saying, yes or whatever he started making excuses about what the stains were. One day he didn't even do our bed. I spoke to many of the people on our ship and they were all frustrated with the ship. I had heard that NCL was a good line to cruise but then now talking to the many people on the ship they all mentioned that it has deteriorated so much from what it once were. The library was too small (the size of a small stateroom) to even carry a nice selections of books. And you could only check out books one hour during the day and one hour during the evening. The entertainment in the Grand Atrium was this couple that sang literally the SAME songs night after night. There were no lounges to hang out. People were literally playing cards and games inside the buffet area because there was nowhere else. Buffet selection was boring as well. Same thing every day. Even at the dining rooms, I was never impressed with the meals. And I am not a picky person but now that I've gone on other cruises I can say that I was spoiled by other lines compared to what we had here. I even lost weight cause we didn't eat much, nothing was appetizing. The entertainment during the day wasn't great. We just paid to be at the spa and worked out cause there was nothing much to do. The only good thing I can say was that their night entertainment was okay. They had this group of people doing improvised comedy shows which was good. But really, you go for the whole experience, and this ship makes you regret going. After cruising many fine cruises like Holland America and MSC, I can say I will never cruise NCL again. Please save your money and time and enjoy a better experience in another cruise line! DO NOT CRUISE NCL!!! PLEASE!!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
We booked the cruise Jan 2010, travelled with 22 family and friends. Flew into Miami two days prior, and stayed at the La Quinta (East) near the airport on La Jeune Road. The hotel accommodated all of our group, and check in went well. The ... Read More
We booked the cruise Jan 2010, travelled with 22 family and friends. Flew into Miami two days prior, and stayed at the La Quinta (East) near the airport on La Jeune Road. The hotel accommodated all of our group, and check in went well. The price was more than reasonable and the rooms were adequately appointed with comfortable beds and the necessary amenities. They provided a free shuttle from the airport and also the cruise terminal. Arrangements were made with the shuttle service for a nominal fee of ten dollars per person, to pick us up at the cruise terminal and return us to the hotel or the airport. This all worked out quite well. The staff were friendly and the breakfast each day was plenty. Waffles/Hard boiled eggs/bagels/muffins/toast/yogurt/fruit/coffee/tea/juice etc. The check-in at the cruise terminal went effortlessly, and were on board with-in approximately 45 minutes. Ship was at full capacity. Some waiting occurred in the main dining rooms, but received a beeper when a table was ready, the maximum wait was no more than 20 minutes. After all, we are on holidays some time is what we have lots of. The staff were friendly and professional, from the wait staff to the entertainers and room stewards. Any negative issues were so minor that they were not worth mentioning. This ship is showing a bit of wear in the carpeting in the cabins. Overall the balcony suite we had was more than adequate. The balcony was small, but it worked. Two chairs and a small table. Great spot for reading,relaxing and listening to the waves. We received our suitcases before dinner, and at the end, we didn't have to be out of our rooms until 09:00, and off the ship at our designated time of 10:15. Lots of time for breakfast and not having to hurry. Our baggage was awaiting us, and since we were coming back to Canada, we just handed our Customs form over to the officer and we were on our way. The cruise was a positive experience, and most of the ports were interesting. The only negative port for us was in Samana Dominican Republic. Our "rickshaw" motorcycle driver took us for a few photo ops, but mainly took us to his acquaintance's to shop for jewellery and paintings, and when we got back to the tender, he argued for more money. So we were all glad to get back on board. All other ports were great. The train ride we booked on board for 100 dollars each in St. Kitts was not worth the money. It was an hour bus ride to the train and a couple of hours on the train circling the island through mainly sugar cane fields with the coast off in the distance, through some small villages with children waving. At the break neck speed of 10 MPH. The train squealed so loudly that one could not hear the narrator speak about the island. The "ladies" dressed in their native costumes were great, and provided us with some of their songs. At the end it was back on the bus for a ride back to the ship. Free drinks and a sugar cane/coconut desert was provided. Just not worth the 200 dollars per couple. A bus/taxi tour would provide you with better views. Overall a wonderful cruise with family and friends with lots of wonderful memories and photographs. Thank-you again Norwegian Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
Overall we enjoyed this cruise. Our last cruise was on the Gem so we compare. The Dawn was good in many respects, especially the service and friendliness of staff. Fewer food choices. Small library. Missed the Great Outdoors and preferred ... Read More
Overall we enjoyed this cruise. Our last cruise was on the Gem so we compare. The Dawn was good in many respects, especially the service and friendliness of staff. Fewer food choices. Small library. Missed the Great Outdoors and preferred the Spinnaker Lounge Gem location upper deck fwd vs Dawn location lower deck aft with no big windows. No reservations at MDRs. We either showed up when they opened or went to buffet at Garden Cafe. We enjoyed the New Seasons band which played on pool deck and Spinnaker. DJ Keith was good. The Atrium group called Duo Luna was good. Sea Days were very crowded. Probably a balcony would have been good on those days. We didn't go ashore at Samana because the tender situation seemed pretty chaotic. On all the other ports we docked and either walked to town or took a shuttle free or a few bucks. We enjoyed seeing the towns since we had been to some of the islands by plane and mostly saw resorts and tour destinations. The museums, churches and government buildings are interesting, as well as observation of the towns' general architecture and businesses. We usually went ashore after breakfast and returned for lunch, or went ashore after lunch. That gave us time to enjoy the pool deck area uncrowded. Generally things were noisy and we did not go to the evening shows. We tried to go to all the dance music scheduled, mostly in the Spinnaker between 6 PM and 9 PM, so we scheduled our meals around that. Embarkation and disembarkation were very smooth, kudos to NCL and Port of Miami. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
Living just two hours away from Miami, we opted to hire a limousine service to transport six of us to the port. Dropped off, and on-board within a half hour.Those arriving by car face horrendous traffic congestion and expensive parking ... Read More
Living just two hours away from Miami, we opted to hire a limousine service to transport six of us to the port. Dropped off, and on-board within a half hour.Those arriving by car face horrendous traffic congestion and expensive parking fees. If possible park off site and take a shuttle to the port. Offsite parking is around $7.00 per day, port parking is around $23.00 per day. Nowegian's terminal makes embarkation a breeze. Lines move quickly and staff are friendly and helpful. We were on-board around 12:30pm and were told that room would not be ready before 2pm. Turned out that they were ready much earlier so we dropped off carry-on bags and found our luggage waiting for us. We sailed the Dawn in February 2003, February 2009, and this trip in January 2012. In 2009 we sailed with our granddaughter and her parents, and we got to see the children's program in detail. Norwegian has an outstanding children's program and little ones love the T-Rex Pool and slide. After a day or two the servers in the Garden Cafe knew our granddaughter by name and greeted her each time they saw her. Needless to say, that made a very big impression on her. On the 2009 sail we noticed a slight reduction in staff and thought the service had suffered a little. I am happy to say that the 2012 trip found the ship fully staffed with friendly, helpful and caring people. While walking through various parts of the ship one might encounter ship staff performing repairs or walking to as station. All staff went out of their way to great us with a good morning or good afternoon etc. Entertainment on this trip was excellent. Our recollection is that in 2009 there were more elaborate production shows, however we realize that things have to change. With two show scheduled nightly, passengers have a choice of attending a 7pm or a 9pm show. Shore excursions are numerous at each port. Being seasoned cruisers we often opt to engage a local taxi driver to take us to the same places the excursions go, and at a cost of less than half the excursion price generally. A tip: when arriving in port you will be bombarded with taxi drivers looking for passengers. Don't engage the first one that approaches you, talk to a few and you will get a feeling for a driver that you can be comfortable with and will not attempt to hustle you for more money. On our excursions we met some very nice individuals we actually enjoyed talking to, and wouldn't mind being friends with if the occasion should ever arise. Ate at Le Bistro; service was impeccable and food excellent. Friends at at Gatsby's and offered similar reviews. Another group of friends ate a Bamboo, and raved about the choice of dishes and service. I regret my intention to eat at La Cuccina was unrealized, however I did manage to have Penne pasta with a delicious pesto sauce in the Venetian Restaurant. An acceptable substitute! Disembarkation is also a breeze. Norwegian allows passengers who opt to carry their own luggage to exit the ship at any time they choose. Others can opt to have their luggage transported dockside, and disembarkation is by a colored luggage tag system. Each colored tag has a debarkation time announced and the process makes finding luggage in the terminal much easier than a mass exodus. Unfortunately, what always seems to spoil the mood of returning from a fun and restful cruise is the rude, pushy, and loud porters at the terminal. Almost before guests are able to realize they are on land, porters are yelling loudly and grabbing luggage. Sailing from Fort Lauderdale is a more pleasant experience. The porters are not pushy, and there are signs all over that tipping is not necessary whereas in Miami, it is all about tips. Unfortunately, NCL does not sail from Fort Lauderdale, so enduring the porter created chaos is part of the trip. While I often read cruise reviews on Cruise Critic, I take them with a grain of salt. It seems that some people just like to complain or perhaps see their comments in print. One review I read complained the noise in the dining rooms is too loud. Yes, there can be noise there but that noise is created by fellow passengers and is beyond the scope of Norwegian's control. Another reviewer complained about not receiving a robe. Some classes of cabins on the Dawn do come with robes; mine didn't and I didn't miss one! Another reviewer complained about not receiving a bar of soap. The stateroom are furnished with shampoo and body gel; if one needs a bar of soap, the options are (a) bring soap or (b) buy soap in gift shop. The one review that irked me the most is the one that said Norwegian ought to eliminate Samana as a port of call. The Dominican Republic is a poor country and tourism is just becoming a way of locals making income. Having been in Samana once before, we opted to see the country side and did not walk in to town. Admittedly there are youths trying to sell conch shells, water, and other things all along the walk. Stop to consider they are trying to survive.   Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
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) The Cruise: 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
Sail Date January 2012
I must agree with the previous review of the first time cruiser on NCL Dawn. This was our 7th cruise and 3rd with NCL. We chose NCL because it is slightly more economical to book, plus some of our group like the freestyle dining. ... Read More
I must agree with the previous review of the first time cruiser on NCL Dawn. This was our 7th cruise and 3rd with NCL. We chose NCL because it is slightly more economical to book, plus some of our group like the freestyle dining. However, in the end it isn't more economical because you are "nickel and dimed" to death. We opted for the wine package and after selecting three different brands of red wine it came to $240. The guys bought the buckets of beer which weren't too bad. I had two "drink specials of the day" which also came to about $10 with the 15% gratuity. The dining is really terrible. Since I feel that I paid for my meals in the cruise package, we avoided the specialty restaurants. We used the Aqua and the Venetian on most nights. Both were overcrowed and noisy, and the service left quite a lot to be desired. Service was slow, it was really understaffed, and the menu was unimaginative, and no shrimp cocktail available. The regular menu only changed once during the ten days. The first night I ordered key lime pie and the waiter got everyone's order wrong - then it was never on the menu again. We ate once at the buffet because it just seemed simpler! We also had lunch in the Blue Lagoon one day and checked the availabity for other days but the menu was the same every day, including dinner! We had breakfast everyday in the Garden Cafe because the Venetian closed at 9:30. We also found this breakfast buffet terrible for the same reasons. You just couldn't find a table to sit at. We were a party of four and usually had to take our meal to the pool deck. We also found that many of the activities had a charge added, so we avoided those as well. We went to the spa twice. The first time the girl literally took my arm and sat me down to give me her best sales pitch, so I left abruptly. My second trip was for an advertised "skin analysis" at a specified time. When I arrived 15 minutes prior to the scheduled time, I was advised that I would have to make an appointment for a one on one analysis. I wasn't looking for a one on one but thought it would be a group activity since it was posted on the daily event calendar. I again left abruptly!!!! We did get some very nice towel animals on our bed on most nights but we also experienced some lack of attention in our cabin. One day we left our used towels on the floor of the shower and they were never picked up. Do you think the shower was cleaned that day? On another occasion a cleaning rag was left on our bedside table. Every morning we were awakened at 7:30 by the cleaning staff assembling their bins and equipment outside our door! We were the last cabin at the end of that row. In general we didn't find the staff to be particularly friendly and only got to know a couple of names, after we specifically asked them. The nicest waiter we had in the Aqua was WAYAIN from Bali. Most of the others were too rushed to even speak to. We went off the ship in every port but didn't take any of the excursions because they have become way to pricey. When we cruised with NCL in 2011 we did several and they came to more than the cruise itself. Then there is the matter of the service charges - $12 per day per person - for what? Just for doing their job? And in many cases not doing it too well! I would have gone and had it removed but my husband was too embarassed to have me do that so to keep peace we paid. So for my opinion, this will be the last time we sail with NCL !!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
As a first time cruiser, I had several unfounded reservations about cruising, but after a 10 day trip on the Norwegian Dawn in the Garden Villa, I've turned over a new leaf. I feel like I could dedicate an entire review to Gian our ... Read More
As a first time cruiser, I had several unfounded reservations about cruising, but after a 10 day trip on the Norwegian Dawn in the Garden Villa, I've turned over a new leaf. I feel like I could dedicate an entire review to Gian our butler, and those of you who have had that profound pleasure know what Im talking about. There were 7 people in our room and 3 of them were under four years of age. Whether Gian was cutting up pancakes for my discerning two year old, or showing up in the nick of time with a clean bottle for my loud son, or more frequently tending to our absurd food requests while half in the bag, Gian was the absolute consummate and able gentleman. Although our group rarely ate at the same time or ordered from the same restaurant and exhibited a distinct inability to keep track of a key-card for any more than a few hours, Gian took care of everything with a reassuring smile. My primary issue with cruising, was the idea of being in a small room. Problem solved... The Dawn has a magnificent Garden Villa with countless ammenties and plenty of space. You can see the layout and pictures online, but it really exceeded my expectations. Its a short walk out through the back of the garden to the Kids pool area and basketball court. The other perceived issue I had about cruising was adhering to an aggressive schedule and not being able to spend extra time at places that I like. This fear held true in some respects, but I can live with it. It was quite entertaining to open your eyes in the morning, slide the curtain to the side and find a totally new island to buy a tee-shirt on. My normal routine in the morning was to gingerly descend the half-flight of stairs for some crab-cake benedict at Cagney's, and marvel at how much work the crew had done before I managed to stumble out of bed. These cruise ships are quite large of course, and I never got to see what giants from the Jurassic period they must keep chained up below to tie these ships up to the pier in the morning. In any case, picking your excursions carefully seems very important. We did a third-party ATV excursion on Sumana with Terry where at some point we tasted the local coffee, coconut, cocoa and fruit. If I took anything away from that experience, its that the fruit I get in New York should be called something else. If you like golf, play at the Sandy Lane country club on Barbados. Great course, gorgeous area and great bloody mary's. The port area of Barbados is terrible, so get to the far west of the island as soon as you can. We Zip-Lined on beautiful St Kitts, which I would certainly recommend. Its not as death-defying as it sounds, but the views are incredible. I though the food on the ship was pretty good. I didn't eat at any of the buffets, but the restaurants were solid. The Bistro and Bamboo were my favorites while La Cucina and Teppanyaki were serviceable. I did not make it to Moderna, but heard good reports from our group. As for the entertainment, late nights in the Spinaker Lounge were a lot of fun, and there was usually a cash texas-holdem game at night. The magic show (prestidigitator), was so good that I didn't speak for a long time afterwards. I didn't see most of the other shows, but our group liked second city and the kids loved Bollywood. By all accounts however, the comedian needs to retire. The service overall was without parallel and apparently dominated by Filipinos. Id like to ship a Philippine Island up to the metropolitan area and glue it to Manhattan. The whole crew was cordial, professional and always willing to go out of their way to solve your silly issue. LIKES: Piano in the room. ( on tippy-toes, my one year old thinks he's Glenn Gould, so that was a plus) Caribbean sunsets on the private deck. Steam room and rain shower in the garden. Finger sandwiches and hot wings served in the room, post excursion. Cell phones on the ship for the suites. Port wine with a cigar in the havana club. Gian. DISLIKES: Internet access not included in the garden villa. I think this is just an oversight but it can't cost me an extra $100 USD if I forget to hit the "Logout" button and my time expires. Being on the starboard side of the ship, it would have been nice if the sun set in the east while we were traveling north. Gian's name should be added parenthetically on the side of the ship... Norwegian Dawn (with Gian!) or something similar. Overall, this was a great vacation, and we will be booking another one soon. Since this was our first cruise, I have nothing to compare it to, so this review may not be terribly insightful, but perhaps it would be of interest to a skeptical would-be cruiser. I would be interested in finding other ships with similar accomodations and service. Incidentally, what the hell does freestyle cruising mean? Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
This cruise was a replacement of the 12 day Holy Land cruise on Norwegian Jade we booked but was cancelled because of the continuing violence in that region. It was the cruise to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary and comes after a ... Read More
This cruise was a replacement of the 12 day Holy Land cruise on Norwegian Jade we booked but was cancelled because of the continuing violence in that region. It was the cruise to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary and comes after a wonderful 7 day Baltic cruise we did in July 2011 on RCL Vision of the Seas. PRE-CRUISE STAY: Airport to Port: Had been in Miami since Jan 1st and has been doing a self tour of Miami before setting on the cruise. This include going on a Everglade tour at one of the coldest day in florida - at alomst 2degC, where crocodile would not move or surface to show their face even if prodded. We stay at the Holiday Inn, Doral and was driving around Miami on a Thrifty's car. The benefit of renting a Thrifty car is that they provide free bus shuttle from the airport to the cruise port. BOARDING THE SHIP: Arrived at the port at about 11am and there were already lots of passengers getting out of cars, vans and bus to offload their baggage to waiting baggage handlers to start their cruise to board the ship. Our shuttle driver helped our luggage and even without any request for tips, we tipped him $6 for his effort. However the baggage handler saw this and before he handle our baggage had brazenly asked for a tip before touching our bags. We have always tip for well deserve service and definately not when asked up front, so we were left to unload our baggage to another cart, remote from the cart where all the baggage handlers were unloading the other passenger bags. Other than this, boarding the ship was great and went like clockwork. Joined one of the two lines entering the cruise terminal, went thru security and then into the checking desks. In less than 20 minutes, we had cleared all the check in desk, got our cruise room cards and went upstairs in the waiting area to be boarded by calling card numbers. It was another 20 minutes of wait and we were walking into the ship where folks can have buffet lunch at the Garden cafe on the 12th deck level or the Venetian, a sit down-served restaurant on the 6th deck level. We had been on freestyle cruising with Norwegian and love these the freestyle sit-serve first-come first-serve restaurant like Venetian. Being one of the early bird, we had our choice table - table 5 or table 1 where we have a window view for a table of 2. We thoroughly enjoyed the lunch and stayed till they open the cabin at about 2pm. CABIN 5075 - Inside starboard. Entering the room, I can say that the size is typical of many inside cabin of most cruise liners but the layout is definately better than most as the washroom is larger with the toilet on one side and a decent size shower on the otherside with the wash basin with a decent standing area in the middle. There was more than ample drawers, shelves and hanging room in the closet for one who came on with almost 1.5 large baggage full of clothes. The hair dryer was strategically located in one sitting area with power supply while the 19 inch flat inch sit on top another sitting desk which did not have any power supply. This ship was built in 2002 and has some upgrading done in May 2010. Unfortunately in the next 4 days we start to notice small little things that did not stand well for this particular cabin. We start getting concern when my wife set off the inside cabin fire alarm on the 2nd day at sea when she had a hot shower. This cause an immediate phone call to the room and a visit by the safety officer to inspect the stateroom. The front desk and safety officer indicate this might be the steam from the hot shower that somehow have flow out of the washroom and affect the fire alarm 3 feet outside it. We dismiss this incident as an isolated one but 2 days later the fire alarm got set off again and another visit by the safety officer with my wife in the shower and coming out of it to quickly get dress to attend the visit. This set off our own check on what may cause this and it appear the top part of the shower divider is not covered and the cabin exhaust does not seem to keep up with exhaust of the mositure or steam from any hot shower and hence the washroom mirror get fogged up and steam accumulate and get leak out of the washroom. Even then the fire detector should be able to discern smoke or fire from steam but it did not in this two cases. As part of this check, we found that the laundry line and the shower liners was black with mold in many places, probably due to this humidity problem ,which was bit disconcerting. The first night of sleep reveal that the cabin walls and-or ceilings creaks during sailing and prabably thin or not properly sound proof as we can clearly hear all conversation of the neighbouring cabin folks. Located on the mid-ship starboard mid floor and just below the 6th floor Le-Bistro and piano lounge, we can hear songs and music and sometime thumping noise coming from the 6th floor above us, well into 11pm. However this quiet off after 11pm. Then for men, the toilet seat will not stand up by itself in this cabin as I have to hold it up by hand to discharge any fluid without messing up the toilet seat for use by my wife. Another area that need improvement is the satellite TV reception. The 19 inch LCD TV does not do justice when many a time the reception is spotty. Cabin service is excellent with daily and well timed replenishment of towels and toiletries. The attending steward is always smiling and knows when we were out to change or turn down our room. The toiletries come in separate wash and shampoo containers unlike some which provide a generic single wash-shampoo. We have our own shampoo, soap bar, wash and conditioner as my wife is not used to generic shampoo and bath gel. Our only wish for better room service is that for such long (10 days and over) cruise that they should try to also change our bedsheet and pillow case at least once. PUBLIC FACILITIES AND SERVICE. The layout and furnishing of the ship was pretty comparable to the many new cruise ships with nicely decor and functional restaurants, theatres and public walkways. There is 3 banks of elevators and access up and down is pretty fast. We did not participate in much of the activities or use all the facilities but the facilties we use a lot are the 5-6th floor Stardust theatre, the 12th floor fitness room (love the separate entrance to it from the spa center entrance) and the dining area (Aqua, Venetian, Garden cafe and one time Bistro). On public area service, this is spotty. In the last Norwegian cruise we did in Jan 2010 on Norwegian Jewel, the folks are so friendly, many smiling and most waiters ready to serve and be recognize. This cruise many were just doing their job with the occassional smile and eagerness to serve. Most food order was basically take your order, serve it and bye. In past cruises we have done, many waiters try to discern what clients like and try to recommend certain dishes on the menu. For example, in the July RCL cruise the waiter knowing our interest in authentic Indian food arrange with his supervisor approval got a dish from the crew lunch kitchen and reserve it for us. Same thing occur in the Norwegian Jewel cruise of Jan 2010. Such things make the event a real sparkling and memorable one. The exception here is our experience in the Le-Bistro where the food is great and the service par excellent and they pull off the 30th anniversary celebratory salute on us - This was the only good memorable experience I had on this cruise. The fitness center was busy in the morning during sea days but otherwise we had no problem enjoying its facilities. It is adequately equipped for similar size of cruise ship. FOOD The first day on board we really enjoyed our lunch at the venetian with Sirlion Steak from the standard menu and the baked fish special of the day. The menu for lunch and dinner has on the right side a standard menu and on the left side the starters, salads and burgers and a line of the special entree of the day. Getting such a menu with only 1-2 change is pretty repetitive and after 6 days into the cruise become pretty boring. The entree special is mainly fish or a pasta dish and do not have any wow factor like those serve in the specialty restaurant. Additionally the portions was small and we see many passengers who had dined with us in the sit-down restuarants like the Venetian or Aqua heading immediately upstairs at the 12th Garden cafe for further fillup of their lunch or dinner. In almost all past cruise we do get occassional surprise excellent entree for the general restaurant menu (similar to those provided in the specialty restaurants here) but none was provided in this 11 days of cruise for the general restaurants like Venetian, Aqua or the buffet style Garden cafe. SHORE EXCURSION DAYS - DAY 3 to DAY 9 One of the best thing of this cruise is the port itineraries as this cruise include stops at Samana-Domician Republic (day 3), Tortola-British Virgin island (day 4), Phillipsburg-St MarteenSt Johns(day 5), St Johns-Antigua (day 6), Roseau-Dominica (Day 7), Bridgetown-Barbados (Day 8) and Basseterre-St-Kitts(Day 9). This islands visited only once each unlike some cruise which may visit certain caribbean stops 2-3 times, has unique characters, prosperity, settings and feel in each shore visit. We did not take advantage of any of the ship shore excursions as we are used to personal-tour like the one we did in Dominica and Barbados or pre-arrange local group tours of group not exceeding 10 in St Marten, Antigua and St Kitts or just an adhoc hop-on tours in Tortola and Barbados. Having gone on many cruises we like small group and privacy in our shore excursions even though those private tours may cost more than the ship shore excursions. So we cannot comment on the ship shore excursions. However one thing this cruise does put off many passengers on the first shore visit in Samana is that in the tender process, they give all their passengers with shore excursions to get on the tenders to start the journey first before allowing the other passengers with private agenda go last. The way they promote this was crafty in that they anounce that their tender will be first to the island of Cayo Levantado which is a free visit to all and then once that is done the tender to Samana will start giving the assumption that Samana tender will start 1 hour later. It also stipulate that all non-ship excursions passengers have to take a tender ticket starting at 8pm for the next day tender. Getting this tender ticket was a real wait taking almost 45 minutes as a long line prevail at 8pm and only one crew member was serving it at the initial 30 minutes. Then the next day we were informed that we have to wait for the signal to use the tender which for some did not come till 2 hours after tender process start and not knowing that the ship has squirrelled off all their ship-excursion passengers to both Samana and Cayo Levantado since the start of tender. This delay almost cost me the cost of my private tour which I arrived over 1 hour late. This was my first experience where the cruise ship differentiate ship-excursion and non ship excursion passengers and actively descriminate their paying passengers. Past cruise discourage passengers from going on non-ship shore excursions but never did discrimate passengers at time of tender or getting off the dock ship. Other than this incident, there was no descrimination on ports exit where the ship dock and all passengers were allowed to walk off the ship once docking is clear by local custom officials for disembarkment. For passengers on this cruise, one should make an effort to get off the ship and take advantage of seeing the local beauty and variety in the different stops. Each port has a unique characters and life-style ranging from abject poverty in Dominican Republic to more progressive islands like St Kitts, St Marteen and Antigua. SHOWTIME: This is a hit and miss also but overall the standard of show is average and comparable to other cruise lines. The first two days of show with the "Welcome Aboard" and "Band on the Run" was lively and interesting. Day 3 was Dave Heenan and trying to put up a 1hr comedian solo show is pretty difficult. Did not like a splashing of some crude inference in a part of his comedy. Day 4 was Siobhan Phillips night a solo singer cum comedian show - back by the Dawn band. Her rendition was pretty good and you can see in the audience who was excited and participate right through the show. Day 4 was a magician show with Greg Gleason which is an average show with some sparkle of disappearing act. Day 5 was by far the best show on the cruise with Ventriloquist Kenny Bird. The passengers participation part with hand motions and ventriloquist act by Kenny is so hilarous. The hynotist show by TerrenceB on Day 7 was difficult to watch in trying to engage the audience. Day 8th was a variety show which we did not attend. Day 9th again involve the grandfather of NCL comedian Dave and we did not stay thru the presentation once a crude refernce was used. Day 10th involve rock impressionist Greg London but the songs he sing does not sync up with the general audience who are mainly of my age or older (that is 50 and up). It was also an extremely loud session. Then on the last night there was the Bollywood show which also has acrobatics. This show is one of the above average presentation show. One of the problem of shows is that many of these shows which involved comedy or songs do not dwell more in the golden oldies and goodies as majority of the audience are older folks like us who love to be taken back to the time of their first love .... the late 60s, 70s and early 80s or some of songs in 2000s like those of Celine Dion which are modern repertoire of those days. DAY 12 and DISEMBARKMENT This was the day we were all packed up, settled our account the day before and all ready to hop off the ship. This ship offer early diembarkment at 8.15am for all that do not have any checkout luggage - that is they have all the luggages and can carry them by themselves off the ship. This is a great option for folks like us who want to hit the road or catch the early plane out and not be descriminated by stateroom type or lattitude level. As a result we never bother to get any color-timed luggage tags the day before from the Deck 7 service area and was all prepared to carry off our 1 large luggage and 2 small baggages in tow. The unfortunate thing is that at 8am a queue has formed on Deck 6 snaking its way on portside 1/2 way across the deck and up. I was about 50 odd passenger front the startline in the queue and it was a 35 minute wait and by 8.40 I were out the door. One pleasant surprise on the day of disembarkment is getting the last account statement at early morning (probably 2-4am) showing a reversal of onboard account credits and rejection of any credit that exceed all expense before service charges of $12/passenger per day. All previous account statement in the past 10 days on request would show the net balance include application of onboard credit to accumulating service charges. As a passenger who did not use ship shore excursions, and one who don't drink (hence no alcohol expense) and have over $350 on board credit to start with, this policy cause over $70 excess credit to be disallowed and the full service charge of $264 to be charge on my credit card. At 6am of disembarkment there was already a line when the account desk open with many passengers with similar complain. This policy was not shown in the website or any document we received from NCL and the account desk was hard pressed to provide written evidence of such policy. Base on principal, I have to request and deduct this $70 from the service charge which is a discretionary charge to ensure a proper accounting balance. This I fear as what exactly would be credited to the crews who really should earn the full amount of service charges and plus more that I would normally provide for passenger service rendered. SUMMARY This 30th wedding anniversary cruise would have been a memorable one especially the moment of bliss and enjoyment at the Le Bistro (excellent food and service). The general staff service and shows are average and the ship public facility is comparable to many other cruise ship. However the 3 unforgettable incidents of being a 2nd class passenger by being held back by more than 1hr in the tender process to Samana and almost missing my private tour, my wife getting the safety officer visit not once but twice due to trigger of the faulty cabin fire alarms while taking her shower and lastly the last minute accounting adjustment did make this trip a cruise a memorable one albeit the worst cruise we want to forget. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
Before reading this extensive review, I want to share with you a little about me so you can understand where this information is coming from. I had originally booked this cruise in May 2011 with my mom joining me. I am a 30 year old male ... Read More
Before reading this extensive review, I want to share with you a little about me so you can understand where this information is coming from. I had originally booked this cruise in May 2011 with my mom joining me. I am a 30 year old male who enjoys the late nights onboard. This was my 23rd cruise overall and my 13th with Norwegian Cruise Line and the 2nd cruise on the Norwegian Dawn. I have sailed on other cruise lines including Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and once (and ONLY once) on Carnival. With the new Latitudes Rewards program re-vamp I was a new Platinum member. Unfortunately events surfaced just weeks prior to sailing and mom was unable to sail and a friend stood in (who is writing a separate review under the user name philamike). Switching the reservation proved to be a little bit of a challenge as the finances were a bit mixed up but I was finally able to have Mike stand in for my mom. I was fortunate to have a friend stand in so quickly but this was a good hard lesson as to why you should always add the insurance to your cruise. You just never know when something will come up requiring a cancellation! PRE-CRUISE STAY: Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Airport & Cruiseport After flying into Fort Lauderdale airport, I was picked up by the complimentary shuttle at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Airport/Cruiseport. The shuttle arrived quickly and after picking up a few other people at another terminal, I was at the check in counter. The hotel's lobby is stunning and the front desk help were extremely friendly. After being checked in, I headed over to the elevators and discovered only one was working during my entire stay. The hotel room itself was well appointed with soft comfortable double beds. I asked and was given hypoallergenic bedding. The only drawback to the room was a slow drain in the bathtub which at times just seemed to stop draining completely. The front desk was notified at check out of the problem so hopefully they correct it. This hotel is right on top of the airport and the surrounding area doesn't have any malls or eateries so the hotel lobby restaurant is the only option. The food was good albeit a bit pricey. The service was great in the restaurant. The hotel also had a small gift shop with sundries and other items. FLL to MIAMI TRANSFER: SAS Transportation This company is truly a hidden gem. Since I started using them a few years ago, the company has grown and that's in large part to the positive reviews they get on Cruise Critic. They only do one way transfers from the FLL airport to Miami hotels and the cruise port for a very reasonable $15. The driver was right on time and very nice. He got us to the cruiseport safely and quickly. We arrived just before noon at the pier. DAY 1: EMBARKATION in MIAMI, FL When we arrived there was a small line outside which moved quickly and once inside, it moved so fast that before I knew it I was onboard the fabulous Norwegian Dawn! Nice work with the shore-side embarkation process NCL! After boarding the ship, my friend and I sat for a quick lunch while waiting on the rooms to become available. While dining I noticed a USCG person with a thermometer in a food tray at the hot section. After lunch I noticed another USCG person by the pool testing and quickly realized it was the ship's twice a year inspection for the CDC Vessel Sanitation program. Later in the cruise I learned from two different people that the ship either scored a 97 or 98 which is great given the age of the ship. Bravo staff and crew of the Dawn for such a high score! CABIN 10182 -- BALCONY (Starboard Side) All the cabins except Deck 9 were available before 2PM. Given the age of the ship, the cabin was in VERY good shape. The grout and tile in the bathroom were fresh and everything worked as it should. The balcony had one regular chair and one lounger and a small table. The room seemed cramped with a desk chair in the way so it was put on the balcony for the duration of the cruise and actually worked out great when we decided to host a party later on in the cruise. Otherwise, there was plenty of storage space for an 11 day cruise. I took over nearly the entire closet area and my friend used the storage space above the TV and the drawers. Putting the luggage under the bed gave the room a nice open feel. PUBLIC SPACES The Norwegian Dawn underwent extensive refurbishment in May 2011 and the ship looked splendid. The Venetian restaurant was our favorite main dining room and this is the only main dining room we dined in. Aqua, the other main dining room mid-ship, lacked the stunning décor and elegance of the Venetian. The Venetian does have a dress code with no shorts allowed but your pants can be anything you want them to be (jeans, khakis, dress pants). I was eager to see the new Spinnaker's Lounge where the gift shops used to be on Deck 7 aft. When first entering the room I realized the ceiling was low and when at the bar, the green exit sign was at my head level. I checked out the dance floor and discovered and incredible arrangement of intelligent lighting but some were very low. I'm tall at 6'4" and two of the lights were just inches above my head. I had to be careful putting my hands up during the voyage for fear of smashing one of them off the rigging or otherwise damaging them. The dance floor was small but for an 11 day cruise, it was hardly ever packed. There was plenty of seating in Spinnakers for evening game shows. The rest of the ship was very well kept. New carpeting was noticeable in several areas of the ship. The only part of the Norwegian Dawn to not get a significant upgrade during the dry dock was the Stardust Theatre stage. Everywhere else the ship was pristine and everything was functioning as it should have. FELLOW CRUISERS This was an 11 day voyage and most families with kids had returned back to school. As a result, the average age on our cruise was older. There was a group of 29 students from St. Angelo College in Western Texas onboard and if it wasn't for them and a handful of other couples, Spinnakers would have been largely dead most nights. HERE IS WHAT I DID DAY-TO-DAY ONBOARD: After checking out the ship and getting pictures of the public spaces, it was time for the lifeboat drill at 3:30PM. Our assembly station was the Venetian Restaurant. Upon entering the restaurant I was greeted by Stefani, the Dawn's Crew Trainer, who I had met just four months prior on the Norwegian Spirit. She was standing guard over the free internet room on the Spirit when the cruise was extended due to Tropical Storm Lee. It was funny to see her and she was the first familiar face of many I would recognize during the voyage. After muster drill was complete, we went back to the room to check to see if any luggage had arrived and some had. We decided to un-pack a little bit as the ship was not done provisioning and we were delayed leaving. For cast off we headed up to the pool deck where a party was well underway and then headed forward to watch the ship sail out of the channel and into some rainy weather. Tonight my friend and I dined in the Venetian Restaurant and had great service. After the dining room and a later eating time, we headed off to the Solo Traveler's Get Together at Gatsby's Bar (Deck 6 Mid). It was at this meeting where I met the second crew member I knew from the Norwegian Epic in 2010 named Patrick. He had come over to the Dawn and is now on their cruise staff. It was nice to see him as a familiar face that I would interact with during cruise staff events throughout the voyage. Just after this ended it was off to the GLBT Informal Gathering which was scheduled the same time as the "Welcome Aboard Show" which featured entertainment seen later on in the cruise. I went out to the disco later on in the evening where I was pleasantly surprised by the Photo Lab Manager Liga! I had cruised with her on the Norwegian Spirit just four months ago. She knew she'd find me in Spinnakers and that's where the surprise happened! She told me she saw me in the embarkation photos she was developing and thought she'd surprise me that night! What a fantastic and pleasant surprise!! I also met For the first night of the cruise, the disco was fairly dead and I turned in early as I was exhausted from the previous day's travels. DAY 2: SEA DAY After breakfast, it was off to the Star Bar for the Cruise Critic Meet & Greet. I arrived early for the 10:30AM gathering. Thanks to Katherine "Kat" Quiestas, the Group Service Coordinator for the Norwegian Dawn for getting us the space, the drinks and snacks and for having the senior offices including the Captain stop by! Other senior management in attendance included the head of every department onboard including Calvin Lodge, Hotel Director and Gerry, Executive Housekeeper. The Captain posed for a few pictures and gave a nice presentation to all present. It was a very nice gathering and I really thank the Norwegian Dawn's senior management for showing up. It was also during this meeting that I voiced my concern to the Cruise Director, Johnny Cash Sanchez, about the Celebrity DJ Semiautomatic for the first time. I told him I heard his style the first night and was not impressed. I asked him about the White Hot Party coming up later on in the cruise and just who would be spinning it. I had a discussion with him about the Celebrity DJ program and he was very well receptive to the feedback I was giving him. After a super quick lunch it was time to go to the Stardust Theater for what was the largest gathering I have seen of Latitudes members. There were over 1,000 Latitude members onboard from Bronze tier on up to Platinum which is why it was held in the Stardust. I came in and sat in the front and they showed a presentation on the accommodations of the Breakaway (which can be viewed on NCL's YouTube channel). The Captain stepped out to talk about the Norwegian Breakaway and to give the history of the company and he seemed genuinely excited about the future for the company as well. Next was a prize giveaway and the last thing I ever do is win something at these events, of course because I couldn't drink due to the medication I was taking, I won the bottle of champagne! LOL! Oh well... it was used for entertaining in our cabin later on in the cruise. Upon returning to the room after the Latitudes party, there was a gift basket with yet another bottle of bubbly and the chocolate covered strawberries which were part of the amenities of being a Platinum member. I enjoyed the fruit and strawberries and chilled the bubbly and it was time for a quick nap! After watching the sunset from the balcony it was off to dinner at Venetian restaurant. Service was good and it was off to the production show called BAND ON THE RUN. I have seen this show many times on the Norwegian Jewel. It's a good 70's flashback tribute and well worth seeing. Thereafter it was off to the Star Bar to meet up with some new friends before checking out NCL's new "Norwegians Night Out Party" which featured music from the 70s on up to today's hits in Spinnaker's Lounge. This new night featured the retro music until about 11:30PM when it switched over to the so-called Celebrity DJ Semiautomatic and for what seemed the endless playing of "Cupid Shuffle." The party after 11:30PM featured a drink special for ladies only with a free jello shot coming with every "Sex on the Beach" drink order.DAY 3: SAMANA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC Since our arrival was at 10AM there was plenty of time to watch the ship approach the anchorage from the starboard side balcony we had. NCL had arranged a free beach break for the Dawn passengers at Cayo Levantado and the tendering process started with them going there unless you were booked on a tour, which I was. NCL SHORE EXCURSION: Rustic Samana & Las Tarrenas From the ship we boarded an open air tender boat headed to Samana. The ship had anchored far from the Samana tender pier so the ride was long. The wind was kicking up the water and the waves were splashing into the tender boat soaking people, myself included. Upon arrival to the pier we were escorted into a tour bus and whisked off to two sites in Samana. The first was a very "rustic" church. The second stop was at a very small whale museum which featured a replica of a humpback whale's skeleton mouth. After this it was off to a small stop at a flea market where cigars and Mahogany wood carvings were sold. This was on a bumpy road but the bumpiness was a very short distance, probably less than 1 mile. The rest of the ride was very smooth to Las Terrenas. Upon arrival at Las Terrenas we were spun off on our own and given a rendezvous time. The guide brought us to a restaurant which was suggested by the tour operator or we could venture off on our own. I had forgotten my sunglasses at home so I used this opportunity to shop for some cheap ones. That mission was accomplished at then we went to one of the beach side bars named Paco Cabana. It was beach-side and it was very homely with wicker furniture and comfy sofa pads and excellent views. The drink prices were very reasonable but the change was given in pesos. After the re-boarding the bus it was back off to Samana and the tender ride back to the ship. Overall it was a great tour. Las Tarrenas is a great place to go as there are many shops, local eateries and artists around. Back onboard the ship we were getting read for the specialty restaurant reservation and decided to be out on the balcony to watch the ship get under way and catch the sunset again. This proved to be more interesting than one would think as the tender platform that was brought from shore-side was left loose after there was some sort of misunderstanding between the locals and staff on the ship. The barge drifted slowly towards the ship before the small speed boat towing it became aware it was going to collide with the ship. The barge did collide with the ship but didn't seemingly cause any damage before the tow was regained and it was pulled away. We got underway and it was time for our dinner reservation at... SPECIALTY RESTAURANT: Moderno Churriscaria For $20 per person this is the all you can eat meat restaurant onboard. I've been on the Norwegian Epic and the salad bar was smaller on the Dawn but still offered a pretty good selection. After a small salad it was time to start the parade of meats which included Spanish Sausage, Linguica, Filet Mignon, Garlic Steak, Chicken, Ribs and a few other meat items. You are issued a card with a green and red side and you keep it on green to keep having the servers come with the meats. When you go through the entire round of all meats being presented on skewers then they ask what you would like more of. At this time my friend switched his card to red and I was still on green. I must have eaten a whole cow by the time I was done but the servers kept on going to the kitchen and coming back with whatever I requested. For dessert my friend and I shared all three desserts from the menu. The rice pudding was the only thing that neither of us cared for. The rest were great! This restaurant is a great value for the money and if you are a carnivore like I am then you'll REALLY love it! After a quick stop up at the Star Bar and my friend deciding to stay up there, I headed off to the night's show alone... SPOTLIGHT COMEDY SHOWTIME: Dave Heenan I caught the second show at 9PM and Dave said in his opening number that he was on the ship to reinvigorate his career. Ten minutes into the comedy routine I wanted to leave. Dave was not funny. I should say I do have a high threshold for comedy but this guy was so bad even the Captain of the Norwegian Dawn who was sitting to my immediate left got up and left. After the Captain left, I left as well. I went back to the Star Bar to meet up with some new friends and enjoy the piano player there. Since it was an early day the next day I didn't go to Spinnakers that night. DAY 4: TORTOLA, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS The ship pulled into port just before 9AM. We had to hurry upstairs to get something to eat and then came back down to get our stuff for the shore excursion. NCL SHORE EXCURSION: Virgin Gorda Highlights After a fast ferry transfer from the cruise pier over to Virgin Gorda we had about a 20 minute narrative tour of Spanish Town, the island's main town, before heading to the Baths. This tour is not for those who are not stable on their feet as the way to the first beach is not supported with hand railings and contains many uneven surfaces. Older people in our tour group were having issues with stability on the surfaces. When we arrived at the first beach, the tour guide gave us about 45 minutes to enjoy the beach before we headed through the rock formations to the other beach. The narrow passages and climbing over the rocks was incredibly fun. There are parts where the rocks open up and you can spread out and take a quick dip. If you're tall like me there are some spaces where you have to actually crawl on all fours to get through them. What waited on the other side at Devil's Bay beach were very pristine light blue water and a relaxing beach. We spent quite a while there and took a dip in the water before heading back to the tour bus. Be sure to allow at least 15 minutes for the journey back up to the bus parking area. After returning to the ship and taking endless pictures of the ships exterior, it was time for a quick nap before heading off to an early dinner in the Venetian dining room. Tonight we managed to snag an aft window view and watched as the P&O Ventura left port backwards. We did the same thing shortly thereafter. It was then off to a fabulous show... SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: Siobhan Phillips Siobhan was a true highlight of this voyage. Her voice was something you'd not expect at all. Her voice could be compared to the likes of Cher as she performed Cher's "Believe" song. Her entire performance and in between comedy was great! She ended her amazing night with an opera atria and it was stunning! She was so good that I went back for the second half of her second show and grabbed a picture with her as she was signing off the next day. Siobhan is a very talented young woman was the highlight of the guest entertainers during the 11 day cruise. After the picture it was off to the Caribbean Deck Party poolside featuring live music from the Caribbean band New Season. The party featured your typical conga line song and other Caribbean favorites. People seemed to be having lots of fun as I hung back by the bar with some friends waiting until the alternate party started in Spinnakers at 11:30PM with the in-house resident DJ Keith. The Celebrity DJ was spinning poolside that night. ADULT PARTY ZONE: It was finally nice to meet the in-house resident DJ Keith. When we boarded in Miami I heard his music style playing in the Dawn's atrium and I had spotted his laptop which sported a "Ministry of Sound" logo on the back of it. For those who are not club music aficionados, Ministry of Sound is a high quality house music club located in Ibiza. I was so excited to meet him and give him some updated house music to play later on in the cruise at the White Hot Party. He was glad to receive the updated music and he played awesome sets that night keeping me up much later than I had planned on. A good DJ always gets me to stay later! DAY 5: ST. MAARTEN I got up and caught the tail end of breakfast before heading for the one and only work out of the cruise. I found the Dawn's gym to have very antiquated weight resistance equipment. In the drydock the cardio equipment appeared to be the only thing updated. The large studio was empty so I did a lot of stretches and abdominal work outs in there. In the afternoon I ventured ashore and shared a taxi with folks heading to Maho Beach, commonly referred to as "Airport Beach." The beach is at one end of the runway and when planes land, they do so right over head and when they take off they blast you into the water. This was my second time to the beach and it was crowded with tourists both from the ships and people staying in nearby hotels. We spent the afternoon watching the planes come and go and then headed back to the ship. Tonight after dinner in Venetian it was off to the Stardust Theater for... SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: Magician Greg Gleason. His magic tricks and illusions were what you would have seen at a standard magic/illusion show. His stand out performance was making a helicopter appear on stage. The funny part of it was the girl who was in the helicopter failed to get the back part of the helicopter put together fully before the curtain was dropped. The illusion started with him sliding the box containing the copter out to one side and then sliding it back to show there was nothing behind it. Even funnier was later on in the cruise I snapped a picture of the dismantled helicopter in the box to be shipped out as it was sitting by one of the I-95 exits. SPOTLIGHT GAME SHOW: Dancing with the Dawn Stars I've seen this on several NCL ships and the pairings are usually quite hilarious with crew members getting paired up with guests to perform different numbers. This game show definitely didn't disappoint and included one guest being dropped by her crew dance partner. Funky moves seemed to get the best nods from the judges who included the Hotel Director Calvin, a female from the Second City cast and the port and shopping consultant named Tamara. The loser's lounge was quite funny. I definitely recommend you check this out and don't be afraid to participate either! There were hardly any volunteers to do it in a room full of people! After the Dancing with the Dawn Stars the DJ Semiautomatic took over and we stayed for a few songs until the dreaded "Cupid Shuffle" song came on and then we realized he finally switched the order of the first five songs but was still playing the same stuff. It was time to call it a night.DAY 6: ST. JOHNS, ANTIGUA The ship arrived on-time and the Captain announced our arrival which served as our wake up call. After breakfast, my friend and I met up with some other people we met onboard to share a taxi ride / tour over to Nelson's Dockyard which is the island's main attraction. Outside of the port entrance the taxi vendors await and are cut throat to each other. We settled on a young guy who offered us a tour for $25 per person and could speak understandable English. The tour included a drive through the island's rainforest and other historical highlights over in that area before spending an hour at the Dockyard. I had been to the dockyard before so I acted as tour guide for the other guys in the group. It worked out quite nicely. Upon return to the ship and a quick lunch at the buffet, it was back off the ship to go souvenir shopping and to see some of the local attractions. A church in the area, quite visible from the ship, was under construction but still provided great photo opportunities. After walking around and getting some free wi-fi from the shops in the port area and yet more pictures of the ship, it was time to go back for the Latitudes Silver-Platinum party and dinner. SPECIALTY RESTAURANT: Le Bistro We were sat at a row of two seaters promptly upon arrival. Behind me was a lovely Monet painting and I looked down to discover the Versace plates were all gone. I inquired to the Maitre' D if they had any more and she said they were removed completely from the ships. I miss those plates! Dinner for me consisted of a mushroom soup, escargot and the duck confit. All of the menu items I sampled were incredible. My favorite part of dining at Le Bistro is the Crème Brule dessert! My friend and I split the puff pastry dessert and it was also quite tasty. For a cover charge of $20, the food was well worth the price. Le Bistro is NCL's signature restaurant and you definitely have to give it a try for a special occasion or for just any reason! SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: Ventriloquist -- Kenny Byrd I have never seen a ventriloquist at sea before so this was a first for me. I have to say that while Kenny's performance started off a little slow, by the end I was laughing and enjoyed it. The performance starts off with a dummy and more of his "friends" show up in the form of animals. It was an entertaining evening overall in the Stardust. You should definitely check out his show as he's actually quite good at what he does. DECK PARTY: Rock Night with JUMP I'm not a fan of rock music so I did attend this for a short while. People seemed to be enjoying the tunes. Since later on in the evening the "celebrity DJ" was spinning up here I decided to head to Spinnakers and wait it out while enjoying the tunes of New Seasons. DJ Keith took over at 11PM in the Spinnakers for the Adults Zone and he was phenomenal. He played the most incredible sets of music and I stayed out very late in the Spinnakers. The party poolside didn't last that long after the celebrity DJ started so everyone was sent down to the Spinnakers and it was a great night. Good work DJ Keith! DAY 7: ROSEAU, DOMINICA After a late night and a very late breakfast it was time to get off the ship for the next adventure. NCL SHORE EXCURSION: River Tubing Adventure Our tour started out with boarding a bus and heading into the jungle areas of Dominica to the starting point of our tubing adventure. The whole river tubing experience was awesome! The guides make you wear a lifejacket and a helmet and there's good reason. The current moves swiftly and there are rocks underwater and above and the current can make you spin in the tubes so you don't see what is coming. It's definitely a thrilling adventure tour and I loved it until when we got out of the river. Upon exiting the river and returning to our tour bus, a lady who didn't do the tour informed us that the bus's transmission had blown just after we had taken off down the river. While they had limped to our meeting point further down the river, another bus had been called for us. After a period of about 25 minutes hanging out by the river and a local supplying some sugar cane samples, the second bus arrived. We boarded that bus and proceeded to take off up back into the mountains that we had just come from. Shortly into the second bus ride as we were climbing up a steep hill, the water line let go and the engine overheated. We were stuck in the road deeper into the Dominican jungle. Some of the guests evacuated the bus immediately and sought the shelter of a nearby home which had a porch. The bus driver summonsed a third bus and told us it was coming from Roseau and would take 25 minutes to get there. He lied and it took about 1 hour for it to show up. During this time fellow cruisers who remained on the bus were voicing serious displeasure with the excursion and it just made the whole experience negative for all involved. The bus driver did his best by carving sugar cane, papaya and coconut from fauna in the nearby area. At least he was trying to keep the people occupied. When the third bus arrived we boarded it and took off up the hill again and this time made it the rest of the way. A unanimous decision was made by the people onboard to not stop for the complimentary drink which was included in the tour but rather just head back to the ship as it was very late. We arrived back at the ship just before the all aboard time. Some of the guests on this tour made a beeline for the Shore Excursion representative on the pier to voice their displeasure while others went later to the Shore Excursion desk to do that. My friend and I were pleased with the river portion of the excursion and felt we got largely what we had paid for but agreed the Shore Excursion desk should be made aware that the bus situation on the way back was a bit much. We didn't seek any compensation nor was any offered by the Shore Excursion desk. I also voiced my concerns about the perceived lack of safety to the Hotel Director later in the cruise. I hope NCL finds better busses to run this excursion for future cruisers. It's a great shore excursion but the transportation issues raised concerns about passenger safety and raised some passenger's anxiety levels unnecessarily. Back onboard it was time for... SPECIALTY RESTAURANT: Teppanyaki This restaurant's cover charge is $25 per person. The waitress takes your main meal order and the chefs out back prepare what is needed. While a seaweed salad and soup is served, the chefs put on a show cooking your main course. It was sold out every single night and we snagged two seats for the coveted 7:15PM seating! The chef we had was exceptionally funny and at one point said something which made me nearly fall off my chair in laughter. You really have to try this restaurant and be sure to try the Green Tea Cake dessert! Yummy!!! SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: TerranceB -- Celebrity Hypnotist I was already skeptical when the performance started with a video showcasing this guy's talents. When he finally took the stage, he tried to hypnotize the entire audience so he could get his candidates up on stage from that hypnotism. The whole setup of this took far too much time. Usually a hypnotist will ask for volunteers and then try and hypnotize them and slowly weed out the people who are not hypnotized. It's much less setup time. A half hour into the routine and nothing fun or exciting happened so I left. DECK PARTY: FABBA: 70's Retro Deck Party The incredible night under the stars featured the Cruise Staff donning new 70's era disco attire. After snapping a few pictures with them the music started and the Dawn Production Cast took center stage for a few classic ABBA numbers including Dancing Queen and Mamma Mia. What I found comical was one of the female vocalists didn't know the lyrics to Waterloo except the chorus and she fumbled through it. For as little as the cast performs during an 11 day voyage that shouldn't have happened. When the dance numbers were complete the Cruise Staff took to the dance floor to the music of JUMP who was dressed up in 70's attire. It was a great party overall and you should definitely check it out if you are a fan of disco music. I was tired after this party and went to bed. DJ Keith had Spinnakers but I just didn't have the energy to go. DAY 8: BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS We docked a good distance from the main area of the port so shuttles were used to ferry passengers back and forth to the terminal. Inside the terminal there are jewelry, craft, duty-free liquor and your general souvenir shops. I did some brief shopping before heading back to the ship for a quick lunch. NCL SHORE EXCURSION: Barbados Beach Break This tour which lasts about 3.5 hours takes you to a beach not far from the terminal after a brief tour of downtown Bridgetown landmarks. The bus drops you at Harbour Lights Nightclub which doubles as a daytime beach resort equipped with showers, a full service bar and changing rooms. There are umbrellas and deck chairs provided as part of the tour price. The beach was pristine and our section of the beach was very quiet. It was a very nice relaxing way to spend the afternoon. Back onboard it was time to get ready for dinner in Venetian after seeing the ship cast off for our final port of call (wow that went fast). SPECIALTY DINING: Chocoholic Buffet I remember the day when this used to be a midnight buffet and then it was moved to 10:30PM but on this sailing it was even earlier at 7:30PM. You have to get there early to get the best selection of chocolates. The Garden Buffet port-side was the location of the event and consisted of three sections. Each section featured one unique thing with the first having the chocolate fondue fountain to dip fruits in, the second having an ice cream station and the third one I forget. After loading up a small plate with a slice of Black Forest cake, one slice of Flourless Cake and scoop of ice cream it was time to sit and enjoy all the calories! You have to experience this event as there are ice sculptures and chocolate decorations worthy of photos - even if you're not a fan of chocolate. SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: The V(ariety) Showtime The night's entertainment started off with a production number from the cast followed by the ventriloquist who brought back the "byrd" which was hilarious from the previous night. Lastly was a performance by the entertainer who just signed on named Greg London who hailed from Las Vegas and he was a pleasant surprise. London's ability to sing just about any artist's music while donning attire, be it a wig or sunglasses or wardrobe, was incredible to experience. This was just a sample of what was to come in a show he had later on in the cruise. SPOTLIGHT GAME SHOW: Wild Comedy Game Show Night featuring "QUEST" I was surprised to see the QUEST game show so early in the cruise as there are always lasting memories from it. This QUEST game show was a little more subdued. The Assistant Cruise Director Mike didn't seem to want to push the envelope too far and even went so far as to offend the group of guys I was sitting with. I guess it's ok to have two women kiss in front of him yet he would find it "disgusting" if two guys were asked to do the same. I've been on other ships and know it can be done and without anyone raising such comments. I was not offended by his comment but a lot of people I was sitting with were. This was brought to the attention of the Hotel Director later on in the voyage and I'm not sure what, if anything came of it. The QUEST overall is a great game show and I recommend anyone 18+ to attend it. After the game show was completed, the Celebrity DJ Semiautomatic took to the Spinnakers Lounge to play his nightly round of the "Cupid Shuffle" and his other hip-hop favorites that I had heard every other night he spun so far this cruise. I left and went to bed as 1AM for DJ Keith's late night zone was just too late for me that night. DAY 9: BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS Our slated arrival time was 12 Noon but we arrived shortly after 11AM. I sat on the balcony and watched as we sailed past Nevis and as we swung around and backed into the dock. As a first timer to this island I was itching to get off the boat to explore the place. After lunch to let the throngs of people off, I got off too. Right in the port area are many shops and eateries serving just about any type of food you could imagine wanting. If you go further out into the shopping area you can find little vendors who are selling local craft goods. It was here that I found some great souvenirs and gifts for my relatives. Before I knew it was time to meet up for the tour of the day... NCL SHORE EXCURSION: St. Kitts Scenic Rail Upon recommendations from people who visited the island before on Cruise Critic and from others, I decided to switch my tour to this one. Upon checking in for the tour, it was learned that the train had a mechanical issue on the first tour and was running late. People were given the option to cancel, return after a quick brew at the bar or just board the busses and wait. The wait was 30 minutes. A group of 17 of us had come together and we opted to go to the bar and return. The tour operator was filling time and brought us to see a part of the island which was not usually covered in the tour, however, it was to get us underway. The bus driver narrated the extended and regular part of the overland driving tour. We met up at the train turn around before the train arrived. The passengers on the train got off and boarded our busses for the return trip and we boarded the train. The scenic views from both sides of the train car are spectacular. St. Kitts is really a beautiful island and this train takes you through so many different towns and views of different sugar cane plantations. This narrow gauge railway used to serve as the sugar cane delivery to the port. There is narrative and singing of island songs throughout the entire journey. There's also unlimited drink options ranging from non-alcoholic sodas and water to pina colada and rum punch. This tour was astounding and I highly recommend it for a person who has never been to St Kitts before. It was well worth the money. Since the tour started later, we were one of the last ones again to re-board the Norwegian Dawn. It was so late that the main dining room was pretty full. We were able to get in and have a later dinner. I wasn't concerned about missing tonight's featured entertainment which was the Second City comedy troupe. I have yet to be impressed by any of their performances on other Norwegian ships so I skipped it and instead went to... SPOTLIGHT GAME SHOW: 55 to Stay Alive There were several challenges for contestants to perform in 55 minutes or less. The best challenge was a female contestant having to dip her head in a clear container to bob for five shrimp. She couldn't see with the goggles on or off so it was quite comical to watch as she spilled water nearly everywhere. This game show provided the evening's entertainment. I fell asleep on the balcony waiting for the disco to start and tonight DJ Keith was spinning. DAY 10: SEA DAY This morning consisted of a leisurely breakfast and waiting for the Behind-the-Scenes tour which I received because I was a newly Platinum Latitudes member. The tour commenced on-time and was led by Valeria who was a member of the cruise staff. We started our tour with a look in the galley for the Venetian and Aqua dining rooms. The galley runs between the two main dining rooms and showcases the final preparation of the foods served there. From there the tour takes you down to the waste disposal facilities where we were met up by the Environmental Officer onboard. From there it was off to the food stores and food prep areas below decks. After this we headed forward to the laundry area where we were given a tour of the area. During our trip forward on the I-95 this is where we discovered the broken down crated up helicopter from the magician's show earlier in the week. Our next heading brought us to the back stage of the Stardust Theater. Here we were greeted by the Production Manager who showed us the back stage area and the doors to the dressing rooms. The last stop on the tour was the bridge where the First Officer greeted us and split the group in two over the two bridge wings to answer questions. I asked a lot of technical questions which surprised him but he did his best to answer. This tour retails for non-Platinum guests for $55. It is well worth the price if you are not Platinum to at least see the workings of a cruise ship. That afternoon it was time for a nap to get ready for the incredible night which lay ahead. SPECIALTY RESTAURANT: Cagney's Steakhouse This lovely restaurant is one of my favorite's on the ship for its Western themed décor and old newspaper front pages adorning the wall. For dinner tonight I indulged in the Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, New England clam chowder and had the Rib Eye steak. The steak was cooked perfectly to order and served by a wonderful team of waiters and waitresses who were exceedingly friendly. For dessert I got the sampler and the strawberry Crème Brule and both gave me the sweet tooth fix I needed for later on in the night. The cover charge for this restaurant is $25 per person. SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: Greg London Greg did celebrity impressions and sang songs from Neil Diamond to Rod Stewart and Ozzy Osbourne. He was hilarious with his impressions and it was a great show. I had the opportunity to talk with him in the Spinnakers and get a photo. This guy is an all around great performer on-stage and off. You definitely want to check out his show. >>NCL's WHITE HOT PARTY Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
I took my first cruise almost five years ago, and instantly fell in love with the experience. I'm 36, single, gay, and have been on Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Celebrity and Carnival (just once). I met CruisinMaterial -- a fellow ... Read More
I took my first cruise almost five years ago, and instantly fell in love with the experience. I'm 36, single, gay, and have been on Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Celebrity and Carnival (just once). I met CruisinMaterial -- a fellow cruise enthusiast -- on a cruise about three years ago, and we've remained friends. CruisinMaterial had planned this 11-night voyage on the Norwegian Dawn with his mom; but when she had to cancel only a few weeks before the trip, he asked me if I could take her spot. I reluctantly said yes. (Just kidding! I jumped at the chance!) This would be my fifth cruise on Norwegian (and 17th overall); previously I've sailed the Pearl twice, the Spirit and most recently the Epic in the Mediterranean. I've always thought that Norwegian has the friendliest staff and crew in the industry, and I was confident that an 11-night cruise on a mid-sized ship would offer a lot of interaction with them. Day 1 -- Embarkation CruisinMaterial and I used SAS Transportation to pick us up from our airport hotel in Fort Lauderdale at 11 a.m. After a couple stops to pick up other passengers, we arrived at the Port of Miami. Besides the Dawn, only one other ship was turning around this day -- a Crystal Cruises ship -- so the port seemed unusually quiet. We handed over our luggage to a porter, then stood in a line for about 15 minutes until we made it through the terminal's security (metal detector and x-ray machine). Once through, the embarkation staff swiftly moved us through the check-in process. Before we knew it, we were across the gangway and onto the ship! We arrived before the cabins were open to the passengers, so we grabbed a quick lunch. Around 1:45, an announcement was made that the cabins were ready (15 minutes before the advertised 2:00 time). We went to our balcony cabin on Deck 10 starboard -- having sailed on the Pearl and Spirit, I found the cabin to be similar in size and appointment, with some newer items installed during Dawn's recent rehab which added several dozen suites and two large villas into the former Spinnaker Lounge space on Deck 11. The Spinnaker was moved to the aft section of Deck 7, which forced the relocation of some shops. The new Spinnaker is a somewhat cramped space when busy, with a rather small dance floor. Yet hi-tech lights hang over the dance floor, mere inches above the dancers' heads. In fact, CruisinMaterial at 6'4" needed to keep an eye on some of the larger lights in fear of hitting them. The rehab did not seem to add any additional cabin storage space which seemed a bit limited for the amount of clothes we needed to bring for an 11-night cruise, but we did manage to make it work. In addition to the sofa in the cabin (which could fold out to accommodate a third passenger) and a small coffee table, there was a square table and a chair. The chair did not fit very flush under the table, so it remained out on the balcony for the duration of the cruise. The balcony contained one patio chair and one reclining-type chair with an adjustable back, as well as a small patio table. A couple more notes about the cabin -- the bathroom was similar to the Pearl's with the sink in the middle and separate, enclosed sections for the toilet and the shower on either side. Storage space was rather limited in the bathroom, and the shower contained only one small wire shelf for toiletries. (Shampoo and body wash are provided in dispensers, but many people -- myself included -- prefer to bring their own favorite brands.) PET PEEVE #1: There is a plentiful supply of hangers, yet they are the "do not steal" type where you have to thread the post of the hanger into the ring that is permanently installed on the rack. I hate these. (NCL, I have no intention of stealing your hangers -- these are not necessary!) My bed was comfortable, yet I found the pillow to be rather firm and flat for my taste. We met Paul, our stateroom attendant, who seemed a bit paranoid during the entire cruise that he wasn't working to our satisfaction, despite our assurances that he was doing a great job. About halfway during the cruise, I somehow forgot his name and thought it was Peter, which I called him a couple times. He didn't correct me. (CruisinMaterial made me realize my mistake and I immediately apologized to Paul...) We noticed the CDC was on board doing an unannounced inspection, which we learned takes place about twice a year on every cruise ship. The Dawn passed with a score of 97, which is excellent. (85 and above is satisfactory.) The muster drill was the typical necessary chore but it didn't last long. We departed about a half-hour late (likely due to the inspection) and began our cruise! The Dawn has two main dining rooms, Aqua and Venetian. Although both have the same daily menu, the Venetian is more traditional and elegant in its design -- accordingly, passengers are asked not to wear shorts here. CruisinMaterial and I agreed that we would dine in the Venetian any night where we chose to dine in a main dining room. Across my NCL cruises, I've found their menu selection to be ample in the main dining rooms, and it seemed that there were even more choices than before -- in addition to the daily menus, NCL retains a static menu of customer favorites available for every dinner, such as NY strip steak, pasta with various sauces, salmon, chicken, etc. And every night offers a "Chef's Regional Specialty," tailored around the itinerary of the cruise -- for ours, the offering was often seafood. (Although one night it was "Mexican meatballs" -- I didn't understand this, nor did I think they were anything special when I tasted them...) After dinner, we went up to the Star Bar for the nightly GLBT Informal Gathering, a regular and very much-appreciated offering that NCL does on all their ships. We met several other gay and lesbian passengers and became quick friends. We opted to stay longer in the Star Bar and chat rather than attend that evening's main entertainment, the Welcome Aboard variety show which introduces the key staff and offers an overview of the trip's entertainment. (We already knew we'd be taking advantage of much of the nightly entertainment during the trip.) A benefit of traveling with a frequent NCL cruiser (this is CruisinMaterial's 15th NCL cruise) is that he knows so many staff and crew from his other trips. Throughout the day, we kept running into people he knew from previous cruises across the fleet, especially from the Jewel, Epic, and most recently, Spirit. In fact, the photo manager (Liga) whom CruisinMaterial met on the Spirit recognized him while printing our embarkation photo, and made sure to find us that night to surprise CruisinMaterial! Another friendly face for CruisinMaterial was Patrick on the cruise entertainment staff, who was among many Dawn staff and crew who greeted us by name throughout the cruise, always striking up friendly conversations with us. I've always known that NCL has the friendliest staff and crew in the industry, but this cruise has far exceeded my expectations! And the benefit of an 11-night cruise is that you have more time to meet and chat with officers and staff, and really get to know them and their history with NCL. Later in the evening, we made our way to the Spinnaker for some music and nightlife. The Dawn offered two DJ's for this cruise -- DJ Keith is the in-house DJ, and a "Celebrity DJ" named Sami Automatic (heh...get it?) from Raleigh, North Carolina. Earlier in the day we spotted DJ Keith setting up for another event, and noticed the Ministry of Sound logo sticker on his laptop -- a well-known label for the house music genre, which CruisinMaterial and I both enjoy. So we had high hopes that we would be in for some fun nightlife. But on this first night in the Spinnaker, the "celebrity" DJ was spinning, and his music seemed to alternate between hip-hop and line dances. Sami Automatic turned out to be a major disappointment for us. I also question how NCL defines "celebrity" -- I doubt any of the over 2,000 passengers saw his name in the Freestyle Daily and recognized it... Day 2 -- At Sea Our first day at sea was full of activity! After a delicious breakfast, we headed up to the Star Bar for the Cruise Critic Meet & Greet (CruisinMaterial was the organizer) and we met Kat Quiestas, Dawn's group event coordinator. She and her staff had already set up refreshments for us. Passengers filed in, and it was great to finally meet some folks with whom we've been chatting online for months. (Well, just a few weeks for me, as I signed on to this trip only three weeks prior!) Captain Staffan and many of the ship's officers were on hand to introduce themselves and answer questions. After lunch it was time for the Latitudes "Welcome Back" reception. With about 1,000 Latitudes members on this sailing, the event was held in the Stardust Theater. Waiters circulated with complimentary drinks and the entire staff of senior officers was introduced. The Captain spent several minutes talking about sailing the waters of our cruise, including a description of the Sargasso Sea (the only sea in the world that has no coast; rather, it is defined by the ocean currents which surround it). We relaxed the remainder of the afternoon, then returned to the Venetian for dinner. Tonight's entertainment was Band on the Run, one of the two full-scale production shows for this cruise. (CruisinMaterial tells me that there used to be three production shows, but one was cut. The remaining one would be Bollywood on the last night.) Band on the Run was a very high-energy 1970s-themed show with what seems to be the typical makeup of a cruise production cast: two male singers, two female singers, a bunch of dancers who never talk, and two acrobatic performers. The show was a fun performance that was further enhanced by the excellent house orchestra! We ended the night in the Spinnaker, where the "celebrity" DJ was playing the exact same poorly-mixed songs we heard the night before... Day 3 -- Samana, Dominican Republic We pulled up to Samana, Dominican Republic, this morning. Samana is an interesting port for cruises, and I've been here twice before. This area of the DR is still relatively undeveloped, and you won't find Diamonds International or Carlos'n Charlies here. What you will find is some authentic culture and genuine eco-tourism. While many cruisers may find a place like Samana disappointing, I appreciate the opportunity to experience the way of life of others on my planet, even if the amount of poverty may be upsetting to witness. But for me, traveling is more than just relaxing while surrounded by beautiful scenery in warm temperatures -- it's also a chance to educate myself more about the world I live in. Just offshore from Samana is a private island of Cayo Levantado, half of which consists of a large beach with a plentiful number of loungers, watersports options, a few shops selling local crafts and a beach bar/restaurant. NCL used to sell excursions for $49 to spend the day at the island, but as of a month ago, NCL was offering tenders to Cayo Levantado for free. (If you happened to book an excursion here online prior to your trip, the value of the Cayo Levantado portion was refunded as an on board credit.) I've done Cayo Levantado on a previous visit, so instead we booked Rustic Samana and Las Terrenas (a town on the north side of the peninsula across from Samana). We boarded a very nice motor coach bus (reclining seats, restroom) and set out for the tour. Our first stop was an old church in downtown Samana, followed by a brief visit to a small whale museum. (Many whales spend their winter in the bay near Samana -- whale-watching is a popular excursion in the winter months, but not for those who get sea-sick! I found that out the hard way on my second visit to Samana...) The tour continued to an open-air market along a dirt road. (The tour description warns of a bumpy off-road portion, but it's very short and not bumpy at all -- don't be concerned about this.) Finally, the tour brings you to the seaside town of Las Terrenas and drops you off for about 90 minutes -- enough time to get lunch or drinks in one of several beachside restaurants, and do some shopping in quaint stores. Tonight was our first specialty restaurant experience for the cruise, Moderno Churrascaria. This is a Brazilian-style steakhouse first introduced on the Epic, then rolled out to other ships in the fleet. After enjoying an impressive salad bar, servers began to come to our table with selections of skewered meats: sausages, chicken, lamb, garlic beef, filet, ribs. We each had a card that was red on one side, and green on the other: green means "Please continue serving" while red means "OMG I can't eat another bite!" The food was as delicious as I remember from the Epic, and it was a fantastic meal -- especially for CruisinMaterial who could probably eat an entire cow in one sitting. My card was turned red long before CruisinMaterial's was. After dinner, I opted to stay in the Star Bar with my fellow GLBT passengers rather than attend tonight's show -- the comedy of Dave Heenan. I've given up on cruise ship stand-up comedians a long time ago... I have high standards when it comes to comedy, I suppose. Day 4 -- Tortola, British Virgin Islands We awoke in Tortola, British Virgin Islands. Our excursion today was to Virgin Gorda and the Baths Park. We boarded a large and fast ferry boat to take us across the channel to Virgin Gorda (about a 25 minute ride). Once there, we boarded one of several open-air buses for the 15-minute ride to the park. The Baths contains two beaches, with scenic trails leading to each one. The guides invited us to visit the main beach first -- after 30 minutes, they would lead those who wanted to traverse through the narrow passages of boulders and caves to the second beach. The main beach had a bar and restroom facilities. We then set out for the adventurous trek through the boulders -- some portions required squatting/crawling through narrow passages, and steep but short climbs. But the effort was well worth it -- we found ourselves on an absolutely gorgeous and pristine Caribbean beach, and spent about an hour there before beginning the return trip. Also on this excursion was a group of 29 college students from central Texas, participating in a course on tourism management, under the leadership of their professor. The group became a recognizable sight during the cruise, as few other passengers were within the same age group. They had some classroom sessions during the trip as well as group outings and meals, but otherwise got to enjoy the entertainment and nightlife offered on board. Back on board, we returned to the Venetian for dinner. Following, we enjoyed what may have been the best guest entertainer I've ever seen on a non-chartered cruise: Siobhan Phillips, a UK-based singer. She has a larger-than-life personality and alternated her songs with some sharp-witted comedy. And her voice was flawlessly smooth and rich, best compared to Cher (as she did sing Cher's "Believe"). Siobhan sang a range of styles, ending her show with an amazing operatic aria. The audience jumped to their feet for an ovation. Tonight was a Caribbean dance party on the pool deck, with music provided by one of the two show bands, New Season, whose style focused on Caribbean and soul. The other show band is called JUMP, which seemed to do almost every other genre, sometimes with mixed results. (But while JUMP's vocals might be shaky at times, the musicians were great!) And since the "celebrity" DJ was going to spin on deck after the Caribbean party, we went to the Spinnaker to finally enjoy DJ Keith spinning a night party. He had a great selection of music with a lot of fun mash-ups, and was very friendly and receptive to our requests. I don't understand why NCL would stifle the talent of DJ Keith by bringing in the untalented "celebrity" DJ Sami Automatic and assigning him the better events. (On the cruise, I described him as a bad wedding DJ. At home afterwards, I Googled him -- he's actually available for hire for Raleigh-area weddings...) Day 5 -- St. Maarten Today we visited St. Maarten, a very common port of call for Eastern Caribbean itineraries. As such, I've been here several times. But as an air travel enthusiast (in addition to my cruise enthusiasm), there was no question about what I would be doing today: spending the afternoon at Maho Beach, just behind the start of the runway for Princess Juliana International Airport. This is one of the best planespotting locations in the world. And the secret is out, as I had never seen the beach so crowded! But everyone was there for the same reason. We were fortunate that it was a Sunday, when air travel is increased to/from the island -- we got to see two Boeing 747s, one Airbus A340 and several A330s, in addition to a bunch of narrow-body jets and prop planes. As Maho Beach is a popular destination, taxis are always on hand ready to bring people back to the ships. We returned, got cleaned up and then enjoyed dinner at the Venetian. Tonight's entertainment was a magician named Greg Gleason. It was a typical Vegas-style magic show with some predictable tricks, but still an entertaining show to pass an hour of one's evening. His finale was to make a helicopter appear in a seemingly empty gigantic box. (More on that later...) Afterwards, we went to Dancing with the Dawn Stars, inspired by the popular ABC show which I've actually never watched. It turned out to be surprisingly entertaining! Eight passengers (four men and four women) were paired up with a selection of cruise staff, and each round was a different music genre. Three judges consisted of a Second City cast member (who took on the requisite role of the "mean judge"), the shopping consultant, and Calvin Lodge, the Hotel Director for the Dawn. After each round, one pair was eliminated. They would later appear on screen from the "Loser's Lounge" with Assistant Cruise Director Mike Shulz interviewing them in a scripted comedic bit. The show was a lot of fun! Day 6 -- Antigua Since we're at the half-way point of the cruise, I sent a few clothes out for laundering. PET PEEVE #2: the laundry prices. $4.95 to wash a T-shirt? Some of my shirts didn't even cost $4.95... (But two days during the cruise, there were laundry specials: $25 for a full bag. Unfortunately, today was not one of those days...) Today's stop was Antigua, and instead of a ship excursion, we opted to do an independent trip to Nelson's Dockyard on the southern side of the island. I had been to Antigua once before but only stayed in St. John where we docked, so I was interested in seeing some of the rest of the island. We decided to join several other of our "Friends of Dorothy" to share a cab. We found a driver on the pier and off we went -- the driver gave us a nice overview of the island along the way. We hugged the west coast on the way down, passing scenic villages and coves. We arrived at Nelson's Dockyard and spent an hour there -- this spot used to be a vital British dockyard during the 18th and 19th centuries, but still remains an active dockyard today. Many luxury yachts and sailboats were anchored here. Several historical buildings offered a glimpse at the stories behind the port. Admission was $8 USD. After an hour, we found our driver and returned to the port via the center of the island, and he provided more information about the culture and day-to-day life of his fellow Antiguans. After a quick lunch, CruisinMaterial and I got off the ship again to walk around St. John. We went as far as the large church that overlooks the town, but found it closed for renovations. Tonight's dinner was Le Bistro -- despite my four other NCL cruises, I had never eaten at Le Bistro before (French cuisine isn't among my favorite types). My meal started with a very creative appetizer which consisted of four small waffle cones, each filled with a different type of salad. My entrée was the duck, which was very tender and delicious! Tonight's show was a ventriloquist named Kenny Byrd. I don't recall seeing a ventriloquist on any of my other cruises, so I gave it a shot. While the pace of his show was a bit slow, he did have some very funny bits and the audience loved him. It was a nice addition to the entertainment roster of the cruise. Day 7 -- Dominica Another day, another beautiful island! We found ourselves in Dominica today, and we had pre-booked an afternoon excursion called "River Tubing Adventure" -- and quite the "adventure" it was! Sixteen of us piled into a minibus and drove along the coast, then up into the dense rainforest to our starting point. A team of about eight guides greeted us with large yellow inner tubes, and outfitted everyone with a lifejacket and a helmet. One by one we plopped onto our rafts into the water, and away we went! The guides had floated out ahead of us and positioned themselves strategically along the river, there to give us an extra push if we found ourselves running out of current or if we got our tube stuck on an underwater rock. The experience was exhilarating, as we bobbed across the sometimes turbulent waters and gazed up at the gorgeous rainforest hugging each river bank. We traversed the river in sections, stopping for a few minutes in between each one so the guides could reposition themselves for the next segment. About 40 minutes later, we reached the end of the trip and climbed a short but steep trail back to the road. And this is where the real adventure began. Apparently, after the bus had dropped us off, its transmission blew and it was unable to take us back to the ship. (It was, however, able to meet us at the pick up point, so we were able to be reunited with our belongings.) A replacement bus was summoned, but we still had to wait a half-hour for it to arrive. Once it did, we climbed in and continued along the road uphill. But five minutes later, this bus sputtered to a halt and a thick smoke poured out from the engine -- a water hose feeding the engine had burst! We were stopped on an incline and several passengers scrambled off, afraid that the bus might start rolling downhill! (It didn't.) So this driver made a call and ordered yet another bus for us. The driver told us it would be about 25 minutes, but I sensed he was lying -- and he was, as it took a full hour for bus #3 to arrive. Several passengers got antsy about the bus problems and for feeling trapped in the middle of nowhere, as a stray dog kept a watchful eye on us. Once we were again on our way, the driver offered to take us to our next planned stop -- a mid-island restaurant where we would be served a drink. We unanimously told him no, just take us back to the ship. (We were already going to be returning 90 minutes late, just in time for the "all aboard" before the sail out.) While a mechanical problem can happen anytime, it did seem inexcusable for TWO buses to break down on the same tour. NCL contracts with local tour operators for their excursions, so it does remain their responsibility to properly vet the capability and the safety of each company they use. We did later hear that several passengers complained to the Shore Excursions staff about the trip and that the corporate offices were contacted, and at least one pair who complained was refunded their cost. (CruisinMaterial and I felt that since we still got to enjoy the river tubing in full, we got what we paid for.) Back on the ship, we got cleaned up in time to make our dinner reservation at Teppanyaki, NCL's hibachi-style Japanese restaurant. I've done Teppanyaki on every NCL cruise, and it remains one of my favorite things to do -- not only is it an entertaining show, but the food is freshly prepared and delicious! Teppanyaki on the Dawn is rather small -- only two grills, each with 12 seats. It's important to plan ahead and book early, as the electronic charts showing the availability of each restaurant often showed Teppanyaki to be full. Tonight's dinner didn't disappoint -- our chef put on a great show (probably the best I've seen yet) and the food was yummy! I skipped tonight's entertainment -- a hypnotist. Or as I prefer to think of it, "forced improv." If anyone actually thinks this is hypnotism, they are kidding themselves. Later, we went to the Spinnaker where our favorite DJ (Keith) was spinning some great vocal house music -- I think we stayed there past 1:30 a.m.! Day 8 -- Barbados Today we found ourselves in Barbados. Because we had a non-water excursion booked for our last stop tomorrow in St. Kitts, we opted to do a beach excursion here this afternoon. A large bus took us a few miles south to Brownes Beach, part of a large arc of beautiful powdery sand. We were guests of a beach bar/nightclub called Harbour Lights, and our admission included a lounger, shared umbrella and a drink. We spent three hours here enjoying the beautiful beach and warm water. Back on board, we enjoyed yet another dinner in the Venetian, then went to tonight's entertainment, The V(ariety) Show. This hour-long show started with a musical number by the Dawn production cast, then a 20-minute set by Kenny Byrd, the ventriloquist. Clearly, he put his best stuff into his earlier full-length show -- tonight's bit dragged. But the remainder of the show was salvaged by the very talented Greg London, an impressionist singer who emulated the styles of several rock personalities. Greg was also backed by Dawn's amazing show band. But this was just a preview of his full show to come in a couple days. Following this, we headed over to the Spinnaker for the Quest, billed as an "adult game show." It's best described as a scavenger hunt, and participants group themselves into teams of six to eight players. Each team is assigned a number, and the host (Mike Shulz the Assistant Cruise Director) asked to be shown or brought different items. The items started out innocently -- a business card, an emptied lady's purse -- but then moved to the more risqué -- someone's tattoo, a piercing that was not in the ear, etc. Unfortunately, the event was marred by the host's homophobic ignorance: after he requested each team to present two women kissing, he then threatened to ask the teams for two men kissing, but abruptly canceled it, saying something like, "Don't worry, I'm not going to make you do that." It played into the homophobic stereotype that two women showing affection was okay, yet two men doing the same thing was somehow disgusting. I and the gay passengers I was sitting with immediately felt offended and uncomfortable with Mike's action. He should have either gone through with both challenges or done neither. (On a previous cruise on the Pearl, the Quest host did make both challenges, and both were done by the passengers with no one feeling uncomfortable. The participants were perfectly okay with it.) After Quest ended, the Spinnaker turned over to the "celebrity" DJ Sami Automatic, who started his set with what seemed like the 100th time he's played the Cupid Shuffle. Or was it the other line dance that he overplays? Following this were the same poorly-mixed songs we kept hearing from him over and over again. Ugh. Day 9 -- St. Kitts Is it really our last port of call already? Boarding the ship in Miami felt like ages ago, but at the same time the cruise has flown by! Our last stop was in St. Kitts, a beautiful island I first visited a year ago. But this was CruisinMaterial's first visit to St. Kitts, and I knew that the St. Kitts Scenic Railway excursion (which I did before) was the best way for him to see a lot of the island. We booked the later offering of the day. After walking around Basseterre for an hour, we went to our designated meeting place. We learned that the previous trip had a maintenance delay and that we would be departing 20 minutes late. (Passengers were offered the opportunity to cancel their excursions for a full refund, but I don't think anyone actually opted to.) We loaded into comfortable minibuses for the road portion of the tour -- due to the delay, we had an extended tour which included a part of the island that I didn't get to see the last time, which was a nice plus for me. We drove north along the west coast of the island, and the driver gave a thorough background of the culture of the people of St. Kitts as we drove from village to village. We then reached the northern station where the train dropped off the previous passengers so they could embark on their road portion. The train cars are double-decker -- air-conditioned downstairs (and each with a restroom), and open-air upstairs. Everyone seemed to opt for the upstairs level, and by design there was enough seating for all. We set out on the hour-long ride, passing through former sugar cane plantations and enjoying sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean coastline. Attendants in each car served complimentary drinks, including pina coladas and rum punch. At the end of the line, the buses were there to take us the short distance back to the ship. We had dinner in the Venetian, as usual. (The only time we saw the Aqua restaurant was during the safety drill, as it was our muster spot.) Tonight's menu included a delicious prime rib, and our server had no problem accommodating carnivore CruisinMaterial's request for extra meat! For tonight's entertainment, we had two options: the Second City sketch/improv show (a staple on NCL) or the 55 to Stay Alive game show, based on the television show Minute to Win It. Since we were both familiar with Second City's shtick from previous cruises, we opted for the game show. Participants were individually given a challenge that they needed to complete within 55 seconds, such as pulling every tissue one-by-one from an entire box, or tossing ping pong balls into a set of drinking glasses. The Dawn's excellent entertainment staff kept the game fun and entertaining. Day 10 -- At Sea Today was the first of two sea days as we made our way back to Miami. We signed up for the Behind the Scenes Tour of the Dawn, and our group met at noon for the 2.5-hour tour. Our first stop was in the main galley, situated between the Aqua and Venetian restaurants, where all the food is plated. A large display on one wall contained pictures of every dish served during the cruise, grouped by day -- the preparers use these for reference as they plate each passenger's meal. Next we visited the areas where the food is cooked, including four large vats for soups. Following this was the food preparation areas -- different rooms for different types of food: the meat room, the fish room, the vegetable room. We moved on to the recycling and refuse areas, where all trash is sorted and prepared for offloading shoreside. The Dawn's Environmental Officer did an excellent job stressing NCL's environmental policies, which go beyond those required by law. The next area was provisioning, where all food is stored in large walk-in refrigerators and freezers for the duration of the cruise. Separate thawing refrigeration units store food for 24 hours until it is ready for preparation. We proceeded down the main staff corridor which runs the length of the ship, dubbed "I-95." And lo, what this poking out of a large container by the cargo door? Why its magician Greg Gleason's disassembled helicopter! Our next stop was the laundry, with about a dozen massive washer and dryer units laundering everything from bedding to tablecloths, crew uniforms, towels and passengers' laundry. The most impressive equipment in this area was the folding machines -- one by one, workers would feed sheets, tablecloths or towels into a machine, and mechanical engineering did the rest! Next, we went backstage of the Stardust Theater and met with Troy Mitchell, the entertainment manager. He gave us some interesting information about staging the Dawn's production shows and scheduling/rehearsing the performers. Finally we went to the bridge, where our group was divided into two. Our subgroup gathered around the controls on the starboard wing, and the 1st Navigation Officer described the automatic and manual controls of the ship. As CruisinMaterial and I are both cruise nuts, we asked a lot of questions! We decided to dine in Cagney's tonight, a Chicago-style steakhouse. The walls were filled with framed reproductions of 1920s newspaper front pages, and I could have spent hours reading the articles. The menu offered several different steaks: filet mignon, rib eye, T-bone and NY strip, as well as a couple other meat dishes. I started with the crab cake appetizer, but wasn't impressed with it (too much filler). But the New England clam chowder was excellent, as was the rib eye steak that followed. Following dinner, we caught impressionist singer Greg London's full show, and I was thoroughly entertained by his spot-on impressions of a wide range of rock singers. Greg not only captured their voices perfectly, but also their expressions and mannerisms. Some parts were really funny, such as his hilarious impression of Ozzy Osbourne. Finally, it was the party we eagerly anticipated the entire cruise -- the White Hot Party! This is a staple on all Norwegian cruises, and guests are encouraged to wear white. It seems that our feedback about the DJs worked -- we were pleased to see that the in-house DJ Keith was spinning the main part of the party! And what a party it was -- the production dancers opened it with a routine, and the entire entertainment staff (some of whom were donning white angel wings) circulated through the crowd to make sure everyone was having a good time. We left the party around 1:30 a.m. and it was still going strong. Day 11 -- At Sea It was the last full day of the cruise, and fortunately the weather continued to be beautiful and warm for most of the day. We enjoyed a very relaxed morning and early afternoon on the ship, then went to the Stardust Theater for the Crew Talent Show. Also a staple on NCL cruises, the show features the talents of several on board crew members. Cruise Director Johnny "Cash" Sanchez started off with a song, followed by four women from the Republic of Kiribati performing a local dance. Next was a singer from India who played guitar and sang a sampling of songs, then the on board printer demonstrated the art of sand painting. Another singer performed a showtune ballad. The last act before the finale was a troupe of four dancers -- including our stateroom attendant Paul -- performing hip-hop dance. Then the cruise entertainment staff appeared in togas and performed the hilarious finale called "Fountains." I used the ship's internet today so I could check in for my flight home tomorrow, and to pull up some news articles about the Costa Concordia incident that happened overnight. PET PEEVE #3: an unnecessary $3.95 "account activation" charge when you buy internet time. I work in IT, and there's no reason for this fee. This is an automated process -- it does not cost anyone anything to create an account. Pure profiteering... We decided to finish the cruise with one last specialty restaurant, Bamboo, which specializes in Asian cuisine. Bamboo is situated mid-ship on Deck 7, overlooking the Gatsby Lounge one deck below, and adjacent to Teppanyaki. Only two other tables were occupied when we arrived, and the restaurant seemed eerily empty. However, it was anything but quiet -- the banging sounds of the hibachi chefs performing in Teppanyaki mingled with the loud piano singer from the lounge below. While it wasn't the most peaceful dinner, the food was delicious, especially the lemon pepper shrimp and the Szechuan beef. For dessert, we both had the crème brulee trio -- ginger, green tea and beet. The beet one was actually my favorite! Then we were off to tonight's performance of Bollywood, a show developed by the Jean Ann Ryan production company that was purchased by NCL when they decided to bring the development of entertainment in-house. The show started off with a high-energy production number, then focused on many smaller acrobatic and aerial acts. The performances, costumes and sets were impressive, although I thought that the final number was somewhat weak given the big opening number. Once the show ended, the cruise director introduced a couple hundred staff and crew who paraded through the theater and sang "That's the Norwegian Way." (We heard that NCL will be replacing this traditional end-of-cruise song with a new one next month.) Following the show, we packed our bags, then went to the Spinnaker for one last drink. They had advertised a Farewell Toga party, but not too many passengers were participating. Debarkation Day CruisinMaterial and I had different flights to different cities, and mine was relatively early -- 11:45 a.m. from Fort Lauderdale. Before the trip, I had arranged a 9 a.m. pickup with a shared shuttle service, QLS Transportation. I planned to self-debark with all my bags. Before passengers can debark, a ship needs to be cleared by local customs and immigration officers. NCL advertised a likely 8 a.m. time for self-debarkation to start, although in my experience, these time estimates are usually conservative and a ship will open earlier. But that was not to be today -- as I learned from a staff member, an unusually high number of staff were ending their contracts today, and they had to be cleared by immigration before the ship could be cleared. So as I dragged my luggage to the mid-ship stairway, I found a long line had grown from the front of the ship (where the gangway was located) to the mid-ship stairs. In fact, the area around the stairs was so crowded that passengers arriving via elevator could not get out. Two of the four elevators stayed there with their doors open and passengers waiting inside, rendering them unusable by other passengers. And there seemed to be no staff around to help control the crowd flow and move them out of the way. (A logical choice would have been to allow the line to continue into the Aqua restaurant and to keep the center stairs and elevators clear.) But a few minutes after 8 a.m., the ship was cleared and the line began to move. By 8:45, I was through immigration and curbside, and my shuttle arrived to pick me up. I should also note that Fort Lauderdale airport can be a zoo on weekends when lots of cruise ships are turning around, but the staff there was efficient at getting passengers through check-in and security, and onto their planes. My flight left on time, and I arrived at my home in Philadelphia by 3 p.m. To sum up (as this is now page 11 in Microsoft Word), I had an amazing cruise on the Norwegian Dawn! Many things I already knew about NCL were upheld on this experience -- the incredible staff and crew, the lively nightlife, the excellent cuisine. And I was surprised by some things as well, especially the quality of the entertainment on board (both in-house and guest performers). I also need to mention a few more people who gave outstanding service: Calvin Lodge, the Hotel Director, for being so receptive to my concerns about Mike Shulz's homophobic joke during the Quest game. (I had every intention of speaking with Mike directly, but I simply didn't see him again before the cruise ended.) Patrick on the cruise entertainment staff was extremely friendly and did a great job; "Scottie the Hottie" was also amazing and funny. David Contreras, the Dawn's concierge. Amin Flood from the shore excursions staff. Reyshell in the Star Bar for remembering everyone's favorite drinks every night. And I've already mentioned Johnny "Cash" and Liga and DJ Keith and a few others! But I feel this may sum it up best: After I returned home, someone I met on my recent Norwegian Epic cruise asked me via Facebook what I thought of the Dawn. And I replied, "The Epic was a fun spectacle, but the Dawn made me feel at home." Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
We picked this cruise because of the ports, and in that respect it did not disappoint (aside from the Dominican Republic, which is a terrible stop, the other 6 were fabulous). In most other areas it fell a bit short of expectations. To ... Read More
We picked this cruise because of the ports, and in that respect it did not disappoint (aside from the Dominican Republic, which is a terrible stop, the other 6 were fabulous). In most other areas it fell a bit short of expectations. To give some background I have cruised on Norwegian before, as well as RCL, Celebrity, and Princess. I've sailed on NCL the most but it's been about 4 years since the last cruise with NCL. More recently I've been on RCL, and other members of the party were on Celebrity. Overall I felt like things were a bit lacking on the Dawn. Try to go to the buffet at breakfast and find a seat - we generally had to scout people who were about to leave, because there weren't any free seats. The pool area, or any deck area, was similarly packed. We ended up on our balconies (thank goodness for them) every sea day, since there was no space on deck, or if you happened to spot one deck chair it was elbow to elbow with the people next to you. I've never had such a problem finding somewhere to sit on any cruise before. And good luck exchanging your towels, I never once saw someone staffing the towel desk, they generally just left a pile of towels there, and if they were all gone when you showed up you were out of luck. The food was also the worst I've had on a cruise before. The buffet for breakfast and lunch was fine (never ate dinner there), but the main dining rooms left much to be desired. We only ate in the main dining rooms on 3 of the 11 nights, because the food was mediocre and the menus just not that interesting. We ate in the Venetian once for dinner and vowed never to go back because it was unbelievably noisy, we could barely hear each other talk. And the lunch menu never changed (for 11 days!). The specialty restaurants were hit or miss (we tried all but the Brazilian), most had some good dishes and some not so good. Le Bistro was the best of the bunch. Service in the restaurants was also lacking, especially when it came to getting wine. Even when we brought a bottle with us we'd often be well into the appetizers before they had bothered to open the bottle and pour it. At Teppanyaki we had finished all 3 appetizer courses before they opened the wine - they just took it when we walked it and ignored it for the next half hour. Our stateroom was fine, and our stateroom steward was very good. We did have issues with trying to open the balcony dividers (other cruise lines we've been on recently had no problem doing this). One person said it was a fire hazard, another said it was hazardous in bad weather, and the woman at the guest relations desk refused to explain any further other than saying it was not possible, and there was no one else to speak to. Not being able to open them was frustrating enough, but hearing multiple excuses left even more of a bad taste (Fire hazard, really? There are gaps below, above, and to both sides of the doors - they're not stopping anything). On the positive side the entertainment was really excellent. The nightly shows in the theater were all very good, and Greg in the piano bar in Gatsby's was excellent. As I said before, we picked this itinerary for the ports and in that respect it didn't disappoint. But all members of our party were disappointed with the ship and the food - seems like the standards have really fallen since we took our last cruise with NCL, and the prices were no cheaper than cruises we've taken recently on other lines. If there was another itinerary I really wanted to do that only NCL offered I might give it another try, but otherwise we'll be staying clear of NCL for the forseeable future. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
We have cruised many times with NCL, but this was our first time on the Dawn. Embarkation in Miami was better than expected; it took us 25 minutes to get through the security check and then another 20 minutes to check in and get on board. ... Read More
We have cruised many times with NCL, but this was our first time on the Dawn. Embarkation in Miami was better than expected; it took us 25 minutes to get through the security check and then another 20 minutes to check in and get on board. We had our first lunch in the Venetian, one of the main restaurants, and it was very relaxed and uncrowded. We dined there several more times, mainly for dinner, but also a couple of times for lunch. The food was very good and the menu selection varied. However, if we had eaten in the main restaurants every night, we would probably have had to repeat meals as the selection was not varied enough for an 11 day cruise. We did eat in some of the specialty restaurants and generally found the extra cost to be worthwhile. Le Bistro (French style) was as classy as usual, with excellent food and very attentive service. Teppanyaki was outstanding; it was worth the money just for the entertainment provided by the chef. Moderno (Brazilian style) is new to NCL and we really enjoyed it, and will visit again on other NCL ships. After all the food you have to exercise, and our routine is to use the exercise machines before breakfast. We find this to be the least crowded time and the selection of machines is good. On the Dawn the machines all worked but seemed to be near the end of their useful life. After a couple of days we felt our cabin was not being serviced properly so we contacted Guest Services. The matter was addressed immediately and the service level for the rest of the cruise was very good. The entertainment provided on board was very good, with excellent bands, singers, and dancers. The Cruise Director's staff were all great and fun to be with. We got to know several of them very well. Finally, disembarkation was the most frustrating part of the cruise. We decided to use the Easy Walk Off option where you can leave 1 hour before other passengers, but you have to carry your own luggage. The directions from the crew were confusing and there were VERY long lines to get off. Be warned if you use this option on an NCL cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
This was our twenty-first cruise. We have sailed Cunard, Holland America, Celebrity, Princess, and NCL. Norwegian cruises are typically lower in price than other mainstream cruise lines. We won't be taking another NCL cruise. They are ... Read More
This was our twenty-first cruise. We have sailed Cunard, Holland America, Celebrity, Princess, and NCL. Norwegian cruises are typically lower in price than other mainstream cruise lines. We won't be taking another NCL cruise. They are entirely too "bare bones" for our taste. Embarcation: The process was smooth and efficient. NCL does a good job with this. Cabin: Our cabin was large with plenty of storage space. The colors are garish and tacky. Our room stewardess was terrible. We had to ask for towels five nights out of eleven (she said she forgot to replenish), ask for liquid soap, etc. It wasn't the end of the world, but it wasn't customer focused either. Dining: Dinner in the Venetian Room was pleasant enough. The food is slightly below average and the service feels rushed. The buffet was always crowded and the quality of the food way below average. Public Space: There was not a single fresh flower on the ship. Plastic arrangements everywhere. So tacky. Entertainment: The Production Shows were good to great. The individual performers were above average. No complaints with the entertainment. Disembarkation: Smooth and efficient. Summary: The Norwegian Dawn caters to people who don't care about aethetics or finer things. It was an okay experience, but the ship was the worst one we have ever been on. Won't be sailing NCL again. There are too many nice ships. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Departed Miami for Southern Caribbean on 25/12/2011,returned 4/1/2012,had a great time.For value for money,my wife and I thought that the Norwegian Dawn couldn't be faulted.I won't bore everybody with every detail,so I've ... Read More
Departed Miami for Southern Caribbean on 25/12/2011,returned 4/1/2012,had a great time.For value for money,my wife and I thought that the Norwegian Dawn couldn't be faulted.I won't bore everybody with every detail,so I've condensed the good points and the very few minuses below. GOOD The restaurants aboard the boat were great!For breakfast,you could have a different breakfast every morning out of the ten if you wanted to,there was a great selection to select from. I cannot comment about lunches (I was always so full from breakfast to partake!),so we never had one. The dinners at night were of a pretty high quality,even those in the regular Venetian restaurant where no supplement was required.Yes,occasionally at peak times there may have been a 10-15 minute wait,but there were plenty of very reasonably priced bars nearby to relax with a pre-dinner drink as you waited for the pager to bleep to tell you that your table was ready. We only tried the Brazilian restaurant from the speciality ones,seemed pointless paying out extra when the regular food was so good,but it was great nontheless!The chef kept on bringing out an array of beautifully cooked meat until we almost had to beg him to stop doing so,we were soooo full! The selection of destinations was great,a diverse choice,every one was different (Dom Rep,Tortola,St Maarten,Antigua,Barbados,St Kitts).Apart from a light early shower in both Dom Rep and Barbados,the weather was great!The variety of shore excursions couldn't be faulted too,there was something for everyone,and reasonably priced too (mind,the rate of the £ against the $ is great for us at the moment which was great for us). The boat itself was very good.The cabin (we were on floor 10 with a balcony) was always kept clean,and if we requested anything extra,coffee/milk etc,it was always there straight away.The cabin staff were very friendly and helpful,well worth their end of cruise tip!The boat was well maintained too,as far as we found,everything was clean and in working order. The staff,EVERYWHERE,we found were great! VERY friendly and helpful,the vast majority were from the Philippines,but there were staff from around the globe,the male members knew as much about English soccer as myself(though we didn't share the same teams!),we built up a good rapport with some of them.I couldn't fault a single one of them in any way apart from the blonde girl on the Shore Excursions desk,whils't she wasn't rude,she,lets say,wouldn't do anything more for you than the minimum she had to. Overall though,it was great! NOT SO GOOD The evening entertainment was poor.The timing of the shows,7pm and 9pm are too early,people are still having their dinners then,8pm and 10pm would be much better. There should be more signs erected to stop people walking around the jogging track,when I say walking,I mean as in carrying towels and wearing flip-flops,clearly not exercising.It can be frustrating as a jogger having to constantly stop/start/stop/start.... I was surprised how guests,mainly American,were allowed to take drinks into the jacuzzi.It wouldn't be a problem if the vessel they were in was of plastic,but they were in pint glasses.Had one smashed,the consequences are self explanatory. Our biggest gripe,BY FAR,through no fault of the boat nor NCL,was the number of greedy "anything for nothing" Americans in the restaurants.The amount of food they piled onto their plates,and didn't even touch,was shameful and disgraceful.The worst occasion was when I saw one woman pick up TWELVE slices of cake (6 banana and six brownies).All bar two banana cakes went straight into the bin untouched.It's not fair on other cruisers who wanted that cake,only to find the platter bare when they went up for some.Some Americans went from one free restaurant to another at will,consuming 10% of their food,if that,then leaving the rest,before descending on another place,then another eaterie,doing likewise.NCL ought to appoint persons in an official capacity to prevent this.This isn't myself having an anti-American rant,but the fact was that it was just the Americans doing this.Why can't they just have what they NEED instead of taking what they CAN unchecked??I'm know it's a cultural thing,but on an international,cosmopolitan holiday,it's known as bad manners. SUMMARY To those thinking about cruising,this cruise takes some beating for what you'll spend.Yes,I'm sure there will be better cruises out there,but,you'll certainly need deeper pockets or a heavier wallet to beat this one.Go for it!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
After my 19th cruise, I've decided to write my first review about a cruise. I'd hate to judge an entire cruise line company by just one cruise, but after many cruises with other companies such as Royal, Costa and Carnival, we ... Read More
After my 19th cruise, I've decided to write my first review about a cruise. I'd hate to judge an entire cruise line company by just one cruise, but after many cruises with other companies such as Royal, Costa and Carnival, we decided to try NCL. The only reference we had about this company was the food was great. We were also intrigued about Freestyle Cruising. Well, at the end what Freestyle Cruising meant to us was: THE BAD - Long waits to get into a restaurant, especially after 8 p.m. - If you want to use the sauna, steam room and all those amenities other companies include in the price you pay for the cruise, you have to pay $160, a fee that covers the entire trip. For a family of four, that is $640. - If you want a small bar of soap to wash your hands (or other part of your body) like you should, you better try the ports of call. You won't find one bar of soap on the ship, even if you ask for it. Unbelievable! - The Norwegian Dawn is dirty, even after a recent renovation, and some members of the crew are not as courteous as other cruise lines. - The bathroom of our cabin 4409 was real dirty with mold and stains in the shower (a real shame because the shower compartment is bigger and more comfortable than comparable cabins on other cruise lines.) - No towels available regularly on the pool area. - There is no Solarium area on this ship. - Breakfast menu is boring and the menu options are much less than other cruise lines. - We missed our free 5 pm sushi that we eat on Carnival every sailing. If you want to eat sushi on NCL, you have to pay extra at one specialty restaurant. - Cruising to us (a family of two adults and two children) is about value. We couldn't find that concept sailing with NCL. - The fourth bed in the cabin (when you book for four with other companies they put you in a cabin with two beds and two bunk beds) was a pull out bed, a bit bigger than my 11 year old petite daughter. A total shame! This seems to be the practice onboard of Norwegian Dawn because one of the crew members confirmed it. - The only show we went to at the theater was the worst we've seen on a cruise ship. A real turn off. - Many members of the crew seem to be tired and demoralized. THE GOOD - The classic NCL menu at the two restaurants that are included in the cruise fare is phenomenal. We did not try any of the many specialty restaurants onboard; some of them are as expensive as a fancy joint in Miami Beach. The classic menu is one that never changes and is offered daily together with another daily menu. - The itinerary was exceptional: Cayo Levantado (DR), St. Marteen, Tortola, Dominica, Antigua, Barbados and St Kitts were great exotic destinations. We thought we knew the Caribbean for the many times we have sailed to Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and Costa Maya. We were wrong, the Southern Caribbean is the real thing. Each island has its own flavor and characteristics, in topography and culture. - The buffet personnel encourage passengers to use hand sanitizer right at the entrance of the restaurant, and they make that practice fun and pleasant. I don't have to point how important this is on a cruise ship. SUMMARY: Though it's probably unfair to judge an entire cruise line based on one trip and one particular ship, I don't think we'll sail again. The Freestyle Cruising philosophy does not seem to be working well. I'd give you all those specialty restaurants for one bar of soap. This final consideration is for the connoisseurs: We'd rather sail with Carnival departing from the Port of Miami paying a cheap cruise fare to the regular Caribbean (Bahamas, Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman and Cozumel). Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We have had several cruises with other lines, but this was our first with Norwegian cruise line (NCL). If you have never cruised before, you will think that this is a perfectly respectable cruise line, a perfectly respectable ship with ... Read More
We have had several cruises with other lines, but this was our first with Norwegian cruise line (NCL). If you have never cruised before, you will think that this is a perfectly respectable cruise line, a perfectly respectable ship with perfectly respectable food and service. But if you have cruised with other - even non luxury - lines, such as Celebrity, you immediately notice the differences and those differences start bugging you after a while. In our opinion, the biggest draw of NCL - the so-called freestyle cruising that allows you to eat your dinner at any time - is their biggest mistake, their Achilles's Heel. in most other lines, you are given a time to come to dinner and you have a fixed set of servers, who get to know you and cater their service according to your taste. At NCL, you go whenever you want and therefore sit at wherever is available. Hence, a different server every night. Since the servers are not going to serve you again, and since the gratuities are fixed and billed to your stateroom, they have no incentive to go the extra mile, and guess what? they don't! To make matters worse, we were told that starting soon, NCL will not allow you to contest the gratuity, and it will be charged to your account no matter what. If that happens, then there will be no decent service. Food: Completely uninspiring. Your standard American fare. If you want anything ethnic, you need to go to their specialty restaurants and pay extra - on top of what you have already paid! On celebrity, for example, there is a sushi bar where you can eat to your heart's content (and good sushi, too!). On NCL, you have to pay extra for the sushi... or the Chinese...or even the Italian for heaven's sake. Yes, you read that right, you have to pay for pasta! How about some more creative cuisines, such as Thai, Turkish / Greek / Mediterranean ...? Fuggetabautit! Ship: Dawn is an old ship, as far as cruise ships are concerned. It has been refurbished in 2006, but still shows it age. In our cabin, the shower control dials were broken, and there was mold in the shower tank. Rooms are small, which are to be expected, but not as well designed. While the room size is probably similar to those of other lines of the same category, it feels like the room is smaller. The ship also has relatively fewer amenities. No rock climbing wall, no second pool, no mini golf or similar other activities. Cruise Director: The Dawn has the worst cruise director we have ever seen in a ship. The guy tried too hard to make jokes, all of which were bad. Staff: The most non-diverse staff of any line we have seen so far. In general, you will see a very rich diversity of nationalities among the staff. It seemed like 80% of Dawn's staff are from Philippines. Few were excellent in all respects, but some could not even speak proper English. Itinerary: This was the biggest draw for us. The ship called in Samana, Tortola, St. Martin, Antigua, Barbados and St. Kitts in a 10 day cruise. With the exception of Samana - which has great potential to be an excellent port, perhaps in 10 years - all ports offered excellent beaches, history, vistas and shopping. Entertainment: Their main stage shows were - with the exception of one comedian - were surprisingly good. However, a couple of them were guest shows and may not be on the Dawn the next time. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
The day prior to the cruise we took Amtrak from Tampa to Miami to avoid driving in Miami and just because we thought it would be a fun start to the cruise. We stayed at La Quinta in Miami Springs and it was clean, reasonable, had a ... Read More
The day prior to the cruise we took Amtrak from Tampa to Miami to avoid driving in Miami and just because we thought it would be a fun start to the cruise. We stayed at La Quinta in Miami Springs and it was clean, reasonable, had a breakfast bar and a free shuttle to the Port of Miami. At breakfast the next morning we met several of our Cruise Critic/FB members and it was fun to put names with faces. It was an excited bunch of cruisers as we headed toward the port. The first view of the Dawn was wonderful as it is anytime we take a cruise. We turned our bags over to the porters around 11:00 and got in the long line to begin embarkation. We waited about 20 minutes in line, going through the checkpoint, having documents reviewed and then received our NCL cards to admit us to everything on the ship. Only one small error, my husband was not listed as a past cruiser but that was easily taken care of at Guest Services by friendly staff. We waited in the waiting area for about 35 minutes and were on the ship by around 12:30. Kudos to Norwegian for having orange juice and cold water for us in the waiting area. Another Kudo for Norwegian because they have carry on baggage check to use until your cabins are ready. We went to the pool deck for a DOD and to relax for awhile before having lunch. Every staff person you saw were smiling, friendly and helpful. Food in the Garden Cafe was plentiful and tasty. We did not feel stressed by the embarkment process and were ready to have fun. When cabins were ready, we checked out our home for the next 11 days. The balcony cabin is cozy, smaller than some we've had but very organized. We loved the sliding door to the balcony and feel it makes the space more roomy. The bathroom arrangement is great and the sliding door on the shower is such an improvement over the "sticking to your leg" shower curtain. The size of the shower was wonderful, too. Small complaint, though about the bed and pillows being too hard. We could have asked for an egg-crate type cover, but we didn't so we really can't complain about the bed. The cabin, bath and balcony were spotless throughout our stay. This is because of our wonderful Steward, Delma. She always remembered our names, smiling and very helpful. She made cute towel animals each night and left them in the room to enjoy during the cruise. The Norwegian Dawn is a beautiful ship and is tastefully decorated. Christmas decorations added to the decor and the Gingerbread village in the atrium was charming. The ship is in excellent condition and was spotless and attractive. The ship is a little difficult to navigate because all elevators do not go to all floors and the Venetian and Aqua dining rooms cause some confusion in getting to the right floor. We did not see this as a problem and made a joke about getting lost several times. We dined in the Venetian the first night and several others. We found the food to be very good except the deserts. We dined one night in the Aqua but did not like this restaurant because of the noise level and feeling crowded. The ceiling is low and this contributes to the noise level. We tried two of the Speciality restaurants Bamboo and Le Bistro. Bamboo was excellent and does not receive the praise it deserves. Service was excellent and the food was flavorful with a nice presentation. The desert, cream brulee, is one of the best we have ever had on a cruise ship. Try Bamboo, you will like it. Le Bistro had very good food but the service was not what we expected. There were only 2 to 3 other tables in use but we were put in the middle with little privacy to enjoy our meal. We enjoyed the evening but really liked Bamboo better. The Garden Cafe was enjoyable for breakfast and lunch. Food was tasty and varied. Omelettes were great and breakfast breads, muffins & sweet rolls were good. Loved the fact there was so much fresh fruit to choose from. We also enjoyed a Cruise Critic dinner in Venetian and the service for our group of around 22 was excellent. The staff were very accommodating in arranging this and the evening was so enjoyable. Entertainment and Activities are varied and we found all to be enjoyable. We usually do not attend many shows but we did on the Dawn. We enjoyed the welcome show except for the comedian who is kind of out of date. We attended both Band on the Run and Bollywood and feel the performers are professional and very talented. The magician provided some very good illusions (Where did he get that helicopter?). The hypnotist was also fun to watch. We participated in a few casino activities that were fun but we were not winners. The White Hot Party was quite different and we are glad we attended. The New Season Band on the pool deck is great. Wish we had a CD of their music. We really enjoyed the Cruise Critic meeting that Norwegian set up for us when notified by one of our roll call members. Staff provided coffee, rolls, juice, name tags and a room for our use. The Captain and Officers attended and were available to answer questions and for pictures. Kudos to Norwegian for being so friendly and accommodating. We had a great time meeting everyone and have many new friends. After the meeting we had a Round Robin gift exchange where we laughed and had so much fun as gifts were chosen and then taken away by each other. We loved all our ports except Antigua where we did not feel comfortable and the tour was rushed and not very interesting. Samana was our first port and we were provided an "early Christmas present" because NCL did not charge for the tour to Cayo Leventado. The beach there was beautiful and there were plenty of chairs and shade, too. Shops were available to browse and had some nice items for reasonable prices. We really enjoyed the day and it was a relaxing start to prepare us for our other tours. In St. Maarten we had a non-ship tour that was especially fun because we had the whole tour bus filled with Cruise Critic members. What happens in St. Maarten, stays in St. Maarten we all agreed. Kidding but we really enjoyed spending time with these new friends. Norwegian Cruise Lines hire the most friendly crew who are skilled and professional. All seem enthusiastic about wanting their passengers to have a good time. This philosophy is found from the Captain down to the crew cleaning off tables. We really appreciated the excellent service and also the time crew spent talking to us about their lives and homes. Disembarking, sad as usual, was relatively easy. Kudos to NCL for letting you choose the time you want to leave rather than being told you are scheduled for a certain time. We did have to wait in a line for 10 to 15 minutes but that was not bad at all. In summary, we really enjoyed our cruise on Norwegian Dawn. We did not, at any time, feel rushed or stressed. We enjoyed the free-style concept of being able to eat when and where we wanted. We are definitely fans of Norwegian and plan to cruise with them again and again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Norwegian Dawn Review: I always cruise with my sister and brother in law. I get my own cabin on each cruise although we try to be located together for convenience. This will be a short review because we have been to most of the stops ... Read More
Norwegian Dawn Review: I always cruise with my sister and brother in law. I get my own cabin on each cruise although we try to be located together for convenience. This will be a short review because we have been to most of the stops on previous cruises. I will not cover shore excursions. This was a December (10 day) cruise on the Norwegian Dawn FRESTYLE DINING If you do not like the idea of additional restaurants with cover charges, NCL may be your wrong choice. We cruise on NCL for the freestyle dining and the pay restaurants. We find the signature restaurants well worth the cover charges. This time we ate at two: Cagney's We ate at Cagney's twice. My sister loves lobster and my brother in law loves beef. Both meals were excellent and well worth the price. Two times, two meals, and two perfect 10 oz. Fillets (for me). Moderno What can I say, you get your salad,breads,etc. and then you are served additional sides at your table. Then comes the 10 different meats carved for you right at the table. Eat all you want, when you want. (Well worth the money.) If you cruise NCL, it will be worth your while to put aside a little money for the cover charge restaurants and try one or two. You may be pleasantly surprised. CABIN We had inside cabins on deck 10 right above the atrium. A great location for me to use the stairs in the morning for breakfast in the buffet. A great location for me to use the stairs down to the atrium. The bed was very comfortable and the cabin very quiet for its location; I was pleasantly surprised. The cabin creaked a little which made me feel like I was on a ship. I liked the "ship effect". THE STAFF The greatest part of cruising on NCL for me is the crew and staff. I have always had the nicest experience with NCL crew. I catered to the Java Cafe a lot on this cruise and the staff and service was perfect (again). Once again, I cannot praise the staff and crew of NCL ships enough. These are the people that make the cruise something special and for me NCL just does it right. My highest praise to the staff and crew on the Dawn for a great cruise and a wonderful vacation. See you again NCL. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Embarkation was a breeze in Miami, we loved the cabin and the ship seemed clean. Everything went well for the first few days. The sea was a little rough but not horrible. Right around the third night, we finally met our room steward, ... Read More
Embarkation was a breeze in Miami, we loved the cabin and the ship seemed clean. Everything went well for the first few days. The sea was a little rough but not horrible. Right around the third night, we finally met our room steward, and we gave him a tip and we had already given him a 10.00 the first night. He was nice and left towel animals in our room almost nightly, so we again topped him 10.00 and sent a comment card to guest services stating he was wonderful. Sadly, that evening, we went to dinner but had to wait for a table so we went back to our room to use the restroom and freshen up as the restaurant was very busy. When we walked up (Albertson) our room steward was standing at our closet with the door open. He hurriedly closed the closet and stumbled to tell us that he was counting hangers for inspection. Then he picks up my partners flashlight and asked how to turn it off and that he was using it to check the shelves for dust (the light takes 3 clicks to turn off because of other features on it) This left me feeling a bit violated and worried about what else he may be doing in our cabin. I set my drawers up daily and he was going through then every day. Mine not my partners, I am the female of the two. Honestly, this was a terrible violation of my privacy but I was not going to let it ruin my vacation and I felt it would have been a hassle and an imposition for me to complain about him after we had already commended him on a good job. So later on during the cruise I was walking the promenade while my partner napped. I always smile at the crew, really at everyone. As I came around the bow, there was a waiter from Blue Lagoon standing near the railing, when he turned to look at me I smiled and said hi. He never smiled, he looked down at my chest and gave me a wink and a nod, I bolted for the cabin at that point. I ran into him again on the same deck a day later and was so disgusted, I gave up walking alone. The ports were great but you could see where Carnival and Celebrity got priority docking while we slummed it. This really wasn't that big of an issue but it was very apparent. We missed our tour in Dominican Republic because Norwegian gave priority to those going to Cayo Leventado. Si we were very late getting ashore and we tried to rebook with another company after arrival but the pricing was no where near what we had booked. The walls on this ship are paper thin, we could literally hear regular conversations in the room next door and when they had a party over there, forget about sleep. We had to call security at 3:30am on our last night, I thought we were hearing the casino, it sounded like 100 people over there. So our 18 hour drive home was quite taxing after the lack of rest the night before. I made sure they heard my clock at 6:00am that morning , pay-backs you know... Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
After years of cruising the Caribbean, we've seen a lot of ports and islands. A cruise is all about experiencing something new. So it was great to visit four new ports on this cruise. And these islands did not disappoint. Some ... Read More
After years of cruising the Caribbean, we've seen a lot of ports and islands. A cruise is all about experiencing something new. So it was great to visit four new ports on this cruise. And these islands did not disappoint. Some people complained that the islands looked alike; but not to me! They were quite the mixture of volcanic and coral islands, of regimented and laid-back islands, of populous and lightly peopled islands. Kudos to NCL for putting together a great itinerary. And the price was excellent. Friends ask if I got a good deal on a cruise. Yes -- if I'm going, I got a good deal. This time, it cost about $47 per day per person for an ocean view cabin (including the on-board credits.) A cruise from a gulf coast city would be more convenient; but even paying for flights to Miami did not make this an expensive vacation. If I'm going to Miami, I'm also driving south the day before my cruise. We rented a car from Enterprise. Stopped in Florida City to visit a great fruit stand called Robert Is Here (it's on the road to Everglades NP); got some weird tasting fruit this time, but I would never find anything like it at my hometown supermarket. Drove further south to Key Largo, and had dinner at the Fish House restaurant; wonderful fresh Mahi Mahi. As it was already dark, we spent the night in an inexpensive road-side motel. The next day, Enterprise gave us a ride to the cruise port; and the rental charge for the car ($25) was less than the price of a taxi from the airport ($40). Got to the cruise port about 12:30. The line was already backed up way around the terminal building. But it moved fast. Here's some free advice to those people who complain how slow it all is -- fill out your documents on-line (yes, duh). How strange it is to see people arguing with the gate agents when they should have already known what to expect. Anyway, we were on the ship by 1:30 but the rooms were not ready. So we went to the Venetian Restaurant for a leisurely (and tasty!) lunch. By the time we finished eating, the rooms were done, so we dropped off our carry-on luggage and went in search of an umbrella drink. First sea day, attended the Cruise Critic Meet and Greet. What a great bunch of folks! Of course, I felt like we were already friends after talking with them on the CC Roll Call board and on the FaceBook group that somebody started. Once you book this cruise, get on the Roll Call and make some friends. I saw most of these CC & FB folks many times during the cruise, and it was great to skip the meeting rituals. FOOD SERVICE Wish I could remember every meal, because most of them were great. We almost always ate in the Venetian Restaurant. Never ate at a pay-extra restaurant. Went to the cafeteria for lunch a couple of times. Food everywhere was consistently good, though the selection left something to be desired. The Venetian was sometimes very slow for dinner -- we had a half hour wait in the bar several times. Each dinner included a mystery entrée - it was supposed to be representative of food on the island which we were to visit the next day. The fish dishes were good, though definitely not as good as fresh fish. Only one day was I badly disappointed; we must have been going to the home port of Mrs. Paul, because we were served fish sticks. Yuck. However, this was my fifth cruise on NCL, and it was the first one where the desserts were mostly good; but really, NCL -- lose the recipes that involve gelatin. Food service was excellent. The wait staff was always good, especially the younger waitresses who spent the time to talk with us. NCL: if you are reading this, these waitresses are an asset; they reminded me of a couple of assistant waiters on the old and incredibly lamented SS Norway. I appreciate efficient service, but friendly service is even better. One complaint -- the people who seated us were unable to arrange shared tables (we like talking to people we have just met). One time we were paraded twice from front to back of the dining room while the host looked for a table. But we discovered that if we ate breakfast as soon as the restaurant opened, we would almost always be seated at a table next to people who arrived there at the same time we did. One breakfast treat that I am happy to have stumbled across. On the Tortola day, the Venetian opened early. We sat at the back, near the huge windows. The captain took the ship on a winding excursion between islands. Breathtaking! Thanks to the Venetian staff who tried to keep the place a little more upscale for dinner. If you want to wear shorts and a tee shirt, there are other options. Please don't try to browbeat the manager into making an exception for you. I felt really bad for a young man when his father claimed he was twelve (twelve and younger kids are allowed to wear shorts). The manager looked up his picture and told the father that the kid was fourteen. The poor teenager -- he was mortified by his father's lie. Best dinner of the cruise was Christmas Eve. Finally -- a good selection of appetizers and entrées. Rating for food service -- four out of five stars. PORTS I recommend the review of the NCL Dawn posted by Sea Dawg (November, 2011). If you are on a budget, or just like the bragging rights on saving money, check it out. Personally, I'd rather have a great tour than the absolute cheapest price. If you've got one thing on an island that you want to do, the public bus may be your best bet. Regardless, the Dawg is a great resource on what you should have to pay. I printed out his review and read it each day that we were stopping at a port. Samana. Tender port. Got a free tender ride to Cayo Levantado and hung out all day on the beach. NCL may start charging for this in the future. They really should treat this like a private island, and offer ship's lunch on the beach. Tortola. Decided at the last minute to take a ship's tour on a catamaran with a stop to snorkel and a beach break. Well worth the $70. People with more expensive snorkeling tours also went to Norman's island. Great beach with sting rays, large fish, diving pelicans, Boobie birds, and a bar right beside the water. St Martin. Been there, done that (many, many times). So we just walked to town and hung out by this bar that had dollar beers. Walked all over town looking for sunglasses. Local group was doing a living statues thing - it was oddly entertaining. And free. Antigua. Went shopping, looking for a musical instrument store; lots of rumors, but no instruments. There were many stores (not necessarily duty free). Finally gave up and joined a $30 ship's tour to a private beach with unlimited rum punch. Dominica. My favorite island. I had arranged a tour with Bumpiing Tours ($60, all day). There was a tender ride from the ship, which most people didn't know about, and which caused them (and us) to be late. We took a six mile hike up and down steep hills, through the rain forest -- rained the whole time, thankfully -- to a spectacular waterfall. Then drove to a narrow canyon for a swim to a waterfall in a cave, and got to jump off the waterfall and float back downstream. And then drove to a hot spring which was way too hot for my tastes. And finally went swimming on champagne reef. I am still worn out from this tour. If you are fit, do this one! Nothing better in the Caribbean. Barbados. Way over-populated island with lots of rich people and ostentatious houses. Still, driving tour was inexpensive. We had several children on the bus, and they wanted to see the monkeys. I paid the fee, just so I wouldn't be sitting around waiting for them. And surprise, the monkeys were great. They are free to roam, and visit the facility for food. They run between your feet and chatter from trees right beside your ear. Fun! The rest of the tour was not so much fun. Yams and sugar cane only go so far. Still, if you are impressed with homes of the rich and famous, your driver will be more than happy to show you each and every mansion on Barbados. St Kitts. We wanted to go to the beach, but the water looked a little rough. So we prowled through town and finally joined a $15 tour around the island in an open-air safari truck. Our driver must have watched too many Steve McQueen movies -- he careened down narrow paths on two wheels, narrowly missing people, animals and other vehicles; my wife left finger indentations by tightly gripping the roll bar. But this tour took us to good stuff - a beach with lava formations and an old mansion with a great botanical garden. We even went to a beach lined with little bars. And we arrived back at the ship in one piece. My wife gives this tour a white-knuckled, thumbs up. Rating for islands -- five out of five. THE SHIP Cabins. We had an ocean view cabin with a picture window. Very cramped, but it did have adequate closet space and dresser drawers. Hard to get into bed without crawling (no way was there room for a third passenger). Shower was adequate, sink and counter okay, toilet stall was miniscule. NCL put a sliding door between toilet and counter; I had to squeeze through the opening. No room to shut the door; but why would you want to shut a transparent glass door? We try to walk up stairs instead of riding the slow elevators (except for the day after our Dominica tour), and let me tell you it is a looong way from deck five to the swimming pool on thirteen. Public facilities. Always crowded. I guess nobody wanted to stay in their cabins. Somewhere I read that the room with best view on the ship had been converted to cabins; I would have liked to have hung out in some place like that. Pools were also very crowded. Why only one adult pool on a ship of this size? Mistake! Nice kid's pool, except the kids all went to the main pool. Hot tubs always crowded. No reason to put up signs saying "six person maximum" or "adults only" when the kids can't read English. Ship music. Lots of piano players and singers. But for some reason, most were finished by 9:00. I would have liked some music late at night (guess that NCL thinks this would detract from the casino.) Most of the singers were not bad, but one evening of listening was plenty. Dawn Show Band is excellent; even if you don't like jazz bands, you can appreciate their musicianship. Pool band New Seasons was way too good to keep by the pool, and in fact they played in indoor venues at night; their reggae is great, but C&W music is not their thing; they did a couple of instrumental sets, and these were excellent. Lobby singers Lucky Duo were pretty good; but female half of duo quite obviously likes some songs better than others -- she really sells some music and kind of frowns her way through others. Comedian on board was really an excellent singer -- I wish he had done more songs and less humor; he was probably a good comedian for old people from New York and Boston, but by the time this Midwesterner had translated his accent, the joke was past and the comedian was complaining that nobody was laughing. Ship entertainment. The singing and dancing shows were excellent. By all means, don't miss the production called Bollywood. Magician was impressive but even his spectacular magic (making a helicopter appear on stage) was not real impressive; I don't know why this was. Hypnotist tried to bore the audience to sleep (I guess this is part of the technique, but surely there's some way to make the first half hour a little more entertaining.) Boy band from Branson was energetic, but relied more on audio effects than on their own singing; at one point they asked the audience to stand up, so I stood up and walked out. British singer/pianist lady is a very accomplished musician, but needs a few more cruises to learn how to entertain an audience. A male singer and impressionist was quite good at singing, though his impressions were not always spot-on; still his songs were very well done and were quite a lot of fun to listen to. Second City troop was outstanding -- especially their late night show; I would go see them every night if they would perform that often. Casino. I didn't gamble, but did walk through a couple of times. The place was like a morgue. Nobody smiling, nobody winning. People on the ship did not brag about winning big. Even the bingo and ship lottery had no winners. Weird. Rating for the ship -- three stars out of five. IN GENERAL. Best thing -- food workers; it is amazing that restaurant staff will work so hard without reward from their customers, I credit the workers themselves and the supervisory staff. Poorest thing -- NCL management. It seems they take every opportunity to make a buck. So many extra charges. Other cruise lines take opportunities to build customer loyalty by offering some things gratis. Well, the ice cream bar was free, but a pizza oven in the buffet restaurant would have added to the friendliness of the ship. Confusion -- hotel management. One day, our cabin steward ran out of beach towels. Since we were going to a beach the next day, we called housekeeping. Somebody came and brought us a towel. Then somebody else brought us a complete set of bathroom towels. Then the steward stopped by the next day to apologize. We were not upset, the first guy with a beach towel fixed the problem. The Norwegian Dawn needs to communicate better with itself. Confusion -- restaurant management. I'm irritated that it was so difficult to share a table with somebody else. We volunteered to do so at every opportunity, to no avail. Other ships, even other NCL ships do it better. A couple of years ago on the Norwegian Sun, the host each time asked it we were willing to share a table, and always found us a table to share with another English speaking couple. Free style? They must mean expensive style, since the cost of most of the restaurants is in addition to the cost of the cruise. Free would be if you could just sit down in a restaurant, at the time you previously agreed on, without paying anything extra. Just about everybody I spoke to likes the so-called free style, so maybe I'm different than the main stream cruiser. Other lines do it better by offering both assigned seating and the option for other restaurants. Bad-on-ya, Norwegian Dawn, for not taking reservations at the main dining rooms and for making us wait so long for a table. Most unusual thing - pub crawl. We got 5+ drinks for $25, played dumb drinking games, and went around the ship acting drunk and trying to annoy our fellow passengers. Kind of fun. I felt like a twenty-something. Overall rating -- four stars out of five. This cruise was better than I had expected. Wouldn't take much for me to give the ship a much better score. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Its a telling sign when those who once followed you now chase you. For years NCL has been our favorite cruise line. As veteran cruisers (19 for me and 23 for my wife) we are very familiar with several cruise lines and many ships. NCL ... Read More
Its a telling sign when those who once followed you now chase you. For years NCL has been our favorite cruise line. As veteran cruisers (19 for me and 23 for my wife) we are very familiar with several cruise lines and many ships. NCL Dawn is BY FAR the worst we have been aboard. The design is very disjointed and public areas have suffered to offer tens of thousand square feet of unused pay restaurant space. There is no "Great Outdoors" dining area or Aft dining which is on most ships. The pool deck is crammed with chairs, tables and loungers leaving little access. This ship is plagued by a staff that loves to hear themselves talk over the ships intercom. Messages are BLASTED throughout the ship making it impossible to relax. If the ship docks at 7AM a lengthy diatribe will be unleashed, blasting into every nook and cranny. ART AUCTION!!! BINGO!!! Simple messages take several minutes to deliver. On days you tender it is non stop for hours in 3 languages. If you have booked this ship and cannot change bring Bose headphones. There are some positives on this ship. By far the best pastries in the buffet you will get on a cruise ship. The buffet is also the best place to eat. We ate in both main restaurants as well as "Cagneys" and La Cucina. The food is good but the service is terrible. There is no bar service in the main dining rooms, so if you want a drink or a bottle of wine, you are just adding to the work load for the wait staff which is already heavy. The Bimini Grill is a great place for lunch and the bartender, Emmerson and his staff are the best. There is good entertainment on this ship. The piano bar "Gatsby's" has fantastic options and excellent service. Don't miss "Band on the Run" in the Stardust. You can enjoy yourself on this cruise when you stop thinking of how much better it could have been. It took us about 5 days. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We drove to LaQuinta East by Miami Airport the day before our 11 day cruise. Nice, clean, but plain rooms, free parking for car and free buffet next morning. Great Cuban restaurant, Hitching Post, with hotel pickup and return only $5 per ... Read More
We drove to LaQuinta East by Miami Airport the day before our 11 day cruise. Nice, clean, but plain rooms, free parking for car and free buffet next morning. Great Cuban restaurant, Hitching Post, with hotel pickup and return only $5 per couple. Hotel was fine except for noise from overhead planes if that bothers one. Helpful staff, especially Marcel. Be sure not to miss the small service road when trying to locate hotel from GPS. Took free 10am shuttle to port, easy embarkation, were eating by noon, rooms ready at 2pm, life preserver not needed at muster. Cove in-hull balcony was fine w/plexiglass on bottom so we could sit and see the water. Dawn was attractive although too cold in the public areas for us. Food was about an "8" which was great compared to food on past cruises. We didn't feel the specialty restaurants were needed. Sheets kept sliding off bed and pillows were uncomfortable. Mattress OK, but asked for egg crate since I kept sliding into the middle between 2 beds! Bathroom and storage space good. Room steward, Jimmy, was marginal. Didn't clean glasses several times, didn't clean off deck, etc. Just did animals, bathrooms, etc. Waiter service improved alot since our past cruises. Not as much "pushing" drinks as in the past. Enjoyed the first sea day poolside. Weather good for the whole cruise with very occasional, quick spotty showers. Guessing about 80 degrees and windy at beaches most days. We were told that December is windy in Southern Caribbean. Did many private excursions this trip and were just too tired to see most shows. Loved the impressionist show and heard many good comments about others. Didn't like the Spinnaker Lounge change - now dark and feels closed in. Also would have preferred White Party on the deck...just not the same inside the Spinnaker. Also missed the outside eating area off the garden buffet as on other NCL ships. Mixed ages with more children than I expected due to length of cruise. Many Canadians and other nationalities which was nice. Made many new friends through Facebook and Cruise Critic before leaving. Lots of fun at Mix and Mingle and dinner. Debarkation and customs went smoothly. Finding luggage no problem. Would do this cruise again in a heartbeat....Everything seemed to go perfectly and noticed a huge improvement in many areas from NCL. Ports Dominican Republic - Samana (not listed individually below) Best stop ever! Don't decide to stay on ship or visit port! Book an excursion and you'll be thrilled with the beauty of Samana. We took an ATV tour with Terry and enjoyed ourselves tremendously. He is such a nice guy and Pablo really helped us tour. Had a great homemade lunch, saw the rainforest, drove through rivers, up mountains, etc. People were very friendly. See port info below for other stops we made. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Just back from a 10 day Southern Caribbean cruise on the NCL Dawn and what a great time we had. We have been on 2 other NCL ships and while all are somewhat the same I will say I loved the Dawn's Grand Atrium area. Only negative ... Read More
Just back from a 10 day Southern Caribbean cruise on the NCL Dawn and what a great time we had. We have been on 2 other NCL ships and while all are somewhat the same I will say I loved the Dawn's Grand Atrium area. Only negative in design is the removal of Spinnaker's Lounge on the 12th floor; although the suites they added in exchange are very nice, the new location of Spinnakers is dark and much smaller. Hope they don't change the location of Spinnakers on the Pearl before next summer as I would hate to lose the view from Spinnaker's while cruising the inside passage. Flew into Miami the night before and stayed at the Marriott Biscayne Bay, nice room and close to port. On board the Dawn we splurged for a penthouse suite this time around and loved the extra space, amenities & the embarkation process for suite guests is great as well. We were in a forwarding facing penthouse on the 10th floor and the large deck was great. The wind could be rather strong on sea days but not an issue when lying in the lounger reading a book or star gazing at night. Breakfast and lunch at Cagney's was a huge perk too! The concierge and butler service was also an added bonus, but hands down the room steward on the Dawn was the best of all, hardworking, friendly and so helpful throughout the whole cruise. Food- We only ate in the main dining rooms twice, not because of the food quality but more so the noise level. Both the Venetian and the Aqua seemed to be louder than I recall the main dining rooms being on past NCL cruises. Enjoyed all the dinners at the various specialty restaurants, with Cagney's still our favorite. This was also our first 10 day cruise and I loved the extra days. Less kids than other cruises and the average age of the passengers was also a little older so a different vibe than a 7 day cruise but loved it nonetheless. Entertainment- Did not hit all the shows but the one's we did were great. The last day of the cruise was the Second City Murder Mystery lunch, well work the extra $20 per person, lots of fun. Ports- Samana- Having been to Samana on previous cruise in March where we went to Cayo Levantado (beach excursion) we choose the Caves and Mangroves excursion through NCL this time. It was interesting and beautiful but a long boat ride to the National park, which wouldn't be bad but the weather that day was not so great. Tortola- We were also there in the spring on the Pearl so we just decided to take a tour of the Island. Found a great taxi driver right outside the port gates and for $15 per person had a wonderful 2 '½ hour island tour. Great sites and stops for pictures along the way including an old rum factory and a 45 min stop at a local beach. Talked to some other folks and they did a similar tour via the ship for quite a bit more $$, great price and tour guide. St Maarten- Did an NCL excursion for this port and hands down it was the best I have ever done. It was the America's Cup Regatta sailing excursions. Along with the crew you ran and raced the sail boat against 2 other boats. If you don't mind working a little on your vacation don't miss this, wonderful time and our boat won! We had more than enough time after the excursion was over to spend the day in town for shopping and lunch. Antigua-took a tour of the island via a taxi cab, $15 for person, (again outside the port gates) good tour including Nelson Dockyard Barbados-tour via NCL, shipwreck and turtles snorkeling. It was fun and the turtles were amazing, best to hang back a bit from the guide for better pictures of turtles minus all the legs of the humans. St. Kitts, another $15 per person Island Tour in an open air taxi, plus a little shopping to end the day! Overall the Dawn was a great ship, with a great itinerary and fabulous crew. If I had to state one thing I would like NCL to change, it would be the smoking policy. Our room was fine with no smell of smoke but sometimes in the halls the smell was really strong, also they could use a better ventilation system in the casino and or a non smoking section, unbearable at times. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
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

Find a Norwegian Dawn Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click