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juried

Dawn Review - long

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Just back from the NCL Dawn 12/30/04 through 1/9/05.

There were 7 of us total (2 adults 5 young adults aged 17-25) in the Horizon Villa suite 14000.

This was our first time in a Villa but our second time on the Dawn, we sailed the same New Years Cruise last year, so we had a pretty good idea of what to expect.

We drove to NYC one day early and stayed at the Sheraton on the Hudson in Weehawken New Jersey. We got the skyline view so we could see the outline of NYC over the river, I love that. We hired a limo and went to dinner, Caroline’s Comedy Club and sightseeing. Because there were 7 of us and we only wanted to bring one vehicle we rented a U-Haul trailer for our 20 pieces of luggage. The port was very easy to find. We dropped off all the bags with a porter (long shore man) very easy. It was eerily quiet when we dropped off the bags. Nobody was there except hundreds of taxis. I thought this was odd because it was around 10AM. We returned the trailer to a local U-Haul which is close to the port and parked on the roof next to the pier. That is when we were told the ship had not yet debarked, it was held up in customs, so the wait began. We were given a number (1) and every now and then a dock worker would yell the status and tell us how much longer we had to wait. I did not mind waiting, I had my book and my vacation had begun. NYC is a trip with all the long shore men yelling, and thousands of people trying to leave while thousands more are just arriving. I enjoyed it. Now for the awkward part …my husband walked over to the pier and told someone we had a villa. He was told to return with his entire party. So we did. To be truthful we were at the port very early, much earlier than the hundreds of people we had to walk by. But it still felt awkward to be escorted to the front of the line like that. At the port we were handed over to John our butler (no kidding) and brought to the Villa check-in desk. We traveled with non-US Citizens so this took a bit more time but soon we had our photo taken (we actually had John in the family photo with us) and then we met Ruth our concierge (again, no kidding) Ruth brought us directly up to floor 14. The villa is gorgeous, champagne, flowers, fresh fruit, 3 bedrooms, and so on. Ruth did her best to show us how to use the cordless phones, dvd, etc but the minute the kids saw the hot tub on the deck they threw off their winter coats and hopped in. The villa is all that they say it is and more. The service on this trip was beyond anything I have ever experienced. We were totally catered to and pampered.

First impression the ship is lovely, huge and very bright against the dull gray of New York.

It was very cool cruising out of New York with the lights of the city. From the balcony of the villa we had front row seats to the Statue of Liberty, but our faces were frozen.

Cabin Stewards: Velma and Ronald were great.

Ship: The ship is beautiful and the elevators are large. The layout is confusing to me but nobody else had any trouble with it. There was plenty of public seating including ocean window seats. The Stardust Theater has the most impressive entrances I have ever seen. However most of the seating is theater style and waiters cannot reach you so we opted to sit in the upper level along the side, which had a little shelf for your drink. Actually Ruth held this section for us nightly.

We enjoyed live music with Modal Magic in the Spinnaker lounge. I liked the Cinema very much also. We saw 2 movies and played movie trivia. The Casino was excellent. I learned from last year and stayed away from the slots. I had luck at 3 card poker. And tried my hand at Texas Hold’em, it was a blast.

The card room and library were nice quiet areas but I do not think they get much use. The oasis pool was just too crowded as were the hot tubs. My husband enjoyed the fitness center but he liked Carnival better because the treadmills face the water. We all loved Karaoke at Dazzles and pub trivia at Pearly Kings.

There was no midnight buffet and no late night adult comedy. The Galleria is overpriced with a limited selection.

Entertainment: The first night began with the usual spoon trick, so we left. The tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber is still the best show I have seen on a cruise ship. I did not particularly like Bollywood but the gymnastics were great.

I did not stay for the juggler, magician or opera singer, just not my cup of tea.

The NCL band was very good and we caught them at Dazzles for a fine Jazz Show.

Crew: This was a much friendlier ship than last year. Everyone from officers to cooks and room stewards smiled, nodded or said hello.

Dining: We ate at Impressions, Venetian, once at Cagney’s and once at LeBistro. It was nice but I prefer the 99 back home. The Blue Lagoon had good burgers and Chili. Pearly Kings is Ok with the Fish but the Chips were always cold. I am not a fan of Freestyle dining. I think Freestyle dining fails to connect people. I like seeing table neighbors, knowing who’s celebrating a birthday or anniversary, or just eaves dropping. I also like the fact that the waiters remember your drink and the quirky things that the wait staff does on other cruises like sing and dance or napkin tricks. When you see the same wait staff every night you form a friendship of sorts and I really missed that on this cruise.

New Years party was great, much improved from last year. They gave out hats and noisemakers and the kids threw beads we brought with us off the balcony. The band Modal Magic kept the whole ship dancing!

A word I heard a lot from my group during this cruise was “freestyle” if said OK Tango lessons at 1:30 and ping pong at 3:00 they would stay “freestyle” which meant they would show up if they wanted to.

Outstanding staff: Well Ruth and John were always there for us. Ron in the Karaoke was great as was Rodrika who played Falcon for us at the Murder Mystery Dinner. The Cruise Director Paul and his Assistant Mike were just fantastic. There were so many extras like the 70’s show with the Village People (passengers) and funny contests, the Crew Show, they were just hilarious.

Photography: An improvement from last year. We got photos with a Pirate! We also bought a package so we got all of the photos that were taken for one price.

Excursions: We did not book excursions. We hire a driver who takes us on a private tour. Not that we don’t like sharing excursions, in the past we have been broken up into 2 or 3 different groups and I prefer to stay together. We arrived late in Saint Thomas so that cut back on our shore time. But when we tried to get off the boat the line was up 3 flights so we called Ruth and she escorted us through the Crew corridor. I felt bad doing this but the kids loved it.

In Antigua we found a driver, rented Jet Skis and had a ball.

In Bridgetown Barbados we went shopping downtown in search of red socks. We must have tried 25 stores, no doubt. We finally found red socks at Cave Sherman(?) bought 50 pair and went back to the ship. I do not like Barbados. It is a very busy dirty city and I prefer to spend my tourist dollars where they actually want me.

In Saint Maarten we just hopped on a water taxi over to the beach-shopping-casino area. We loved Saint Maarten. It has greatly improved in one year’s time. They narrowed the street with planters and palm trees, lots of new shops and bars and a terrific brick walkway between the beach and the buildings. As we were heading back to the ship we hear the Cruise Director over the PA saying that because we arrived late we are staying for another 90 minutes. My daughter, nephew and husband high tailed it back with me yelling “the last water taxi is at 6pm!” so they hired a driver “Junie” who took them all around and then to a place called Buzby’s where apparently they had the time of their lives. While I am happy to report that the 3 teenagers and I had a most excellent time without them. (hmph!)

Tortolla is lovely, very hilly. We had to tender off which I really do not like. But once ashore Tortolla is a pleasant surprise. It was early in the morning and lots of little kids in uniforms going to school. The crossing guards are actually police. Tortolla is a bustling Island with a strong economy and high standard of living. The roads are wild we went all around and saw several beaches and even a rain forest. We went into a 450 year old rum distillery, the only one left on the island and bought some cheap rum. At the end of the tour where some nice shops next to the “tender” pier.

There were few kids on this cruise. My kids closed Spinnaker almost every night. They had the DJ going until 3 or 4am.

Oh yeah, because we had this awesome villa and we met so many nice people on the Cruise Critic message board and the Cruise Critic gathering we invited them to a Red Sox World Series Victory Party. Hence the purchase in Barbados of 50 pair of red socks as party favors. It was a total blast. The CD Paul showed up dressed as Johnny Damon and Tracie the pianist had a sing-along in the living room. We met so many wonderful people on this cruise, it was the best one yet.

Debarkation was fine, we met at the Bamboo with all the other VIP tags and got off directly. One of my husband’s bags was missing so we had to file a report and keep looking for the bag. It arrived yesterday, it had been accidentally taken by our neighbor in the other Villa who was nice enough to send it FedEx. Our 2 international guests took the limo via the villa to JFK and headed home. We got in the Navigator and drove through the frozen tundra home.

I am so miserable in cold, gray New Hampshire it has snowed or rained everyday since our return. I have changed my screen saver to Saint Maarten and visit the Real Estate pages daily and dream…… Enjoy this day.

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Glad you enjoyed your Dawn cruise. Your detailed review demonstrates the advantage of booking a Garden Villa if you have a large party.

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juried--

 

your cruise sounds awesome! Those garden villas are such a fantasy of mine, I envy you! (With no awkwardness, I promise. :) )

 

Thank you for the review. I am cruising on the Dawn in May and gobble up every review I can find. Thank goodness they all seem to have been good ones!

 

greenie

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Dolphins...Is the high price of the garden villas per person or per villa. Because if it is per person, I don't see the advantage of booking if you have a large party. If it is per villa...I now have a dream that may come true!

Juried...I have read a post about occupants being harrassed by passengers trying to get up to the Villas to "look around". Did you experience any problems? I'm hoping that poster had an unusual experience.

Aft-Gal

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Amy,

You have to use your key card to access the 14th floor.

I did not experience any kind of harrassment or attitude from other guests. My husband however brought a few people up to see it when they happened to be on the elevator and asked about it.

As far as cost, I cannot tell you what we paid exactly but know that the brochure price is not even close and everything is negotiable. I would suggest you look at Chris Connolly's post regarding pricing.

Best Wishes,

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Hey Terry.. Great review.. We had a great time meeting you and greatly enjoyed your party and hanging out with you guys.

 

As regards to my posts.... This is the copy and pasted post from November.

 

"This is from an earlier post I made 2 weeks ago.... December 9th and Decemberr 30th are available at this price or 1000 more currently.

 

I'm not a travel agent, but I can get you a Garden Villa for 6999 per person plus port charges on any cruise that one is available 100 days out..

 

 

Say you were traveling with 7 people (which is the max they allow in the villa) and port charges were 180 bucks

 

 

1st Person 6999+180=7179

2nd Person 6999+180=7179

3rd Person 289+180=469

4th Person 289+180=469

5th Person 289+180=469

6th Person 289+180=469

7th Person 289+180=469

Grand Total 16703.00

Rate Per Person 2386.14

 

Not exactly the price you pay for an inside, but still a great bargain considering the level of service. To maximize your travel value go on one of the dawns 11 night cruises. Which would equal to the rate per night 216 per person."

 

-------------These are the minimum prices.. but they can be negotiated to these amounts.

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Hi juried: I too am in cold gray snowy/rainy NH counting down the days to my hot carribean cruise! Great review......thanks for sharing!

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It's great to <hear>your voice-

I'm just getting "back to normal" really busy with work after being away...It is indeed "cold rain & snow" here-grey and dreary.

We're already booking for next January 2 on the same ship-I need something to look forward to.

What a difference it makes having a lot of friends on the ship---YAY CC!

Thanks again so much for your delightful hospitality-I hope we meet again!

Denise

say hi to the kids for me

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The Casino was excellent. I learned from last year and stayed away from the slots. I had luck at 3 card poker. And tried my hand at Texas Hold’em, it was a blast.

 

Great review! Garden Villa sounds heavenly! :D

Just curious...They really have "Texas Hold"em" poker, or is that a poker slot machine your talking about??? I was under the impression that there was no "poker" on the Dawn.

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it's real hold'em-my son played alot. He said a lot of people don't know what they're doing, but he had fun.

There is also a 3 card poker game. They had that last year also. Hold'em is new-the rake is between 5-10%-

denise

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Hi Terry,

Great review!! I agree with a lot of it--espescially free-style dining. Thanks again for the fantastic party. Dad is in the hospital at the moment with phnumonia--keep a kind thought for him. i hope we didn't "kill' him, but he loved every minute of it.

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it's real hold'em-my son played alot. He said a lot of people don't know what they're doing, but he had fun.

There is also a 3 card poker game. They had that last year also. Hold'em is new-the rake is between 5-10%-

denise

 

Thanks Denise....They must have just added that to the casino. Now I will never see my hubby! :( ;)

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Thanks Denise....They must have just added that to the casino. Now I will never see my hubby! :( ;)

 

Good thing you did not book the next cruise. It is a poker cruise with a seat at the World Poker Championship up for grab. They will have a whole poker room not just a single table.

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Good thing you did not book the next cruise. It is a poker cruise with a seat at the World Poker Championship up for grab. They will have a whole poker room not just a single table.

 

Oh your kidding? :eek:

My husband would have loved that one...he watches the Championships in Las Vegas all the time. Gosh darn wish I had known about that before we booked the 1/30 cruise.:rolleyes: Although I would have NEVER seen him, I know he would have loved it. I just would have hit him up for extra slot money to occupied my time! ;)

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Marianne, so sorry to read about your dad being ill. He is such a nice man. I know what you are goin through. I have two elderly parents. Every day is a new adventure with them. Keep us informed about his condition, and my prayers are with you all.

 

I have to say I actually liked freestyle very much. We have avoided traditional cruises specifically because we didn't think we would like getting seated at a table with total strangers....who may not exactly be thrilled to be seated with us. I figured I pay too much for a vacation to have to worry about being comfortable at meals. Now if we were assured of getting the great people we met through CC, that would be terrific. We enjoyed eating when we wanted. Sometimes we ate as early as 6pm, and other times we closed the place. We even once had an early dinner and then headed back late for dessert and coffee. So for us it works really well.

 

We have even made very tentative plans to book the Dawn for 1/2/06. Another 10 days, but with a couple different ports. We really did love the ship and (almost) everything about it. Now if I can just get him to agree that a suite is well worth the money!

 

Bruce

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Juried:

I am not surprised you didn't face anyone trying to get into the GV! We were in that villa on the cruise that ended just before you got on--MsEscada and me, so I expect that the staff were very, VERY sensitive to aborting ANY chance of a problem long before it happened. John, Vilma and Ronald are like tigers protecting the GVs. We were delayed getting off the ship that morning, but Ruth walked us right off. That's one of the really great perks of the GVs--no waiting in lines to embark and dis-embark.

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Thanks so much for your review. I loved it.

 

I do have a question: Did the kids throw the beads off the balcony into the ocean or am I misinterpreting??? :eek:

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Off the balcony of the garden villa into the main pool area where everyone was standing waiting for new years eve.. Then the people below would wear them...Why would anyone throw beads into the ocean???

 

Imagine Mardi Gras

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Chris...Thanks, just needed some clarification. I did think of Mardi Gras, but just couldn't picture where the beads were being thrown.

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Bruce,

Thnaks for the prayers. He is still in hospital, doing better though. We are hoping for a weekend discharge.

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Thanks so much for the review- I'd always wondered what life would be like "up there." Don't feel bad about ANY special treatment you received - you paid for it!!

 

It's been almost a year since our last cruise (on the Dawn) - feels like an eternity!

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