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AndrewM

03/05 Dawn Cruise comments

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We are travelers who hate to repeat anything but NCL has something going on that makes us bend our own rules and keep coming back for a return appearance. It was a real treat to be back on NCL after trying out another line. Because of the freestyle concept we were able to make each night a different experience for our family. Some nights we ate dinner at 5:30 followed by family activities the rest of the night. Other nights we ate dinner at 9:30 after a night of shows and cocktails while our kids enjoyed the childrens' programs. Sometimes we ate 2 small dinners: one with our children in casual attire and one just the two of us in formal. What fascinated us most is that others liked the Freestyle concept for reasons completely unlike ours. It made us realize that it’s a style of cruising that could accommodate everyone. We had minor quibbles like the absence of an Afternoon Tea or hors d’oeuvres served during cocktail hour such as we experienced on HAL but that was overshadowed by the relief of not having to worry about rushing to the dining room at a particular time and hoping the door wouldn’t be locked just as we arrived. We loved the availability and variety of food, the exotic itinerary, the ability to drive to the port, the 3rd/4th in the cabin free option, the beauty of the ship and the professionalism of its staff. Dare I say we are already considering our 3rd NCL cruise to Bermuda or Hawaii? Here are some reasons why:

 

Favorite Change: Portions have decreased on all servings. I no longer see waste around the dining room or feel obliged to eat another family member’s serving when they are too full to finish. When we asked for 3 servings of calamari each, we were met with an "Of Course, gladly!" 1st Runner Up: Ironically two places I had issues with on my last Dawn cruise: staff in the spa and gift shop were as good if not better than any of the departments. 2nd Runner Up: No longer were Non-US residents plucked out of their cabins at 7AM to go through customs in the Spinnaker Lounge on debarkation day. Now they returned our passports and put us through questioning in the terminal building instead. Though our passports were revoked before embarkation and our US friends were half way back home while we were still going through customs on return, the treatment has improved.

Least Favorite Change: There is no happy hour or ever an affordable cocktail at any lounge at any time.

 

Favorite port: New York City/Manhattan - couldn't get over how crowded, how friendly, how clean Manhattan was. The people have that interesting combination of being tough and at the same time incredibly warm. People would stop us on the street if they saw us with a map and say something to the effect, "I am glad you are visiting NYC and I want to do everything possible to make sure you love it". A memorable moment was standing along side Fifth Avenue watching the St. Patrick's Day parade as a woman shouted to the marching NYPD that she loved them and hearing them shout back that they loved her. Runner Up: Belize, where the people seemed fascinated with my daughter's looks and wanted to make friends with us because of it.

Least Favorite port: None. They were all places I would like to visit again though I have to admit I warmed more to the people of Central America than I did of the islands we visited.

 

Favorite excursion: Major Tom's cave tubing excursion. It felt like we were on Survivor and had just won one of those luxury afternoons where the contestants get a lesson in the location's history and an exciting adventure all in one. There were only 8 of us on the tour and it felt personal and without time constraints. My wife was fascinated by the Mayan eagle tattoo that covered Major Tom's back not to mention his Honduran/Belizean/British origin. My wife says he's her idea of a Belizean George Clooney. He was dramatic and made the day mystical as we climbed through the jungle and sailed through the caves of Belize amidst his tales of ancient customs and beliefs. Loved the traditional feast where his fellow citizens treated him like he was a god...and all this for only $53/$35...absolutely amazing.

Least Favorite excursion: Moby Dick's stingray and snorkeling tour in Grand Cayman. When we arrived, there were already crowds of people. We were the last boat to get there and the first boat to leave. After the guide held up the stingray to kiss and massage every tourist, we were rushed back on the boat. It was frenetic and felt more like an animal park than an occurrence in the wilds. I felt like I had somehow taken advantage of the stingray they had propped up for my photo op and it left me feeling guilty. I don't know why.

 

Favorite cocktail: Dirty Martini in the Star Bar. All I can I say is I love olives and I love gin and this one had no shortage of either.

Least Favorite cocktail: Martini clinic martinis in the Star Bar. There was one martini that looked and tasted like spiked Strawberry Quik. I was relieved that my wife mistakenly kicked it over.

 

Favorite cruise ship activity: Martini clinic. Though I wasn't a big fan of the martini styles served at the clinic (too sweet and/or milky), I loved the transformation of atmosphere that took place. At both clinics (which occur on the first and last sea day), I could hear a pin drop on entering. By the end of the hour, I had to raise my voice to be heard. I could see lasting friendships forming and at both we were invited back to cabins for more imbibing. Oh I love sea days. Runner Up: TL & Chris gave at least 4 different ballroom dance lessons throughout the cruise and they were approachable and diligent teachers.

Least Favorite cruise ship activity: Margarita clinic. From what I gather, this is a new activity for the Dawn and I assume that they were not prepared for the crowds that turned up. We arrived at 4PM, the scheduled time to start and left at 4:40PM as we still hadn't received a margarita or been able to get the attention of a waitress to pay our $15 fee. There just wasn't enough staff for the number of people who turned up. For those who weren't under time constraints (Kids' Crew closed at 5PM), I heard it was a wonderful time and had most people wiped by the second serving. No history lesson or any other type of commentary like the Martini clinic though. Just a bunch of people drinking and having fun. Not that that's a bad thing.

 

Favorite entertainers: (Tie) Modal Magic/Selwyn Wright. I was impressed at how easily Modal Magic could adapt to the different musical styles required of them on each theme night and the boy/girl duo were solid singers. Selwyn in the Star Bar became a pre-dinner favorite for us at 8PM each night(we were often late eaters). I always looked forward to his piano improvisations during the bridge of each song. There were about 8 of us regulars who came every night and when he closed with Elton John's "Your Song" on the last night of his contract with NCL, there wasn't a dry eye amongst us.

Least Favorite entertainers: Rhythm Explosion. This is probably an unfair criticism as I don't really like their style of music but I found their music repetitive and never actually noticed anyone paying attention to them or them paying attention to anyone. I suppose they were supposed to come off as background entertainers/fillers but when they shut down every day in the late afternoon by the Oasis pool, I remember feeling relieved.

 

Favorite passenger: Impossible to answer as we met so many great people such as our crazy cruisers, Wally, Terri and Ann to Butch, Eileen and Amy (the most generous passengers who not only gave us a penthouse tour but some champagne!) to Lisa and Patrick (who somehow managed to show up on all of the same bargain excursions and rivaled us in being the most aggressive cost cutters on the ship) to Rachel and Rita (who like us always dined last and returned on the tender last because we hated queues), to Jerry and Bobbi (who introduced us to the joys of tequila in cabin 8XXX) but there was this older lady formerly from Germany named Stefania who now lived in New Jersey that my wife made such a connection with that they both were overcome with tears as they embraced outside the casino on the final night. Their farewell was so emotional that a crowd started to form. One lady even called her husband over to cop a look.

Least Favorite passenger: the slot playing lady with the ever present cap and dark shades who stood behind my wife every time she sat down at the Lobster party penny slot. We'd only been there about 10 minutes when I curiously asked her if she wanted us to leave. She replied by saying, "There are only four penny slots in the place". On the plus side, she became an endless source of chuckles to us for the majority of the cruise.

 

Favorite restaurant: La Trattoria. What it lacks in atmosphere it makes up for in good food, particularly the calamari, the tiramisu and that fantastic trifle like dessert they dole out in spoonfuls from a large fruit bowl. Oh and Nicoleta too.

Least Favorite restaurant: (Tie) Le Bistro/Garden Café. The food, the service and surroundings were wonderful in Le Bistro but oh too intimate for my liking. I always feel self-conscious when I can hear every conversation in the place. In my own deluded mind I think that if I can hear them, they're listening to me. Boy how I longed to hear a string trio or some kitchen clatter. The Garden Cafe, which arguably is not a restaurant at all, is loud, boisterous and cluttered with people particularly around mid morning. It often felt chaotic like the streets of NYC except that here people don't move. Everyone stops, shuffles or is confused on which way to turn and there's no one to honk anyone out of the way. On a more positive aside, I loved the NY Deli and thought the food on the whole was above par for buffet but my wife balked at the omnipresent gelatin desserts, which changed color and shape each day.

 

Favorite wine: Kendall Jackson "Vintners Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon (California) - fruity and oaky and great with a meal or without...so good we ordered it thrice

Least Favorite wine: Niebaum-Coppola Cabernet Sauvignon (California) - I prefer Coppola films over Coppola wine and have no idea if there is any connection...wasn't bad, just forgettable with a slight aftertaste.

 

Missed public sighting: The couple reportedly engaged in illicit acts at the Oasis poolside hottub

Wish we had missed public sighting: The sex crazed dogs of Ocho Rios, which forced me to explain the birds and bees to my children again and again.

 

Favorite employee: (Tie) Nicoleta, our server in La Trattoria/Ricky Matthews, Cruise Director. Runner Up: Gabrielle Turner, Assistant Cruise Director. When we were accepted at La Trattoria without a reservation to a packed house of family size tables and Nicoleta ran to us and exclaimed that she needed a few extra minutes, there was something about her tone that made us immediately warm to her. I don't know if I was more impressed at how, with good humor she juggled trays of dishes over crawling kids or how she guessed my wife's perfume within seconds. We saw her working the charm on all the guests and marveled at how she could gauge people and speak to them in their way. All of the serving staff were exemplary but she was special. Ricky Matthews could dance, sing, emcee, tell a joke well and he could dance. Oh I said that. Beyond the fact that he encompassed all of the skills usually allocated to a number of different staff, you got the feeling that he really enjoyed his job. He never failed to stop and make conversation with every member of our family and when he looked at you, he gave you that look like he really cared. I wonder if they teach that skill in cruise director school. He was hands down the best and hardest working cruise director of all the cruises we've taken. Gabrielle Turner showed a lot of care when I wanted to get off the tender just before it left to return to my cabin and retrieve my camera, which I had forgotten. She told me how to get a quick tender back and how to meet up with my family portside. She even checked back later with me to make sure I met up with my family that crazy Cozumel day and was always interested in a little conversation. Her gravelly voice was made for rock radio and she whipped up a credible Proud Mary at the crew show.

Least favorite employee: Casino table manager. I wasn't thrilled how a dealer error at Blackjack was handled. The dealer assumed that the entire table didn't want to hit on a bust card and failed to see that somebody had placed a chip down to signify double down. I noticed the error before the player or the dealer did and when the manager in that section was ready to challenge me, I was shocked. Even if the entire table of players were wrong, the table manager should have approached the incident impartially without an immediate attitude of defense. The pit boss did eventually agree that an error was made and allowed the man his chip back. This was my only negative staff interaction the entire cruise and was pretty minor in my opinion.

 

Most fortunate accepted request for kids: Agus in Salsas gladly served our children lemonade in salt-rimmed Margarita glasses to their delight

Most unfortunate unaccepted request for kids: Kids Crew would not allow our son who just turned 13 to join the 10-12 group. When we tried to sign him in for the 10-12 group, they couldn’t understand why he had been dropped from the list. The counselor turned to him and suspecting that he should be in the 6-9 group, asked him if he was 9 years old and he replied by saying he was 13. She was shocked. Our child looks and has a psychologically certified maturity level of an 8 or 9 year old so it made no sense to have him in a group of children up to the age of 17. The rest of the cruise I heard from passengers who thought we were bad parents for letting our child hang out with teenagers so late. We would have gladly had him checked in away from them but NCL wouldn’t allow it. On a brighter side, he loved it and we didn’t hear of any poor behavior. Still I can only imagine what it was like for passengers to see a mini-me version of Ricky Matthews hanging out in Blue Lagoon and in the hot tubs with kids who looked twice his age.

 

Favorite Beach: Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas. The water was perfectly aquamarine and even with an entire shipload of people on that crescent moon shaped stretch of a beach, you could still find a quiet spot to sun away in peace. Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman was beautiful, Half Moon Bay in Roatan was serene, the warm East Coast of Cozumel was visibly spectacular but Great Stirrup Cay had all of those attributes in one. Knowing that the ship wasn't going to leave without us if we were to fall asleep under the beach umbrella made the day that much more carefree and enjoyable. Couldn't understand why passengers were queuing to get back to the ship around noon, as we were able to continue with our beach fun well past 2PM. We were very flattered that NCL never asked any of us to pack up and get out of our beach chairs. In fact they cleared the entire beach around us and gave us an extra hour. We were the last to leave the island on the 2:30 tender, one hour after the last tender had been scheduled.

Least Favorite Beach: Paradise Beach, Cozumel. I was told that Paradise Beach was the best place for a family beach in Cozumel. The water was brown for the first 50 feet out and there were sharp pieces of concrete ready to cut your feet up if you weren't careful. I don't know what Cozumel was like before the hurricane but I can only assume that the folks running the club have made valiant efforts to get business back up and running. The East coast with the large waves was breathtaking and the warmest water we experienced the entire cruise.

 

Most unforgettable experience: The entire family parasailing over Great Stirrup Cay

Experience we'd most like to forget: Our 13 year old spewing what he thought was water from the Evian bottle found in our fridge.

 

Most surprising port: Jamaica. We were led to believe that Jamaica wasn't safe, that locals were aggressive and that our children might be offered drugs. We experienced none of that and would have felt perfectly fine grabbing the local bus to the falls if we hadn't had the warm guidance of Marva Shaw. The people we met had the best sense of humor of any island we visited. I was so glad I was able to introduce my son who is half Jamaican to a country with so many positive experiences.

Least surprising port: Cozumel. Just as devastated as I had read if not more so; a more spirited country of people couldn't have been imagined.

 

Favorite Dawn amenities: Fridges, free laundry and 2 types of deck chairs

Least Favorite Dawn amenities: None, they have everything we want and then some.

 

Most peculiar thing that happens when sailing the Dawn: Despite being cooped up in 175 square feet of dark space for 11 days, our family has less disagreements/arguments than we do in 20 times that space back home. Runner Up: Bowel movements become incredibly odorous.

 

Andrew, Janet, Raheem and Myfanwy

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This was one of the most interesting reviews that I've ever read. I really enjoyed it and your style of writing. Makes me miss the Dawn even more. Thanks for a good read.

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Andrew,

Thanks for the incredible review -- I loved it! I will be traveling on the Dawn April 2007 and, even though it's over a year away, your review has me totally excited to go! We were on the Jewel not too long ago and we loved it so much that I will not even think of cruising with anyone but NCL from now on.

TracyE

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great review I could picture myself there, and I will be in almost 2 weeks...:o

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Wonderfully written review!

 

We were thinking of going to Paradise Beach but now having second thoughts.

 

Or is it likely that pretty much all the Coz beaches have the same drawbacks?

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Thanks for the great review Andrew....very well written and what a great format :) Our turn next!!!!

 

Kathy

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Very interesting and informative review. Happy to see others appreciate the Dawn as much as we did. The new Norwegian Gem will have a tough act to follow.

 

Were the trio "Best of Friends" still performing in the atrium? If so, what did you think of them?

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Thanks for a very entertaining review.

 

My favorite:

"Experience we'd most like to forget: Our 13 year old spewing what he thought was water from the Evian bottle found in our fridge."

 

LOL.:D :D :eek:

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What a fun review! The smiles on your children's faces really sums up your cruise:D

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As a first time cruiser and scheduled to go out of NY on the Dawn in June, I was thrilled to read your review. Not only was it well written , it was informative, funny, and a joy to read. With all of the negative remarks on the board, it was great to read about your experiences- good & bad. I am no longer anxious about traveling on the Dawn. By the way, the kids photo was great!

 

Can you or anyone answer the following question- we are going to take a car into NY to get to the ship. What directions do we give the car as to where to go? a specific dock location, street address, what? Thank you

 

claimsgal

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What a wonderfully delightful review. Your writing was supreme. May I send you my notes and will you write a review for me??

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What a fun review! Well written, funny, interesting approach. One of my favorites! Brought me back to my 2 Dawn cruises as well.

 

Thank you.

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Really enjoyed your review - you have a wonderful way with words and I can visualize almost every part of your cruise. It was nice to read a review from some who sailed in a regular cabin. Seems that most reviews I read lately are from people who rave about their butlers and concierge service. Not everyone can afford a suite (like me :o) and it's nice to hear that your "dark" cabin was sufficient for you and your family.

 

Taking my first cruise on Dawn in May and can't wait to try her out (in my regular cabin!).

 

Pat

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Hey Andrew

 

That was a great review. We had a blast. It was great meeting you guys and hope our cruise paths cross again.

Ann

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What a great review (and I've read LOTS of them).

 

I was particularly interested in the non-US citizens situation when it comes to disembarking in NYC. From what you say, we can now leave the ship as "normal" passengers then pass through immigration? If this is the case, this is a big plus.

 

Thanks again.

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Andrew and Janet, Glad to hear you are home safe and sound. I watched the St. Patrick's Day parade on TV and thought of you four on the streets of NY. I still laugh when I think of my friendship with the lady with the cap and dark glasses and her friend, who were your least favorite passengers. We sure had a blast on that last night at the Fort Knox machines. It was a pleasure sharing this cruise with you guys, you will also be listed as some of our favorite passengers. Thank you for not sharing my episode with the jacuzzi!! When I started to read your review, I had visions of you repeating some of the laughs we shared. Horrors!!! Instead, I greatly enjoyed reading your musings, echoing your personalities. Fun loving and highly observant. Eileen

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Your review has got to be one of the most different I have EVER read, BUT, it is truly one of the best if not, THE BEST review I have ever read....!!!!icon14.gif

 

You did an EXCELLENT, OUTSTANDING JOB......!!!!icon14.gif

 

It was a pleasure to read.....!!!!!icon14.gif

 

Thank you for writing such a GREAT review.....!!!!icon14.gif

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I just checked in on my way out of work to see if anyone had read my review and am dumbstruck by the overwhelming positive response. Thanks to all of you who took the time to show your appreciation...wow.

 

When I get home, I'm going to address the questions asked...boy I feel good right now.

 

andrew, who sees light amidst the post cruise depression hanging over him

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