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Sail Date: November 2005
Just returned from the Thanksgiving cruise on the Spirit and we had a truly wonderful time. The ship is really beautiful and interesting, and as many people have said is like a smaller version of the Dawn. I see that there are quite a lot ... Read More
Just returned from the Thanksgiving cruise on the Spirit and we had a truly wonderful time. The ship is really beautiful and interesting, and as many people have said is like a smaller version of the Dawn. I see that there are quite a lot of negative reviews cropping up, I was expecting that, as there were many unhappy people on the cruise, complaining about various things, and whilst I agree there is room for improvement in some areas, our cruise certainly not spoiled in any way. I have only cruised twice and of course am no expert, but I have traveled a lot and taken many vacations overseas, and have yet to find a vacation that is completely problem free - I think how you handle it depends on your vacation enjoyment.

We arrived at the pier around 11am. We were in our cabin by noon. We are both non-US citizens and Latitudes members and there was some initial confusion as to where exactly we should go; up the stairs, sent back down, sent back up, sent back down. Blimey, I'd had a work-out before I even got my keycard!!

We were also very lucky and managed to get an upgrade; we had booked a G cat. porthole cabin and were upgraded to a D cat. window cabin which was great, however that lead to confusion later - more on that to follow. But apart from that everything was hassle free and after a celebratory glass of wine in our cabin and unpacking the items in our hand luggage we headed to Windows for lunch overlooking the Hudson River.

After that we explored the ship some more, viewed some menus in reception, enquired about formal night(s) and after learning that there was no discounted price for any of the specialty restaurants decided not to rush into booking them straight away until we had a plan of action.

It was very cold for sail-away; we persevered until the Statue of Liberty before finally giving up and going to Galaxy of the Stars for the passing under the Verrazano Bridge.

By now it was after 6pm so we headed back to our room to see if our luggage had arrived. It hadn't. Was this because of the wine we packed we wondered.......? But no, it was because of the cabin upgrade, our luggage didn't follow us. So we went to the original cabin, and sure enough, the luggage was there outside the cabin all alone so we decided to just take it ourselves to our new cabin. What I didn't realize however at this point, was that my husband had pre-ordered some flowers through NCL and of course they didn't make it to the new cabin either. Without me knowing, he had gone to reception and enquired about this, and shortly after that the flowers were delivered to our cabin, and the message card a day or two later.

The first night we ate at the Garden Room and had Prime Rib. I'm no expert on Prime Rib but to me, and my hubbie, it tasted great. After a couple of drinks at Champagne Charlies, which turned out to be one of our favorite places, we had an early(ish) night after an action packed day!!

The food and restaurants in general we found to be pretty good. We actually preferred the decor of the restaurants on the Spirit to those on the Dawn. Granted, it wasn't always what you would call 'gourmet', but I never had a reason to complain about any of the food or the service. I haven't cruised with any other lines so I obviously can't compare, but we enjoyed pretty much every meal we had, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner....

....Apart from Raffles buffet that is, but I didn't expect great things here, we only went there for breakfast twice and it if you go at prime time it is utter chaos. But it was on the Dawn too. The food tasted good, the made-to-order omelettes were great, and once you'd fought your way through the crowds, avoided the children running round your feet, dodged the spills on the floor, finally found a coffee cup to put your coffee in, and ahhhhhhhhhhh you sit down to find that the food has gone cold. If you are able to go to Windows instead for your breakfast I highly recommend doing so.

We tried two specialty restaurants; Teppanyaki and Le Bistro. Both were excellent and well worth the extra money, not just for the high quality of food but more for the dining experience. We had a wonderful four course dinner at Le Bistro which lasted two hours. I'm sure you could speed it up if you wished, but we chose it that way and even though we thought we would explode with all the food, we just HAD to order the chocolate fondue...

La Trattoria was a bit of a disappointment, not for the quality of food but more for the small selection; I'm sure I've seen menus posted for 'made-to-order pizza' and other meat/fish dishes, but there are only five pasta dishes as entrees on the entire menu. No chicken parm either. It also isn't a separate restaurant, just a sectioned-off part of Raffles buffet, but with candles and Italian table decorations. The lights aren't dimmed though and it was just lacking something, even though they made an effort to give extra special service and a wine sommelier was available, I just feel they could have made it better decoration/ambience wise - although we noted that it was the same on the Dawn. Having said that, the pasta I had was extremely good, as were the breads and olives they put on the table to begin with.

We both really enjoyed Windows and Garden Room for dinner; we were trying to cut a few costs here and there with this being an un-planned 'splurge' of a vacation and we were able to do this, with a nice mix of main restaurants and specialty restaurants, it worked out well for us. We spent about $500 less on our onboard account by doing this, cutting down on the expensive excursions and taking some wine on board for consumption in our cabin. But we still had an action packed time and didn't feel at all like we were missing out on anything.

As for entertainment; we saw quite a few shows too, and enjoyed most of them. My least favorite was the last night; the farewell variety night, it just didn't seem to work and I expected more of a finale. I did however really enjoy the other magic shows, and the opera singer was very good. We spent a few late nights at Galaxy too; we saw the Liars club, the adults only comedy show, the 'ship n males', all of which were pretty funny.

The only planned excursion through NCL we did was in Bermuda; the EZ Rider (or Lazy rider as I called it) bike and hike tour. It was fantastic!! Our favorite day in fact. The bikes are power assisted so even though you're pedaling, they assist you, so you can go up hills really easily. And I'm not particularly fit. They take you on a well planned tour for just over two hours through the hills of the west side of Bermuda and it is just stunning, the views are amazing. It feels really safe too, with the tour leader (an older chap) leading the way at the front, and his son at the back, you are well protected, and they are very patient. I think there was about 25 in our tour, ranging from teenagers to people in perhaps their 50's - all the locals wave at you and truck drivers honk their horns and we were all 'ringing our bells' back at them - it was a lot of fun and I highly recommend it.

In St. Maarten we took a cab to Orient beach; it was just gorgeous - we were there by 9am and drinking Bloody Mary's by 9.01 and it was just so nice and peaceful so early, we loved it and spent a lot of time bobbing about in the beautiful clear water. Be warned though, areas of this beach are nudists and they do wander from their area into the main part of the beach, ooh err........We left the beach a little early in time to try a jet ski in the main harbor - I have to say that riding around our ship on a jet-ski is a unique experience - we loved it!

St. Thomas - We expected to dock at the main fixed Havensight pier but instead docked at Crown Bay, 3.5 miles away. But we didn't realize this, and set off walking from the ship to the shopping area, which turned out to be quite a walk and we ended up getting a little sunburned. Once there though, the shopping area is very pretty. The shops and little cafes are really cute and after lunch we went on the Sky-Ride to Paradise Point. At $16 each it was well worth it, the views are amazing and whilst sitting at the top having a beer we could see the Spirit all the way in the distance, and I was quietly thinking to myself, what if we saw it set off without us........Luckily it didn't, we were back in plenty of time, but took a cab back, as my blisters hurt from the walk there!!

The Tivoli pool area - it did get VERY crowded. On the Thursday, Thanksgiving, as this was an 'at sea' day we thought we'd try the pool area for half a day or so and got up at 7.30 to get a good spot. Almost EVERY sun bed was covered with a towel/cap/book/you name it, but NO people. That annoyed me a little. As it turned out the weather wasn't so good later that day so we eventually gave up and did indoor activities and tried the hot tub later on the afternoon. I agree with the folks that have said there isn't enough room round the pool, all the room is at the back, overlooking the kids area, my photos will show you.

The gym - I liked this gym, because the elliptical machines and treadmills overlooked the ocean, and what could be nicer? It does get crowded at peak times though, one morning at 8am I couldn't get on any of the above machines and had to try something else, but apart from that I liked it a lot. The Aqua Swim is a little strange - the concept of swimming against the current in a teeny pool is fine on land, but when you put that with the movement of the ship you're all over the place and can't really get a good workout. The Dawn Spa area was better for us, with the indoor lap pool and hot tub.

Our cabin was fine; about the size we expected, the shower is better than ours at home and whilst there was definitely a lot of creaks and other ship noises throughout the night, that I can accept, but the herd of elephants in the cabin directly above us was slightly frustrating.

The hair dryer, oh my word!!! Don't get me started on that thing. You can't take your own because of the voltage situation, so here's the solution; get ready down at the Spa. Have a leisurely sauna followed by a shower with plenty of space, and use the 'normal' hair dryer they have there. Much better than using that thing they have in the cabins.

It was a bumpy ride. We noticed the difference between this and the movement on the Dawn almost immediately and put it down to either a smaller ship or time of year. I did struggle a couple of times getting around the ship or our cabin and found myself bumping into walls on more than one occasion. But fortunately we did not get sea sick, and our cabin was loaded with pills just in case!! I did see 'barf bags' allover the ship, in public areas, but didn't see anyone actually get sick, although a few did look unhappy. I'm not sure of the reason for the rockiness, I'm not experienced enough to comment, and I don't know why they didn't fill the pool on the Bermuda day; we didn't get back from our excursion until late and went straight for lunch upon our return so I didn't see.

But what I did see later that day is the seas suddenly change and just one big bump made the pool go so crazy that within seconds all the children were panicking, as well as the parents of course, and when the crew were jumping in to drag out the kids it made you realize how serious this could potentially be. Now, scary as it was to see that, and the photo I've attached doesn't really show it too well (I have video if anyone wants to see) - but can you really blame the ship for that? I don't know - maybe you can - but that seemed to be the turning point for many people and after that I just saw groups of people complaining and saying they were unhappy with the cruise and were going to take back the $10 per day service charge from their account. It also seemed to be a turning point for the stability of the ship because from this moment it became completely stable and calm for the entire journey home, in our opinion anyway. Maybe they changed something at this point to accommodate for the rough seas, I don't know, but it did seem to get a lot smoother after this incident.

Anyway, the absolute worst part of the entire cruise was trying to get off the ship. And I know that's normal for everybody, but more so for non-US Citizens. We had to be at the Garden Room by 8am. At 10am we were still there. There was a teeny little lady, with a teenier voice, trying to handle a crowd of 250 or more, and the system was just embarrassing. She whispered, then shouted, then screamed each person's room number to hand back their passports. Once she'd located the appropriate passenger, she had to climb over everybody's bags, suitcases, children, prams, strollers, legs, to give the documentation back. This took a loooooooong time. Once that part was over you had wait for the appropriate luggage tag number to be called. We were last. Surely there must be an easier way; how about a couple more crew? Would save a lot of hassle. With the line at Immigration, it was a three hour process. Talk about back to Manhattan with a bump. But we expected it, we had the same experience on the Dawn. And we are lucky enough to have a short cab ride back to our apartment.

Overall we had a truly excellent time, sure, a couple of bumps here and there but it's all part of the adventure to us. I feel bad for all the folks out there that didn't have good time, that's a shame. But all I can do is tell you about our particular experience, and please, don't be put off trying the Spirit; in addition to hearing negative comments I also heard a lot of good ones too.

For photos: http://spaces.msn.com/members/nicolanyc/ - click on the right-most icon under the small pictures to see the larger versions!

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Sail Date: May 2006
To give this review some perspective, I am writing it as a frequent cruiser, having cruised 8 times with Carnival and once with Princess within the last 4 years. I cruise with my wife, friends and sometimes our children who are in their ... Read More
To give this review some perspective, I am writing it as a frequent cruiser, having cruised 8 times with Carnival and once with Princess within the last 4 years. I cruise with my wife, friends and sometimes our children who are in their mid twenties. We are in our mid to late 50s, but are active for our age and enjoy beaches and snorkeling in most ports. We cruised in late May to Bermuda, Nassau, and Great Stirrup Cay. As we usually find with any trip, some things were good, some things were not so good. Overall we had a relaxing and enjoyable cruise that was well worth the money we spent. However, we decided that we would not cruise NCL again for two reasons: 1. The food quality was well below what we have had on the other cruise lines and 2. NCL doesnt seem to be able to handle crowds of people as well as other ships we have been on.

This was our first time to cruise out of NY. We took the train to NY, and caught a taxi to the port with no problems. I hesitated to leave my luggage with a handler near the street curb, but I was assured by a few nearby staff that it would be OK which it was. We started boarding about noon, a pretty much routine and painless process.

My impression of the Dawn was that it was a beautiful, colorful, classy ship with marble staircases, lots of greenery and art, and showing little or no signs of wear. The staff seemed very friendly and did their job well. We had an interior room that was nicely appointed, but because of the closet location, it was annoying that my wife and I kept bumping into each other in that room. The bathroom seemed fine and relatively roomy. Beds were very comfortable. The digital temperature control on the wall worked well and we were able to maintain a temperature that was perfect for us.

Now heres the big comment: the menu was boring and the food was rather poor in quality. Each night when we read the menu posted on the dining room (the same menu in all 3 main dining rooms) we couldnt find anything that sounded exciting. It seems that NCL must want to cheap it up on food so they served lots of pasta, rice and crowd-type dishes. Dinner desserts also were, for the most part, not very exciting. For example, one main dish was oxtail stew. So I ended up eating fish most nights which was almost acceptable. My beef-loving wife couldnt find beef anywhere, so she ended up ordering chicken twice that must have been sitting under a heat lamp for hours since it was all dried out. And the tasty shrimp and lobster that we always get with Carnival was nowhere to be found unless you went to one of the three pay-extra specialty restaurants. Both of us did love the freestyle dining concept though that allowed us to show up for dinner at almost any time between 5:30 and 10.

The lunch time buffets and sandwiches also seemed inferior to what we were used to with the other cruise lines. Each item was given a fancy name, but the substance looked like something out of a can. The burgers and fries seemed OK if thats what you want. The lunchtime desserts were the worst. On Carnival, there were always several great looking desserts making it a hard decision which to pick. But on the Dawn, the desserts all looked like the same boring pound cake with a little bit of color on top. Fortunately, there was fruit which was always my dessert. And fortunately again, Im eating more vegetarian these days and NCL had a few mediocre vegetarian dishes. I suppose one could get by with what they provided if you weren't too picky.

The Dawn did offer three pay-extra restaurants which I found very difficult to reserve. We did try the French Bistro and the food there was good but not great. I was, however, impressed as we ate dinner inches from a priceless original Van Gogh painting. I'm sure I enjoyed that more than dinner. There are 4 priceless originals in that restaurant.

On a few lunch days, NCL has a barbecue by the pool that includes hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken and ribs. This is pretty cool .. but. the burgers are a bit dry and I spent ten minutes looking a rib over for something edible on it other than sauce. Also the ice cream they hand out by the pool is a baby cone that shows how cheap NCL is with the food. The ice cream was tasty though.

Of the free beverages, the only thing you can get is tea and coffee. And NCL serves the ice tea in those cute little glasses that annoyingly hold only about 5 ounces. I guess they think that 5 ounces of liquid is enough in the blazing Bahama sun. Either that or they want you to encourage you to purchase the alcoholic drinks. Watch out for that beverage line because the main traffic passes through the same aisle and you are very likely to be bumped and spill your beverage.

After leaving NY we had an enjoyable day at sea and we arrived at Bermuda at Kings Wharf. Bermuda was beautiful! Kings Wharf is a bit isolated from the rest of Bermuda, but ferries and bus service were readily available. We chose to walk to the nearby snorkel park which was only a ten minute walk, but I didnt snorkel since it was early in the day and the air hadnt warmed up yet.

So we decided to grab a bus and head for Horseshoe beach. This beach was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen (and Ive seen many beautiful ones). The big rocks sticking out of the water added lots of character. The sand was wonderfully soft and pink, and there was a lunch stand at one end. I did snorkel here a little and found the 73 deg water to be pretty nice. Saw some nice coral and some fish and took lots of photos. I hope to return there soon.

Again a day at sea that was great and relaxing, although deck space for sunning seemed hard to find. We did manage to find a spot that worked for us. I couldn't seem to get a table in the pool area to enjoy an outside lunch.

The next day when we arrived at Great Stirrup Key, a storm front had passed through leaving rain and waves too high for us to tender to shore. So that port was canceled and we went earlier than planned to Nassau. A bit of a disappointment but you cant plan the weather.

Our stop in Nassau went well and we visited the Atlantis and saw all the aquariums. The beach there is very big and probably the best beach around. Time at this port is broken up. You only have a few hours in the evening and a few hours the next morning. But some people managed to do and see more than we did with that time. After Nassau, we headed back to NY and had another great relaxing day at sea.

For our entire cruise, I found the seas to be remarkably calm. Possibly also the ship may have stabilizers that help a lot. Maybe we just got lucky.

I didnt find much on the entertainment listing that interested me so we didnt take in any shows. Maybe others would like the entertainment they provide. We did however like the little on-board movie theater that was showing good movies three times a day. We also liked the gym which was spacious and well equipped. Having a little time to work out is a luxury that I don't normally seem to have. Also the indoor pool area near the gym was very nice and we enjoyed uncrowded time in the pool, hot tubs, and saunas.

We arrived in NY on time. Disembarkation seemed pretty routine. We did have difficulty getting a taxi from the port. I had expected a bunch of taxis to be there but found only one or two. So we were forced to drag our (overpacked) luggage downstairs and across the street to a taxi stand&but still we couldnt catch a cab. Finally we paid twice the cab fare and caught a limo.

All in all we did enjoy this cruise. I don't think that there is such a thing as a bad cruise. If you don't care much about the food, the Dawn might be OK for you. But next time we will cruise with another cruise line.

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Sail Date: May 2006
OK gang, let me begin by telling you that this was my 4th cruise, having already sailed on Princess, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean before embarking on this NCL cruise.

Embarkation- Not really a problem. The setting in NYC is rather ... Read More

OK gang, let me begin by telling you that this was my 4th cruise, having already sailed on Princess, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean before embarking on this NCL cruise.

Embarkation- Not really a problem. The setting in NYC is rather gloomy- you step into a building resembling a large aircraft hanger, which is typical of the facilities used by cruise lines. The staff charged with "greeting" new passengers was a mix of happy and less than ambitious folks. Since we live only an hour away and were traveling with our 10 month old, we opted to park upstairs and pay the weekly rate of $180 (a RT limo would have cost just as much). Arriving at 11:45 we were onboard by 12:30- check-in was a breeze.

Public Space- The Dawn is very easy on the eyes. The common areas, including the atrium and pools, are well appointed. The ship doesn't really show any wear and tear in these areas. As it relates to the main pool deck, be reminded that since this ship is on the "smaller" side of the megaships, deck space is at a premium, regardless of whether you desire a deck chair in the sun or table and chair in the shade. The "chair hogs" were out in full force, especially on the days at sea. I've mentioned the main pool, and the ship also offers a "kiddie" pool. Note that if your child is in a stroller, it is IMPOSSIBLE to get to the kiddie pool deck without going down a staircase. There is no elevator access and the only other means is to cut through the gym aerobics studio- one of the trainers even remarked as to "how stupid of a setup" it was. The pools were overwatched by men whose job it was to point and whistle at every little deviation from appropriate pool conduct. Walking too fast? Whistle. Raising your voice? Whistle. At one point, there were whistles every other minute, and their routine grew tired quickly. Upkeep on the pool deck is big for me, as we tend to spend a lot of time outside.

One thing I noticed on NCL as opposed to Celebrity is that their deck personnel are less than motivated. By this I mean that their personnel would let glasses/dishes accumulate on an outside table, to the point where you couldn't put any fresh glasses or plates down, and only by your asking did they remove the offending pieces. In my eyes, if you as an employee pass an empty glass, pick it up, it's that simple. The same goes for towels which are not being used, such as those rolled up into balls and laying on the deck.

Cabin- We had a BB Balcony Cabin amidships on deck 9. It was myself, my wife and our 10 month old in the cabin. The cabin was well appointed in layout and amenities. The balcony was a nice size, enough for 2 deck chairs and a small table. The cabin was also appointed with a pull-out chair which doubled as sleeping for the 3rd person, but we of course opted to bring out own pack-n-play along for our son to sleep in. For those parents in a similar setup, don't rely upon the cruise line to supply the crib or pack-n-play if it can be avoided- from what I saw of the pieces in the hallway BEFORE they were set up, they are old and dirty- not what you would want your child sleeping in by any means.

Stateroom attendants were courteous and responsive, but did not go over the top. One thing which struck me as odd was prior to the lifeboat drill, I approached our steward and requested a lifejacket for my son. He told me that he would bring it to the cabin later in the evening. Now, wouldn't it make more sense for the jacket to be provided to you in advance of the drill, so as to ensure full compliance? No towel animals (I don't care one way or the other) but I know that it's a big deal to some of you. The room was turned over promptly by the Steward, made even easier with the "wheel" outside your room, whereby you could select "do not disturb," "turn down bed," and "make up cabin."

Storage was ample, with plenty of room in the closet for 2 large suitcases and clothes hanging above, coupled with additional space in the adjacent shelves and drawers. Central air control is a nice touch. Shower was roomy enough for me, though the toilet is somewhat claustrophobic- but what can you expect- on a cruise you know what kind of bathroom you will end up with so there aren't any surprises. Sheet quality- poor, very pilly and felt as if they had been washed since the ship first took to the water. Upgrading the linens more than once every 4 or 5 years may been in order.

Dining- Ah the important category for many of us.

We did not partake in room service, so I don't have a comment for you there. Breakfast buffet- good. They have enough stations so that waiting time is very limited, and food selection was good. I like that everyone is asked to use the "sanitizing station" to clean their hands prior to picking up a tray- you can never be too careful.

Lunch buffet- just "OK". The dishes tended to be repetitive and lines were somewhat longer. Note that you do have free iced T, juice and of course coffee, milk and hot tea/hot chocolate available at all times.

Dinner- We ate in one specialty restaurant, Bamboo- opting for the Hibachi with private chef. We were in a group of 13 and the room held up to 20- 10 people to a chef. Food presentation was good, quality was very good and it was certainly entertaining. For main dining purposes, you have 3 options for traditional dining room settings- we opted for the Venetian which was on deck 4 AFT. Let me begin by telling you that I walked in with a certain expectation as far as quality and presentation of the food was concerned, and the expectation was not met. The menu was "average" at best and presentation was less than original. Ordering that shrimp cocktail? Beware, you will be presented with a small bowl of "egg roll shrimp"- very, very mini. Appetizers were adequate but not stimulating, but deserts seemed to be the hit of the table. In the end, I guess that you could say the food was sufficient but if you asked me to give you details as to any entree consumed in the main dining room, I wouldn't be able to do so. Ask me the same question about a Celebrity Cruise from 3 years ago and my eyes will immediately open as I give you detail upon detail.

Entertainment/Casino: Onboard entertainment was good, especially the "Bollywood" show. The Stardust Theater is beautiful, great sightlines and plenty of room. If the juggler/comedian is on your cruise, do everything possible to avoid the show- it's a complete train wreck. I've never met anyone who was so "un-entertaining"- 90% of the audience members had left by the midpoint of the show, myself included. Casino is a good size and while I'm not a big gambler ($40 spent on this cruise), it did seem like there was enough variety to go around.

Itinerary-

Very important. The stop in Bermuda can't be missed. Be sure to take the ferry to Hamilton and do some shopping. The downtown is very well-kept and you could certainly fare much worse, like downtown Nassau, which we spent all of 30 minutes in. The in-between for us was NCL's private island, where tender service brought you to a beach with chairs, umbrellas, facilities and a buffet lunch. Do yourself a favor and sign up for a tender early the day before, it will ensure that you get to the island before the masses later in the day, and that you can still land a pretty decent spot on the beach, along with umbrella/chair. Nassau I can do without- Atlantis doesn't really impress me much and I've been to the Bahamas already, so I imagine that a first time visitor will certainly have enough time to see a sight or two.

Recap-

All in all, it was a good cruise, since we didn't have to hop on an airplane and the port is less than an hour from our home. The food wasn't up to our expectations but the cabin was pleasantly surprising. A cruise like this is certainly what you make of it. We didn't walk on thinking that it was a Raddisson or Silver Sea cruise, and I feel as though NCL did "just enough" to justify your paying decent $ to travel over the memorial day weekend.

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Sail Date: May 2006
Overall I had a wonderful wonderful cruise. I have no regrets sailing NCL and the Dawn is a beautiful clean ship. Overall the food was reasonable and save for a dud cabin steward service was good. The freestyle option was great.. I was ... Read More
Overall I had a wonderful wonderful cruise. I have no regrets sailing NCL and the Dawn is a beautiful clean ship. Overall the food was reasonable and save for a dud cabin steward service was good. The freestyle option was great.. I was able to totally relax and managed to leave behind all my cares and worries and to me that defines a vacation.

Nonetheless there are issues that had the potential to significantly detract from our vacation and there is no doubt that over the years as cruising gains in popularity the lines have realized that they need to deliver less and less to the cruising public and clearly more and more is being cut from the quality product that was cruising. This is true among all lines and NCL is no different.

We were booked on the Norwegian Dawn out of NYC on May 13  May 20, 2006

Embarkation: An absolute dream. Arrived at around 12pm and we were literally in the atrium within 30 mins. With one ship in port (aside from Freedom of the Seas) there was no traffic and no fuss and I could not have asked for an easier or more hassle free process. Whether that was NCL, P&O ports or NYC my hats off to them all.

Entertainment: Superb. The shows were incredible and featured a hypnotist (Dr Trance) who had a G rated and then a PG-17 show both of which were hysterical. The comedian/magician was excellent and the ships on board entertainment crew were very good. The cruise director was superb although on the last night learned unfortunately that his nephew was sick and had to leave the next day to Australia.

Drinks and drink selections The daily drinks were a little on the pricey side esp when given in a souvenir glass that you dont really want. One of the bar servers offered me the option of the souvenir cup but most just brought it anyway. The standard drink menu though was very reasonable in pricing and very broad in options. I did not get a soda card but found the sodas very reasonable in price.

Kids Crew Excellent, kids loved it and did not want to leave at the end of each session. The kept them well entertained and made it special for them. It would be nice though if the port hours were better. The kids pool was excellent although a couple of times parents had to intervene when older teens got rowdy and put the little kids at risk. It really should be NCL that polices that an not a parent. Kids menu was great and the Kids cafe is a really nice touch

Ports of call.

Nice choices although the hours slated for Nassau do not allow any real sightseeing. The ship arrives at 8pm and leaves at 11:30am the next morning. Great if you are an all night casino fan; lousy if you want to do something beachy. We had to miss the private Island, which was disappointing, but to stay would have been crazy given the weather. It seems that most passengers accepted the captains decision in good faith and I heard little in the way of grumbling.

Cabin: This was my biggest issue: The cabin in general a minisuite (11100) was attractive and well laid out. The separate toilet and bath were a nice feature and the walk in closet like wise a nice feature (walk in if you are not a 6 footer). It is somewhat deceiving in calling it a mini suite as the reality is that it is no bigger than RCLs D1 category balcony cabin or Disney's standard cabin and in truth if you are two adults and two kids, a minisuite is the cheapest balconied option. Had it not been for the CC boards I would never have known that we had the services of a concierge and his cards introducing his services to us only arrived on day 3. Our cabin steward was lousy and that is the best word I can find to describe him. On our arrival I opened the coffee maker to find the last guests coffee sachet still in the brewer and the coffee jug dirty. The lasts guests pacifier was on the counter and the draws featured a bathing suite also from the last guest. The bathroom featured a razor from the last guest as well. Now whilst I do not for a moment believe that I am the first occupant of any room I like to forget that my cabin has been used by thousands before me and generally a clean cabin goes a long way to making me forget that. When however the personal effects of the previous guests are staring you in the face it is harder to forget that fact. I like to believe and I hope and pray that at least the sheets and comforter cover were changed. Both of these were not changed at all during the cruise and whilst I dont think that they need to be changed daily a midweek change would have been nice. The pillow covers all had little fluff balls on them suggesting their age. The ice bucket had grime on it and dried milk was streaked down the cabinet.

The rest of the ship was immaculate and so I have to believe that my cabin was just the victim of a very lazy Steward. The cabin service the remainder of the week was mediocre at best. He made one towel animal  a feature, which my kids love and missed and did a mediocre job of organizing.

Smoking: I know that this is an emotional issue but cruise lines need to wake up. The reality is that more and more US cities are becoming smoke free and with little debate as to the dangers of second hand smoke I wonder why ships are so slow in banning smoking in common areas. I am happy to say that I can, as a combined resident of NYC and NJ, go for days without even smelling the waft of smoke and yet on vacation I have to be affronted by it at every turn. I do not want to deprive the smokers of their rights but we have rights as well and my right not to have to come out of a public gathering coughing, choked up and smelling is something that NCL and others ignore. I wanted to go to the art auction but within 15 mins of getting my paddle and tagging pictures the smoke arrived. No matter where I moved there was smoke following me. The result was that I left the auction. Now believe me I was not planning on buying a 60K Chagall but at the same time I usually spend a couple of K on artwork  on this cruise I did not. Then off to the casino and here again I was affronted with the smell and so I left  here again NCL lost out on my donation. If NCL wants to do the right thing they should make a couple of bars smoking bars and the rest non smoking and any bar that is being used for a public gathering like lecture or auction should be non smoking. The casino should likewise have a smoking and non-smoking section. I at least could leave the poor croupiers have no choice but to suck up the smoke into their lungs all night. It always amazes me that if I went around passing gas I would be considered socially inappropriate and yet smoking is not  funny as natural gas does not destroy the lungs or permeate your clothing and yet cigarette smoke does

Food: At the outset let me say that I dont buy the fact that because a cruise is preparing for 2000 3000 odd souls that we should have to put up with poor food quality. All of us that cruised in the height of the golden age (7-10 years ago) know that even then the ships were almost as big and the food choices were superb and quality was excellent. I also dont think that after paying the prices that some of us are paying for cruises that we should have to pay a further 80 dollars for a family of four to have to go to a pay restaurant for a decent meal. Having said that I found the food on NCL Dawn to be the ultimate paradox. Dishes that are usually difficult to do well were done superbly an (vegetarian curry choices, chicken Tikka, Tuna tartar and a host of others), and dishes that should be a cinch to carry out were a dismal failure (pasta with marinara sauce, in fact most pasta choices were overdone and devoid of taste). Overall I would say that 30% of the food was excellent; 40 good and 30% really bad. The barbecue was very disappointing as on the first day they had chicken and ribs and every barbecue thereafter was hot dogs and hamburgers only (I stand corrected  one day there was a paella.) The desserts at dinner were mostly very good but the ones at the buffet and chocolate buffet were mostly tasteless although they looked amazing. The buffet I see gets a lot of complaints but I was impressed with it. The hours were very user friendly and between the Deli, the pizza, the make your own soup, the vegetarian curries and then the regular food the selection was excellent. Since the buffet food invariably sits out longer it naturally is going to be a little less gourmet and a little overdone than restaurant food. When compared with a recent Disney cruise I would say that Disney had more interesting options but the quality and taste was better on the dawn.

Disembarkation: As much as a dream embarkation was so disembarkation was a nightmare. Granted there were three ships in port that day but I was led to believe that free style allowed a leisurely breakfast and then disembarkation at your leisure &NOT&. breakfast was cleared by 9:30 am and by the time our color was called was 11:45 am.

Let me repeat again -- Despite all I had a wonderful wonderful cruise. I have no regrets sailing NCL and the Dawn is a beautiful clean ship. Overall the food was reasonable and save for a dud cabin steward service was good. The freestyle option was great. My next cruise is on RCL EOS and then FOS and I am looking forward to both.

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Sail Date: May 2006
My husband and I cruised on the Dawn 7-day Bermuda/Bahamas, 5/20-5/27/06. We were enticed by this itinerary because of the addition of Bermuda, which is our favorite destination and the 3+ sea days.

Since theres numerous reviews of ... Read More

My husband and I cruised on the Dawn 7-day Bermuda/Bahamas, 5/20-5/27/06. We were enticed by this itinerary because of the addition of Bermuda, which is our favorite destination and the 3+ sea days.

Since theres numerous reviews of the Dawn, I will try to discuss the differences between this cruise and our previous trips on the Dawn 2004 and 2005.

Embarkation: With 3 large ships in NYC the pier was overflowing with people. We arrived at 11:00 AM with slight delay up the ramp. DH dropped me off with the luggage at the curb and parked the car. The porters were only helping disembarking passengers so we rolled our luggage to the entrance and porters loaded them on large carts. We waited upstairs in the latitudes/suite waiting area and boarding began by 12:30 and on board by 1 PM. Very smooth process with many NCL employees to direct passengers and answer questions.

The ship was a little late departing, 5 PM, and they took attendance at the muster drill. Since it was windy outside, we watched sailaway from the Garden Cafe windows and decided to view the NJ/Staten Island/Statue of Liberty side &.

Ship and Cabin: The fire doors to the cabins were closed with notices that they will be available at 2 PM. Since we booked a few weeks before, we chose an Inside GTY and was given an inside cabin midship deck 10. Very convenient for using the stairs, 2 decks up to the pool, several decks down to restaurants. Having balcony BB in the past we were very surprised how small this inside cabin was, but we managed just fine and enough room to store our clothes and toiletries, and put the luggage under the bed. We actually liked the bathroom better, same sliding glass door for the shower but the toilet was not in a closet& seemed more spacious.

The cabin was not serviced the first evening, bed not turned down, no fresh towels, ice and glasses, just the next days newsletter shoved under the door. We thought we were in for a fun week and neglected since we had an inside, as opposed to the great service for balcony cabins on the previous 2 Dawn cruises. (we really hate to complain, but will if necessary). Well, no need to worry, the cabin service was good all week beginning the next morning.

Food/Meals/Drinks: (see 10 day menus posted by nj_cruisers, the days are different for this cruise but the menus are identical): Thanks nj_cruisers, for posting.

http://community.webshots.com/album/546965658SXugcy

We enjoyed each meal except where noted.

Sat- Bon Voyage dinner (Day 1 menu) we ate in Le Bistro this night Sun- French dinner (Day 7 menu), optional formal, grilled strip loin and monkfish; steak was cooked medium as ordered Mon- Chef's dinner (Day 3 menu), beef stroganoff and salmon in honey glaze Tues- Italian dinner (Day 4 menu), grilled swordfish, and risotto with baby shrimp; could they spare the shrimp? about a teaspoon of 1/8" shrimp on top- couldn't even taste them Wed- Caribbean dinner (Day 5 menu) both of us had tortellini with chardonnay sauce; was actually alfredo sauce but very good, ordered steamed vegetables on the side Thurs- Captains dinner (Day 2 menu)  both of us had lobster tail, a funky brownish sauce on top but the lobster was good, regular single lobster tail not the smaller half tails served on the last 2 Dawn cruises Fri- Freestyle (Day 6 menu) grilled leg of lamb and tandoori chicken; was a boneless chicken breast, a little wet on the outside and slightly spicy, no vegetables served with the chicken.

While we are not picky eaters, we sometimes were not thrilled with the menu choices. On the past Dawn cruises, there were several entrEe choices each night which appealed to us but on this cruise it was often difficult to get excited about one.

We were fortunate to be seated near the windows on most evenings and ate in Aqua once, Impressions twice, and Venetian 3 times. The service was wonderful in all restaurants except for the 1 dinner in Aqua.

Le Bistro was wonderful but the only problem was when requesting a 7 PM reservation on the first night, they were filled, so we chose 6:30 PM but the restaurant was only half full the whole evening. My husband ordered the Fire Star and he was in heaven.. what a presentation. My filet mignon was excellent and cooked as ordered, medium. We passed on the chocolate fondue this time but the crème brulee was to die for and DH enjoyed the vanilla ice cream with fresh strawberry sauce. The service, as usual, was wonderful. No discounts for any specialty restaurants this cruise.

We thought the quality of the food in the buffet for lunch, was better than in the past. The desserts were mainly tasteless and DH kept asking me if we took the sugar-free by mistake. By contrast, the desserts in the main restaurants were very good. Dont miss the made to order pasta& didnt find it till Wed. since it was in the middle of the vegetarian counter. DH asked for pesto sauce, one day, and since it was not offered that day the server insisted to go downstairs and get it, but DH told him it was not necessary. Now, thats service!

Breakfast in the buffet was not great, with the same offerings daily, food cold, soggy pre-made eggs, smoked salmon not offered daily, and long lines for the made-to-order omelets/ fresh eggs. We managed to eat breakfast in the Venetian 3 times and the service and food quality were excellent, with several different offerings daily.

The Bimini bar offered hamburgers, hot dogs, and fries daily. The poolside BBQ was offered 3 times, with different offerings each time in addition to hamburgers and hot dogs; ribs, sausage, chicken, pasta stir fry, rice stir fry &

The chocolate buffet was offered one night at 11:15 PM as opposed to mid afternoon on our previous cruises. We preferred it at this time but others complained of the change.. Maybe Ill start a poll? We enjoyed the choices we made and managed to get a variety.

We attended the Margarita tasting $15/person but you can share.. a variety of 4 full size drinks & woohoo, lotsa fun was had by all &

We love the pina coladas on this ship and manage to have several a day. We would order the regular size for $5.50 (plus 15% tip) as opposed to the $8 (+ tip). Never measured the difference.. is it a bargain? The last sea day they offered us the $8 drink for $7& They brought back the beer buckets (actually champagne buckets)& buy 5 beers get the 6th free. DH liked the standard gin martini, up w olives .. $7.75 for Beefeaters, large size. Good prices for drinks and beers compared to our usual NY prices at home. DH ordered a bottle of wine in Le Bistro, drank half, and had the rest 2 nights later in Impressions. The waiter made a face when we said it was from 2 nights ago, but we joked and got him to laugh & no problem &

Entertainment: We really enjoyed Dan Hodge in Gatsbys &, Modal Magic in Spinnaker. Fire & Ice, Caribbean Wave, and Best of Friends were OK. We found the Star Bar for the first time this cruise and Steve Garey is very good; this bar is smoke-free.

We love production shows and NCL probably has the most talented musicians, singers, and performers of any cruise weve been on. Having seen South Beach Rave and Bollywood in the past we chose to skip them. We enjoyed the magic/comedy of Ed Alonzo.. laugh out loud for us. The hypnotist, Dr. Trance, was entertaining and amusing but did not embarrass or humiliate the volunteers.

We caught one game show The Weakest Link (between dinner and main show) and thought it was pretty lame and only about 10 people in the audience. We thought the Liars Club was hilarious, but not for everyones taste, and definitely risquE and the Spinnaker was standing-room-only. We missed the the crew show (always a highlight, but afternoon this cruise) but caught the Fountains segment on TV & silly but very funny.

The cruise director was Mike Szwajkowski and he was young, pleasant, funny, witty, and entertaining& what a pleasure.

Ports: We have been to Bermuda many times before, most recently last Oct. so we planned on winging it. Our favorites from the Dockyards would be a bus or taxi to Horseshoe Bay Beach or the ferry to Hamilton. It was very windy this day but clear skies mid 70s. We walked off the ship at 9 AM and went to the shopping area which opened at 9:30 AM. Stopped at the Snorkel Park, no admission charge, and heard its very good snorkeling here. Although small, the beach is pristine, the water clear and brilliant blue, and they had chairs and umbrellas for rent (although none were up; maybe the high winds). Theres a snack bar with outdoor, bar pavilion upstairs. We had our favorite Bermuda drink, Rum Swizzle, and sat on high deck chairs with beautiful views of the beach and water& pure heaven & There was a group of NCL officers (~8) meeting with Snorkel Park management & wonder what they were planning?

Back on board, by 2 PM and had the forward hot tub to ourselves and great lounge chairs with wonderful views for sailaway. BTW, the ship left about a half hour late due to passengers who arrived late, after the ship pulled away from the dock and were imposed a hefty fine (didnt see them, but surmised from the captains announcement and chatter on board).

We had been to GSC before so we chose to remain on board and get prime lounge chairs on the stadium seating. We had breakfast in the Venetian with a window view of NCLs island and RCLs private island, with a ship anchored there.. who knew the islands were right next to each other. It rained early morning and was cloudy most of the day but the sun came out mid afternoon and with no wind, we decided to move to the shade. We have never seen the ocean so smooth; not a wave or ripple.

The ship departed at 4 PM and we were lucky to get a rear window table in the Venetian for dinner, as the ship pulled into Nassau; .. what a wonderful view. We had planned on taking a taxi to Atlantis (been there before) for some gambling and to view The Digs but stayed on-board instead. A few NCL sponsored shops in town were open till 10 PM. We ventured into Nassau for some shopping the next morning at 9 AM and was back on board by 10:30 AM and again got our prime lounge chairs, in the shade, for sailaway.

Sea Days: Since were early risers, and prefer to be away from the pool crowds, we never had a problem getting lounge chairs before 11 AM. Although we had many cloudy days the weather was good for relaxing, reading, swimming, hot tubs &. This was probably one of the smoothest seas weve had. Weve cruised out of NY many times and have experienced the sea condition gamut and got lucky on this one.

The chair hogs were in full force and people were upset when they left their towels on the chairs, to return and find them taken. Signs were posted that your belongings would be removed after 30 min of non-use. DH and I would take turns to get a plate of food for lunch or drinks, and bring it back to the chair & no problem.

Disembarkation: We signed up for self disembarkation on Thurs. and upon bringing the form to the reception desk, they verified we were US citizens and we must be able to carry off all luggage unassisted. We docked early, 7AM (docs said 10 AM) and announcement for self assist was made at 8 AM. We were on deck 10 and tried to get an elevator for 10 min -impossible, carried our luggage down to deck 7, and followed a very organized line off the ship. Took the pier elevator to the parking level, walked over to the next pier where our car was parked and was on the Henry Hudson parkway by 8:30 AM& excellent!

We had a wonderful cruise on the Dawn and it was very relaxing. The service was great in all venues and every crew member pleasant, friendly, and seemed happy to be there (except once in Aqua mustve been a bad day for him). The ship was very clean and crew members constantly working.

We really enjoy the flexibility of Freestyle Cruising which works very well on the Dawn and will keep us coming back. Were pleased with the changing itinerary from year to year out of NY, and would not hesitate to cruise on the Dawn and with NCL again.

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Sail Date: May 2006
Wife and I sailed to Bermuda on the Norwegian Dawn. This was our first cruise. I would have preferred a Transatlantic, but people advised us to take a shorter cruise to see " if we liked it". Apparently (and surprisingly) cruising is not ... Read More
Wife and I sailed to Bermuda on the Norwegian Dawn. This was our first cruise. I would have preferred a Transatlantic, but people advised us to take a shorter cruise to see " if we liked it". Apparently (and surprisingly) cruising is not for everyone.

We are in our fifties, both very active, but also not very sociable, and somewhat snobbish. Overall we enjoyed the trip despite two unfortunate events that could have turned this into a cruise from hell. More about that later. We will sail again and now know what to look for .

We flew to New York from Western Canada and had an excellent 3 days in that great city before embarkation, but that put us $2500 in the hole even before setting foot on the ship and encouraged a certain reticence about splurging on the ship.

Embarkation: We arrived at the pier at 12 noon and were in our cabin by 12:30 and this is despite throwing a hissy fit when NCL tried to take our passports from us . The poor woman we were dealing with immediately called her supervisor, who calmly gave us a disclaimer to sign and let us keep our passports. The whole episode took 4 minutes. I was impressed.

We had originally booked an inside cabin but a week before sailing we got a call from NCL to upgrade on a "special deal" to an outside cabin with balcony. I took it and that turned out to be a very good move. The BA cabin was superb. I know a little bit about interior design and this was a master class. The balcony itself was the icing on the cake, because I found that the thing I enjoyed most about the cruise was sitting on the balcony reading a book, dozing off, or just looking at the ocean.

First bad event: I wanted to use the seven days to upgrade my fitness.. Thus early morning on the first day at sea I got on the treadmill. The sea was quite rough and the boat was lurching which you notice immediately on a treadmill. After a few minutes on the treadmill, we seemed to hit a bump in the ocean which threw me off stride and somehow I managed to jar my back. This left me bent over and crippled in some pain for the next few days. Can't blame NCL for that though.

After hearing one of our travellers complain about paying $50 for a bottle of wine with his meal, we decided to abstain for the length of the cruise consoling ourselves with the "soda fountain" option only. This is unlimited pop over the week for $40 paid up front. Frankly it was a ripoff. Not once did I get a decent Coke. It was always heavily diluted. I asked for cans but they wanted to charge me extra for them. Beware of this nasty little scheme.

Service on the ship was exemplary. That goes for the waiters, cabin cleaning staff and miscellaneous crew. They were so friendly and efficient, it was unnatural and almost creepy. Still high fives to the staff.

As part of our cheapskate approach, we decided to eat only in the main restaurants which were included in the fare. I think that is not a bad plan. Overall I consider the food very edible, occasionally very good and rarely did I leave something on my plate. Deserts were perhaps the weakest part of their suite. This food business is all relative of course. If you live in a city which has good cuisine - say NY or New Orleans - and you are accustomed to eat out often, Norwegian food will disappoint you. But for us, where most restaurant food at home is quite pricey but little more than mush, it was very acceptable and I looked forward to meals. We always asked for and received, what I think was the best seat on the ship, right at the back of the Venetian Room, having an unhindered and expansive view of the Ocean.

Second bad event: After two days, my wife developed a sore throat which led inevitably - ho hum - to a bad cold which clipped her wings quite a bit. Can't blame NCL for this either.

I thought the entertainment was pathetic, particularly that offered in the main Stardust Lounge. The magician and the hypnotist - both main attractions on separate nights - were so bad , I was embarrassed for them. We left. The Ann Ryan dance group that put on two separate "extravaganza's". Let me just say that I have seen high school shows better than those. Also the cruise Director - Matt somebody- started to get on my nerves after a while. Americans are in awe of anyone who speaks with a British accent. Not me. I thought he was a twit.

Compliments to the behaviour of my fellow PASSENGERS. What a cross section of ages, genders, languages and origins! But everyone behaved quite civilly.

Excursions: For the day in Bermuda we took the local bus to Paradise Beach (?) and had a good time there. It was the finest sand I had ever seen on a beach, and slightly tinged pink. But while very good, It was not a world class beach of the type we have experienced in Australia and South Africa. Also the water was cold.

Nassau? The less said the better. Though I liked the aquarium at Atlantis, the whole place is a dump. Maybe even a dangerous dump

Toward the end of the cruise we became friendly with a few couples who were very experienced cruisers. While we had enjoyed ourselves, I noted that they were not particularly impressed with NCL and both couples, independently, recommended that we take our next cruise with Princess.

We shall see.

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Sail Date: May 2006
Norwegian Dawn Review

Sail date: 5/27/06 to Bermuda and The Bahamas

Background information: I traveled on the NCL Dawn with my 76 year old mother. She picked this cruise line after seeing it on The Apprentice and because it ... Read More

Norwegian Dawn Review

Sail date: 5/27/06 to Bermuda and The Bahamas

Background information: I traveled on the NCL Dawn with my 76 year old mother. She picked this cruise line after seeing it on The Apprentice and because it sailed out of New York City and seemed like a good value. I booked air travel from my home in Texas on my own to New York, met up with her (she lives in NYC) and we traveled on our own to the port.

Stateroom: We booked guaranteed outside and got a cabin on deck 8 with an obstructed view, though we could see out very well. The room itself was comfortable. Bathroom had shower only and with just a curtain to separate it from the rest of the bathroom, it more or less flooded the bathroom with every shower (there are drains, but depending on the motion of the ship, they didnt get all the water). The cabin had a small table, plenty of storage space for clothing, and a vanity area that I used more as a desk. It has the only electrical outlet in the room. I wish Id brought an extension cord or power stripthere is only the one power outlet in the room and I have way more than 1 gadget that needed to be recharged. It is a grounded (3 prong) outlet. There is also a 220 volt outlet for the hair dryer and coffee maker.

Ship Info: The ship is a beauty. Very new, clean, nicely decorated. There are a ton of public rooms on the ship and all are very nice. Only complaint is that it was tough to find a lounge chair in the sun (or even the shade). Not nearly enough chairs for the size of the ship and despite the posted signs saying it is not allowed, people reserved them all day long by leaving their stuff on them.

Dining: The food was the worst part of the experience. The food in the main dining rooms (Venetian, Aqua, Impressionsall have the same menu each night) was not very good at allmeat and fish were routinely overcooked (if you want medium, order medium rare). I was disappointed in nearly everything I tried. A lot of the items are variations on a theme (I swear I had the same fruit cocktail 4 times with different names but tasting exactly the same). Even the desserts were often a disappointmentorder 2 or more so youll find something you like. Portions also were small. Food temperatures often were not right either. We didnt get to try the specialty restaurants (getting a reservation after the first day on board was nearly impossibleapparently the rest of the passengers had heard how not-good the food was in the main restaurants and had made advance reservations). The food at the buffet reminded me of the cafeteria at my college, which isnt a compliment. But there was plenty of food there and it was almost always open. We ordered room service for breakfast most days and it was delivered on time or early (they call first, which is a nice touch). It was an acceptable continental breakfast.

Activities: Bingo is completely insanefor $75 you could purchase a wireless computer with 72 cards on it that you just hold and watch as it automatically records the numbers called and tells you when you are 1 number away and when you have bingo. You can buy the regular paper cards (3 per game for $25 or 6 for $35) but the only people who won at the 1 bingo contest we attended all had the computers. The casino was equally priceyonly a few slot machines took quarters, the rest were dollars. The nice thing is that the casino is at the far end of the ship instead of in the middle of everything like on most ships. We went to a few other on-board activities (mostly on sea days) and they were enjoyable and interestingparticularly a class on improving your memory.

You have to pay $60/cruise (or $15/day) for access to the indoor lap pool, sauna, hydrotherapy pool (it rocks) and relaxation suite. The pass is money well spent. I often had the place to myself in late afternoon and evening (its open until 10pm). If you want a quiet place to swim laps, relax, or sit in the hot tub or hydrotherapy pool, its a great investment. The fitness studio was a great size and I enjoyed using it very much. There were a dozen or more treadmills, 4 elliptical machines, and a collection of bikes and stair-climbers, plus free weights and Cybex equipment. Classes (which I didnt try) are offered for a fee (yoga, Pilates, spinning).

Service: Our room steward was very friendly and did a great job, though I wish hed kept a more consistent schedule of when he came through in the morning and evening. My mother spent a good deal of time in the cabin (she was hesitant to venture out alone and didnt always want to do what I was doing) and she didnt want to be in his way, though she often was. If we knew when generally he was going to be making up the room, we would have been certain to be elsewhere, but it varied by several hours depending on the day.

We tried all three main restaurants. The food is the same, but service was best in Aqua (its the medium-sized dining room). But even there it was often rushed and inattentive. My water glass often sat empty for 5 minutes or more and on a couple of dining occasions it didnt get refilled unless I asked. The waitstaff were generally nice, they just seemed overwhelmed and werent working as a team. Often people were waiting to be seated when there were plenty of empty tables because the hostess didnt have anyone to show the people to their tables. I didnt understand why she didnt just do it. We waited about 10 minutes one night when we were told no one was available to take us to a table.

Entertainment: We didnt go to a lot of the shows, but the ones we went to were generally good and better than previous cruises Ive been on. The cruise director was a nice enough guy and pretty funny.

Shore Excursions/Itinerary: I think this is a fairly new itinerary for NCL. We sailed from NYC, at sea, in Bermuda 8-4pm, at sea, GSC private island 8am-3pm, Nassau 8pm-following noon, at sea, back to NYC. Bermuda is beautiful and a million times nicer than most of the Caribbean (more beauty, less poverty, super-nice people). I did the Rising Son Catamaran Sail & Swim excursion. The crew was fun, but the boat was crowded. Decent snorkeling at the beach where they stop. Plenty of rum punch.

The private island was OK, but again not nearly enough lounge chairs (they had maybe 50-75 of them and all were taken by the time I got there, and I was on the second tender). The rest are sand chairs where you are sitting up straight. There were more than enough of those, but they arent as comfortable. I was surprised to see so many fish with all the people in the water. Take a packet of cereal with you if you really want to see lots of fish (but be warned that they will swarm youtoss the packet a little ways from where you are if you dont want to see the fish THAT close up). Also, be sure to pick up a tender ticket the previous day as soon as they start handing them out, or youll be stuck on the ship for hours waiting for a tender to the island.

Nassau was nice for shopping, no really incredible deals but good duty-free shopping. Some of the shops were open from 8-10pm on the night we docked, but downtown was pretty abandoned and unless you wanted to take a taxi to the Atlantis, there wasnt much to see or do. The following morning I went ashore to shop at 8:45 and discovered that the stores open between 9 and 9:30. We had to be back aboard at 11:30, which didnt leave much time. If you chose a shore excursion in Nassau you would have had no shopping time at all.

Embarking/Disembarking: In general, the cruise was very well organized. There was minimal waiting on either end of the cruise and plenty of helpful people around. NCL seems to have thought through ways to avoid crowding, except when it comes to their restaurants. I took the NCL transfer back to the airport and my mom grabbed a taxi without a problem.

One other thing to note: if you arent from NYC, you might think twice before booking any cruise that departs from there. The vast, vast majority of the passengers were from New York and they were generally rude, pushy, impatient, loudeverything New Yorkers are famous for. Having grown up in NYC and then living in the Midwest and then the southwest the past 18 years, it was interesting for me to watch the non-New Yorkers on the ship react to the New Yorkersits a clash of cultures (and FYI, the New Yorkers dont think theyre being rude at all, its just their way). If you dont think youd like living amidst a NY crowd for a week, think about departing from somewhere else.

Summary: All in all, Id say we got what we paid for, which was a value-priced cruise on a very lovely ship and a nice time away in beautiful places. The food and service in the dining room was the only downside, but if you booked early for the alternative restaurants, you might have a better experience.

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Sail Date: May 2006
My husband, daughter (20) and I have been on quite a few cruises. We lived in Atlanta and would drive down to Florida for last minute cruises whenever the price was right. NCL and Princess were the only two lines we had not sailed on, ... Read More
My husband, daughter (20) and I have been on quite a few cruises. We lived in Atlanta and would drive down to Florida for last minute cruises whenever the price was right. NCL and Princess were the only two lines we had not sailed on, therefore, when we moved to Connecticut and found a good price for The NCL Spirit out of New York for 8 days May 20 to the 28. Since we could drive to the port to eliminate the airfare we booked it. This turned out to be a big mistake.

Our ride to New York was uneventful until we got to the Henry Hudson Parkway. It was fleet week and it took us 1 1/2 hours to go about 3 miles to the terminal. There was general confusion and a lot of traffic. There was no info on unloading but once we got a porter all went smoothly, however, it was no comparison to the ease of the Florida Ports. Parking was very expensive $180 for the week. Inside the terminal there was little direction and we were call up to check in only to find someone else had skipped ahead of us not once, but twice. We had to stand in line in front of a check in person after we had stood in the big check in line.

The ship was nice but not spectacular. We did feel crowded everywhere on this ship which surprised us as we had been on smaller ships without being with so many people all the time. The crew did a bad job of enforcing the no saving of seat rule on deck and in the theater. Cabins were a fair size and nicely laid out. The cabin staff were cool at best and we did not get the folded towel animals and other little amenities we were used to on other ships. The colors were a bit garish and the beds hard as a rock and narrow.

The food was the worst in the industry. The service in the dining rooms was very slow. The buffet was not kept full and there were long waits for the stations to be refilled. I am not a fan of Oriental food so I did not like 90% of what was served. There were many, many complaints about the food and a lot of people vowed not to sail NCL again. The Blue Lagoon put mustard, ketchup and Worcester sauce in the ground meat before they cook the hamburgers. UGH! The fries were good and the shepherds pie also. The barbecue by the pool from 12 to 2 was acceptable. The desserts were awful with the only things being acceptable the english pound cake and the cookies. The chocolate buffet proved to be the biggest disappointment of all. Guests that went to the steak place said it was the worst steak that they had ever had. We missed the midnight buffets that other ships have and they had too many extra pay restaurants. The food and the service in these places was inferior and not worth the money. The Italian restaurant was a joke. They sectioned off a portion of the buffet area and called it a restaurant. The food was ok but the capacity was small the totally booked by mid cruise. Room service is good but one morning we got two breakfasts and we only received the fill out menu on our first day. Don't order the sandwiches. The best food is from the kids menu with the grilled cheese and individual pizzas from room service the best of the lot.

The entertainment was ok and the cast worked hard. The at sea activities were mediocre and there was a constant barrage of things to get you to spend your money on. It was difficult to find free things to do. The activities for young adults was minimal. Drinks were totally overpriced and the soda card cost $50 each for the 8 days. At the end of the cruise the liquor pick-up was unorganized and they handed out the liquor purchased on the islands much faster than what was purchased onboard. It took 10 times longer to get the onboard purchases than the island ones.

NCL needs to get organized and cater to American tastes. We will not sail this line again as we did not get the service or food quality we have come to expect from a cruise line. We rank this line at the bottom of the list. Our advice is to pay the extra money and depart from one of the Southern ports and book Carnival for fun activities, and any other line for quality food.

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Sail Date: June 2006
We sailed on the Dawn from June 17-24 out of New York down to Bermuda and the Bahamas. We actually won this cruise for two people, but decided to bring our 9 year old son and 13 year old daughter to make it a family trip because we watched ... Read More
We sailed on the Dawn from June 17-24 out of New York down to Bermuda and the Bahamas. We actually won this cruise for two people, but decided to bring our 9 year old son and 13 year old daughter to make it a family trip because we watched the Regis & Kelly show last year and they had so many family activities, we thought it would be great fun for all of us. We upgraded the "free" cabin to a mini-suite. It accommodated the four of us reasonably comfortably, and the balcony was a big plus.

PORTS/ITINERARY:

I was quite disappointed with the amount of time we spent in ports. We arrived in Bermuda late and still were required to be back on board the ship by 3:00. None of the pre-arranged tours appealed to us, so we decided to do some exploring on our own. We got off the ship and headed to the tourist/transit information building just off the ship. There we bought tokens for the bus that brought us to Horseshoe Beach. That was one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen, however, a word to the wise and adventurous: skip that main beach where it dumps you off and climb over a couple rocks and tidepools to get to your own, almost secluded beach.

From there we took a private taxi ($12) to Hamilton and did some shopping. We bought liquor at a store that didn't even make us carry it back on board the ship - they delivered it to the ship for us so we weren't stuck lugging it around.

We were at sea another full day and a half after Bermuda.

We arrived at their private island - Great Stirrup Cay - after 11:00 a.m. (two or three hours late). Disembarking was a nightmare since the 'tenders' could only carry 300 passengers at a time and all 2,400 people wanted to get off the ship. It's a MUST to get disembarkation cards the evening before (and that line was an hour long, also), in order to get your place in the cattle call. It took us about an hour and a half between the time our number was called to step foot on land.

The beach was SO crowded and the weather was unbearably hot. Beach rentals such as umbrellas and rafts are just one more way they attempted to nickle and dime us to death, so we passed. The beach is on the leeward side of the island, meaning no waves, no breeze. 2,400 people crammed onto a very small beach is no fun, so we left after an hour. The upside: the ship was practically empty, so we got a lounge chair at the pool area easily, which is next to impossible on sea days unless you go up at 7:00 a.m. to reserve your chair, which is against the rules, but nobody pays attention.

Our next stop: Nassau, Bahamas. We arrived late into Nassau - around 9:00 p.m., but the generous merchants (who are in cahoots with the cruise line) stayed open until 11:00 p.m. so people could shop at their ridiculously priced stores.

The ship was departing Nassau the next day at noon, so we had to get the kids out of bed EARLY so we could get out to enjoy the very small amount of time to explore the island. Again, we opted against the cruise-sponsored tours, and took a taxi to Paradise Beach to rent wave-runners (jetskis). Paradise Beach is the public beach right next to the hotel Atlantis. A word to the wise: bring cash if you want to rent jetskis, because the beach vendors don't accept credit cards. We had to go into the Atlantis hotel to get cash from their casino and getting back onto the public beach from their private beach isn't allowed.

If you do want to rent jetskis, they ask for $120 for an hour, but that price is negotiable. We were in a hurry, so we rented them for a half hour for $40.

THE FOOD:

The ship is fabulous! The restaurants that charge a premium are well worth the extra money. I wasn't inclined to spend it at first, but after eating in the Garde Cafe (cafeteria style) for just one meal, we decided we wanted to splurge and eat well on our cruise. Another hint: make your reservations for ALL your restaurants right when you get on board. That way you can choose the days and times you want to eat. However, if you choose not to keep your reservations, they will charge you $5 per person cancelation fee if not canceled within 24 hours.

Le Bistro was an amazing French restaurant. The food was scrumptious and the service was impeccable. Well worth the $12.50 cover. We ordered as much food as we wanted, which included two desserts each for the kids and appetizers, salads, filet mignon, etc. Simply amazing!

Cagney's Steakhouse was also fabulous. The service was great and the food was as good, if not better, than Morton's or Ruth's Chris. We ordered a bottle of Plumpjack Cabernet Sauvignon with dinner for $85 a bottle, which is only $20 more than the winery charges. If you're a wine connoisseur, you'll understand that this was a worthy purchase.

La Trattoria does not have a cover charge, but you do need to make reservations. The food here was also wonderful!

Teppanyaki/Sushi was comparable to Benihana and the food was very good.

Overall, the drinks were overpriced and not worth the $7-$10 they charge for them. We purchased a soda wrist band for our son for about $16 for the week and he was able to have free Coke or Sprite whenever he wanted it. We also purchased the coupon book of 20 "smoothies" for our daughter and it worked out to about $2 per smoothie. We all shared those because they were very sweet drinks.

KID'S ACTIVITIES:

My 9 year old son would have been placed in a group of 6-9 year old children had we opted for him to attend kids' club. Our 13 year old daughter would have been in a group with 13-17 year olds, so she decided to stick with us the whole time. Our 13 year old is on the young side of 13, so she wasn't interested in hanging out with 17 year olds. Toward the end of the cruise, all the teens were hanging out in the stairwells, which was beginning to get annoying.

I was sadly disappointed that the only reason this ship gets good reviews for "families" is that parents can ditch their kids by putting them into these clubs (i.e., day care) and have time on their own. To me, "family vacation" means you spend time WITH your children. Quite frankly, there were absolutely no "family" activities. When we wanted to swim during the day on sea days, the activities around the pool were raunchy and completely inappropriate for children of any age. "Miss Norwegian Dawn" was a competition amongst men, who thought it was funny to gyrate their bodies and stick their swimsuit area in women's faces. Sorry - completely inappropriate. I'm not a prude and can laugh with the rest of them, but when my 13 year old daughter is trying to enjoy the one public pool that's appropriate for her age (and without a cover charge like the one in the spa), I am offended.

The video arcade was a decent distraction, but if the machines "eat" your quarters (most of them required several quarters for play), it took an act of the sea gods to get someone up there to refund the lost money.

ENTERTAINMENT:

We found the evening entertainment on board to be pleasant. There was time for families to attend shows and then later, usually around 10:45 p.m., the entertainment was geared strictly toward adults - exactly as it should be. We were able to enjoy both family and adult entertainment and this was a big plus. The kids were safe in the cabin ordering room service at 11:00 p.m. Heck, they were on vacation too and don't get the opportunity to order room service twice a day normally!

TIPPING:

We were charged $10 per day per person over 12, and $5 per day for our 9 year old as gratuities. This was in ADDITION to the 15% tipping that is AUTOMATICALLY charged for any beverages. My husband didn't realize they were charging 15% on drinks and would add a buck every time he signed a receipt. We also tipped extra on premium dinners as the service was outstanding.

LAUNDRY?

Shockingly enough, there was a mini laundromat on our floor (11th). That was a mixed blessing because it meant I could do laundry if need be. All of the sudden, clothing rationing went out the window and I found myself doing laundry on my vacation. That's the life of a mom.

OVERALL:

The ship is huge, lovely, mostly clean (our stateroom's mirrors and windows were smudged, and we actually found a half eaten slice of pizza under our bed), but VERY crowded. I don't recommend this cruise to anyone wanting to get away from people. Take a Windjammer cruise if you want solitude.

The cafeteria food is just okay, but you can get burgers, fries, fried foods, salads and the like cooked to order at the Blue Lagoon restaurant 24/7. Then there's room service, but the menu is quite limited and they're not willing to make any exceptions. We would get food at Blue Lagoon and take it back to our room if we wanted to sit because that restaurant was always packed.

Would I take an NCL cruise again? Probably not. The one big benefit is the freestyle dining, but you do need to pay the extra cover charges if you want to eat GREAT food. I wouldn't recommend this ship to families who want to spend family time together, but if you are okay putting your children in day care, you can have adult time. The port visits were entirely too short and their private island was pathetic. And, although the two adults cruised for "free," all the upgrades and bringing the children cost over $3,600, so it wasn't necessarily "free."

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Sail Date: June 2006

After reading so many negative reviews, I didn't expect much. We received a good rate via the internet that guaranteed an outside cabin. We were given an obstructed view (lifeboats) and a very small room. We called to be sure our cabin ... Read More

After reading so many negative reviews, I didn't expect much. We received a good rate via the internet that guaranteed an outside cabin. We were given an obstructed view (lifeboats) and a very small room. We called to be sure our cabin had a coffee maker as I had seen a review saying it has just a kettle. After being assured there was a brew type coffee maker-a kettle was in our room. The reviewers know more than the cruise line.

Boarding was quick but our pictures had been transposed-so we had to have them redone at the entrance to the ship. A nice surprise was the restaurants-service was excellent! The wait staff in all areas tried to meet your expectations. One Hostess,in particular, made our an impression with her professionalism. Unfortunately, that can't be said of the social directors. A murder mystery supper had people lined up at one deck for almost 20 minutes. Then we were told to go to the deck above. No apology-just the woman in charge saying go ahead report me-who cares. Some who had waited were elderly and had been assured that they were in the right place.

While the weather wasn't great, we did have beautiful weather the day we reached their private island. The set-up for tender tickets took too long with long lines. However, the boarding and return was well done. The island itself was wall to wall chairs and we were really on top of one another.

The Dawn had good entertainment and a really good casino staff. The lounge staff aren't too pushy except on the day you get on-they push drinks in their special glass that is way overpriced . They bring it automatically -so you have to insist they return it and most passengers don't want the bother.

I think our trip was okay for the price paid. I must say New Yorkers are very friendly cruisers.

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