June 2016 - Norwegian Dawn to Bermuda
This was like no cruise experience I have ever had. I have been on over a dozen cruises on Disney, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Holland America and Celebrity all of which were excellent.
This cruise seemed to get off on the wrong foot from the get go. Our original booking was cancelled as the ship was being repaired / refurbished etc. When we rebooked we chose the first boarding time at noon and made sure to be waiting in line 40 minutes early. We waited in line for three hours before we finally boarded the ship. I have never seen such a lengthy boarding process. All previous cruises that I've taken took took an hour to board at the most. *On a positive note, we were able to go directly to our cabin which was ready.
The first thing I noticed once aboard was the overwhelming stench of cigarette smoke. This would last the entire cruise both outside the ship and anywhere in proximity to a deck door and there were many. Most ships have designated smoking areas but not this one. Any public place outside was fair game. Unfortunately the doors leading to the outside were open more than not creating a vacuum for cigarette smoke to permeate the halls and elevators. The smell also spilled out of any door leading to crews quarters. Although there was a multitude of signs declaring the ship a drug free zone, the stench of marijuana also found its way from behind closed doors and open decks into the hallways.
I hadn't seen the ship before its refurbishment and had heard some people remark that great changes were made but it was a downgrade from other cruises in my experience. I guess the most striking disappointment was that I had read so many stellar reviews and was eager to try this cruise line as was my family. The many scrapes and dings in our cabin wood work had been covered by a coat of paint that left no guesswork about the location and dimensions of the original flaws. The light in our bathroom wasn't working and our toilet door came off the runner at least once a day. It seemed like the refurbishment of our stateroom at least was merely phoned in. I might have overlooked the complete lack of love that was shown in the upkeep of the stateroom if the price hadn't been on par with the better lines I've taken. *On a positive note the young man who was in charge of taking care of our cabin was a doll and very attentive.
Before this cruise I have never seen a constant state of construction happening in the hallways. There was a never ending maze of tool boxes and carts, fans drying flooded carpets, and all manner of debris in our hallway at all times as well as maintenance crews. The public areas were atrocious. Perhaps this cruise was released from dry dock before it was ready. Every single public restroom on the ship wreaked of sewage, was an absolutely disgusting mess night and day and had at least fifty percent of the toilets, sinks, dryers and fixtures out of order 100% of the time. Even the beautiful new spa suffered from atrocious hygiene in the toilets and non functioning showers. I heard endless complaints from other passengers. Such negligence would have caused the health department to shut down any land based hotel.
On our first night on board, my daughter's cellphone, jacket and license were stolen from her chair at the disco by another passenger. The reception desk did their very best to dismiss us, insisting that the articles were not stolen but merely lost. They were unfriendly and seemed to be trained to get rid of people as soon as possible. Hordes of frustrated passengers filed in and out of the lines in the two days I camped out at reception while they insisted the phone was just lost. *On a good note Robert Wolf-head of security and his team did an amazing investigation and were able to find the passenger/culprit and recover the phone, jacket and license for my daughter. We are forever grateful to them. They were first rate!!!!!
The food was mediocre at best. Even the better restaurants were on par with TGIF or Applebee's which are both fine but just above fast food in my book. In general the restaurants did not function like they were ready to serve the amount of guests they had. Our orders were frequently missing items that never appeared even when requested several times. On two occasions waiters just never came to our table at all. Many of the staff did not speak or understand enough English to take our orders even though it was clear they were trying.*On a good note, the wait staff and all the people that worked in the restaurants and buffets were super nice.
The entertainment staff was excellent. They all seemed to give 110%. Ralph (Rafael) who wore many hats including Bingo and Karaoke among others was our favorite but everyone was fantastic. The shows were OK. Not great. The dancers were great and clearly gave their all to what they were doing. Some of them also had phenomenal voices.
Clearly there were many problems and I've never ever heard so many complaints from so many fellow passengers about everything. In fact I've rarely heard complaints on other cruises I've taken. This was exceptional and not in a good way. Would I take another NCL cruise? It wouldn't be my first choice. I won't rule it out all together but it would depend on many factors. Maybe other NCL ships are better? I'm not sure. I paid what it would cost me to stay at the Four Seasons for a weak for a Motel 8 experience so I can't really justify that but I can see how it would be good for people who live in Boston and are terrified to fly or for young people who are too young and inexperienced to expect anything more than a party atmosphere. (Isn't that Carnival's domain?). It would also be excellent for smokers who want to feel liberated. * On a good note Bermuda is beautiful and if you've never cruised before you wont be bothered by preconceived notions or expectations. You won't compare it to previous experiences. So go for it and enjoy. Have no expectations and you'll be fine. On a final note, carry your luggage on board or at the very least carry anything valuable on your person. More than one person that I met personally never had their luggage delivered to their staterooms. They were just lost from the luggage check in at port to the boat. Bermuda triangle maybe?