I'm finally getting around to posting my journal from a June Dawn cruise from Boston to Bermuda. This is largely unedited, so excuse its length and any errors. I hope some of you find this of interest! Let me know if you have any questions. Once again, this is LONG, but hopefully has some useful nuggets of information.
We arrived at Black Falcon Cruise Terminal around 11:30am. They have people directing traffic in certain pattern to have people drop off luggage at the terminal and then go park. We were dropped off with the luggage while a couple people parked the cars. Once they came back, we were ready to get in line. Since there were 2 strollers and one wheelchair, we were guided past the line and straight to the elevator along the wall up to security. We were escorted past the line and straight into security. The lines weren’t too long anyway. Once through security, you have to look for the priority boarding for suites as it’s easy to overlook that area and go in line with everyone else. We were immediately taken to an agent who took our paperwork and passports, had us fill out the health forms and took pictures. After all this, we had someone escort us to meet Virginia and were shown to a small seating area. The area had sandwiches, breads, coffee, and tea. After waiting there for a few minutes another family came in which made the area crowded, but soon thereafter we were escorted to the gangway and onto to boat. You use your keycard to get the green light on the ship and are immediately greeted by ‘washy washy – clean hands’ – someone spraying hand sanitizer on everyone’s hands. I was expecting to be greeted by people giving us some bubbly, but that was not the case. We were escorted to our floor and went to our Deluxe Owner's Suite.
We entered the room and started exploring for a little bit. We discovered some issues with the room including – problems with the mechanized curtains in both the living room and the bedroom. The bathroom starlights weren’t working and the safe was locked from the previous guests. We started making a list of things we needed and headed to Cagney’s for lunch. The food at Cagney’s was great. You can have a steak at lunchtime with truffle fries and they have a great berry and mango cup for dessert. Cagney’s had a bunch of people in it and started filling up while we were there. The food was very good. We learned that the soda passes were available at a table in the atrium in front of the Java Café. You needed to visit that area first as we were with someone who pre-purchased it, but we were informed at Cagney’s that we had to go there first. We went to the table and those who purchased the soda option (it was around $50 for an adult) had a Pepsi sticker put on the front of their room keys and were given a reusable container for the soda. If you pre-ordered it, you simply give them your name & cabin number and they have to look you up from a list. Otherwise, just give them your room number and you’ll see a charge processed from the Java Café. You can simply present the mug at any bar (you have to unscrew the lid for them) and they will refill it regardless of whether you’re the person who purchased the option. At the restaurants, you simply show them the card when ordering drinks.
We were greeted by our butler, Emel, shortly after returning from lunch and explained various issues we were having, and soon after him by our room steward.
We told Emel about the problem with the electronic curtain in the living room. He played with it a bit after we left and said it was fixed. In the bedroom, one of the electronic blinds would not go up (there are 4 total in that room), Emel told us that’s a known problem and would not be fixed this cruise. The safe in the bedroom was locked, Emel told us to call a number to get it fixed. Someone came by later with some tools and reset it for us.
We went to the Stardust Theatre for our mandatory lifeboat drill, which probably lasted less than 15minutes.
In the room we had slips telling us of the OBCs we got from Travelocity (yay), however I was missing the free slot play I ordered from NCL. I called Virginia and told her that when I ordered them, I was told there would be something in my room. She called the casino and within a couple hours, I the slips were delivered.
We later took a tour of the spa. When you enter the changing area, there’s a bathroom immediately when you walk in and past that a row of lockers separated by a wall. On the other side there’s a large mirror with two blow dryers, q-tips, shower caps, and areas to get and return your towels. Continuing on past two sets of doors there are sets of showers, Japanese plunge pools (one hot, one cold), a steam room and a dry sauna. There’s a men’s relaxation room with chairs that allow you to stretch out with a beautiful view of the sea (the spa is on 11 aft). The room is quiet with spa music playing and is probably the most peaceful place on the whole ship. The one annoyance was that the spa crew would occasionally walk women through the space to get to their treatment rooms. Leaving the treatment room, you enter a co-ed area with chairs to lounge with a nice view. In that are there’s a hot tub, a mineral tub, and a lap pool. On one side there’s a table with OJ, iced water, hot water and teabags. You could get a spa pass, they told me that they only sell a limited number of them and often sell out by the end of the first day. I’m not sure that’s true as there were only a handful of people that I saw multiple times at the spa and it was never crowded. Should you get a treatment, I believe you’re able to use the spa amenities afterwards. The one downside was that hours are from 8am – 10pm – I wished it were open later. We also saw the treatment rooms that looked nice; some of them have views of the ocean. They also have one room for couples massage. There was another area that’s a beauty salon. We were given entries to a spa raffle (one per person). We purchased the $119 spa passes, which essentially consisted of them putting a yellow sticker on the back of your room card that says cruise pass. We were there just in time as the raffle was about to begin. Everyone went upstairs to the yoga room and had to sit through an introduction from the staff about what the spa offers. They raffled off a handful of treatments (we unfortunately didn’t win).
Our butler Mark came by to drop off some snacks before dinner – chocolate covered strawberries. He also collected our request for 3 bottles of liquor and told us that he’d have them in the room by that night.
That night we went back to Cagney’s for dinner. The food was wonderful there. My steak was cooked perfectly. It was a birthday of one of the people in the party so I told the hostess this as we arrived. Before we ordered dessert they came out with a little cake and all sang ‘Happy Birthday.’ After we ate the cake, we then got our own desserts! So much food, but that’s to be expected.
A little while after dinner, I went to the casino. I went to the Casino At Seas desk to get a card. I gave them my slotplay.com coupon, which just took a few minutes for him to put the code into the computer. I was told to head over to the cashier to redeem the free slot play that we bought from NCL. I handed it to the woman there who looked it up and produced a similar slip to the one I gave her and then added the credit to my card. The casino was crowded and very smoky the first night. I really wished there was a non-smoking section, as I had to keep moving when I’d get surrounded by smokers.
I returned to the cabin that night and tried to close the curtains as I was sleeping in the living room, but they got stuck again, thankfully I brought a sleep mask!
Breakfast at Cagney’s – very good. I learned that in addition to the menu, there’s also a continental buffet that you’re welcome to choose from as well as whatever you select from the menu! The buffet included breads, muffins, croissants, sliced meats, cheeses, smoked fish, pate, fruit salad, yogurt, and cereal. You could also get milk, OJ, and cranberry juice at the buffet. Your waiter brings you coffee in a French press or tea.
That morning I dialed 0 to tell them about the curtain again (not sure why I didn’t think to call Virginia – guess I thought it wasn’t her issue at the time). They told us that they’d send someone over to look at it. People came later to look at it while we were gone – we saw them leaving as we were heading back to the room, but when we got back to the room, it still wasn’t fixed. Later that day we called Virginia and told her about the issue and that’s when things started to really happen. That evening, several crewmembers came over to look at the curtain. Later that night, maybe around 10 or 11pm – sometime after the late show, several crewmembers came over including an executive housekeeper with Velcro and red curtains (the same ones they have at the towel exchange next to the pool). They were able to put up a light-blocking curtain for that night.
That afternoon I attended the port and shopping talk at the Stardust. The information focused mostly on a handful of shops that sold jewelry. There was some useful information, but nothing too useful unless you were planning to spend lots of money on jewelry. One benefit of going was that they had a lot of giveaways where they’d throw things into the audience as well as pull raffle tickets. I didn’t win anything and left a little later. If you miss this talk, it gets repeated in your cabin TV several times throughout the trip.
Dinner was at the Venetian. It’s a large space, beautifully decorated, but a few people I was with commented that it reminded them of the Titanic. The food was good, not as good as Cagney’s, but still very tasty. The daily said that there was a dress code for the Venetian – pants, collared shirts and closed toe shoes for men. Some people adhered to that or got more dressed up, many others did not and it didn’t seem to be enforced in any way. We also noticed some classy people carrying their buckets of bud light in – we noticed one who stashed it under his chair. In addition to Bud Light, I think I’ve seen more bottles of white zin on this cruise than I’ve seen in my whole life.
We attended the 9:30 show of Band on the Run, a song and dance piece showcasing music of the 70s. If you like this type of music, you may enjoy it. Some of the numbers were fun and enjoyable. It’s along the lines of Mamma Mia or Jersey Boys. We had a good time except for the fact that several people snuck into the special area of the balcony that’s supposed to be reserved for owner’s suites and garden villas. That wouldn’t have been a problem except for the fact that they felt the need to talk through several of the numbers as well as turn to each other every other number and announce how much they loved this song. Oh well, at least they enjoyed themselves!
We ordered room service breakfast in hopes of getting an early start to our day in Bermuda. Mark arrived promptly and set everything up for us. White tablecloth on the table and proper place settings. The table was too small to seat 4 and hold all the food we had ordered, so the coffee table was used to hold the pot of coffee, fruit, and pastries. The food was not the same quality as Cagney’s. The scrambled eggs seemed like they were powdered or maybe egg beaters. The potatoes weren’t as good either.
Later that morning, we got the announcement that we had cleared immigration and customs and were allowed off the ship, however it was raining lightly at the time. We decided to wait a little bit and see what happened. Around noon we decided to check out the Garden Café in hopes that the rain would cease.
Lunch at the Garden Café was ok – this is certainly an example of quantity over quality. Lots of choices, but nothing all that great. After lunch we returned to the room and it was raining harder than before. After a while, I thought I might try to brave the rain, we went to deck 4 in hopes of at least checking out the duty free shop in the terminal, however unlike Boston, you have to go outside to get to the terminal. We stood by the exit for several minutes and watched a bunch of people return that had ponchos but were soaked underneath them. The wind was strong and we were getting wet just standing there. I begrudgingly admitted defeat and said that I’d go to the spa for a bit.
While in the spa, it stopped raining and I went out to walk around Dockyard for a bit. I was able to briefly check out the clock tower mall, the glassworks and the rum cake stores. By that time many places were either already closed or about to close. After touring the area for a bit, I headed back to the ship for dinner.
During the day, a bunch of crewmembers came by to look at our curtain situation. While I wasn’t there, I understand they spent a bunch of time trying to figure out what to do. It was explained that it needed a belt, but they did not have a spare belt on the ship. What was finally decided was to turn off the system and make it manual so someone could at least close and open the curtains. While this wasn’t an ideal solution, it was probably the best they could have done. Virginia told us that Calvin, the hotel director, was informed of what was going on and that he’d like to speak with us.
Dinner tonight was at Moderno. If you’ve been to Midwest Grill in the Boston area, you have an idea of what to expect. While I really liked the meats, I was hoping for a little more variety with the salads and sides. The salad bar had an ok selection of greens and other salads. Once you were finished, you got a new set of plates as well as rice, beans, fried sweet bananas, and. (I was hoping for some fried yucca or fries, but that unfortunately did not come). You are then brought swords full of meat – 10 kinds I believe. Chicken wrapped in pepper bacon, chicken thighs, lamb, pork, sausages, beef ribs, garlic beef, carved steak, and grilled pineapple with cinnamon. Unless you’re a vegetarian, it’s hard to leave this place without feeling stuffed! For dessert they had flan, rice pudding with mango, and a passion fruit mousse.
The show tonight was Duo Acrobatique. I wasn’t sure if I would like this and snuck in to take a peek at the beginning of the show. I saw one of them in clown makeup and watched for a few minutes. I felt this was probably not the best show for me and left. I went back out and walked around Dockyard for a bit to see what else was around. Unsurprisingly, the only things that were open that hour were a few restaurants/bars. There’s a bunch of things right around the cruise terminal, but once you start getting out, there really isn’t much of anything. We walked for a while, saw a slightly industrial area and even found the correctional facility. On our way back to the ship, we noticed a lot of people just hanging around Dockyard with their laptops. We later learning from one of the crew members that they’re only provided a small amount of time online as part of working there so what many people do is purchase monthly wireless plans from the wireless provider at the Dockyard. This allows them to get online whenever they’re in port without a dealing with the slow and expensive ship wireless as I think wireless at Dockyard is around $30/month.
We had room service deliver food to the suite again so we could get out early. Thankfully today we had clear skies and took the ferry out to St. George. There’s a trailer in between where the two cruise ships dock that sells transportation tokens and passes. They are not sold right where you board the ferry. We went there, picked up our tokens and took a short walk to the ferry. Being one of the first ferries of the morning, the lines were long and it got pretty full.
We spent a good part of the day in St. George’s. Lots of beautiful buildings to look at and lots of historic places to visit – some of the highlights included St. Peter’s Church, the Unfinished Church, as well as walking around the various houses. On this day, there was a historical reenactment at noon – dunking of the nagging wife. The town crier came out and explained what would happen. The woman was taken out with a sign around her neck saying that she was a gossip and a nag. She was then put in a type of seesaw and dunked into the water several times. It was interesting to watch, and the actors were funny. Later that afternoon, we took the ferry back to Dockyard.
That evening was the chocolate buffet. We got special invitations from Virginia to get in early. The buffet was in the Garden Café, but we were told to meet in another location where Virginia told us about it and then escorted us to the buffet before anyone else. While it was nice getting there early, it seemed more crowded with all the special guests than it was a while later when it was opened up to everyone. The buffet took up one half of the Garden Café, with it split up into three sections with each section being almost identical to the other. There was a nice selection and everything tasted great, but after all the hype, I thought it was going to be bigger. That’s not to say it wasn’t great, I just thought it was going to be more than it was. They had a table with Champagne and later had a guy going around to tables with glasses. This was one of those times where he’d offer you Champagne and then tell you that it cost money. I had a feeling that was the case, so I said no. While at the buffet, we met Calvin who wanted to introduce himself and told us that he was preparing a letter to be delivered to us the next morning addressing the problems we were having with the suite.
After the buffet, we went to dinner at Aqua. This was smaller and had a more modern feel that the Venetian. The menu was thankfully slightly different as well giving us more choices.
Final day in Bermuda – room service again so we could get an early start on a ferry to Hamilton. Hamilton was a big change from Dockyard and St. George’s. The ferry drops you off right in the middle of the shopping and business area. It is also a short distance from where the HAL ship is docked, which I thought would be a much better location to stay, however I learned that this was the last year they’re doing it. I hope Bermuda is able to make some changes to accommodate bigger ships at Hamilton and/or St. George’s – would be much nicer to be docked at either location. There was a bunch to see in Hamilton – lots of great historic sites as well as some great shopping. I discovered that you can get free wireless right in and in front of the Hamilton library as I was waiting for the museum next door to open for the day. We spent the morning and part of the afternoon in Hamilton and then took the ferry back. Once back, I went to the National Museum of Bermuda at the Dockyard. The centerpiece of this is the commander’s residence, but there are several other old buildings in the area as well as some livestock. I walked around the area for a while, I would have liked to stay longer, but I had to get back to the ship. Before getting on the ship, I took a quick detour to the beach next to the museum, which we didn’t know was there when we first arrived the entrance obscured what it was. After putting my feet in the water for a few minutes, I went back to the ship. There were a lot of people going back at that time. When you got to the port, there was a party going on with loud music, dancing, as well as cold towels and water.
We got a letter from Calvin apologizing for all the inconvenience and stating that he issued us some OBC that would be immediately reflected in our account. While we were unhappy with the fact that things weren’t working, I will say that we had to admire the crew. We had many people involved trying to get this solved and they really showed a dedication go trying to solve the problem.
That evening we had dinner at Teppanyaki – a Japanese restaurant where the food is cooked in front of you and is part cooking, part show. There were only 3 seatings per night at the restaurant and I didn’t realize how small it was. There are two chefs that prepare the meal (one for each side), part of the menu is set – everyone gets miso soup, seaweed salad, vegetables, and fried rice. You choose what type of meat you want (many people got combinations like steak and shrimp or chicken and shrimp) as well as you choose a dessert. That night they had a deal going on in all the specialty restaurants where if you reserved for 5:30 or 6, each 2 adults would get a free bottle of wine (either Chardonnay or Merlot). If you did not want that, you could get 20% off a bottle of wine from the wine list. At this restaurant, it wasn’t even something that you had to ask for – all the wine glasses were on the table and the server asked you what you preferred. Oh, and while I’m talking about the server – we discovered that Washy Washy Happy Happy works there at night as a waitress. While it was an enjoyable experience, this was certainly not the best meal we had on the trip.
We later went to the 9:30pm show of The Second City. This was the best entertainment on the ship! The troupe is known for great talent and this group was no exception. The show was half sketch comedy and half improv. They included a lot of Boston and ship references (including a shout out to Happy Happy Washy Washy). The improv was also good, one of the skits they did (which came from an audience member) was the untold story of Bill Cosby’s Sweater. Overall, it was a lot of fun and I’m glad I got to see this.
Full day at sea. We happily returned to Cagney’s for breakfast. The difference between the breakfast here and the room service was clear and we were happy to be back. Later that morning we went to play bingo in the Spinnaker Lounge. Special K was the host and she certainly helped to liven things up. We got the super combo everything package that was $70 or $80 and included 3 cards for each of the 3 bingo games plus an extra card for the $8k game, plus a bunch of raffle tickets for the big drawing for a free cruise. First game was a regular bingo game, the second was picked by the computer, it was something like 4 corner, then the last game was a cover all game. We unfortunately didn’t win anything, but it was a fun if expensive way to pass a couple hours and they knew we’d be back tomorrow for the big drawing as you couldn’t win the cruise unless you were present.
For lunch we went to the poolside BBQ, got some meat off the grill then took it over to the garden café to get some more food. The afternoon was spent lounging around a bit, as well as spending a bit of time relaxing at the spa.
Dinner tonight was back at the Venetian. On our return visit we learned that if you take the middle aft elevator, it will stop right behind the grand staircase inside the Venetian so you don’t have to walk down the stairs – this was good to know since we had an older person who couldn’t handle too many stairs. The problem getting off at this area is that no one expects it so you have to get the host’s attention in order to get a table – a minor annoyance. We surprisingly ended up at the same table we were at the other night. Half of the menu had been updated so even more choices – yay.
That evening we went to the Stardust Theatre to see Greg London. He’s a singer in his own right as well as someone who does a lot of impressions. He had his own show in Vegas for years and for some reason is now on the Dawn. I’m guessing the show was very new as things seemed unrehearsed with the band and he had big sheets taped to the stage deck with writing on them. I think I would have been more impressed with him had I liked the people he was impersonating more. The people around me seemed to enjoy him, especially an older woman near to me who was howling along to some of the songs he was singing.
Last day on the cruise – sad! Breakfast was at Cagney’s – by this point once they saw us they’d set up a table for us and once we were seated someone would get coffee for some and knew who had the soda cards. This was something you observed a lot of on the ship if you frequented a certain place – they quickly learned who you were and what you’d ask for – a great touch.
That morning we went to the final big bingo session with the free cruise raffle. Since this was the biggest game it was held in the Stardust. As an encouragement to play, they didn’t draw the free cruise until after the 2nd game. I figured I might as well try. After the first bingo game, on the first draw they found the winner of the free cruise who conveniently was sitting in the front row. Once it was confirmed that she had the winning raffle ticket there was a mass exodus. We stayed for the next two rounds of bingo, again winning nothing.
After bingo it was back to Cagney’s for our final lunch there. I got to have my favorite berry and mango cup one last time – yum! Afterwards I decided to head to the fitness center for the seminar called ‘Walking in Comfort’. I arrived to find that I was the only one there and the two personal trainers proceeded to give me an abbreviated demonstration/sales pitch. The interesting piece of this was how you get a stamp of your foot as you’re walking which helps to show you any problems you may have. They then spend a while trying to sell you the brand of orthotic insole they swear is the best – better than what your podiatrist will prescribe you. I politely told them I wasn’t interested in getting one at that time and thanked them for the info since I might then be able to get one later. I knew there was a reason why I stayed away from the various ‘seminars’ at the fitness center, but thankfully this wasn’t too much time water.
Dinner that evening was at Le Bistro – one of my favorite meals on the cruise. It’s in a nice space decorated with expensive works of art conveniently behind glass (you certainly don’t want to get chocolate fondue on a Picasso). The menu is your typical French classics prepared well. It’s certainly not the best French restaurant I’ve been to, but compared to the rest of the food we’ve had all week, it was up there with the best.
We checked out the 9:30 performance of Bollywood – a cheap and cheesy mash up of the film genre. The performances were all ok, but it was just lots of silliness and spectacle and not even to a wonderful soundtrack. With the exception of Second City (which I talk more about below), I was generally underwhelmed by the entertainment on the ship. Judging by the rest of the audience, I was in the minority as everyone else seemed to love it, but I tend to see a lot of theatre so my expectations may be different than others. After the show they have the big farewell tribute with many from the ship’s crew. At the end of the 7:30 performance they film this part and show it on TV for those who missed it. It’s a good time to see everyone again and to show our appreciation for all the hard work over the past week. It really shows how dedicated all the staff is – you rarely found anyone who wasn’t willing to go above and beyond.
After the Bollywood show, I made my way to the Spinnaker lounge for the 11pm Second City Unplugged – an adults only, improv only show. Evidently I wasn’t the only one who really enjoyed them as the place was standing room only and even the Dawn production cast showed up to see the show after they got changed. They did 30-45min of improv – a little more fun stuff than their main stage show. It was very funny and I didn’t mind having to stand for half the show. For me, this troupe was the best entertainment on the ship and I enjoyed being able to see them perform again.
On the final morning we went to Cagney’s for our final breakfast – Cagney’s was only open until 8:30am (I believe the buffet was open until 9am or later). It was the only time on the cruise that I walked past the pool and the whole area was quiet with hardly anyone around. We had our final breakfast and said thanked everyone there.
We were given priority luggage tags since we were in a suite. Around 9am we headed over to the Spinnaker lounge to disembark. We were there for a minute looking for Virginia, but she wasn’t around. We asked and were told she’s outside by the gangway. We were escorted out a separate exit from the rest of the ship and straight to a station to enter our key cards to disembark. We didn’t see Virginia, so handed our envelope to someone else and got off the ship. Once in the cruise terminal, things weren’t as organized. I think because we were some of the first people off after those who carried off their own luggage, we were first directed to leave the terminal. I noticed the big signs that said absolutely no remittance, so I asked someone and was shown where the priority luggage was located. The rest of the luggage tags were still being sorted and people could get their luggage. We found our luggage scattered about. I located my suitcase and realized the handle was missing. I found someone working there and was shown a little table to fill out a form. I filled out the form, was given my copy and told to call a number to see what they will do for me. I exited the terminal where someone else in our party had the rest of our luggage. Things were very chaotic waiting for someone to get the car from the garage. There was a trooper directing traffic somewhat, but things moved at a much slower pace and many people were waiting right in front of the exit, which compounded the problem. After a bit of a wait, the cars arrived and we left the area, getting a final glimpse of the Dawn on our way home.