We were on the August 18 sailing on the Dawn to Bermuda. It was my husband and I (he's 50, I'm 46). We booked just 19 days before we left and once we booked, found out that friends of ours were also going to be on the same sailing, which made us super excited! After much consternation about what to do for our vacation. We decided to go on a week-long vacation in a short time frame and looked into so many different options (everything from an all-inclusive, to a local option, to Vegas....) but settled on the Dawn for a few different reasons: 1. We hadn't been on a week-long cruise since 2006, 2. The cost advantage of a cruise is unbeatable and 3. No airfare which, when you're booking last minute, is OUTRAGEOUS!! LOL! We live about a 20 minute ride to the port so it was a no brainer. We'd been on about a dozen other cruises (mostly Carnival, but also RCCL and one Disney), but have never cruised on NCL, nor have we ever been to Bermuda....and we'd never cruised out of our hometown - so it was a triple win!
Embarkation was a breeze - everything veryorganized. We arrived at the port at around 11:30. After a slight wait, they started calling boarding numbers. Our friends were in Group 12 - and there were 30 groups!! LOL! We didn't get a boarding number so we were to go on during General Boarding. It took a little over a half hour before we were called on board, then we joined the rest of the excited guests on board!
We grabbed some quick food at the Bimini then walked around to explore the ship. The layout was pretty easy to maneuver and find our way around. We found our cabin pretty easily but it wasn't ready yet, so we went up on deck for our first beverages (virgin Pina Colada for me, Mango Daiquiri for DH). Checked our room again and it was ready, so we dropped our small bags then walked around some more. Didn't take long until it was time for the muster drill. Once that was complete, it was time to party on down during Sail Away! We loved seeing Boston under these circumstances - we still kept saying "I can't believe we're on a cruise!!"
I think at this point, since I'll be unable to break things down by day, I'd like to take the opportunity to talk about things under categories:
CABIN: Some of you may remember that we originally booked an inside cabin, then bid on an OV and got Cabin 6502 - on Deck 6 outside the Casino and the Stardust Theatre. I'd read so many RAVE reviews about this cabin location so I was anxious to check it out (I was also asked to review it - so here it is....). One word: AWESOME!!!! Loved the location - it was surprisingly quiet, for the most part. No Casino sounds whatsoever, nor was the theatre noise. The only thing was that the walls seemed paper thin to the point that I was afraid that the couple next door might have sex and we'd hear every little thing! We could hear them talking clear as day, so I was worried. They also fought quite a bit and we didn't have to turn off our TV to hear them clearly. With that being said, we weren't in our cabin so much that it became an issue. There was more storage that I would even know what to do with in the room. We had a **** ton of hangers too! While the room itself was smaller in area that other ships we've been on, it's not terrible. What really impressed me was the bathroom. I loved the sliding glass doors, especially on the shower. It felt even bigger than it was because there wasn't a curtain constantly invading your space, sticking to you while you're trying to wash, but also there wasn't a messy floor flooded with water when you were done! The toilet is also behind a sliding glass door which I thought was a bit unnecessary and as a larger woman, I found the space really tight. No big deal though! All in all, LOVED the cabin!
DINING: We ate at the Venetian, Teppanyaki, O'Sheehan's and Aqua for our dinners. The Main Dining room food was as we expected. We liked the Venetian a little better only because the room was bigger and had the windows, which we were lucky enough to sit up against on 2 different nights. Food was good, service was great....Servers were enthusiastic, entertaining and informational. We enjoyed everyone we met in all of our dining experiences. Teppanyaki, obviously, was super fresh and quite delicious. Our friends raved about Bamboo and loved LaCucina and Cagney's. (I'll give my thoughts and review on "Freestyle" in a bit, and it will include my thoughts on how this affects dining).
BARS: Our friends do drink some, DH drinks very little and I don't drink at all. With that being said, we found ourselves in a few different locations: Bimini on the first day, Gatsby's and Atrium Bar. There are various trivia games, napkin folding lessons, etc at them and we found them relatively well attended, especially at Gatsby's. The only drawback to Gatsby's, to me, was that the Cigar / Smoking lounge was right there and it always smelled terribly of smoke. The singers / entertainment in Cagney's (Ariel especially!!!) and the Atrium Bar were phenomenal! We thoroughly enjoyed them!
CASINO: We found it pretty easy to sidle up to a game table and play when we wanted to. Only a few short times did we have to wait for a seat (we play Let It Ride, Roulette and Craps). Early in the week, we all did well and, other than last night's not so great night, we still came out well ahead. We aren't regular gamblers, but look forward to gambling on the cruise. We taught our friends how to play Craps, and he did really well! I think we created a monster! LOL!!
SHOWS: We attended the Welcome Aboard show and really enjoyed it, setting up our anticipation of seeing the upcoming shows. We went to Band on the Run - GREAT show!, Second City (family version) - HILARIOUS!!!, Second City (Adult Show) - LAME & OVERCROWDED, Heath (Comedian - Adult Show) - MEH.....The talent is DEFINITELY on the ship! The Entertainment staff were visible all over the ship and were really fun! We LOVED that there was a live band along with the shows.
POOL AND DECK: While the pool was rather small, I can't remember being on a ship that DIDN'T make the pool feel small, regardless of it's actual size. We loved that it had steps down into it making it so easy to get in and out. I don't ever remember seeing, like I have in the past, an exorbitant number of kids in the hot tubs. The kids, as were the adults, warned a lot by the staff about jumping in from the sides of the pool. The staff were right on top of it. The poolside entertainment was CONSTANTLY great! While I did see a lot of chair saving, there were always plenty of chairs away from the main pool. People, the sun is the same no matter where you sit and you're not then sitting on top of each other....you can sit near the main pool and still hear all the fun. One of the funniest things we watched all week was the men's sexy leg competition!!!!
BERMUDA: OMG people are going to laugh at me...maybe even read with mouths agape. We never went to a beach. We went on the Restless Native Catamaran, which was fun and super relaxing. We'd planned to go to Horseshoe Bay, but it was raining when we planned to go and jut stayed put on the ship. We did put down a deposit via CruiseNext to go again next year and bring our family and I can see us going back to Bermuda a lot. We shopped on the Port, but I was rather disappointed with the "shopping" there. I expected there to be more and it was kind of run down with some nice shops but overall, not many options. We got lunch one day at the Bistro, which was DELICIOUS!!!
FREESTYLE CRUISING: This was our first time with NCL and therefore with Freestyle Cruising - WE LOVED IT!!! This TOTALLY fits our personalities and our vacation style. I cannot speak enough about this. The number and variety of options is on par with many resorts I've been to on land. Being able to choose between them, even though you had to pay for some, was so refreshing!! Not having scheduled dinner times has more benefits that I could list: You go to dinner when you're actually hungry, therefore wasting less food by going when you're "scheduled" then ordering food you're not hungry for and leaving more on the plate than you actually ate. There are plenty of tables for reasons such as having people spread across the options on the ship, not having a set number of tables set aside from the "scheduled" diners that are so limited that you stare at empty tables while waiting for an "open dining" table to finally open up. There are more options for those who like to dine with just their travel mates rather than a group of strangers. You can ask to sit in one section and still have the same waiter all week, but you get to go at a time that works for you. I could go on and on!!!! Being able to choose when you want to disembark was just the final bow on the package. Having a "Freestyle" life on the cruise is totally up our alley!
OVERALL: We were blown away by how much we totally LOVED NCL, cruising out of Boston, going to Bermuda.....we're hooked on NCL!!!! As I stated, we put down a deposit while still on this cruise for a future cruise and are already planning the next one!
I'm happy to answer all questions - silly or not!!!