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JessLCH

Dawn 5/1 mini review...cruising with two small children

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Let me first say that this was our second sailing on Dawn. We first sailed her two years ago on the first ever NY to Florida/Bahamas itinerary. My daughter was 20 months old at the time. We enjoyed the cruise and found the ship and Freestyle dining to be very friendly so we decided to do this cruise again for our first family vacation as a family of 4. My daughter is 3.5 and this was her fourth cruise. My son just turned 6 months. We thought sailing on a family oriented ship out of New York would save us the hassle of flying with little ones and thus be more relaxing. We were wrong. I am all for family cruising and NCL Dawn is the perfect ship for this but we ought to have taken a grandparent or nanny with us. What was a fun time with one toddler was just not fun with an infant and a three year old. My 3 year old did have a grand time though. In retrospect, my husband and I agree that we should have rented a timeshare at Atlantis where we wouldn't have had to schlepp the kids on and off the ship in ports. Live and learn, right?

 

Now...the cruise.

 

The Good:

 

The ship is lovely. Our AB suite was wonderful and the saving grace. My daughter loved having her own room. Lani, our butler, was superb. We ate many meals in our cabin and she even stored and heated some food for my food allergic daughter.

 

My favorite public areas of the ship aesthetically are the Gatsby's lounge ares, Aqua and Impressions restaurants, and the promenade. I enjoy the artwork on the ship. It was fun to walk around.

 

The service was mostly quite good. They were very courteous. The restaurant staff met with me right away regarding some food allergy issues and were extremely accomodating. The butler was great.

 

I really love Freestyle dining. The Dawn has an amazing variety of dining choices. I also love the casual dress. The whole Freestyle concept is perfect for families.

 

The so- so:

 

Our cabin attendants were fine but not great. They were very sweet but seemed harried. A couple requests were forgotten a couple of times.

 

Carlos, the concierge tried very hard but was obviously new to the ship. We only used him to make two dinner reservations and to straighten out a pre-ordered shore excursion error. I called the shore excursion error to his attention immediately upon embarkation but it wasn't removed from my bill until near the end of the cruise after several phone calls. We also complained to him about a problem on one of our excursions but nothing was ever done about that. All in all, he was very nice but we didn't make too much use of his services.

 

The bad:

 

Embarkation and Disembarkation were awful. I had to be very pushy to ask about priority embarkation for suite passengers at the pier. Most of the NCL employees had no clue where to send us until they called for a supervisor. There is no clearly marked area or line. The whole process seemed terribly disorganized. Disembarkation was bad too. Priority disembarkation for suites means you get off AFTER all the express disembarkation (carry your own luggage off) people. This took a good hour. I think the Express disembarkation just slows the whole procedure down for everyone else.

 

The gift shop is insanely overpriced. $9 for a 10 pack of maxi pads? Give me a break. I also think the selection is lousy. I couldn't even find a NCL photo album for my pictures. The Celebrity gift shops have a much better selection.

 

 

Ashore:

 

Port Canaveral: We did the Fun in the Sun Cocoa Beach Break (not sure of the official name) where we had use of the Hoilday Inn's facilities. They have a nice, pirate ship themed kiddie pool. The beach was nice. It was an extra $20 to get lounge chairs on the beach itself. This was a good family excursion.

 

Miami: We did Splish Splash with Cookie. We had ordered tix online through the NCL site months ago. We indicated we were travelling with a baby. We reiterated this onboard to the concierge. They still stuck us with a second floor cabana with no elevator access. So, I was unable to sit on the first floor cabana overlooking the pool with the baby in the shade. Every time we needed to go to the cabana we had to carry the baby in the stoller up and down the stairs. We complained to the hotel, the tour director of he excursion and the concierge. We were listed as travelling with kids and were supposed to be assigned a ground floor cabana but were not. Nobody seemed interested in making this right. Had we gotten the cabana we were supposed to get, the excursion would have been pleasant. Instead, it was a hassle.

 

GSC: A nice beach day. The water is pretty and clear but a bit rocky when you first get in. It is very crowded. We brought binoculars and I checked out RCCL's Coco Cay nest door. I have to say, it looks much nicer...bigger beach area.

 

Nassau: We took a cab over to see the aquariums at Atlantis. We felt very rushed by the noon departure.

 

The rough seas did a number on my husband and I can't believe I actually got a massage during the worst of it. I still feel like I am moving. But the kids seemed totally unphased by the motion. I don't think I will be eager to sail out of NY again. I also prefer a port intensive itinerary, so extra sea days don't add much appeal for me.

 

Overall, the cruise was nice. It just wasn't the right vacation for us right now. I do think it is an excellent family vacation for those with kids a bit older.

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Embarkation and Disembarkation were awful. I had to be very pushy to ask about priority embarkation for suite passengers at the pier. Most of the NCL employees had no clue where to send us until they called for a supervisor. There is no clearly marked area or line. The whole process seemed terribly disorganized. Disembarkation was bad too. Priority disembarkation for suites means you get off AFTER all the express disembarkation (carry your own luggage off) people. This took a good hour. I think the Express disembarkation just slows the whole procedure down for everyone else.

We had no problem embarking in the VIP (suite) area. Signs were clearly posted. "VIP" and "Latitude". We showed our tickets and were escorted up to the waiting area.

Disembarkation - VIP was to be first but the customs agents decided they wanted the Express passengers off first - NCL had nothing to do with that.

They explained to us that Express was not normally done in NY but they were trying it out - they had no previous problems in other ports getting their VIP's off first and then Express but the agents in NY wanted Express off first with their luggage. I would think that if they don't get this straightened out with Customs in NY they may go back to the old system.

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So now there is a Latitudes line and waiting area in NYC. Is it worth it?

 

How long were the check in lines for Latitudes versus the regular check in?

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Thanks for the informative review.

 

I know what you mean about traveling with kids. We went on a land-based vacation when my kids were 1 and 3, WITH OUR NANNY, and it was still a nightmare! (Unfortunately having our nanny was like having a third kid). Not relaxing at all! We didn't go on another family vacation until two years later, when my youngest was 3. I don't know how you did it with an infant on board!

 

Don't worry though it gets better. My kids are now 6 and 4 and we have great vacations, even on ships.

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Thanks for the review and the info. My daughter has never cruised and we're planning a NCL cruise to Hawaii. She has the same concerns you mentioned, getting up and getting the kids ready for port and then such a short time and then to be back in time.

 

Maybe we should time of something different while the kids are still young.

 

Thanks

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