March 2015 - Norwegian Dawn to Caribbean - Western
We went on the NCL Dawn during spring break 3/8/15 thru 3/15/15. There were four of us ,myself, my wife and 2 of our grandchildren, two 8yr. old boys who have never cruised before. My wife and I have made 15 total cruises, so we are not new at this.
I will start at the beginning so you can see how we arrived at a 4 star rating for this ship and our cruise.
1. Getting on the ship in New Orleans was a snap, we made it in record time from the time we hit the terminal until we were seeing our state room for the first time, 42 minutes. that was as quick as any of our other luding RC, Celebrity, and good old Carnival....5 stars
2. Dining, We went to the Aqua dining room 4 nights of our 7 night cruise. We went to the Venetian the last night and during the week we went twice to the buffet restaurant. We did not do any of the "Pay me more" restaurants on the ship. The restaurants on any cruise line that come with the base cruise fare serve food that I feel far exceeds the everyday diet of the average passenger. Paying extra to have a step up on everyone else on the ship in my book is a waste of time and space and money. I am able to keep my ego in check and don't have to brag to everyone else how much better the food was at the premium dining venue that I laid extra money out on. TIME..... I see so many people on a cruise waste valuable vacation time each day chasing down restaurant reservation times to eat at the " Pay Me More" venues. SPACE.....I had the tiniest interior cabin I have ever had at sea. If the ships designers would spend more time designing ships and refitting older ships without all of these premium restaurant venues, Just think of how much larger they could make cabin space and common areas on almost any ship and could probably get a premium price paid willingly for a more spacious cabin. Money... During the week we ate the common offerings and they were served well and were cooked at and served at the right temps.( hot when they should have been hot and cold when they should have been cold). We used our "Pay Me More" restaurant funds, that we did not spend; for shore excursions and on board shopping etc.
NCL gets 3 stars on dining because when you come on board the ship, I did not see any notice anywhere that they had two restaurants available in the evening plus the buffet offerings. We asked where the evening dinner restaurant was that was included with the cruise package, and were referred to the Aqua Dining room. Aqua was slow.... So SLOW!!! For the first night we thought the freestyle dining was going to be great. We went to dinner at 6:00 P.M./ were given a pager/ at 6;45 the pager blinks, (keep in mind the evening shows are at 7 P.M. and 9 P.M.) We watched a lady behind us receive a pager (after we did) go up and complain and was ushered in about 5 minutes ahead of us , just to shut her up and not allow a noisy scene outside the restaurant where everyone was signing up for dinner... oh, I mean pagers. Once we broke the restaurant barrier, we turned in our dining device (pager) and were promptly and courteously seated. Current time 7:05 P.M....7:15 P.M. MENUS arrive 7:25 P.M. orders placed........7:40 P.M. water and drinks (tea) arrive...7:53 P.M. salads and bread arrive........8:30 P.M. main course arrives....... 9:10 P.M. desert ordered........ 9:30 P.M. desert arrives..... Our meal adventure ends at 9:55 P.M.......From 6:00 P.M. until 9:55 P.M. with two little boys asking "when are we going to the show"???.... WHAT SHOW???? We went to the buffet dining 2 nights because we wanted to make the shows and did not want to be stuck 4 hours in Pagerville. later we heard about the Venetian dining room, and it was superb. We still had to play the pager game but it was 10 minutes and we were in and 75 minutes later we were full of good food and were on our way. It was an experience from the way cruising used to be when we were on our first sailings 14 years ago. NCL can do it when it comes to dining, I just think they have added so many new restaurant venues and have pulled qualified personnel out of the fare based eating places that it affects the service. The food was really good at all of the places we ate at on the Dawn even TURTLE/SNAIL AQUA...3 STARS
3. Our Stateroom #4575 ......3 Stars...It Is Soooo Small. I like an interior room because of the quiet , the darkness, and I try to get mid ship lower where it doesn't pitch and roll as much if we have a storm. The room was fine other than the set up for 4 people. We put two twins together to form a queen plus bed and then put one of the boys in a flip down side wall twin bed and was suppose to put the other boy in a pull out flat low twin bed in the hall at the front of the bathroom door going back to the foot of our bed. That was a bad set up for older grandparents taking two kids along. We are in our early 60's and we have to get up at least once each night for a bathroom break. There was no-way this set up was going to work, blocking the small hall to the bathroom. We worked it out by swapping out each night by rotating letting one of the boys sleep between grandmother and grandfather. Thank goodness they were still young and thought it was cool to get to pile up in the bed with us. It worked out. Our room steward was outstanding and he gets 5 stars. The set up of the room nor its size is any reflection on the abilities of our Steward. He spent time with the boys and spent extra time with them in the towel animal dept. He also kept our room in very clean condition and kept us well supplied with pool towels. Mr.Callin from India is a genuinely warm person who gets our highest review for his attending to us. A 5 star gentleman doing a 5 star job.... Thank You Mr.Callin
4. Shore stops and excursions..... 5 Stars... NCL Dawn gets 5 stars for allowing a 7 day cruise to visit 4 ports. That is a good deal for the money you pay for a 7 day cruise. The industry standard is 3 stops. Also they did an excellent job of getting everyone off the ship and back on without being stuck in long lines. They also offered cold water and wet towels upon returning to the ship under (2)10x10 pop up canopies.I have only experienced this on Celebrity cruises before which are a little bit more expensive than NCL . That was a 5 star touch. The shore excursions that we took were on time and very well planned....5 Stars
5. Ships photographers.... 4.8 Stars... We had dressy pics made of us and the boys done and NCL Dawn offers a great photo package. We bought 10 photos size 8x10 for a reasonable price of $129. That was less than any of the other cruise lines we have sailed with. The photographers were very patient with the 4 of us and took their time with 2 wiggly little boys wearing suits and ties for the first time. We walked off of the Dawn with a great album of photos at a reasonable price. The only reason we did not give the Photo Dept. a pure 5 Stars is having to run the gauntlet every time you get on the ship in New Orleans and each time you get off of the ship at ports visited. They want you to stop and pose at a fake helm or at a backdrop of the ship or some other photo accessory prop that by the end of the cruise starts to get CHEESY, Maybe its because i have been on so many I have become jaded to some of the more fun things. Any way they got a 4.8 Stars rating because it makes me feel uncomfortable to have to tell them no 5 times on a cruise/ It's not their fault, they are just doing what is required of them. I just can't go 5.
6.Entertainment...5 stars... The best shows at sea. The magic acts and the cast and crew of the Dawn singers and dancers are worth the ticket price for the cruise alone. I really enjoyed the show the last night of the cruise. The show is called "Elements". It is a combination of singing and dancing tastefully mixed in with some of the best magic acts I have seen anywhere and our bunch loved it!......5 Stars
7. Getting off of the Dawn and out of the cruise terminal....5 Stars.. Just like getting in , getting off and out of there was very smooth. We went up to the buffet and ate ,carrying all of our carry on luggage with us and soon after breakfast our group was called and off we went. One side note: Dawn has a Green luggage tag to get off the ship and they also have a Lime Green luggage tag to get off the ship. They call you by color groups so, Lime Green is ahead of just Green. No one told us this and when we heard Lime Green, my bunch started gathering up to leave, I got on a house phone and called to discover a 2 green color exit strategy. We were in pure Green or just plain old Green so we were called later. I can't help but wonder if they could not come up with a more individual color than having to mix two similar color calls over a ships P.A. System. I am sure the ART sales people on board from Park West could be of some assistance in helping the colorful exit planning by suggesting some singular alternatives to the double Green confusion.
All in all it was a very fun vacation and yes me,my wife, and the boys would get on this ship, the Norwegian Dawn and sail away tomorrow and experience the same stateroom,stops, and dining venues as we did that week. We loved it all and can't wait to get back on NCL. WE ARE NORWEGIANS