Embarkation in New York was quite interesting. With the
increased security, about 500 people were to go through the security
checkpoint before arriving at the NCL check-in desk. I highly recommend
arriving at the Passenger Ship terminal as early as possible. Embarkation
for our particular sailing started at about Noontime. After passing
through the security check, the NCL check-in was quick and painless.
Once on board the ship, you are greeted by bright blue
colored floral rugs and luxurious wood simulated wall coverings. The ship
décor is a mixture of Hawaiian and European influence. The Norwegian Dawn
is kept extremely clean and well maintained.
Our cabin was well appointed. We stayed in a balcony
mini-suite on deck 11. The room had a king size bed and a futon which
folded into a queen bed, a refrigerator, coffee pot, hair dryer and
television. The bathroom had a full tub, which my wife really enjoyed. The
shower had a thermostat to regulate the water temperature. No ship
bathroom would be complete without the vacuum toilets. Storage was ample
with a large closet, a dresser and storage room for the empty luggage
under the bed. Because we were traveling in off-season and there were four
passengers in the same room, the rate was quite reasonable at about $ 675
Since we were sailing in November, we were somewhat
concerned about the weather. We really lucked out. On our day of departure
the temperature was in the mid 70’s and partly cloudy. The remainder of
the week was in the 80’s and 90’s. The last day (Saturday) we encounter
some rough seas but the ship performed quite well in the turbulent seas.
It should also be noted that NCL has a winter weather guarantee. If the
ship is delayed more than a set amount of time due to the weather, NCL
will provide a $100 per cabin on board credit.
The ship has all of the luxuries of a floating hotel
and then some – restaurants, internet Café, Game Room, Library, Show
Lounges, photo studio, Theatre, spa (with a beautiful pool), disco, teen
disco and bars to name a few.
The ship has a very family friendly atmosphere and
itinerary. Monday at sea, both my 8 and 5 year olds found the T-Rex Kids
Center very enjoyable. This kids area located on one of the top most, aft
decks, has two 10-foot dinosaurs, 2 twisty slides, two kid’s pools and a
hot tub (which most of the adults commandeered). The kids had a blast
shriveling from being in the water so much!
On the top deck center is located the large pool, a
netted golf driving cage (which the kids enjoyed too), the basket ball
court, soccer field, large chess set and jogging track. My eighth year old
had a great time shooting baskets and teamed-up with some other kids and
teens on-board to play a game of wild soccer.
Tuesday we arrived in Cape Canaveral, Florida. NCL runs
multiple excursions to the theme parks, the beach and the Kennedy Space
Center. We opted to go to Disney for the day. The ship docked at about
9:00 AM but due some glitches in debarkation we did not get ashore until
about 10:15 AM. The coaches to Disney were comfortable and
air-conditioned. The trip is about 1 hour each way. The bus driver told us
to keep our eyes open for the wild pigs that run across the road as we
sped toward the theme park. Arriving at about 11:15 we had about 6 hours
in Disney before we had to re-board the buses at 5:30 PM. If this is your
first visit to Disney, there is not enough time to see an entire park. You
basically have to choose one park and see as much as you can. We chose to
go to the Magic Kingdom. Since most kids were in school, the lines in
Disney were manageable and we leveraged the Disney’s Fast Pass to avoid
waiting on long lines. I highly recommend getting a Disney map well in
advance of your trip to Florida. This will allow you to plan your day in
advance. The kids had a great time despite the 90+-degree day. The time in
port seemed adequate for a Disney refresher. The bus to Disney was about
$28/pp and admission to the park was $212 for a family of four. Upon
return to Cape Canaveral, we witnessed fireworks to celebrate the 50th
anniversary of the port.
Wednesday, we arrived in Miami. We stayed on board
mainly because the kids were pooped from the previous day’s activities.
Again the T-Rex Pool was very popular and the kids played in the water
until they were shriveled. For those who ventured ashore, there was a tour
of the trendy South Beach area, an afternoon at the beach, or a visit to
the museums and much, much more. The departure from Miami was spectacular.
Although the Miami skyline is not extremely impressive during the day, at
night the skyline changes dramatically with vivid and colorful
illumination of the structures
Thursday marked our arrival in Nassau in the Bahamas. At
Nassau, there are a number of things to do including visiting the straw
market, take a historical tour of the island, swim with the dolphins or
venture over to the casino to try your luck. In the Bahamas, we rented a
room at the Comfort Suite Hotel on Paradise Island. Comfort Suites has
access to all of the facilities of the Atlantis Resort at a fraction of
the cost. The facilities at Atlantis include the Mayan Water Slide,
numerous pools, including the kid’s pool, and my favorite the Lazy River
Ride where you float around in an inner tube though a circular pool.
Atlantis also has massive tanks filled with all types of fish and a tank
that you can walkthrough and see sharks and swordfish swimming all around
you. We even fed the stingrays!
Adults at Atlantis can enjoy the Casino, high end
shopping, and dining at numerous restaurants. The grounds are fun to walk
round as well.
Friday at 7:00 AM we anchored off of Great Stirrup Cay
in the Bahamas. This is NCL’s Private Island. Passengers were ferried from
the ship to shore via large tenders. Once on shore the beach was packed
with sunbathers and people enjoying the beach and beautiful day. Once we
were able to find a somewhat quiet spot, we rented a family float and
leisurely floated in the beautify bay. We actually saw stingrays and fish
swimming near by. There was a buffet set-up on the island but we opted to
go back to the ship. This unique island, allows visitors to lounge around,
explore the rocky coast, enjoy the barbeque on the beach, snorkel, or
enjoy a multitude of other activities. (For a full write up on Little
Stirrup Cay, please see the article under the “Port Shorts” section on
www.nycruiseinfo.com). At 2:00 PM, we
departed the island on our way back to New York.
Saturday was a day spent at sea. The weather was
overcast but it was the perfect day for relaxing, eating, enjoying the sea
air or taking part in ship-board activities.
On Sunday, we arrived in New York at about 10:00 AM.
The morning was cool and crisp. We passed Coney Island and saw the ferris
wheel from the water. The approach to the Veranzarro Bridge was very
impressive and the skyline was beautiful on this extremely clear day. The
ship proceeded slowly up the Hudson River, passing containerships,
ferries, the Statue of Liberty and the impressive skyline in the early
morning sun. The Norwegian Dawn slowly inched along-side pier 90 at the
New York Passenger Ship Terminal
The ship has 10 different restaurants and open seating
for dinner staring at 5:30 PM lasting until 10:00 PM. There are 3 main
dining rooms, the Aqua, Venetian and Impressions - all with excellent
service and good quality food. The Venetian, which is located at the stern
of the ship, was quite popular due to the view through the big picture
windows facing aft. It should be noted that when turbulent seas are
encountered, choose a restaurant other than the Venetian – this far aft,
the ship’s movement seems more noticeable. There are a number of specialty
restaurants – including The Tratoria (Italian) and Salsa (Mexican). The
Garden Café is where the buffet is located which servers breakfast, lunch
and dinner. The lunch buffet has a wide variety of foods but also has a
New York Style Deli and Vegetarian buffet. Burgers, hot dogs, fries and
salads are served poolside at lunch. In addition, there is the Blue Lagoon
Restaurant which serves burgers, fries and the like 24 hours a day. Both
Cagney’s Steakhouse and Sushi’s specialty restaurants demand an added
charge of $10 to $ 18 per person. Those who went to these specialty
restaurants raved about the food and service.
Freestyle dining provides a level of flexibility not
found on most ships. The kids really enjoyed the NCL Kids Program “Kids
Crew”. There were activities planned every night starting at about 7:00
PM. The kids never wanted to be late, so we would either eat dinner as a
family and then I would take the kids to the Kid’s Crew. I would then
return for a peaceful dessert and coffee with my wife or on a few
occasions, we let the kids eat at the kids buffet and then we would have a
quiet dinner in the dining room after, they were dropped off. This
flexibility provided the adults with quality alone time. Overall Freestyle
Dining was a big hit with us.
The Kid’s Crew program provided many activities and the
children always looked forward to going. Activities for the younger kids
included, face painting, princess and prince dress up, pirate dress-up,
painting, customizing your own T-shirts and gaggle ball. For the teens,
they had teen socials, movies, game room, teen disco, etc.
Entertainment on board was good. Entertainment included
a magician, comedian, singers and a show with a combination of singers,
acrobats and gymnasts. There was an evening with name entertainment
including Jimmy J.J. Walker, in a unique first; NCL actually charged a
premium for his show of $10/per person. This was the first time I had
encountered an entertainment surcharge.
The positives far outweighed the negatives of the
vacation. On the negative side, there were times where the ship seemed
crowded and sometimes a wait was encountered for the restaurant of choice.
NCL has since installed television screens so you can roam the ship and
see the availability/wait in any of the restaurants. The drinks on board
were quite pricey. I purchased 2 large Pina Colada’s (in a keepsake
plastic glass) for $ 7.99/ea. They were quite good though.
On the positive, because of the itinerary and ports
visited, this cruise is ideal for families. The ship was immaculate. The
staff worked continuously cleaning, painting and polishing. As part of the
Freestyle cruising, NCL automatically adds the tip to your on-board
account. I was concerned about the level of service that would be provided
since the tip was already put on the tab. I was quite surprised by the
consistent, exceptional service I received and the politeness of the crew.
The servers and bus boys in the restaurants provided exceptional service.
The room steward kept our cabin immaculate and the kids enjoyed the
animals he made every evening from towels. The quality of the food and
desserts were very good and the NCL’s signature Chocoholic Buffet was
exceptional (for those unfamiliar with this. It is a buffet consisting of
all things made of chocolate). Finally I will make note of NCL’s committed
to safety. The lifeboat drill was done so in a very professional and
serious manner. NCL exemplified professionalism, assuring order and
control during the drill. NCL is to be commended for their high regard for
quality and safety.
In the words of my eight year old - “Our first stop on
the cruise was Cape Canaveral. We went to the Magic Kingdom. The next day
we went to Atlantis in Nassau (Paradise Island). We saw sharks, lobsters,
stingrays, Seahorses, jelly fish, star fish, a sea turtle and a sword
fish. My mom fed a stingray. The next day we went to the beach at Great
Stirrup Cay. We saw a stingray in the wild. I put on my goggles and looked
at a pike and some other colorful fish under water. I went down both
slides on the ship at the kid’s pool. I had a great vacation.”
Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian
Dawn, Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Dawn