"7-Night Bermuda" Aboard Norwegian Dawn
"Shores distant shores, there's where I'm headed for." - Guy Clark
Graduation Present Cruise. Aren't we cool parents - this was a high school graduation present for our younger son (age 17). D & I had cruised twice previously to Bermuda, and we'd always talked up a storm about it. So when faced with what he might want for a graduation present, rather than money, or a party, he chose to see Bermuda, and spending 8 days on a luxury cruise ship was the icing on the cake. Our older son (age 22) came too. Price was $910/person booked through Expedia.com. Plus, we pre-booked through NCL $160/person for two excursions.
Destination Review first and Ship & Port Review to follow.
Time at Sea. Two and a half tranquil days of cruising expired prior to reaching King's Wharf, Bermuda.
"There you stand, lost in the infinite series of the sea, with nothing ruffled but the waves. The tranced ship indolently rolls; the drowsy trade winds blow; everything resolves you into languor. For the most part, in this tropical [cruising] life, a sublime uneventfulness invests you; you hear no news; read no gazettes; extras with startling accounts of commonplace never delude you into unnecessary excitements; you hear of no domestic afflictions; bankrupt securities; fall of stocks; are never troubled with the thought of what you shall have for dinner." ~ Herman Melville (Moby Dick)
Three days on the island, and then the cruise back to New York took one and a half days.
Bermuda. It is simply one of the most beautiful islands that you can cruise to. I can't add much to that. Instead, I'll relate a story. Isle of Devils. Early Spanish and Portuguese captains referred to Bermuda by this name. On our two sail & snorkel excursions, we were given two different stories as to why. First, early legends spoke of spirits or devils howling throughout the night in the wooded areas all over the islands. The noises are now thought to have been the callings of birds (most likely the Bermuda Petrel or Cahow). The second story was that the islands were named because of the perpetual wrecking of ships in nearly a complete circle around the islands, now known to have been caused by the submerged northern half of the extinct volcano that formed the islands. Pick a story, I like them both.
King's Wharf. DAWN docked at King's Wharf, just as SPIRIT did in 2004. Dockyard Tram. Previously, there had been trams available at the Dockyard for excursion tours, but this time around, there was also a tram for just transporting people around the facilities. It consisted of four open-air, 4-abreast, 6-row seating cars, pulled by a cute little "Thomas the Tank" styled steam engine replica (propane driven). It made one continuous loop with stops at King's Wharf, the bus & ferry terminal, Clocktower Mall, and Snorkel Park / Maritime Museum. It was convenient only if it happened to be where you were, when you wanted to ride it. Its slow progress, and even slower loading/unloading, usually meant that waiting for it was futile and walking was faster.
Ramparts [Afternoon, Day 6]. I had read that entrance to the Maritime Museum included access to a portion of the ramparts (fortification walls surrounding the Fortress Keep and partially the Dockyard). The ramparts, which are an average of 40ft high, afford you a good view out over the ocean. I figured that if the ramparts were accessible from the Museum, then they were probably accessible from other points within the Dockyard. It took my younger son & I only a short time to find an old earthen ramp behind the Craft Market that lead up to the top. It was overgrown with weeds but not blocked off - fair game as far as we were concerned - and up we climbed. The rampart walls, made of solid stone, were (by my guess) at least 25ft wide, with about a 4ft tall 'railing' of stone lining each side. Walking along the ramparts, I can only imagine, must be eerily similar to walking along the top of the Great Wall of China (scenery there would be different). Periodically along the railings were openings, where, I assume, the battlement guns once were located. We did find a number of old circular cannon pivot posts and rails. We walked as far as the Fortress Keep itself, but, in our attempt to get to a position with an unobstructed view of the ocean, we were thwarted by a gap in the fortification walls that was way too wide for us to cross.
Clocktower Mall. We visited the mall and craft shops on a few occasions. My wife, D, loves this shopping area.
To the Beach! [Day 4]. Our first day on Bermuda, and our plans were to introduce the boys to one of our all-time favorite beach spots, Horseshoe Bay and South Shore Park. We figured on spending most of the daylight hours there today. Picked up 4 all-day bus/ferry passes at the convenient ticket counter right alongside the ship (still $12 each) and hopped on the little wharf Tram which happened to be sitting there at the time (no doubt, waiting for us). A quick ride to the end of the wharf and we hopped off at the first stop, the bus and ferry terminals. 10-minutes or so waiting for the right bus and off we went. We actually caught the Horseshoe Bay Express Bus rather than the normal commuter bus, no stops, Dockyard-to-Bay in approximately 25 minutes.
Horseshoe Bay [11am-5pm, Day 4]. As we reached the end of the bay entrance path, rounded the corner, and saw the foliage open up to the spectacular view that D & I have come to love, I said to the boys "Welcome to Horseshoe Bay". What can I add to what I have already stated many times before about Horseshoe Bay. Beautiful, simply beautiful. Today the weather was perfect, mid 80s, and the sun was shining. The wide beachfront definitely contained far more vacationers than I had ever seen here before, but there was still ample room for us to spread out our blanket and clam our little piece of paradise. We were about 30 ft back from the water's edge. Early June, so the water temperature was pretty cold. My younger son & I decided that it was far too cold to just amble in, so we had to make a run for it and jump in full bore. 2-minutes in and you had already long forgotten that initial shock. D & older son exclaimed that the water was too cold, and spent the rest of the day just periodically getting their feet wet but never really opting for the full-body shock. Younger son & I decided that it was time to snorkel.
South Shore Park is a phenomenally picturesque 2-mile stretch encompassing 12 of Bermuda's finest pink sand beaches and bays, of which Horseshoe Bay is included. After lunch, the boys & I walked along the water's edge route through the beach accesses, hiked around and over the craggy rocks (and the boys sometimes climbed up them), and generally made our way sightseeing through the bays and inlets as far as (I guess) about Chaplin Bay. Even though I'd done this twice before, I could never tire of this scenery, and of course, I took photos all the way. I even took a photo of my two sons posed in front of the same craggy rocks that my brother & I had posed in front of almost 30-yrars earlier!
Snorkeling Horseshoe Bay / South Shore Park [Day 4]. We snorkeled on two separate occasions today, once in the morning for about an hour, and once in the afternoon, in/out of the water 3 or 4 times, and totaling maybe 1 1/2 hours. In the morning, we explored the western side of Horseshoe Bay, starting from the area adjacent to Port Royal Cove and arcing out all along the rocky fringe, passed the rock isles and rubble and the stonehole formation, and all the way out to the large mushroom-shaped rock at the outermost extent of the bay. Our afternoon snorkeling session took us through the South Shore Park outcroppings in/around Peel Rock Cove, and then around the small rock and reef formations offshore of Butts, Middle, and Wafer Rocks Beaches.
Fish Seen While Snorkeling. It was a bright & sunny day, so visibility to the eye was good, however, the sea was rough, and constant wave action continuously stirred up bits of sand and sediment, so the underwater photos were less clear than I would have liked. We did see the largest parrotfish that I have ever spotted in the Atlantic/Caribbean, a Rainbow Parrotfish, one rivaling in size to any that I had seen in Hawaii. OK, the list: * Parrotfish: Rainbow Parrotfish. This was the impressively big fish that we saw today, 3 ft at least! Blue Parrotfish, we saw a 2 ft one. Stoplight Parrotfish. Saw several in the 18-20 inch range. Yellowtail Parrotfish. Yellowtail Parrotfish - Initial. Striped & Princess Parrotfish juveniles. Identical looking. * Grunts: White Grunt and Bluestripe Grunt. * Snappers: Bluestripe Snapper and Yellowtail Snapper. * Tiger Grouper. * Sergeant Major (damselfish). * Surgeonfish / Tangs: Ocean Surgeonfish, Blue Tang (several in the dark lavender color), Yellowtail Tang (2nd phase immature Blue Tang). * Blue Head (and other wrasses). * Silver Chub / Bermuda Chub. * Cleaning Goby.
Sail & Snorkel Excursions. For the second and third days spent on Bermuda, [Days 5 & 6 of the cruise], we had pre-booked excursions months ahead of time. The first was to be an in-shore experience (possibly the same or similar excursion as one that D & I had enjoyed tremendously in 2004), and the second was to be an offshore, fringe reef, open snorkeling experience. Both were extremely enjoyable, but neither one worked out exactly as we had envisioned. Both excursions wound up sailing to the same spot, Hawkins Island, albeit by different tactics and different routes. I'm going to sort-of present them together here, highlighting the similarities and differences, and then talk about the two days snorkeling in/around Hawkins Island in a combined delivery.
Sailboats. Both Rising Son (Restless Native) and Aristocat were sailing Catamarans (Cats), vessels with two thin, parallel hulls, with a large structural interior cabin that spans between them.
Hawkins Island, with an area of 5 acres, is the westernmost of the large islands in a grouping of dozens of islands stretching in an arc across Great Sound from the Salt Kettle peninsula. It is located in nearly the center of the sound. It was originally named Elizabeth's and then Tatem Island, but was renamed Hawkins after the Royal Navy bought it in 1809 to use as a prison island. It is now privately owned, with no ferry service and no public access.
Restless Native Catamaran Cruise & Snorkel [Day 5, 1pm]. 3 1/2 hours, $89. Boat name "Rising Son" "The fun begins the moment you step aboard this spacious and comfortable catamaran. Sail to a secluded and picturesque cove where you can snorkel in shallow water, sunbathe in the roomy hammocks aboard the boat, or just relax in the comfort of the interior cabin with its full amenities. You'll even be entertained with stories about Bermuda's history, culture and geology and learn more about the underwater world."
While queuing up on the wharf, I found out from the excursion coordinator that the Beez family, who had taken us on the 2004 excursion, had since sold the boat. She then introduced me to the new owner/captain. He told me that we would not be going to Spanish Point today because the wind direction would not permit it. We would be sailing to an equally pristine location called Hawkins Island.
The crew consisted of Nigel the captain (or "Stretch" as his Dad called him), his father "Pops" the rather amusing narrator, and the cookie baker / sail handler Tom. Pops was very personable, and gave us a lot of Bermudian stories and information, delivered in a light and comic fashion, flipped through some photos of fish we might be seeing, and then we had cookies.
Rising Son was as an in-shore, sailing, pink catamaran, 50 ft long x 21 ft wide, and had a 60 ft mast. The forward deck of the vessel, in front of the cabin, was made of two large canvas trampolines strung between the twin hulls and the center structure. The three of us, D, younger son & I claimed spots on the trampoline, but older son preferred to ride inside the cabin. Hanging out on the trampoline during the sailing, watching the water rush under you, made this an ideal spot for the cruise. I counted 18 guests aboard. Each of the two Cat hulls was approximately 2 1/2 ft wide, and the aft ends were fitted with a 50 hP outboard motor each. This Cat was designed primarily for sailing, with the motors for short periods of assistance. Snorkelers entered the water using a unique set of stairs that was lowered from the forward center structure, right into the water, so the bottom step was close to the sandy bottom. You simply walked right off the boat and into the beautiful water. BTW: This was the same Cat that we had been on for the 2004 excursion. There is also now a Rising Son II catamaran operating in Bermuda, but she's a larger Offshore Cat, 60ft x 30ft.
Rising Son left/returned King's Wharf directly through the ferry outlet, and almost immediately hoisted both the mainsail and jib. On Rising Son, the sails were hoisted manually, with hand-operated winches. We then sailed roughly south across Great Sound, and as we swung to the west we passed close by both Two Rock Pass and then Long Island. Still under sail, we cut in between Kappa Rock and Hawkins Island, and then around the southern end of Hawkins Island inside of Alpha Island. Once past Alpha, we dropped the sails, motored into Hawkins Cove, and anchored. After snorkeling, we motored out of the cove, hoisted the sails, and set out to the west from the island, around Lambda Rock and Pearl Island, and then north across Great Sound. We sailed up to the southern side of Ireland Island South, dropped the sails, and slowly motored along the Ireland Islands on the lookout for sea turtles. We spent about 15-minutes slowly making our way towards King's Wharf, during which time we had more than a dozen sightings of sea turtles.
Catamaran Coral Reef Snorkel [Day 6, 9:30am]. 3 hours, $69. Boat name "Aristocat" I'll provide the excursion text only to explain what should have been, but as I stated, this excursion did not end up going offshore. "Relax on deck and enjoy complimentary soft drinks while our crew provides an informative commentary on the island and the fascinating undersea ecosystem. After a leisurely cruise you'll find yourself moored in a magical deep blue oasis, the northernmost coral reef in the world, where you're bordered by fringe reef on all sides. Immerse yourself in crystal-clear waters and explore the pristine reef. Following snorkeling, we'll hoist the sails and enjoy a relaxing sail home." Even though we had a good time on this excursion, I would have to say that in my mind this constituted the greatest disappointment of the whole cruise. Younger son & I had really been looking forward to the open water snorkel out on the ring reef, and to add insult to injury, we went back to nearly the same spot as we had been to the previous day.
Again, a three-person crew, the Captain and a female narrator/instructor (never got their names), and a young male sail handler named Mario (native of St Thomas, USVI). They were not nearly as personable as Rising Son's crew, and the narration was sort of dry.
Aristocat was designed as a large, heavy-duty, off-shore, motor-sailing catamaran, painted white, significantly larger overall, 55 ft long x 30 ft wide, with a 65 ft mast (with a longer boom so it supported a larger mainsail). The foredeck was a hard structure, over which were thrown 20 or so soft foam sun mats. D and older son rode inside the large cabin on the way out/back (the interior salon as they called it, large enough to have a walk-around center bar and fully-equipped galley). Younger son & I, having missed out on the opportunity to claim a sun mat, basically either stood along the outboard deck railings or sat atop the cabin roof. The Aristocat, being larger, was floating on twin hulls that were by my estimate at least 4 ft wide. No outboards this time, this boat had inboard diesel engines housed in each hull, driving roughly 18-inch diameter propellers (we looked at them when we were snorkeling). Entrance to the water was out and over the aft end of either hull, using a set of steps formed right into the hull itself. The lowest step ended just about at the waterline, so you had to drop into the water. I forgot to count, but there were probably around 25 guests aboard.
Aristocrat left/returned King's Wharf through the South Basin and out the small opening in the sea wall, motored for a while, then hoisted the mainsail and unfurled the Genoa. On Aristocat, the mainsail and the Genoa were deployed automatically, with a hidden electronic winches. We sailed somewhat along the Ireland Islands, but then straight for Hawkins Island. We came in exactly as before, past Kappa Rock and Alpha Island, and again anchored in Hawkins Cove. After snorkeling, we exited around Hawkins exactly as we entered, under power, and once past Kappa Rock made a bee-line straight for Kings Wharf. They did hoist the sails sometime during this trip back, but they were luffing the entire time, so we were strictly motoring.
Two Days / One Island / Two Different Snorkeling Spots. Each snorkel session lasted about 1 1/2 hours. Younger son & I would stay out in the water until they'd blow the horn at us, and we were always the last ones back on the boat. On the second boat, Aristocat, we asked the captain how long we were to snorkel, and if they'd blow a horn. He said that we had about 1 1/2 hours, but everyone always returned before that, so they rarely used the horn. The first minute in the water, he asked me "We're not returning 'till they blow the horn, are we?" I answered "No way!" Why anyone would cut their snorkeling short is a mystery to me. Could they be that desperate to start downing Rum Swizzles?
Hawkins Cove [Rising Son, 1st Snorkel Excursion]. The northwestern side of Hawkins Island forms a large semi-circular cove named appropriately, Hawkins Cove. It is bounded on the north by the northwest point (I'll call it Hawkins Point) of the island, which juts out predominantly into Great Sound, pointing somewhat towards Alpha Island. On our first day snorkeling at Hawkins Island, the crew of Rising Son asked that we snorkel within the bounds of Hawkins Cove (remember, this was to be an in-shore snorkel). The Cove supported a lot of sea grass, some bunches of oval soft corals, a lot of large schools of small fish, and an abundance of silver porgies. The northern edge of the cove was the best area. Younger son & I did wrap around the point for the last 15 minutes, saw the lower-most area of the reef, some larger examples of fish seen in the cove, and a number of parrotfish not seen in the cove.
Hawkins / Lambda Island [Aristocat, 2nd Snorkel Excursion]. The second time, knowing that there was a nice reef north of where we snorkeled yesterday, younger son & I swam straight for Hawkins Point. We spent nearly the entire time snorkeling in the triangular-shaped 'Reef', north of the point, bounded by Lambda Island and Lambda Rock. This was a much more rewarding spot, deeper, and with a much more established coral reef. In actuality, the whole time that I was snorkeling, I didn't realize that Lambda Island was separate from Hawkins Island. I found out later when I downloaded a map. It was a little more obvious to see that Lambda Rock was separated (which I named because I couldn't actually find any reference to it). We saw a very large number of parrotfish, snappers and grunts, and a more than a dozen new fish that I hadn't before seen in the Atlantic / Caribbean. We even saw a big lobster.
Fish Seen. * Silver Porgy. The most abundant fish on both reefs. Saucereye Porgy. * Grunts: French, Bluestripe, we saw uncountable numbers of these two; Caesar, Smallmouth, Sailors Choice (sailors grunt), saw these to a lesser extent, but still plentiful. * Snappers: Schoolmaster and Bluestripe , again, many, many of these two. * Parrotfish: Nowhere in the Atlantic / Caribbean do I think that I've ever seen this many different parrotfish varieties all in one place (listed largest-to-smallest). Blue Parrotfish, Blue Parrotfish - Initial, Queen Parrotfish, Queen Parrotfish - Initial, Redband Parrotfish, Redband Parrotfish - Initial, Redtail Parrotfish, Yellowtail Parrotfish, Yellowtail Parrotfish - Initial, Princess Parrotfish, Striped Parrotfish, Striped Parrotfish & Princess Parrotfish juveniles, identical looking. * Hogfish, a very big fish that I'd never seen before. Spotfin Hogfish, another I hadn't seen. * Butterflyfish: Four Eye Butterflyfish, which D was the first to spot, and Spotfin Butterflyfish, saw only one. * Sergeant Major * Ocean Surgeonfish * Silver & Bermuda Chubs * Slippery Dick and Slippery Dick Juvenile, a name always good for a laugh. * Squirrelfish & Longspine Squirrelfish * Barred Hamlet * Rock Hind Grouper * Sea Bream * Gray Triggerfish * Whitespot Filefish * Scrawled Cowfish * Remora. Usually found attached to sharks or sea turtles. I didn't know that they got as big as the free-swimming pair we saw here, at least 3 ft long, and they swam circles around us for a good 3-4 minutes. I told my younger son to kick them if they got too near. * Ballyhoo, saw these in the water around the boat when the crew through some crackers overboard. * Caribbean Spiny Lobster, judging by the antennae, which are equal to the body size, this one was about 12-14 inches. * Sea Cucumbers: Black Sea Cucumber, Donkey Dung Sea Cucumber (a competitor for the best name), Golden Sea Cucumber.
Ending the Excursions. Of course, both of these sail & snorkel excursions included complimentary Rum Swizzles on the way back to King's Wharf. D got the party recipe from the crew on the Aristocat. Bermuda Rum Swizzle: 1/2 of a 2-liter bottle of Bermuda Black Seal Rum, 1 can pineapple juice, 1 can orange juice, 7 splashes of Grenadine.
Ship & Port Review
Port of New York, Boarding/Embarkation & Departure
Manhattan Cruise Ship Terminal is located between 48th and 54th Streets off 12th Ave, on the west side of Manhattan. We had stayed in our customary Fairfield Inn in NJ the previous night, so it was only about a 30-minute drive with no traffic on a Sunday morning. We drove up 12th Ave to 55th Street where there was a left-hand side exit / U-Turn that leads you up a ramp to the drop off / loading area of the terminal complex. After what seemed like an eternity (10 minutes) staring up at the beautiful NCL Dawn and NCL Spirit, while waiting to make the final U-turn off 12 Ave, I finally dropped off D, sons, and all of the luggage to be checked. Then up I drove to the rooftop, where they now REALLY fleece you for the privilege of the parking convenience $30/day $210 for the 7 night cruise! . Embarking: I was back down to get in line for early check-in by exactly 11am. But NO! We were stopped by an exceedingly rude terminal employee who kept insisting that we sit on the metal chairs and wait because the early check-in was closed (even though we could see a good 20-or-so passengers still in line), and because the Latitudes Lounge was also closed (despite our protests that we were Latitudes members and that we saw plenty of people up there already). No explanation from him, just some illegible grumbling. After a few minutes D did get an explanation from a much more helpful terminal employee. NCL cuts off the early check-in line at 11am (take note of this CC members), and the Latitudes Lounge had been reserved for a wedding party (more on that later). However, by 11:50 our row was called, and through the metal detectors and X-rays we went. Into the special queue for Latitudes members, where there was absolutely no line, quickly processed, photos, and we were 'swiped' aboard for the first time by a few ticks after noon. Bubbly Welcome. A nice cold glass of champagne was handed to us as we crossed through the door to the Atrium. D said it was pretty tasty bubbly too. I tried to get my older son to take some, but he opted for the orange juice that was offered. I told him Lesson #1 of cruising - never pass up free booze!
New York Harbor. Departure [5:15pm]. Ships in Port. Our ship, the Norwegian Dawn was docked at Pier 92, the Norwegian Spirit, which we've been on twice previously, was docked at Pier 88. The NCL Spirit left Pier 88 exactly at 5pm, and we pulled away shortly thereafter. The cruise pier is located on the western side of Manhattan, on the eastern bank of the Hudson River. We were guided out into the center of the river by Tugboats, and then sailed south to the end of the Hudson River into Upper New York Bay where we followed the shipping channel, passed through The Narrows, the Lower Bay, the Raritan Bay, and eventually into the Atlantic Ocean.
Highlights Along the Route. Leaving Manhattan Pier, you see a lot of highlights along the Hudson River and Upper Bay. Empire State Building, Castle Point, Hoboken, Governor's Island, Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
Norwegian Dawn - Ship Review. CruiseCritic: DAWN is the second ship of the Superstar Class, the second class in the NCL fleet to be designed specifically for the line's Freestyle Cruising concept. SHIP FACTS - Norwegian Dawn; Ship classification - Large passenger; Ship length 972 feet; Tonnage 94,000; Year entered service 2002; Decks 14; Total cabins 1112; Passenger capacity 2224 (2/cabin); Total crew 1318; Passenger to Crew 2 to 1; Speed 22 knots; Sister Ships - NCL Superstar Class (Star, Jewel, Pearl, Gem, Pride of Hawaii)
Our Opinions. At the time of this cruise, this was the largest ship that D & I had been on. The length became obvious the first night, as we walked from our cabin (all the way forward) to the Venetian Dining Room (all the way aft). This is by no means a complaint, because I loved all of the extra room aboard. D seemed to think that it was just a little bit too large, preferring the size of her still favorite NCL Spirit. I'll give my quick review in bullet form.
* "Bubbly Welcome" - a welcome aboard glass of champagne that's part of the new "Freestyle 2.0" movement. Nice touch.
* Oasis Pool Terrace. Nice feature. With the vast number of sunning lounges available on the terrace and sun deck, there was ample room for all around the pool. We were always able to find a table, if not always in the shade.
* Art on Board. Impressive. I am by no means even an amateur art enthusiast, but I felt something strong and alluring about standing in the presence of the master works displayed in Le Bistro. I also liked the Warhol painting of Marylyn Monroe.
* Comedian (Peter Sasso) and Magician (Greg Gleason). Both were excellent.
* Staggering number of restaurants/eateries (I count 14) to choose from.
* Venetian Dining Room. Elegant. Now that's what a dining at sea should look like. I could only imagine the true perfection of this room if it were to have the 2-deck Palladian windows from the NCL Spirit.
* Impressions of Italy. Very good quality Italian fare - and that's coming from 100% Italians. Nice paintings too.
* Salsa (no fee boutique) Restaurant. Nice setting and a very nice dinner menu.
* Three story Stardust Theater. As elaborate, and bigger, than anything on Broadway.
The Bad and the Ugly
* Availability/selection of alcohol was poor. Booze does not make/break our cruise, but . . . No draft beer was available at any of the bars (with taps). I kept getting the excuse that 'something' was wrong with the draft beer delivery system. What? Did every damn draft system on the ship experience a failure during this cruise? We were on a cruise to Bermuda, and there was no ginger beer available in order to mix Dark & Stormy(s) - the "National Drink" of Bermuda.
* Impressions of Italy. Made both lists. Here because take note there is now a $10 surcharge.
* What happened to the competitions? Once for ping-pong and once for shuffleboard (then we gave up), my son and I showed up for scheduled competitions, only to have no NCL staff member show up to organize the event.
Cruise Director & Staff: CD Pedro Serra (Portugal), hosted many shows and participated in a few more; Assistant CD Kristine Celis (Philippines), hostess of a few game shows; Sydney (St Lucia), hosted most of the trivia games, filling out Maddy Maneu (Romania), and Jacinto Aure, Henry Vgalino, Alvin Salvo, and John Arainas (all from Philippines). I don't really think that they were all that good, not nearly as open and friendly as past staffs we've experienced. I'm forming the opinion now, that CD staffs on older, smaller, less glamorous cruise ships tend to try a lot harder at pleasing the passengers, possibly to make up for the perceived sub-par ship.
Principle Crew Members: Captain Trygve Vorren (Norway); Executive Officer Karl Bengtesson (Sweedon); Chief Engineer Per Akerstorm (Sweedon).
Entertainment & Activities Aboard
Oasis Pool Area is the main pool area, featuring the main Oasis Pool, an enormous Oasis Jacuzzi (that could fit at least 10-15 people on the sitting platforms near the jets and another equal amount standing in the center), plus 4 Hot Tubs (2 shaded and 2 open). Oasis Terrace has chaise lounges set up in an amphitheater arrangement, and there were tables set up amongst them so you can eat as well as sunbathe and overlook the pool activities. Along the deck around the pool, there were many shaded tables and chairs, and counting the terrace, there were more lounge chairs than I've ever seen before. As always, there was a Bandstand for entertainment. The bandstand sat on a raised platform between the Oasis Pool and the Jacuzzi - with no dance floor space anywhere around it.
* Upryzin' was the name of the ship's 'Party Band'. From Jamaica, a female lead singer, drums, keyboard, and one guitarist. Only the female sang. Again, lots of Bob Marley covers (they were from Jamaica after all), but they also did a lot of pop songs. The music was good, and enjoyable, but the band really didn't have much in the way of inspiring presentation.
* Sailaway Party from New York [5pm, Day 1], Sailaway Party from Bermuda [5pm, Day 6]. These were both pretty low key affairs, the party band was playing, the waiters were hocking the 'drink of the day", but not much else going on to identify these as parties. We've experience much better ones.
* Ice Carving Demo [afternoon, Day 5]. The carver was given 10 minutes to perform his feat. The audience was asked to try to figure out what he was carving. Older son guessed that it was an eagle (I cheated, because I'd seen so many of these before), and I guessed a swan, which is what it turned out to be.
Sunning Area, on either side above the pool (which actually continued forward wrapping 3/4 all the way around Deck 13), had decorative faux palm trees festively looking like something out Miami Beach. There were many additional lounge chairs and even additional tables & chairs. All the way forward on the Sun Deck was a less crowded Hot Tub that hardly ever had anyone in it. As I stated earlier, with the vast number of sunning lounges available around the pool, terrace, and sun deck, there was ample room for all. While we couldn't always find a table in the shade, were always at least able to find a table. We spent most of the afternoons of the at-sea days around the pool, entering/exiting the main pool and the Jacuzzi. Not really at all during the day, but during several evenings, we spent some time in the hot tubs (both boys said that they were too hot to sit in during the day).
Topsiders (Pool) Bar was a full bar that formed a large arc spanning entirely across the boat, in close proximity to ample eye candy from the pool, sunning areas, and hot tubs. The drinks were teeny-tiny from here and the beer taps weren't functioning. They did, however, serve 16oz domestic beer bottles (I had Miller Genuine Draft) for the same price as 12oz imported beers. Nestled in between the two arc of the bar was . . .
Sprinkles Ice Cream Bar, tucked between the two sides of Topsiders Bar, right at poolside. It offered free ice cream cones in three flavors, generally chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, but a few times they brought out other flavors like butter pecan and once I saw chocolate chip. Younger son made good use of this service.
Stardust Theater, which spans THREE decks, 1,150-seat theater, designed to resemble a European opera house. It was wide open on the lower level, with no obstructions from the balcony level that wrapped all the way from stage-left to stage-right, so all of the sightlines appeared to be very good. Vegas-style shows and musicals were shown nightly. The chairs were very comfortable too, except for the fact that the rows were tightly spaced, leaving little leg room (and I fit comfortable in planes, so this was really tight), but more bothersome, there was no easy way to get by all of the super-early squatters that usually too the seats at the end of the rows. To me, if I came that early, I'd claim center seats. For the big shows, we tended to get there at least 20-minutes early, and we never failed to get about the 10th or so row, right in the center, perfect seats as far as we were concerned.
* Welcome Aboard Show [9pm, Day 1]. Peter Sasso headlined, more on that in a minute. First, there were short performances: "Keyboard Melodies" pianist Mike Stone, who played a couple of quick diddies on the piano - convincing us that we weren't going to see his shows (he mostly played the small stage between Gatsby's Champagne Bar and the Wine Cellar). Next "music from the heart" singer Marcus Dagan sang the Niel Diamond tune "Sweet Caroline" (D liked him). Then "Acoustic Folk Rock" Pilipino guitarist Angel Magaso sang the John Denver song "Rocky Mountain High" - which sounded a little funny with a Hispanic accent. Last was a short dance scene performed by the Jean Ann Ryan Company - lots of fast leg kicking, cane spinning, hat flipping, a whole stage of action, all to the music provided by the Dawn Showband.
* Peter Sasso. He started off with a lengthy, hilariously funny stand-up comedy. Side-splitting funny stuff. Then he began his funny juggling routine. Sasso asked for volunteers from the audience and my older son jumped up. I told my wife, who was sitting next to me, to tell him not to volunteer for this guy. We'd seen his show before, they have always been very funny, and he has always embarrassed the hell out of his volunteers. He picked my son and a drunk, country hick-looking guy. As my son walked up on stage, Sasso said he looked like Harry Potter on Crack. The other guy he called Gomer Pyle on Ludes. Through a funny rendition of participation juggling, Sasso plays each of them as the fool. In the end, he let Gomer Pyle go, and kept older son on stage for a finale of (supposedly) flicking a cigarette out of his mouth with a bowling pin that he was juggling.
* Gleason's Magic [9:30pm, Day 2]. A few quick magician's tricks, and then he did several stage illusions using his wife and two of the female dancers from the Jean Ann Ryan Company. Sticking blades through a woman in a box, sawing a woman in half, and then a very good one, placing a woman in a tall box, which he rolled up" from the top down and the bottom up - so that her head and her feet were only a foot apart - and then unrolled her. It was a very amusing show.
* Band on the Run [9:30, Day 3]. A Vegas-styled stage show with lots of beautiful women in a whole slew of fancy costumes (yes, there were a few men thrown in there), lots of dancing, lots of scene changes, all to a background of 70(s) and 80(s) popular tunes. The dancers were definitely a cut above previous ones we've seen, the singing voices were about average. But I would say that this shoe did hold my interest, far less monotony than these types of shows in the past.
* Bollywood [9:30, Day 6]. Billed as an even bigger better production, but honestly, I didn't like it as much. Far East, Egyptian, Middle East, I couldn't get a handle on what was trying to be conveyed in the show.
* Farewell Variety Show [9:30, Day 7]. Sasso Comedy & Gleason Magic, a half-hour each, both were entertaining, but the shorter format shows were not as good as either's full-length shows. Sasso did a number of jokes about marriage/life that seemed familiar, similar to ones we must have heard before in one of his shows.
Dawn Club Casino, located along the corridor and across the deck, offered the typical assortment of slot machines, Roulette (one 'live' table and two digital roulette tables), Blackjack, Craps, Let It Ride, and Caribbean Stud Poker. The casino also maintained a Spin the Wheel and a Blackjack table out on the Oasis Pool Deck. Dawn Club Bar full service to casino goers without their needing to leave the tables.
Spinnaker Lounge had large, panoramic, horizontal windows facing the bow, a beautiful-looking place to either see a variety of shows, or a good place where I could while-away the early morning hours reading or watching the ship's progress looking out over the bow.
* Dance Lesson: Cha-Cha [1pm, Day 2]. Older son attended. He said that it was embarrassing to go up so he stayed in the seats and watched-and-learned.
* Laugh Till You Drop [3:15, Day 2]. Peter Sasso, in his Welcome Aboard Show, promised to deliver 200 jokes in 45-minutes during this show. A lot of very quick jokes, a good number of quick laughs, but overall not as funny as his first stage show.
* Newlywed / Not-So-Newlywed Game Show [8:45pm, Day 2]. Always a classically-funny show aboard. The newlyweds from the New York Terminal Latitudes Lounge were one of the contestant pairs, but no senile-old couple, just a few married from 10 to 28 years. Some of the standard questions were asked of the ladies first: "Strangest place having made love", "My husband has a big ________", "My husband loves me because of my ________", and "What cartoon character best describes your husband on your wedding night". We only stayed for the first half, because we wanted to see the Gleason Magic Show. These two shows were poorly timed.
* What's My Line Game Show [2pm, Day 3]. Panel of Pedro Serra (CD), Peter Sasso, Greg Gleason, and the young woman from the Second City Troupe. This was a game show where the panelists tried to guess the occupation of several passenger contestants (1) Electric Lineman/Splicer, (2) Bounty Hunter Agency owner, and (3) Dairy Farm Tour Guide. Both Pedro and Peter were very funny. Peter kept saying things like "We can rule out door-to-door encyclopedia salesman, correct? I ask because I used to be one . . ." Then he would go into a funny joke-story.
* Memory Seminar [2:45, Day 3]. Hosted by Greg Gleason, introductions to a few visual-oriented memory techniques, where you would associate either page numbers with contents on the page, or people's names with physical features, all by visualizing some picture in your mind (usually with some word-rhyming connection also). Interesting, but not entirely useful, for ma anyway.
* Late Night Comedy - Adults Only [11:30pm, Day 4]. Peter Sasso with an adults-only show. It was hilarious. My younger son says that it was probably the funniest show of them all.
* Liar's club [10:45, Day 5]. Same four panelists Pedro Serra, Peter Sasso, Greg Gleason, and Second City woman. This show, a very strange word was selected - 4 words that I'd never heard of - and three of the four panelists would "lie" about its definition, using funny explanations, while one would actually be telling the truth. The audience, split into 8 groups, was then polled to try to come up with which panelist was telling the truth.
* The Quest - Adult Game Show [11:45, Day 5]. A faux scavenger hunt within the lounge. Teams were first asked to find mundane things, and then more-and-more personal objects like bras and panties (which the women contestants had to strip out of), then perform funny acts on the stage like inch worms, or women riding their 'donkey' men, and for the finale, a man and a woman had to switch clothes (while the stage lights were turned off). Entertaining.
* Ballroom Dancing Lesson: Samba [2pm, Day 7]. Older son again attended. Just watched from the seat again, but had a good time anyway.
* Disembarkation Talk [11:30am, Day 7]. Pedro Serra explained Customs forms requirements, liquor and purchases limits, He gave a few facts/figures about the current cruise: There was 96% occupancy, (that's ~2150 passengers using the 2224 stated capacity); 1100 crew (60 nationalities); and 1500 lbs of chocolate was consumed in the Chocoholic buffet (that's 0.7 lbs of chocolate/person - someone at more than their share, 'cause none of us ate 0.7 lbs)
Pearly Kings Pub was styled as an English pub, dark, rich wooden tables & chairs, a number of artworks depicting English scenes (including a portrait of Queen Elizabeth) a dart board, and two large flat-screen TVs on either side of the bar. Two observations: I had read beforehand, on CruiseCritic, that this bar was supposed to carry a number of offbeat British beers on draft. I had no such luck - no draft available. In addition, I had also been mislead to believe that this bar functioned as the ship's sport bar, since it had the large-screen TVs. Boulderdash! One of the TVs was never turned on. On the second TV was connected a Nintendo Wii game machine, which was set up for free open play. Now, the only type of games that I saw being played were sports (baseball, boxing, tennis) - does that qualify it as the sports bar?
* Nintendo Wii Tournaments: Tennis [2pm, Day 2]. Older Son played. He reached the finals but lost to young girl. Boxing [10:30pm, Day 2]. Both sons played. I watched the second half of this one. Older son was already eliminated. Younger one fought through 3 more rounds while I watched, and he eventually took 2nd place. The girl who won was around 15 years old, and had a much different technique of duck-and-covers followed by furiously boxing. Bowling [1:30pm, Day 6]. The tournament was conducted with partners, each alternated frames. Older son partnered with a 13-14 year old girl. They took second place, with a score of 212, the winners had a 222.
* Morning & Afternoon Trivia(s). Trivia sessions were run every day at 9:30am (Morning) and 5:30pm (Afternoon). We only made a few of these (didn't win any), as the morning ones were held just about the time when D & sons were getting up, and during the afternoon ones we always seemed to be doing something else. Well, here's the ones we made: [Afternoon, Day 2], Gold & Gemstones theme, scored 9/20. [Afternoon, Day 3]; Fun Facts theme, scored 13/20. [Morning, Day 7], World Geography theme, scored 11/20. [Afternoon, Day 7], Fun Facts theme, scored 11/20.
Movie Cinema was a small movie-house styled theater (145-guest capacity according to NCL) that played the latest video-released movies. This was a nice touch on the ship, however, three complaints. The movie projector was of a very poor quality (on a multi-million dollar ship there's no excuse for that). The screen was square, completely the wrong aspect ratio to display movies, and better suited for overhead projector presentations. The movie schedule didn't follow that in the daily planner nor the one posted outside the cinema.
* Movies. During the course of the cruise, we stopped in and saw a few movies. "Narnia - The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe", "Blades of Glory", "Flushed Away" and watched portions of "P.S. I Love You", "Pursuit of Happiness" and "I am Legend" .
* Destino [11:15am, Day 7]. This was a very unique short-format movie, a collaborative work of Walt Disney and Salvadore Dali. Production was halted by WWII, and it was never finished in the lifetimes of either of these two. In 1999, Walt Disney's nephew Roy Edward Disney unearthed it, and decided to complete it, 58 years after its original intended release. As I saw it, the story followed a female as she danced through many versions of surreal scenery that had to be inspired by Dalí. There were a couple of words spoken, but mostly it was set to music. Wikipedia: The six-minute short follows the love story of Chronos (the Titan who is the father of Zeus) and the ill-fated love he has for a mortal female. The sound track features a song by the Mexican composer, Armando Dominguez. * History of Ocean Travel [2pm, Day 7]. NCL "U" presentation. Was not as informative or as interesting as it could have been. Done as a PowerPoint presentation, he covered some late 1800s cruise ships, showing old photos and giving some basic facts about ship size and speed, then to the "great liners" of the 1920-30s (and the numerous disasters), and then jumped all the way to Y2K ships and beyond. I guess no one cruised between 1930-2000? The delivery was pretty dry too.
* Close-Up Magic Show [5pm, Day 7]. Greg Gleason with nothing but a small table and a pack of cards (well, he only showed us one pack of cards, but I suspect that there were more). He pulled me out of the audience to sit right next to him throughout most of the show. I tried as hard as I could to discern how he was pulling off the tricks, but I couldn't tell. Then he staked me with $500 to play him five hands of poker. Using only 10 cards, and no matter how I shuffled and selected cards, he always beat me. Somehow the 10 cards kept changing values, but I couldn't catch him switching them out. This was the second of such shows that we've seen aboard cruise ships, and they are one of the most entertaining shows of all.
Dazzles Lounge. Strange décor with alternating red and blue plush chairs, sofas, tables and lamps, in a room almost exclusively painted gold. This was the ship's 'high tech' modern dance lounge - considered to be the ship's 'post-teen' nightclub/disco. It mainly functioned as the ship's Karaoke Bar.
* I/we passed this lounge often, as it was located all the way forward on Deck 7, the deck that we most frequently used for traversing fore-and-aft in the ship, and it was located right at the forward elevators/stairs that provided the easiest access to our staterooms. Most of the afternoon long, it was a venue for live music, either easy listening music performed by Jose & Patti (husband & wife duo), or light Country & Western performed by Angel Magaso (Pilipino "Acoustic Folk Rock" guitarist). After dinner, until fairly late in the evening, it functioned as a Karaoke Bar. And believe me, I heard some pretty-bad performances as I walked by a number of times. Well, I did see one good performance, a young girl singing "I will survive". For late night, the DJ and modern dance music came out, and Dazzles became the ship's nightclub/disco.
* This was the 'club' where my older son tended to hang out with his shipboard friends.
Teen Club, disco-styled, but with no booze. It was small, but did have an air-hockey table and a foozball table that we all played on Day 1. The rear section of the Teen Club was a Video Arcade with a number of machines. These were coin-operated, and I couldn't quite figure out why anyone would pay to play when there was always the Nintendo Wii set up for free open play in the Pearly Kings Pub. This was, however, the quickest point of entry from the aft end of the Sun Deck.
Grand Atrium, was very showy, but kind-of oddly designed in my opinion. The half with all of the Passenger-Service Counters (shore excursions, reception), was two deck high, further aft it became two and then three decks high where the Salsa Restaurant was located, and as you walked still further aft, the 'pocket' bank of three glass exterior elevators stretched five decks high. At the lowest level, beneath Salsa and at the base of the elevators, was the Java Café - for a surcharge - serving pastries, cookies, and specialty coffees. Wrapping around the Java Café was a grand staircase that gave access to the two decks above. At the center level of the staircase was what I'll call the Atrium Stage.
* Quarter Notes, was the band that played daily on the Atrium Stage, and filled the Atrium and Salsa Restaurant with enjoyable easy listening / pop music. They consisted of a female lead singer and a 4-person band behind her (guitar, keyboard, drums, big cello or whatever the cello-like instrument is that you play by hand without a bow). All of the members were of Asian decent.
Shopping Galleria. Unlike some ships where the shopping is supposed to represent a mall, this Galleria was laid out like a single, large department store, but of course, with duty-free shopping. There were areas for clothing, jewelry, alcohol, sundries, souvenirs, NCL logo items, etc. Ports of Call shop was located near the Atrium, and it carried cosmetics and perfumes, and a T-Shirt sale near the end of the cruise.
Promenade was the Deck 7 wrap-around, wooden-decked, strolling and leisurely activity area. Lots of brightly-colored murals of people out on the town adorned the walls as you circled the ship. There were three shuffleboard courts and two man-sized chess boards, along with a number of cloth and wooden lounge chairs and sitting chairs, and the outdoor picnic table eating area of the Blue Lagoon 24/7 café.
* We strolled around up here on several occasions. D especially liked looking over the stern at the trailing waves from here, and our younger son liked pretending to jump or throw his mother overboard from this level. Me, I just enjoyed the breeze.
* Younger son & I played several games of shuffleboard during the cruise. These were marathon affairs (and we only played to 50 points), because we are both way better at knocking our opponents off their point squares than in scoring points ourselves. We let D play a game or two also.
* Ping Pong Tournament [1:30pm, Day 3] and Shuffleboard Tournament [4pm, Day 3]. Younger son & I went to both of these, but, no-show from the CD staff to direct the competitions. Both times, we stayed and played anyway, ping-pong versus a few other passengers, and shuffleboard against one another. The no-show ping-pong was really a disappointment because he & I had enjoyed immensely playing in these tournaments on the previous cruise. Older son showed up for a Basketball Tournament, but like our experience, no staff member showed up to run it.
Bimini Bar & Grill, sort-of overlooking the pool, but from a very high perch at the top of the Oasis Terrace, way up on Deck 14. NCL states "wonderful tropical frozen drinks and snacks in a colorful Key West-style setting". Tropical drinks, no, and nothing reminded me of Key West. It was nice and really breezy up there, but no draft beer again. As for the statement "sounds of the pool below can almost make you believe that you're on famous Bimini Beach" - well, with all that wind, I couldn't hear a thing. Didn't try the lunchtime grilled fare here.
El Dorado Fitness Center is located one level above the El Dorado Spa on Deck 11. Up-to-date fitness equipment, a good number of cardio machines and some free weights too. Younger son said it was a real nice gym, but all of the dumbbells were out of order (the weights, not the passengers) and hard to find because their weights were unlabeled.
Sports Court had golf driving nets and above them a netted volleyball/basketball court area. Boys said that they didn't like this area at all - too many people running around and yelling all the time - and it was hard to find because no elevator went up there, so you could only access it from outside.
Art on board Dawn There are four impressionist master works on exhibit, each representing outstanding works from different periods in the artists' lives. All are displayed in Norwegian Dawn's signature Le Bistro restaurant. (The Monet is worth over $10 Million!)
* Monet "Vétheuil De Soleil" (Vethueil in Sunshine) - Claude Monet (1840-1926). Sold for $10,006,320 at Christie's London, 7/9/2002.
* Van Gogh "Un Parc Au Printemps" (A Park in Spring) - Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890). Estimated value $6-8 Million.
* Matisse "Nu Au Turban" (Nude with Turban) - Henri Matisse (1869-1954). Sold for $3,670,051 at Christie's London, 6/21/93.
* Renoir "La Baigneuse" (The Bather) - Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919). Sold for $3,191,500 at Sotheby's London, 6/28/99.
* In addition, Norwegian Dawn displays 20 signed and numbered Warhol silkscreen prints in two of its expansive stairwells.
Dining Aboard DAWN. Dawn has 13 restaurants / dining options, with plenty of variety and the Freestyle policy means that you can pretty much eat anything at almost any time. Overall, the food was very good, although we felt that the service was a little slow in the dining rooms. There are 4 levels of dining aboard Dawn: o Casual Eateries: Garden Café (buffet); Blue Lagoon; The Grill; Bimini Grill o Main Dining Rooms: Venetian; Aqua o Boutique (no fee, reservations): Salsa o Specialty (surcharge): Impressions of Italy; Le Bistro; Cagney's; Bamboo; Teppanyaki Room; Sushi & Sake Bar
Garden Cafe [Casual] is the primary buffet that served breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. B'fast featured the usual no-surprise breakfast choices (lots of fruit, omelets and eggs made to order, fresh Belgian waffles, scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes, etc.), which we ate practically every morning. At lunchtime, it featured a variety of offerings, on four buffet lines, including a New York deli sandwich section. Dinner was much the same style as lunch (different offerings).
* We ate pretty much every breakfast here (principally the cook-to-order stuff), and at least half of our lunches (the boys had a lot of made-to-order pasta dishes and D & I ran the gamut and tried all that they had to offer. We also had one dinner here [Day 5] after returning from our day ashore.
* Chocoholics Buffet [10pm, Day 5]. We each ate or fill, which I have always noticed, is a good deal less that many of the passengers eat. My favorite offering was the chocolate covered bananas. There weren't as many food carvings as I'd seen in these events before, but they did have four large ice sculptures on display, backlit with blue lights.
Blue Lagoon [Casual], open 24-hours, tucked just off the Atrium, a fast-food joint. Offerings were American standards (burgers, dogs, fries, hot wings, chicken tenders, fish-n-chips) to Asian (wonton soup, fried rice). Blue Lagoon also had nice outdoor seating on the Promenade.
* We made use of the Blue Lagoon on several occasions for in-between-meals and late-night snacking. We stopped in one afternoon early in the cruise when we tried out the hot wings and chicken tenders. The wings were fried and crunchy, but as for hot - they were not. Maybe a poor 2 on a scale of 1-to-5. We stopped in on two other occasions. One evening after a late-night stroll around the Promenade, when we sat outside in the beautiful evening breeze. I tried the Wonton Soup - OK. We wanted D to try the wings. A second evening after playing a game or two of shuffelboard, they got wings again, while I got the grilled chicken sandwich.
* It goes without saying that my older son liked the hot wings here. He only made three sit-down dinners with us, and every time that I asked him what he had eaten for dinner - he always responded "I had hot wings." He said that it was a great place to go to after Dazzles, and all of his friends went there for wings.
The Grill [Casual]. One of the highlights of the days at sea were the daily cookouts at the ad-hock set-up grill poolside. We ate lunch from this venue, supplementing it with salads, etc from Garden Café, three or four times during the cruise. Featuring all sorts of BBQ fare cooked on huge Weber-like grills - burgers, dogs, chicken, sausage, pork chops, ribs. There is also the outdoor Bimini Bar & Grill, but we never tried it.
Venetian [Main Dining Room] was the more traditional cruise-like dining room where we ate most of out sit-down dinners. It was gorgeous, decorated with huge murals depicting scenes of Venice. Because it's all the way aft, it has a huge series of panoramic windows stretching across the entire back wall and offering incredible views off the stern. You enter down a fancy staircase running on either side of a Venus deMilo statue.
* We ate three dinners in the Venetian Dining Room, Day 1 Dinner, Day 3 Dinner, Day 7 Dinner. Highlights The cold soups are always a hit with D. I especially enjoyed the Roast Leg of Lamb, and the Louisiana Red Snapper. Younger son had Tortellini (3 times counting Aqua), and tried Salmon the last night - he said it was good.
Aqua [Main Dining Room] was a more contemporary room with lots of aqua colored glass made to look like water flowing, and colorful ceramic murals of what I'm guessing were Asian mermaids. Definitely more surreal than impressionist, those murals were curious to me, and kept me wondering whether they were complimentary or derogatory of Asian women.
* Lobster Night - Dinner Day 2. We went to the Venetian, a little after 7:30pm, and were informed that there was a 45-minute wait. I asked the hostess to call the Aqua to inquire about the wait there - None! So we hopped over to Aqua and got seated. Once again, the lobster tails were broiled, and once again they were overcooked in our opinions. I had two anyway (they were both overcooked). They should boil them.
Salsa Restaurant [Boutique, reservations required, but No Fee]. Tex-Mex and Spanish-style are the fare here. According to CruiseCritic, this was the most popular and most difficult restaurant to get a reservation for. Strangely located, wrapping-around the second deck of the Atrium, but it might have one of the nicest-looking ceilings that I've ever seen afloat, stained glass and backlit. Within the center of the circular arc Salsa Restaurant is the Salsa Bar, a full service bar that offers 'proprietary recipe' home-made sangria (which we tried) and serves a constantly changing assortment of hot and cold Spanish Tapas.
* Day 4 Dinner, all four of us. I tried to get reservations for Day 3, but the only opening was after 9:30pm. So, one of the first things that I did the morning of Day 4 was to set up these reservations for 7:30pm. There were great sight-lines over the side of the ship from our window table. I tried a Margarita while D had the House Sangria. Even though it should have been better, the margarita wasn't too good, so I switched to sangria, which was a little bit too fruity, but none-the-less tasty. Everyone agreed that they liked the food here. Younger son had a huge nachos platter appetizer and a large burrito (that he said was OK). I had Mexican spring rolls and Sizzlin' Chicken Fajitas. D & older son both had the Baby-Back pork ribs, which they said were pretty tasty.
Impressions of Italy [Specialty Restaurant, $10/person surcharge]. Italian food is always very popular, and an additional big draw here is that it's decorated with an impressionist art collection, not the masterworks, but still some very nice paintings. Each painting was fairly large, with paintings filling the entire wall space and between the windows on all four sides of the restaurant.
* Day 6 Dinner, all four of us. Again, with an early-morning reservation, we got 6:30pm. This place also pleased all of us. The boys each shared a small pizza, and each supplemented that with a pasta dish. Younger son really liked his Fettuccini Alfredo. D & I both had veal cutlet marsala as our main dishes and I got 'frute de marre" (fruits of the sea) in aburitto (angry, i.e. spicy) sauce over penne, while D had their basil pesto. Everything was very tasty - and I would have to rate my pasta dish as excellent.
Le Bistro [Specialty, surcharge $15-25] - didn't eat there. One distinctive highlight of this restaurant is its collection of four Impressionist masterpieces (Van Gogh, Renoir, Matisse, and Monet); which I went in to see and photograph on several occasions.
Return / Disembarking
I was the only one awake to see our return under the Varazzano Bridge and into New York Harbor. We had made good time and were due to dock at 8am. NCL gives the passengers a number of choices for times to disembark. You can choose Express Walk-Off, which starts the earliest, but you can't utilize the luggage service and you have to carry off every one of your suitcases by yourself. After that, you can choose when you want to disembark buy picking out the associated color-coded tags. Regular disembarking started at 9am, and a different color code was called each 20-minute interval up to 11am. Knowing that last time younger son & D missed breakfast because they didn't get up in enough time, I opted for the brown tags, signifying the next-to-last disembarking time, 10:40. We had b'fast, then we dragged older son out of bead, sat for a few minutes on the benches of Deck 7, and then exited without anyone in front of us at 10:25am. Found our suitcases, found a porter, quickly went through Customs (no charge even though we were slightly over the liquor allowance), grabbed the car, loaded, and off we went by 11am.
Cruise #6 Summary, Observations, and Conclusions Once again an excellent cruise, as we immensely enjoyed the flexibility of the NCL Freestyle Policy. Younger son partook of most of the onboard entertainment with us, while older son preferred to stay at the one place that some of the friends he made aboard were hanging out. We tried two specialty restaurants, the Tex-Mex "Salsa" and the Italian "Impressions", and very much enjoyed both. I have to say that I was somewhat disappointed with the Cruise Director's staff though.
Excursions. One full day at Horseshoe Bay was again wonderful. The two sailing & snorkeling excursions both wound up going to nearly the same spot, even though one was to be off-shore. Younger son & I still thoroughly enjoyed the snorkeling. Read Less