After all the unfortunate cruise disaster news happening in the weeks before we sailed, my hope was for another flawless cruise....sounded like a lot considering all that was going on. But that is exactly what we got! Since I travel with a school teacher we have cruised on Spring Break the last two years...both with NCL. Both were to the Western Caribbean. Last year's on the NCL Sun out of Port Canaval, and this year on the Dawn out of Tampa. And both were flawless....from the weather, to the ship and crew, as well as food, entertainment and the shore excursions we took at each port of call. Unless you want the mega-ship with 4,000 guests on board, I will highly recommend both Norwegian and the Dawn (each about 2,000 guests). It's about the same size as the Sun, but with a lot of nice touches the Sun doesn't have (or didn't last year)....as small an issue as it is, we loved the dial on the cabin door that let you spin from welcome, to do not disturb, to make up cabin. Genious!! Last year we arrived on the ship very late and embarcation was smooth and easy. This year we arrived at the beginning and being a Lattitudes (frequest NCL cruiser) member we were moved to the short line (the long line was very long) and were checked in quickly and on to our cabin - which was ready well before sailing!! I would not sail without at least a balcony room...although next time I'd like a penthouse (in order to have a big balcony with lounge chairs and no cover - so you don't have to wander the ship looking for a place to sun - and available chairs)...but they charge almost double for a penthouse, so I'll keep working on that. Be prepared to use a lot of hand cleaner (washy, washy, happy, happy) - you'll be saying that in your sleep by day 3! But it beats any chance of getting some virus!!! We only got worried one day when we could smell a less that good smell (sewage like) near the credit desk and shore excursion area....fortunately it was gone quickly (but after the Triumph nightmare it was hard to ignore). I have become a big fan of Norwegian. I have cruised with Carnival and Holland America (I know they are part of Carnival but its hard to tell when you cruise with them - as they are great). NCL started the free style cruise thing and it fits us nicely. We feel the quality of food is higher at the specialty restaurants even though the ambiance is good throughout the restaurants....there is no ambiance in the buffet Garden Cafe! We were surprised how good the entertainment was (Second City comedy and magician Justino in particular). We also brought white clothes and danced for hours at the White Hot Party!! (its NOT just for kids!). Two crew members we saw all the time....the Cruise Director Geo seems to work all day and all night....and the Cruise shopping consultant Tiana helped us get a good deal while in port). Tips: Bring suntan lotion and bug spray with you! Dramamine (or sea bands) for those who don't have sea legs (even if the sea is calm), extra pair of reading glasses and sunglasses, and a flashlight for each in your cabin (in case of emergencies and just getting up at night - those cabins are DARK!!). Also bring a hat, and get an underwater camera if you are going to the the Caribbean snorkeling as its hard to believe how far you can see in that beautiful water!!! And finally, I'd take a back pack for the shore excursions - makes it much easier (and safer) when you have to tender - as you need both hands free to hold when crossing to a tender. We each take one big suitcase and find we still have clothes we never wore. We intend to cruise again next year to another part of the Caribbean on NCL!!
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