Sorry for this "late" posting, but I was so busy last week I barely had time to do anything outside of work! As I submit this review it's already the 20th!
This October 5th-12th cruise on the NCL Dawn was a Mother/Daughter cruise and we had a blast! It was my 17th cruise overall, my 2nd with NCL (first one was on the Majesty this past New Year's Eve) and it was the 6th cruise overall for my DD but her 1st with NCL. 4 of her cruises were with all of us as a family, and the 5th was for her honeymoon about 8 years ago. She loves cruising as do I. My other cruises have been on Carnival, HAL, Celebrity, & 2 cruises on the old Home Lines Atlantic.
We drove to the port on a day when traffic was a little more of a challenge than usual for NYC, because there was a bike marathon and the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer happening that day. We met halfway in between...I'm from NY & DD is from Connecticut...and got to the pier around 11:45AM. By the time we gave the luggage to the porter, and parked the car upstairs on the pier ($210 for the week) and made our way down the escalator to join the check-in line, it was around noon. Check-in was painless and very, very quick & we were on the ship within 25 minutes.
Because cabins were not yet ready, we headed to the buffet for lunch and it was, even at that relatively early hour, difficult to find a table. But eventually we managed and had lunch. The only liquid we could find to drink, however, was water...if there was juice or iced tea somewhere, I certainly couldn't find it!
At around 1:30 they announced the cabins were ready, so we made our way down 2 decks and found our cabin, 10036, a balcony cabin starboard side, forward, and dropped off our carry-on bags. The beds were already separated into 2 twins, which was good, and everything seemed clean & crisp. The cabin was a decent size...not as roomy as a Carnival balcony cabin, but certainly more than adequate. The bathroom was really nice though...with partitioned shower and toilet areas. Our cabin steward, Boris, came by to say hello and ask if we had any special requests. I came really close to requesting that we be allowed to stay onboard for a month or so...but then decided not to be a wiseguy! Boris & his assistant kept our cabin sparkling all week, and we were treated to towel animals every night except the first. There was adequate closet & drawer/shelf space...but, for 2 women, it was just by a hair! I had only one issue with the cabin's layout, and it was the fact that the writing table & chair was placed immediately next to/in front of the sliding glass door to our balcony...so it made going in and out less than smooth. It wasn't as if we could ask Boris to move it...there was no place else it would've fit! There were the much-appreciated robes in the closet, and there was a fairly good hair blower on the vanity. I loved the Elemis lotion! The cabin had a couple of lithographs of fish on the wall, and it was a very pleasant cabin indeed. The location of this cabin...the first one in from the elevator & stairs...had me a little worried about potential noise, but that proved to be an unnecessary concern as it was never noisy outside the cabin at all.
We had very nice CC Roll Call, which I joined rather late because this cruise wasn't booked until August, but everyone seemed to be a fun person. Our RC "leaders" arranged for a formal Meet'n'Greet, to be held on Monday at the Star Bar, hosted by NCL. They sent the Hotel Director, the Chef and several other officers who said a few words and answered questions. It was good to meet everyone and put faces with names. It was a really good group.
Food & Drink: On the 1st night we ate at Sushi. The food was very good and presented beautifully. We also ordered a nice hot sake to accompany the meal. Surprisingly this restaurant was almost empty...I think there were maybe 3 or 4 tables occupied. On the 2nd night we ate in LeBistro, which I loved. The restaurant's dEcor is stunning. The service was excellent as was the food. There were many, many diners in LeBistro that evening...our reservation was for 7PM...and they certainly didn't rush you through dinner. On the 3rd night we opted to try the Venetian main dining room. We arrived at around 7:30 and there was a short line on the stairs, with about a 10 minute wait. We asked to be seated at a larger table so that we might enjoy the company of fellow passengers...and she looked quite surprised at the request & said "oh we can't do that"...she explained that large groups come in together and couples prefer to be seated alone. I found this somewhat unusual, to say the least...because HAL was experimenting with "as you wish" dining when my SO and I were on the Noordam last year...and dining with different cruisemates every night was never a problem. So, after hemming & hawing about it, she sat us at a table for 4 and told us she would seat others with us "if they didn't mind". This little encounter was somewhat off-putting as can be imagined. By the time our appetizers arrived a delightful couple from Staten Island was seated with us, and DD & I really enjoyed their company. The food however was really not good at all. I ordered the black bean soup and the steak from the "always" side of the menu. Everything was incredibly salty. That was our one and only dinner in Venetian!
On Wednesday we ate in Hamilton...more about that later. On Thursday night we had a fabulous dinner and fine entertainment from the chefs in Teppanyaki. Bring your camera! On Friday night we had an even more fabulous dinner in Salsa. This turned out to be our favorite of the specialty restaurants and we actually decided in favor of a 2nd dinner there on Saturday night, rather than in Cagney's, which was the original plan. The lobster tacos are exceptional and the sangria is really good as well.
We ate breakfast just once in the buffet. I don't recommend it at all. I was in line for an omelet and the wait was ridiculously long because they had only one chef preparing omelets one at a time in one pan! The accompanying breakfast meats like ham, bacon & sausage were tepid at best. There was coffee, which was good, but no juices...none that I could find anyway. All other breakfasts were eaten in the Aqua restaurant (balcony cabins have a small notification of the opportunity to have breakfasts in Aqua...ours was on the same ledge as the TV). Aqua was excellent in every way: the bright and cheery atmosphere, the smiles on the wait staff & high level of service, plus the fine menu selections and a small buffet area with fruits, cereals, and most importantly...lox and bagels and cream cheese, which is heaven to a New Yorker like me! This restaurant served the very best Eggs Benedict I've ever had on a cruise ship...unlike the overcooked baked facsimile that is served on Carnival ships (sorry Carnival!). On the day we disembarked, Aqua was closed so we breakfasted in the Venetian...same menu & just as good.
DD and I rarely ate lunch, but twice we did get burgers or chicken at the poolside grill. They have the grill open on sea days only, and it was really very nice...they served burgers, hot dogs, chicken, corn-on-the-cob & salad. I think they did a fine job with this.
One day I was hungry in the late afternoon (not having had lunch) & decided to try the wings at the Blue Lagoon, and they didn't disappoint.
Activities: This ship has something for everyone! I love my slots & the casino was active and bright and inviting. I'm not crazy about the way their slot tournament is structured though...IMHO Carnival does a better job of this. On NCL you pay your $15 bucks, play your round, and only the winner of the round advances to one final round to be held on the last sea day. You could score 50,000 points...and the guy next to you scores 50,001...and he advances & you don't. On Carnival, you pay your $20 bucks, play your round, and your score gets posted on a winners board...from #1 to # 9...and they keep playing rounds for about 2+ hours, keeping the highest scores still posted. So, if you score 50,000 points and the guy next to you scores 50,001...you both go up on the board until someone beats your score...or not! And then the top 9 people (plus a wildcard person, drawn by raffle) play in the final round for the championship & the whole thing ...from 1st round to final winners round...all happens in a span of around 3 hours & the winner is paid $500 bucks & mardi gras beads & a tee-shirt & a ship-on-a-stick! All in one day...you don't have to wait until the last day at sea. And Carnival does it twice on a 7- or 8-day cruise.
One thing we absolutely LOVED on this ship was playing Nintendo's Wii. They had bowling and baseball, and boxing was scheduled one day, but the crowd opted for more bowling. It was so much fun! Kudos to Felix from the Cruise Director's staff, who did an outstanding job running these events and who, in my opinion, should be a CD in his own right some day. Wii was held in the Pearly Pub & a lot of people from all age groups participated. I think many of us will be asking Santa for Wii this year!
We played regular trivia a couple of times. I would've liked to have participated in the progressive trivia, but they had it at a very inconvenient time...at 6:30PM! Many people are getting ready for dinner at that hour, and I think it would've been better to have it sometime in the morning.
DD went to yoga and stretching and other classes in the gym & really enjoyed it. She said the gym staff & gym itself was terrific. They started offering classes at 7AM on most mornings. She also loved playing volleyball on the sports deck.
I attended one lecture, held in the movie theater on deck 12, and while the space was very comfortable, this particular speaker was difficult to hear & understand. He had a very soft voice and often looked away from the microphone while speaking. But I'm sure he meant well!
We attended the martini clinic and the French wine tasting. The martini clinic was held in the Star Bar (Monday, deck 13, $15/pp) and was really fun & informative. They discussed & served 5 different martinis and wow! What a buzz that was! They served a classic martini with one's choice of gin or vodka, a cosmo, an appletini, a French kiss and something else that escapes me right now. The wine tasting was held in LeBistro (Saturday, deck 6, $15/pp). They offered 4 wines, 2 red/2 white, and served a small variety of cheeses to accompany. We received more Brie when a waiter overheard my DD comment on how delicious the Brie was, which I thought was so thoughtful. The wines were a Pouilly-Fuisse, a Chardonnay, a Merlot-Grenache & something else. This was really informative as well...and, at the end of the tasting a bottle of champagne was won by a lucky participant. NCL also offered an Italian wine tasting (held in Impressions), and also a margarita-tasting that we some how missed in the freestyle daily. Darn! We spoke to some people who really liked it.
We thought Jose & Patti were very talented. The White Hot Party was really a lot of fun, and by the way, you don't need to wear white...hardly anyone did. My favorite entertainer was, by a large landslide, comedian Dave Heenan. Do not miss his late-night show because he's absolutely hysterical. He was slightly "blue" but not vulgar or obscene by any stretch of the imagination. And it was nice seeing him interact with the pax throughout the week at various other venues.
The pool band was really good....had some people up dancing throughout the week & they also have a CD for sale (by the pool and in the gift shop) which I meant to buy, but then it slipped my mind darn it!
Bermuda: How wonderful is this little piece of heaven! I haven't been here since 1995 and it was so good to go back. Nothing has really changed except there's a fair amount of construction at Front Street in Hamilton, and the hotel is missing (having been imploded) up at Fort St.Catherine Beach. We stayed there on a couple of land vacations to Bermuda and enjoyed it. I took a picture of the empty space as we cruised past it!
We arrived at the Royal Naval Dockyard (King's Wharf) on time on Wednesday. This was actually something of a miracle, and here's a shout out to the Captain and his officers & crew for this...because we had to boogie to make up 10 lost hours!! On Monday night at around 10:30PM there came an announcement that we were turning back to NY due to the need for a medical evacuation. I went to sleep eventually and missed the whole thing, but later learned that at 3:30AM we were met by 2 helicopters, (1 landed on deck & 1 hovered), and a Coast Guard cutter. It was said (nothing official from the captain or crew) that a woman was about to give birth prematurely. I hope that everything turned out OK.
DD & I were off the ship by 9AM, bought our 3-day ferry/bus passes immediately outside of the terminal ($56 for both of us), and were on our way to 9 Beaches Resort. We hopped into one of the many cabs waiting just outside the terminal (for this we opted for the cab, because he takes you right to the hotel registration cottage...whereas the bus lets you off at the main road...15-20 min walk) and the cost for the cab ride was $15 which is not bad. We bought the day-pass for $80 for the 2 of us which entitled us to use of all their facilities: bathrooms, showers, all beaches with lounge chairs, the pool & restaurant, plus they gave us towels. I had read pros and cons about 9 Beaches here on CC prior to this cruise...but I really wanted to experience it, having never been there, and I'm glad we did. We arrived at around 9:40 AM and stayed all day until around 4PM when we asked the desk clerk to call a cab for us (takes about 10 minutes for the cab to arrive). The assessment of fellow CC members was right on the mark. The beaches are small & cozy but beautiful. The entire property was immaculate and beautiful. And best of all, the entire day was incredibly quiet & relaxing & serene. On the negative side, the ocean is so amazingly shallow that one has to walk out a couple of hundred feet to actually swim. Otherwise it was great. This would be a very good location for parents traveling with toddlers or young children. It's like a wading pool. At around 11:00AM a small boat of Dawn passengers arrived at the 9 Beaches dock (from the NCL-sponsored excursion) and made their way to the beaches...but they had to leave by 1:30PM...not very much time at all. DD & I enjoyed lunch at their seaside bar/restaurant. I had the conch fritters which were exceptional, DD had a Caesar's salad, we split an order of chicken wings and each had a soda & the bill came to $46. A little pricey I thought. All in all, we enjoyed the day, and I would heartily recommend it for those seeking peace, quiet, and total relaxation.
When we arrived back at the ship we changed and went right back out to catch the ferry for Hamilton and the Harbour Night festival. The ferry was fast and comfortable. Upon arriving in Hamilton we browsed in some stores (Calypso was great!) and made our way up Front St. to a planned dinner at the Hog Penny. They have a very nice menu including several items of Irish/English origin (shepherd's pie, bangers 'n' mash) plus some very nice Indian Curries. Yum Yum!! Because it was the end of the season for Harbour Night there were less local vendors than usual, and when we finished dinner there was no music coming from the grandstand, so we strolled back to the ferry terminal and caught the 9PM returning to King's Wharf. The ferry was completely full! When the ferry crew put down the gangway to allow us to board, some fellow passengers started "moo-ing", indicating our herd-of-cattle status! Pretty funny! Everyone seemed in a good mood as we left Hamilton.
Thursday morning we got up early, had breakfast, got off the ship & walked around the harbour path to catch the #7 bus to Horseshoe Beach. This was a really pleasant bus ride and we saw much of "everyday" Bermuda along the way in addition to some stunning South Shore views. The bus let us off at the top of the hill and it wasn't a bad walk down at all (nothing compared to the walk to the Baths on Virgin Gorda!), however I was grateful for the dollar-van to the top at the end of the day! Like the sign says, "Best dollar spent in Bermuda"! DD walked back up the hill...and made it faster than me! There was a significant line for the van! ...ahhh to be young! Horseshoe Beach was glorious and not too crowded that day. We arrived at around 10:30AM and stayed until 4PM. We rented sand chairs (($10 each plus $5 refundable deposit) and plopped ourselves down for a day of sun, soft pink sand, beautiful vistas & good ocean! They have showers & restroom facilities at the top of the beach. There's also a small restaurant where we had lunch...items like hamburgers, chicken fingers, etc. Prices were very moderate. There was a fairly long line of people waiting for the bus back to King's Wharf at the end of our day. 2 buses came that could fit only a few people each & then an empty bus came which fit most of us. It wasn't that long a wait...I'd say 15 minutes from the time I got to the top until the empty bus arrived.
On Friday, our last day in Bermuda, we woke up, had breakfast & left the ship, but in not enough time to catch the 9AM ferry to St.George's...having just missed it by a few minutes! So we walked around the dockyard area, which was charming & clean and manicured, just like the rest of Bermuda. At 10AM we boarded the ferry for the 40-minute trip. We strolled the charming streets, did some shopping and some window-shopping, sat in a beautiful little space and watched the NCL Dream leave St.George's on it's way back to Boston, and had a really nice lunch at the White Horse Tavern right on King's Square. DD said she has very clear memories of having her picture taken (with her brothers!) in the "stocks" when she was very little. We took some pictures of the Deliverance on Ordinance Island, and the statue of St. George, & then made our way back to catch the ferry at 2PM. No pictures in the "stocks" this time! It was a very nice day in St.George's.
Bermuda remains a favorite destination, and I hadn't realized how much I missed it until returning on this cruise. We were very lucky to have sensational weather during our 3 days there (indeed for the entire cruise), as it was sunny and around 80 degrees each day. I think I won't wait so long to go back again.
Disembarkation: We cruised under the Verazzano Bridge just as dawn was breaking...the orange & yellow morning sky was breathtaking as a backdrop to the buildings and bridges of Brooklyn and lower Manhattan, and we took some great pictures coming in. We opted to not do self-assist off the ship, and instead chose lime green luggage tags for a 9:45AM exit off the ship. We had a leisurely breakfast in Venetian and walked a little around the ship. They actually called our tag color at 9:55AM, and it was a breeze off the ship and into the terminal where we quickly claimed our luggage, easily went through customs, & DD waited with the luggage while I retrieved the car. We were headed home by 10:30AM
In Summary: I loved the NCL Dawn. Our cabin, the layout of the ship, the public rooms, the crew was one of the best in my cruise history, the food was excellent in the specialty restaurants and in Aqua for breakfast, otherwise so-so in Venetian and the buffet. The activities were varied and a lot of fun. The Cruise Director's staff did an excellent job. (And the CD, Pedro, was really fun and engaging all week long...I loved his periodic intercom announcements where he introduced himself as "your voice from the ceiling...". I bought a cruise-rewards certificate on our last sea day. I currently have a cruise booked for New Year's Eve this year (Carnival Glory) and plan on doing a land vacation next summer at the Jersey shore for 2 weeks...but I fully expect to use the certificate next fall & hope to cruise on the Dawn once more to Bermuda! Read Less