May 2014 - Norwegian Dawn to Bermuda
We boarded the Norwegian Dawn on a grey and misty morning Boston morning.
First look at the Norwegian Dawn experience: Our first impression of the Cruiseline and the cruise was the baggage handlers, the people who met us at the street as we exited our taxi. They were so rude and disorganized. A poor first impression is hard to change. There was no clear direction as to what to do or where to go, no signage, no entrances clearly marked. We basically just left our belongings for the upcoming week with a bad-tempered and rude Bostonian and trusted that we would see our luggage again. This, in comparison to the handlers we have experienced curbside at Royal Caribbean, Holland America, and especially Disney, falls so far below expectations that I would give it an F-. Disney had the best curbside service I have ever seen.
The Boarding experience: We then went through a short and pleasant check-in experience, had a seat, and were told we would be aboard the ship shortly. This portion I would give a good and solid A. Compares fairly evenly with HAL, RCL, and Disney.
Apparently there was a problem that day. They kept pushing more and more people into that relatively small area in the terminal, based on the amount of people who were arriving, and telling everyone to stay behind the posts and behind the lines and to 'have a seat'. The seats were long-since filled, no one was being allowed to board the ship, and more and more and more people were entering that terminal space. It was crowded and it was uncomfortable and it was unexplained; all three of these things led to a very unhappy and disgruntled crowd. We were held there for about an hour or longer past our boarding time. Finally we started boarding in our small, pre-numbered groups, according to the times we had actually arrived at the terminal. This portion I again would give an F. Compared to other cruise lines, HAL, RCL, and Disney, no comparison at all. NCL was awful.
Due to the late time, everyone was hungry and descended en masse on the dining room. Again, the problem that was in the terminal; too many people, not enough space to put them. Fortunately our rooms were ready fairly soon and we were able to go there and relax, put our carry-ons down, and explore the ship a little. Again, compared to the other lines, a D+ at best.
Our Cabin: Our cabin was a good size and compared well with HAL and RCL. The closet space and bathroom space are decent and comparable. Even our inside cabin at Disney was larger. I have to say that Disney has the best cabin size. Probably a good solid B.
Our complaints about this NCL cabin:
1). There was only ONE electrical outlet in the entire cabin, including the bathroom. Between the iPhone chargers, curling iron, breathing machine for sleep apnea, charger for the iPad, charger for the camera, charger for the heating pad for the sore neck, it was ridiculous. We had to go borrow a multi-plug from Guest Services, and then we couldn't walk around the cabin without tripping over cords. F.
2). The couch is so uncomfortable you can't sit on it. I know it's really just a sleeper sofa, but come on; can't you get one that at least is comfy? Other than that, the bed was good and the outside furniture was nice. C-
3). On HAL and RCL, the Room Stewards fall over themselves to bring you ice and keep your bucket filled. On NCL, we had to constantly ask for ice, and we are SO consistently friendly and nice to our cabin stewards. We ask their names, ask about their families, tip them generously, and really make an effort to personalize the cruise. I think they had more rooms to do than the guys on the other cruise lines do. D
The Dining experience:
All in all, the food was fairly good. There was a good variety, it was served at the appropriate temperatures, and they never ran out of anything. The gravlax was good (how I rate cruise ships!) and fresh. The specialty restaurants were good and the service was impeccable. We ate at the Brazillian Steakhouse and the Japanese Steakhouse. Both A grades. That being said, my husband and I are not fans of "freestyle dining", which this ship promotes. We prefer to have a set dining time, a set dining table, and the same serving staff so that we can get to know them. HAL does this and we really like this style of dining. We also really like Disney's dining set-up, with rotating dining rooms printed right on your room key, and your dining staff who rotate right along with you. As far as the quality of food on the four cruise lines we've travelled; 1). Holland America. The best, hands-down. 2). Norwegian. It was a bummer of a ship, but the food was very good. 3). Royal Caribbean. 4). Hate to say it, but Disney just fell at the bottom of the list for us. There was good solid food every night, but nothing imaginative (really, Disney, no imagination in your food?). No wonderful fruit soups like I've come to love on HAL. No wide variety of wonderful appetizers like NCL and HAL. Just...food. So NCL-A grade for food.
The Shipboard experience: unfortunately this cruise left out of Boston. All of our other cruises, except our Alaskan cruise, have left out of our state, Florida. No offense to the great state of Massachussets, but there are an awful lot of smokers up there! And for some reason, they all seemed to be accompanying us on this particular cruise. We paid for a balcony cabin which we were unable to enjoy because we had smokers on either side. The powerful smokiness overtaking our balcony as a result drove us inside and we wished we had just saved the money and gotten an inside cabin. there were few places to sit quietly and read, relax, and look at the ocean (3 at sea days on this cruise) without having your air space assaulted by smokers. Even if they weren't currently smoking, their clothes, hair, and bodies reeked of smoke. It was just truly disgusting. We've never experienced anything like it on a cruise. Maybe it was the port, maybe it was the clientele, who knows. We just have never encountered this before, and since this was our first NCL cruise, it was also our only NCL cruise. The clientele in general was a lower class than we've experienced on HAL (the highest), RCL, and Disney. I realize that this is a personal issue and for most people, smoking isn't a problem at all, but for us it is a huge issue; we can't stand being around cigarette and cigar smoke. We save all year for a cruise vacation, and when we go, we have an expectation level that we are paying for. We want a nice, clean room, we want nice, smoke-free areas where we can relax and enjoy sun, shade, outside, inside, whatever we feel in the mood for. We would like to be able to enjoy our own private spaces which we have paid premium prices for, and I don't think any of this is unreasonable. We take nice clothes when we go, we change for dinner, and we don't like looking at someone's dirty tee-shirt, nasty shorts that he's spent all day sweating in, and his gross flip-flops with his hairy toes hanging out, and smell his or her smoky, sweaty body anywhere near me. There are dress code guide lines for a reason. Cruising is supposed to be one of the niceties of life.
The destination: Bermuda. This was an absolute dream destination. We arrived at 11:00am on Day One and had 24 hour open access to the ship until we departed at 5pm on Day Three. We did a 5-hour bus Trip Excursion around the island first thing on our first day. This oriented us, and gave us an idea of what we might want to return to for a better look and more time spent. We docked at the Naval Dockyard, which is on one tip if the island. From there it is easy to catch a ferry/bus to the capital city, Hamilton (center of the island) or St. George (opposite tip of the island). I recommend you buy the 3-day pass, which allows ferry and bus rides, and you can hop on and off wherever you wish. It's fast, dependable, and stops all over the place (the buses). The ferry gets you between the main towns fast. Don't miss the Swizzle Inn!
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