7 Night Bahamas & Bermuda (New York Roundtrip) Sail Date: August 25, 2007 Ship: Norwegian Dawn Cabin Type: Inside Traveled As: Couple Reviewed: 10 years ago
This was my seventh cruise, but my first with NCL and my first trip to any of the destinations on this itinerary (Bahamas, Bermuda, NCL's private island). Overall, I was very impressed. However, the "Freestyle Cruising" concept has its benefits and drawbacks, and it might not be a good match for those looking for a traditional cruise experience.
The downside of all the "freestyle" choice in dining is that you don't have the opportunity to be served by the same staff every night, as you do on a more traditional cruise. As a result, the service was less personal -- in some cases downright brusque -- compared to other cruises I've been on (mostly RCCL and HAL) where your main-dining-room waiters really got to know you and anticipate your needs. Overall, the "Freestyle cruising" felt less like traditional cruising, and more like being on a resort hotel that moved.
The only other major downsides were the other passengers on the cruise. Although most people were polite and well-behaved, there was an astonishing level of rudeness among some of the other guests. Loud, drunken parties in staterooms, complete with music and screaming children, at all hours of the morning, seemed common; combined with the very thin walls between cabins, this didn't make for relaxing nights.
Overall, despite the obnoxiousness, we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise and wouldn't hesitate to do it again. The food, the itinerary, the beauty of the ship, and the general attitude of the staff (minus a few very minor exceptions) more than made up for the rough edges.
Food and Dining
3 out of 5
One of the best aspects of the Dawn is its wide range of dining options. We found that the free restaurants (particularly Salsa, the tex-mex restaurant, and Impressions, the Italian one) were wonderful. Just remember to make reservations in advance! (The staff will tell you that you "don't need reservations" for parties smaller than six people, and will discourage you from making them, but do it anyway! By making reservations you can show up at the appointed time and walk right in; otherwise you'll find yourself constantly waiting in line.) The main dining rooms were good, too. We were disappointed by Cagney's, the extra-cost steak restaurant: it was decent but overhyped -- more Sizzler than Morton's -- and not worth the extra charge. As a result of the lackluster experience at Cagney's, we didn't try the other two extra-cost restaurants (French or Asian), and just stuck with the included ones.
3 out of 5
The entertainment -- what of it we went to -- was good. One of our favorite touches were the "enrichment lectures," given by a professor who was traveling with the cruise, on the history and culture of some of the ports we visited. We were pleasantly surprised at the number of other passengers who took advantage of this (the professor said it was his only standing-room-only class in 30 years), and we hope that other lines note the demand for some slightly more intellectually engaging entertainment than the usual song-and-dance shows.
The 'standard fare' entertainment (dancers, singing, participatory game shows, comedians) were all there as well, and very well done.
Service and Staff
3 out of 5
In general, the staff was courteous, polite, friendly, and well-spoken. Our room stewards were available and responsive to our needs, and the bar staff were great as well. One disappointing result of the Freestyle dining concept is that the table service seemed impersonal compared to other cruises; more an exercise in efficiency than friendliness. (Ironically, the least-personal service occurred in Cagney's, one of the 'premium' dining options; the best was in Impressions, a complimentary one.) I missed the feeling of exceptional service that I associate with cruising, and which differentiates the experience from eating at a regular on-shore restaurant. (However, my companion, a first-time cruiser, didn't notice a problem and thought the service was fine. If you've never been on a traditional cruise where you've had the same waitstaff every day for a week, you probably won't notice a difference.)
3 out of 5
In general, the ship was well-maintained and beautifully decorated. In a few places (carpeting in hallways) wear and tear were visible, but not to the extent of actually looking shabby. The ship was definitely designed for warm-weather cruising, with an outdoor pool and large sun-deck with tiered balconies for chairs. Decor was modern, but tasteful.
The number of dining options on board were extensive, and it was nice to have both a 24/7 eatery AND a 24/7 fitness center, something that was missing on other ships.
The ship did have a few design quirks: the lifeboat/promenade deck (Deck 7) was actually below the ship's bow, and didn't have any view forward. If you want to look forwards, you have to go up to Deck 12/13, or have one of the private balconies on the front, to do it.
Cabin / Stateroom
5 out of 5
The staterooms were impressive, and offered better designs than interior rooms I've been in on HAL and RCCL. In particular, the bathrooms (esp. showers) were larger, and the storage was better designed. Only complaint is that the walls seemed paper-thin; not a good combination when you have inconsiderately loud neighbors. In all other respects, the staterooms were modern cruise-ship standard.
The highlight of our trip. Almost impossible to imagine a better way to do a "beach day" than on a private island. Tendering in is via old landing craft, right onto the sand, and there are ample beach chairs and hammocks to just sit around and enjoy. The water was clear and beautiful, and the ship even provided a beach BBQ, so that you didn't have to worry about bringing food or returning to the ship for lunch. We could have stayed there for a week.
Don't Miss: The beach.
We didn't know much about Bermuda before we got there, and had few expectations, but it really impressed! One of the nicest ports I've ever been to, Bermuda was clean, felt safe, and was filled with friendly people. We took the ferry ($4USD round-trip) to St. Georges, the oldest city on the island, to go to the fort and check out the museums, and it didn't disappoint.
Don't Miss: the view from Ft. St. Catherine, near St. Georges
We passed on the organized shore excursions to wander around on our own. Overall, an interesting town, gritty and laden with history. Apparently it can get quite rough in the evenings/night-time, and all the tourist-related shops closed abruptly at around 5:30-6PM (even though the ship wasn't scheduled to depart until much later). We were warned several times against going downtown in the evenings. However during the day we had no problems, and walked to the Ardastra Gardens (home of the marching flamingos) and back, without feeling unsafe.
The best beaches on Nassau are apparently all on Paradise Island, but we passed in order to see the forts and historical sites downtown.
Don't Miss: Marching flamingos at Ardastra Gardens
Pros: Great itinerary, wonderful food, liked the
Cons: Service was impersonal, other passengers were obnoxious
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