Norwegian Dawn Sailing out of NYC to Bermuda Aug. 24th - Aug. 31st FIRST TIME CRUISERS
WHO TRAVELED: Myself, husband, and our 2 girls....ages 3 ½ and almost 6 ½.
HISTORY: This was our very first cruise. This was also our first visit to Bermuda. Our vacations have mostly consisted of Sandals and Sandals Beaches vacations. We have always wanted to cruise, and decided to give it a try. With the airline rates being so high, and since we live in NJ , a cruise seemed like the way to go.....besides it being so easy to get to the pier. Royal Caribbean left out of NJ, but it was only a 5 day cruise to Bermuda. We wanted a 7 day vacation and that's why we chose NCL out of NY.
EMBARKATION: Went nice and smooth. Here is where I met cruisebermuda on line. She says "hey, are you mammaof2girls?" and that was the freakiest yet coolest thing!...... Never meeting someone yet they know and recognize you (we all wore the mardi gras necklaces)!!! Neither I nor any of my family members had passports, and there were no problems at all. We had all our birth certificates, along w/ our Driver's License and all was fine. You will start needing passports for this trip to Bermuda in July 2009, for anyone who is interested to know. If you don't have a passport, not a problem at all as of now.
Soda: We brought along two 6-packs of soda. We took it apart and just stuffed them in our carry ons. This was one of the best things we could have done!!! We had our room steward empty the fridge and the coffee maker, so we can have more room. And all our sodas fit in the fridge and we had something to drink with dinner (and lunch too, if we chose to). I also brought along those single servings of lemonade. We didn't use these as much as I would have liked to. I guess I sort of 'forgot" I had them. They would have come in handy since no juices are ever offered at all (for free) for lunch or dinner (I wrote more about that in the "food" section).
After the champagne is given out when you first aboard the ship, everyone starts piling up in the main atrium. We shortly hit the garden buffet and were able to get a table with no problem. However, shortly after that, it became PACKED. So I was glad we got to the Garden buffet...which I think was a little before 12 noon. If you are hungry, I suggest you make your way quickly to deck 12 to the garden buffet. You will get a table if you're quick about it. But if you wait and hang around the atrium for a bit, you will arrive at the Garden Buffet very hungry and having to wait around or look for an open table.
THE SHIP: Beautiful ship. We have nothing to compare it against since it's our first cruise, but it was very pretty. The coloring throughout....the carpets, the atrium....everything was really nice. The staff works extremely hard at what they do on the ship. You always see them working, working and working!
STAFF: I was expecting a bit more "going out of their way friendliness" with the staff......but don't get me wrong, no one was rude. Let me explain: There were a lot that did say "hi" and smiled, but no one really went out of their way. I felt for the most part, most people did the bare minimum and that was it. However, at times it wasn't surprising to have crew members in the garden cafe, and sometimes even in the hallways to just pass you by and not going out of their way to say hi and talk to you....perhaps just a smile. I am thinking that maybe my expectations were high because at Sandals, it doesn't matter what the staff is doing....they literally go out of their way to talk to you and the kids and make you feel real special. A lot of the times it was basic greetings (sometimes not at all), but nothing like they were going out of their way for you. It's just hard getting 5-star treatment at all our vacations and then going on my first cruise and friendliness is a bit of a much lesser standard here, as far as "going out of their way" is concerned. Don't get me wrong, the crew was nice, but not overly friendly. Again, I think this is the Sandals comparison creeping up on me....which I know I shouldn't compare as they are 2 different types of vacations.
The staff takes great care in helping to make the ship look as good as it does. They work very hard and you will always see them cleaning, wiping, scrubbing, etc.
We felt the room stewards were the friendliest. Ours was Alex (he introduced himself) and he always made a point to say hi to my children and to go down to their level and talk w/ them.
The Cruise Director is Pedro, and the asst. CD is Dimitri. The first time I saw Pedro wasn't until Wed. at the Garden Cafe (not counting the times he hosted a show).
FOOD: DH wasn't thrilled w/ the fact that you are charged to eat at the specialty restaurants, so we just ate at one....Salsas. We enjoyed Salsas. I just had to try the Il Popo and the lobster tacos, and yes they are everything that you hear about. YUM. They don't cheapen the size of the lobster that is in those tacos, which is nice. During other dinner nights, we ate at the Venetian twice and Aqua twice. We ate around 5:30-6 pm. No wait. If you come after 6:15, service is longer and when you are done eating you will see a ridiculous line. We felt the food was very good at the main dining rooms. Every day their menu changes....and they also have a section of food on the menu that they have all the time. Please note the appetizers and entrees are pretty small portions. Do NOT hesitate to order more than one!!!! DH usually ordered 2 or 3 entrees and we always ordered a bunch of appetizers (every last crumb got eaten from us...nothing ever wasted! LOL). Had we just ordered one appetizer and one entrEe, we would have walked out of there hungry still. DH liked the service in Aqua better.....maybe it was those particular waitresses that we had. They really took the time to talk to our children, and they were really very, very nice and friendly. My 3 ½ yr. old fell asleep in Venetian twice......we believe it is their comfy chairs. LOL We saw a lot of pple in those main dining rooms wearing shorts, and extremely casual. I thought that wasn't allowed? Oh well.
My girls ate off the adult menu in the main dining rooms. All except the last night, my oldest wasn't fond of the menu so she asked for pizza and spaghetti w/ red meat sauce. Do not ask for spaghetti with red meat sauce. It was awful. I mean literally awful tasting. I don't know how they made it, but even DH said it was awful. The cheese tortellini from the menu is sooooo good. My 3 yr. old really liked that. The asparagus and scallops appetizer - do not order just one. Those scallops were super tiny ....3 of them. So like I said, the appetizers are very small portions (and entrees too). I enjoyed the salad w/ walnut dressing and the watermelon salad too. The salmon w/ capers is delish. They serve it with these really long and flat egg noodles. Yum. We really enjoyed the food at the main dining rooms for sure! ?
OMG, and the ship has the best hotdogs ever!!!!!! YUM! Try one (or two, or three....! LOL)
GARDEN CAFÉ: Unfortunately, we never got to eat at Venetian for breakfast. ? They serve it only until 9:30 am and we were a bunch of sleepy heads I guess. The Garden Cafe gets very crowded, and a lot of times for breakfast and lunch you need to walk up and down to try and find an open table. A lot of times there were none, so we just had to wait for someone to finish. Food was good here....a lot of different variety. There is something for everyone. Expect a long wait on the omelet station. I never had any because the line was so ridiculous, and they only have the one station.
Something that we were not impressed with: the drinks (and I'm not talking about alcoholic drinks). Ok, so for breakfast they have the water, OJ, cranberry juice and most of the time apple juice as well, where you just press that button and you pour it right into your glass. But once lunch rolled around, they took out all the juices and only water was offered (ok, there's also non-sweetened iced tea). DH and I felt: Why be cheap about it? I heard people on this board talk about them having lemonade....what a joke. Do you want to know the only time we saw the lemonade? On our last full day during breakfast....and that was it. There were never any juices ever offered for lunch or dinner - ever. A TIP: If you do want juice for lunch or dinner, go to the kids cafe, even if you are not a kid. They usually have apple juice in one of those pitchers right by the station. So we would get our apple juice there. Dh and I felt that they should have had those juices offered for lunches or dinner ...but that was not the case. Again, they only have them during breakfast only. We thought that was so lame.
Chocolate Buffet: It's from 10:30-11:30 pm. Get there at 10:15 pm and you'll be fine. Get there any later, have fun standing on the longest line you ever saw. Seriously. I got there at 10:15 pm, and the line was already starting. I suggest you do the same. The chocolate buffet wasn't as 'extravagant' and 'over the top' as I was picturing it to be. But we enjoyed it. Something different. My 3 yr. old is a chocolate LOVER, so we were excited to share that experience w/ her.
OUR CABIN: We were on Deck 10, inside cabin 10567. A little tight for 4 people, but we managed. It was small, but I thought it was going to be even smaller than that. I guess I was expecting the worst. We were hardly there....only to sleep so it was ok for us. It was a little tight especially around the closet/bathroom area (can't have the closet and bathroom door open at the same time). My girls LOVED when we went back to the cabin when they made it up for us at night...and to see the towel animals they did that night. Take note that the towel animals aren't done the first and last night of the cruise. Of course I took pics of all the different animals they did. ? I did bring post-it notes, and that was a GREAT WAY to communicate w/ the room steward. Even though we seen him all the time, he's busy with a billion other rooms and left notes as a reminder anyway. There was one birth bed (which I was told there was 2 berth beds) . And there were 2 twin beds and at night they took the rollaway bed from under and put it by the twin beds, so it looked like one big bed from one wall to the other. Some nights my 6 yr. old slept in the berth bed and during the last 4 nights, she slept with us and all 4 of us were snuggled on the "one big bed". Take note that if the berth bed is down, you can't see the tv!!! Had the tv been on the side where the vanity mirror is, you can watch tv with the berth bed down, but that wasn't the case. The berth bed gets in the way of the tv. We liked to unwind and put the tv on before bed. Also, I did bring a nigh light but it didn't fit into the outlet (the nighlight would have needed to be placed upside down, but couldn't do that because there was no room for the bulb). So what we did instead....which worked wonderfully....was we left the closet light on! Opened the closet door just a bit so some of the light emits out. I thought that was a great idea! ? So my girls were able to see in the dark if they needed to go to the bathroom. For all you about to go on a cruise, leave the nightlight at home. It's one less thing to pack and why take it when you can use the dim closet light. ?
ENTERTAINMENT: We were extremely happy with the entertainment shows. The comedian (the name is escaping me right now), my husband loved. The magician....Gleason, was awesome. And The Bollywood show is a do not miss. Great entertainment. The Fairwell Show is comprised of both the magician and comedian....1/2 hr. each. During the magician only show on the 2nd night, DH, myself and our 2 girls chose seating in the first row. We got our seats ½ hr. before show time . It wasn't until 3 min. before show time that a NCL staff member says to us that we cannot sit there. "Why?", we asked. Because kids were not allowed in the first row. We tell him that we've been here for ½ hr. and how come you didn't say anything sooner because now all the seats were filled. Yea, we were a little pissed (especially my 6 yr. old). Fortunately, someone in the 2nd row said we can have their seats cuz they were going to go in the first row. So during the magician show, we did see other kids in the first row on the other side!!!! What was up with that and how come they never mentioned anything to them about not sitting there?? I just kept my mouth shut, and I really wanted to say something to that guy....but just dropped it. Anyway, for one of the events, the magician chose my 6 yr. old for his next trick. And she got chosen for the best one. It was one where she had to sit there on the stage with the magician while he told this story and it was so beautiful. The 'trick' was at the end having to do with a string. So at the end he gives her his cd, which is for sale at the end of the show. Well, would you believe, and this is no lie, my child was a celebrity for 2 days!!! After the show, tons of people recognized her and came up to her saying how she did a good job and this and that. In elevators, people recognized her, and in the restaurants and hallways...and even the next day....people spotted her as being the girl on stage w/ the magician. People even came up to my husband at the gym saying "wasn't your daughter the one......" We were absolutely amazed at her "celebrity status" and all the attention she received from other people on the ship anywhere she went, that they recognized her as being the one on stage w/ the magician. ? The magician also gave her a playing card and told her if she puts it under her pillow at night that it will turn into a whole deck of magic cards. Well, would you believe, as chance would have it that we did have a deck of playing cards in our luggage. So when she fell asleep, we put that deck of cards under her pillow where she put the one card that the magician gave her. You should have seen her face when she woke up. She was extremely excited that "the magician was right! Look! It turned into a whole deck of magic cards!" It really was too cute.
POOLS: We did not go in the big pool....at all. No thank you. We felt the pool was much too small for all those people. I wouldn't even set my feet in there. Extremely crowded.
The T-Rex pools are where my kids spent their time in on sea days. It was good for them, however there were some times where suddenly you see these adults in the tiny pool. I'm talking about the 10ft. round one...and there's a little slide going in there. So you have this tiny pool with about 6 adults standing around it in at one time. Yea, we were getting pretty annoyed. That left no room for my kids to swim and splash around. If you have to be standing there with your baby, than maybe the baby is just too little to be in there then. As for the other adults, I have no idea why they were in there....but come on people! Let the kids who are already in there be able to enjoy themselves. You are in the way!!!!! Also, it was annoying seeing these older kids try and go in that tiny pool (again, I'm talking about the tiny 10ft. round one). So, there was a staff member on duty that worked around there, and DH and I wouldn't hesitate to call him and point them out and he would tell them that they shouldn't be in there....that it's for younger kids. When we didn't see that staff member around, yes, I would take it upon myself to nicely tell those older kids that they shouldn't be there, that this pool is for little children. Call me mean and to mind my own business, but hey.....there is no reason why these 13 yr. old kids should be in there. They can get the little ones hurt.
THE ARCADE: To us it was a joke. Most of the games cost $1.00 to play, and these games aren't even new. We're talking over 10 yrs. old. Also, to add insult to injury....1/2 of the games were out of order. While the arcade isn't a big deal to us, I just wanted to mention this in case there were other pple with kids who are interested in the arcade.
KIDS CREW: My 6 ½ yr. old didn't seem too impressed with it. My 3 ½ yr. old, on the other hand, seemed to LOVE it. We never had them there during the day. If they were there it was for a couple hours in the evening. We left the choice of going there for my oldest and if she didn't want to go, we didn't make her (like we saw so many parents do! It was heart breaking to see/hear a child SCREAMING and clinging on because they didn't want to go and the parents just 'forcing' them to!!). The counselors seemed great. And my 3 yr. old's favorite was Panda. Panda actually started crying when she said goodbye to my Angelina. It was so sweet. ? When they are in the play gym area, you can go outside on the deck and 'spy' on your child. That's what we did just to see what our little one was up to. LOL It was quite funny and fun to do for a little bit.
Beepers: That first day when we registered my kids for the camp (after we ate lunch), I asked about beepers (since my 3 ¾ yr. old is not potty trained yet)...and one of the girls tried to tell me that they can't us a beeper for her. When I asked why she proceeds to tell me that they only have 5 beepers, and they save them for the 2 yr. olds...the ones who are really not potty trained and are in diapers. And this is after I tell her my child has some issues and is delayed. Uh, just because my kid is in pull ups doesn't make her any less trained than a 2 yr. old in diapers. But later on that night when we did drop her off, I got a beeper with no problem. I mention this in case they try to say the same for your 'older' non-potty trained child.
BERMUDA: We didn't go around much in Bermuda. We actually went to the same beach for the 3 days...Horseshoe Beach. It was so beautiful and we loved it. When you walk in there's a cove w/ rocks and such, which is a calmer and shallower area. Then you have the regular beach with the crashing of the waves. Our girls spent time at both areas. The calmer section to hang out and for them to swim without the intimidation and the regular beach section for more excitement (to run away from the waves as they come). We probably would have explored more and perhaps went to more places, but my 3 ½ yr. old was very off-ish. A couple things happened to her which resulted in her being cranky on and off.....one of them having to do with potty training incident (she wouldn't go poop on the potty no more after the automatic flushed kicked in and SCARED her half to death, so when poop-time came, it was extremely stressful on us all....and then another incident of her getting whacked in the forehead pretty good by a door, and spending time in the dr. office then her throwing up all her pain medication. That happened the first day we were in Bermuda...right before we hit the beach.). So my itinerary was to go and see more things, but that just didn't happen. That's okay though. We were happy we got to spend our time on such a beautiful beach in Bermuda.
The cruise staff does not check if you have food in your bags when you leave the ship while in port, so I took it upon myself to pack some stuff from the Garden Cafe to the beach. This was the best thing we could have done. I packed dry cereal, croissants, Danish, and some apples or bananas. This is what my girls ate when they were hungry. Everyone else you see on the beach is eating snacks that they brought too from the ship. There was a time I got flamed for mentioning this on this board (when I mentioned about bringing a couple cookies offshore), and on the beach it was obvious I was not the only one who did this. EVERYONE was eating stuff that they got from the ship. They do have a place at Horseshoe Beach where you can buy food. But the prices are expensive. $5.00 for a hamburger and like $15.00 for fish and fries......very expensive. My snacks helped curb the hunger so when we left the beach, we would shower up and be ready for dinner. Bring lots of ziplog bags (large and small ones). This came in handy to store those snacks (and dirty or wet swimwear, etc.). ;) Don't waste your time in trying to bring some sand home. I had some in a little ziplock bag, and it showed up in the xray machine when we got back on the ship, and they had to take it away. They put my sand in a pile with about 5 other containers/bags of sand that others had too. LOL We also brought 2 big sports water bottles. We filled them up w/ water and ice so at the beach you don't have to worry about being thirsty or buying the expensive drinks there.
TRANSPORTATION: We took the bus to Horseshoe Bay, and it takes 25 min. You then have to walk down this hill....a few minutes of a walk then you get to the beach. On your way back from the beach, there's a guy who will take you back up the hill for $1.00/per person. Kids under 10, I believe, are free. So for $2 each day...that little ride from him was sooooo worth it!!!! After a long day at the beach, you're hot and hungry.....no way do you want to walk up that hill with the kids and beach bags, etc. TIP: They say kids 5 and under are free for the busses and transportation in Bermuda. My oldest is 6 ½ and nothing was asked so we never paid for her fare. It's very easy to get away with having your "little older than 5 yr. old child" not pay. I'm not trying to be sneaky about anything, just honest with you. When you go up to the ticket booth, you just say "....for 2 adults" and they don't even ask you about the kids or even look at them to see what age they are. Same w/ on the busses. The bus drivers are very, very lax.
DISEMBARKATION I'm so glad we chose to do a self disembark and take care of our own luggage. We were in our car by 7:45 am!!! We could have had breakfast and left our luggage in our room and retrieve it after breakfast....but we just wanted to start heading home. I'm not sure when the first times of disembarkation was, but I'm glad we were one of a small handful that decided to take our own and do it early. No waiting to find our luggage, no wait on customs....it was easy breezy!! It was a lot of walking all the way out to our final stop: our car!!
- The movie that is currently playing in the movie theater, is the same movie that is playing in your cabin tv. I forgot what channel it is, but we did find this out.
- Keep in mind that if you want "Bermuda" souvenirs, there are more items that say "Bermuda" off the ship. There were more "Norwegian Dawn" items ON the ship. I mention this, because we were specifically looking for items that said Bermuda instead of NCL, and most of that will be found off the ship. - On down times, watch some of the NCL stations on the tv. You learn a lot about the crystal caves, the aquarium, etc. and lots of the other places you read about on this board! - In the Garden Cafe, apple juice can be found at the kids station during lunch and dinner. Since they take them away for lunch and dinner, you can get your apple juice from there. - T-Rex pool - Don't hesitate to call the staff member on duty or talk to him about older kids in the little pool, etc. He helped us with that, and after a while we started taking upon ourselves to politely tell those older kids that this pool is for little children.
TO SUM IT UP:
All in all, it was a good trip. We had a lot of fun and anything beats staying at home. Would I want to cruise again? Sure. However, my husband would want to try a different line first. I would want to see if there is a higher class of service as far as exceptional service and other little things that I feel could be a bit better on another cruise line. DH probably had a bit more complaints, or maybe 'annoyances' is a better word, than me and felt stronger on how he felt about them. I think though, that cruising just may not be for him. Some of it could also be a NCL thing. He is, however, willing to do/try another cruise......Royal Caribbean or Celebrity, before totally discounting cruising all together when it could just be the NCL experience for him. If another cruise doesn't work out for him, then we'll cough it up as him just being a resort type of guy. For him, he didn't like the whole "sailing on a crowded ship for 4 days" thing while only being on an island for 3 days. For him, he likes to be able to go from the pool, to the beach, to his room, back to the beach, etc. if he wanted to with ease. He felt claustrophobic on the ship he says....too many people all around and no 'elbow room' and felt like he was always on top of pple. LOL. This is why I feel a cruise may not fit his needs too much. He felt it was "too much" running around and traveling just to get to a beach....walk for 10 min, get the bus, walk back here, etc. He's more of a guy who wants to get there, and be there and be able to get back with ease. So I am happy though, that he is willing to try another cruise...but w/ another cruise line. The surcharge restaurants didn't sit well with him either. He feels that a cruise line who makes tons of money and we pay a pretty decent ticket fare, that they should have that included.....or minimally, at least the juices should be included for lunch/dinner instead of taking them away after breakfast. But these are his opinions and he's entitled to that. Just be careful because there may be some select items on the specialty menus that cost an additional surcharge on top of the initial surcharge.
But I think a resort may suit my DH better. But, we shall see if a different cruise line does it for him. ;) You just never know!
You will enjoy your cruise. We did. Despite some of our 'complaints' or "annoyances", I feel some of them had to do with the cruising aspect of it, and some had to do with the NCL aspect and some had to do with my higher expectations of things that just weren't there at times. But that's okay. None of that ruined our trip. ? Despite any of this, I never knew or heard of a vacation that I wished I rather be home. Myself, my husband and my kids did enjoy ourselves and we made the most of it as it beats being home. ? I do look forward in cruising again, and I'm glad that my DH is willing to give another cruise line a shot before he throws the ol' cruising towel in. ?
I hope you found this useful and possibly informative, and thank you for taking the time to read my review.
*This review is also posted in the NCL section, where you can ask me any questions. :)
~Dawn Read Less