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DeniseH

Back from the Dawn 8/22 review

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Hi, we just returned from our Dawn Cruise 8/22 to 8/29. All in all we had a wonderful time and with the exception of the first night at dinner, had wonderful service. Here is my review.

 

We arrived at the pier around 11:45. It was a bit crowded and confused but we found out from one of the NCL officials that the ship had gotten into port later than expected so there was a delay in disembarking previous passengers. We were told to wait in a holding area upstairs. We waited approx 20 to 30 min. and they started lining us up. We moved through security quickly. They walk down the line and make sure men have nothing metal in their pockets, so there is no waiting at the x-ray machines. Also, they check to make sure you have your customs forms filled out, or they will pull you off the line so you don't hold up the other passengers. All and all they seem to have a good system set up. We were on the ship by 1:00-1:15.

 

When we dropped our carry-ons at the cabin our cabin stewards were in the hall and immediately welcomed us, introduced themselves and told us if we needed anything to let them know. A nice touch. We were in a mini-suite cat. AF #11106. We proceeded to the Garden Cafe for a buffet lunch, and then to explore the ship. Purchased soda cards for the kids, made dinner reservations, ect. We met some of our fellow cruise critics on the pool deck for the sail away party, and were invited back to their Garden Villa Suite to enjoy views of the harbor as we were leaving.

 

Our reservations were for 6:30 at La Trattoria. This was the one and only time on this ship that we received mediocre service. The waiter (who shall remain nameless) did not introduce himself and did not crack a smile the whole dinner. When he took our order I started to tell him what each of the children wanted for appetizers and he informed me in an annoyed tone that he would take each persons order in full before proceeding to the next. I apologized to him and felt rather foolish, then got a bit annoyed. After all it was the first night of the cruise and we were all a bit excited. His demeaner did bring us back down to earth though, unfortunately. The assistant waitress was very pleasant.

 

That said, the rest of the time on board the service was fabulous. We went to dinner the next night at Aqua. My husband actually came into the dining room prepared to be aggravated. (Remember, our first night was our only experience in the restaurants so far). The waitresses at Aqua went out of their way to make him and us happy. We thought it was just the service at Aqua that was so good, but we came to realize on subsequent dinners that all of the restaurants had equally good service. We did not go back to La Trattoria, though I think they rotate the wait staff since I saw many of the same people working in different locations. Never did see our first waiter again though, hmmm. Makes you wonder....

 

We had our cruise critics meeting Monday at 10:00 and met all of the great people we had been comunicating with on this board. NCL also sent down many of their officials to introduce themselves and find out if we needed anything. They were all charming and seemed very sincere. Did not make us feel like we were interrupting their busy schedule to meet with us. We met Klaus the hotel director, Rehne the assistant hotel director, Sean who I believe is in charge of the food, among others. Even Colin the cruise director was there. They were all very gracious and gave us their cards in the event we needed anything. Fortunately we never needed to bother any of them since the service was terrific.

 

Our children slept on the fold down sofa in our cabin and that first morning complained about how hard it was. We also had not packed bathrobes since we were under the impression that we would have them in our cabin, but did not. I told my cabin steward about both situations and that night he had the kids bed fluffed up with additional duvets. They slept great the rest of the cruise. There were also robes waiting for us that evening. We had 2 stewards who introduced themselves to us, who I believed worked as a team, a lady and a gentleman. They kept the cabin spotless, and we even had towel animals every night. Now, you don't need towel animals to make a great cruise, but it was a nice touch, and just one more example of how they went the extra mile. When I was on Royal Caribbean the only night I saw a towel animal was the night we were to fill the tip envelopes.

 

At Port Canaveral, we went on the Alligator airboat ride. We did not book the excursion through the ship, but took a cab and did it on our own. My daughter 14 and son 17 originally thought it sounded lame. I am happy to report that they loved it! We saw tons of alligators and our driver gave us a great thrill ride! Those boats can fly!

 

In Miami we took a cab to Bayside. It was exactly what we were looking for. We did some shopping, the kids got temporary tatoos, we went to the Hard Rock ( my son's request). Its a beautiful town. We even saw a movie in production.

 

The private island is beautiful, albeit a bit crowded. We rented snorkel gear and couldn't stay out of the water. There are tons of fish. Sunblock! We had waterproof SPF 50 and reapplied. My back still got fried, because I was snorkeling so much!

 

Nassau was nice, but there is not enough time there. We rented a cab and took a 2 1/2 hour tour just to get an overview of the Island, do some shopping, see Atlantis and get back to the ship on time.

 

Colin Kerr is a hoot. He seemed to get funnier and funnier. When you see him around ship he never acts like the star he is quickly becoming. He is always approachable, willing to stop for a picture and to chat for awhile. Not an easy task with over 2000 cruisers on board. Loved his stories about being summoned by the captain. "Colin, come up to the bridge."

 

Disembarkation was very smooth. We were able to stay in our cabin until we were called. With the exception of me yelling at some woman for almost running down my son with her luggage trolley, (not NCL's fault) it was the best disembarkation so far.

 

Sorry, this turned out to be so long. I wanted to give an honest review. I would be happy to answer any questions.

 

Denise

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Great review and not long at all!!! I would love to hear more!!! Thanks for taking the time out to write it!!

Terri

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Good review. do you remember any of the musicians who played in the atrium or the various lounges? Suggestion: always wear a T-shirt when snorkeling.

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I don't remember their names offhand. Once I finish un-packing, LOL, I will check out the Free-styles that we recieved. I know they have the names of the different musicians listed, and I will post them here.

 

Yes, I realized too late that I should have worn a Tee-shirt. I just didn't expect the snorkeling to be so wonderful. When we did it in Bermuda we hardly saw any fish. At Grand Stirrup Cay, It was like swimming in a giant aquarium.

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Hi Denise,

 

Glad you enjoyed the rest of the cruise and sorry we didn't get to hook up much after the first day.

 

One of the things that we noticed was how the ship changed from the 8/15 to the 8/22 cruises. The first week, the passengers generally seemed more relaxed right away. The second week was a much tougher crowd. I have to say that I heard many more people complaining the second week than I did the first. (We, however, were not among the complainers and had a fabulous time.)

 

Another thing that we were able to notice was how folks behave around the Oasis pool. At 7 am, we'd see at least a couple of passengers grabbing towels and placing them on the prime deck chairs right around the pool. Now, they didn't take just one or two chairs, but 6 in one case and 10 in the other. That meant that most of the chairs were "taken" before 7 am. Then these folks would disappear. Around 10 or 11 they'd come back (on the two sea days). It was funny to us because we didn't want to use those chairs, but if we had I can see where I'd be just a bit put out to put it mildly. Of course, it's against NCL policy, but we never, ever saw any crew member take a towel off a chair.

 

For those who want to go to Kennedy Space Center (we did and enjoyed it very much), a suggestion: SPRAY WITH INSECT REPELLENT FIRST AND BRING WATER. It is buggy and hot. We had the water, not the bug spray and my son got eaten up alive by mosquitos.

 

We never ate in La Trattoria (but we smelled the perfume of the garlic whenever we hit the midships elevators) and now I'm not sorry we didn't based on what you had happen. We did eat in Le Bistro and it was the only sour note. We had a table by the inside window (it looks out onto the corridor from midships forward on Deck 6). The table was so close to the wall, that there was no room for elbows or for the waiter to serve. Then, two kids whose parents were having dinner in the restaurant stopped at the window and started knocking on it and waving to get their parents' attention. Then the lights in the corridor were turned on so bright that it blinded us. Supposedly, that was the best table in the house (Le Bistro is small), but it was like a very uncomfortable comedy routine. The staff tried everything they could and really made an effort to make it more pleasant and apologized every which way, but there reallly wasn't much they could do (we closed the drapes but the table was nailed down). The food was ok, but only ok. The art is worth a visit, but as Le Bistro is open during the day so folks can see the Renoir, Monet, Matisse and Van Gogh that hang there, my advice would be to skip the meal and view the art. Others may find the menu more to their taste, but if someone out there is concerned about the cover charge, they should know that the art isn't pay per view!

 

Probably our best meal was at Cagneys. A solid hit every which way. Given a choice of which pay-per-meal spot I'd go to, (bistro vs Cagneys), we'd do Cagneys in a heart beat. It's a quieter spot, a bigger restaurant and I think that makes it easier on the staff too.

 

OH, and one very funny thing: Salsa can't make a cold straight-up Margarita. They do a great frozen one. I think we need to send the bartenders from Chilis over there to give lessons. If anyone wants to eat at Salsa, make the reservation VERY EARLY in the cruise: it is one of the free restaurants and is small and it fills up very, very quickly.

 

Finally, I can't say enough good about the staff. Ruth Hagger, the concierge, is simply a wonder. She took care of an average of 100 guests each week and never seemed to miss a beat. She is delightful and charming, besides. So Ruth, if you monitor this, we won't come back without bringing you cheesecake. Our cabin staff (John, the butler and Carmela/Roberto the room stewards) went out of their way to make us comfortable.

 

And I loved the towel animals, too. This was about our 20th cruise and we had NEVER had them before: it's the little things that put a smile on your face as well as the big things. Roberto and Carmela are artists with the towels. They came up with a second week's worth of animals and did some very funny and amazing things. My favorite was the monkey hanging from the curtain rod wearing my (prescription) sunglasses and smoking a cigarette. Had me down cold, huh?

 

Having now been on both the Star (Hawaii) and Dawn, I'll close by saying that we like the Dawn better. The people who were working on the Dawn somehow were happier, friendlier and more relaxed. Maybe it was because the Star trip was a holiday cruise and the ship was jammed, I'm not sure. But there was that undefinable "something" that the Dawn had for us. This was our second best cruise, ever. (First best was Aug 1999 solar eclipse cruise on the soon to be departed Vistafjord/Caronia.)

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Denise:

 

I have a question for you:

 

You mention that you had a minisuite cat. AF. What is the difference between AF and AG?

 

My hub and I would like to book this cruise the week of 10/17. We want a minisuite, but don't know the difference in categories.

 

Thanks for any advice you can give.

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Hi Patti,

 

We wondered the same thing. Someone on this board told us that the AF was a better location, more towards the middle of the ship on deck 11 and the AG was closer to the ends. We were also told that the AF had a larger overhang over the balcony, which cuts down on the noise from the pool deck and would come in handy in the event of a squall or rainstorm. The AG does not have the large overhang. We found that to be true. I was never in the AG, however, when I look on virtualtoursusa.com the inside seems bigger, but the sofa seems smaller. In the deck plans on NCL's site the square footage looks the same. It might be best to call NCL directly and have them explain the difference.

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Here is an e-mail that I sent to someone who had some specific questions regarding the Dawn. There is some repetition, (sorry) but some new points that I did not include in my original review. Thought it might be helpful to include it here.

 

 

1. We enjoyed the freestyle dining. We are a family of 4 so we never waited for a table at all. We always dined between 6:00 and 7:00. It was nice not having to be at dinner at a certain time. When I was on Rccl the first time I enjoyed my tablemates, the second time I did not and I would have perferred not dining with them. Freestyle gives you the choice of a table for 2 or much larger. Some people prefer conventional seating but we are definitely a freestyle family.

 

2.I did not dine at any of the pay restaurants. I thought the food at the free restaurants was quite good. I did have a friend who went on the Dawn 1 month earlier than I, and she tried Cagney's the Steak house. She felt the steaks at the free restaurants was just as good. I always try new foods when cruising and this time was no different. Some meals were better then others. I particularly enjoyed the Beef Wellington and Chateau Briand both from the free restaurants. I thought the Chicken Parmesan from La Trattoria was OK, nothing to rave about. I tried it again on Italian night at the Venetian and it was much better. Salsa the mexican restaurant was also very good.

 

3. Honestly the pool was crowded, but no more crowded then the other 2 cruises I took, and I thought there were more then enough deck chairs, though not all were close to the pool. My daughter and I decided to take in some sun at around 2:30 in the afternoon and we easily found 2 together a couple of levels up from the pool. (You can still see the pool.) If you want a deck chair right next to the pool you would need to get there early, but that is true of all of the cruises I had been on so far.

 

4. We had 1 rude waiter our first night there. Can you imagine? We had made reservations at La Trattoria and our waiter acted like we had interrupted him from doing something else. It seemed like he got stuck with our table when possibly it should have been someone elses?? I don't know. I was aggravated when I left. From that moment on every single employee we had contact with was nicer then the next. They couldn't do enough to please you. Thats from the wait staff to the bar staff to the cabin stewards. They were fabulous!

 

5.My kids are 14 and 17. My 14 daughter met kids on the ship and hung out with them mostly. My 17 year old son did some of the teen activities and had a great time. I am not familiar with the younger kids programs.

 

6.I sailed Royal Caribbean prior to this cruise and they had extremely small cabins. The 4 of us were in the AF Mini-suite which was just enough room for us. The bathroom was roomier then I was used to, because the mini-suite has a full tub. I did like how it was set up. You can close the door to the toilet to seperate the sink area. The vanity with hair dryer was outside of the bathroom. There were many mornings when someone was in the toilet, someone in the shower, someone at the sink brushing teeth and such, and someone outside at the mirror doing hair and make-up. The drawer space was limited but the closet was fairly large and my big suitcases fit nicely under the bed. Ther are plenty of hooks and things to hang stuff.

 

7. The cabin was kept spotless.

 

 

Oh and to msescada....

 

Hi Sheryl,

I enjoyed your review very much. You touched on many points that I did not. I wanted to thank you and Carl for your hospitality. I did leave a message for all the cruise critics on the old roll call board, but was not sure if you had seen it. It was nice meeting you both.

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DeniseH

 

Thanks for the review.We will be sailing Sept 19th in an AG minisuite.The very last one, right beside the spa.There is just the 2 of us so I think it will be big enough.Did you have use of a concierge?Did you have priority tenders off the ship?

I have heard and been told yes there is an overhang, then no there is not so we will have to wait and see.

I have read nothing bad bad reviews about the italian restaurant so we won't be eating there.That review has been consistant, also the buffet has rarely scored above acceptable.

 

How much was snorkling or did you bring your own?

 

Thanks

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DeniseH

 

I have heard and been told yes there is an overhang, then no there is not so we will have to wait and see.

 

Thanks

 

Just thought I'd let you know that when we sailed the Dawn, we had an AF mini-suite right next to the AG mini-suites aft near the Spa. It does not matter whether you have AF or AG because ALL the mini-suites aft have no overhang. It did not affect us one bit not having the overhang. I never recall being blinded by the sun at anytime. (Of course we didn't see much sun last Feb. but what little we did have was very welcome.) Some have said it blocks out the noise from the pool deck above, but since we were so far aft, we didn't hear much noise from there anyway. We loved that location since we were right by a set of stairs that you brings you directly to the Garden Cafe only one flight up.

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Thanks.You are the first person to say they were anywhere near our room#11686.I would assume there is some shade from the balcony above isn't there?Did you have a balcony above you, and is an overhang different?

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Thanks.You are the first person to say they were anywhere near our room#11686.I would assume there is some shade from the balcony above isn't there?Did you have a balcony above you, and is an overhang different?

 

Well I wouldn't say there was a balcony above since it's more or less a glass enclosed area on deck 12, but there is a roof over your balcony so there is some shade. The overhang is different because it appears to jut far out above the balconies mid-ship. If you look at a picture of the dawn on NCL's website you can see where the overhang is.

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Hi Denise,

 

Glad you had a great time. We will be sailing 9/12 on the Dawn. Did NCL host a cc party that you all signed up for or did your group organize a get together and then inform/invite the officers?

 

Thanks,

Steve

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Dorothy- There will be plenty of room for 2. We had 4 in the AF and it was cozy but ok. We did not use the concierge though I believe it was available to us. If there were priority tenders, we didn't know about it :eek: :mad: We just lined up early to get off the ship.

 

The snorkeling was $25.00 to rent the equipment. They give you a life vest that you must wear, even if you bring your own equipment. You can snorkle quite far out beyond the big rocks, so its really not a bad idea to wear one. You dont have to blow it up though. Snorkeling was one of the highlights. There are just so many fish.

 

Steve- As Msescada said, the meeting was arranged by one of our members. We all met on the roll call board. You must have a minimum amount of people who will attend in order to set up the meeting. I did not arrange it, so I am not sure how many people they require. Try to hook up with some other people on your cruise. Not only is the meeting informative, but its great running into all the new people you have met around ship.

 

Have a great time!!!

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DeniseH

 

Can we book the snorkeling when we get there or is it an actual excursion that we have to book ahead of time?

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Hi Denise,

 

Glad you had a great time. We will be sailing 9/12 on the Dawn. Did NCL host a cc party that you all signed up for or did your group organize a get together and then inform/invite the officers?

 

Thanks,

Steve

 

Hi Steve (and Denise and Sheryl :) ),

 

If you want to email me (Jacaust@aol.com) I will give you the information to set up the CC meeting with NCL.

 

Ruth

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DeniseH

 

Can we book the snorkeling when we get there or is it an actual excursion that we have to book ahead of time?

 

You can book the snorkeling when you get there. Do it as soon as you get on the island as they run out of snorkeling gear by late morning /early afternoon.

 

 

PS. Hi Ruth!!

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Denise:

 

Thanks for your response. We went ahead a booked an AG Minisuite guaranteed yesterday. This is for the week of 10/17.

 

We are hoping that all goes well and that we have a nice time.

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Denise,

Thank you for the great review, I love taking "mini-vacations" through other's reviews, especially when the reviewer makes the trip sound like so much fun, as you did. We are booked in mini suite 11636 for our April cruise. I also have a son (14) and daughter (11). I had thought my husband and I would have to sleep on the pull out sofa so that the kids could have the separate beds. Your review has encouraged me though. Did your kids do all right sharing the pull out (with the extra padding) or was it rather rough? I sure would like to sleep in the "real" bed if possible. I'm glad your teens had fun, I'm hoping my kids will do the same. My son was a bit lost with the teen activities on the Disney cruise, maybe NCL will work out better for him.

 

Thanks again for all your info.

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Denise:

 

Thanks for your response. We went ahead a booked an AG Minisuite guaranteed yesterday. This is for the week of 10/17.

 

We are hoping that all goes well and that we have a nice time.

 

Patticake- I'm sure you will have a fabulous time! Dawn is a beautiful ship! Just one request...can you fit me in your suitcase??? ;)

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Denise,

Thank you for the great review, I love taking "mini-vacations" through other's reviews, especially when the reviewer makes the trip sound like so much fun, as you did. We are booked in mini suite 11636 for our April cruise. I also have a son (14) and daughter (11). I had thought my husband and I would have to sleep on the pull out sofa so that the kids could have the separate beds. Your review has encouraged me though. Did your kids do all right sharing the pull out (with the extra padding) or was it rather rough? I sure would like to sleep in the "real" bed if possible. I'm glad your teens had fun, I'm hoping my kids will do the same. My son was a bit lost with the teen activities on the Disney cruise, maybe NCL will work out better for him.

 

Thanks again for all your info.

 

The most important thing is to encourage your kids to go to the teen activities the first few days. Both my kids met their friends at these activities. My daughter 14, chose not to continue with the structured programs after that, but she had met so many people that they still did stuff together. My son 17, also met his friends at the teen programs. They went to them quite often. They did ok sharing the pull out sofa. They were so tired when they came in at night, there was hardly any energy to fight. (The "real" bed is very comfortable)

 

They are still talking on-line with the people they met on board. In fact, the only reason they don't want to do another cruise is because it was so sad for them when it was over. :(

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Thanks for your review of the Dawn. We will be going 7/05. This may not be important to some, But make note that we just went on Voyage of RCCL and we had a different animal towel every night. Kids loved it and looked forward to it every night.

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We are a family of four also. A 14 yo son and 12 yo daughter. They slept on the pull out and it was big enough for both of them to have plenty of space. My husband and I had the king size bed. We had towel animals every night also. My kids loved the monkey that was hanging from the ceiling one night. The cabin steward used our sunglasses on him. We sailed on the Dawn 8/29.

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