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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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." Read Less