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Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Dawn

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Apr 18, 2017

Review of Norwegian Dawn

Age: 58 Occupation:Farmer Number of Cruises: 2 Cruise Line: Norwegian Ship: Norwegian Dawn Sailing Date: 2016-01-24 Itinerary: Caribbean We were well taken care of. Our cabin was always clean and made up. We had a plumbing concern and it was fixed when we returned, also had a call to confirm that everything was working. I had back and leg problems that started prior to boarding the cruise. I received excellent and effective help from Russell Silich

(Acupuncture) he put a lot of effort into improving my health so I could enjoy the cruise. I had never tried acupuncture before, but am thankful that it was available on the ship. THANKS RUSSELL! Excellent variety and quantity of food. I wish the restaurant food could have been served warmer. Clean and comfortable cabin. Plenty to do. The band by the pool was a little loud for this old man's ears. Excursion providers all went out of their way to insure we had a safe and enjoyable time. I felt appreciated.

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By Dave_CR

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Feb 8, 2016

Caribbean

We were well taken care of. Our cabin was always clean and made up. We had a plumbing concern and it was fixed when we returned, also had a call to confirm that everything was working. I had back and leg problems that started prior to boarding the cruise. I received excellent and effective help from Russell Silich (Acupuncture) he put a lot of effort into improving my health so I could enjoy the cruise. I had never tried acupuncture before, but

am thankful that it was available on the ship. THANKS RUSSELL! Excellent variety and quantity of food. I wish the restaurant food could have been served warmer. Clean and comfortable cabin. Plenty to do. The band by the pool was a little loud for this old man's ears. Excursion providers all went out of their way to insure we had a safe and enjoyable time. I felt appreciated.

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By Tim_CR

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Jan 6, 2016

Western Caribbean

Overall, just fair. Embarkation was worst I have ever experienced. Food quality and dining room service both somewhat below standard for modern cruises. One disastrous shore excursion experience. There are better values out there. Main dining room was somewhat below average. One desert we ordered was described as inedible by our server....she brought it anyway...but she was correct. I would describe wait staff as indifferent. No attempt

to be friendly or do anything other than get your food to you. One time I was brought the wrong dish, and the server started arguing with me about what I had ordered. Italian specialty restaurant (extra charge) was quite good. Breakfasts in the cafeteria were mostly alright...though often line ran out of certain foods. Fine. Nothing special, but adequate. First time I have ever cruised where my stateroom attendant never introduced himself to me. Again, just OK. Evening entertainment was below average compared to other cruises we have been on. One terrible experience in Belize at Crystal Cave Tubing (booked thru the ship). There were 4 cruise ships in port that day, and they could not handle the traffic. We waited in the terminal for an hour just to get a bus to take us out to the caves. I found one of the Norwegian cruise personnel to try to get him to help....but he just ignored me. Once at the caves, there were no guides available...and we sat around for almost 4 hours waiting for guides to show up (always promised in just 30 minutes). Total disaster. Although, once we got into the cave, it was beautiful.

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Jan 11, 2015

Western Carribean

The cruise was enjoyable, but we encountered 2 issues with NCL that could have been easily remedied that were not. It made me worry about if a larger issue arose. The first was that 2 of our personal bottles of water were thrown away in the dining room. The server brought one to us out of the trash! We went to guest services and were told that we would be alerted once a remedy was reached. The remedy was an apology phone call at the end of the

day instead of just comping us 2 bottles of water! Also, the pools and hot tubs on board were very cold. We asked 5 different people to raise the temperature on the last night with it never being done. One server even told us to get out of the hot tub and call guest services! The food was fantastic. There was a large selection at the two restaurants and one buffet that was complementary. However, for freestyle dining, I found it odd that one of the two complementary restaurants had a dress code for dinner The stateroom was spacious (obstructed port view). The two twin beds that were pushed together did come apart while sleeping on them, but that was fixed after our first night. Our stateroom steward, Alvin, was wonderful. The activities were plentiful, but the majority were odd get-togethers for specific groups. The magic and aerial shows were great. Playa Mia tequila tour, beach escape, and Discover Mexico in Cozumel was very fun (although the tequila tour is just of a man's shop) Ecological Tours snorkel adventure in Belize City was wonderful (island snorkeling and bbq chicken and lobster) Tours by Rony in Roatan (Arnold) was the best way to explore the island and feel safe while visiting a great local beach and having authentic food! Costa Maya-bring cash (all ATMS broken) and get ready to be hassled An Overall fun family trip

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Oct 28, 2014

Bermuda

After years of dreaming of going to Bermuda, my husband and I decided to take a cruise there. We chose Norwegian, because their sail date was over our anniversary and the time in port was to be 3 days. We scrimped and saved and planned for 10 months for this trip. I don’t know about most people, but a vacation like this is a sheer luxury for us and not something we take lightly. We had cruised on Royal Caribbean before and loved it, and foolishly

expected this cruise to be similar. Now, we understand that no one can control the weather “so we don’t blame the cruise line for the change in itinerary. BUT “considering we received AT LEAST one email “sometimes more - DAILY for a month before the cruise, we know they had our email address. We flew into Boston the day before (another expense on top of the cruise) and when we arrived at the terminal thought we were still going to Bermuda. The cruise line apparently decided that the hurricane had made it impossible to carry thru with this itinerary. Ok “we get that. BUT what we don’t get is not being informed of this change until it was too late to reschedule our trip. Had Norwegian been upfront with us, we would have gladly rescheduled the cruise, flown home and been back to take the cruise another time. To not tell us until we were boarding was just wrong “they knew how to reach us “but they didn’t want us “or any other cruisers “to reschedule. Well, let me tell you “they’d have been better off to cancel the cruise than to keep us captive on a trip to the Bahamas instead. That ship had no business being out in the rough seas “we were cold, it was rainy, the wind was howling, “sitting outside was plain miserable. They had to cancel the poolside barbecues, net the pools (you’d have been washed overboard had you tried to get in the pool), and cancel many shows. At one point we were all scared that we wouldn’t make it back to Boston. I don’t drink alcohol due to medical reasons, but my husband does. They wouldn’t let him buy an adult beverage package if I didn’t get one. WHAT? Other cruise lines “trust “their guests enough to let you do this “we’d already bought the “soda package ““oh but wait “if you buy this it DOES NOT include bottled waters, coffees, etc. like the other cruise line packages do. We felt nickeled and dimed throughout the entire cruise. Their “Freestyle Cruising” is for the birds too. You have to wait over an hour to get a table at the Venetian or Aqua (complimentary) dining rooms, and we know that they are just trying to get you to give up and go pay more at the specialty dining rooms. We had already reserved a night at Cagney’s for our anniversary when we booked the cruise (in February) “another $30 per person for that dinner “so when we showed up for that dinner we were seated next to the busser’s station “great ambiance, really? “and then charged for sparkling water ON TOP of the $60 “good grief. The servers in the complimentary dining rooms were not engaged, and almost made you feel guilty for making them work. The hostesses were even worse “trying very hard to be snooty and make you feel as if they were doing you a huge favor by getting you seated. Don’t even bother eating at the cafes “the food was exactly the same every single day and questionable. Nothing looked fresh and believe me “NOTHING was warm. The tables were disgusting “sticky and dirty. Our balcony stateroom was just ok “very dated “not really clean, the balcony was very dirty. Our steward was rarely around. This was not the cruise we had dreamed of and planned for. The cruise director “Dingo Dave “GAWD “so annoying and really loves the sound of his own voice. We cringed every time he made an announcement. When we got to the Bahamas, we were there a couple of hours and pretty much just wanted to get on a plane and go home. There was nothing redeeming about the locations they chose. We tried many times to speak to someone about our experiences “they made no secret of letting us know that they just plain did NOT care. Also “everything seemed to be a secret “especially our tab. On the Royal Caribbean you can access your tab on the interactive channel on the stateroom TV “not on Norwegian. Nope, you got to go stand in line and waste your time to find out where you stand. The internet package they sell is not worth the money either “I bought 100 minutes for $58 “problem was is that it took a good 5 of my minutes every time I logged on to get it up and running. My husband had also surprised me with an onboard credit for a massage, but because their rates are a “surprise “and not published, he had no idea that $100 was not even half the cost. Plus they made him choose a date. Well I went in on my date he chose, to schedule the massage to find out they “were all booked ““but then in the Freestyle Daily there were all sorts of “specials “advertised. I went ahead and booked a massage for another day “and found out AFTER THE MASSAGE that it was $245 “for a BASIC MASSAGE. Then they tried to upsell $60 lotions. So insulting. This was a basic massage you’d pay no more than $100 for in Denver! Basically “this cruise and cruise line was a waste of our hard earned money and a sheer disappointment.

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Sep 6, 2014

Bermuda

First look at the Norwegian Dawn experience: Our first impression of the Cruise line and the cruise was the baggage handlers, the people who met us at the street as we exited our taxi. They were so rude and disorganized. A poor first impression is hard to change. There was no clear direction as to what to do or where to go, no signage, no entrances clearly marked. We basically just left our belongings for the upcoming week with a bad-tempered

and rude Bostonian and trusted that we would see our luggage again. This, in comparison to the handlers we have experienced curbside at Royal Caribbean, Holland America, and especially Disney, falls so far below expectations that I would give it an F-. Disney had the best curbside service I have ever seen. The Boarding experience: We then went through a short and pleasant check-in experience, had a seat, and were told we would be aboard the ship shortly. This portion I would give a good and solid A. Compares fairly evenly with HAL, RCL, and Disney. Apparently there was a problem that day. They kept pushing more and more people into that relatively small area in the terminal, based on the amount of people who were arriving, and telling everyone to stay behind the posts and behind the lines and to 'have a seat'. The seats were long-since filled, no one was being allowed to board the ship, and more and more and more people were entering that terminal space. It was crowded and it was uncomfortable and it was unexplained; all three of these things led to a very unhappy and disgruntled crowd. We were held there for about an hour or longer past our boarding time. Finally we started boarding in our small, pre-numbered groups, according to the times we had actually arrived at the terminal. This portion I again would give an F. Compared to other cruise lines, HAL, RCL, and Disney, no comparison at all. NCL was awful. Due to the late time, everyone was hungry and descended en masse on the dining room. Again, the problem that was in the terminal; too many people, not enough space to put them. Fortunately our rooms were ready fairly soon and we were able to go there and relax, put our carry-ons down, and explore the ship a little. Again, compared to the other lines, a D+ at best. The Shipboard experience: unfortunately this cruise left out of Boston. All of our other cruises, except our Alaskan cruise, have left out of our state, Florida. No offense to the great state of Massachussets, but there are an awful lot of smokers up there! And for some reason, they all seemed to be accompanying us on this particular cruise. We paid for a balcony cabin which we were unable to enjoy because we had smokers on either side. The powerful smokiness overtaking our balcony as a result drove us inside and we wished we had just saved the money and gotten an inside cabin. there were few places to sit quietly and read, relax, and look at the ocean (3 at sea days on this cruise) without having your air space assaulted by smokers. Even if they weren't currently smoking, their clothes, hair, and bodies reeked of smoke. It was just truly disgusting. We've never experienced anything like it on a cruise. Maybe it was the port, maybe it was the clientele, who knows. We just have never encountered this before, and since this was our first NCL cruise, it was also our only NCL cruise. The clientele in general was a lower class than we've experienced on HAL (the highest), RCL, and Disney. I realize that this is a personal issue and for most people, smoking isn't a problem at all, but for us it is a huge issue; we can't stand being around cigarette and cigar smoke. We save all year for a cruise vacation, and when we go, we have an expectation level that we are paying for. We want a nice, clean room, we want nice, smoke-free areas where we can relax and enjoy sun, shade, outside, inside, whatever we feel in the mood for. We would like to be able to enjoy our own private spaces which we have paid premium prices for, and I don't think any of this is unreasonable. We take nice clothes when we go, we change for dinner, and we don't like looking at someone's dirty tee-shirt, nasty shorts that he's spent all day sweating in, and his gross flip-flops with his hairy toes hanging out, and smell his or her smoky, sweaty body anywhere near me. There are dress code guide lines for a reason. Cruising is supposed to be one of the niceties of life. The Dining experience: All in all, the food was fairly good. There was a good variety, it was served at the appropriate temperatures, and they never ran out of anything. The gravlax was good (how I rate cruise ships!) and fresh. The specialty restaurants were good and the service was impeccable. We ate at the Brazillian Steakhouse and the Japanese Steakhouse. Both A grades. That being said, my husband and I are not fans of "freestyle dining", which this ship promotes. We prefer to have a set dining time, a set dining table, and the same serving staff so that we can get to know them. HAL does this and we really like this style of dining. We also really like Disney's dining set-up, with rotating dining rooms printed right on your room key, and your dining staff who rotate right along with you. As far as the quality of food on the four cruise lines we've travelled; 1). Holland America. The best, hands-down. 2). Norwegian. It was a bummer of a ship, but the food was very good. 3). Royal Caribbean. 4). Hate to say it, but Disney just fell at the bottom of the list for us. There was good solid food every night, but nothing imaginative (really, Disney, no imagination in your food?). No wonderful fruit soups like I've come to love on HAL. No wide variety of wonderful appetizers like NCL and HAL. Just...food. So NCL-A grade for food. Our Cabin: Our cabin was a good size and compared well with HAL and RCL. The closet space and bathroom space are decent and comparable. Even our inside cabin at Disney was larger. I have to say that Disney has the best cabin size. Probably a good solid B. Our complaints about this NCL cabin: 1). There was only ONE electrical outlet in the entire cabin, including the bathroom. Between the iPhone chargers, curling iron, breathing machine for sleep apnea, charger for the iPad, charger for the camera, charger for the heating pad for the sore neck, it was ridiculous. We had to go borrow a multi-plug from Guest Services, and then we couldn't walk around the cabin without tripping over cords. F. 2). The couch is so uncomfortable you can't sit on it. I know it's really just a sleeper sofa, but come on; can't you get one that at least is comfy? Other than that, the bed was good and the outside furniture was nice. C- 3). On HAL and RCL, the Room Stewards fall over themselves to bring you ice and keep your bucket filled. On NCL, we had to constantly ask for ice, and we are SO consistently friendly and nice to our cabin stewards. We ask their names, ask about their families, tip them generously, and really make an effort to personalize the cruise. I think they had more rooms to do than the guys on the other cruise lines do. D Did not attend anything but the comedy and the magic; they were both good. Don't book excursions but ONE for Bermuda., the 5-hour bus trip excursion. Everything else is too much money, and you can do it on your own. There are no worries about the ship leaving you, you're here for 3 days. If you're worried, plan it for day 2. The destination: Bermuda. This was an absolute dream destination. The weather was perfection the entire time we were there: high 60s at night and 70s during the daytime. We arrived at 11:00am on Day One and had 24 hour open access to the ship until we departed at 5pm on Day Three. We did a 5-hour bus Trip Excursion around the island first thing on our first day. This oriented us, and gave us an idea of what we might want to return to for a better look and more time spent. We docked at the Naval Dockyard, which is on one tip if the island. From there it is easy to catch a ferry/bus to the capital city, Hamilton (center of the island) or St. George (opposite tip of the island). I recommend you buy the 3-day pass, which allows ferry and bus rides, and you can hop on and off wherever you wish. It's fast, dependable, and stops all over the place (the buses). The ferry gets you between the main towns fast. Don't miss the cute little zoo. It has some amazing water views (sits right on the water). There's a cute reenactment in St. George every day at noon that you'll want to see as well. Have your cameras ready to shoot some adorable pics of cute young businessmen in their Bermuda shorts, knee socks, and business jackets and ties. If you go into a hotel, the staff is more than happy to pose with you. Don't miss the Swizzle Inn, and plan on a few hours there, relaxing over some rum swizzles. Their logo? "You swizzle in, but you swagger out!" If we could have gone to Bermuda from another port it would have been ideal. Our shipmates would have been different, and that would have made the difference in the "enjoyability factor" of the cruise. While the people of Boston were wonderful and we enjoyed out 3 days visiting the city, there are simply a LOT more people who smoke in the NE USA than in Florida where we are from. We do not know any smokers and are not around smoke. The constant presence of smoke ruined the shipboard experience for us. Once we were able to escape the ship and spend our time in Bermuda, it was a fabulous vacation.

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By John_CR

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May 1, 2014

Western Caribbean

Worst cruise ever. Missed one port, service staff was terrible. Suite stateroom was in state of deferred maintenance. Worst cruise director we have ever seen. Dining staff couldn't get orders right. Waited 30 min. to get water and salad. Passengers were place on shore excursions which were "impossible for them to even try". Person taken off in body bag as we left one port. Casino was VERY smoky. Virtually no daytime entertainment at sea.

No contingency plan for guests to entertain them when we did not port due to a murder of another Norwegian ship crewperson on Roatan. Cabin attendant was the only shining light, very good. Sanitizers were empty near the end of the cruise. I did not realize that Norwegian has become a "low end" service provider. I will stick to Royal Caribbean in the future. The food was served many time wrong. Breakfast in the room was wrong and cold. Serving staff was hard to find. It seems to get any kind of service or a good meal you have to pay for the premium restaurants. Beware, do not go to the buffet the 1st night. They served Lobster in the dining rooms on the 1st night probably due to the fact that most cruisers go to the buffet the 1st night. We were lucky enough to get the lobster. Out 2 bedroom suite was large, however upon entry we found a pool of water on the master bath floor from a leaky faucet which was NEVER repaired. The windows were filthy, The shower and deck had several cracked tiles glued together. Lots of rust on the balcony. Doors to the master bedroom would not lock, we had to use a bungee to hold them closed and a towel to keep them from banging in higher seas. $40 for 3 games of Bingo? The usual shows on most cruise ships were not present. Very little for anyone to do but gamble and drink when at sea. This cruise line doesn't care who they sell and excursion to. We had to wait one hour in a hot boat for two women, one in a walker with oxygen, the other with two arm crutches on an excursion that clearly stated "not for persons with walking difficulties." My wife went on the dolphin encounter (since she does not swim). A 2 hour excursion, 6 1/2 hours later they made them swim in a large pool and changed the excursion to swim with the dolphins. 1/2 the passengers on that excursion did not swim and were scared to death. Just read the reviews, and be informed. None of the cruise lines have told their passengers that the state department in 2013 stated to no go to Honduras due to the highest crime rates. I for one will probably never use Norwegian again. I will stick to lines like Royal Caribbean, who seem to care more for the customer experience.

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Feb 14, 2014

carribean

On Sunday 1/12/2014 we arrived early and boarded the Dawn after regular procedures. Everyone promptly received their bags and lounged around the pool all day. We did not receive our bags. I entered our Stateroom which was dirty from the previous tenants. The mini bar was not stocked as noted from the previous tenant's consumption of it. I personally cleaned our cabin, including picking up trash from the floor and a filthy luggage plastic sheet which

went across the bed and had to scrub the shower also. I called the Steward and asked him to stock the mini-bar he agreed to do so, as we did not want to be charged for the previous people's consumption. Day turned into night and we still had not received our bags and we missed a whole day at the pool with our fellow cruisers. We went to dinner and after dinner while walking back to our cabin we found our bags aft in front of other persons Staterooms, nowhere close to our cabin. We dragged our bags to our cabin which was at the bow of the ship. As you can see, we are off to a very bad start. When we returned with our bags, the mini bar was still not stocked as promised, and never was during the course of the entire trip with the contents of beer and soda to which the previous tenants consumed. The next day we asked to play shuffleboard with an older group and the attendant instead stopped the older group's game and locked up the contents of the game to which we did not understand and we apologized to the older group for this action. We then went to the jewelry store and I asked an attendant the price of a certain ring, he said he would be right back and never returned. I bought a spa package for the week. After swimming and taking a very hot sauna I undressed in the ladies room where an unannounced male Supervisor in Full uniform entered and stopped to gawk at me motioning with his hand over his mouth going "Oh" as he walked through to join two other female Supervisors in full uniform including heels and full jackets who were sitting in the hot sauna enjoying a gossip session. There was no excuse for this breach of privacy or this entire scene. If this male wanted to join his female companions in the sauna, he could have gone through the men's room. More lack of respect on your employees part. Hygiene wise, I found it completely unprofessional that your Supervisors intentionally soiling up their uniforms only to afterwards address the passengers in this state for the rest of the evening. It was a real eye-opener for your employee's lack of disregard for hygiene and guarding the health of the passengers and themselves. It made me contemplate if other employees of NCL in the food area also had such a disregard for guarding good health measures and fighting bad bacteria that can so easily spread around the ship causing sickness among the passengers as we have all read about on Carnival Cruises. In regards to this entire scene, it was completely unnecessary, unprofessional, infringed on my privacy, and easily could have been avoided if you had a professionally minded staff. This scenario was inexcusable. My husband then returned to the cabin and found me quite distraught over the situation to which just took place, which was compounded by the above "mishaps" and the fact that we decided to take this trip now to help relieve the sadness inflicted by an uncaught local serial pet killer who now continues to murder cats, and stomped my bunnies to death. I told him of this latest incident in tears which prompted him to have a meeting with the hotel manager who offered us "a free dinner" to add insult to injury. The next day we went (with leeriness) to the Shore excursion desk where a woman made a snide remark to me concerning how she surmised from my personality that I was anti-social and didn't want to be around others, which really pissed me off yet I said nothing about it. We took her suggestion anyway and enjoyed Maya island in Honduras although I had an allergic reaction to the "no-see-um" fly, to which I remained covered in bites and am still today covered in bites. That night a photographer grabbed us to get a couple's picture. We walked over to the backdrop and the photographer just forgot about us and engaged with someone else, leaving us there for a longtime like we were just invisible, and making us feel like idiots... so we just walked away... unnoticed. This seemed to be the case everywhere aboard your ship, by the hands of your employees and I was becoming astounded by the instances of your employee's rudeness and disregard. This astonishment later became a mixed bag when we met up with some of your most professional staff members. Namely, ALL of your staff members that we encountered from India. The next day we were confronted by the same Shore excursion woman, who asked how our trip was to the private island and I simply gave a "thumbs up" as at this point I had decided not to speak with particularly her or any of your employees in order to avoid condescending remarks or confrontation. Upon return your "TSA" people made us remove the contents of our dive bag, holding up the entire line, in order to look at a dive weight which was wet and filled with sand. We had prepaid for an excursion to "Boat Blast and Beach" on Costa Maya. We took the long bus trip to this beach and were put on a non-working boat. Three other boats also returned to shore due to non-working boats. Those people were accommodated with less-than-sufficient, but running boats. We were then put in a second non-running boat as the others in our group circled around. We were again taken back to shore and given a third boat. This third boat ran and ran fast and then began making a non-stopping ascending winding sound to the point where we thought the engine was going to blow up. My husband is a more than experienced Boat Captain and out of desperation to stop the boat before it blew up pulled the red emergency stop which resulted in NOTHING as all safety controls for the drivers use were disconnected and removed. The boat to our astonishment continued in an upward winding sound and scared us to death. If you had another person manning this boat who was inexperienced in driving boats, you would have had some serious consequences on your hands. In such a whirlwind my husband managed to get this third boat to shore, and we were given a forth boat to which could not even get out of its own wake to reach the others. We gave up and asked for a refund. The Attendant said that we would have to take that up with the ship and brought my husband tortilla chips and salsa to "make up for it" and then tried to charge us for a day at the beach. The Canadians that we befriended said that their boat broke down twice while in the ocean and that it could not keep up with the group. All of this made it apparent that NCL did not and does not monitor the quality of excursions that by your own hand endorse. Before you authorize a Shore Excursion it is to your best interest that you enlist quality control tactics against the outfit that employ to carry out the excursion. NCL must assess the liability to which you hold if the outfit is non-compliant to safety standards, such as the removal of the emergency stop on the boat. This directly reflects the disregard for safety upon NCL as my husband actually pulled the Emergency stop Key- which was disabled. There is no excuse for this either. Our situation could have resulted in serious injuries to us or others. The disabling of the safety emergency stop on the boat is a recipe for disaster for all, producing yet even more negligence. Upon return to the ship, my husband went to the same shore excursion woman for a refund for "Boat Blast and Engine Blowup" She kept arguing that he drank the alcohol which was asinine. She stated that it was against her better judgment and reluctantly refunded our money for the "Boat Blast" that never was. There is no question that we should have been refunded without these constant hassles. The conglomeration of all of these avoidable situations made it apparent that your staff members had a disregard for seeing it through that our trip went smoothly. I personally was never addressed for the negativity that I experienced on this cruise, and I should have been, so now you are hearing it from me. We worked hard to fund this trip and drove from Virginia to Tampa and back to experience a great time.

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Feb 7, 2014

Western Carribean

It was a nice break from the sub zero temperatures of Minnesota in January. I would never take this cruise again. I doubt I will cruise NCL ever again. The service was poor, the food was poor, other than the weather, it was an overall disappointment. The ship has several restaurants, but they really nickel and dime you for them. The food is very sub-par. The "Moderno" is absolutely TERRIBLE. We dined at Cagny's which was good, Teppenyaki

which was ok, Bamboo was ok, and again, Moderno was awful. The Garden Cafe was also awful. Overall I was really disappointed. This cruise did not compare to previous NCL cruises I have gone on. The stateroom was small, but clean and quiet. We never met our cabin steward once the entire week. I've always met them on previous cruises and thought it was very odd that we never saw ours. The onboard activities were disappointing. Low quality entertainment. This cruise line has really gone down hill. STAY AWAY from the Fury Catamaran in Cozumel. Unless you want to pay $70 per person for ONE hour on the beach. Ridiculous. The Snuba experience in Roatan was very nice.

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Sep 3, 2013

boston

This cruise line has gone down hill. Service was poor. Spa pool cost extra 146.00 they say it is a quiet place to relax but that is untrue there was a lot of drinking and horsing playing in the spa pool. They say no kids but people still brought in thier kids. The fitness center is clean but not a lot of fitness classes offered unless you are extreme fitness boot camps type. Food was boring the same this everyday. We renamed this boat the hamburger

boat. There was much to offer in variety. Stateroom small but clean Not a lot of activities to offer but drink. The activites that they did offer cost more of your money. If you go to any of the beaches make sure you bring sole shoes. There is a lot of broken glass on the beaches and in the water. Isn't a lot to tell. Frustrated daily form lack of service

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By Jim_CR

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Aug 2, 2013

Bermuda

Great deal for the price paid and all that is offered. The staff is outstanding.. Lots to do and see on boarc. The food started to all taste the same but overall a great value The buffet food seemed to be very salty to add to the taste. A lot of the items started tasting the same. Other than salads not too vegetarian friendly.. Tons of items on breakfast Small but fine cabin. Bed was very comfortable and the nice and cool.. I had an inside

cabin and it was totally fine.. Plenty of things to do as far as activities go. They try to keep everyone busy Stay away from smoking areas. Dont miss the comedy shows. Great gym with workout materials.. Boat was above and beyond what I expected.

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May 4, 2013

Western Caribbean

Best week ever! Easy embarkation and disembarkation process. We had an early flight !!:30 out of Tampa and were able to leave the ship (carrying our luggage) at about 8:00. Breezed through customs and arrived at the airport an hour early. We were a little nervous about the service aboard ship because this was the last trip of the season to the western caribbean. We were pleasantly surprised at how great the service was. We stayed in

a mini-suite 11098. My family of 4 was very comfortable in the spacious room. The couch pulls out to a queen sized bed. It is very hard, but our cabin steward got us a comforter to go on top of the pull out. My two girls 12 and 15 never complained. We had towel animals on our beds every night. We had fun trying to guess what animal they would make next. The bed for my wife and I was a king sized bed and was very comfortable. Our room was directly below the ice cream bar. It was very quiet except for the evening of the white hot party. Even then the noise was OK. The bathroom in our cabin was awesome. We had a tub/shower with glass doors. This was separated from the sink area which was separated from the toilet. The food was very good. We ate in the Brazilean steak house and the Italian restaurant. Both exceeded our expectations and were well worth the cover charge. The entertainment was awesome. The magician was fabulous. The crew talent show was fabulous. All was appropriate for our girls. The teen club was closed for the most part due to the lack of teens on the ship. The crowd had a fair number of senior citizens, but there were people of all ages aboard. Definitely not a party ship. The ports of call were OK. We expected more mountainous ports. We did ship sponsored tours of horseback riding in Belize and Dolphin encounter in Roatan. The dolphin encounter is well worth the money. What an awesome experience. All in all we thought that this cruise was well above our expectations. Can't wait for our next cruise. The food was excellent. Great flavor and lots of choices. We never had to wait for a table for dinner. We ate in the Brazilian steak house and in the Italian restaurants. These were well worth the cover charge. Stateroom was great. Very spacious and comfortable. Very quiet as well. Loved the towel animals each night The nightly entertainment was great. Don't miss the Dolphin encounter in Roatan. Experience of a lifetime. We did a tour on our own (not ship sponsored) in Cozumel. The tour guides never showed up. When we got home and E-mailed them, they said that they changed the meeting place in January and sent us an E-Mail to tell us the new meeting place. I never received that E-Mail. Bottom line - Stay with the cruise offered shore excursions.

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Jan 21, 2013

Western Carrib

Don't do it!!! Really, I wish I would have read the other reviews. It was our first NCL, and will be our last. We were on the 11th floor and the banging of the plates and rolling of the carts in the cafe was a nightmare. The food was bland, boring and not good. The entire ship was catered to guests over 80, and the music put you to sleep. The shows were pretty good, and there was two employees that stood out above the crowd, who should

go work for a better cruise line. We could not wait for this trip to end. I was super sad at the value and the fact that to get anything decent, you had to pay an up charge for the food. Just choose another cruise line. Just Bland, not much flavor and the fact that to get a decent seating you had to pay for the specialty restaurants, is kinda of a scam. Many controls didn't work. And, very worn and nasty. And, did I mention that the cafe was above us. Loud, Loud Loud..... Really, did they have any?

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Oct 17, 2012

Canada New England

Just got off the Norwegian Dawn, 14 days back to back, Quebec City to Boston and back. Greatly disappointed in the Dawn. Our stateroom, 10th floor, was noisy, due to commercial space (spa) above. Constant noise from above, day and night. We were moved for the last 7 days to deck 11, but this room was even noisier (buffet above). Were afraid to complain again in fear of being moved to the engine room!. The food was consistently bad. As

frequent cruisers of Norwegian, we usually eat in the buffet. This cruise, the food in the buffet was inferior. Hot dogs and hamburgers every day, long overcooked and cold. Some days there were 6 curry dishes on the menu, and little else. The baked potatoes were consistently cold, in both dining rooms, as well as Cagney's. Soup cold, meat cold. We were served pressed turkey in the Aqua dining room for the Canadian Thanksgiving. It was horrible. Only one day were the meals in the buffet palatable, and that was lunch, on a shore day. Huge lineups for everything. Line up for lunch, out the door, and partly down the staircase, reason - one half of the buffet was closed. Line up to the theatre, despite being told to come early, the doors were not open. I know Norwegian can to better, but if they are cutting costs, we will not be back. For the most part - bad. Breakfast OK if you took something being cooked in front of you (omelet, waffles). Anything laid out, poor. Lunch selection poor. Dinner selection worse. Chairs in the buffet are so small and flimsy that many were broken, and the tables so close together you can't get in or out. Dinner in one of the two "free" restaurants somewhat better. Paid extra to eat in steakhouse (Cagney's). Got plastic placemats, drinks came after appetizers, baked potato was cold, had to ask for more water, and ask for the sauce for the steak. The steaks were great, but not worth the extra money. Our assigned stateroom was noisy, due to the spa above. We were moved to a different statement, it was nosier due to buffet above. Only 1 plug-in in the staterooms. it must accommodate camera chargers, cell chargers, curling iron, and C-Pap (breathing machine). If you get a balcony, pray no smokers on the adjacent balcony, or you can't use it, despite paying extra. Rooms were not as clean as I expected, especially if the ship recently renovated. Typical.This ship tried to put too many activities in the same area, and you could not hear whatever you were attending. Canada New England cruise offered great scenery, and we were lucky with the weather. Some stops not worth it, but that is common with most cruises. Will not go back on the Norwegian Dawn. Other Norwegian cruises, on different ships, have been much more enjoyable, but not the Dawn. Hope this is a anomaly, and not going to become the norm due to some sort of cost cutting.

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May 31, 2012

Wedding

My time on the Norwegian Cruise Line was an alright experience although I have to say I was hoping for a little bit more from the employees/staff. I felt the restaurants on the boat offered much better food than the buffet itself. Every day I felt like the buffet was a hit or miss because sometimes the food was either too dry or cold. Their pizza in the buffet was horrific, talk about flat, stiff, and not even tasty! Another food I noticed was

never good was their home-fries which looked as if they had been sitting under the heating lamps a little too long. Both my fiance and I ate at their Italian restaurant on board which was extremely delicious and offered an appetizer, entree, and dessert. Just an FYI: any drinks you buy at a restaurant are NOT included with your meal meaning, you pay for it yourself. We also ate at the steak restaurant on board which was phenomenal! Our stateroom was alright, the carpet in particular looked like it was very worn out. Our balcony had peeling wood coming off (definitely not safe for young children!) and our chairs/table on the balcony looked a bit rusty. I was surprised they didn't ensure that each balcony maintained a certain presence but who knows. The bathroom though was great, very large and even the shower wasn't too small. One thing I found annoying though was that each room didn't come with an iron or ironing board. You had to call the front desk and ask them to bring one up which if you didn't return within a couple hours, they would just come to your room and take it back (whether you were done with it or not mind you). FYI: some of the on board activities are a RIP OFF! One day my fiance, myself, and his two step-brothers wanted to go play bingo. Once we saw it cost $32 for just ONE card we both turned around and said, "Yeah, that's a rip off!" At night there was a club on the ship that stayed open from 12am-closing, nothing special but beefed up guys and terrible music. One of the only places most of us hung out at on the boat at night was the British Pub because it offered the most entertainment. My fiance and I didn't see any shows on the cruise so I can't comment on those. My fiance and his family decided to go snorkeling on the last day of our cruise but of course, it ended up being a terrible day with very high waves. When we called the place to cancel our excursion they said everything was fine and that they didn't allow cancellations. Imagine a group of people, out in the middle of the ocean trying to snorkel except huge waves would go over our snorkel gear and get water in our mouths. Salt water mind you which both my fiance and mother-in-law choked on several times while trying to enjoy ourselves. All the while this is happening, one of the employees is shouting from the boat, "Just put your head down and relax.." Yeah, okay buddy.. It was alright, certainly could have been better!

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Apr 29, 2012

Boston To Bermuda

I would like to summarize our first family cruise with the statement that within 3 hours of being home I was searching for my next cruise on NCL! We are a family 4 cruising for the first time. Children ages 10 and 8. We had a lot of unanswered questions we would like to answer for other families. KIDS CREW IS AWESOME!!! The kids wanted to do so much it was hard to keep them out of there. We went into this hoping our children would go to the

kids crew for maybe two hours a day. Within the first full day they had set their schedule with the kids crew and their activities. We did eat every meal except one together. They did a kids dinner with the kids crew one night. We had to force our ten year old to leave the crew and enjoy the shows. I wish they would schedule free play during at least one show a night. My wife and I loved all the shows. The kids loved Extreme Vegas. Second City and Bollywood were above their heads. (Great experience anyway) Staff was very friendly and attentive. Plenty of them around, we didn't ask for much but when we did it was accommodated right away. Overall a great first time experience for family of 4. Cruising is a terrific value!!! Venetian and buffet were terrific restaurants. We ate at the buffet for breakfast most lunches and late night snacking due to timing of activities. We eat at chain restaurants mostly while at home and found the buffet equal to this. The main dining rooms had a step up from that. The menu was a little too much for our 8 year old but a kids menu is always available. My wife 10yr and myself always found something tasty to order. We tried two pay restaurants Cagney's (make reservations early it will book up) and Moderno. We enjoyed the food at both but preferred Moderno. (Excellent Food, Probably not for the kids). Moderno was a take your time restaurant a great date night for us. My only complaint was the time it took to get drinks (Alcohol or not) The bars were always crowded and during dinner you could get one soda but not a second easily and dinner would take an hour and a half. (for the best I drank a lot of water) We all had the soda package for this cruise hindsight being 20/20 we won't buy that package again. All milk, iced tea, and water are free throughout the cruise. Overall all we miss the food a lot and loved the service in all the restaurants. An example of great service would be a beautiful treat for us was when we were going through the buffet line a staff member offered to take our 8yo's plate and walked with her through the line. This wasn't necessary but it was a kind and appreciated gesture. These little things helped us relax and made the vacation extra special. Alcohol drinks are expensive ranging from 7 to 11 dollars. We did not drink a lot so we can't complain about this. (My wife says the Banana Daiquiri was worth the cost.) We had an ocean view state room on deck 5. All things considered we are looking to book the same room again maybe obstructed to save some cost. The room is small (No surprise there) There was no privacy for a family of four. Three of the beds were pushed together forming one big bed and one bed was above another and that is our only complaint. Lots of storage space for your clothes. We were amazed. All of our clothes fit in the drawers and of course we over packed. We spent no time here, We received room service most mornings for coffee and croissants the kids ate more. Then we were showered and out the door only coming back to change for meals and remove bathing suits. The kids were there less. We considered two staterooms and the mini-suite but considering how little we were in the room it is not worth the cost. A+ for kids crew and entertainment. We enjoyed the piano music in the bars as well as Patti and Jose singing around the ship. Spinnaker lounge was too noisy for us and the poolside bands were also too loud, you certainly couldn't have a conversation unless you were yelling. Hot tubs were very relaxing and we had no problem getting into them. The pool was chilly and is more of a dip pool to cool off opposed to a swimming pool. Most kids are at the main pool because parents have to watch their kids at the kids pool. Kids pool is not part of kids crew. The teenagers are the only problem. They are splashing and horse playing in and around the pool while older people are trying to read and relax. This lasts about 30 minutes before they get bored and move on to another part of the ship. They were not in the bars or restaurants. We mainly saw them hanging out in stairwells as we brought or retrieved our children from the kids crew. We toured the spa (beautiful with great deals) but did not find time for the spa or the gym although we intended to workout at least three times. We took the stairs most times and walked a lot throughout the ship, I did play family dodge ball with my son and had a lot of fun doing so. We made our excursion plans months in advance and I'm glad we did, it saved us from standing at the desk trying to figure out what we were going to do. The first day in Bermuda we opted to swim with dolphins. It was quite pricey but at the same time, we wanted our kids to experience this. My wife and I had done so on our honeymoon but we went again and it was a good thing we did. We did not anticipate our adventurous 8 year old becoming nervous about swimming with the dolphins and touching them. Beware, we went in April and the water was COLD! Even with wet suits we were all feeling cold. The next day we went on The Glass Bottom Boat and snorkeling excursion. This was quite inexpensive and worth the cost. The guides were not great but they brought us out to the shipwreck HMS Vixon. The snorkeling was fantastic. We were in 4 feet of water and fish were everywhere. This was a great experience for my wife and kids who had never snorkeled before. I have been before but have to say this was the best I've ever experienced. If you did not go on an excursion in Bermuda I don't know what you would end up doing on this island. The stores are not great, there is a small beach next to the dolphin excursion which was nice to go to and didn't cost a thing. All in all, if you go to Bermuda go on an excursion even though it might be overpriced, if not there isn't much to do on this island. Overall our trip was fantastic. We are a fairly easy going family and didn't have any complaints. We did hear others complaining about service, costs, weather (like anyone besides mother nature can fix that), etc. We thought it was a great experience and definitely worth the cost for all you get. There is a gratuity fee that they charge everyone, and goes to the staff (waiters, bartenders, room stewards, etc.), this does not go to the kids crew however. We went to the front desk and had them take off $100 from our kids fee so that we could give that money to the kids crew considering the last 2 days they were in there for almost the whole day and evening. The biggest problem is finding time to relax, there is so much to do on the cruise and so many things we wanted to experience that we were just exhausted. Can't wait to go again but I think we're looking at the Bahamas next time and we'll go a little later in the year. April is still a little early and weather can be unpredictable. Thank-you Norwegian for a great family vacation.

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Jan 9, 2012

carribean

Having taken the holiday (Christmas/New Years) sailing with NCL on the Dawn in 2010 and again in 2011, there was a noticeable difference in qulaity of the cruise between last years experience and this one. In 2011 the Dawn underwent some significant changes. While many of these changes were welcomed such as flat screen TVs in cabins, others were not. Of all the renovations done to the Dawn, the removal of various venues such as the movie

theater or the relocation of the Spinaker night club seemingly were done to accomadate the addition of new staterooms. More staterooms equated to more passengers and this had an extremely negative impact on the overall experience in that simply stated, the ship was over crowed. The new additions increased the number of passengers on this sailing and the Dawn's facilities and staff could not properly meet the needs of guests. There was a noticeable shortage of staff. When asked just how many cabins were added, I could not get a straight answer from NCL Customer Servvice other than being told there were many new additions. One bar staff member indicated to a group of us that over 100 new cabins were added. Crowding was evident every where: On deck there was a shortage of deck lounges and towels. The single pool and hot tubs were overflowing with people and had to be shut down for cleaning during the day due to over use. I will sail with NCL again but not on the Dawn. As to the food, portion sizes were smaller than normal. The menu had changed but the food was rather bland and many dishes tasted very salty. Choice was limited. A $5.00 surcharge has been added for ordering Pizza and an after hour delivery charge for room service has also been added. At the bar, they changed their glasses, drinks sizes appeared to be smaller. I also believe beverage prices may have increased. The little jars of bits and bites they give out at the lounges are good. Access to the buffet was horrific....not only were there shortages of various food items during certain times of the day, there were often no spots to sit to eat. The childrens area had little table and stools and these seats were often filled with adults. The 2 main dining areas were bombarded with passengers and there appeared to be no meaningfull comminication between the venues when quests were shuffled from one to the other. There was lots of room in the "pay a surcharge" dining areas and to avoid the hassle in the main dining room we felt forced to take a break and try the surcharge dining areas which we did on 2 nights. As to the food, portion sizes were smaller than normal. Many first time cruisers don't know they can ask for a second helping if they are still hungrey. The menu had changed but the food was rather bland and many dishes tasted very salty. I was suprised to see that cabin linens were not changed when required and room towels were also in short supply. Overall cabin upkeep was not up to par, items from past passengers were left in the room, carpets were not vacumed regularly, the was dust on shelves, burnt out light bulbs and a broken shelf in the bathroom. On the Dawn, NCL no longer provides body lotion in the cabin, which is one treat I looked forward to as they once provided a very nice skin care lotion which was needed after a day in the hot sun and salt water. Given the weight restrictions of the airlines, I feel it was a plus not to have to pack such an item. Much of the entertainment was a repeat of the previous year. It is time they replaced their comedian and magic act. Sadly, all deck chairs have been removed from the Promenade deck which is perhaps the most quiet area on the ship without wind. It is also, a great place to sit and watch the sunset and take pictures as you enter and leave ports. For some reason when arriving at Samana the private island shore excursion was offer to all quests at no charge if they so desired and that was a welcomed relief as the Samana stop last year was not all that pleasant. The overall impression I was left with is that NCL was lowered their standards and it appears as if they are opting to become a low end provider. I had always percieved NCL as being a "middle of the road" carrier. Good value for your money, that has now changed. The staff were over worked and tired. At times they appeared indifferent and rude and while they mouthed the words "I'm sorry madam or I'm sorry sir" there was no meaning behind them. Service was not prompt and when someone did get around to you felt rushed and then neglected as there was no follow up. I believe the extra people on board as a result of the new cabins have had a measureable negative impact on the staff as well as the passengers. However, on a positive note, NCL has good intineraries and port times. While their prices may not be overtly competitive they do give great onboard credit amounts on select sailings something the other lines are rather scimpy on.

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Apr 3, 2011

Oceanview

Me and my family cruised the Norwegian Dawn, and the staff were friendly and amazing. The food was great. In the Blue Lagoon, they would serve any type of soda you want. They would also have french fries, and other foods. The stateroom was okay, but the neighbors were messing around alot. Next door, there were Chinese people living with aboutt 40 people, and they wouldnt let us sleep at night. So we called and asked them politely to stop

making lots of noise, and they said sorry, but they kept doing it again. Well, the onboard activies were great. Clubs for children were good. You should always sail on NCL!

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By Newt_CR

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Mar 4, 2011

Southern Carribean

I sailed on the NCL Dawn that departed Miami on 2/11/11 on a nine day cruise. It made only two or the scheduled five ports and substitued two others due to engne problems. NCL knew this before we departed, but did't advise us until the second day out. This was a dissapointment because we had specific reasons for visiting the scheduled ports that were missed. The food was good with adequate portion sizes. I do object to paying a cover

charge at their specialty restaurants. Very small but with adequate storage. Don't go on a cruise and expect spacious accommodations. The onboard entertainment was outstanding. The cruise director and staff provided many very entertaining activities. This is what made the cruise a very enjoyable nine days.

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By Ann_CR

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Jan 16, 2011

Southern Caribbean

This was my 3rd cruise, all on NCL, first time on the Dawn. Based on the previous cruises, we had high expectations for this cruise. And while we had a great time during the excursions, we were quite disappointed by the ship. The food in the standard restaurants was substandard, I did not make it through a single meal without sending back inedible food. I would have expected to have comparable food quality across the different cruise ships of

the same line, but nope. The problem must be in the management of the ship. During a tour behind the scenes I learned that each of the restaurants have their own galley, and the food in those speciality restaurants I tried was good to excellent - considering we had to pay cover charges between 10$ and 25$. The Dawn is 5 years older than the Pearl and that was quite evident from the condition of the stateroom. The bathroom smelled horrifically of mold and sewage which was very discomforting and made me look forward to getting home every morning... Service was ok, nothing special, especially considering we had a suite. I had experienced suite/VIP treatment last year, with exceptional service from the Concierge and the butler; this trip, we barely saw the Concierge, often she didn't even great when passing us in the public areas, and our butler was clearly overwhelmed, just as we were underwhelmed by their service. Not even towel art... The onboard activities on the Dawn also were not as good as on the Pearl: the activity staff was arrogant and more than annoying. The best activity on the ship I participated at was the behind the scenes tour on the last day at sea - very recommendable, we saw a lot, from the galleys to the environmental department and laundry and ended on the bridge - very informative and great experience. Less so the spa experience: previously I had to beat the spa ladies offering service off me - this time, the Australian woman at the reception barely took note of me and I ended up not even booking all the treatments I had planned on doing because I couldn't stand her arrogance. The one treatment I had was good. I booked excursions for all ports and enjoyed every single one of them. Most fun were the catamaran trips (bring waterproof bag with change of clothes and hold on to your shoes!) in BVI and Antigua as well as the tranquil railroad trip in St. Kitts - the 8 mph speed allows taking lots of pictures and seeing many interesting back alley site and whomever we passed waved excitingly at us - great fun! Overall, the cruise was nice but not great. Service was much below the level I experienced on the Pearl. On the pearl, the majority of the staff was from the Philippines and were wonderful. On the Dawn, the majority of the staff was from India, and the level of friendliness and service was just not the same. In my opinion, the Dawn suffers from management weaknesses - the age of the ship poses some challenges but the there is no excuse for the lower quality in food and service. I'm not booking another cruise on the Dawn, nor her sister ships.

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Dec 1, 2010

Eastern Caribbean

SHIP – I heard a number of people complaining about the state of the ship and that they wouldn’t be returning. One guy’s shower door fell on him the first time he took a shower. EXCURSIONS – we went on the Cayo Levantado and Catamaran Sail excursion. Are you aware that the owners of the catamaran take you to “their” own dock for 30 minutes or so, so you feel obligated to buy “their” stuff

after they feed you some free fruit??!! Also, they took 40 minutes out to stop across from the beach to let people snorkel! So instead of the 2 hours we were supposed to get spending on the beach, we got a ½ hour!!! NOT what we signed up for! CABINS – our bathroom smelled like mold so bad! The first time we went in there I told the steward about it and she went in and sprayed some Febreeze and Lysol. We had the smell the whole time because nothing helped. The smell is in the shower and you won’t get it out unless you use some serious bleach. Our safe broke and we had to get that fixed. Also, you could hear all the noise above our cabin! Very LOUD! We were on deck 11 under the pool area. We could hear people dragging chairs and dropping stuff! I don’t know what but there were some very loud bangs coming through the ceiling. And the kids! There would be kids running around up there all hours of the night! There should be some rules about parents and disciplining their children! They were also running through the halls! CASINO – We thought the casino was pretty lame! The place was dead most of the time except Friday night. We both love Texas Hold’em and they would only have 1 table at night and even though one night they had about 8 more people that wanted to play, they would not open another table. It’s not like they didn’t have the tables or the staff! Ridiculous! Also, we would play for hours and they rake every pot but you don’t get free drinks! They did give 1 free round after about 4 hours into the game. ART – I had never been to an auction before so I thought I’d try it. Never again! They said if we signed up for a credit card with Park West we would get to choose a free print we wanted. What they really mean is you can have the print but you have to pay the shipping and you have to pay for them to frame it! LIES! FOOD – The food was fine for our needs. We ate at the free Garden Café most of the time. It is crazy packed and people are pushy and it is hard to find a seat. And there was just the 2 of us. People go all over in the lines and the wrong way and it’s VERY loud. A little more variety every day would have been nice though. The last morning they finally changed the hash browns to the little fried wafer kind that I love, at least I got them 1 day. We love Panini’s but they wouldn’t customize them. They just made one kind a day. Salsa was great for 10 bucks a person. We did Cagney’s the first night because the hubby wanted a steak, very good. We liked the Venetian too because it was quieter. ENTERTAINMENT – we loved Dave Heenan the comedian. Thought the magician was cheesy. He was trying to sell stuff at the end of the show. Cheesy! The acrobatics were good in Bollywood. DRINKS – there is subtle harassment going on the whole time! Believe me, if I want a drink I will flag someone down. Drinks are very expensive too. Oh, and if you just want ice water you get the look or slow service. If you just want to sit in the pub and have some popcorn and ice water, you get the look! POOL – ridiculously small! And the kids were taking over. I thought the rules said no kids because they have their own area but they were in there and no one said anything. KIDS – if you don’t like to hear or see kids on your cruise, stay away! They were running through the halls and running around above our head on deck 11! What is with parents who just let their kids run around all hours of the night?! I don’t get it. BINGO – What a rip off! We went once and there was probably close to 100 people in there. Times that by $20-30 each and what do you get? They had 2 winners, the 1st paid out about $105 and the 2nd paid out about $190. What do they do with the rest of the money?! When we go camping all the money goes in the pot and is paid out; they don’t keep your money! Never again! THIEF’S!

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Sep 27, 2010

CANADA NEW ENGLAND

MEDIOCRE AT BEST. HAD BALCONY STATEROOM-VERY NICE LAYOUT. ALL THE ENTERTAINMENT WAS FABULOUS-MOST WERE FROM NEW YORK-VERY TALENTED. THE DAWN WAS SOMEWHAT DISAPPOINTING. THE FOOD WAS NOT VERY GOOD, EVEN IN THE SPECIALTY RESTAURANTS. THIS WAS MY SECOND TIME ON A NCL SHIP(STAR WAS THE FIRST)AND I DID NOT THINK THE DAWN WAS NEARLY AS COMPARABLE-STAR SET THE BAR VERY HIGH. SERVICE WAS GOOD BUT THE CREW SEEMED LIKE THEY HATED THEIR JOBS,ESPECIALLY

IN THE DINING ROOM.THE SHIP IS BEAUTIFUL AND EASY TO GET AROUND. EMBARKATION WAS EASY BUT DISEMBARKATION WAS A LONG PROCESS AND WE EVEN CARRIED OUR OWN LUGGAGE OFF OURSELVES. ALL THE ACTIVITIES STOP AT MIDNIGHT EXCEPT THE CASINO. PORTS WERE BEAUTIFUL AND TIME WAS PLENTY. I WILL SAIL WITH NCL AGAIN IN THE FUTURE BUT SOME THINGS ON THIS SHIP MADE ME DECIDE TO BOOK MY NEXT CRUISE WITH A DIFFERENT LINE.

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Sep 22, 2010

New England and Canada

On a scale of 1-10, I would give the cruise a 9. Only problem was food: cooked all in vegetable oil which permeated all cooked food including pastries. I don't know who to blame for the lack of butter in my food, i.e.: cooking my eggs, pastries, etc. Get a french chef to make the pastries! Get an Italian chef to make the pizza and pasta. Phillipinos don't know cooking! Don't pass off Cool-Whip for whipped cream. When serving prime rib.....Use

prime meat, not a lower grade. This all refers to the free dining experiences in the Aqua, Venetian, and Garden Cafe. Did not eat in the additional charge restaurants. The Dawn was a very comfortable ship and stateroom was very nicely done with a lot of storage. The stateroom was clean and shiny and very adequate for two. Staff was excellent, Cruise Director, Matt, was phenomenal along with his entertainment staff. There was always something to do and no time to stay in stateroom. The Cruise Director and his staff made the experience outstanding. The ports of call were just what I wanted. The coastlines of New England and Canada were also a sight to see. Shore excursions too expensive. In Boston, ship was moored far from center of town and NCL hired buses to take us into town or civilization. Only problem: they charged us $20 round trip to do this. Why? They don't charge you when you have to take a tender!

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Sep 19, 2010

Bermuda

I always end up falling in love with whichever ship I'm sailing on at the moment, but sometimes for various reasons, like aesthetics, layout, amenities, etc., that love takes awhile to develop. But it was love at first sight for us on the beautiful Norwegian Dawn to Bermuda Sept. 5-12. A little background: I'm 30, my husband is 32. We're from Michigan, and I hate to fly, so we like to leave out of the East Coast, where we can drive with minimal

hassle. This was our seventh cruise. We've sailed previously on Princess, Carnival and Royal Caribbean. This was our third consecutive NCL cruise; we sailed on the Gem out of New York to Florida/Bahamas in February 2009 and on the Spirit out of New Orleans to Belize, Guatemala, Costa Maya and Cozumel in February 2010. We've come to adore NCL due to the Freestyle philosophy and excellent past experiences we've had. SHIP: Dawn is, to date, my favorite ship. She has an excellent layout, gorgeous decor and just the right amount of varied public spaces and dining venues. The multi-story atrium has an efficient, inspired setup, with a stage area above the Java Cafe that served well for a performance by Fire & Ice (more about them later) and a Sept. 11 memorial ceremony. There's a British-style pub adorned with appropriate paraphernalia and wood accents called Pearly Kings; Gatsby's, a champagne and wine bar with a more extensive wine list than elsewhere on the ship; the main theater, Stardust; Spinnaker Lounge, a secondary show lounge with a stunning view at the bow; Dazzles, another bar/performance area; an Internet cafe (adorned with @ symbols on the carpet) and more. The Oasis pool area included a stage where calypso/reggae bands played, two separate pools and multiple hot tubs. There's a tiered sundeck area and plenty of chairs; we rarely struggled to find empty ones. (We don't have children, but the T-Rex Kids Area at the very aft of the ship looked very fun: there was a separate kids' pool flanked by waterslides and adorned with giant dinosaur statues.) The El Dorado Spa is gorgeous: The lobby is in an atrium with a skylight, with stairs leading up to the fitness center. There's a private room called the Exotic Thermal Suite that we paid $165 for the two of us (it's $99 per individual) for the week. They only sell 100 passes, and it was worth it. Ther's a warm, freshwater lap pool, a Jacuzzi and a thalassotherapy pool in the main area, along with rows of lounge chairs overlooking a bank of aft windows that provide a view of the ocean (or port!). There also are separate male and female relaxation areas with chairs and a TV. The gender-specific changing rooms, which were extremely clean and elegant, included lockers, showers, a steam room, a sauna and plunge baths. Every time you check in at the desk, they give you a locker key and an NCL robe to wear. There's cold water, hot water with tea bags and orange juice available (although it wasn't always restocked promptly). Only once did we struggle to find a place in a Jacuzzi or an empty chair. The relaxing, secluded atmosphere was worth the money; we often ventured in there merely to read or nap. We were in a porthole room on Deck 4 forward. It was beautifully and efficiently laid out, much more so than the Spirit; it reminded us of the Gem. NCL has the best bathrooms, since you have a roomy shower and doors separate the toilet area and showers from the sink/mirror/vanity area. FOOD: The main restaurants (no charge) are Venetian, with walls of windows aft, and Aqua, in the center of the ship. The service was hit or miss in both, but we've come to realize this is one of the trade-offs of Freestyle cruising; you don't get the same waiter every night, so you don't develop any rapport. One night you might get the best service of your life; another night, you may be waiting forever with nary a friendly word from your server. We preferred Aqua, just because of the more intimate ambiance. Some of the main entrees were just OK, but some of the appetizers were to die for: I had French onion soup and wild mushroom quesadilla for a starter almost every night. And the desserts — amazing. The key lime pie was the best I'd ever had in my life, and I ended up ordering it most nights. The tiramisu also was awesome. The main buffet, Garden Cafe, was, as on past NCL ships, excellent. Lunch was a myriad of choices, from made-to-order pasta to multiple types of pizza to chicken, rice, casserole and vegetable dishes. One oddity: Unlike on past NCL ships, the soft-serve ice cream was not self-serve; the station was manned by a crew member. A crew member also served up three kinds of hand-dipped ice cream at Sprinkles, out by the pool deck. The last few days, they had chocolate, vanilla, etc., but some days, the flavors were downright odd. (I asked for chocolate one day, though, and she wrangled it out of the freezer for me.) If you're a sweet tooth like me, NCL has, hands down, the best cookies I've ever had; the chocolate with white chocolate chunks are particularly delectable (although the last few days of the cruise, the cookies suddenly seemed puffy and hard, it was almost as if an ingredient was left out. Bummer!) We only ate in one specialty restaurant, Cagney's Steakhouse ($25 per person). It was amazing. We sampled several appetizers, including the crab cakes, oysters Rockefeller, portabello mushroom and shrimp cocktail. Very good. My husband had rib-eye steak for his entree and loved it; I had the excellent lamb chops, with a side of creamed spinach and potatoes gratin. He sent back his apple crisp for dessert it had a weird fondant or cotton candy-like taste to it but loved the cheesecake, and I was drooling over my espresso brownie with macademia nut ice cream. Other specialty restaurants included Le Bistro (French, $20); Impressions (Italian, $10); Salsa (Tex-Mex, $10); Bamboo & Sushi Bar (Asian/sushi, $15); and Teppanyaki (Japanese cook-as-you-watch, $25). SERVICE: As mentioned previously, service on NCL always seems hit or miss. We never formally met our room steward, unlike on other ships, though he did a fine job and left us a ton of towel animals. You don't bond with the waiters/waitresses like on formal dining-style ships, so sometimes we had excellent service in the dining rooms, sometimes abysmal. The service in Cagney's was superb. But I would be remiss if I didn't specifically mention Chris Ugay of the Philippines, who worked at Gatsby's. He learned our names during our first hour on the ship and treated us like special guests the entire week. He made us want to hang out in Gatsby's and the adjacent Havana Club, the cigar room, every night. He truly went above and beyond and really made our cruise. I overheard him talking to other guests, too, and I could tell he was making them feel equally special. The other Gatsby staffers Emerson, Edmund and Erwin also were very friendly and we always enjoyed seeing them. I wrote a two-page letter to NCL when I got home extolling the virtues of Chris, since I thought he did such an excellent job. PORT: Bermuda was very nice, though I prefer some of the other tropical ports. In the Royal Naval Dockyard, where the ship docks, there are a few stores (including a glassblowing and rum cake shop, where crafters make glass products right in front of you), restaurants, and a snorkel park ($5 per person for all-day entry). If you want to go to the capital, Hamilton, or the historic former capital, St. George's, you'll need to take a bus or ferry. As cabs are pricey, buying a public transportation pass is the way to go. It was $28 per person for three days, and that covers buses and ferries. The weather was very fickle, raining frequently. We spent a little time walking around Hamilton (25-minute ferry ride) one day and St. George's (40-minute ferry ride) another, though a storm drove us out of St. George's before we could see much of anything. We also went to the snorkel park, and it seemed beautiful, but unfortunately, the rain stirred up the water and we were unable to see anything in the water (other passengers told us they saw an abundance of beautiful fish on other days when the weather was better). We took a bus to Horseshoe Bay (45 minutes), and it was gorgeous: The subtle pink sand characteristic of Bermuda, surrounded by cliffs, aqua water. We rented two beach chairs and an umbrella for $30. It rained there, too, though, so we didn't get to stay as long as we liked! We didn't do any shore excursions, and it sounded like many were cancelled due to the weather. ENTERTAINMENT: Production shows tend not to be our cup of tea, so we didn't really have any intentions of going to them, but we met a guitarist in the NCL band who told us we HAD to see the Bollywood show on the last night. We went on his recommendation, and it was amazing. Do yourself a favor and check it out. It combines Cirque du Soleil-style bending and twisting and acrobatics with belly dancing, good music and elaborate sets is pretty neat. The first night's show gave a sampler of everything that was to come. The singing and the dancers from the Jean Ann Ryan Company were pretty impressive, but like I said, we don't do most production shows, so we didn't end up seeing any more of their work besides the Bollywood show (there also was a Beatles show, a South Beach Latin-inspired show, etc.) We loved Fire & Ice, a keyboard/vocalist duo, and ended up checking them out at multiple points throughout the cruise. Their Michael Jackson and 80s shows in Dazzles Lounge were amazing, and drew huge crowds (so get there early!) We also heard the Tina Turner show in Spinnaker was good, and they did a Motown show in the atrium one night. The main singer has boundless energy, strutting around in three-inch heels as she belts out the tunes perfectly. We weren’t impressed by the comedian on the first night, so we didn't check out any of his performances, though we heard mixed reviews from those who did. We went to one of the Second City comedy shows the last night adults' only show and it was hilarious; we've learned from past NCL sailings that it's hit or miss, since they rely on topics the audience supplies to improv their jokes. We also went to the obligatory newlywed show and crew talent show, and they were just so-so this time around, in our opinion. CONS: As always, there were a handful of things that occurred during the cruise that could have been better. This never ruins our trip or tarnishes our view of the ship, but there's always room for improvement. First off, as a gym rat, I was disappointed that there seemed to be something wrong with practically every machine in the gym, and it appeared it had been that way for awhile and never addressed. Five of six ellipticals had the book bars broken off. Many of the TVs on the machines didn't work. Some of the controls on the bikes didn't work, so you couldn't see what resistance level it was on or how much time you had left. There's so much empty space in the fitness center that seems poorly utilized. More ellipticals, perhaps? More bikes? Also, NCL claims on its website that its gyms are open 24/7, fleetwide. Not true, as I already knew from the Spirit; except on the Gem, the gyms have been open 6 a.m.-11 p.m., in our experience. I called on the last evening to see if the gym was open Sunday morning, prior to disembarkation; the purser's desk told me absolutely not. Well, it was, and I missed out on a morning workout because they had told me it wasn't going to be open. Just a minor gripe, but irksome for someone like me who likes to schedule workouts and likes to eat on the ship! :) This was the first time we had a notable problem communicating with some staff members. Obviously, there's occasionally an issue, seeing as the majority of the crew comes from other countries, but this is the first time I've ever been trying to talk to a crew member and been completely unable to understand them, and them me, where we've just been looking at each other blankly, at a loss of how to proceed. When the ice cream staffer can't answer questions about ice cream and the Java Cafe worker can't answer questions about coffee and, worst of all, when the waitress can't understand what we're ordering for dinner, that's a little bit of a problem. Again, not a huge deal, but just something we noticed. OVERALL: The ship was gorgeous, the itinerary was fine, the food and entertainment was excellent so we wouldn't hesitate to go on NCL again. In fact, we already booked our next NCL cruise on the Jewel next year, our fourth NCL cruise in a row! If you have any questions about the Dawn, or would like to see pictures, feel free to email me at [email protected]

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Sep 14, 2010

New York to Bermuda

Such a disappointment!! 11 restaurants, 2 are included and the others you have between $25.00 to $10.00 per person charge(Each time you eat at the restaurant). Staff was friendly and welcoming, the best thing about this cruise was the staff!! Entertainment was boring and needs help!!! The cruise was the longest 8 days of my life, don't waste your money or time with this cruise line if your under 45 yrs of age!!!! I thought I was at a nursing home.

Junk Tiny, but staff kept it very clean! Still waiting for them to start!! Boring!! Stay away

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Sep 8, 2010

Bermuda

We enjoyed the entertainment and the ship in general - Staff - (while there were a hand-full of very nice people - overall the staff generally seemed overworked and stressed out - not overly friendly. Staff was always trying to sell you something - it was a real pain! Pool - it was a very small pool for the size of the boat - we didn't go in at all. Company response to an engine malfunction - unacceptable - On the way to Bermuda one of the engines

failed - we continued at reduced speed. The initial response was the the ship would stay in Bermuda an additional day for repairs - Company management over-ruled the Captain and decided that we would leave Bermuda early - instead of leaving on Friday at 1700hrs we left at 0630hrs - so we lost a day in Bermuda - The company decided the they would recompense passengers at the rate of $50.00 per stateroom (we are contesting this - haven't heard from the company after a week - doubt we will) - all the while having a full ship for an additional day - where they made a windfall profit - this response is completely unacceptable - it meant returning to New York from Bermuda at reduced speed - with one engine still not working - had there been any additional problems - this could have been a recipe for a catastrophe - the Company does not have a good track record when it comes to safety (see other travelers reviews) - In view of the companies handling of the malfunction and deciding to return to NY with one engine failed - we will never use Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) ever again. The food in the pay-for restaurants was generally good, the alternative was eating in the cafeteria class dining halls - mediocre at best - but you had the noise of all the kids - the pay-for restaurants were generally quiet. Le Bistro - the food was very good - the service was rank amateur (As an example - the Maitre'D was joking around and when we were served our Red wine - the waitress said "Let me take the white wine glasses to make more room for you" everything was said with a twist to make it look like they were doing something for you - it was tiring and a pain - the kitchen was being let down by a clueless wait staff. Cagneys - both food and wait staff were very good. The other restaurants were OK - not memorable. The Cabin ocean balcony was excellent - clean, everything working, comfortable bed - very pleased. We enjoyed the facilities. Some of the poolside activities were fun and enjoyable We rented a scooter and were independent whilst in Bermuda - did not sign up for any excursions. The Ship was well maintained and we enjoyed the facilities. The entertainment was very good. The food in the pay-for restaurants was very good - services while good in Cagneys was lacking elsewhere. We would not do this type of cruise again - too much time on the boat and not enough at the destination. We were not happy with the compensation of $50 for a day lost in Bermuda (see above). We sent a complaint to NCL Guest relations - but did not get a response.

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Aug 30, 2010

Bermuda

The overall experience was poor. The food was bland and the menu selections limited to less than 10 main course options . Tried to remedy the poor food by going to the premium restaurants including Cagney's steak house which is just a small improvement over the standard restaurants. Cagney's is nothing close to any decent steak house, more like a low grade chain food steakhouse. The cruise was a constantly commercial trying to sell gold necklaces

by the inch or so called artwork. Staterooms are efficient and clean, cabin stewards do a good job maintaining rooms but not friendly as they seems to struggle with the English language. The pool is the size of a pool found in a backyard, no way does it come close for the amount of guests on the ship. Drinks at the pool -- waiters were very pushy. Even my 16 year old needed to decline drink offers at the pool numerous times. Bermuda is a great island but unfortunately our last day in Bermuda was cut short day due to mechanical difficulties with the ship the compensation $50.00 per stateroom. Would rather have flown to Bermuda, would have spent more time enjoying the sites and sun and less time wishing I was not on this ship. Poor Good Poor

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Aug 12, 2010

NYC to Bermuda

Left NYC Sunday, July 25th, 2010 to Bermuda, returning Sunday, August 1st. The Dawn docks at King's Wharf (Royal Navy Dockyard) for three days. We had beautiful weather while the ship was out to sea (two days out to sea on way down -- one day out to sea on way back) Ran into a little rain while in Bermuda, but did not deter us from hopping on the bus all three days and heading to the beaches. More about that later. Plenty of good food! Between

the two free main dining rooms (Venetian and Aqua), the Speciality Restaurants (we chose Cagneys) , the Garden Cafe buffet, the Blue Lagoon, Bimini and the wok-grill cooking done pool-side while out to sea, we found the food to be great! And those are just the eateries that we chose. There are more. We crammed four into an inside stateroom! Having cruised before, we know that you do not spend a heck of a lot of time in the room, so it was not a big deal for us. And obviously, we kept our cost of the cruise down by opting to go with this room. Our room had the two main beds, with a third bed that folds down from the wall (forming what looks like a bunk bed with one of the other two main beds) and the fourth bed was a folding bed that stores under one of the two main beds. Every day and night the room stewards folded the fourth bed away or set it up, so there was no hassle there. We went to the 9:30 show every night. The Jean Ann Ryan troupe put on some pretty good shows. Second City, the Magician, and the comedian , Dave Heenan, were OK. We played Bingo one session and actually won one of the games. There were some amusing contests while out to sea ( a legs contest for men and a biceps contest for women) that were hosted by Sidney, who is a funny, likeable guy and we had some pretty good contestants on our ship. Pretty good! Also, our Cruise Director was a guy named Matt Baker. He was absolutely terrific. Multi-talented (even plays a mean harmonica) and very funny. He reminded me of Austin Powers right off the bat and sure enough, that is a character that he does during the week. We went to a couple of the shows in the Spinnaker, such as the "Newlywed"-type show that Matt hosted and he kept those shows interesting. Aside from going to the beach each day, we did book the jet skis at Somerset Water Sports, located at the Somerset Draw Bridge. Unlike some jet ski rentals where they give you the jet ski and you can roam free in an area, this one is actually lead by an employee, in our case a very nice fellow named Andy, who some how memorized the names of all 13 people who went out with him. He would take us to various spots (where we got to ride full throttle) and then we would gather and he would tell us a story and point out various things. We loved it. We actually had some rain as we set sail from NYC, so everyone pretty much went to the Spinnaker (with it's tall windows) to watch the Statue of Liberty, etc. We awoke at sea the next two days to terrific weather and parked our selves on the pool-deck lounge chairs and enjoyed the pool all day, both days. Very, very nice and relaxing! First day in Bermuda we bought three-day bus tickets and headed right to Horse Shoe Bay Beach, as the weather was beautiful. On Thrusday we headed out to Church Bay but found it small and more suited for snorkling, so we headed back to the bus stop and on to Horse Shoe Bay again. On Friday, we awoke to sunny weather and decided to try Elbow Beach. Unfortunately, a huge storm came in as soon as we got there. We attempted to wait it out, but it never let up and actually rained the rest of the day. No big deal -- we headed back to the ship for a fantastic lunch in the Venetian and headed bakc out the the local shops, which are within walking distance, to watch the glass blowers and pick up some rum cake! I really like the freestyle cruise , uh, style. And although the Venetian and the Aqua have the same menu each day, the Venetain is the "nicer" of the two (they are both nice) and may not allow you to sit down if you are wearing shorts (men or women) after 5:30 PM. Not a big deal -- if you go to the Venetian and they don't approve of your attire, they will suggest the Aqua, where you will get the same menu and the same great service. This was my favorite cruise to date -- all around good weather, good food, and a great time onboard. Kudus to NCL.

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Jun 1, 2010

Bermuda

Hey. Just to warn you this is going to be a long review, but i promise it to be informative. First let me tell a little about myself. Ive been on 7 cruises in the last 7 years. 2 on Disney, 3 on Carnival and 1 prior NCL. Ive been to almost every Eastern Caribbean port of Call. I read every post on this website prior to going on my vacation, which i will comment on later and I do research about the ports on my own before I depart. Disembarkation:

I live on Long Island, so this cruise was very convenient for me. A simple train ride to Penn Station then a taxi. Less than an hour and a half of travel time. As soon as i reached the pier, my luggage was taken by the porter and within 20 or 30 minutes I was on the ship. Very smooth, I must compliment them for this. A secret, I must tell you about is that the Venetian restaurant is open as soon as your on the ship and has no crowds. Unlike the Garden Cafe, which was very crowded so avoid this. Food/Restaurants: I must say that after being on several cruises, I was revealed to be away from the schedule and having to be at dinner at a specific time. The Dawn has 9 restaurants, so there is plenty to choose from. The Garden Cafe or Buffet, was what you would expect. People complain about buffets, but they're meant to serve hundreds of people at a time. I hardly ever went to the Garden Cafe except for drinks. There are two free restaurants on board the Dawn. The larger of the two in the aft of the ship is the Venetian and the other near mid-ship is the Aqua. I perfered the Venetian because the Aqua had tables much closer together, but they both have the same menu. The left sides of these free restaurants stay the same throughout the whole cruise and the right changes each night. I didn't mind this at all. Other restaurants on board are Le Bistro(French), Impressions(Italian), Cagneys Steak House, Tapenyaki(Japanese Cooked at your Table), Salsa(Mexican), Bamboo(Asian) and a Sushi Bar. All of these require a surcharge, but its definitely worth it. Me and my girlfriend went to Cagneys, Le Bistros and Impressions. Impressions was ok, while Cagneys and Le Bistros was amazing. Stateroom/Steward: Our room was an inside cabin on deck 9 forward. The cabin was the same size as any other inside cabin on other cruises. The beds were comfortable and we found the storage space fine. The bathroom was much larger than on other cruise. There even is a shower door rather than a curtain like other cruises which is very annoying during rough seas. I did my research before i went and knew they're was only one outlet in the stateroom, so i brought a outlet splitter, which worked perfectly. Our room stewardest were extremely nice and memorized our names surprisingly fast. My girlfriend even couldnt believe how she memorized our names so fast. The only complaint i can make is on two occasions they took our NCL towels and didnt replace them. I called reception and this was fixed extremely quick. Bermuda: Like i said I did my research before, including books and maps. Bermuda is very different from the bahamas and Caribean. People are much nicer and on several cases the locals went out of theyre ways to help us. Unlike Bahamas and Caribean where you will be bothered to buy stuff and at times feel unsafe. Bermuda is exactly the opposite. Many people will tell you not to use the scooters including NCL. I feel that the scooters are the best way to have have the freedom to do what you want. Me and my girlfriend rented a scooter for all three days and i must say it was the best decision. Yes, they do drive on the left side of the road in Bermuda, but the speed limit is only 35 kph.(21.7mph) We drove the scooter all three days and filled it before we returned it and it was only $10. We used Ocleanders rentals which is right in the dockyard. Made a reservation online before for a cheaper rate, very convient. Day 1: The ship arrived at 8am. Im going to warn you that Bermuda is a very expensive island, so don't expect great deals. We knew this before so we brought a lunch box. We ordered room service the night before, bagged it up, put it in the refrigerator. The next day we simply put the cooler on the scooter and head on our way. We got our scooters on the first day and head out. We went to Church Bay, then Horsebay. We relaxed here for a while and ate our lunch on the beach. We then headed to Somerset Bridge Watersports, where we rented a 15' Boston Whaler for 2hrs for $75. We also reserved this online before we went. Here we were able to cruise around and explore in our own boat checking out a ship wreck and little prvate islands. Afterwards we drove over to Hamilton to do a little shopping. Afterwards we headed back to the ship for dinner. Day 2: We packed our lunch again and headed out to check out other beaches i have read about. Our first stop was Gibbs Lighthouse. Only $2.50pp to go to the top. It was a clear day so it was an amazing view. After we went to Warwick and Jobson Cove. Bring a camera because you'll want to take pictures. Next we went to a local beach that the buses don't stop at called West Whale Bay. Beautiful beach and very private, perfect for couples because we were the only ones their both times i went there. On our way there, we made a wrong turn and asked a local for directions. He was surprisingly helpful. He had us follow him on our scooter to the beach which was extremely nice, then gave us pointers about safety for the scooters. After a relaxing lunch on the beach we had reservations for scuba diving through Jessie James Cruises. A company not through the cruise that we planned before we went. They picked us up right at the cruise terminal and took us scuba diving to 3 different places for $65pp. Day3: Once again we packed our lunch and headed out on our scooters. This day we had reservations for horseback riding at a place called Spicelands. Also not through the cruise ship. It was $80pp. Ive been horseback riding before and always wanted to go on a beach. We rode over to horseshoe bay on the horses. We were in a group of 4 other locals and 2 people that worked there. It was a lot of fun and an amazing experience. After we hoped on our scooters again and headed to the other side of the island to visit Crystal Caves. The caves were a must see sight and the tour guide gave a very interesting historic story about the caves. We ate our packed lunch here before heading back to return the scooters and hop on the ship. Entertainment: NCL does a good job at spreading out events. On Tuesday we attended a thing called Bar Crawl: 5 bars and 5 drinks with games at each bar. Was really fun and i suggest this for anyone that is interested. The shows were really good. The comedy was hilarious. I wasnt a big fan of the second city improve shows but my girlfriend thought they were good. One show i recommend not missing is the Bollywood show. I wont give away any surprises but sit close. That's all im going to say. THe White Hot Party was also a blast. The cruise director really gets involved, which makes it even more enjoyable. Norwegian Dawn: The ship itself is kept in really good shape. They are constantly cleaning and replacing rugs. The pool areas on sea days become crowded, but a secret is the Quiet zone at the front of the ship deck 13. There was always free lounge chairs and even a hidden hot tub. NCL almost always has deals going on. Throughout the whole cruise they have buckets of beer where you pay for 5 and get 6. perfect for sun bathing. If you are a latitudes member you get discounts in the shops and photos on board. The layout of the ship, i feel is thought out very well. There are a lot of public bathrooms and navigation around the ship is very simple. Overall: I absolutely loved the freestyle dinning. It didn't matter what time i came back on the ship from Bermuda, i never had to worry about rushing to make it to dinner. Cruising is by far the cheapest way of travel. Think of it this way: it includes a hotel, airfare, entertainment and food. How can you go wrong. My main suggestions are avoid the buffet, people are always complaining about the buffets. The restaurants are always open so go to them. My last suggestion is use the scooters. Even though many people say don't, its definitely worth it. Just be safe. Well i hope that you have a great time, To many people get wrapped up in complaining, just try to remember your on vacation. Enjoy it.

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By John_CR

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Mar 28, 2010

Miami Cayman Islands Cozemel

This was our 3rd cruise, 1st on NCL. (Carnival and Royal Caribbean prior) We chose it because of the freestyle dining. Realizing that everyone has different expectations from a cruise, I will post my pros and cons as they relate to me. We would consider NCL again but not the Dawn for a number of reasons that will be explained in each category. The food was okay but rates 3rd as compared to the other two cruises. Even Carnival had a better selection

and better quality. Royal was far superior when it came to the food category. What was good? The Blue Lagoon had great wings, burgers and chicken fingers. The buffets were boring and was pretty much the same every day. The two fancy restaurants that were included had good food but both restaurants had the exact same menu. If you wanted to change it up, you had to pay a cover charge to go to the other restaurants--we didn't bother. we had a balcony on the deck 9. The first evening, our neighbours arrived and we could hear clearly every word they said. My wife went over to let them know as a courtesy so they were aware they don't have any privacy. THe next day, they continued and we realized we it wasn't just thin walls, it was because they were loud obnoxious talkers. We didn't hear our other neighbors at all. FInally, at midnight, we had to ask them to keep it down. The next day they continued to be too loud so we went to the desk to see what we could do. Problem was, they weren't partying, they were just loud talkers...we were embarrassed to find out they were fellow Canadians :( . Anyways, the ship managed to find us another cabin with a balcony on the other side, same level. We immediately moved. Our new neighbors spoke at normal levels and we enjoyed our vacation from this point forward. Rooms are very small as compared to Carnival and RC. One good thing was the noise in the hallway was not noticed as compared to Carnival and RC--better doors? The bathrooms are small but the water pressure was great in our first cabin. There is a sewage smell that comes up through the toilet--you have to keep the bathroom door closed so you don't smell it in your room. we went to a number of shows include a comedian, magician, crew entertainment--all were very good!!! Must say the entertainment was the best as compared to Carnival and RC. Pool area is very small and crowded but we managed to find a lounge chair every time-lots of different areas to relax on the ship including a quiet area at the front. we did the bike and snorkel in Caymans and ruins in Cozumel. Both were great and well worth it. Overall, we had a good trip--we know that it can't be perfect and enjoyed what we can. I have to say the staff on NCL were the best in making you feel welcome and comfortable. Carnival they all tended to not speak English until the last day, tip day.

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Mar 23, 2010

Grand Cayman - Cozumel

Beware of Norwegian Cruise Line customer relations. I had a bad experience with a shore excursion and NCL customer relations refused to make it right by compensating me for the $60 of service that I did NOT receive from their subcontracted shore excursion company. What's more is that the shore excursion management team and customer relations department handled my polite request to rectify the issue with an absolute lack of professionalism. They

care not about the satisfaction of their patrons--only their bottom line. Too bad, this experience ruined an otherwise mediocre cruise experience. Average Average Limited Beware all shore excursions offered by NCL. If you are unhappy with the service, don't expect any satisfaction or professionalism from NCL.

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By Lisa_CR

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Jan 19, 2010

Western Carribean

This was my first cruise so it is hard to compare it but from the stories and experiences I have heard from others it sounds like I did a poor job of picking NCL for my first time cruise. When people would ask about the cruise I would say "The food was awful, the service OK, but the entertainment was awesome." Will probably never sail on NCL again. You live & learn! For the most part it was not good at all. We ate in the Venetian the first night.

Very busy, slow, and a little pushy. Food in all the restaurants are a very small serving but if you ask they will get you another serving, however they seem annoyed by the fact you are asking. Food was just OK. Could have personally made my chicken better myself. The aqua was OK also, food was more on the bland side with not much taste. The buffet was actually very good except for a few exceptions. Breakfast was wonderful! Sometimes lunch and dinner seemed like cafeteria food but some of the food was a surprisingly good taste. Went to the buffet on the "chocolate" night and sampled 4-5 desserts, none of which I finished since they were all bland and tasteless. How can you mess up chocolate cake? Ate at Salsa's one night which was the best dinner of the trip. Was very tasteful and great service. We loved our waitress there! Great seating and really enjoyed the experience. Ate at Cagney's one night and was not impressed. We were really looking forward to it because of all the great reviews we had heard and I have had better prime rib. Was dry and chewy and service was slow. Had a 24 hour small "cafe" restaurant. Food was ok, have had better in many small town diners. Enough to satisfy anybody who is starving but the staff was lazy and seemed annoyed by the request of an extra napkin for the 3rd person since they only gave 2. Drinks at the pool -- waiters were very pushy. They were so pushy, it was annoying. Got to the point we did not order as many drinks the past day because they pushed their limits! Expensive but thinking they are like that on every cruise line. We were actually happy with our stateroom. It was big enough for 3 people. Had to put suitcases underneath beds but that is what you expect. Beds were very comfortable. Room cleaned twice a day was very much appreciated. Dirty towel left in room one night by housekeeper. Entertainment in auditorium was OUTSTANDING! Loved every single show, even the ones I did not think I would find interesting. Otherwise entertainment on the ship was lousy. Went to a lot of "events" and the crowd was sparse and could not get into it. Ship workers were very pushy about buying anything and everything they were selling.

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Jan 1, 2010

Western Caribbean

Pros: Very nice ship, slightly on the tacky side, but good tacky, fun. Very clean, restaurants never crowded despite full cruise. Cabin small but the balcony was cheap and very pleasant. Fun atmosphere. Easy to escape the action, which was plentiful. Cons: THE FOOD and RESTAURANT SERVICE. Both were ghastly. Constantly trying to get you to spend money: on bingo, art auctions, raffles, drinks you think are free, upscale restaurants, drinks,

cokes, shore excursions, future cruises, and the list goes on. Very disorganized tender services to shore. I booked this cruise during a quick sale and got a balcony cabin for $249 per person, so I feel I got my money's worth and then some, but I did end up spending $500+ on extras during a five day cruise, and I'm cheap and didn't really buy much. Embarkation: Very well organized, very easy and quick, but a long way from taxi to cabin. Once on the ship, cabins were not ready so we went to have lunch at the main buffet restaurant. It was the most crowded of the whole cruise because it was the only place open and there was nowhere else to go until cabins were ready. The first lunch was awful, but that was the theme of this cruise. No matter where you went or what you paid, the food was bland, the service inattentive. It was bland on an entirely new level. I have never cruised before and dreaded mealtime. I felt like I was shoveling food in and not one bite during the entire cruise, save for a few things, was worth the calories. It was really irritating on deck when they offered us a drink and then asked for our room card to pay for it. It seemed like it was gratis. I just handed it back and said no thanks. I mentioned the selling. it was non-stop. Every show began with the cruise director trying to get everyone to but strips of raffle tickets. They constantly pushed the art auction, bingo, excursions, drinks everywhere, photos. It got obnoxious after a while. It seemed like all of the staff that were so busy trying to sell you stuff could have been better used upgrading the level of service. The ports were fine, but the tender services were slow. you had to get tender tickets and then wait in long lines, but getting back was easy. All in all, I have cruised on Celebrity, Chrystal and now NCL. NCL doesn't compare with those lines on any level, but I did like the relaxing quality of the freestyle cruising. I loved having choices and not having to wear formal clothes. That was almost worth the lousy food and service, but not quite. When you go on a cruise, you go for the food and service. NCL really needs to deal with this. RESTAURANTS AND FOOD. I ate in several restaurants and will say a little about each. BAMBOO chinese restaurant: Absolutely the worst chinese food I have ever had. Chow Fon, which is a dish made with broad noodles in a brown sauce, came with thin noodles in a chicken-like thin broth. The dumplings were terrible, the food was all deep-fried and lacked flavor. The waiter knew nothing about the menu, couldn't recommend a thing. But it was half price for the cruise, at $5 per person so it wasn't too much of a waste of money. It was bad, but not nearly as bad as the tex-mex restaurant which was even worse. First, the service was terrible. There were two other tables in the entire restaurant with people, but it took them 30 minutes to get to our table. We had to ask for what was billed as a free margarita, and what came was more like a sampler size taste of a margarita. WE ordered lobster tacos which were worse than Taco Bell's worst offering, salty, no lobster and just bad. The chips were straight out of the bag, and accompanied by dips that lasted for about one chip each. the Italian restaurant was the best of the lot. We had a fairly decent meal there. I had Osso buco which was pretty good, and Caesar salad, which was identical to the Caesar available at all the other restaurants, not good. The dessert was decent but again, the service was so bad that we thought about not tipping the waiter. They just didn't seem to care that we were so poorly attended to. They had a few barbeques on the deck at the pool. Horrible. I wondered how they could screw up something so simple as a barbeque. The rest of the meals were taken in the buffet and NY Deli. It was a bit tricky to figure out when the lines were open and which side was open. They seemed constantly to be closing one side or closing early or opening late. I went there many times and the lines were closed. It got a little frustrating. The NY Deli had fries and burgers sitting in buffet trays in water, which made them very unappetizing. Without a single exception, every time I went the fries were cold and I had to request they cook me new fries, which they did every time I asked. There was a lot of variety, but everything was bad. The salad bar area was limited and had just a few dressings, and the ubiquitous Caesar salad which someone made for you. By the third day I just couldn't find anything that looked appetizing. the breads were all stale and unexciting, the desserts were terrible, more like bad cafeteria desserts you would find at your local high school. There was an ice cream stand with sugar free chocolate, vanilla and strawberry as the only three choices throughout the cruise. If all you like is normal chocolate ice cream you could forget eating that. All in all, if you like to eat on cruises and your palate is even slightly sophisticated, you will be sorely disappointed. CABIN: Very nice, clean and comfortable. The bed was a little hard, but there was room enough for two big suitcases underneath, and enough closet space for two. There were two comfortable chairs on our balcony and the view was great. The TV was limited on channels and an old style tiny TV, but who goes on a cruise to watch TV? Most of the channels were cruise ship channels trying to sell you things, which was the second theme of the cruise. The shower was big enough, but if I was really a large person, I would have been squeezed. It is pretty much impossible for more than one person to be in the bathroom or at the closet area at the same time. There was ample water pressure and hot water, the toilet worked well. There was a stocked mini-bar with items available at a cost, and one was a bottle of water costing $6. I thought it was extremely tacky that they did not give complimentary water. There was no noise factor at all. I couldn't hear my neighbors or activity in the hallway. SHOWS. Pretty decent. A great theatre, great venue for watching shows, but on one show nights, there were not enough seats for everyone. They had two Broadway style dance shows with ample talent, even if the shows themselves were a bit tacky and lacking any real interest. The magician was very good, except when he was selling his memory tapes, and the Second City comedy group were great. Drink prices were between $5 for a beer to $10 for a martini. But the duty free prices were great. I bought absolut Vodka for $12 per liter. You just can't drink them until the last night. CASINO: The casino was good, but I couldn't get a seat at a $5 blackjack table most of the time because they were full, and the $10, and $25 tables were completely empty. You'd think they'd open a few more $5 tables. The bingo was really an example of bad organization. They call it for 11:30. You get there, then at 11:30 they start upselling to get you to buy packages up to $100. Then everyone in the room has to buy their packages which took an hour. I didn't win, but I'm not bitter! It was fun once it got underway. The game room was very nicely laid out, but the games were missing pieces, were badly beaten up. Only cards were viable if you didn't bring your own. I couldn't even find enough chips to play backgammon. POOL: The pool is not large but it seemed like there was enough room for everyone who wanted to swim. There were endless lounge chairs at the pool, and we paid for the use of the indoor pool at the spa which was a wise investment. It was lovely, quiet with two jacuzzis, steam, sauna, etc. Very nice at $110 per couple for five days. Never anyone else in there. GYM: Very very nice. Lots of machines, all with individual TV screens, classes that cost $10, jogging track.

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Nov 1, 2009

New York to Bermuda Round Trip

This was my second time on the Dawn, and I am happy to say that the ship, the amenities and the experience have not deteriorated. My boyfriend and I are both golfers and selected this cruise appreciating that NCL spends 3 days in port in Bermuda. This gave us an opportunity to play 3 of the greatest golf courses in the world as well as some time to get acquainted with the island of Bermuda, one of the great golf destination sites. Regarding

the golfing itself, we made our own arrangements for tee times and transport, since services through the cruise line were limited and expensive. Fellow passengers who brought their clubs expecting to use the ship excursion services were disappointed by NCL's lack of accessibility to several major Bermuda courses, as well as the dilemma of having to provide your own transportation to and from the sites. Having said this, the staff, including cabin crew, bartenders, wait staff and merchandise people were exceptionally courteous and genuinely friendly. As far as the food is concerned, this is not exactly a foodie cruise, but unlike some other reviewers, we found the meal options entirely acceptable. Although it did not meet the standards of Las Vegas high end buffets, the selection in the Garden Cafe offered enough variety so we could opt to eat healthy or to splurge on rich vacation foods, depending on our mood. We dine out several times a week in Manhattan, and one of us was in the restaurant industry for years. We both felt the food itself and the dining experiences in the Venetian Restaurant and Garden Cafe were respectable. If your budget allows, we highly recommend splurging for an outside room with balcony. Having your morning coffee while watching the sunrise in the privacy of your own stateroom is a memory that will last a lifetime. (And if you get a cabin on the starboard side of the ship, you can watch the early morning sail-in to Manhattan from the comfort of your own room.) We found the Balcony room to be clean, efficiently laid out and well appointed. There was more than enough closet and drawer space for two, and we stored our two large suitcases and two golf bags under the bed comfortably. We do agree with previous posts that there were times we felt we were being nickeled and dimed for extra expenses. But we simply ignored the ones that did not interest us (e.g. we never ate in a cover charge restaurant), and this did not detract from our overall enjoyment of the week.

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By Joe_CR

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Sep 21, 2009

Bermuda

Embarkation & Debarkation was a great. The ship is still beautiful in my opinion, the crew was very good. My family and I have been on this ship seven years in a row. This is probably the last time we will sail with NCL, unless they make some changes. They now have what they call a new idea for the menus: all the restaurants have the same menu except for the paying one. The menu is the same every day, maybe one item is added every day, they now

have only two full size restaurants to eat in. They have come downhill in the 7 years I have been on that ship. They had the nerve to charge my grandchildren $12.50 for a little pizza in one of the pay restaurants, until I questioned it, they told me the policy is now to charge for each seat. The quility of the food has gone down some, but overall it was just okay. We had three mini suites on deck 11 aft, the room was clean and comfortable. The room was always clean, and the balcony was why we take these rooms. It's nice to have a cup of coffee in the morning, and watch the sun rise or set. Almost everything that is organized you have to pay for. I was really borthered by the fact that they now have a tour fee if you want to see the bridge or galley, they have some nerve, They never let up on the Bingo, everything is now pay, pay, pay. The price for trips with the company to be a little high, you can do much better on your own. Like I said the ship is beautiful, but they now nickel & dime you to death! Every year they make more and more cuts. I have had it. Even for there so called loyal repeaters Lattitudes they have taken that stuff away. I understand the times are not the best and I suggested they raise the fare a few dollars and cut out the nikel & diming you to death but NCL has a habit over the years of not responding to your letters.

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By Sara_CR

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Aug 31, 2009

Bermuda

This was our 3rd NCL cruise. Our first with the freestyle format. Overall, we had a wonderful time and had a great time in Bermuda. We loved being on one island for more than 1 day. I agree with another poster about the pool. It was too small for the amount of people on board. I think it is deceiving to list that the ship has 3 pools, since the 3rd is in the spa and you have to pay to use it. The 2nd day at sea was very crowded and I saw a couple

of people fighting over deck chairs. The only shady areas had tables, no room for lounge chairs. Secondly, they had very loud reggae music playing non stop which became very annoying. My 8 yr old did use the T-Rex kids pool area, but it was more suited for kids younger than him. That being said, the entertainment was fantastic and the onboard activities were great. The specialty restaurants all had a cover charge, we went to almost all of them. We did go for the 2 for 1 option if you ate before 7:00 pm, kids were free if they chose from the childrens menu. Soda will also cost you and I felt this was very chincy. The food at the specialty restaurants was great, hard to make a reservation from your room, I kept getting the runaround. It is much easier to make them from the stand in the lobby or from the Grand Cafe in the morning. The menus in the main restaurants never changed. The buffet food at the Garden Cafe was average at best, more of a cafeteria. The kids cafe area was a nice touch with kid friendly food and lower tables. Our cabin was what we expected in size. We had an inside room. The room was clean, the remote for the TV was broken and I am sure they would have fixed it if we asked. We did have a problem with towels. We never had pool towels in our room the whole entire trip. We had to ask a room steward for them every day. One day they only left us 1 bath towel, no other towels whatsoever. I don't know what was behind our room, but there was some sort of crew area or loading area and it was noisy at night. We really enjoyed the nightly entertainment. We liked the crew entertainment show at the end. The cruise director and his staff staff were excellent. The cruise director (John) was very fun and approachable. We especially liked the crew showcase show and Bollywood. Excursions can be expensive but there were several offerings. We took an excursion to Horseshoe Bay, and a taxi or pink bus would have been fine. We went snorkeling from a catamaran and it was excellent. We felt this was a great option for a family friendly vacation. It had something for all of us.

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Aug 24, 2009

Bermuda

My husband and I had previously sailed on Royal Carribean cruise line and found it to be much better than Norweigan. What we really did not like was the pool area. The pool was so small and you could barely get in it because it was so crowded. Secondly, they had loud reggae music playing non stop which became very annoying. They also didn't have enough lounge chairs and virtually no shady areas for people who did not want to bake in the sun. Our cabin

was very small. We had an ocean view room, that could barely fit our luggage. However the entertainment was fantastic and the onboard activities were great. Unfortuneatly, due to a hurricane we had to leave Bermuda a day and a half early. We spent more time in the spa pool area which cost $20 each day for one person because we hated the regular pool area. We also felt like we were nickeled and dimed every where we went. The specialty restaurants all had a cover charge. Soda also cost you. I had a spa treatment and the staff pushed me into buying their products. We spent a lot more money than we felt we should have. They also add a automatic gratuity charge to each person at $12 each per day. I would rather tip for good service. The food at the specialty restaurants was great. However, it was hard to get reservations earlier than 9pm most of the days. The specialty restaurants were quite small. Cagney's (Steakhouse) was almost impossible to get into. The Japanese restaurant had one hibachi table. The portions in the main dining rooms (at no cost) were very small but you could order more than one. The menus in the main restaurants never changed. The buffet food at the Garden Cafe was like eating college food. They also had the same menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner menus were exactly the same. The one night with the dessert buffet was not that impressive. They had no great displays of food and the desserts were average at best. Our ocean view stateroom was very small. The carpet was quite dusty and the shower was kind of dirty around the edges. However, the storage for clothes was quite adequate. We really enjoyed the nightly entertainment. We also played in fun trivia contests, bingo and games each day. The cruise director's staff was great. The cruise director was very fun (John). Excursions can be expensive. We should have spent more time at the beautiful beach then doing a trolley tour. Overall it was pretty good, the pool area and the extra costs bothered us quite a bit, but we would definately not cruise on Norweigan again.

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Jul 12, 2009

New York to Bermuda

Since I learned quite a bit by reading reviews here prior to my first cruise experience, I decided I would give back and write my own review, hopefully to help out others. As this was my first cruise, I had no other cruise to compare it to, so anyone expecting a cruise line or ship comparison, I can't help you on that front. First, in summary, we had a great time on the NCL Dawn. Our cruise was a round-trip from NY to Bermuda and back. I traveled

with my wife, 2 children (9 and 12) and my parents and two nieces (10 and 13). Having asked them all how they liked the cruise, all agreed that they had a great time. There were some minor things I did not like, but all in all this will be a positive review. Finally, to get sense of perspective when reading this review; we did not come on this cruise expecting extravagant meals, pampering and so forth...we paid for the 4 of us what we would have paid in airfare alone to Bermuda. Since we had been to Bermuda just last year, this trip cost us probably at least 60% less than it would have cost to fly, stay in a decent hotel and eat the same quality of food that we had on board...AND we saw some great shows every night.! A GREAT value for the $ we paid. EMBARKATION - We arrived via the terminal on 59th St. by car around noon, drove right up to the curb, pulled our bags out, and a worker took our bags. We then were directed to lines where our passports and tickets were checked. We then went through security, then on another line to get our ID cards, give them our credit card information, etc. Then it was on to the ship. The whole experience took slightly over an hour. Smooth. The food on the Dawn fell into 2 categories IMO..."Fast"(Garden Cafe, Blue Lagoon, Bimini) and "Real"(Aqua/Venetian and the "extra restaurants"). The First thing anyone wants to know is, how is the food that is "included" in the fare? One of the things I did not like ( I should say I would rate as something NCL could work to improve upon) about the Dawn was the Garden Cafe', which some refer to as the "Buffet". It really is a Cafeteria. The main reason I did not care for it was the crowds and how rude some people can be in here, in addition to the food being not so great. The Food was what you would expect from a Cafeteria, some stuff OK, some stuff not so good. The positive side of the Garden Cafe is that it is open most of the time (I think from 7AM to 11 PM) and there is a great variety of food to choose from, and kids being kids, they didn't mind grabbing stuff here. We found it useful to go in and grab some quick snacks in between meals..that, plus it is right near the pool were some of the positives of the Garden Cafe. Quick note: the cookies in Children section are good! I generally stayed away from the Garden Cafe'. We also ate at the 2 main restaurants, Aqua and Venetian. Both were pretty good, not great if comparing them to a good NYC restaurant, but better then I expected. Both Aqua and Venetian have the same menu each night, with a Chef's special each night. If you are a picky eater, this can be a problem, as there are only 6 or so entrees to choose from. If you like to eat or try most anything, this is not an issue, just order something different each night! We ate at Aqua and Venetian each 2 times. Just a note: Appetizers are on the small side, so if your hungry and like to eat (we often skipped lunch) order a few in addition to dinner. We also ate at Salsa, which was also good. Another tip: make your reservations every day and there is no waiting! (yes, you can reserve a table at Aqua and Venetian..I think a lot of people do not know this and as a result had to wait for seating each night)...awesome! The best kept Secret on the ship is the Blue Lagoon...we ate breakfast here for 2 main reasons...it was always empty in the morning, the coffee was the best on the ship and the food was cooked for you right there, so it was hot. There were not a lot of choices for Breakfast, but you could get eggs, bacon, sausages, toast, omelettes, french toast and pastries. These were just fine by us. Another tip: Blue Lagoon does not have cereal, so we would go to the Carden Cafe, get cereal and yogurt for the kids and bring it down to the Blue Lagoon so we could all eat together in peace and quiet! The Blue Lagoon also has decent tomato soup. The pool has a BBQ grill (Bimini Bar). Here you can get burgers, hot dogs and grilled chicken, French Fries. I only had Burgers here..they were good, not great...I don't know why but they tended to burn them a bit (how hard is it to cook a hamburger?). Note to NCL: you have to do better on the hot pretzels! (they are not good). On the service side, good when restaurants were not busy, not so great when hectic...about what you would get in any busy restaurant. We went right to our rooms to check them out. We booked this cruise last minute and booked inside statreooms on the 10th deck, rear of the ship (aft). The inside rooms are small, but clean and comfortable. A/C was good (I like it cold) but had only level settings, not exact temperature settings (no big deal to us). Bathroom was decent size for such a small room, and were clean. For the 4 of us, this room was tight, but were were able to unpack all our stuff in the closet space, and put our bags under the bed and we were good to go. Since the only time you spend in the room is when you are sleeping,showering and dressing, this room was adequate, though my wife felt a bit claustrophobic at times when all 4 of us were trying to get showered and ready. Another note, our room had no windows and was pitch black dark...we tended to oversleep as a result (you can get wake up calls if you want). We had no problems with noise from nightclubs, pool or other rooms...very quiet. The two main beds were comfortable. The middle bed that pulls out from one of the main beds and the bunk bed that pulls off of the wall were ok for kids was not as good as the main beds. First, the nightly shows were great! Were they Broadway quality? No! But, for what you pay, they are fantastic. Comedian Dave Heenan was funny...he's not Will Ferrell, but he was entertaining. A nice guy too (we did get to speak with him for a few minutes). The Magic show was great...the Bollywood was very good. Tip: Shows are at 7:30 and 9:30 nightly....get there at least 15-20 minutes early to make sure you get a seat. And in case your wondering, this means if you are reserved at Aqua or Venetian for Dinner, 7:45 is the time you want for dinner to be at the 9:30 show comfortably and on time. If you go to the 7:30 show first, 9:00 works for Dinner. Hidden Gem: There is a 1PM or so Magic show in the Cinema on Tuesday...it is all card tricks...GREAT show! The Magician also does a "memory" show on the last day...it teaches memory techniques and is another nice "included" activity...hey, self-improvement too for the NCL fare? Not bad. There are also a couple of fun games and smaller shows in the Spinnaker lounge at night, and NCL does a good job of scheduling these so that you can go to them after the main shows at 9:30, So between a nice dinner, good show, and then another fun show or game later, you have a really full evening. On the somewhat negative side, The "Kids Club" had pretty lame activities ("Ocean Pollution Awareness" for 2 hours for 13 year olds? Why not schedule root canal for them?!) Needless to say, we did not make use of this at all...our kids were 9-13, so in fairness this is probably wonderful for 7 and under...my kids begged not to go. No problems though, there was always something to do on board. In addition, they had other neat things like a towel folding class (how to make towel animals...my 9 yr old loved this...). Bingo was good because Bingo is fun, however NCL should improve this. With 4 kids, we pretty much were forced into buying an $89 package so that the kids could get their own cards. $5 for single card...c'mon NCL, you can do it! Bingo was good, but too pricey...I rather use $89 at the Black Jack table with much better odds! Having been to Bermuda before, we did not book any of the Excursions. Why? You can do most of that stuff cheaper and on your own schedule if you want. We bought a 2 day bus/ferry pass for the 4 of us for $60. The Krystal Caves was $68 TOTAL for 2 adults and 4 kids. Horseshoe Bay beach is free and a 25 min Bus ride. It has bathrooms, showers and concession stand. I bought a snorkel kit for $25 (bring your own, or buy one at Wal Mart for $10) for the kids...they have never snorkeled before and were able to see tiger fish, a Parrot fish and some others I could not identify. A snorkel excursion would have been a waste with them at this age and level of experience. Bring some croutons from the ship and the Tiger fish will eat it right from your hand. We ferried to St George and spent a day there (Krystal Cave was a 15 min Bus ride from there..). We had Lunch at the White Horse Tavern in St. George...nice little pub, but not cheap...3 10" pizzas, a round of SODA, 2 chicken sandwhiches and a ceasar salad...$125..ahem. Welcome to Bermuda. Also, The Ship offers the Dolphin Quest excursion, and it is several hundred dollars PER person. Dolphin Quest is right in King's Wharf (Naval Dockyard) where the ship docks. It is a 5 minute walk. For $180 TOTAL ($60 for first person, $30 for each additional person up to 5 people) I was able to have all 4 kids have "dolphin time". The kids got to lay down on the dock, pet the dolphin and then give signals to the Dolphin to do tricks. They also got to feed the Dolphin some fish. You also get a profesional photo included in the package. This was supposed to be only 5 minutes, but we had closer to 15 minutes of time with the Dolphins. I paid $45 extra for 3 more photos so I would have 1 photo of each kid with the Dolphin. Expensive? Yes...worth it? Yes! How many people get to kiss a Dolphin? My niece did, and on her Birthday! Compare this to the 45 minutes IN the water with the Dolphins at $300 PER person, and this is a much more economical way to give your kids a fantastic memory, and an option not available on NCL "excursions". Other Tips : Soda card is worth it...if your a soda drinker. When you order a drink and get the large version, they give you an NCL plastic cup...reuse this and receive $1 off of your drinks on re-fills! Bring some Krystal Light or whatever individual drink-mix packages...mix with water and you can have your favorite drink free. If your a neat freak, forget ironing and packing clothes carefully...I did that and they still wound up wrinkled. When you get on board, you can send things out and get them pressed for $3 to $4 per item. I had them back the next day. Bring an outlet adapter, there is only 1 110V in the room (at least in an inside room). 4 ipods to be charded every night! Showers have liquid soap and shampoo...fine for kids, so leave the baby Johnson at home if your not too fussy here. Yes, rooms have hairdryers. Some other things - pool is noisy, but you can grab chairs in deck above forward on ship and not hear any of it. Hidden Gem: Hot tub in the front of ship, deck 13...almost always empty and quiet. Getting off the Ship was EASY...took maybe 15-20 minutes. All in all, a terric value for the $, a great vacation!

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By Joel_CR

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Jul 6, 2009

Bermuda

The overall experience was poor. The buffet food was bland and lacked any sort of healthy selection other than a small salad selection. The rest of the buffet was heavy sauce laden poor cuts of meat, the rice was constantly undercooked and hard and the deserts were barely mediocre. The cruise was a constant commercial trying to sell gold necklaces by the inch or alcohol duty free. Every time they ran an announcement advertising their sales, they would

shut the channels on the television off to be sure you were paying attention to hear their sale on products; extremely irritating. Half of the things in the cabin were broken, the shower door, the safe, the clothes drying line, all non-functioning and not fixed even though we brought it to their attention within the first few days. There were cigarette burns all over the sink where previous passengers obviously forgot their cigarette while showering or whatever, but was not repaired before we got there. The bartenders were rude when we attempted to take advantage of the free soda promotion we were offered as part of our booking the trip (although the bar manager was quite attentive and met with us to resolve the issue, kudos to him) On this ship be sure to watch out for the crew, because they will not wait for you to go by to finish their work, they expect you to wait for them to finish what they are doing for you to get by. The buffet was bad. We did not partake in the "cover charge" dining so I cannot offer an opinion on that, but judging by the buffet quality, we decided not to pay for bad food. Lots of broken amenities, safe did not function, shower door was broken, clothes drying line stuck out, cigarette burns all over the sink, mattress was well worn out with a gigantic dent it in from too many years of service. The only activities worth seeing were shown in the smaller venues and could not get a seat even though we went 30 mins before the show to get a seat. Would rather have flown to Bermuda, would have spent more time enjoying the sites and sun and less time wishing I was not on the ship.

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May 24, 2009

Bermuda

One of the big sells of NCL is 'FreeStyle Cruising.' What is it? NCL describes it as the freedom to eat in any of the restaurants at whatever time you select (during proper hours). Well NCL has revised it! Now instead of the twelve 'restaurants' with three (four?) 'pay extra' restaurants. It has been reduced to nine with three that do not have an extra charge! To add insult to injury the two main free dining rooms have an unchainging menu.

There is a section which is the chef's specials which does change, but the rest of the menu is fixed. This used to be the situation with the 'pay extra' restaurants. The Bistro had a $15 charge per person if you selected from the main menu and a $25 extra charge on certain items. Cagney's, which is a steak house has a $25 extra charge. What has happened in a nutshell is that instead of having different meals with the same people, you have the same meal with different people. On a seven day trip it is not too bad, but on a 21 day trip it could be a big problem. The food, without exception, has been top shelf. What is there to say about a stateroom besides the name is funny. Stateroom! How about Closetroom. How much time do you spend in the stateroom. It was adequate with a shower and frig. They were fine. Never a dull moment . . great comic - Dave Heenan. Don't miss him. A four stop bus tour is $80-85 and a taxi that will stop anyplace is $120 for four people. Bermuda is a beautiful country, but last exciting thing that happened there was high tide.

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May 4, 2009

Nowhere

We just returned from our first cruise experience. The only thing the Norwegian Dawn got right was the "NO" in cruise to "NOWHERE." We traveled with a group of 14. The others were seasoned cruisers (and one couple had just returned from a week long cruise on the Norwegian Dawn with nothing but great things to say about their experience). We made reservations at Cagney's steakhouse as soon as we boarded at 12:15 and could only get a 9 pm reservation.

If you didn't know about the necessity of making reservations for the premium restaurants you probably weren't able to make a reservation at all. We knew we would miss the show but were assured by our friends that had just returned from a trip on this boat that Cagney's was a wonderful dining experience. Despite arriving promptly, we weren't seated until 9:30. The appetizers were adequate, but nothing to write home about. 10:30 -- no food. 11 pm -- no food. 11:30 no food. After asking about the arrival of our main courses numerous times, we were told by one waitstaff person that they ran out of food. Another told us the grill was broken. Everyone assured us that it would be just a few more minutes. 11:45 -- still no food. 22 people left the dining room. All hungry and all disgruntled. We had purposely eaten lightly at the afternoon buffet in anticipation of this dinner. We had grabbed wings and artichoke dip at the "Blue Lagoon" to hold us over. Wings in ketchup and artichoke flavoring in a flour concoction. I am not a picky eater. It was disgusting. We decided to forego the show for this dinner. The sole holdouts, my husband and I, left the restaurant at midnight. Before we left we asked to see the manager who told us he was sorry that we had to wait a "little bit." We then asked to see HIS manager. He never appeared. We left for the elevators. At this point our waiter came over and asked that we have a seat as he had dinner for us. He was very apologetic, told us they wouldn't charge the premium for the dinner, but the whole evening was just unbelievable. The food put in front of us at midnight (remember this was a 9 pm reservation) was not what we ordered but we were famished. We ate just enough to assauge the hunger and left. The food was absolutely terrible -- dried out and tough. The rest of our party who had already left tried to get a bite to eat at the Blue Lagoon. The line was tremendous and they gave up waiting. Some members of our party made do with the mints left on their beds. Others ordered room service and stayed up awaiting the delivery of another mediocre meal. For this we paid over $400 per couple (before drinks/gratuities). I have been assured that this cruise experience was not the norm as compared to a regular multiple night cruise. It is quite evident that NCL is running a glorified booze cruise with no regard to the enjoyment of their travelers. The food problem was epidemic -- we overheard others similarly complaining about their experience in the other restaurants. Long waits. If you weren't in it for the long haul, you went to bed hungry. Not everyone on the boat was content to guzzle drinks and fall into the hot tubs. The prostitutes roaming the elevators (yes, prostitututes) and trolling the floors for business later in the evening were just the icing on the cake. I guess that is what the establishment considers "free styling."

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Apr 12, 2009

Eastern Caribbean

If you do not mind being subjected to average service and average food, this ship might be for you. This was our 4th Norwegian Freestyle cruise. The other 3 were wonderful. Unfortunately this one was not up to the usual luxurious standards of pampering that we have come to expect on our cruises. Since our last cruise with NCL they seem to have instituted several cost-cutting measures. The sauna had gone from free to $20 per person per day. The

Mexican and Italian restaurants had fone from free to $15. per person. Fruit juice at the Garden Cafe went from free to $3.50 per glass. The tipping had gone from semi-voluntary to mandatory which definitely affected the service. Many of the wait staff seemed sad and unhappy with their jobs. Some were actually surly. A few were the cheerful efficient waiters that we had expected on the cruise ship. The option of a shared table was no longer available. The food had goumet names but not gourmet quality. Most was served tepid. At one meal CC ordered lobster and got 1/2 of a small lobster tail. We had a good laugh at that serving! The shrimp coctail has gone from jumbo shrimp to mini-shrimp. The liquor wasn't delivered to the cabin on the final night. Instead it was to be picked up at the store for bottles purchased on board (you had better have saved your reciept for these). That which was purchased onshore had to be picked up on the 12th deck. These are just examples of the many cost cutting measured which they have instituted recently. The ship and the itinery were excellent. The unhappy crew made this cruise less than it should have been. The photgraphers were even more pushy than normal. One told me that I was rude for not stopping to pose with person in the animal suit. The food was below average for a cruise ship. There was an extra charge for juice which was normally free on cruise ships. Most meals were served lees than hot. The stateroom was bright and cheerful. The assistant cruise director was obnoxious, but has since been removed. The entertainment was very good as expected on a cruise ship. The over-all island trip in St. Thomas is not to miss. It was a wonderful cruise with friends in spite of the unhappy servers.

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Dec 9, 2007

Eastern Caribbean

The Norwegian Dawn is a colorful ship with a hull decorated with streamers and leaping dolphins, which has been in service five years, yet it doesn't show its age. This was our fifth Norwegian cruise and our first on the Dawn. We had a wonderful much needed rest and made several new friends. Captain Hakan Svedung runs a tight ship, with high priority on safety. Monday, the first full day at sea, he announced a change in course in order

to avoid Tropical Storm Olga --- we no longer headed for Samana, Dominican Republic, a pity since there are usually whale sightings in the bay. Instead, we were off to Tortola, BVI in relatively high seas. We also met Hotel Director Jacques Le Tallec, who proved to be every bit as charming as his name. He aims to please and to that end he keeps his attention on the needs and wishes of the passengers. He visited us in our mini suite and asked how we were getting along and if we needed anything. Vincent mentioned that there were no upholstered chairs and “Presto” two comfortable armchairs appeared in just a few minutes. We also met the Concierge Yahira Suazo and she was not only beautiful, but very helpful and accommodating. EMBARKATION Floridians have the distinct advantage over others when it comes to cruising --- we don't have to take a plane to start our vacations, But, we still have to brave I-95 and its propensity for traffic jams and time delaying accidents. On Sunday mornings all this is much easier. From our home in Boca Raton, it is a mere forty-five minute drive to the Port of Miami; on Dec. 9th we arrived at the pier at 12:45 and had a rather slow but thorough check-in. We were in a special check-in line for wheelchair passengers. There were mixed signals from the Pier personnel and the Norwegian personnel. The ship's workers were attempting to streamline the process, while the Pier personnel were slower and less organized: i. e., “Wait here!” “Come forward!” “Wait there!” And finally, “Come forward!” Our photos were taken, and we went all the way to the end of the pier to collect the photo boarding pass. Then we had to return all the way back to board. The logistics for this process should be improved. The on ramps were very steep, so if you are in a wheelchair put on your safety belt. They were even more necessary during debarkation. We took thirty-five minutes for check-in and one hour total to board. We wanted to check on reservations for the Venetian Dining Room, but were told that there were none, just come early to request a table near the entrance. Freestyle Cruising is a plus for cruisers since they are not held to specific times or places for dinner, rather each evening can be a special dinner unique from all others on board. THE SHIP The Norwegian Dawn was built in Pappenburg, Germany and entered service December 2002. She is 965 feet long and 105 feet in the beam. With a tonnage of 92,250, her draft is only 27 feet and her top speed is 25 knots. The Dawn has 15 passenger decks, 12 elevators, 1,112 cabins, a guest capacity of 2224 and a crew of 1,126 (a good guest to crew ratio). The ships newspaper, “FREESTYLE DAILY” lists all twenty-two dining venues and their hours. Like the personality of this ship (easy going), there are a whole range of dining venues from the very formal Venetian Dining Room to the very casual Blue Lagoon --- We did our utmost to try them all and were amazed by the changing ambiance from one site to another. Midship is the airy atrium with its many crystal sculptures. This cruise the Christmas decorations added to the ship's beauty. Like all Norwegian ships the decor is simple, with beautiful woods included. We especially enjoyed the Venetian with its aft wall of windows each decorated with a huge lit wreath. CABIN Mini suite 11616 on Deck 11 is huge and sparingly furnished, which is perfect for this wheelchair accessible cabin. However, the entrance is situated in a narrow corridor which makes it difficult to enter and exit in a wheelchair. This cabin could have been positioned several feet either to the left or the right and thus avoided this problem, since the corridor widens out in either direction, except for this one bottle neck. When entering on the right there is a exceedingly large bathroom with safety rails all around. There is a huge shower with a seat and rails --- very handy --- a single sink and two shelves for toiletries. Next there is a king size bed with the ubiquitous heavy white quilt. We had this last item replaced with a top sheet and light weight blanket. The bed is flanked by two night tables each with two shelves, but no drawers. There are nice reading lamps on the wall. When entering on the left there are shelves and a triple armoire with hanger sections and more shelves. Next there is a vanity/desk with coffee/tea maker plus amenities. There is a long and rather firm couch in green; then a TV console with three drawers, a safe, a small refrigerator and then a kitchenette set of a table and two chairs. Of course, there were also the two armchairs which H.D. Mr. Le Tallec provided. There are a wall of windows to the balcony, which is twice the size of a regular one. On it were two recliners, two chairs, and a table. How nice! The room had lots of warm cherry wood and blue carpeting with a starfish motif. Our stewards were Henriques and Marlon, both of who were very helpful and cordial. They aimed to please and did so very well. FOOD & SERVICE The service was always tip top and given with a smile. Freestyle cruising is excellent, but passengers should always be aware that they may not encounter the same waiters more than once. Vincent always like to tip individually for excellent service over and above the prepaid gratuities. We certainly enjoyed the variety of the many restaurants: Le Bistro, French; Cagney's, American Steakhouse, featuring surf and turf and live lobsters; Impressions, Italian with an excellent antipasti Cart; Bamboo, Asian Fusion; Teppanyaki, Japanese; and the Venetian, Continental. Executive Chef Christophe Belin should be proud of the richness of the variety and superb execution of the various cuisines. He has the portion sizes exact! On many cruises we have complained of grossly over sized portions; we have even asked if we could order ½ portions, or we resorted to sharing an entree to avoid wasting good food. But, Chef Christophe has presented the perfectly sized portions. For those really big eaters (gourmands) who want more, they will be happy to know that they can order as many appetizers, soups, salads, pasta dishes, entrees and desserts as they desire. They will all be brought with a smile. We did our level best to sample it all and the following are some items that should not be missed: At Le Bistro, try the lobster & scallop martini, Escargot Bourguignonne, Warm goat cheese tart, Onion soup, Braised Short rib and Grilled Beef Filet, and for dessert Apple Tartin a la mode; at Bamboo, the Asian restaurant, try the Edamame (fresh Soybeans), Shrimp & Vegetable Tempura (light as feathers), Spring rolls, Pot stickers, Corn & Crab soup, Teriyaki steak and for dessert order the succulent Banana Spring roll with vanilla ice cream and strawberry dip. Forget the Matcha ice cream (green tea). Almost every one who tried it at Teppanyaki ended up leaving it. We were told one must cultivate a taste for it, but at this time our taste buds were not pleased with it. Don't forget to say hello to Asst. Maitre D'Rattaya Boonyrat who adds grace and charm to the experience. We are also grateful to restaurant Manager Kaya Aydin who is responsible for all restaurants aboard which run like clockwork. We spoke with him on several occasions and congratulated him on his great accomplishment. On this cruise we did not have the opportunity to dine at Cagney's Steakhouse, but from our last cruise on the Norwegian Jewel we remember that we had an excellent dinner. Cagney's menu has some of our favorite dishes: Great Jumbo Lump Crab cakes and Cardini's Original Caesar salad; a 14oz. Prime Rib, a 120z. Veal chop; desserts include N.Y. Cheesecake, Banana Foster Flambe` and a terrific Artisan Cheese Trolley. Expressions is the Italian restaurant where reservations are required, but there is no fee. The antipasti are served table side from a food cart; the minestrone is recommended; let your imagination run wild and create your own pasta course from several types of pasta and as many sauces! The Veal Marsala was great, and for dessert Tiramisu. In the Venetian Dining Room Vincent was happy to once again have the potato gnocchi with Gorgonzola sauce. It was excellent! The Freestyle Cruising on Norwegian allows passengers to act as if they are in a small city. Thus, Norwegian has created the variety of venues on its ships which are undeniably “Cities Afloat.” ENTERTAINMENT The must not miss spectacular Jean Ann Ryan Dance Company, they are wonderfully capable athletic, acrobatic and graceful dancers. The singers are in fine voice , but once again extremely loud! A sound check is definitely in order. The “FREESTYLE DAILY” nicely lists all the special activities and parties on board, while on the back were listed Bar, Restaurant, and Library hours and locations. There are excellent Spa & Gym facilities plus the usual constant array of daily activities: Bingo (high purses), Bridge & Chess Tournaments, Basketball and Trivia games, etc., etc. PORTS OF CALL Day 1. Miami, FL Depart: 4:00pm Day 2. At Sea Day 3. Samara, Dominican Republic: Canceled due to Tropical Storm Olga. Day 4. Tortola, BVI Arrive: 8:00am Depart: 3:30pm The ship docked at the cruise terminal in Road Town, a short distance from downtown where the shops are. Day 5. St. Thomas, USVI Arrive: 8:00am Depart: 3:30pm Mandatory US Immigration inspection for all guests. Great port for shopping. Mary's favorite shop: Mr. Tablecloth. Day 6. At Sea Day 7. Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas Arrive: 9:00am Depart: 3:30pm NCL's private island has beautiful sandy beaches and crystal clear water. Day 8. Miami, FL Arrive: 7:00am DEBARKATION The morning of debarkation, if you prefer, continental breakfast may be served in your stateroom. This is a rare occurrence since most cruise lines do not have room service on debarkation day. They also serve breakfast in the main dining room and at the buffet. We arranged to have wheelchair assistance from our room, so in less than half an hour we completed debarkation and by 9:30 we were on our way home. Excellent, fast, simple and well assisted. Kudos to the crew. CONCLUSIONS This was a very good cruise. Even though both of us have been afflicted by limited mobility problems, we managed to get around the ship, at times sharing Mary's motorized wheelchair. Rest and relaxation have been the key words on this cruise, without much physical activities and island tours, we have enjoyed the “Free Style Cruising.” We'll be cruising on NCL ships again, while on board we have booked a future cruise. Our next cruise, however, will be on Costa Fortuna, Jan. 27th, and on Feb. 19th we'll embark on the Star Princess for a memorable cruise to Antarctica. Happy Cruising!

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Jul 14, 2007

Bermuda

This was our first cruise and the Freestyle seemed exactly what we want in a vacation-no schedules!! The food was excellent overall with only a few minor misses, but nothing that wouldn't happen in any restaurant. We didn't go for any of the 'cover charge' venues and only hit the buffet for breakfast and snacks. A buffet is a buffet and nothing special on a cruise (or at the Ritz), so it was not our focus. I overheard a few guests

were complaining about the carving station being empty, but I had no issues. The buffet food was good quality, quantity and selection. The staff in every bar/restaurant was happy and never said no. The main dining rooms Venetian and Aqua were fine and we never had to wait more than 5 minutes to get a seat. The specialty places usually needed a reservation- we made it in the morning the day before and had no problems. The Italian restaurant 'Impressions' with the French paintings was very good and had a wide selection of pasta, fish, veal, steak and vegetarian. Salsa was Tex-Mex and very good as well. Drinks were my main expense and about $5-8 with the automatic 15% tip depending on what you got, beer or mixed drink. They didn't seem watered down and the bar staff were not pushy or very far away at any given time, so you won't go dry or sober very long! The pool is the only miss on the Dawn and it got very crowded very early. You needed to get a space by 8am if you wanted to be near the pool and hot tubs. It was quite loud all day in this area and is not a place to really relax. Quite time can be found forward of the pool or really quiet on the aft deck, just don't expect to swim. Actually the pool was pretty full and it would only be a dip to cool off if anything. The crew said the Dawn was the first ship in this class and they misjudged the pool layout. The newest ships have two main pools and one is adult only and a bit quieter - according to the crew and other seasoned guests. I didn't miss the pool and found plenty to do around the ship. We had two balcony rooms that adjoined on the balcony, room 9202/starboard aft and it made for a really nice time with the group. The ship is mostly a 220v setup with one 110v outlet in the room. If you are like most people, you have a cell phone, DVD player, iPod, etc to charge up and run out of places to plug them in. I would bring a 6ft extension cord with multiple outlets to plug in a few items at the same time. The outlet in our cabin was across from the bed the DVD player cord had to stretch across the only walkway in the room when the battery died. It made quite a tripping hazard for me on a rolling ship! I would also bring a 220v converter if you have one to give yourself an extra outlet. The room had a hairdryer built in already. We found most of the shows very interesting and funny. Not worth a trip by themselves, but perfect for the captive audience. Second City, Greg Gleason magic, juggler Romano Frediani and the ships dancers had good productions. Matt Baker was the cruise director and really wacky. He was all over the place and ran some funny participation games in the lounges - he really made the cruise interesting. We were late out of NYC and got to Nassau late, so everything was closed up. They gave every room a $50 credit for screwing up the excursion plans here. Stirrup Cay was great and the tender operation worked very smoothly and minimal waiting to get off of the ship. Getting on was longer as we all waited until the last few tenders trips to go. The beach was clean, BBQ and music made it a nice party ashore. Bermuda was really nice and I wish we stayed longer! King Wharf is undergoing development for the bigger ships and they are adding more to the area every day. Skip the overpriced tour. Get a $12 all day transport pass and take the ferry and buses all over the island. Just don't miss the boat!!! We, and the rest of the ship, seemed to wind up on Horseshoe Bay. They have a shower and changing room for you as well. Free beach and clean. Overall the NCL concept is great and we would go again in a heartbeat.

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Jun 9, 2007

Bermuda

Please note that if you are a person who tends to complain about the smallest things that have little or no consequence, then there is no need to read on. This was a fantastic cruise, and I will explain why. First of all, my fiancé' and I are in our mid-20s, but there were people of all age on the ship. It was a 7 night cruise (Saturday to Saturday) out of New York City's west side pier. Here's a breakdown of the week from each day.

Saturday Embarkation - We got to the pier around 11:30AM (The ship was due to depart at 4PM). The second you get to the pier, people take your bags and you don't see them again until later on when you get to the room. At first, the line seems intimidating but it actually moves fairly quickly. There are 3 separate stages of the line - passport/identification -->bag check--> registration (where you get your key card). From that point on we were free to do whatever once we got on the ship. We purchased soda cards (around $60 for the week) in the grand atrium, made our specialty dinner reservations for the week, and then headed to lunch. Make sure to go to the Venetian for lunch on the first day. It is one of the two, 5 course, no charge restaurants. The service is great, the food is extremely good, and the decor is beautiful. After lunch, we went back to our stateroom (inside cabin) where our bags were waiting for us. The location was perfect (cabin 8097). It was located mid-ship, a couple steps away from the grand atrium. The room didn't have a ton of space but we were able to put our luggage out of the way and still comfortably move around. The bathroom is surprisingly big and all the extras are taken care of (towels, hairdryer, tissues, etc). TV has ESPN, CNN, and about 6 NCL channels that give you everything you need to know about the boat. It even has a camera at the forward (front) of the ship so you can see the weather before you go outside. For dinner we ate at Cagney's steakhouse ($20 extra per person). The main courses were excellent, although the sides could have been better. I got the surf and turf which costs you an extra $10 on top of the other charge. I'd say it was worth it considering what you would normally pay for surf and turf. We capped off the night with the opening show in the Stardust Theater. Most of the shows for the week were good, not great, but worth checking out. Sunday Day at sea. Woke up early enough and got breakfast at the Venetian then headed out to the pool area. I suggest getting to the pool before 11AM on most days to get a chair. Most times of the day you can layout practically anywhere on the ship, but if you want to be by the pool, be there early. Most days for lunch we either ate by the pool or at the garden cafe which is the buffet on deck 12 (right inside from the pool). The food is typical buffet food so I wouldn't have any grand expectations for lunch. For dinner we ate at Le Bistro, the French restaurant (also a $20 cover). From appetizers to desert, this was probably the best restaurant of the week. That night we got engaged, woo-hoo. If you are looking for a romantic spot at night, go to the helipad at the aft (back) of the ship. It's right above the kids T-Rex area. It worked for us :) Monday Laid out in the pool area until we started to approach Nassau, Bahamas around 1PM. We did the Dolphin Encounter Excursion which was really fun. You go about waste deep in a pool with a dolphin who becomes very friendly with you upon the trainers request. We have a great picture of a dolphin kissing my fiancé while I'm holding her. Besides that, Nassau is a little sketchy so we avoided walking around the island too much. I hear if you go to Atlantis that's also a good time. That evening we went to Aqua for dinner. Aqua and the Venetian have the same menus and cost nothing, the only difference is that Aqua is much smaller. At night there was a party by the pool. Best part of it was the drinks carved out of pineapples. The Miss Norwegian Dawn competition (guys dressed up like women) was interesting to say the least. Tuesday Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas. This is NCL's private island. You have to take a tender boat out to the island because the ship doesn't dock there. The island was gorgeous and there are enough chairs to lay on if you walk around. One piece of advice - don't put on sunscreen then lay in a hammock. That is unless you think the waffle look is a good one for your back. We went parasailing which was extremely cool. If you are afraid of heights, its really not as bad as it seems. Lunch was the same as what you get poolside. All and all, if the weather is good, look forward to this island. Wednesday Day at sea. Our first day of bad weather so we spent the day inside the ship. We tried to send an email in the internet cafe which was a total rip off. We got charged about $15 for using internet for 5 minutes. It was probably the only time all week that I felt I was getting a raw deal. For dinner, we ate at the Teppanyaki ($15 cover) and it was well worth it. The chef was entertaining and the food was excellent. There is only one hibachi room so make sure you reserve early. After dinner we went to the Second City comedy show. It was definitely funny so I recommend seeing it. Thursday King's Wharf, Bermuda Much nicer than the Bahamas. There are a ton of excursions on the island but we chose the bus tour to Horseshoe Bay, known for its pink sand beaches. The weather wasn't great but the beach was really nice nonetheless. Driving around the island on the bus was almost as cool. We ate at Aqua again for dinner. Friday The weather was really strange that day so we spent some time at the pool and some time inside. That afternoon was the Chocolate Buffet in the Venetian. Honestly, by the end of the week you will have already eaten so much that this isn't THAT great. The setup is amazing and the chocolate is really good, but like I said, maybe would be better to do this on Sunday. We went to Salsa for dinner. Its a great meal if you like Spanish/Tex-Mex. Saturday Debarkation wasn't bad at all. If you do the express check out you leave earlier than most and all you have to do is carry your own bags. If you are unable or have kids/elderly the regular check out is fine. They do it by cabin section. There's a ton I didn't cover so I'll just touch on a few things here; Drinks - Actually not that expensive. $5.50 for most cocktails and $4 for a domestic beer. Service - Excellent. Even though tips are included ($10 a day), it's always a good idea to tip those who serve with a smile. We were worried about the automatic tipping because we thought it might make people slack off but they really didn't at all. Bars - Pearly Kings Pub is good for a beer. We did the trivia on most nights before dinner there. Spinnaker lounge - Most of the evening events took place there. Really cool looking bar. Star bar - we did the martini tasting there but its also a good spot just to hang out and have a drink with friends if you want a classier feel to it. Dazzles Lounge - a.k.a. the Karaoke bar. If you can handle people singing horribly, then its a good time. Casino - Good selection of games and slots and there is a bar also. Dealers are hit or miss just like anywhere else. Make sure to take advantage of the 3 for 2 chips and the free Aces for blackjack. Don't expect to rack up casino points though, which are used for comps. I played Let it Ride for 6 hrs one night and came away with 1 point. Director - Matt Baker is insane, but he did a great job with the entertainment. Wikiwikiwa. Cost - Expect to pay double what your room costs in total Gym - Fitness center was excellent. Didn't get to try the spa but it looked great. Other guests - Like I prefaced this review, you will always encounter people who suck the life out of any situation. Just do your best to ignore them and you'll have a great time. 7 nights was plenty of time so we were ready to get off by the end. Now that almost a month has passed we can't wait to do it again. We will definitely do NCL in the future. The freestyle experience really allows you to make the most of your time. The boat was gorgeous, the staff was friendly, and the food rocked. Enjoy!

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Jun 3, 2007

Bermuda

Port and Embarkation: We decided to drive to the port of Philadelphia since we live in New Jersey. We were pleasantly surprised by the clear instructions, the large number of friendly guides, the convenient parking ($10 per day) and the well organized embarkation procedure. We arrived at about 2:30 PM and most of the passengers may already have been on board but the experience was excellent. Stateroom: We were pleasantly surprised to

be upgraded to a mini-suite on deck 9. The boat is clearly far from new but the room was neat and clean. There was a bottle of champagne in our room and a small bowl of fruit which made us feel welcome. There was a rather sparse selection of entertainment on the TV but we didn’t spend much time in our room. The room was made up at our convenience and we always found our bed turned down with a complimentary chocolate on the pillow. Watering Holes: We were very disappointed with the smoking policy on the ship. Every venue allowed smoking or was half smoking which was not enforced. My wife and I are sensitive to smoke and therefore were not able to enjoy the lounges and some of the entertainment. This was a big disappointment for us. Entertainment: There was entertainment every night which we generally enjoyed. The dancers and vocalists were enthusiastic and talented (obviously not Broadway class). There was an almost boring sameness with the shows. There was a comedian and a featured vocalist who were a notch above the other entertainers. There were only 8 regulars in the troupe which was rather thin. Dining: Although there were flashes of brilliance dining was a disappointment. Breakfast in the main dining room was usually cold and service was slow. We generally skipped lunch opting for a snack in the early afternoon. The buffet was really unappetizing with limited selections poorly presented. Hamburger preparation was criminal. The ice cream bar and afternoon tea were nice. Dinner was generally ok. Special restaurants were hard to get into and the selections were limited. We ate in the Italian restaurant. It had no veal dishes, no ribs or chops and no steak. Selections were limited to pasta with vegetables, pasta with cheese and/or meat sauce and chicken. My lasagna was straight out of the microwave. The wine list was pricey and loaded with expensive wines. Other cruises we’ve been on focus their wine list in the $25-$35 range. This list was much more expensive. Consequently very few cruisers enjoyed wine with their meal. A weeklong glass for soft drinks (water and iced tea were free) was $63 (WOW). Room service was limited but on time and as advertised. Shore Trips: We opted to see Bermuda on our own. The island is safe, the people are friendly and the public transportation system is great. Go on your own and save a pile of money. Disembarkation: Extremely well organized and efficiently run. Great job!!! Overall: Norwegian Dawn is not a terrible ship. However I would book with another cruise line if I have a choice even if it costs a little more.

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Aug 26, 2006

Western Caribbean

We were looking forward to our cruise for a long time and I am sorry to say that it was just Ok, not the wonderful experience that we were hoping for. The cruise out of NY harbor and off to sea was wonderful. It is just beautiful to sail past the city, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Definitely a high point of the trip! My first impression of the ship was that it was extremely over crowded. There were lines for everything! And

I must say that my fellow passengers were the rudest group of people I have ever been surrounded by. Waiting for the tenders to take us to shore in Bermuda, one passenger literally shoved my youngest son out of line to get one person closer to the front of the line. He then turned to me and told me “you stay back”. Not a nice experience. Due to Hurricane Ernesto we stayed in Bermuda rather than going on to the Bahamas. I was happy about this itinerary change but many of my fellow passengers were disappointed about not going to the Bahamas. Safety first (It was a lot better than being sent north to Canada!). Of particular concern was the mass confusion when boarding tenders to leave the ship. We docked in the middle of the harbor and took tenders to Hamilton. The process was slow and the passengers were not well informed on what was going on. It was a near riot situation; the crew was barely able to control. If it was a near riot just to leave the boat to do a little sight seeing I have grave concerns about how well the crew could have handled an emergency situation. Food in the specialty restaurants was excellent. We dined in Cagney’s, Salsa and the Italian restaurant. The service in Cagney’s and Salsa was top notch and the food was wonderful. The nearly $100 service charge for the four of us (two adults and two children) to have dinner at Cagney’s was pretty steep but the food was very good. I definitely recommend Salsa. The food and service were great and there was no additional service charge. The Italian restaurant was OK, better than the main restaurants but not as good as Cagney’s or Salsa. It is set up in a section of the buffet restaurant so it is just not as nice as the others. Food was good and the service was ok. The buffet breakfast was exactly the same thing every day, it got really boring after a day or two. The lines were terrible and it was difficult to find a seat. Some mornings we just brought the food back and sat on our balcony. We ordered room service two mornings and that was great. One morning we went to the Venetian restaurant and that was good. We went to Aqua one night for dinner, the food was tasteless and the service was poor. The Captain’s Gala in the Venetian Restaurant was wonderful! Lobster, beef Wellington, etc. It was a beautiful restaurant, great food and great service. The pool area is overcrowded. There is only one main pool and there are not enough chairs for everyone. We had to reserve chairs at 8:00 am in order to sit anywhere near the pool. The kids pool is good for little kids and there is a surcharge if you want to use the spa pool. We kept our spending to a minimum. We pre purchased soda bands for the kids and my only drinks were a glass of wine at dinner each night. We did one excursion (Restless Native Catamaran), brought two sets of pictures and played Bingo once. We received a bill for $960 at the end of the trip! That was a lot on top of what we had already paid! Overall I would rate the trip a C+. It was OK, but not great for the money we spent.

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Jun 24, 2006

Western Caribbean

My wife and I were disappointed by our very expensive cruise. The boarding procedures was an unorganized mess. NCL funneled thousands of passengers into a filthy New York pier for 2 hours. When they finally called our numbers around 3pm to board, they had us walk 2 city blocks to the ship. We couldn't help but notice the families with babies struggling with strollers, carryons and little ones. Once onboard, my wife and I did not get our

luggage until 10pm that evening. The food was nothing to write home about. The "free" restaurants are always mobbed and it took us at least 30 minutes to be seated. Once seated, the waiter treated us like pariahs. He got even more petulant once we decided not to order wine. My wife had to get up out of her seat and walk over to get her water refilled. Having ordered drinks all cruise long without batting an eyelash, we had no idea the one night we refrained would be so insulting to the wait staff. The next night at the Venetion (the other "free" eatery) was no different. The shows were sad. The magician fumbled his most mezmerizing trick leaving the kids in the audience chuckling and all of us disappointed. There was only 1 tiny nightclub where the teenagers danced until the lights went on. Another club where adults could enjoy themselves would have been nice. The worst part was the scam we experienced onboard. During the art auction, my wife and I purchased over $600 worth of art which 8 weeks later we have yet to receive. I contacted the Fine Art Wholesalers which is the company peddling the art and the company we signed the purchasing contract with. They told us we would NOT be receiving the art we already paid for because NCL had not paid their bill with them. Her advise was to contact my credit card company which I did. The credit card company advised me the NCL charge was a one line item where they could not verify a third party purchase. I then contacted NCL. One representative told me I had 2 options. Option 1. contact the new art dealer so they could send us the art or 2. get a refund. Having felt violated, I opted for a refund. Off to customer relations they sent me. Karnett from NCL's customer relations team informed me the information I had received from their representative was incorrect. My only option, according to Karnett was to contact their new art dealer to see if the art I had purchased was available. NO refund could be offered. Karnett gave me a phone number which when I called, was out of service. I called NCL back and Katie Anne confirmed the same information Karnett gave me and gave me an updated phone number. That number was also out of service. I called back NCL where Jennifer told me the number I had was the correct one and to try again in 10 minutes she then HUNG UP ON ME. Luckily I contacted Amex again with the latest update to the scam NCL perpetrated they were able to refund the $699 charge from the NCL line item charge and is disputing it with NCL. My entire family and friends were planning a cruise together, kids included. NCL will not be a contendor for our business or any of their future vacationing endeavors. I will never take this cruise line again.

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Jun 17, 2006

Western Caribbean

Honestly, I was not too satisfied with this cruise. I've been on Royal Caribbean and I can say that it was 100 times better and more worth it. There were a couple of things I liked about this cruise, although few, but let me begin with the things I didn't like about it. First of all, the service at the free restaurants stinks! We had to wait 20 minutes to be seated at a table at the Aqua, Impressions, and Venetian restaurants. Then,

when we were finally seated, the waiter did not even introduce himself. He just dropped off the menus and returned when we were ready to order. When we asked him to refill our glasses with water, he just looked at us as if we were supposed to get up and get it ourselves. He acted as though he was doing us a favor. Usually, in restaurants they automatically refill your glasses with water at the sight of it being almost empty. In Royal Caribbean, the waiters always took out the chair for you, and introduced themselves. Then they would read to you what's on the menu and give you recommendations. Not to mention, they would come to you several times within your meal and ask if everything if OK. On Norwegian Dawn, you can forget about that happening. The waiters on Norwegian Dawn just drop off your food and forget about you till it's time to pick up your plates. We ate one night at the specialty restaurant, Le Bistro, and the service there was pretty good. Of course, because we paid an extra $20 a person. But that doesn't mean we have to be treated like dirt in the other restaurants. Isn't it enough we paid $1,100 a person for the cruise?? Besides the service, the food at the free restaurants was flavorless and they came in very small portions. Forget about the food at the buffet. It just looks so tasty, but when you put it in your mouth, you just want to spit it out. For breakfast, they had beans as one of the options. WHO THE HECK EATS BEANS FOR BREAKFAST?? There weren't even fresh fruits on this cruise. No bananas, no strawberries, no apples. They had watermelon, but it was covered in seeds and tasted a month old. The peaches and grapes were from a can. The cookies at the buffet were stale, and the iced tea tasted like prune juice. Anyway, that's that. Next, the drinks were wayyyy too expensive. A pina colada on Royal Caribbean was $5, while on Norwegian Dawn it was $9! Next, the concierge service was very rude. I asked the woman a question, and she answered me back in the rudest way. Next, the outdoor pool area. If you don't get there by 9 AM, you can forget about getting a tan. By 10 AM, all the seats are taken, and if you plan on taking a swim, you can forget about that. The least you can do is just stand in the pool and wait to be splashed by the younger crowd. Norwegian Dawn offers an indoor pool with jacuzzis and saunas and a more relaxing atmosphere, but guess what? You have to pay $15 a day per person to use those facilities. Next, when we arrived in Bermuda, we had to wait nearly 2 hours in scorching heat for a taxi to drive us to the beach. After the beach, a taxi took us to the shopping area. The shopping area was a copy of a Saks Fifth Avenue, with Louis Viutton and Versace stores. The souvenir stores were overpriced. A tee-shirt with Bermuda written over it cost around $30. A pack of cigarettes was around $8, and a bottle of Absolute was $10 more expensive than a bottle that you would get at a New York liquor store. One woman explained to us that Bermuda is the third richest country in the world, and their minimum wage starts at $17 an hour. We got back to ship as soon as possible. Just a note, before the ship arrives at Great Stirrup Cay, you must get tickets in the library in order to catch a boat to the island. No one even bothered to mention this on the loudspeaker. I just found out in the pool from a friendly woman who had cruised with Norwegian in the past. When the ship arrived in Great Stirrup Cay, we got to Deck 4 at 9AM, and had to wait nearly 3 hours to get off the ship. People were crowded around sitting on the stairs. It was so unorganized!! By the time we arrived at beach, it was 12:30 PM! I can't say anything bad about Nassau, Bahamas. We went to Atlantis in the evening, and it was just breathtaking! The aquarium was free in the evening, so that was good. Atlantis was the most beautiful place I've ever seen, and huge! When you get to Nassau, Atlantis is a must see. Do not skip it! Atlantis was the highlight of my entire trip! We loved it! Anyway, there were some things I liked about the cruise, which I mentioned before. Our stateroom was very nice. We had a balcony cabin, and it was always kept clean and tidy. The stateroom keeper was also very friendly. Another thing, the nightclub was pretty good. The music was good, and the karaoke was lots of fun. Our cruise director Matt Baker was hysterical. He always cracked us up in the mornings and evenings after the shows. Some of the shows were alright, but some of them were not worth going to. And the last thing I liked about the cruise is that it sails from New York City, which saves us a trip to the airport, and the unwanted stress of delayed flights. Well, I guess that's all. I hope that my review was helpful to you. I wouldn't recommend this cruise, and if you already have tickets for it, just have fun and make the best of it!

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May 27, 2006

Western Caribbean

Just returned back from the NCL Dawn to Bermuda and Bahamas. To preface this review I would like to say a few things so you have an idea where I am coming from with my opinions. My wife and I booked this cruise because we took the NCL Star last year to Mexico and were completely impressed with the level of service and quality of food and onboard experience. We liked the NCL line better than either Carnival and Princess completely. However,

this cruise did fall a bit short of our expectations. I will say that overall the cruise gets a B+. To give scope to this rating, the NCL Star gets an A+. I would like to say this to any prospective cruiser for NCL. This ship is not an accurate reflection of the NCL cruise experience in my view. It was not bad at all, but the Star was unbelievably better. Food: One of the best things about NCL is the freestyle system they have, I won't go into this in any detail, as it has been covered in previous reviews extensively. The food was very good, but only in the alternative restaurants. We ate at all the alternative restaurants and found each one, with the exception of Bamboo, to be very very good. This is not kicked up wedding food. I will review the main dining venues first. The main dining rooms, Versailles, Aqua and Impression were just that. Wedding food that was thrown in front of you. The plating was nice, but it was usually tasteless. I think someone in these kitchens lost the salt shaker or something. In Aqua one night we asked the waiter for glasses of wine and he rolled his eyes at us, as if we expected him to go in the back and crush the damn grapes himself. He returned 10 minutes later with the wine and scuffed off quickly. Then we noticed the same waiter complaining to the Maitre'd about a group of people who had just been seated in that waiter's section. We overheard all of this. I am not accustomed to dealing with the complaints of others on my vacation. Also, on this topic, at the main dining rooms there was always mass confusion when we entered and were assigned a table. We would go to the Host/Hostess and ask for a table, then they would turn around begin shouting in Romanian to the left and right. Then some of them would begin to, what seemed to be, argue which each other. Maybe this is how the Romanians talk to each other? Then A waiter would appear 10 yards from us and the host/hostess would then tell us (with a smile I must say) that we should follow that waiter to the table. It was very interesting indeed. Then the waiter apologized for the confusion and claimed "It's been a long day". What the hell do I care how long the day had been? We were never treated like this was on the Star. Alternative restaurants were a joy. We dined at LeBistro twice and were treated excellently both times. The service rivals any New York restaurant and is worth the nominal charge. We have learned that on NCL, you get what you pay for and you pay a bit more for it. We are happy paying extra for special treatment...its a vacation. We ate at Cagney's and had a wonderful dinner and a spectacular waiter, Lionel. Bamboo was a complete strike out. I ordered Korean BBQ ribs and they sent out a cut of meat that looked as if Al the Butcher got mad and just hacked away at an animal as it was trying to get away. There was tough parts and inbetween the sinew and nerve tissue there was some gelatinous meat, totally gross. The server and the Maitre'd both asked what was wrong with the item, as I was not touching it, but I do not send food back to kitchens. My wife and I both worked for too many crazy chefs and line cooks. Watch the movie "Waiting" and you'll see why. The rest of my party (4 of us that night) ordered some other dishes that looked pretty tasty and I think overall it was a C+. I tasted everything on the table that night, and thought each to be Ok. Honestly, we can get better Chinese Fusion takeout at home in Jersey in 20 minutes and for even less than the $15 a person. The Tepanyaki Room was the absolute best experience of the cruise. If you go, ask to be seated on the left side of the table. There are 2 chefs preparing food for about 20 guests or so. The right side chef was good but did not compare to our chef on the left. I have never seen so many tricks with spatulas, knifes and other sharp implements. Also, his sense of humor was fabulous and all in our party of 5 laughed a lot. Very much worth it. I have been to these sorts of restaurants at home and to be honest they are not my favorite, but this was a true stand-out. A++. The buffet way basically stayed away from, aside from breakfast to choke down some cold bacon and powdered egg-like things. Blue Lagoon; On the NCL Star the Blue Lagoon was absolutely fabulous!!! I had wonderful Fish and Chips there, Wonton soup was great, Service was quick and easy. Just a treat when you want a break from the sun and coronas!!!! The Dawn however, was the antithesis of this. In fact, others may have complained about this extensively, as for the second half of the cruise there was always a manager there executing orders. Thank God, because he saved it. We made several trips there and the latter half trips were far better, but still service was slow and forgetful. I guess they use this venue as a training ground for the new crew members or something. My wife and I could never get our food together. How could this have been such a problem? I would order buffalo wings and she ordered potato skins and they would come 10 minutes apart. Once we just up and left and went to the buffet for a quick bite. I watched intently on a few occasions to see just what the problem was and I saw that servers were stealing orders from other servers. Anyone who has worked in a restaurant will tell you this is a common nuisance. This was truly ridiculous, especially since it was such a find on the Star. Again, the latter part of the cruise they did station a manager there to execute and make certain all was OK, so I give NCL an A for effort, but too little too late. C-. The best spot, believe it or not was the Bimini. On the Star they had food at the Bimini (Called the Biergarten on the star). They had sausages and pretzels, not very appetizing when it is 90 degrees and you are covered in Banana Boat lotion. On the Dawn they replaced this with a grill. They served hot dogs and hamburgers and cheeseburgers with all the accompaniments. Very good indeed. The hamburgers obviously had crack in them, as they were the tastiest burger that I had ever had. In fact, I heard hundreds of guests commenting on them. The lines at this station get a bit crazy at lunch, but it was worth it. The grill dude was pretty cool too. I talked to him for a while when there was no line and he was truly happy and fun to speak with. A+. The rooms and lounges and all that stuff was fine. You could read about them on other reviews. I wont repeat that information. I did notice that there was a degree of disrepair about the ship. Small things like broken lights, chairs, speakers that buzzed. These things were inconsequential to your cruise, but the were noticeable. On the Star however, this was not the case at all. We noticed people cleaning around the clock. In fact, they painted the side of the boat when we tendered at Puerto Vallarta!!!. On the Dawn however, there was no maintenance or cleaning to speak of, at least not that I saw. Again, no big deal breaker, but it was something to note. The staff gets an A. Always friendly, always attentive and always smiling. I love cruises because of this fact. The only problem I had was that none of them seemed to know the wines. I would ask for a glass of Ferrari Fume Blanc and they would stare at me, then take the menu, then come back with the glass. We ordered some bottles of wine and invariably the server acted as though he never heard of them. Maybe he hadn't, who knows. Again, it is not a real complaint, as we always got what we ordered and it was done right away for the most part, but it was odd. I would think a ship sailing from NYC would have some pretty big wine people on board constantly. However, most of the time by the second day the entire bar and wait staff would remember your name and what you drank. This was a special surprise and we did get to talk to many of the staff, all of which were very happy all the time. I think they pump nitrous oxide into the crew rooms when they sleep or something. Itinerary stunk. But what can you do. Bermuda is beautiful and was worth it. But the ship docks miles from Hamilton. The cab ride was 45 minutes and cost us fifty bucks!!! Then we had all of an hour or so to look around and get back. We did do a great excursion that morning called the Restless Native Catamaran Cruise. Great catamaran and crew. Nassau is Nassau. We docked there at night and they let us off so we could browse the closed shops and let the locals look at us in all our sunburned glory. I stepped into a few filthy puddles and got to smell the wonderful combination of dog excrement and bum urine for an hour or so. After that I felt it was completely unsafe to be there and we walked back to the ship. You can't just get on and off the ship freely here. The local militia make you walk through this new downtown mall of sorts where people evidently rent space to set up a shop to peddle their homemade garbage to people. I found this distasteful. They corralled us two blocks away from where we wanted to go. In the end it didn't matter as everything was closed for the night and we all felt like prey. The following morning we went to Atlantis and had a great excursion however. The Discovery Atlantis is great. Never mind what the brochure says about the pool usage. Take your towel and use all the pools!! That's it from me. I would be happy to answer any questions anyone has. [email protected]

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May 20, 2006

Western Caribbean

To all cruise customers, You have received so many complaints about the services of cruise line, but none of them is similar to mine. Can you imagine an “international” cruise line would have no idea which customer does not need a visa to go boarding? I would like to share my unpleasant experience with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) so that you know how ignorant and irresponsible they are. I was in New York to join the 7-night Bahamas

trip (going to Bermuda and Bahamas) on Norwegian Dawn on May 20. I was denied boarding because of the ignorance and incompetence of NCL. When I showed my Macao passport to the cruise staff, she expressed doubt whether I needed a visa to go to Bermuda. The cruise staff contacted another staff in a white uniform who told me that Chinese passport holders needed a visa. I explained to her that my Macao passport was not the same thing as a regular Chinese passport and that I had investigated and ascertained that I did not need any visa to go to Bermuda. In fact, after booking the cruise, I received instructions from Expedia.com, to which I booked the cruise, that infomed me via the CIBT web site about possible visa requirements. I received an e-mail from CIBT on May 15 that I, a Macao passport holder, did not need a visa to go to Bermuda. In addition, I checked the Bermuda immigration regulations provided by NCL web site and learned that Macao is not one of the countries requiring Bermuda entry visas. No matter how I explained this to the cruise staff, I was denied boarding the Norwegian Dawn. On June 2, I wrote a letter and enclosed the CIBT visa information to NCL and explained the incident and request for a refund and/or appropriate compensation. On June 24, I received a letter back from the NCL who put all the blame on me. I was told that it was my responsibility to check my documentation and guests denied boarding are not entitled to a refund. I wonder if the NCL did investigate the incident before they gave me such a disrespectful response. In fact, I wrote to the Governor to Bermuda about my visa status and got a response from the Deputy Governor’s Office on June 22 that I don’t need a visa to enter Bermuda . If NCL took customer’s letter seriously, they would have checked my visa status before putting the blame on their customers. I suspect that this is a trick of NCL who are making me quite angry but they want me to give up. How much time and effort must a consumer take to get back their compensation because of the mistakes of the company? Why NCL does not take the responsibility to admit their mistakes? I will not give up my file because I believe there is consumer rights and justice in the United States! I’ve just sent a letter to the NCL on June 27 to express my dissatisfaction with their irresponsible response to my request. I hope they will take proper action to investigate their mistakes and give me a satisfactory response. Thanks so much for sharing my story with all those who are concern about consumer rights. Sau Hou Chang

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May 20, 2006

Western Caribbean

cruise customers, You have received so many complaints about the services of cruise line, but none of them is similar to mine. Can you imagine an “international” cruise line would have no idea which customer does not need a visa to go boarding? I would like to share my unpleasant experience with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) so that you know how ignorant and irresponsible they are. I was in New York to join the 7-night Bahamas trip

(going to Bermuda and Bahamas) on Norwegian Dawn on May 20. I was denied boarding because of the ignorance and incompetence of NCL. When I showed my Macao passport to the cruise staff, she expressed doubt whether I needed a visa to go to Bermuda. The cruise staff contacted another staff in a white uniform who told me that Chinese passport holders needed a visa. I explained to her that my Macao passport was not the same thing as a regular Chinese passport and that I had investigated and ascertained that I did not need any visa to go to Bermuda. In fact, after booking the cruise, I received instructions from Expedia.com, to which I booked the cruise, that infomed me via the CIBT web site about possible visa requirements. I received an e-mail from CIBT on May 15 that I, a Macao passport holder, did not need a visa to go to Bermuda. In addition, I checked the Bermuda immigration regulations provided by NCL web site and learned that Macao is not one of the countries requiring Bermuda entry visas. No matter how I explained this to the cruise staff, I was denied boarding the Norwegian Dawn. On June 2, I wrote a letter and enclosed the CIBT visa information to NCL and explained the incident and request for a refund and/or appropriate compensation. On June 24, I received a letter back from the NCL who put all the blame on me. I was told that it was my responsibility to check my documentation and guests denied boarding are not entitled to a refund. I wonder if the NCL did investigate the incident before they gave me such a disrespectful response. In fact, I wrote to the Governor to Bermuda about my visa status and got a response from the Deputy Governor’s Office on June 22 that I don’t need a visa to enter Bermuda . If NCL took customer’s letter seriously, they would have checked my visa status before putting the blame on their customers. I suspect that this is a trick of NCL who are making me quite angry but they want me to give up. How much time and effort must a consumer take to get back their compensation because of the mistakes of the company? Why NCL does not take the responsibility to admit their mistakes? I will not give up my file because I believe there is consumer rights and justice in the United States! I’ve just sent a letter to the NCL on June 27 to express my dissatisfaction with their irresponsible response to my request. I hope they will take proper action to investigate their mistakes and give me a satisfactory response. Thanks so much for sharing my story with all those who are concern about consumer rights. Sau Hou Chang

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May 6, 2006

Cruise to Nowhere

This is my second cruise and I absolutely loved it! I went with my mom and brother (it was a gift to her from us) and they had never been cruising before. The experience was so great, that our only regret was how short it was. We booked a mini-suite with a balcony and found the price to be extremely cheap. To comment on an earlier reviewer, I am obsessive when it comes to vacation

planning. It was clearly stated on the internet that the cruise boarded at noon. As soon as we were on the cruise ship, we read the cruise newsletter and learned about making dinner reservations. These were only required for the specialty restaurants. We called in our reservations without a problem for the Mexican place, which was great and with no cover charge (which is why we chose it!) After the excitement of checking out our suite/balcony/ etc. we headed to lunch at the buffet. After having cruised on Carnival, I was pleasantly surprised with their buffet options. The variety was great and the quality was above average (as good as any buffet can really get). After lunch, we found a great spot at the back of the boat to watch the ship sail away. It was fun passing the Statue of Liberty and sailing away from the New York city landscape. We hung out and do agree with the previous poster that the pool area was way overcrowded. We only went once to get a few drinks and then avoided that section. Luckily, none of us are much into pools, so we enjoyed having most of the ship to ourselves! My brother found a group of guys to play basketball with, while my mom and I enjoyed just relaxing by the ocean and later exploring the ship. We all met up again for dinner at the Mexican restaurant. The food was wonderful. We had tapas, appetizers, and an entree. We were so full, we definitely didn't have room for dessert. The service was outstanding, friendly and fast. After dinner, we went to the show. We absolutely loved it. It was definitely better than the shows I had seen on Carnival or at all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean. The ballet/acrobats portions of the show were spectacular. We were there early and got great seats. Though most seats had a decent view. After the show, we went to the bingo event. We only played the free game, since the bingo cards were outrageously expensive!! They had some bingo machine players could rent that cost upwards of $50!! No thanks. After Bingo, we went to have drinks, passed by the Karaoke to amuse ourselves, and ended the night with a movie at the cruise's cinema. The sleeping accommodations were wonderful and we awoke for a few minutes at around 5:30am to watch the sun rise from our balcony. Priceless! Our only complaint comes from the next day. At around 7am, the disembarkation of the boat was extremely disruptive. We had asked a few workers the night before what time we had to leave the ship and were told noon! Imagine our surprise when we heard that all passengers had to be off the ship by 9am!! We rushed out of our cabins at 9am only to find that the boat was still full of people. At that point, we went to have a leisurely breakfast and ended up leaving at around 10:30 leaving many passengers still on board. All in all, I would definitely recommend this cruise. Given the low price, you definitely get your money's worth!

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May 6, 2006

Cruise to Nowhere

I purchased this “Cruise to Nowhere” as a gift for my mother, and what I had hoped would be a very memorable and relaxing trip for both of us. I also purchased this cruise as I was planning on purchasing two family cruises to the Caribbean within the next year, as well as plan a wedding on a cruise ship. I am glad I made this decision, as reserving long vacations and a wedding

would have been a huge mistake, waste of money, and disappointment. My mother and I entered the ship with a very positive attitude and open minds. We did not know what to expect as we’ve never been on a cruise before, but we’ve heard wonderful things. We were excited upon entering the ship and felt it would be all we hoped for. I’m writing this review for other consumers so they do not have to experience what we have. We reserved a balcony room. I wouldn’t suggest reserving anything smaller because this room was comfortable for a maximum of two people. The balcony was a very nice touch, and I would say well worth the money. The décor is a little on the tacky side, however, what I had typically expected. Everything seemed to be going well until we had a Safety Drill. Everyone was required to learn how to use safety vests and report to a certain deck. At this time, we overheard other passengers talking about dinner reservations. We did not know we needed reservations as “Freestyle Dining” is what seems to be advertised, which would lead you to believe you can eat at any time. Upon hearing this, we decided to go check out the restaurants and make reservations to be safe. We went to their steakhouse, Cagney’s. We were told, with about 5 other couples, that they had been booked for the entire night. One of the other cruisers advised us that all of the restaurants had been already booked too. They were upset as it was their wedding anniversary and they couldn’t even find a place to eat for dinner. (Please keep in mind we were told we could only boarded the ship between 2:00pm-3:00pm, and it was literally 2:20pm) I questioned how all of these reservations could have been made, thinking I missed something and we could have called in advance or done it on the website. I was told “certain” cruisers were able to board as early as 12:00 and made the reservations then. I then questioned how these people could board as early as we were not given that option. About 8 of us stood there and instead of answering any questions they decided to “squeeze” us into the restaurant at opening time, 5:30. I still wonder how these people made all of these reservations or got on the ship so early. Regardless, we accepted the reservation. We then decided to take a walk outside on the pool deck. I was shocked that there was only one public pool, and it was extremely small. It was definitely not the type of pool that should be available for thousands of cruisers. The entire pool area and bar was crowded and uncomfortable. I couldn’t imagine being on a longer cruise with these type of amenities. This was definitely not an environment of children or anyone elderly. We sat and had a couple of drinks and tried to ignore the “Spring Break” environment surrounding us. We went to dinner and were seated in a nice area overlooking the water. The restaurant was empty for our entire dinner, and left me wondering how they had no reservations available. I can’t imagine that many people did not show up. The service was poor as no one refilled our drinks and we weren’t even given dinner menus for about 20 minutes. We both ordered steaks and sides. Lobster was not available among other things. I can’t say we enjoyed the food and I could have had much better in a local restaurant. The desert was also not good. The only thing good on the ship seemed to be drinks. I was shocked as I always heard others rave about the food on cruise ships. We also tried the Blue Lagoon and a couple buffets. All that seemed available was hamburgers, hot dogs, dried and bad looking cold cuts, and salad. We still stayed positive and tried to make the best of our experience. The rest of the night was ok, I’ve seen some describe the quality of entertainment as Vegas style shows, I’d say it was more so that of Atlantic City, NJ. It seemed everything was over crowded and the only people truly enjoying themselves were obnoxiously drunk and unaware of their surroundings. I was surprised at the lack of free food, as I was under the impression most was included. They nickel and dime you for everything, cover charges for restaurants, service charges, and gratuity automatically charges to your account. If I would have known the amount we would spend on top of the price of the cruise itself, I wouldn’t have gone. It was a waste of money. For one night it totaled around $900, and we didn’t participate in half of the activities or go shopping. We had a total of 5-6 drinks together. Still, by this point we stayed positive and felt the experience was ok. This was until we decided to back to our room and go to sleep. Upon pulling the sheets down to get into bed, we saw glitter, sequence, and hair all over our sheets. I was quite disgusted. It looked as if someone slept in our bed and they didn’t bother to change the sheets. I called downstairs to customer service and requested a change of bed linens. They told me they would be up shortly. We sat on a very small couch and waited. An hour passed and I called the customer service line again wondering when we could expect a change of sheets. They told me the request was never made. I insisted I called an hour ago, and was told that the girl in the earlier shift must have not written it down. They told me someone would be up shortly (again.) Another 30 minutes went by, and the customer service line called me. They said the request could not be made because we had turned our outside dial as “Do not disturb.” I insisted we did not touch it the entire night. I said I made this request an hour and a half ago, why am I just now receiving this call if it was a problem. She responded “Well are you going to change the sign or not?” Before this point, I was calm and very open minded about everything. However, I was shocked by the attitude and response from an employee, never mind customer service. I told her I will change it, but I think I should have been called earlier, and they should not take a sign as seriously as anyone outside of your room can change it, including the hundreds of kids running up and down the halls. She then hung up on me. I called back and asked to speak with a supervisor or someone in charge. I was told she was in charge and there was no one else to speak with. I said ok, and requested her name. She hung up on me, AGAIN! By this point I was furious. I worked in customer service for years when I was younger and never experienced or witnessed something like this in my life. I walked downstairs to the desk and stood on line with about twenty other cruisers with complaints. Many complaints consisted of room keys not working and dirty ! rooms. In fact, as I waited, I watched the customer service woman receive four calls regarding a change of sheets, and she responded saying their “Do Not Disturb” sign was also on and it is why they didn’t receive the service for hours. They had a total of two women at this main desk. They should have had more employees available to fulfill requests. But more importantly, their employees should be trained on how to respond to requests and talk to consumers. We all waited on line as they answered the phones and ignored the line of people. One man commented “I would have been better off going up to my room and calling” and another woman said “No, I tried calling for two hours and they don’t answer” so I chimed in and said “Well, I got through, and they hung up on me!” I was shocked. I couldn’t believe this is what a cruise was like. Five of us discussed we had never been on a cruise, and now we most likely wouldn’t want to, especially with Norwegian. When I finally got to the desk, I said I would like to speak with a supervisor or fill out a customer complaint form. She asked why. I told her I made a request for a change of sheets, and I was hung up on twice. She told me “You were not hung up on.” I said “So I’m a liar now? I walked down here to make this up?” She told me I am a liar, and that no one hung up on me, and to go back to my room. I requested a complaint form, and she slammed a piece of Norwegian stationary on the counter. I wrote down her name and plan on contacting their corporate office about this rude, unprofessional, and obnoxious employee. As I would hope, this is not the type of individual they want representing their corporation. I understand you can’t judge an entire corporation by one employee. However, I can judge the corporation by the fact this is the person they leave in charge of thousands of passenger requests. This is their lead customer service representative. I wanted this trip to be something special for my mother, and it was nothing but a headache and waste of money. The food was horrible, the additional charges were ridiculous, and the service was shocking. I would not recommend cruising with Norwegian to anyone. I’m going to try Royal Caribbean or Princess as I’ve heard better things about them.

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Mar 28, 2006

Western Caribbean

5 of us inc 2 seniors & a 6 mth old baby, Had the Greatest experience on this cruise. The food, accommodations (balcony) & service were excellent, also the weather .The seas were like a millpond & so the ship was steady as a rock the whole 11 days. It arrived at every port on schedule. If there was any criticism it was embarking in N.Y. There was no preference given .to the 2 seniors

(one with recent heart surgery & over 70) plus the Baby started acting up after 2 hrs of waiting We were also Latitude members. But it made no difference to the Staff in the holding pen they told us just to be patient Non Americans Have to wait in a different line up. We drove down 8 hrs from Canada. Stayed the night earlier at the Sheraton Wee Hawkin NJ (across the river) So when we saw the Dawn come down the river the next day, we had breakfast packed up called a cab ($60) to take us to the ship. Reason, left the vehicle at the Hotel for free instead of paying the $25/day charge on the docks. There's also a regular ferry from the hotel across the river, but with the baby & old fogies the cab was better. There was one incident on the Ship Our wardrobe needed a minor repair, They fixed it immediately, but glued my white jacket to the door . They had the glue removed & the jacket cleaned the next day. Also the reception sent a complimentary bottle of wine for the inconvenience. Once again a wonderful vacation. Thanks Norwegian.

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Mar 26, 2006

Western Caribbean

The 15-20 cruises mentioned above includes short cruises on the Baltic see (Sweden-Finland, Sweden-Estonia and Sweden-Russia). We have taken 2 long, 11 nights, cruises with NCL. The first was around the Hawaiian Islands September 11 2004 and that was on the Wind (in case you wants to read that review too..). Our expectations on our cruise were very high and we were not

disappointed. Some things were better on our Hawaii cruise but it’s not really fair to compare them since that was our first long cruise and we were stunned by almost everything then! So, on to the review: Embarkation: The information we got before the cruise said that embarkation should begin at 2 pm. Since we had to check out from our hotel at noon, we came to the terminal early and that was very good. There were a lot of people in the terminal when we got there and they seemed to be waiting to be allowed to board the ship. We saw the Latitudes check-in line (Latitudes is NCLs program for those who has travelled with them before) and went there. Less than 30 minutes after we arrived to the terminal we were on the ship! That was very fast, especially since we are not American citizens. The first impression of the Dawn was stunning. The entrance in New York is on deck 7 and the first you see is the Grand Atrium. Since the cabins aren’t available before 2 pm we took our hand luggage and jackets and went straight to Garden Café for lunch. After lunch we went to Gatsby’s Champagne Bar for a drink while we were waiting for our cabin. We took a glass of Gosset Grand Rosé Champagne. 18 $ each may be a rip-off but as a start of a wonderful cruise it was worth it! Before we went to our cabin we look out through the windows and into the terminal, the lines then seemed to be VERY long so we were happy that we were there early! Then on to the cabin. The cabin: We had a BB Oceanview Stateroom With Balcony, nr 9576, on deck 9. The interior was nice and the size of it was okay. Some more space for the luggage should be good but we had less luggage now then on our Hawaii cruise so it was okay. We didn’t used the balcony very much, we had breakfast there two mornings and one afternoon we ordered a bottle of sparkling wine and canapés which we ate/drank there, but it was great to have it and it was definitely worth the extra money (it was only about 200 $ extra compared to an Oceanview Stateroom on deck 8). Overall the cabin was good for the money we wanted to spend but there were three bad things worth mention: 1. The first two days it was very cold in the cabin. I think that the door to the balcony wasn’t enough isolated so we got a cold draught from there. 2. No robes. I guess the Dawn only has that in the suites. It should have been nice to have one when we had breakfast on the balcony! We had robes in our cabin on the Wind. 3. No free sparkling wine at embarkation! Again, we got a bottle of complimentary sparkling wine when we came to the Wind. A summary of the Dawn: The ship is very luxurious. The first impression was that everything was top of the line and I really can’t find much to complain about. Why shall I try to find bad things when the ship was so great!? The layout was great and there were no problems to find the way to the lounge or restaurant you wanted to go to even that the ship is enormously big. The sundecks were very good, but we didn’t spent much time there. The Dawn has large sundecks for those who want action and company but it also has small calm places to sun for those who prefer that. Restaurants, bars & lounges: The Dawn has 10 restaurants and 13 bars & lounges. The three main restaurants are Aqua, Venetian and Impressions. The menu is always the same on those three restaurants so where you want to eat is more a question about interior and service. Our favourite among the main restaurants was absolutely the Venetian. In my opinion it has the nicest interior and the service was always good. Our best dinner during our cruise was our dinner at the Venetian the last evening. I had “Cajun Pop Corn” (fried crawfish), “Spaghetti a la Milano” and “New York Cheesecake” and everything tasted just great. The Venetian also served breakfast. The breakfast tasted very well and was served at the table but for breakfast I prefer buffé. We only ate once at the Impressions. We got no impression (!) there, not bad and not good, so we consider that to be our second choice among the main restaurants. That leaves the last position to Aqua. We had our first dinner on the cruise there and found the restaurant to be very messy and stressful, not a good first impression. Since embarkationday is special we decided to give them another chance but they hadn’t improved. During our first minutes at our table four people came and asked if we wanted “anything from the bar”. They need a system to avoid that! If I answer that question with a no, no way that I have changed my mind two minutes later! The staff there was also too much when they all the time during our dinner came to us and asked, “is everything okay?”. Okay, ask us that once or twice but not once every five minutes! (I’m sorry Alex, I know it wasn’t your fault!) Garden Café is the Dawns buffé restaurant. That was the place to go for buffé breakfast. The breakfast there was okay but for me as a Swede the content of it was kind of strange. They had lots of things to choose from but it was hard to find bread that I consider to be decent bread for breakfast, most of the bread they had felt like dessert for me! I never found any sliced cheese to put on the bread either, I guess that Americans don’t eat that. I have some things to complain about on the Dawns breakfast service but I’ll come back to that later in the review when I list Good and bad things! We ate lunch in Garden Café sometimes and the food was okay but not more. The standard of the food was a little lower than on the average Swedish lunch restaurant but it was good to avoid all the attention from the staff in the main restaurants sometimes! The same with dinner there! The Dawn also has five restaurants which requires reservations. Three with a cover charge, Le Bistro, Bamboo and Cagney’s Steakhouse, and two which are included in the cruisefare, Salsa and La Trattoria. We ate at Le Bistro and Salsa so I can’t say anything about the other but they looked nice. Le Bistro is NCLs French restaurant, which they have on most (all?) of their ships. Le Bistro has a cover charge of 15 $. What you pay for is interior and atmosphere. Our dinner there was very nice and all the food was very good but the standard on the food was like in the main restaurants. We will probably go to Le Bistro again on our next cruise. One night on a cruise as long as ours it’s worth to pay that extra money. Salsa is a Mexican restaurant. The food there was very good and the staff that worked there on our cruise was very nice and gave an excellent service. Unfortunately we went there one of the last nights on our cruise so we only ate there once. If we had tried it earlier we would have gone there again. If we ever cruise with the Dawn again, they will enjoy (?) our company more than once! The 10th restaurant is Blue Lagoon. Blue Lagoon is a 24-hour Snack Bar. We didn’t liked the way it looked so we never ate there but I think that the fish & chips we ordered in the pub was the same that was served there and that tasted well, almost as well as on a real English pub! The 13 bars & lounges are: 1. Stardust Theater. The place for the big shows and informations (like the boring disembarkation information!). I liked the interior and the layout of the theatre but it was to little space for the legs for someone as tall as me. I guess that the theatre had around 1000 seats. 2. Spinnaker Lounge. The place for smaller shows and a place to take a drink and listen to music. The bingo was there too for those who are interested in that. Maybe 500 seats. 3. Dawn Club Casino. We didn’t spent many minutes there and even less money! I’m not a casino expert but it looked like they had a good choice of games and slot machines. 4. Dazzles Lounge & Nightclub. We were only there when they presented “Bonus Awards” and then they offered free sparkling wine so that was good! One thing I don’t like is that they say that they give away Champagne when sparkling wine is what you get! For me Champagne is Champagne! I understand that they prefer to give people sparkling wine but I think that they shall be honest and say that! 5. The Pearly Kings Pub. THE DAWNS NUMBER ONE PLACE TO GO TO! Just what we want when we are on vacation, an English pub. The Pearly Kings was a very nice place and they had a good selection of beers from the whole world. They offered around 40 kinds of beer (the menu had 44 kinds but they didn’t had everything in it) and the staff there was the best on the ship! I will mention them later but they deserves to be mentioned twice, Jeorge and Zalryn. Our barfriends on the Dawn! They deserve all credit they can get! 6. Star Bar. The Dawns Martini bar located on deck 13. That was a very nice place to take a Martini after, or before, dinner. They had live music, grant piano, in the evenings and that was nice but a little too loud if you sat on the wrong place! 7. Gatsby’s Champagne Bar. Located outside Le Bistro so we had a glass of wine there before our dinner at Le Bistro. A nice and calm place to sit and relax on. 8. Java Café. Located in the main atrium so the location was good but for some reason we didn’t liked it. The chairs were uncomfortable. 9. Havana Club. None of us smoke so we were never there. 10. Wine Cellar. Is mentioned as a lounge or bar in the brochure but I don’t think it’s either of that, we were not there. 11. Internet Café. It’s good to have the opportunity to use the internet on the boat but the prices make it pretty worthless I think. It was a nice place though but not for surfing the net! 12. Bimini Bar & Grill. We were never there. 13. Topsiders Bar. The bar in the pool area. We didn’t spent much time there but it looked like a nice bar. The bad thing there was that when music was played on the scene by the pool, the volume was too high. Entertainment Of course you can’t expect too much from the shows on a ship. We didn’t saw any shows with many people dancing and singing, we are not interested in that, so I can’t say how the standard was on that. There were two comedians on the ship which had their shows in Stardust, Peter Sasso and Al Ducharme. Peter Sasso was very funny and we saw both his shows. Al Ducharme was good too but he talked too little and imitated sounds too much. He was good at imitating but it was too much, he should have talked more. They also had a magician, Greg Gleason. He was good, even thou some of his magic wasn’t too hard to see through. They said his show was “live from Las Vegas” but if I had paid to see his show in Las Vegas, I would have been disappointed if I got what I got on the ship! Of course I didn’t expect something like “Siegfried & Roy” on the ship so it was okay! The entertainment in Spinnaker Lounge was often game shows from TV, like Liars Club, Family Feud etc. That was okay entertainment to watch with a drink but not something I would have paid extra to see. There were also lots of musical entertainment in the bars and lounges around the ship. The standard of that was high and nice to sit and listen to when taking a drink. The only bad thing to say about the musical entertainment is that they played to loud in the poolarea. I’m 35 years old, not especially sensitive to noice and love to play rockmusic as high as possible on my stereo at home but I still think they played to loud! It was no meaning to go up on deck when they served food there in the evenings or afternoons because the music was to loud! The Norwegian Dawn Crew Show was good but they should have had it in Stardust instead of in Spinnaker Lounge. The best thing was that one of our barfriends, Jeorge, was participating. The Dawns Cruise Director, Ricky Matthews, was very good so when he was involved in the entertainment, it was extra good! Ports and Shore excursions The ship stopped at six places during the cruise: Ocho Rios, Georgetown, Roatan, Belize City, Cozumel and Great Stirrup Cay. In Ocho Rios and on Roatan the ship stopped by the dock and in the other ports we had to tender. Ocho Rios, Jamaica: We went on a shore excursion called MOUNTAIN TO SEA BICYCLE on Jamaica. That took all our time in port so we didn’t had time for anything else so I don’t know how good shopping etc was close to the ship. Our excursion was interesting. We were transported with bus up to a mountain (hill?) and there we got bikes which we used to get down from the mountain. The excursion is listed as a “high activity tour” in the brochure from NCL and it also say that participants must be at least 6 years of age. The roads were very bad, mostly because of flooding, so I should not let a 6 year old kid go down there! It was a hot day so the break when we got a Red Stripe, the local beer, felt very good! It was also possible to swim for a while at the end of the tour before we went back to the pool. I can recommend the tour for people who are used to ride bicycles and think that bad roads are okay. Georgetown, Cayman Islands: In Georgetown we had some time before and after our excursion. The dock for the tenderboats is located in the middle of the city. There were many shops and restaurants right by the dock and since Cayman Islands is a British colony I’m sure that it’s safe to buy things like gold, diamonds and fine art there. The prices of that kind of things are also good because it’s a tax-free area. Our excursion in Georgetown was called BUTTERFLY FARM & NAUTILUS SEMI-SUB. First we took a tour with a semi-sub, which is a boat that goes on the surface but where the “guests” sit under the surface with big glasses to look out through. That was very interesting. We passed two large shipwrecks and stopped by a reef where divers fed fishes right outside our window. After the semi-sub we went to a butterfly farm. A woman who works there told us about butterflies birth, life and death and after that we got some time to walk around in their “jungle”. I can recommend this excursion to everyone and it was very nice to have a “low activity” tour after our day on Jamaica! Roatan, Honduras: Honduras is a poor country and there were lots of kids who wanted to sell things in the area close to the pier. They were not too pushy and accepted a polite no thanks. Of course I could have bought things from them but we had been told on the boat not to do it. The reason for that is that if the kids learn that it’s easy to earn some dollar when the cruise ships are there, they skip school! All kids on Roatan have the right to go to school so it’s better that they are there than out on the street! Our Roatan excursion was called ROATAN SIGHTSEEING & BEACH. Much of the sightseeing was about getting high and get good views, I liked that and got some great pictures both of the island and on the boat. We also stopped by an Iguana farm where they had thousands of Iguanas. The tour ended at a beach that was calm and peaceful. The sightseeing was very good and the beach was okay so I can recommend this excursion too. Belize City, Belize: The tender piers are located in the Tourism Village, a short walk from the real Belize City. Lots of shopping there, mostly jewelleries and souvenirs. Our excursion was called WILDLIFE ADVENTURE. First we went to Belize zoo which only has animals who lives in Belize. Our guide walked us through the zoo and talked about the animals. After the zoo we went for lunch at a Belizean restaurant. They served beans and rice boiled in coconut milk and chicken and it tasted very good. After lunch we took a tour on the Old Belize River. We saw lots of animals, like crocodiles. The tour on the river took around 1,5 hour and after that we went back to the ship. The tour was very interesting and showed a lot of Belize’s wildlife. Cozumel, Mexico: Our excursion was at the Mexican mainland so we never came to Cozumel. We went to XCARET which is a ecoarcheological theme park located south of Playa del Carmen. The ride from the ship to the mainland was rough, even thou the weather was fine, and took almost 30 minutes. Some people on the boat got sick so I’m glad that the weather was fine… The park has animals living on Yucatan, botanical gardens, beaches and for an extra charge it’s possible to swim with dolphins there too. I liked the park but one of the big hurricanes, I don’t remember which, has destroyed many threes and killed some animals so it was probably better earlier. I liked the excursion but NCL never mentioned that it was on the mainland and I think that they should have done that. In the brochure they send with the tickets they warn about the rough sea for rides to the mainland but they don’t mention which excursions that are to the mainland! Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas: Great Stirrup Cay is NCLs private island and what you can do there is eating, swimming and souvenir shopping. The beach is rather small but nice. The lunch we got was hamburger and hotdogs and it tasted good but I think that they could have offered a bigger selection of food. We liked the beach and the food but next time we might stay on the ship the day it’s there. Good and bad things: Good things: There were too many good things for mention them all. The food was great, the service was great, the ship was great, the itinerary was great… What I want to mention is the staff which gave the best impression on us: · As mentioned earlier, Jeorge and Zalryn on Pearly Kings. They are the two persons from the Dawn which we will be most happy to see again on our next cruise! · Victor and Tita who took care of our cabin. We have definitely nothing to complain on on how they did their job and they were always very friendly and seemed to be happy all the time! · Jennifer and Seepa who were our waitresses when we ate at Salsa. They gave us excellent service and they were very nice. · The Cruise Director Ricky Matthews, very funny and very nice. Bad things: The overall experience of the cruise was very good but there were a few things which we will remember as not so good: · The Breakfast service some days. One restaurant where breakfast is served by the table and one restaurant with buffé breakfast is okay. The Wind had two restaurants with buffé breakfast, one like Garden Café (Sports bar and grill) and one less casual (The Four seasons) where the service and atmosphere was better, and that was much better but that’s not the bad thing I was thinking about on this cruise. The bad thing was that they opened too late some days. For example in Cozumel our meeting time for our shore excursion was 7.00 and Garden Café opened 6.30. I think that 30 minutes from the restaurant opens till we should be in Stardust Theater was too little, especially since we should be on shore the whole day. Garden Café should have opened earlier that day! To be honest, Blue Lagoon served breakfast from 6.00 but Danish & Coffee is not breakfast for me, not when I shall be on shore the whole day! · As I mentioned earlier, those who wants to sell drinks need a system to avoid asking the same people a lot of times in a short period of time. The worst places were in the pool area and on Aqua. I know that their instructions are to sell as much as they can and because of that I want to be nice to everyone who asked me “anything from the bar” but it’s not always easy to say no in a nice way when I already have answered that question five times during the last ten minutes! If I say no I mean no, if I change my mind, I can go to the bar myself and order what I want! NCL really needs a system to avoid that. · The volume on the music in the pool area. They must have scared away more people than us with that! That was all for this cruise! Hopefully I’ll be back after next cruise! We really wants to go on an Alaska cruise next time and hopefully they extend some of them so that they are longer than a week when we shall go! By for now!

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Mar 26, 2006

Western Caribbean

First off...any vacation (from work) is a good vacation...is the attitude I always take with me. So, me having a good time is not necessarily dependant on whether somebody can bend over backwards for me...but it will determine how much more I will tip. With that being said, here is my review of the NCL Dawn. This was our second cruise with NCL. The first time was on the NCL

Star spring of 2005. We arrived at the cruiseport at 11:30am. It was already packed with people waiting to get onto the ship. If you are a latitude member, you go to the second level. It basically means you will get onto the ship before first-time cruisers. I do hope they turn down the heat because it was stuffy and hot on the mezzanine level (low ceiling didn't help). They served water and bakery (sweet breads like banana bread) while you waited. This was available for all (main level where first-time cruisers waited and second level where latitude members waited). We got onto the ship at 12:30pm. The ship was beautiful. Pretty similar to the Star (sister ship). We had 8 people in our party. We had cabins 5050, 5058 and 5060. These cabins sleep 4 people. There was a pullout single (from underneath one of the single beds) bed and a pullout from the wall (bunk bed). The pullout from underneath was hard... you may ask for a mattress cover. The space was well laid out and exactly the same as the Star. Service: I found there was an overall inconsistency amongst all staff. There were some cruise staff very friendly and outgoing. They will greet you as you walk pass or come up to you and offer their assistance with a smile...on the other hand, there were some who just kept to themselves. They don't look at you as you pass which does not offer you a hospitable, welcoming, friendly feeling. You will get this impression as you embark and throughout. Just to compare, the Star was not so. I found the service on the Star to be superior to the Dawn. Food: The quality of food was very average and very much like your local family restaurant. The buffet had a good selection...but pretty much the same choices for the entire cruise. It was a little tiring after a few days. The Dawn did not have a separate station like the Star did for freshly cut fruit. The omelet station was part of the one of the buffet lines (long waits in the line most of the time). The quality of the buffet was very typical and nothing special. Now to the dining rooms...let me just say, it was very average everyday food. Nothing special and nothing fancy. The meat offering may be different on the entree, but the sides were exactly the same as the buffet. (I often wondered if they just scoop from the same massive pot.) We tried one of the paying restaurants, Bamboo. It was disappointing. Don't eat the Korean ribs. It was a huge plate of ribs that tasted like something from TV dinner boxes (don't let the size fool you...it was dried and without flavor). The peking duck was along the same lines. The presentation looks appealg...but you will quickly learn that real peking duck does not taste like that. The so-called duck meat tasted like it was defrosted in the microwave and brought to our table. The edaname was very salty. It wasn't all bad. The teriyaki salmon was good. It was juicy and tasty. The sushi was average. There was a saving grace..the all-you can eat ice cream...and the toppings alongside. The entertainment was average. I only caught the magic show as I was not able to get away with a 1 year old stuck to my left hip. Bingo was so expensive..I can recall exactly..$35 for 4 games or ~60 for a superbingo (ie many games using a machine). The payout in an average game was a little over $100 (only!!). We only played because we promised our 5 year old. We found the overall spirit of the ship to be quick subdued...perhaps a slightly older crowd than the STar?? Not as much tempo and humor (and beach ball, etc giveaways at the night shows). I will not go into the ports..just that if you like hot and spicy foods...buy some of the bottled hot sauce they sell at the stores (belize or cozumel is where I saw them)..they are hot and tasty. Overall, it was not the best cruise we had. It's actually the lowest ranked compared to Princess (first cruise), then the Star and lastly the Dawn. So would I cruise with NCL again? Maybe. But not because the Dawn cruise was not the best cruise experience...because NCL is responsive and understanding to families and families who want the cruise experience without having to pay a premium with young kids. The didn't charge a cruise fare for our 2 kids. They have good programs for kids onboard. We know NCL is not the best cruiseline out there but it fits our present family position. Regardless of the not so perfect service or food, we still had a great time.

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Mar 5, 2006

Western Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Dawn Western Caribbean Alex McPhail I will repeat many things I have already read in other well written reviews, so I will keep many descriptions short, and focus on the less covered aspects. There were six of us in three generations – grandma and grandpa in one cabin, my wife and I and our two 12-year-old twin girls in another cabin. Embarkation: Arrive early – much, much earlier than they tell

you to. We drove from Canada the day before, and we parked our car at the cruise terminal the morning we sailed – mostly a painless experience. We arrived at the terminal at 11 am – an hour before they said the parking lot opened, and even then we crawled through an hour of traffic - just at the cruise terminal itself - to park the car. Once inside, there is a “holding pen” for the early passengers – there is no other term for it. At least it has folding seats. We noticed “late-comers” – that is, those who arrived when they were told to – stood in the aisle next to the pen. A fierce woman unceremoniously yelled instructions at what she evidently perceived as the dumb animals. My kids started “moo-ing” in comic stress relief. At the registration, NCL announced they would keep our passports. This was the first I heard of that requirement. I refused – they told me it was required – I dropped my ticket on the desk, and told them to show me where in the Terms and Conditions (I read them all) does it say that I have to surrender my passport. They backed down, and said we could keep our passports, but warned us we might be woken at 6 am each morning for customs clearance spot checks. Incidentally, US citizens keep their passports – they seem to be suspiciously exempt from those nasty foreign customs clearance spot checks. Once on board, our luggage arrived quickly, and we settled nicely into our room. Meals Nothing much to add here you that you have not read in other reviews – Venetian Restaurant is nice, Garden Café is convenient but simple. We arrived at 5:30 (opening time) at the Venetian and asked for the best table to view the harbor during our departure – they seated us at a nice table at the stern. It was a great way to transit into cruse mode. We went to La Tratoria twice (Italian – reservations required – no cover charge), and enjoyed it both times. Try the Lasagna – the best item on the menu. We went to Le Bistro (French – reservations required – cover charge extra), and was sadly disappointed. The food was no better (some in our group argued it was worse) than the Venetian. The service at Le Bistro was incompetent and rude. The wine (more on that later) was equally disappointing. We tried La Salsa one night (Mexican food – reservations required, no cover charge). The food was in keeping with the Venetian Restaurant – worth a try. The Blue Lagoon is a hidden gem, not to be overlooked. Always open, it is a great place to go for a snack or light meal. I recommend the chili con carne. As a general rule, avoid steaks in all restaurants – they are disappointing. One steak was so riddled with gristle and fat that my father-in-law literally could not eat it – we had to send it back. Wine The first thing you need to know is you can not take your own wine on board. They search all your belongings – every time you board – and confiscate all alcohol, and return it to you at the end of the trip. All restaurants have the same wine list – a meddling selection of traditional and new world wines at severely over-inflated prices. We ordered a Greg Norman Estates Limestone Coast Shiraz – I think for about $38. I ordered an identical bottle of that wine two days after the cruise at the Ruby Tuesday’s Restaurant in Syracuse, NY for $18. We sent back three bottles – three in 11 days!!! – because they were not even close to acceptable. One, a Chateau Neuf du Pape, was worse than undrinkable. Some others, that we did not send back, we drank reluctantly. One, a Billi Billi, was good one night, but when we ordered another bottle a different night, it was disappointing. Clearly the ship does not have an adequate facility to store the wine, or if it does, they are not operating it properly. At the high prices they charge, patrons deserve substantially more. It is the one aspect of the trip in which I considered to be predatory. One good thing about wine – they will save a partially finished bottle of wine for you somewhere on the ship. Go to any restaurant afterwards, and ask for your wine, and they will bring your unfinished bottle to your table. This allows you to open a second bottle late in the meal without wondering how you are going to finish it. Service Read the other reviews. The service is great. As a general rule, if you want something, ask. If something goes wrong, complain gently. You do not have to raise a stink to make things happen – most employees are very accommodating. The restaurant staff rotates from restaurant to restaurant – so you often see the same person working in different places. This is both good and bad. The good part is that they become knowledgeable about the ship’s services, and are accustomed to being helpful and friendly no matter what their immediate job is. The bad part is that they do not receive enough training for their specific duties. Our head waiter at Le Bistro, for example, clearly was untrained (or just plain dumb) in some of the fundamentals, such as assisting in the menu selection, taking food orders, and overall courtesy. We later saw him in a supportive role at a table in the Venetian, which appeared to be more his speed. Once one the ship, NCL automatically charges your account $10/day/person ($5 for kids) in gratuities – that was an extra $550 for our family. I have never understood this practice - I don’t know why they don’t add the gratuity to the fare up front. Every time you order anything that costs extra – wine, soft drinks, cocktails, etc. – NCL automatically charges you 15% gratuity on top of the base cost. The bill that you sign includes a place to add even more gratuity if you want – something I did on a couple of occasions because of the outstanding service we received. The cost of extras is inconsistent. I was charged anywhere from $6 to $10 for the same Rum Punch drink (trust me, I sampled quite a few of them), depending on which bar you are at. Even at the same bar, the price varies as the day wears on. I could never figure it out. One of our daughters loves chocolate milk – it was considered part of the meal at the Venetian, but was a $6 extra (plus tip) at the poolside bar. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to their drink charges. Fortunately our girls are not soft drink junkies, so we did not feel cornered into buying the pass. Entertainment This is well covered in other posts. Overall, it was very good. There were two comedy acts, a ventriloquist, a juggling act, and a magician. All were well done. They also have a dance troop that presented two shows: a musical/dance show, and then their trademark “Bollywood” (a la Circque de Soleil) show. We learned that was the dance troop’s last performance on board the Dawn – they are moving on. Communications Amazingly, my BlackBerry worked all the time while at sea – everywhere – even when we were hundreds of miles from shore and clearly out of range of the closest cell phone tower. I had uninterrupted access to email, text messaging, and I cell phone (I never called anyone, but I ignored many incoming calls). The ship has a GSM/GPRS compliant cell wireless network. They turn off the network when in port – presumably to prevent on-shore people nearby the ship freeloading off its wireless network. The 50 hours of Internet I purchased was wasted because of the BlackBerry access – I only used about 3 hours of my 50. Considering the up-to-date technology they use for the cell phone wireless network, I was disappointed they have only an 802.1B compliant Wi-Fi for laptops – that is an outdated standard that operates at the slower 11 Mbit/s. Equally strange, I purchased Internet access for my laptop, but that account did not let me use any of the dozen desktops they have at their Internet café. Inexplicably, you need to purchase a separate Internet access account if you want to use a desktop, or a printer. Fellow Passengers This is not so much an NCL issue, but it is a factor to consider. Okay, so we’re polite Canadians, which means we must say “eh” a lot while walking “aboot” the ship. Keep in mind, though, that we’ve traveled to 50 countries in 5 continents – only to say we’re not your Igloo recluse stereotyped Canadian family. For the most part, passengers on the ship were just like us – families in need of a good vacation, looking to get as much as they can out of the short time they have, while at the same time being respectful enough to other people’s space. We universally found, however, that a number of our fellow passengers to be pushy, inconsiderate, and in a few cases, downright abusive. It nearly came to blows when one large, lumbering belligerent fellow aggressively blocked the door to the exterior deck. He literally stood in the doorway with elbows angled sideways, filling the passageway to prevent others from getting through. I made my way through, of course, but not without a little “persuasion”. Call me old-fashioned, but if you’re about to sit down at a table already occupied by someone, you ask if there is space available. With six of us in our group, we had to select the larger tables at the Garden Café, and we often found ourselves literally having to fend off would-be squatters who sat down without a word. One couple refused to leave after I explained four others (who were fetching their meal from the buffet) were joining us. Fortunately, the table right behind me opened up, sparing us from another scene. Shore Excursions I read all the literature, and went to the shore excursion session before selecting our excursions. Ocho Rios – we did a bus tour – the Best of Ochos Rios. Nothing in the description said we would require bathing suits. The entire busload was dropped off at Dunn’s River and beach, and left there to hang out for 3 hours. Disappointing. Grand Cayman – Stingray City Tour. Stingray City is a submerged sandbar about 5 miles off shore where the water comes up to your hips. Stingrays swim around looking for food that the thousands of people offer every day. There were about 12 boats anchored on the sandbar when we arrived. The tour includes a snorkel and mask, letting you go below and actually feed the stingrays yourself. Our kids loved it. Belize – Ariel Trek and Cave Tubing. Overall, it was fun. Zip lining is not for the faint of heart, as the couple ahead of us proved. You strap your butt into a harness, and then “zip” from tree top to tree top, suspended from a long wire. Don’t go if you are afraid of heights. My kids loved it, and wanted to go again. I was impressed by the attention to detail and safety – redundant everything – and by the attentiveness of the staff – your harness is triple checked – by three different people – before you make your first zip. The repelling was a good rush. The cave tubing was fun, too, but it was not well organized. You spend too much time trekking across the bush carrying your tube to get to the start point – it wasted too much time. The legal waiver for this excursion was extreme – you basically absolved them of anything and everything, and forfeited your right to sue under any circumstances. I didn’t sign it or hand it in – no one noticed. Honduras – Tabyana Beach party – it was a day at the beach. The bus ride there was spooky – a 50’s vintage school bus crawling along a skinny mountainous path with sudden drops on both sides with no guard rails. The beach itself was nice, the included lunch was OK. At Cozumel we took a taxi to Paradise Beach – it was fine until they told us, after being there for two hours, that we had to order a drink if we were wanted to keep our umbrellas. This, after speaking with the greeter who assured us the beach was free and there were no hidden charges. I told him where to go, and he backed off.

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Feb 9, 2006

Western Caribbean

The best things about our cruise: The ship was lovely and very clean. The crew and staff were excellent, very friendly and attentive. Restaurants were on the whole good best for evening meals - La Salsa followed closely by Cagney's then Bamboo, breakfast was excellent in the Garden self service areas. Cabin was spacious, clean and well equipped, restroom was adequate for space and excellent shower, good storage, loved the towel sculptures.

Spinnaker lounge was great with super views out to sea. Disembarkation was slow but efficient considering over 2000 passengers had to pass through the Port Authority. The worst things about our cruise: Although obviously not the fault of NCL the snow held up embarkation. We had to stand in a queue for 5 hours before we finally went through customs and onto the ship. Not at all happy with the gratuity system, we prefer to reward good service after we have received it and think this must be NCL s way of upping the staff wages. Although the specialty restaurants were very good we thought the cover charges a bit extortionate considering we had paid for a cruise including full board, the food in the Aqua and Venetian restaurants was poorly presented and the service wasn t always courteous and efficient (the portions could have been larger). Apart from Belize, we did the river safari, the shore excursions were very poor value for money but when we pointed this out to the staff they didn t seem very interested and just gave us a form to fill in, we got the feeling it wouldn t make any difference if we did complete it so didn t bother. Apart from Roatan it is best to book trips directly on the port side. Our biggest disappointment was the Freestyle cruising, it is not for us. We have cruised with P&O and enjoy getting dressed for dinner, not necessarily formal but at least out of shorts and T-shirts etc. We are in our mid 50s and definitely will not be Freestyle cruising again, the people we spoke to in our age group agreed with us, but note the people we talked to who really enjoyed it all had children. It s back to P&O for us.

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Feb 2, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Line NCL Dawn Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Bruce This was our 3rd cruise, our first on NCL. My wife, 2 kids and I have previously cruised with Carnival and RCC. We are from Upstate, NY so we drove to the pier in NYC. It was a 2.5 hour ride and getting to the pier was very easy. We parked at the pier and paid the monthly rate of $180 not the $25 a day price. They don’t post this monthly rate, so ask for it.

We enjoyed the cruise very much. We are planning on going again next year out of NYC, probably Western Caribbean maybe on the Dawn. Embarkation: We got to the pier and unloaded our luggage at the curb. I parked the car while my wife and 2 kids waited for me to get back. We gave our luggage to a porter, along with five bucks and proceeded inside. There were drinks and snacks inside the staging area which was a nice gesture. Things were organized and moved along well for having 1000 plus people in the big room. It was almost exactly 2 hours from the time we pulled into the pier to the time we stepped on the ship. Room: We had an inside room on deck 9. The room was quite small. Large enough for two people but not large enough for four people. I was a little worried that there was only 1 bed on the wall that folds down. I was wondering where my other child was going to sleep. The cabin steward came in and pulled a bed out from under the other bed. While this gave us enough room to sleep, the beds took up virtually the entire room. The bathroom was spacious and well designed. The shower was large and well designed. Storage in the small room was adequate and we keep our luggage in the closet and under the beds. Many days we put the desk chair and small stool in the shower to give us enough space to get dressed in our room. Next year I may splurge and get a room with more sq footage. Also, don’t forget to bring a power strip with multiple plugs. There is only one outlet in the room. Food: - The food was not up to par. I laughed every time I read a review where someone said that before I went. I thought to myself, man they must be picky eaters. But, while it was not 'bad' it was not up to par either. If you like good beef like me, you’re in trouble. I agree with other reviewer’s comments that they are trying to drive steak eaters to the $25 dollar a plate Cagney's restaurant. We went there one night and it was very good, not the best I’ve ever had, but the best food by far the 10 days on the Dawn. The shrimp was excellent there too. Forget about shrimp at the regular dining areas, it is nowhere to be found. Some nights the only food worth eating was on the menu at the specialty restaurants. All the food was presented with elegance and you could see the care the chefs put into the dishes. Whoever creates the menus needs to rethink their selections. If you like Mexican, make your reservations early for Salsas. We could not get reservations after the 3rd night. You can make your reservations way ahead of time, like the first night for the entire cruise. Then just cancel before 5pm if you change your mind. Again, the food here was good, but nothing to email home about. The buffet was not bad, ate there more then I wanted to. Some days better than others. Again, presented well, and maintained well by the staff, but the menu planner needs a kick in the pants. The outside BBQ by the pool was nice. Also really enjoyed the Tex-mex food by the pool that one night. The entertainment was not as good as I had hoped. Bollywood was Excellent, but the other shows were.......lacking. As a couple in our late 30's I thought the music in the shows were more for the "Mature" audience. If you like big band music, you’re in luck. I am personally not big on horns. The overall entertainment was good for what it was, but I felt it was more geared for an older crowd. The gym was very nice, but was never able to get an elliptical machine. The Fitness center could use a couple more. With a little persistence and patience I could have gotten one if I wanted to stand around for a half hour at the heels of the machine. Overall, the appearance of the fitness area was very clean and appealing. I thought the service was very good. Only twice would I have complained, and both were very minor. Like the guy at the "shore excursion" desk yelling at me for picking up the display of a backpack they had on sale. Was going to buy one, but changed my mind after that. But I will say it was the last day on the ship and the guy did look quite stressed out. Many others I talked with were disappointed with the service. I think more from a point of always having different serving staff, so servers never get to know you or your preferences. I also miss the quirky little shows the serving staff on the other ships put on every night. I thought the art auction was held in the wrong place. Need a larger venue such as spinnakers. Dazzles was just too small. If you have small kids, there is an area in the back of deck 12 with pools just for kids. This was great. The kids loved them and the slides. Plus the adults could sit in the hot tub there. Great place to get to know the other parents and kids on the ship. Plus when you pull out of ports there is a great view. The only problem was getting there. Every time we went to go there the stairs from deck 11 to get there were closed so we had to parade through the fitness center to get there. The kids camp was spacious and the staff was probably the best trained out of all the ships we have been on. They keep the kids very busy and active every second they are there. I would like to see them have the option for the kids to choose some time to relax. A TV room or quiet game area where the kids can relax on days where they don’t want to be going full speed. PORTS: With 2 kids, we knew the ports were not going to be super exciting. Our goal was to get to the beach and maybe do some shopping. St Thomas. We grabbed a cab and went to the beach. This was nice, but not cheap. Cost 8 bucks per person each way, plus a small fee to get on the beach. The trip to Megan’s beach cost us a little over $80 just to get there. Tortola: Walked off the ship and around the port. Not much there to see or do without taking a taxi or excursion. Went back to the ship and hit the pool and hot tub. St. Maarten, was our favorite port. Lots of great shopping, and an easy to get to beach. Coronas were only a buck fifty too. That was a bonus. Was hoping to catch a cab to Orient beach, but never made it. Best port by far. SUMMARY Overall this was a very good cruise. I really like leaving from NY and not having to fly to a port to catch the ship. For the price it was a good bargain. The ship was clean, well kept and beautiful inside and out. A slight improvement is needed in the food selection and quality. Would also like to see some entertainment/music focused to a slightly younger audience. PS: Loved the Margarita tasting. Gave us 4 or 5 huge drinks to try in an hour. All were really, really good. I had trouble walking back to my room.. I was quite HAMMERED!  

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Feb 1, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Line NCL Dawn Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Dayna We had a great time! This was my husband's and my first cruise and it was ten days; the ports were St. Thomas, Tortola, St. Martin, Tortola and Puerto Rico and Great Stirrup Cay. There were only three things that I can say I didn't like, and one of them could not be helped-mother nature. Coming back to NYC, there was a terrible snow storm and the boat rocked and

rocked and I got seasick. The other thing was the Garden Cafe, which was buffet style eating....breakfast isn't bad, but the rest of the meals were. Yuck! go to any of the other restaurants to eat lunch and dinner. Also, would have liked to spend more time in Great Stirrup Cay, we only had a few hours there instead of a day like the other places. Other than that, life at sea was great. We saw three excellent shows in the stardust theater, it was Las Vegas style entertainment! The casino was also very nice. Slots, black jack, Texas hold 'em, etc... The pool and four Jacuzzis were heavenly. They also had a spa which we did not partake of. We had an inside state room, 5577, it it was very nice. Always kept clean by the housekeeping staff, we were also only a few doors down from the guest laundry, where there were three washers and dryers which we used. The ship itself was opulent and beautiful, the main atrium was huge! All of the bars, the restaurants, the lounges, even the bathrooms were kept clean and neat. The staff was very friendly....a note about the $10 per person per day-we took it all off at the end of the cruise, it wasn't a big deal. The one thing we could not take off was the automatic tip for drinks. That stayed. Drinks were between $5-$7. All of the staff was very nice. The cooks, the wait staff, the maids, the bartenders, the reception staff, everyone was just great. The only thing to tell you is that all of the folks I just mentioned are not American; they are from Romania, Jamaica, Indonesia, etc... so there is a language issue but you get over that in a few days. If you feel the need to tip them individually, do so, but you are not required to; everyone is still just as nice. Embarkation was smooth, once we found the Pier, NYC is a crazy place! We got there extra early and we just needed our birth certificates and a picture ID. We got there early, about 10 a.m., did the check in and were on board at noon. Boarding wasn't supposed to start until 2! Not sure about the new rules, but we may need passports next time we go. No need to bring a lot dressy clothes unless you just want to. I saw people dressed very casually to very fancy; they do take formal pictures in the evening, so dress up for that if you want. The ports were all great! I liked St. Martin the best, I'd like to stay there for about two weeks next year. A note: if you plan on getting around on the islands to places that aren't walkable, have extra cash for taxis/buses and mind you they are not cheap-$6 per person. I found all of the locals to be very friendly and in the markets if you see something you like and want to haggle, try it. We did a few times and ended up paying a few bucks less for items. I was quite surprised to see quite a few babies on board, not just toddlers, but infants. Yes, there were children, but the ship was not overrun with them and for the most part they were very well behaved. Ricky Matthews was our cruise director and he was great, very funny, very engaging. Also, anywhere you went on the ship, there was some kind of music happening and if you like music then this cruise is for you. There were two reggae type bands, Bonafide and Rhythm Explosion that usually played at the pool or in the Spinnikar Lounge. There was also the cruise ship band, then there was a trio of guys called, Best of Friends and they sang/played every night in the atrium. In Gatsbys, another bar, there was a piano player/singer whose name I can't remember. I found no reason to EVER be bored. There is a duty free shop on board; they have jewelry, some clothing, clocks, and figurines, all quite expensive in my opinion. They also have lots of booze, but that seemed to be reasonable. We got some there and also on some of the islands which some shops will have your purchase delivered to the ship and you get that delivered to your room the night before your last day. Getting off the ship at the end was a bit of a hassle, but again, the weather was horrible. We did express debarkation; you take your own luggage off and we preferred that to waiting around all day for each deck to get the ok to leave. Over all, it was just fantastic and I wish I could go back! I loved it and if you go I hope you have the same wonderful experience that we did.  

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Feb 1, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Line NCL Dawn Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Mark Dellaquaglia This was our 4th cruise, and our 1st with NCL. Our other three have been with RCCL. We booked the cruise as a package through a travel agent who arranged flights, NYC hotel and cruise, but not as part of an NCL fly/cruise package, and due to the very low cost we booked without any research into the cruise line or the ship itself. Our welcome pack

showed that our cabin was on the 11th deck near the forward stairs and lifts which we were delighted with. In the build up to our holiday we tried to get excited about it but NCL's website is pretty poor when it comes to info on the ship and ports of call. We are used to the huge amount of info you get on the RCCL websites. From other websites we could see that the Dawn is not what you would call "a looker"! EMBARKATION Our ticket instructed us to turn up at 2pm for departure, but as our hotel required us to check out at 12 and was just 5 blocks away we arrived at 12.10 only to find at least another 1000 people already ahead of us. What confused more was that there was a queue down the left, a seated area for about 400 down the middle and another queue on the right. The guy at the door ushered us through to the left, just as about 200 people were coming down the stairs and going straight through the doors at the end of the hall. We asked if this was the correct line to join, and a lady told us to head to the seated are, where another lady directed us to the queue on the right, where we waited, standing, for 45 minutes while the left hand queue and the seated areas disappeared through the doors. By the time we got through the doors, all three queues were full again so I can't imagine how long or even where these people had been queuing from. It turned out this was the queue just to get through the security screening, and beyond that was yet more queues (although only 2 separate queues this time - US guests and Non-US guests) to check in. This queue was relatively quick for us, in the Non-US guests; the US queue looked like a bit of a nightmare. We had pre-registered by fax on a form downloaded off the internet, which saved us time at the desk and I would recommend everyone do that where possible. After that a queue to pick up your guest swipe card, then another queue for the seemingly compulsory Embarkations Souvenir Photo (a steal at 'only' $11.99!). Then the quick walk up the ramp (which some of the older guests were struggling with due to the extreme angle) to the ship which was surprisingly empty when we got on. I have to admit the ship looked much more impressive in real life when we got to the pier. CABIN Our cabin was a Category II interior cabin, and was very small. Our opinion is that if you go on a cruise ship then you shouldn't be spending much time on it anyway. The shower room was typically small but a real bonus was the shower - almost big enough to share! All in all, the cabin was adequate and had enough storage for our clothes and things. The only real problem was the UK standard electrical socket was hard down against the worktop which is alright for US plugs where the cable comes straight out the rear, but UK plugs the cable always comes out the bottom making it difficult to use the socket. I would have thought a German built ship would have had knowledge of this. My wife persevered anyway, in order to use the all important straighteners! FOOD/RESTAURANTS After a few days my wife and I were of the same opinion, Freestyle Dining is just not for us. The advertised benefit is that you can eat when you want, where you want and dress how you like. Our cabin manual informed us that you were not permitted to wear tank tops, shorts, denim or training shoes in any of the dining rooms which was incredible, like were being restricted to Smart Casual attire throughout the holiday. But on investigation at the dining rooms there were alternative restrictions, just no tank tops or shorts. There were quite a few occasions when we could not get a table and were turned away, but there are always alternatives. All dining is closed at 9.30 except the Garden Cafe buffet, with snacks late on and there is always the Blue Lagoon. In general the choice of food is small at every restaurant, I'm sure there must be some people who trawl through all the restaurant menus before they decide where to eat but that's not us! There is a reservations desk in the atrium but they don't have menus, only booking lists and if you try to book a busy restaurant after 12noon, better expect to be disappointed. You can only book on the day unless you are going for the speciality. We only tried Cagneys Steakhouse, only because it was my birthday, and because it didn't look like we were going to get steak in the regular dining rooms. The service was much better, but the cost was excessive at $20 each plus drinks. My complimentary birthday cake was delivered to the table by singing waiters (albeit with a Happy Anniversary badge on it which was quickly swapped!). However, the cake was removed to be delivered to the room as we had already had our dessert, and we never saw it again! We got a replacement when we went up a few days later though. In the main Venetian restaurant, the room looks great but the service doesn't match. I would describe it "lacklustre"! If you arrive at opening time the waiters seem annoyed at having to work immediately, if you are after 9, everyone is more concerned with cleaning up ready to close (both times we did this we gave up waiting for dessert as they obviously weren't coming back), and anytime in between they were too busy to pay you much attention. There were the odd few staff that were very chatty and happy with their table guests, but unfortunately we weren't so lucky. In the Garden Cafe and the Blue Lagoon fast food area, the tables and chairs are dirty and seldom cleaned, only cleared which means when you are wearing a t-shirt and leaning on the table the chances are your arms will be sticking to the last person’s egg/tomato ketchup or whatever! In general the service is poor throughout, Freestyle Dining means you are not tipping one waiter in particular, but you pay a set service charge of $10pp/pn, and an additional 15% on drinks and spa services. I would add that this is the first time I've felt forced to pay the 15% and add an additional tip. We felt very restricted and confused as to when and where we could eat. In the end we spent the evenings in the spa and ordered late room service. You can set a time to attend evening dining each day, but you are restricted to one dining room, and like I said before the menus do not have much choice due to the amount of restaurants. SHIP AMENITIES First off, the spa was very nice and the treatments are many and varied, my wife’s room bill is testament to that! The only (minor) problem was that on the days immediately to/from New York when the weather is not so great, the spa is mobbed and the only 10 loungers and 8 chairs are quickly taken/reserved (usually all by towels alone!). The Jacuzzis are great and very hot and relaxing. The pool is not huge but big enough for a wee lap or two, but as with the loungers, on the bad weather sea days often too busy and very noisy. The main external pool is far too small for the amount of guests, and on sea days in good weather you need to have your sun lounger occupied by 11am at the latest, otherwise it's 'hard luck'! In our opinion (again!), the ship is too small for the amount of guests. Either that or it's too badly designed - for example, the Aqua, Impressions and Venetian restaurant are all on Deck 6, but once you've navigated your way to Aqua and Impressions and ultimately been turned away without a reservation, you need to go up to deck 7 then along and back down to get to the Venetian, which can only be accessed from the aft stairwell - tough luck for all you wheelchair users. I think the restaurants take up too much space at the end of the day and they've packed the rest of the space with cabins. The Casino was very well equipped; we didn't use it but plenty others did. One thing that impressed me was the size of the lounges, particularly the Spinnaker Lounge on Deck 12, and the Pearly Kings pub and Dazzles on Deck 7 were also good sized rooms compared to RCCL ships. The Stardust theatre had plenty of seats except during single show nights and, oddly, the curved balconies to the sides of the theatre have the rear-most seats facing the crowd rather than the stage! Great stage shows, including the famous Second City comedy troupe. I have to add that the cruise directors - Ricky and Lance - were two very funny guys. One thing I noted about the ship is that is feels like it is constantly rocking and bobbing, not at all like the previous ships we have been on. My wife had a real dislike to this for the first few days, and the last night back into NYC was during the Feb 11th/12th Nor'easter snowstorm and was very very choppy and e , although any ship would have struggled in that I'm sure. ITINERARY This was our first time doing the Eastern Caribbean, having been displaced by Hurricane Ivan and Hugo two years ago, and it was everything we had dreamed it would be. Our plan was just to wander around the towns and do a little shopping and just soak up the moment. St Thomas we had heard was the shopping heaven of them all, but looking back, there's only so much diamond and tanzanite you can look at in one day. We headed back early if only to avoid the constant taxi drivers honking their horns telling us the ship is leaving (at 11am!) or pestering us to get onboard. A tour or beach visit next time would be the better idea, I think. St Maarten is a beautiful resort, historic little streets and buildings, and a great beach at the water taxi drop off point. Unfortunately it rained almost the entire time in port, but we would be back in a minute if we could. There is a great shopping area at the cruise pier, although better bargains in town. Tortola doesn't have much in the way of shopping, but that meant the Colombian Emeralds shop was deserted when we walked into town. There's a straw market as you exit the cruise pier area and it's a moderately short walk to the few shops. We walked back to the ship along the rocky shore and it was very nice! Next time we'll do the Virgin Gorda tour which I heard was very good. San Juan, a stroll around Old San Juan is just fantastic, the buildings are beautiful, the shop staff are pleasant and don't pester you and the art and craft souvenirs are of very high quality. I'd definitely come back here, although I've heard the tours weren't that great - particularly the rainforest tour. Great Stirrup Cay is where we did our only pre-booked excursion - only the snorkeling - which was a bit pricey at $29 each, but worth it as the sea is lovely and clear, and the fish are so close to you can reach out and touch them. You aren't allowed very far out, but far enough. DEBARKATION (is what NCL called it but I'm sure it should be 'DISEMBARKING'!) What a nightmare, but I'm not sure how much of this was to do with the Nor'easter. We had made good speed on the last sea day and were due in 2 hours ahead of time at 8am. However the storm saw to it that we slowed to minimum speed for the last night and we arrived at 12noon, where as I noted for Embarkation, the terminal was mobbed with the new guests. We were given coloured luggage tags 'to speed up the debarkation process', but after waiting until 2pm in the lounge and not on the exit gangway deck 7 as requested the disembarking was for all non-US guests regardless of tag colour. When we got to the gangway a few seconds later I suppose we shouldn't have been surprised to find the queue already snaked all the way to the front of the ship and back up again. This queue for 30 minutes was only to pick up our passports would you believe, which on RCCL you do prior to Disembarking day. A further queue through immigration led us to the baggage hall, where all the bags are neatly laid out on the floor in the coloured tags section, which are spread out over the entire hall with only vertical floorstanding signs denoting which colour area you were in. Exit to the road side to join a queue which must have exceeded 1000 people waiting for taxis in the same area as people dropping off and picking up guests and blocking the road. We waited 1 hour and saw 4 taxis, one of whom got so angry at the confusion he just drove off without picking up anybody else. We were the 71st taxi ticket, and after one hour the next ticket to be called was 25! So we picked up our bags and made for the streets to find a better place to catch a cab - Crowne Plaza on 49th/Broadway! This left us with bad memories for a while I have to admit. SUMMARY I have to say that if this had been our first cruise we would have loved it - although our next one we would have looked somewhere else. But, this was our 4th cruise, and I'm afraid we won't use NCL again. We did like it and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and the itinerary was great, but the overall experience lacked that extra special excitement that RCCL gave us. I must admit that when we were docked next to the Serenade of the Seas in St Thomas, Disney Magic in St Maarten, and the Voyager of the Seas on San Juan, they completely outshone the Dawn. On the whole, the standard of service and overall organisation was pretty poor. In all I worked out we had paid over $350 in service charges which is much more than we paid in gratuities for two back to back trips with RCCL, and RCCL gave much much better service. At the end of the day we got a cheap cruise around the Caribbean in February for a very good price on a nice ship, and we have no regrets whatsoever. My advice - if you want the itinerary and cheap price then just go for it, but if you want the real cruise experience go elsewhere. Seems you might just get what you pay for after all. Mark.  

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Jan 12, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

My review is directed towards first-time cruisers and those that don’t mind reading a lengthy, personal description of a stranger’s vacation. I’m a 28 year old female and I took my very first cruise with my (girl)friend aboard the Norwegian Dawn on an 11-day cruise through the Eastern Caribbean in January, 2006. All in all, we were pleased with our vacation. However, there

were a few disappointments that made me want to run home and tell other first-time cruisers about what to expect and/or look out for. The ship itself is beautiful. The restaurants are all uniquely decorated in a way that makes you want to look around, especially the Venetian. We expected a much older crowd (less kids that way), but there were people of all ages aboard (you can tell the hard-core cruisers are the ones that get all decked out on formal night). One of my concerns before I boarded the ship was that of sea-sickness. I’ve been told otherwise about other ships, but the Dawn rocked back and forth the entire length of the cruise. I was bothered by nausea the first two days, but after a long nap and a healthy dose of Dramamine, I got used to the rocking motion. In conversations with other passengers, I found I wasn’t the only one who had felt sick. So pack some Dramamine just in case. Even if you’re not prone to sea-sickness, you might need it after being forced to listen to the cruise director’s daily “let’s have fun!” speech over the P.A. We started the cruise in a porthole stateroom. The room was decorated with the birthday package we had ordered, but the crew negligently left the garbage from the decorations sitting on my bed. It was definitely tiny, but we managed to store all of our clothes away in the space provided. There were two extra beds in the room (one above and one tucked underneath another bed), but I can not imagine rooming more than 2 people in such cramped quarters. After 3 days, we were moved to a balcony room by management, who claimed “maintenance issues” were the reason for our transfer. Needless to say, we were enthusiastic about the upgrade. Surprisingly, we discovered that the balcony room offered less storage space than porthole room, although the bathrooms seemed the same size. Having stayed in both types of rooms, I will never settle for less than a balcony room again. It is absolutely worth the extra expense, especially if you’re cruising in warm weather. Other than the conventional use of a balcony, other conveniences included: being able to step outside in the morning and check the weather firsthand, taking aerial pictures of the islands, and having a place to lay out our wet bathing suits. There was also a fridge in both rooms, though we made no use of it. We had no intention of “bringing home” food from the dining rooms, and if we did, what utensils could we eat it with? Plus, there are no vending machines on the ship, so we couldn’t even keep cold soda in our room (there are no cans or bottled beverages available to purchase, either; everything comes out of a fountain or soda gun). If you’re thirsty, you have to leave your stateroom and find the nearest bar on another deck in order to get something to drink. Do yourself a favor and pack some bottles of water or iced tea to keep in your room. Speaking of drinks, the soda package is a MUST. Spend the $50 bucks for unlimited soft drinks and sit back and laugh at all of the other suckers who are paying two and three dollars per drink (although, I must mention that the soda was flat half of the time). The package can be ordered prior to embarkation or will be available poolside after you board. You’ll be provided with a reusable mug and a sticker to put on your room card. Ditch the mug; there’s no sense in carrying it around and you need only to flash your special sticker to get a glass. And unless you plan on packing some dish soap, there’s no feasible way to wash the thing out. Drinking out of the same mug for 10 days without cleaning it did not appeal to us. First-time cruisers beware: the bathrooms are miserably small. They’re made up of three small compartments (toilet on the left, sink area in the middle, and shower stall to the right). There was also a sliding door between the toilet and the sink, which was unnecessary and took up valuable space. The shower stall (no tub) was actually roomy, complete with a hand-held showerhead (2 speeds, decent water pressure) and a dispenser stocked with shower gel and shampoo. The hair dryer is adequate, but it’s installed on the vanity in the stateroom, not the bathroom. We figured out why when we tried to brush our teeth and keep hitting our elbows on the shower door. The bathroom is that small. The food was amazing! My advice to first-time cruisers: don’t be afraid of the food descriptions on the menus. They pour on fancy words to make it seem sophisticated, but let’s get real: beef flambé is steak and that’s it. Don’t worry if you don’t know that Scaloppini di Pollo is just chicken with some sauce on it. If you don’t know what it is, ask! I guarantee you won’t be the only one who doesn’t know what beef consommé is (broth). If you try it and don’t like it, tell your server (they were super-nice about it). Don’t be afraid to order as much as you like; remember, you’ve paid for it! (our usual meal consisted of 2-3 appetizers, 1 entrée, and 1 dessert for each person). You won’t believe how small the portions really are (for example: I ordered the ‘conch fritters’ appetizer and was given two fried fritters, each the size of a quarter). The quality of the food at the buffet was hit-or-miss, but undoubtedly convenient. The best fare was to be found in the restaurants that required a reservation (and a cover charge), although we had some great late night munchies at the 24-hour fast food joint, The Blue Lagoon. Our absolute favorite was Salsa although Le Bistro was close runner-up. Where else can you sit next to an original Van Gogh and have your waiter set fire to your dinner? Free-style dining is the only way to go, in my opinion. I can’t imagine being on vacation and having a set dining time. What if you’re in the middle of a swim, or what if you’re just not hungry at six o’clock? On this ship, you can eat whenever you want, as long as you follow the rules. Blue Lagoon and the buffet are come-and-go-as-you-please, while the main dining rooms are only open at certain times (breakfast is served only at one of the three dining rooms and they stop serving at 9:30am! Sleeping late apparently was not an option on this ship and we weren’t happy about that. However, we got even with the cruise director by taking a nap during two o’clock bingo). Reservations are required at the better restaurants, and they can be a pain. On our final night, our minds were set on dining at Salsa, so that morning we inquired about a reservation. We were told that it was booked for the entire night, much to our disappointment. We took a chance anyway and showed up, hoping there might be a chance of getting in. When we got there at 9pm, the restaurant was next to empty. Even so, when the maitre d’ found out we didn’t have a reservation, she gave us a major attitude and made us wait 10 minutes before begrudgingly seating us (do I need to mention that the place was still half-empty when we left? Booked for the entire night, my foot). With that incident aside, the staff was superb. Every uniform was impeccable, the women always have their hair tied back neatly, and most everyone had a smile for you, even the housekeeping guy. Even after he caught me stealing an extra mint out of his cart. Remember to pack some nice clothing for dinner. I must admit that I didn’t see anyone turned away in the main dining rooms for wearing jeans or shorts, but those that do stick out like a sore thumb. Plus, it irritates the other diners who took the time out to look presentable at dinner. We were very happy with our shore excursions, even though you have to wake up early and manage to time yourself to eat breakfast and be at the rendezvous point on time. I was surprised to find out that there were no clocks in the staterooms, which means no alarm clocks. Bring your own, if you must. There is a wake-up call service, but the phone rings so softly, you’re bound to sleep right through it. We did. No breakfast for us that day. At St. Thomas, we took the Magen’s Bay excursion, which was gorgeous, but crowded. On Tortola, we went to the dolphin encounter (awesome!) and were then dropped off in town to do some shopping. It was a mistake, because there were no touristy-type stores to shop at, plus we were harassed by a couple of local kids. If you’re visiting this island, I would suggest sticking to your excursion group and then heading back to the ship. In San Juan, we opted for the Bacardi excursion, which was a disappointment We were urged by a few friends to go and see the Bacardi factory because they give you a free mini-bottle and a tour through the facility where you can actually see the rum being made. Well, things have changed. Now you are given two small drink samples and the “tour” consists of a large room containing a replica of the old factory. Had I known better, I would’ve bought a bottle at the local store and gone back on the ship to work on my tan in a drunken haze. At St. Maarten, we tried the Divi Little Bay Beach Experience. The weather was phenomenal, the beach was gorgeous, and the package included chaise lounges, lunch, and two drinks. We never actually made it to Great Stirrup Cay, due to a storm washing away the beach, so we were re-routed to Nassau, Bahamas. We only got a few hours to wander around, but the shopping was excellent. The pool was somewhat small for a ship that can hold three thousand people. I was surprised to find out that it was actually filled with seawater from the Atlantic. It’s a magnet for kids, even though there’s a separate kids’ pool on another deck. There’s four hot tubs, with a hidden fifth on the forward side. Take the elevator to Deck 13 and climb the stairs. There you’ll find a huge hot tub filled with all of the other people who read my review. Some words about the entertainment. The ship’s theatre is beautiful and unbelievably big. We enjoyed the large-scale production shows, but the first night’s ‘Welcome Aboard’ show was a waste of time. After listening to the cruise director drone on for more than 20 minutes, I decided it would be more amusing to hang myself, but my friend insisted that we stay. If you happen to miss a show, don’t worry. They’ll be broadcasted on your stateroom TV later on that night. There are a few bands on board which were tolerable, plus the cruise ship’s requisite lounge act, but…three Asian guys singing the Beatles? No thanks. Debarkation was simple and easy. If you provided a credit card to be charged on your account, and there are no issues, there’s no need to line up at the purser’s office to settle up or sign anything. You’re provided with color coded luggage tags, which are called out over the P.A. system. When your group is called, off you go. Gripes aside, we had a fantastic time. The food was great, the islands were beautiful, and we got to meet some interesting people on board. Oh yeah, and we played shuffle-board.

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Jan 3, 2006

Eastern Caribbean

Norwegian Dawn Eastern Caribbean Joyce Lambert This was mine and my husband’s first cruise and I can tell you my expectations of cruising were pretty much shot after going on this cruise. Embarkation Process: I was pretty upset by how disorganized this was. I called prior to leaving the hotel to go to the pier and was told that they were not going to let us check in or board the ship until 2:00 p.m. So we waited and got to the

pier around 1:30 p.m. When we got there we seen that there were already 100’s of people checked in and waiting in line. When I asked where to check in they told me that they were done with early check in and I would need to wait until I got on the boat. So right off the bat we were given misinformation. So we then waited in line until about 4:45 p.m. when they then started boarding. Once they began boarding the check in process when quickly and our luggage was delivered to our state room within 45 minutes of being on board ship. Which I thought was pretty quick. Cabin: Well being our first cruise, obviously didn’t know where the best place to have a cabin is. I left this up to our travel agent. Well we were on the 8th floor and the very front cabin. The cabin itself was pretty spacious, we had a picture window. There were 4 of us, and we had 3 twin beds and a bunk bed. Storage space was adequate. The bathroom area I did have some complaints about. The shower was bigger than I expected, however there was a separate toilet area, and literally you were touching the walls when you were in there. There was no room to move at all. I believe smaller than an airplane bathroom. As far as being in the front of the boat, this was not the best selection. Leaving from New York, we hit very rough water and the first night and day of the cruise, you could feel the boat going up the wave, and then slamming down. It sounded like a loud explosion every time the boat hit the water again. If I ever cruise again I will definitely get a room in the middle of the ship. Our cabin stewards were wonderful. They let us leave my daughters bund bed down, instead of folding it up every day. One thing I was a little upset about was they didn’t do any neat animal designs with the towels and I did hear from other passengers on the ship that their stewards did, so I don’t know if ours was just lazy or inexperienced! Public Areas: We were very pleased with the upkeep and appearance of all the public areas. The swimming pool area was nice; however I feel the swimming pool was kind of small for a ship that carries almost 2500 passengers. All the restaurants and bars were clean, and service was absolutely wonderful. Entertainment: Entertainment I was pleased with. They had a comedian, ventriloquist, singers, juggler and a magician. They have their famous “Bollywood” show which I thought was absolutely wonderful. My younger daughters really enjoyed that as well. Entertainment in the bars was good as well. They did a few different game shows like Family Feud, Newlywed Game, and who wants to be a millionaire. They also had bingo sessions on board as well, which I love bingo, but I paid for two sessions and decided it was a rip off. They charge you $49 for a power bingo machine which has 12-24 cards in it, and one of the sessions was just a one game coverall for the jackpot in 51 numbers or less and if it went over the 51 numbers you got a consolation prize of $200 which I though was terrible for the amount of money they collected. The other session you played 6 games with prizes of $200 a game and then the last game was a jackpot game of $2000 in 51 numbers or less and just didn’t seem worth it. Food: Here was my biggest disappointment. I was looking forward to the freestyle cruising, and not having a set dinner time. That was the good part. The bad thing was the selection of food. The Garden Café which is the buffet, had a different theme last night, and most of the stuff on the buffet was so spicy I didn’t care for it. I felt I could get a better buffet at a restaurant around home. We didn’t go into any of the specialty restaurants that charge a cover charge, we figured why pay more if we didn’t have too. Plus the few people we spoke to who did go into Cagney’s the steakhouse on the ship were very disappointed in it. There are a few other restaurants that there is no cover charge at but does require reservations, and we did especially enjoy Aqua & The Venetian. We went to Aqua a few times for dinner and got a very tasteful steak there both of the nights. The service was wonderful. The Venetian was a lovely restaurant for breakfast, it definitely beat the buffet. It was nice to have eggs made to order, instead of just scrambled or fried ones that looked like they had been sitting out there for a few hours. I just expected more of a variety of food on the cruise line. I was upset that there wasn’t much of any seafood. I thought we’d see more shrimp or crab on the buffet, and there was basically none. We did get lobster one of the nights, but that was it. Destinations: Our first stop was St. Thomas, and we absolutely loved this stop. I enjoyed all the shopping; the only problem there is the taxi drivers, constantly asking to take you back to the ship. After a while gets a little annoying but this isn’t NCL”s fault. Then we stopped at Tortola. Tortola is a small island, with lovely beaches. We didn’t go to Virgin Gorda but did here from other passengers that we should have. We didn’t want to spend the extra money. My favorite spot was St. Maarten. Absolutely gorgeous. We went to Orient Beach, which was great except for the few people who took advantage of the clothing optional rule! We then went to Puerto Rico. We went on the Rainforest motor coach tour which for the money I thought was a complete rip off. We really didn’t get to see as much of the rainforest as I would have liked, and the coach drove us thru some of the dirtiest places in Puerto Rico. My husband is so turned off by Puerto Rico; he said we’ll never go back. Our last stop was supposed to be Great Stirrup Cay, but that got cancelled due to high winds. We ended up docking in Nassau, which would have been better if there wasn’t already 4 other cruise lines stopped there. The island was very crowded, could barely get thru the straw market so many people. All of our planned excursions except for the rainforest were cancelled. The party raft we were going to go on was not ready, then we signed up for the Wacky Buggy Ride because we were told you had to be 25 to drive and 8 to be a passenger, well come to find out the our 1 seaters, so our daughters couldn’t go on with us. Then snorkeling at Great Stirrup was cancelled when we didn’t go there. So that was kind of a bummer for our children. Speaking of children, the kid’s crew program they have for the kids is wonderful. The counselors are all great, and kept the children busy from 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. if you wanted them to. There was no extra charge for the children to be in this and they got a free t-shirt out of it. The kids met a bunch of other kids from around the world, and exchanged email addresses to keep in touch. One note though, if you have a daughter that is 12 and one that is 13, they can’t be in the teen program if you want to keep them together they would need to be in the 10-12 year old group which is what my children did and had fun. The only downside to this is you have to sign them in and out of the group every time they go, and some of the pick up times would interfere with the other shows going on and I would have to leave the show early to go and pick them up. With the teen program they can come and go as they please. All in all the cruise was okay. I will definitely cruise again, just not with NCL. I also won’t go for 10 days out of New York City!  

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Dec 11, 2005

Western Caribbean

NCL, Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Dawn Cruise Review Western Caribbean Hal Wadleigh Strange to say, but "Freestyle Cruising" seems to mean that nothing is free. Everything from bottles of water to the food in some of the "premium" restaurants is for sale at prices that you might expect to pay at a New York hotel. This was my 4th cruise on my 4th different line. I will cruise again with Carnival, MSC, and Princess. I will not

book another cruise on NCL. Basics We did not get the room we booked. It was to be a handicapped-access room with a couch and a balcony. There was no couch. There was not even a chair that my wife (who uses a walker) could use. Their "remedy" was to bring in a somewhat better chair, more like a waiting-room chair than the little kitchen chairs. We had gotten a promotional package that was supposed to include a $300 onboard credit. It did not appear. The travel agent and NCL seem to be pointing fingers at each other over this, but I talked to (and stood in line with) at least four other couples who had the same tale of the disappearing $300 onboard credit. We did not all have the same travel agent. NCL announced that they would be selling transfer tickets and chartering additional busses to the airports due to the NYC transit strike. I asked about transport to the Bus Terminal. I was told, rather rudely, that there were no available taxis, that NCL was providing airport transfers only, and there was nothing additional they could do. We would have to see the port agent when we arrived. Luckily, the strike was over the day we arrived. That rude ticket agent was very much the exception among the staff. Except for him and one member of the cruise director's staff (who seemed to really want to be somewhere else) the staff was friendly and as helpful as they could be within the severe limits imposed on them by the NCL corporate environment. The general problem is that everything is promised as first class and delivered on the cheap with BIG extra fees. For example, the descriptions of the Internet access NCL provides make it sound like the kind of service you get in any good hotel these days. The reality is that they provide an Internet Cafe with very expensive rates. Entertainment I think NCL needs to understand that a solo comedian is not really a "show" at all. This is especially true when a significant portion of the passenger population does not speak English. To them, a solo comedian is just somebody on a stage making sounds. There was also a solo singer and a magician. The singer was very good, but it's very rare that one man can carry an entire show. The one big production called "Bollywood" was very good, but some passengers had seen it multiple times before. It apparently has not changed for two years or so. The stage band and some of the secondary acts were exceptionally talented people doing their best with inadequate support. The stage band consisted of piano, drums, bass, and one each of trumpet, saxophone, and trombone. I guess this is NCL's idea of a "big band." The musicians were quite talented and one of the best evening entertainments was a jazz jam in one of the pubs. In the small combo context, they performed outstandingly. It was only on the stage that the handicap of trying to make a small combo do the job of a big band became insurmountable. There was a couple from Australia doing a lounge act that was first rate. They performed a broad range of material with an individual style. They were especially good in vocal harmonies. Again, the problem was a lack of support. Where they should have been supported by a backing band, they had an MP3 player. Even the karaoke book was woefully inadequate, consisting mostly of Sinatra and bubble gum hits with little of the 50's through 90's songs that are staples in most places. It's really sad when one of the best shows of the cruise is the one that the passengers put on at the last evening. Food Dining is the area where "Freestyle Cruising" becomes really critical. There are lots of extra charges for the "upgrade" restaurants. The basic dining rooms are quite good. Aqua was our favorite and very well-run. The open cafe is convenient, but the food is about what you would expect to find at a hospital cafeteria, except that there are few "healthy" options. Other than fresh fruit, most of the main dishes are heavily loaded with fat, salt, and carbs. They don't even have margarine to substitute for butter. Our first day out, we had two emergency medical evacuations for people with heart attacks. Maybe they were eating at the cafe. Other Onboard Activities NCL seems to provide good stuff when they charge for it (at nearly double the rate you would pay ashore) and poor to mediocre stuff in all other cases. The spa, for example, offers good services, but a full massage was almost $200. The exercise room was usually fairly full with a short wait for equipment. he trivia sessions, crafts, bridge, and other such activities were not very well-attended. Perhaps this was because they were often run by that "would really rather be somewhere else" staffer and often didn't even offer the little prizes that usually go with these things. The running joke was "winners get to keep the pen." The casino was very well-run. Of course, it is probably the biggest moneymaker on the ship. They advertise slots with a 95% return, but the fine print tells you that this is only on a limited number of machines of $1 and $5 denominations. Perhaps this is really the reason for the mediocre entertainment and other activities. They don't want anything drawing you away from the casino. Destinations In most of the ports, I just got off the ship and walked a few miles (my daily exercise) with stops for some shopping. Jamaica was about as expected. The vendors were rather aggressive and the juxtaposition of poverty with wealth is always a bit jarring. Grand Cayman Island was a more affluent place, reminding me of Bermuda. There is a submarine tour that families would especially like. Roatan was a very poor place, with a policeman every twenty feet or so near the docks. The police keep the crowds of children from becoming too much of a problem for the tourists. The cameo shop has some very nice hand work done on the site. This was the only planned stop where the ship tied up to a dock. Belize was an unexpected pleasure. We took the tour of the Mayan ruins and got to see a great deal of the island. It is very clean and organized. The signs of poverty are kept away from the places where tourists usually go. This place is a diver's paradise, with a huge reef and the famous "blue hole." I'd like to go back again. Cozumel has more Mayan ruins than any other stop. Unfortunately, I did not get to go ashore because my wife was sick that day. Great Stirrup Cay got skipped because of high winds that would have made tender operations too hazardous. Instead, the ship docked at Nassau for half a day. This was my third time in Nassau, and we really weren't there for long enough to do anything interesting. Overall I like cruises from Boston and New York because they eliminate the need to fly to the ship (which is often the biggest problem). I dislike NCL because of the poor quality of the entertainment and activities, and the inflated extra charges. If you must take a "Freestyle" cruise, plan on spending 30-50% of the booking cost on concealed on-board charges and don't expect anything to be anywhere near as good as the brochure says (including your stateroom). Better yet, just book with another line.

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Oct 30, 2005

Western Caribbean

Norwegian Cruise Lines 7-Day Western Caribbean Terry L. Rahmsdorff This was an 11-night cruise to the Western Caribbean. Because of the hurricanes in the region we weren’t sure exactly where we were going until we arrived at the pier. As it turned out, two of our ports were switched. We went to Costa Maya instead of Cozumel, and to Nassau, instead of NCL’s private island, Grand Stirrup Cay. Let me quickly tell you a little about

us. I’m a 57 year-old lawyer. My wife is 54 and in the finance industry. Our daughter is a 22-year old college graduate hoping to go to grad school in vocal performance. Embarkation process/ Disembarkation process: This was our 10th cruise and this was by far and away the best for getting on and off the ship. We were told that the ship would be ready for boarding at 2:00 PM. We arrived at the pier around 1:40. Because they had an email address for us, all our documents arrived online. This meant we were not sent the luggage tags. They were provided at the pier and put on in moments and the luggage was whisked away. We were directed through customs and then checked in, photographed and given our key/cards. In less than 20 minutes of our arrival at the pier, we were sitting in our cabin. The luggage arrived at our door about 45 minutes later. Leaving the ship was even easier. We signed up for the carry it yourself procedure because we had a potentially tight flight connection. We docked in New York an hour early at 9 AM. We were in the first group to leave the ship about 35 minutes later and we were in a cab on the way to the airport before the ship was scheduled to dock. By the way the cab fare from the pier to Newark airport was only about $55 for three. I was pleasantly surprised. Cabin: We had an ocean view cabin on deck 6 forward. There are only 4 cabins on all of deck 6, and they are conveniently located in an alcove between the casino and the Stardust Lounge showroom. The cabins are slightly smaller than on Celebrity or Holland America. There was adequate storage space, and even with a bunk bed, we were not horribly cramped except in the toilet area. Our bathroom was divided into three parts. The shower section was actually bigger than most ship showers I’ve seen. No need to soap the walls and spin. The sink area was pretty standard, but the toilet area was tiny. I, unfortunately, am not. (+/- 330 lbs.) There was a sliding door into a space slightly smaller than an airplane restroom. I literally had to squeeze in every time and I ended up loosing a button in the process. There was a normal sized public restroom down the hall next to the casino that I used when I could. Our cabin stewards were wonderful. They helped with plug problems and left my daughter’s bunk bed down when she wasn’t feeling well. They made the most amazing selection of towel animals I’d seen, and they were never there when we didn’t want them to be. Public rooms: The Dawn is a relatively new ship. It went into service in 2002. It has a bright color scheme and a very pleasant general appearance. The main atrium is especially attractive with glass elevators to see all the beauty. The many restaurants were nicely maintained, as were the bars and other public eating and drinking areas. The pool was pretty typical as well except that all the way aft, there was a delightful looking children’s area with special pools, slides, and a warm tub just for them. The Internet café was spacious and largely unused because of the prohibitive pricing. In fairness, this is not an issue specific to the Dawn or NCL. When we were in port, Internet access places were packed to the gills with people from all the ships checking their email etc. for $ 3.00 per hour as opposed to $45.00 per hour on board. I expect a more affordable technology for Internet at sea will come along soon. Entertainment: The entertainment on the main stage was pretty much typical of cruise ship entertainment. There were some production nights, a very good magician, a hypnotist, some singers, dancers and comedians. The passenger talent show was better, and better attended than most because the possibility of a cruise ship employment was dangled in front of the contestants. The Norwegian Dawn stage band was a little below par for these type of cruises, but certainly not inadequate. In the smaller lounges were some very good entertainers. Probably the best was Fire and Ice. This lady was an entertainer; every performance had an intensity that just rocked the house. Bingo aboard ship is big business. The cruise director’s staff host the bingo so I’ll include my comments in the entertainment section. Our family has enjoyed bingo on cruises on almost every cruise we’ve taken. Bingo aboard the Dawn was not very enjoyable. To begin with, the prices were through the roof. This has been aided by technology. I’m told other cruise lines have started using power bingo boards as well. All the player does is put in the number called, and the machine automatically checks each of the cards for that number. The machine tells you when you’re waiting for just one number. The machine tells you when you have bingo. While grandma could maybe check three cards at a time, the machine can check an infinite number. One sitting on the Dawn featured up to 24 cards on a power machine and some folks were using multiple machines. Of course having more game boards entitles the cruise line to charge more money. 24 boards on the machine cost $49.00. Worse, the more 3 board traditional push and fold cards were available at a cost of $29.00. While the prices went up, the prizes didn’t. To make a bad situation worse, the Dawn staff was not particularly good at bingo. They were hard to understand, used the tired old bingo jokes ad nauseum, and provided limited service when the power bingo boards allowed human error to come into play, as it was wont to do. If, for instance, I-44 was called, you simply needed to push 4 and then 4. From time to time only a single 4 registered, then you had 4 marked as called on all on your cards, but not 44. There wasn’t an easy way to void an entry; games were delayed while people were trying to straighten things out, and in toto, it was nowhere near the fun it used to be. Attendance appeared to drop. Even the jackpot game was poorly attended. The Casino was one of the best I’d seen on a ship. There were ample table games and a good variety of slot machines in denomination from a penny up. Many of the machines operate without coins. You put a bill in and collect your winnings on a ticket the machine issues. You can take the ticket to the cashier and redeem it for cash, or you can put it into that machine or another machine. No more need to wait while someone comes with a heavy sack of coins from somewhere far away to pay your $6 winnings. No more having the slot machine indicating that it paid 800 nickels, while the cashier says that you’ve given him $ 39.90 worth of nickels. I’d like to see more penny and nickel machines, but this was a good selection and the staff was friendly and attentive. There were also unexpected bright spots. All passengers were invited to join in a murder mystery dinner. Participation was limited to 250 people. We were divided into groups of 8, given a character, and a barebones script and sent to a regular dining room. It was the most fun we had on the entire trip. We played between courses, and tried to solve the murder. We laughed and distracted the rest of the dining room, but we solved the crime. Later we got to know our team as real people and discovered we had a judge, a defense lawyer and a psychiatrist on our team. Our teammates are among the people we met on the cruise with whom we’ll try to stay in touch. Another unexpected bright spot was a series of 45- minute history lectures about the places to which we were heading. The speaker was Dr. Joyce Salisbury a Wisconsin college professor. Her style was clear and engaging. She had a wealth of information about a number of topics. One day she spoke about Columbus. It sure was different than what I thought I knew. The next day she spoke about the real pirates of the Caribbean. The next lecture was on the Mayans whose ruins we got to see. Each of these lectures gave me a new perspective on the region and the times. The magician who entertained us, gave a free memory seminar. CD’s were available. I forget the price, but then I wasn’t buying. The hypnotist offered a free stop smoking clinic. There were some good unusual offerings on board to supplement the art auctions and spa gimmicks. Food: Reviewing food on the Norwegian Dawn is complicated. NCL has a freestyle cruising system. You don’t have to be a dinner at 6:15 to eat with the same tablemates each evening. You can eat in any of a number of restaurants at any time between 5:30 and 10:00 PM. There is no obligation to dress for dinner any night. At least that’s the theory. On our 11-night cruise there were two optional formal evenings and most folks did dress somewhat. I suspect that this is a concession to the photo department, which makes lots of money on dress up nights. The other nights were listed as “resort casual”; no swim wear, shorts or jeans allowed in the dining rooms. That being said, my daughter showed up in jeans at one of the premium restaurants on board and no one said a word except her cranky old father. I mentioned premium restaurants. This seems to be an evolving concept. It used to be that everyone ate in the main dining room. Various cruise lines started to have an alternative dining room. Then you paid extra to eat in the alternative dining rooms, then they raised the premiums, and now there are super premium entrees at the premium dining rooms. This is another way to enhance revenue for cruise lines. This was our first experience with freestyle cruising. My wife and daughter went into the cruise favorably disposed to the concept of freestyle cruising. I had more reservations. My wife was just as happy to leave the wide selection of fancy clothes and jewelry at home. Our 22 year-old daughter enjoys dressing to the nines, but really liked the idea of having different places to eat. I was pleased with the venue choices and the flexibility in terms of time, but I had some concerns. I know how I like things and I appreciate the wait staff assuring that I get things just as I like them. I like it when the wait staff call me by name, and keep my iced tea glass full. I also like getting to really know new people and to hear about their adventures every day. In hindsight, there are trade-offs, but we’d book another freestyle cruise in a heartbeat. Because our cruise was long enough, we got to have dinner almost everywhere. I’ll give you our thoughts on each of the venues, starting with the premium restaurants: Cagney’s is billed as an old-fashioned steak house. It was the most expensive place on ship, but it was awfully good. The premium was $20 per person. If, for instance you ordered the 24 oz. Porterhouse or the 1.5 lb lobster you paid $25. The food and the service were comparable to a Morton’s; we enjoyed it! A Bamboo is the Asian place. It was our single biggest disappointment on board. We love Asian food. The menu is varied from Indian, to Thai, to Japanese, to Chinese. My daughter thinks it was that breadth of cuisine that lead to failure. She may be right about the lack of focus. To be fair, there were flashes of superb food, but the bulk of what we ate, or, more accurately, left uneaten, ranged from bland to awful. Service was even worse. We ate later. There was a group of crew and officers at a table about 50 feet away. The wait staff was most attentive to their needs; the rest of the tables were an after thought. As we were being ignored, my wife was railing about a view of a mountain of dirty dinner plates piled directly in her line of sight. This was the only restaurant where a maitre’d didn’t come to see if everything was to our satisfaction. What a shame! I wanted to complain. After a lousy meal I was tempted to go to the officer’s table and give them my review. My wife wisely persuaded me to forego that action. I should also note that my wife and daughter went to the Sushi Bar at Bamboo one lunch. They report the conveyor belt sushi to have been a little below average, but nowhere near as dreadful as our dinner. There was a $15 per person charge for dinner and a $10 charge for all the sushi you could eat. Our dinner premium was the only premium charge that stuck in my craw. D Le Bistro is the French restaurant. It features original masters by Monet, Picasso and others on the wall and the food is as good as the art. There was a foul up with one of our entrees and dinner was a bit delayed. The waiter kept us informed about the problem and we were not inconvenienced at all. We were close to Gatsby’s bar and were thoroughly entertained by pianist/singer Dan Hodge. Once it came, our meal was delightful. The sauces were superb and our chocolate fondue was the best I’d ever tasted. There is a $15 per person charge. A The Organic Restaurant is another premium venue. It’s important to note that it is NOT VEGETARIAN, just organic. Meat was on the menu. My wife didn’t see any dinner entrée that tickled her fancy, so we ate elsewhere for dinner. My wife and daughter did eat there for breakfast and lunch and raved about the fresh taste; especially the fruits and berries. There are other specialty restaurants that take reservations but charge no premium. Salsa is the Tex-Mex place on board. My wife and daughter enjoyed their meal at Salsa more than I did. I suspect it had something to do with the raspberry flavored margaritas they kept downing. I found the food quite bland. They were very pleased with the tastes. We all agreed that the service was wonderful. B. La Trattoria was one we put off trying. My daughter felt that because it was in a room where they did a lunch buffet, it wouldn’t be much good. She will now quickly admit that it was among the very best meals on the ship. The food was authentic, flavorful and plentiful. Our waiter, Felix was by far the best we had on this cruise. A Impressions is located near Le Bistro and also features artwork—just not originals from the masters. It’s also very good food. It featured some of the same menus as the main restaurants, but we enjoyed it a bit more. A- There were two main restaurants, the Venetian, and Aqua. The Venetian has a wonderful view from the aft end of the ship. We enjoyed the view when we got to have lunch there. The dinner experience at both the Venetian and Aqua were comparable to the main dining rooms on most cruise ships. The service was quite good-- much better than I expected given the tipping policy. B+ We never had dinner in the Garden Café buffet line. I met folks who enjoy buffets for dinner, but with the variety of quality choices available, it made no sense to me. At breakfast, the Garden Cafe was about par for breakfast buffets on cruise ships. The Organic offered a very fine premium alternative. Lunch, unfortunately, was nowhere near as good. There are several choices of lunch buffets. There was a vegetarian buffet. I never tried it, and never talked to anyone who did. There was also the NY Deli. I’ve read other reviews that deride the NY Deli. They are correct. It is nothing like a real NY Deli. Most days the meat choice was ham, a lousy fatty salami, or a steam tray of pastrami. There was no roast beef, no corned beef. There was a pathetic selection of condiments. The only mustard choice looked like French’s yellow. There was no horseradish. Sadly, however, there were days when the NY Deli was still the best no premium choice for lunch. The Venetian was open for lunch about half the time. It provided a nice sit down meal. As previously mentioned Bamboo and the Organic did lunch at a premium. Tipping: Because of the Freestyle system NCL simply add $10 per day for each person over age 13. This worked quite well for us. Destinations: As I mentioned we were unsure about where we would be able to stop. Hurricanes Wilma and Beta had raked the Caribbean just before our departure. My original plan was to look at shore excursion on the Internet at sites other than NCL. Because we didn’t know where we were going, we wound up booking at the dock. Most of the time that worked pretty well. Ocho Rios, Jamaica was our first stop. It was a pretty spot with nice beaches, a rainforest and Dunn River Falls. My wife and I got a cab to take us around. Our daughter went to the beach at Margarita Ville; she made the better choice. Our driver took us to see a guy eat fire, and to various enterprises run by folks who expected him to get us to buy. The pressure was far more intense than other places we visited. One lady started braiding my Santa like beard and then demanded payment. We stopped near Dunn River Falls. Our guide said that we could see what we needed to see from a location he knew rather than paying admission into the park. His place had more hawkers. One hawker threatened me with a voodoo curse if I wouldn’t buy his cheap ugly necklace. The curse may have worked. After the driver knew of no Internet site, and left us by the ship, we walked into town and found a place, and got bad news from our other daughter in Germany. Ocho Rios is not on our list of must return locations. The next day we were in Georgetown Grand Cayman. This was a much more affluent place. My wife had a good time a few years ago at Sting Ray City and our daughter and I were anxious to see it. Even in the rain, it’s quite an experience. The next day, we were in Roatan, Honduras, an island off the Honduran mainland famed for its coral reef. It’s quite poor, but the people were not pushy. The weather was still lousy and we took no organized tour. We did walk out to see a cameo factory recommended by the on board consultant. There were some lovely items, but not at a price we felt obligated to pay. This is an area ripe for development and I’d like to see how far it’s come in a few years. The following day we were in Belize City. Here we were very fortunate with our choice of tour. We got a great guide for about 50% less than the NCL shore excursion and we saw considerably more than their tour. We toured the city and then the country on the way to the Mayan ruins at Altun Ha. These ruins were well maintained—if that makes any sense. They date from about 200 BC and are quite elaborate. Others saw larger ruins, but these were closer and more accessible. This is a place we’d like to come back to see. Costa Maya was one of our replacement destinations. This is a place that didn’t exist a decade ago, but we were there almost 3 years ago. There’s now a deep-water pier and quite an elaborate complex around the pier. There are ruins nearby, but we’d been there before and this time we spent our time around the pier. This is one of those places where the Mexican government is putting in lots of money to spur tourism. I worry about the danger to the environment. The last time we were in Costa Maya swamps were beings drained and species were disappearing. Not only is there no EPA in Mexico, there’s no apparent plan for the maintenance of the historic sites. I’m holding my breath. After a day at sea, we got spend a morning in Nassau in the Bahamas. This was a spot none of us had ever been to see. This was also the best of my pier purchased tours. Our guide was inexpensive and knowledgeable. We saw historic spots, got a glimpse into the history of the city, saw the rich and poor sections of town, got a feeling for life there, and then saw the spectacular beaches and finally toured the Atlantis resort and its amazing aquarium. I couldn’t afford a glass of tap water there, but we enjoyed the polished pink marble floors and the gold encrusted dome. From there we headed back to NYC. Overall this was a very enjoyable cruise. I highly recommend both the Dawn and Freestyle cruising. We’ll be back.

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Oct 30, 2005

Western Caribbean

NCL Dawn was the first cruise my husband and I had ever booked. Although we are young, we were not interested in the "younger crowd" and wanted to have a relaxing vacation with each other. Unlike many other people older than us, we did not desire the "traditional" cruise experience. Neither of us were interested necessarily in dining with others (although we did on two occasions) or the other formalities present on other cruise lines.

NCL attracted us because it offered a more private vacation on a ship, without the hassles of sharing a wine bottle or worrying that your new dining mate doesn't speak good English. Embarkation: We went swiftly through the lines, especially since we arrived early. Our only trouble was arriving in NYC with a cab driver who could not understand where we wanted to go. The staff was enormously friendly and everything went exactly as planned. Since we traveled shortly after a hurricane, Cozumel & Great Stirrup Cay was no longer on our itinerary. We were informed of the change right away. Walking in to a six story atrium is like a dream. It's hard to believe you are on a ship. Uniformed attendants pointed us in the right direction and we found our room relatively easily. Stateroom: VERY nice! The bathroom was large (as I had read about) and our balcony was quite lovely. Not as large as some, but we were grateful to have it. Although we had some issues with space, we made due. One of the lifesavers on this ship was FREE SELF SERVICE LAUNDRY! Could not be better! I wish NCL would make this standard on more of their ships. Even though it was a drag to do laundry midway through our cruise, we came home with a suitcase full of clean clothes, and it wasn't a terrible hassle. Food: Overall, quite good. The Garden Cafe was spotty; some very good things, some not so good. The quality there could be described as "average". On an 11 night cruise, some of the choices became monotonous. We became huge fans of BLUE LAGOON - the 24 hour snack stop. Their chicken nuggets are just yummy, and the burgers offered are well cooked and surprisingly tender. Service: While I have read some bad reviews about service, I can't say I experienced that. Most of the service was good. Some of it was slow, but we didn't expect much. Also, we were seated alone (as many other cruisers were) and I'm sure that contributes to the slower service times. Breakfasts in WINDOWS were excellent, though dining times were short. We were surprised to find the ship much quieter during the evening hours, especially as the restaurants closed. Disembarkation: We did experience delays on disembarkation but overall it was not a bad experience. During shore excursions, we definitely experienced some delays! It was better to wait until later for ports where we didn't have something scheduled. NCL is a wonderful cruise line, but it is not for the "hoity-toity" cruiser who thinks a cruise is all about impeccable food for free, service fit for presidents, or a pristine, upscale experience. For the money, the ships are very pleasant, the food is overall quite good, the service is excellent, and the experience is relaxing and wonderful. Sail the Dawn - you will love it!

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By Mark_CR

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Oct 19, 2005

Eastern Caribbean

NCL, Norwegian Cruise line Norwegian Dawn 7 Day Eastern Carribean Mark My wife, parents and baby son sailed out of New York on Norwegian Dawn on October 19th. We had been on Norwegian before (the Sea) And did not like either the ship or the company. Only reason we went NCL this time was they were the only cruise line not to charge full price for our baby. We found the crew to be very friendly, warm and very caring. We did not like

however, the Cruise Director, Ricky Matthews. We found that he tried way to hard to be funny and ended up looking like a bafoon! We found the food to be dull and not very good as compared to other cruise lines we have taken. The buffet seemed to be the same thing every other day! Ship is starting to show it wear inside. Service in the main dining room was extremly slow and took awhile for food to be delivered. My wife and I are both Lattitudes members. On our last NCL cruise we sent a letter of concerns to the company and they never even bothered to respond. This will be our last cruise with NCL and would highly recommend Royal Carribean!  

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By Doug_CR

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Sep 11, 2005

Bahamas

Norwegian Norwegian Dawn Bahamas Doug We set sail out of New York City, and because of Hurricane Othella we had to go further out to sea than normal to go around the hurricane, in fact it would take us almost an extra day at sea to get to our first port. And because we had an extra day at sea that changed the course of things and our first stop would be the Bahamas, we arrived there Tuesday night and we stayed all night there and

left Wednesday night, was really cool to have the extra time to spend in the Bahamas. On Thursday we were in Miami, and Friday Port Canavril. Great Stirrup Cay was cancelled but no one seemed to care, I never heard one person complain. This being our second cruise I felt everything was second rate as compared to our first (Carnival Legend). Norwegian was second rate in every aspect... with one exception the main Dance Productions in the Theater on the Dawn they were outstanding! but... every other show or event on the Dawn was bland at best, and with crew running them who could barely speak English and just seemed to not have a clue or care if things were done right. Some of these really were a joke. The Karaoke seemed busy every night simply because of location and there were so few things to do as compared to Carnival, but it was second rate with crew running it that barely knew how to keep things going. The Casino seemed nice enough, the two $5 Blackjack tables would quickly fill up, and other table games would have no one, you would think they would close them if no one was going to play and open another Blackjack table or two.. but no. They really only had one pool party at night, which seemed a huge success, they should have had every night. Other than that the pool deck would close way too soon... we could never figure out why? leaving guests with really nothing to do. Where on Carnival there was so much to do that you seemed to be missing out on something. The food was pretty good, but if you wanted the best you had to pay extra. ummmm I don't think so. The buffett was so much better on Carnival, as was the main restaurants, the freestyle was neat... but we found it odd the we were a Party of fifteen and even with reservations they couldn't comprehend that we would like to sit together, how hard it would be to push a couple tables together so we could all eat our main meal together... nope, they just couldn't handle any request out of the ordinary without sending them into a confused panic. The shops on the ship were unbelievably expensive with less of a selection than Carnival, another huge disappointment. Carnival is way way ahead of Norwegian in this area. The ship was beautiful, but the layout seemed not to flow to well. We didn't have a bad time by any means on this cruise, but it was second rate in almost every area as compared to Carnival. The Norwegian Dawn seems to be a Carnival wannabe ship that just falls short, I really don't know that we will cruise Norwegian again, Carnival is so much further advanced, next up Royal Caribbean we already know that they have a stellar reputation, and I must say Norwegian lives down to their reputation. Oh well still had a good time... trust some of the negative reviews... I didn't.

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By John_CR

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Sep 11, 2005

Bahamas

NCL Norwegian Dawn Bahamas John I traveled with my wife and we found the boarding process to be fine with 1 not too much waiting around. We think this was largely due to the fact that we were non-US citizens and had a different queue. The Norwegian Dawn is a beautiful, modern ship. By the time we left the ship we were still wondering if the "artwork" on the hull suited such a graceful ship. The ship is tastefully decorated and

we really could not fault anything on this aspect. We found our cabin to be most acceptable - comfortable, neat and spotlessly clean. The cabin staff we encountered were pleasant and friendly. After 2 days at sea we arrived at Nassau and stayed overnight. On the Wednesday we did the Dolphin Encounter excursion. This was a once in a lifetime experience and very worthwhile. The following day we got to Miami where we did the BB hopper. We went to South Beach and then Bayside Shopping. Not much else to do there. On the Friday we sailed into Port Canaveral and did the Kennedy Space Center tour - interesting and well organized. The onboard entertainment was fair - certainly nothing great. Some of the best entertainment we saw was on the talent evening where passengers volunteered to entertain! We enjoyed the "Souled-Out Trio (although a duet for most of the cruise). For some reason halfway through the cruise they were moved from the Pearly Kings Pub where they we extremely well suited to the Atrium; a completely inappropriate venue for them. What were the entertainment managers thinking? Luckily they were moved back to the Pearly Kings Pub for our last night of fun. We found the food to be excellent and dined in The Venetian, Aqua (where the ambience was terrible) and (our favorite) Impressions. We had no luck at the casino and the cashiers were unfriendly and abrupt. Another staff member who was having a bad day was handing out trays at the Garden Café for breakfast - no greeting or smile, just a sullen look from somebody who was not happy with what she was doing. But it would be unfair to judge the staff on these two incidents. Overall we found them to friendly, helpful and pleased to be doing their job. Especially pleasant and friendly were the drinks waitresses all over the ship. In the Garden Café I witnessed people filling their old, used water bottles from a water dispenser with the mouthpiece touching the dispenser outlet. I reported this very unhygienic practice to the Maitre d' but I somehow think this is an ongoing problem (despite there been a notice to use a fresh cup every time). Needless to say we did not touch the iced water. Another complaint was that in our daily planner we were told that we "had to attend" a meeting in the Spinnaker Lounge prior to arriving in the Bahamas. We dutifully attended to what sounded like an important function. We were met with some guy using "hard sell" to promote "selected" businesses in Nassau. The little bit of information regarding customs etc we got could easily have been conveyed to us via our daily planner. We left, highly unimpressed that we had been conned into attending a presentation and that our holiday time could be wasted like that. My wife decided to have a massage but the moment was spoilt afterwards as the masseur also tried the "hard sell" technique to buy additional, very costly products. She felt that this was unnecessary and inappropriate. If she initially declined the offer to purchase products it should have been respected and left at that. Due to Hurricane Ophelia our sailing itinerary was changed as we circumvented it. This meant that we did not get to the Great Stirrup Cay. This was not a problem for us as in so many of the reviews we've read it has not been highly regarded (overcrowded etc). The automatic tipping of $10 per person per day was not very popular amongst passengers. I reckon a lot of people complain about this but NCL choose to ignore that and continue with this practice. Good information to have is that this is not mandatory and passengers can tip staff members at their discretion. Generally the attitude on board is very relaxed and overall we enjoyed our trip and would not hesitate to recommend cruising on the Norwegian Dawn. We will definitely be doing so again.

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Sep 4, 2005

Bahamas

Norwegian Dawn Bahamas Aine Waldron This was our 4th cruise, 2nd NCL cruise and 1st out of New York. Except for the hassle of embarkation and disembarkation, which was not NCL's fault, it was phenomenal. We discovered NCL Free Style Cruising last year on a cruise through the Baltics and would never go any other way again. The Norwegian Dawn is a spectacular ship and we signed up while still on board for a cruise next year on her

sister ship, the Norwegian Star. I think that NCL's real forte, however, is her personnel. We were thrilled to see a young woman as assistant maitre'd of the specialty restaurant, Le Bistro, who we had known as a senior waitperson last year on the Dream. Going in and out of NY is amazing. We lived in NY for many years and just thrilled to the sights as we went past the skyline, Statute of Liberty and harbor. We returned to NY at 10am on 9/11/05 and passed by the site of the WTC just as the ceremonies were taking place. We could watch it on TV in our cabin and hear the bells ringing from our balcony. We always took an outside, middle deck cabin but this was the first time we ever had a balcony and will probably always go for it in the future. We have absolutely stunning pictures of sunrises and sunsets taken right from our cabin. The itinerary for this cruise was not especially appealing. We chose it because we had already done the Eastern and Western Caribbean and wanted a short (7-day) cruise close to the US shore as it was in the middle of hurricane season. We got caught, anyway! ON the way back from Nassau, the Captain told us he would be navigating between two hurricanes, Ophelia off the Carolina coast and Nate near Bermuda. It was fairly rough at times but not really a problem. We don't get even the slightest but queasy, but I do get a little nervous if the ship is really crashing about. This ship, however, seemed to take it quite in stride. The food was wonderful; we sampled each of the 12 restaurants. The service was magnificent and we especially thank Geanina Cuela, the assistant maitre'd at Le Bistro and her staff for making our anniversary dinner special. The entertainment could have been a little better. The Broadway type show the first night was great but nothing after that lived up to expectations. We thoroughly enjoyed the small groups and singers in the various lounges but found that even though the music was conducive to dancing, most of the lounges did not provide any space for dancing, which was a big disappointment to us. All in all, however, we would surely recommend NCL and the Dawn to everyone.

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Jun 26, 2005

Bahamas

We were celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary with our children and grandchildren. We saved for a long time to enjoy this cruise, as we were treating . I must say the Dawn is a very beautiful ship. Our first port was great. The entire family went to Universal studio's, and we had a wonderful time. Our second port, Miami, we had the Duck Tour scheduled. We sat on the open tour for 70 minutes and never reached our destination. Detours

and Arena traffic had us riding around the same blocks for 70 minutes. When passengers on the tour started chanting "take us back to the ship" we were finally able to go back. Our fees for the excursion were refunded, I would have accepted nothing less. Great Stirrup Cay is a beautiful island but, too small for the ships passengers. Not enough chairs or umbrella's were available. Due to a technical problem our stop in Nassau was cancelled. We spent the following 60 houes on the ship traveling back to New York. I feel the ship could have been repaired in Nassau as well as New York. I was worried about our safety traveling with one propeller. Nassau was to be the highlight of our trip, since my children and grand children have never been there. On the 4th day of our trip our room was never cleaned. Someone changed the wheel on our door to do not disturb. We called to notify the staff but only received clean towels. Our bed was never made and our dirty towels were in the bathroom until the next day. Freestyle dining is not for me. We waited one hour for a table for 8 at Impressions Restaurant. I have been on 5 other cruises and enjoy the relationship formed with the same waiter each evening without ever waiting to be seated. I would prefer to leave my tips at the end of the cruise. I am not a fan of the daily service charge. Several nights after dinner we tipped our waiters for their excellent service. We also put their names in the comment box so they would be recognized for a job well done. Celebrity Cruise Line has been our choice in the past and will be in the future. My family and I agree Norwegian Cruise Line just does not compare.

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Jun 26, 2005

Bahamas

My wife and I were on the Dawn's June 26th cruise out of N.Y.C. This cruise was a present from our two boys for our 35th anniversary. ON this cruise there were highs, lows, and one very big disappointment. As first time cruisers the Dawn is a beautiful ship, a floating painting. Not one square inch of space is wasted. The food is very very good, the presentation and service is excellent, my wife and I did not have one bad meal the whole

trip. One area we had trouble with was that the ship was swarming with children as many as one thousand, from newborns to rap style teens This caused a problem in the dining room as some small children just could't stay in their seats and roamed around and played, fought and cried.I blame the parents not the children. Hint: think twice before taking more than one excursion in a day, the buses often don't leave on time or the tour runs late. This happened to us in Miami and we never got to see South Beach because of a massive tieup on the bridge into the city. We ended up walking to Bayside Market Place. Hint: Bring insect repellent with you when and if you go on the private Island it was the only place I got bit. On this cruise we never got to Nassau a really big disappointment due to engine trouble which affected our speed on the way home. I would have gladly given up one other stop to see the Atlantis Hotel. The news set off a big a do in the main lobby of the boat between the poor ships officer who had to face some very upset passengers. Going home we were down to thirteen knots at times. The staff was just great, very friendly, always willing to help with a problem, and Colin the cruise director was something else so funny. AS new cruisers we didn't have a high standard but the dawn has more pluses than minuses. Maybe we would think twice about going when school is out,but all in all we has a wonderful time.

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Jun 26, 2005

Bahamas

Norwegian Dawn 7 Day Bahamas Janice Not thrilled with this cruise. Traveled with 19 family members, 11 adults and 8 teenagers. I will get into more detail later but the biggest complaint was that the ship experienced engine failure and we were notified after returning from the private island, Great Stirrup Cay, that we would not be going to the Bahamas. We had to head straight back to New York since it would take longer with one

engine down. The Bahamas was the reason we went on this cruise. We have friends of the family who live in the Bahamas that we had planned on meeting with. This was going to be the first time my whole family would be there together with our friends. In addition, that is where we planned on doing our shopping for souvenirs, gifts, jewelry and liquor. They said they were aware in Miami of the problem and had a specialist fly in to Miami to get on board to try to fix the problem. If they would have let us know this before going to Great Stirrup Cay we could have at least done some shopping at the straw market there. The only compensation the cruise ship gave was a $100 per person on board credit (with a max of $200 per room, so if there are more than 2 in a room-which we had-they have to split the credit), very cheap reparation considering we lost out on the highlight of the whole trip. Some members of my family and I experienced a lot of problems getting the room charges assigned to the proper credit cards. We had to go numerous times during the week to the courtesy desk to straighten out the charges. Each time we thought it was done correct and the next day there would be a note on our door to go back, only to find on the last day when we received our bills that they still hadn't straightened it out. This was my first cruise. I had heard from numerous seasoned cruisers that the service on cruise ships is usually fantastic, that you are treated like royalty and the food is great and the shows fabulous. Well the food was ok, Some restaurants require an additional charge. I did not think it was worth the extra money at Bamboo. Didn't bother with the other restaurants that required additional costs. Because the tips are already built in the staff doesn't have to work for their tips so the service was nothing to rave about. Almost every morning at 6am I was woken up by a lot of noise in the hallway. People talking loud, doors slamming, things dropping. I thought at first it was rude guests but realized after a couple of days that it was the room stewards making all that noise. No consideration for guests. They were not consistent with making towel characters when they turned down the beds in the evening. Out of 7 nights only 4 nights did I have my towel made into an animal. May not be a big deal but just something you come to expect on a cruise. The shows were not that great. I would have had a better time in the Spinnaker lounge. Even though children were not supposed to be in the first couple of rows it was not enforced. Children also ran amuck not only through out the cruise ship but also in the lounges at night. Kids took over the pool and hot tubs, couldn't go in the pool with out being jumped on and splashed by kids. Didn't do any good to talk to the staff or the parents. No one cared. Too many rude people. All in all it was a little too “freestyle” for me.

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Jun 26, 2005

Bahamas

I have cruised twice before on Celebrity and will continue with that line in the future. The Norwegian Dawn was a beautiful ship, but I believe it's large size and "freestyle" cruising equals a lack of personalized attention. They pride themselves on giving you dining options but then you wait over 1 hour for a table. Several of your dining options also require additional fees per person. I choose to cruise so that all my food

is paid for in advance. The food was very good. We ate in the 3 main dining rooms, The Venetian, Aqua, and Impressions. Impressions was our favorite. We also ate in Salsas on the last night. There is no fee but a reservation was required. The food was excellent. They also offered options for the children who did not like the Tex-Mex selection. Freestyle cruising includes a 10$ tip per day per person. I feel that this tipping method may cause the service staff to not go that extra mile. One day there was a dirty, wet rag left on my things in my state room. You also do not get the personalized attention that you do on other cruise lines when you are with the same waiter each night. We had 2 exceptional waiters that we tipped at dinner and added their names to our comment cards. I also felt that the service in the breakfast and lunch buffet in the Garden Cafe was lacking. I know that on past cruises the wait staff worked there as well carrying trays and offering to get you drinks. There were days it was so crowded that we cleared our own trays so that other guests could sit. The cruise director, Collin Kerr, was great. I felt that in general the entire cruise directors staff were not very visible or sociable. They played 2 vollyball games poolside and that was it. There were game shows offered inside but I found my self wondering where they were all day. I am used to more activities by the pool during days at sea. I had a great time in Orlando. We spent the day at Universal. Transportation to and from was good. The Everglades tour in Miami was super. We saw alligators from the boat ride. NCL's Private island Stirrup Cay was beautiful but not large enough for the ships passengers. The lines to get off the ship for the island were chaotic. Unfortunately, they disembarked on our floor and we couldn't make our way back to our room after breakfast. Maybe they could allow those passengers staying in those rooms the chance to get off first. We were not able to get a seat on the beach and all of the very expensive rafts were already rented. The majority of my family left the island quickly do to the heat and large crowds. We never made it to Nassau. We were told about an hour after were supposed to leave that we could not go due to mechanical problems. Of course, we had no problem getting to Stirrup Cay where the cruise ship made a pretty penny on rentals and excursions. Many people were upset and did not feel we were fully compensated ($100 per person but no more than $200 per room) so even though there were four people in my brother's room they still only got a $200 credit. I had fun with my family and it was a nice vacation. I will not cruise with NCL again. Celebrity definitely has more to offer.

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Jun 12, 2005

Bahamas

This trip was for our honeymoon, and it honestly could not have been any better. The ship was beautiful, the food was fantastic, the service was even better, and the entertainment was outstanding. We attended at least one show a night (most nights we went to 2 shows), and we danced at Spinniker, laid out by the pool, and did just about everything you can imagine while on board. The "Freestyle Daily" was great, it easily explained

the next day's embarkation procedures, and gave you the day's schedule that was very easy to understand. The shows were great, and nothing overlapped, so you could go to everything you wanted. As for the excursions, each one got better and better. In Port Canaveral, we did the NASA Up Close tour which was great, then in Miami, we just took the BB Hopper to South Beach and enjoyed that for the day. Then the real fun started......Great Stirrup Cay. Wow! You are in water up to your chest, and you can see your toes (and the fish swimming around them!) When we got in the water and saw how clean it was we decided we had to go snorkeling. What a great decision, we loved that. As for being crowded, the main section of the beach was, so we went to the further beach which was almost exclusively to us. For some reason almost nobody walked over there and it was easy to get a chair and umbrella. There was no line at the BBQ buffet when we went over there and everything was just perfect. That afternoon we arrived in Nassau, and we got off the ship and walked around the shops near the pier. We had fun there, but the most fun started in the morning when we went over to Paradise Island to see the Atlantis. That was beautiful and went great too. We took a cab there and back, and they were very easy to take, and the drivers seemed very happy when I gave them a $2.00 tip....it seemed like they didn't get them too often. In summary, we wish the trip had not ended. It was as perfect a vacation/honeymoon that we could have imagined. We loved our room and balcony and honestly can't imagine taking another cruise without being back on Norwegian...and we would love to be back on the Dawn again. I don't know if this is allowed, but I posted photos from the cruise on my site and feel free to check out how beautiful it was.... words just can't explain it. http://www.mikelynaugh.com/wedding/Honeymoon/index1.html Mike

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May 29, 2005

Bahamas

This was the best vacation I have been on!! I absolutely loved every second of it. The food was excellent, the shows were great. The private Island was gorgeous, I had a great time. Our cruise director, Colin Kerr was amazing. He is talented and very people friendly, He is such a great cruise director. I hope Colin, will be on the Dawn next year!!!  

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Apr 3, 2005

Bahamas

Traveling with 3 children, 10, 14 $ 16. Loved the ship, kids had an awesome time. Tip...only buy pop card for each kid, then 1 smoothie package for all kids to share. Embarking and disembarking was extremely frustrating, be prepared for long waits. Shore Excursions are hardly worth it, by the time you line up to get off the ship, get where you're going and come back, it seems hardly worth the money. Great Stirrup Cay... be in the main

lobby by 7:15 am to get tickets for the shore tender, otherwise you will never get a chair/umbrella on the beach. Great island though, worth getting off for swimming and sun. Pearl Island shore excursion was fun, but barely enough time to enjoy as we only had 1/2 day in Nassau. Cabins are great for kids, ours were very impressed. Spinnaker Lounge is open for everyone (kids included to hang out, dance, watch (or participate in) Family Feud, etc. until 11pm every night, then adults only. My kids loved the cruise, and want to live on one! Kids club is great. Teen Club could use some improvement as teens are a little harder to get them to actually participate for fear it's not "cool". It took a couple days for my teens to check out the teen club, but then they really liked some of the activities. My 14 yr old son loved the freestyle dining and choices of restaurants, he must have ate 20 times a day! Tip....alcoholic drinks average $6USD and a 15% tip is automatically added on any bar bill. You can purchase small incidentals on ship should you forget them or run out...such as bandaids, sunscreen, etc. In Port Canaveral we chose to take the ship's shuttle to Cocoa Beach for the day. After a long boring line up to get off the ship, we waited to board shuttle and finally got there at 10:30 am. Went to Ron Jon's surf shop (WOW...great!)...then laid on the beach. Tip...go to the pier, you can see sharks at the end of the pier. In Miami, we did the Everglades Fan Boat Tour....tip...boring!!!!!! Kids thought it was a waste of a day. Too large a boat with too many passengers, going on a path though tall reeds. Saw 2 alligators there. Info show at end of tour was ok, but this excursion is definitely not worth the $400 CAD we paid. Every evening they put a schedule of the next day's events in your cabin. Evening entertainment was awesome...we all loved going every night! Tip...make sure you book shore excursions before you leave..but be prepared...we booked our ahead of time, but found out upon boarding that "Snorkelling with Stingrays" in Bahamas was cancelled. Upon trying to rebook anything (especially dolphins), everything was already sold out! Very disappointing! Another tip....we did not do Disney in Port Canaveral, heard from many that it was way too rushed! Tip: Teen girls can wear flip flops to dinner with dresses, skirts or dress pants. Teen boys can wear cords. Dress code on ship was absolutely great! You absolutely do not have to dress formal unless you want to. We always felt really comfortable on board, all ages ranges, and all types of people. We are middle class from a small town, never felt out of place on board. NCL is great, would highly recommend it!  

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Feb 10, 2005

Western Caribbean

Embarkation was a nightmare in NYC. The ship was late to port due to a medical emergency, and this changed our entire itinerary. We were not able to travel as far south due to time allowances. To make up for this, we were taken to Old San Juan, Puerto Rico for a few hours. We were not very impressed with what we saw. We enjoyed St. Thomas but found it to be very commercial. St John, Antigua was great fun for us on a catamaran sail to

Bird Island. St. Maarten was the cleanest and most tourist friendly area we visited. Tortola was spectacular. If you have the opportunity to visit the Virgin Gorda there, put that at the top of your list! We have nothing but positive comments on the Dawn itself. Excellent service, excellent food, excellent entertainment and an excellent time was had by all. The ship is so clean!! There was always cleaning going on. Our stateroom was larger then we expected and kept spotless by our room stewardess. The main restaurants all seem to have the same menus each day, but the food was excellent. We never had to wait to be seated. We found the galleria to be very over priced, so we did not shop on the ship. The best shopping bargains are definately in St. Maarten. Debarkation was also a nightmare in NYC. Even though we were only 1 hour late getting into port, we sat for hours waiting to get off the ship. Even though they call you off the ship by colored tags, we saw many people in line with tags of all colors of the rainbow, pushing their way through to get off before you. Once they clear you from the ship, you must navigate the terminal which is an absolute nightmare. Pure chaos. No one seems to know where they are going, they have people standing all over the terminal trying to get on the same ship you are trying to get off of. It was very nerve wracking and tiring. After all is said, we want to book with NCL again but we have serious issues with the embarkation and debarkation process in NYC. The cruise line itself was terrific, and we would recommend this line to anyone wishing to travel.

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Feb 10, 2005

Southern Caribbean

BOARDING- Due to a medical emergency enroute to New York, the ship was 4 hours late arriving. While we had to wait hours to board, you had to feel sorry for the passengers getting off the ship who missed their flights and other connections. NCL tried to make our long wait on the pier as pleasant as possible by having crew members serve sandwiches and soft drinks which were much appreciated. After finally boarding around 5PM, we made reservations

for table 5 overlooking the atrium at the Salsa restaurant where we could dine to the familiar music of Anna Y Los Vientos. They recognized us and played many of our favorite songs. It was good to be back for our third cruise on the Dawn. STAFF- We always felt the greatest asset of this beautiful ship was its staff. From the Hotel Manager Klaus to our efficient cabin stewards Melaini and Victor, we received the royal treatment. Our concierge Ruth from Austria was always available and very helpful. Cruise Director Colin from Scotland was always humorous and entertaining. The Executive Chef Norbert from Germany satisfied our every culinary desire. The dining room personnel were uniformly courteous and efficient and we were particularly impressed by the many young ladies from Romania who spoke English flawlessly and served with flair and friendliness. We appreciated the dance instructors Roman and Svetlana from Russia and the dance hostsBob & David. Jenni, the cruise consultant from South Africa was most helpful in providing information on ports and future bookings. The excursion desk handled the confusion resulting from our itinerary changes very well. The management team of this ship can take a bow for the stellar performance of their crew. DINING- We had breakfast every morning at table no.1 in the elegant Venetian dining room where the food and service were outstanding with special mention for Dimitri from Romania and Virginia from the Philippines. We often had lunch in the Venetian where the menu was especially good on sea days. At dinner, we always gravitated to Impressions where we were expertly served by a cadre of young ladies named Simona, Elena, Gionina, Luminata, Ramona and Alice whom we affectionately dubbed our "Romanian All-Stars," ably supervised by personable Edgar from Honduras. Of the specialty restaurants, we enjoyed Salsa (prawn frajita), La Trottoria (Fruit de Mare) and Bamboo (Peking Duck). We rarely ate at the Garden Cafe buffet as it was often crowded and chaotic. The poolside luncheon barbecues were very popular. One morning a Bavarian brunch was held at the Bimini Bar on deck 14 where passengers enjoyed weisswurst and bratwurst accompanied by the rousing oom-pah music of the Dawn band. The 24 hour Blue Lagoon served tasty wok dishes and good wonton soup. Dining at all locations was superb and we had no complaints about any of them. FITNESS CLASSES- We were disappointed in the changes made in the fitness classes by Steiner's. On our previous Dawn cruise in November, we enjoyed numerous fitness classes at no extra charge throughout the day performed with skill and dedication by Candi and Erin. There had been a nominal $5. charge for yoga and cycling classes. On this cruise, there were fewer no charge classes at inconvenient times (8AM and 5PM) and the yoga, cycling and formerly free pilates were now $10. classes paid in advance. Most classes were poorly attended where they were very popular on our previous cruise. To add insult to injury, the "In Motion On The Ocean" T-shirts previously awarded fitness attendees on former cruises have now been eliminated (they are now for sale). It would appear Steiner's is more interested in a few people attending paid classes than encouraging many people to improve their fitness. I justice to the new instructors Phil and Johann, they were talented but could have been better utilized providing more no-fee classes during the day. MUSIC- We have been on many cruise ships and we have found the musicians on the Dawn to be without equal. Anna Y Los Vientos, the talented quartet from the Philippines who performed nightly just above the Java Cafe in the atrium were so popular that many passengers danced to their music on the terrazo floor in front of the reception desk. Nathan and Randy performed nightly at the grand piano in the atrium providing excellent dinner music to the diners just above in the Salsa restaurant. The Dawn house band, led by trumpeter extraordinaire were first rate whether playing dance music in the Spinnaker Lounge especially on big band night or in the Stardust Theatre. Modal Magic, a contemporary group was outstanding in Spinnakers Lounge on Valentine's night when they performed "The Best Romantic Love Songs" with skill and flair demonstrating the could also do justice to the golden oldies. We did miss Pamala Stanley who had previously perfomed nightly to SRO crowds in Gatsby's. ENTERTAINMENT- The Jean Ann Ryan company were talented and energetic but they really have to get some new shows as we have now seen "South Beach Rave" and "Bollywood" three times. On one of the final nights, they sang in Spinnakers where their talent was not fully utilized singing mostly unfamiliar songs from undistinguished musicals. The 2nd City comedy troupe is not to everyone's taste. Improv comedy is difficult and hit or miss. Some people loved it, others walked out. We thought comedian/ventriloquist Michael Siegfried was hilarious and singers Carla Capps and Chris Riggins were well received. PORTS- Due to our late departure from New York, our first port was San Juan instead of St. Thomas where we spent a full day later. Barbados had to be deleted from the itinerary. We enjoyed going to beaches on our own in Antigua, St. Maarten and St. Thomas. We did a snorkeling excursion in our final port of Tortola. Weather was mostly good at all ports. A FEW NEGATIVES- Some of the bar lounges were small and very smoky. We felt sorry for the piano player in the Star Bar and we avoided the trivia contests in the Pearly King's Pub because the smoke was intolerable. Needless to say, we avoided the casino for the same reason. Finally, if you have a choice, mail your post cards in St. Thomas rather than San Juan as the ones we mailed there arrived days after we got home. CONCLUSION- A memorable cruise on a beautiful ship staffed by an outstanding crew. What better way for us to spend the final night our cruise than to dance in the atrium to Anna Y Los Vientos performing their beautiful rendition of "I'll Be Seeing You?" Hopefully, we will be seeing many of our friends on the Dawn on a future NCL cruise.

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Jan 30, 2005

Southern Caribbean

Embarkation: Embarkation in NYC was a minor nightmare because the Dawn was 3 hours late getting into port. We came from Boston by bus and our driver wasted some time for us but still we stood in a line for over and hour. We got very little information about what was happening but eventually we got checked in. Luggage came to our balcony cabin on deck 10 quite promptly. Food: Typically we'd have breakfast at the Garden Cafe, lunch at

the buffet or the Venetian and dinner in one of the main restaurants (Venetian, Aqua, Impressions). The food was very good with nice variety, service often a bit slow, and the ambiance quite pleasant. My wife complained about the lack of fresh pineapple at breakfast, a serious problem. Choices at the buffet or the outdoor BBQ never seemed to change. Entertainment: We only went to one show and it was very good (Bollywood). We were part of a group that share the hobby of ballroom dancing and we were disappointed in the small dane floors and shortage of the music we wanted. Most often we ended up taking over the Atrium to dance to an "easy listening" quartet. With the average age of the passengers being quite high, it was unfortunate that too much music was loud and "disco". There were several perks for our group of 25 that made it an excellent time despite NCL. Sing-a-longs with Stacy MacAdams in Pearly Kings pub were great fun and he'll probably remember our group for a while. Ports: The itinerary changed because of the late departure so we had 1/2 day in San Juan, full days in St. Thomas (gotta have time to shop), Antigua, Barbados, Dominica and 1/2 day in Tortola (we love Tortola and wished we were there longer). Debarkation: Returned to NYC 4 hours late and sat and sat until we could disembark. Sailed past customs and eventually got back to Boston. Overall: Dawn is a nice ship, but not great for ballroom dancers. We'll find another for our 5th annual cruise.

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Dec 30, 2004

Southern Caribbean

Pros: • Great kids program! • Clean! • Variety of restaurants, activities Cons: • Not enough time in port • Excursions expensive, not well organized • Dock out of NYC less warm weather time Useful Tips before going: • Bring an outlet splitter if you need to charge stuff (hairdryer is provided though, cell phones are useless, laptops aren’t worth bringing since you can’t access the wireless in the rooms) •

Walkie talkies are good for large groups • Bring laundry detergent – free washer/dryer available for use • Reserve specialty restaurants early in cruise since they were more popular later Trying to Decide which Cruise: I’ve only been on one cruise previous to this one, so I read a number of reviews before choosing this one. Because I was traveling with my entire family, ranging in ages from 3yo to 68yo, it was important that there be activities to appeal to everyone. I will try to include relevant interests for each age group. Food: Freestyle cruising allowed for wide variety in choice of restaurants. The Garden café is a cafeteria style buffet that always seemed to be open, so if you just wanted a quick bite, it was a nice option. No matter when you wanted to eat, there were always a few options. We didn’t take full advantage of the benefits of freestyle dining. Because of the kids, we tended to eat early, so had less problems with slow service and were usually able to make it to the first show. We felt that Aqua had the best service (fast, friendly, and efficient), so if there was a show we definitely wanted to make it to, we dined there. La Trattoria had excellent salmon and desserts. For families with small children, the kids program would run until 5pm and then start again at 7pm until 10pm. (Kids program was excellent!) We would dine as a family, but I’m sure other parents probably would take advantage of the service and feed the kids at the kid’s café (the buffet cafeteria) then drop them off and have dinner and a show alone. Another advantage of freestyle dining that I’m sure others would appreciate is the fact that you don’t have to eat with strangers. Also, since it was a 10 day cruise, it was good to have a change of scenery and a choice to eat later or earlier on port days depending on the schedule. The kids menu was not too healthy, but they loved the grilled cheese and pasta. For health conscious cruisers, the cooking light options were good, and there were good vegetarian options as well as good seafood choices at every meal (dining rooms and Garden Café). Fruit variety was a bit limited and not terribly fresh, but the chefs were accommodating about special orders of steamed vegetables or plates of fruit. For those with a sweet tooth, a plethora of small cakes and tortes at each meal and at the chocoholic’s buffet guaranteed that by the end of the 10 days, even I wasn’t very tempted by sweets for a few days! Ice cream was usually available as well, but was a bit more icy than creamy. The soft serve machine didn’t work until the second to last day. Of note, the diabetic options were there, but a bit limited. Activities: None of us were ever bored. I read a bunch of reviews of other cruise ships that had activities like rock climbing, ice skating, etc. The Dawn was somewhat traditional in this arena. Sports equipment: My dad spent a lot of time with the golf driving net (basic net cage, limited woods). Basketball court and jogging track on top as well. Fitness classes were very well taught, geared to class with good variety of choices. Cardio equipment was adequate. Entertainment: Cinema movie selections limited but up-to-date, with general appeal, quality somewhat fuzzy. Musical/dancing shows were very good, the rest were about par – comedians, juggling showmen, magic shows etc. Video arcade available for teens – at a cost. Shops: expensive, but available for emergencies, also with crystal and daily “sidewalk sale” type sales. Daily activities: usual bingo, ice carving, food carving classes, towel making, bridge and other card or board games classes and tournament. Arts and crafts were nothing special. Games room had chess, checkers, scrabble. Small library available with limited books and hours. Spa looked good, but expensive. Excursions: Wide range of choices – for active to restful, but our experiences were that they were overpriced and poorly organized with the exception of the Catarmaran sail on St. John which had excellent snorkeling, good sail, but beach time and space was minimal. Harrison’s Cave on Barbados was interesting, but poorly organized and ended up running late, with a lot of wasted waiting, confusion time. Magen’s Bay on St. Thomas was also poorly organized with a lot of wasted waiting time, and we ran late as well. Island tour on St. Martin was good, zoo visit was interesting, but overall probably not worth it. Overall, we had very limited time on each island, and I would probably recommend passing on most of them. Staterooms/comfort: We had 2 mini-suites with balcony on 11th deck, aft (one with 3 adults, one with 2 adults and 2 children). The sofa bed was very firm and comfortable (possibly better than the ‘real’ bed). Every space was tightly accounted for. Walking space was tight as was drawer space. Bathroom was partitioned and we had an actual bathtub. Only one outlet by the vanity. The starboard side had nice balcony sun on the cruise down. A bit noisy with creaking while at sea, but the curtains were very thick which helped with shade and soundproofing between the bed and sofa/TV area as well as between the balcony and sofa/TV area. Housekeeping was excellent and kept the rooms very well – changed sheets about every other day, pleasant, helpful. Comfort/Cleanliness: Kudos to the Dawn on cleanliness. I was Very Impressed with the upkeep and cleanliness of the ship, both inside and out. Fun and Sun: We had a few days of rain on port days (St. Martin and Barbados). I don’t know if that has to do with the location of the islands and time of year, but something to consider when deciding on shore excursions. Weather on St. Thomas, Antigua, and Tortola were good. Since we docked out of NYC, we had one day of cold weather each way, which wasted a little more time, but there was plenty to do on the ship. All the pools were heated to almost as warm as the jacuzzi’s. The pools weren’t used that much since on sea days, it was too rocky/wavy or too cold. The deck was usually pretty crowded on the nice days, but our balcony was another nice option. Other guests: Depends on time of year you go, but since we docked out of NYC on a cruise from Dec 30 – Jan 9, there were a lot of New Yorkers, very few families. available only in certain common areas. Laundry free, but need to bring or buy detergent. Hidden Costs: Soda ($36 for unlimited soda for adults) otherwise it’s $1.75 each (in dining rooms or bars. Bottled water available for a cost ($3 to $5, I think) as well (both in the rooms or at disembarkation). We just had our own bottles and filled it up ourselves. Limited juices available at the garden café. Teas and coffees are abundant and free.

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Dec 18, 2004

Southern Caribbean

Embarkation and dis-embarkation is a nightmare when sailing from New York. The terminal is crowded with passengers and porters trying to get on and off the ship. Taxi's are impossible to get(Tip- when disembarking get the elevator to street level, cross the road and get a cab there it is so much easier) Now the negatives are out of the way the cruise itself was outstanding. the "Freestyle" concept is and excellent idea as there

is so many choices of where to eat on this ship. All the restaurants are extremely high in quality of food and the service is fantastic. Although do be aware that there is a coverage charge in some restaurants. Entertainment is of a very high standard with an excellent itenary we can have no complaints about the boat, staff or the cruise itself. However as a foreign national the disembarkation was rather dis organised particularly as we had a nine month old with us we were stuck in the Stardust theatre for over 2 hours. This does not happen on other cruise lines and i think this along with the chaotic embarkation and dis embarkation at the terminal really has to be addressed by NCL. NCL say our experience was "unusual" however after reading similiar reviews on this site NCL should move quickly to address this as it certainly put a dampner on our holiday.

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Nov 28, 2004

Southern Caribbean

The Norwegian Dawn is a beautiful ship with outstanding art and graphics throughout. Shortcomings are the free style dining concept and lack of 'class' on formal nights. Good luck if you're a lone couple (or worse yet, a single) and don't even bother to dress spiffy on formal night as you may find your table mate in dungarees and flannel shirt. This is a no-class ship. Shows are great but show lounge seating is an architectural disaster;

far too cramped with not even any 'toe room' since seatbacks go all the way to floor. Worse than worst airline cabin seats. Casino smoking rules should also be as rest of ship; port side smoking and starboard side non-smoking. Live poker (Texas Hold-em $5/10) is a welcome addition but only one table made it almost impossible to get into a game. Smooth, easy/slow dance music was virtually non-existant.  

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Nov 28, 2004

Southern Caribbean

Boarding in New York was a little chaotic until they admitted us to the pier embarkation area at 1PM when it went rather smoothly. After going to our Decl 11 mini-suite, we enjoyed an excellent lunch in the Venetian Dining Room avoiding crowds at the buffet. We promptly made reservations that evening for 6:30 at our favorite Dawn dining venue, the Salsa restaurant overlooking the Atrium. We enjoyed an excellent dinner there while listening

to the fine music of musicians we have enjoyed on previous Dawn cruises- Vladimir at the the grand piano in the base of the Atrium and our favorite quartet Anna Y Los Vientos performing just above the Java Cafe. They recognized us immediately and played and sung many of our favorites. It was a delightful welcome aboard return to the Dawn. After attending the Welcome Aboard Show in the Stardust Theatre hosted by a fine Cruise Director Paul Baya, we went to the Gatsby's lounge to enjoy another familiar performer- pianist-vocalist extraordinaire Pamala Stanley who we feel is the most talented single entertainer we have ever seen on a cruise ship. She packed Gatsby's nightly, playing and singing endless requests and dazzling her audience with her virtuosity. As we retired to our cabin that night, we agreed it was great to be back on the Dawn. DINING: We had breakfast almost every morning in the Venetian Restaurant where the service and food were excellent. We alternated lunch between the Venetian and the Garden Cafe buffet. We enjoyed dinner in the Impressions restaurant, ably served by Simona and Ramona from Romania. We had dinner twice in the Italian Restaurant Trattoria ably served by Felix and Tanya. We also dined three times at Salsa, we love the music and ambience, including our final evening. The food in all the restaurants was very good especially the lobster and rack of lamb in Impressions, the Fruit de Mare & pasta in Trottaria and Shrimp frajita in Salsas. No complaints at all regarding the food we had in any of the restaurants we tried. ENTERTAINMENT: We thought the musicians on this ship were outstanding. Besides the aforementioned, the Norwegian Dawn Showband was first rate, often providing great dance music in the Spinnaker Lounge. Their big band night was extremely popular with Pamala Stanley providing vocal renditions of familiar standards. While the production shows in the Stardust theatre were very good with a talented and energetic cast, they were also very familiar as we had seen the same shows the previous winter. I would hope that Dawn would try to introduce at least one new production every year to satisfy her many repeat cruisers. Among the other performers appearing in the Stardust theatre, tenor Chris Riggins stood out. Overall, the entertainment was very good. PORTS: Do to mechanical problems, the Captain was required to alter our itinerary. We had to skip our first stop in St. Thomas for an alternate stay in St. Croix. We did have a full day in St. Thomas later in the cruise instead of the scheduled Grenada which was still suffering from hurricane damage. A previous final port of Totola, BVI which had been deleted was restored. Under the circumstances, we thought the Captain handled these changes very well and most passengers were pleased with the altered itinerary. We booked snorleling excursions in Barbados, St. Thomas and Tortola which were all good. An excursion to a beach in Dominica to the Castaway Hotel was not as promised and when I complained, the excursion desk granted us a 50% rebate on that tour which I thought was reasonable. We went to several beaches on our own and we were blessed with excellent weather on all the islands we visited. FITNESS PROGRAM: My wife really enjoyed the many fitness classes provided in a private studio in the fitness center which were ably conducted by Candi and Erin with skill and dedication. We would have liked to use the indoor lap pool before breakfast but it was locked until 8AM. It was hard to use later in the day when it became crowded. They should open it earlier and I so requested. STAFF: We thought the crew was excellent including our cabin stewards Terrance and Shari and our nightly waiter in the Java Cafe Julian. We had no complaints with any of the staff as they were uniformly courteous and helpful. SUMMARY: An excellent cruise on a fine ship with an outstanding staff. We would not hesitate to recommend Norwegian Dawn and we look forward to sailing on her again in the future.

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Nov 18, 2004

Bahamas

Just finished a 10 Night Cruise to the Souther Caribbean. Having cruised a previous three times with other lines I was most impressed with Norwegian's Freestyle Dining. Something for everyone. Balcony cabin for two people was adequate size and balcony was wide enough for a reclining sun chair. Food was excellent, varied dining options, used them all. Loved Le Bistro best, although they were all good. Do not like cafeteria eating much

and we used the dining rooms for all meals, excellent service, portions of good size for Europeans. Ports of call were all good, nothing to complain about there. We used the tours from the islands rather than the ships and found them to be cheaper than the ship and just as good. Must comment though on the embarkation process, it took just forever, we had to queue up for over an hour, and that was only to get in another line for the boarding procedures, tip, to make it quicker remember to register online it makes the line move so much quicker. Disembarkation also took forever, being a foreign visitor, we were sitting in the theatre waiting to be taken for immigration for 2 hours 45 minutes, cannot help but think they could try and do better with this. Norwegian say they cannot control this process as it is in the hands of immigration, but Norwegian were very disorganised in handing out cards with numbers on for disembarkation. Nothing in the literature given, stating that you need these cards, it was complete chaos when we were asked for these cards to find we did not have them. Would be so much easier if these cards were handed out the night before along with your coloured luggage tags. However, excellent cruise rating, really enjoyed the experience except for getting on and getting off. I would recommend this cruise to anyone.

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By Lynn_CR

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Oct 31, 2004

Bahamas

This was the best ever. Our children (both 17) had a blast. It is a beautiful ship and the service was excellent.

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Oct 24, 2004

Bahamas

Have just returned from a very successful holiday. The Dawn is a lovely ship and the service we received was superb. I would say the food is very good and there is so much to choose from. We ate in most of the restaurants and did not have one bad meal. My personal favorite was the Aqua. We had an inside cabin but when we go again I will pay more to get an outside as I think its worth it. The entertainment was great - I was worried it

would be like a holiday camp with people trying to get you to participate in things but its not like that at all. The ship was full but you could always find a quiet area if you wished. The casual dress was great and we found jeans were acceptable as long as they were smart with no holes etc but likewise I did not feel out of place if I wanted to dress up. Drinks onboard were incredibly reasonable - 6 beers cost $19.00, a glass of wine cost $3.00. My only word of warning - on your return make sure that you pre book a transfer back to the airport. It is chaos when the ship disembarks and we waited for well over an hour to grab a taxi. Will definitely book to go again.

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Sep 26, 2004

Bahamas

James Donwell This was my first cruise on a genuine cruise ship (and certainly not my last). I booked only a month in advance on a spur-of-the-moment when I was visiting the NCL website while attending to other business. Even though this was my first cruise, I have been interested in cruise ships for more than a decade and always been a strong advocate for cruising. Checking In I arrived at the New York Passenger Ship Terminal

in a taxicab at about 1pm. Out of the cab I was immediately approached by a porter who assisted with my baggage and then guided me towards the next stop inside the terminal. At the entrance a person checked that I had the proper documents ready and this was done, a second time only a few feet inside the terminal. Now, this may seem extreme, but it was amazing to see how many did not have their travel documents in hand=85 Once inside the terminal I went straight to the check in counter to have a made the mandatory imprint of my Visa and then on to pick up my keycard. Next in line was the first of many photo shoots with a backdrop of the ship. And then; welcome aboard! I was in my room less than 45 minutes after I had paid, my cab at the curb=97and this was a sold out cruise! The longest wait was actually at the elevators, going from the boarding level at deck 6 to my room on deck 10. At check in I was told to expect my bags to arrive at my stateroom before 8pm, they were there before we left the dock at 4pm! The Stateroom Cruising solo and being budget-minded I had booked an inside room, category II. My stateroom (#10599) was really nice and roomy. On one bed I found a spread to "please place luggage here" to spare the linens. The room had two (small) desks, two queen size beds that could easily be put together, a 14=94 color TV with a very simple to use remote control lots of drawers and a sizable closet. There was even a coffeemaker, a hair dryer and a mini-fridge with a full ice bucket and a safe. There are two power outlets, one American and one British. The bathroom was bigger than I have seen on some Scandinavian ferries and was very well appointed. The shower had a sliding glass door rather than a curtain, which was nice. Soaps and shampoo was provided in wall-mounted dispensers. During the cruise Mike and Rosa, my room steward and stewardess, made sure I had new towels whenever I left the room for a second and he filled the ice bucket, too. Every night when I returned to my room to go to bed, I found a new kind of towel animal with the signature NCL chocolate mints on my bed=97again a nice touch. The Lifeboat Drill At 3pm, the first welcome aboard announcement was made and everybody were asked to be at their lifeboat station with their lifejacket at 3:30pm. This announcement was repeated at 3:15pm and at 3:30pm, I found myself to be one of first to arrive at boat station Y2 on the starboard side of the ship, outside on the promenade. Eventually everybody was there and we had a brief introduction to the life jackets by our Rescue Station Manager as well as a chance to look into one of the lifeboats. Getting on the Go After returning my lifejacket to my room, I went to the Oasis pool on Deck 12 for the Sail Away Bar-B-Q. On a perfect day, no clouds and a balmy high 60-something we pulled out from Pier 88, Berth 2 into the Hudson River with the New York skyline as a backdrop and escorted by two Coastguard patrol boats (they followed us all the way to the pilot station at Ambrose). On deck the band was playing, the first of many barbeques was set up and the waiters all offered large frozen drinks in souvenir glasses. We left the dock almost punctually at 4pm and once in the Hudson, our Swedish captain Nicklas (Peterstam, but he never mentioned his last name) made his welcome aboard speech; he mentioned that we would pass the Statue of Liberty about 40 minutes after departure and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge an hour after departure. Almost everybody were on deck and had their cameras out to photograph miss Liberty and passing under the Narrows Bridge. Once we passed the pilot station, our armed guards and Coastguard escorts disappeared and we set the course for Florida. Exploring the Dawn The Norwegian Dawn is a beautiful ship and has a great layout. I will not detail all the public rooms, this has already been done by others, but rather tell about some of the experiences you could have. Dining I did not want to pay the cover of the three "theme" restaurants, but sampled all the other dining venues. Service was always very attentive and no matter when or where I decided to dine, the maitre d=92 always honored my request for a table for one with no waiting time. The waiters made a point of introducing themselves and their home country (so you would remember them for your comment card on the last day of the cruise). The menu has something for everyone with appetizers, soups and salads, entr=E9es and a dessert menu of its own. The food was good, but not great=97it seemed as if NCL does not want to over spice but rather not offend anyone. On the Monday night I had the escargots in the Impres=ADsions Dining Room on deck 6, but these were tasteless (usually have a taste of garlic, when served in France) and so was most of the fare. The meals were always presented very fine and served without waiting time=97though you sometimes got a feeling they needed the table again soon. But, to be fair to all, catering to 2400 passengers is no small task. Feeling like a snack between meals, try the Garden Caf=E9 on deck 12 or Bimini Bar & Grill forward on deck 13 or just wait a little longer and the bbq will most probably be out by the pool. Entertainment Every night has a new show in the lavish Stardust Theatre, forward on deck 6 and 7. This theatre seats more than 1,000 passengers and is a true Broadway style venue. The doors open 30 minutes before the show, but it was never a problem getting a good seat. The Jean Ann Ryan productions were great, but I especially liked the magic of Charles Bach and the action comedy of Thien Fu. Waiting for the show the cruise director=92s staff were all over selling lottery tickets and souvenirs and of course the bar staff would help you drench your thirst. Forward on deck 12 the Spinnaker Lounge was used for port (read; sales) lectures as well as dance classes and great dance parties and of course the hilarious comedy of Dave Heanan, a native New Yorker! The Dazzle's Lounge forward on Deck 7 was the place for the champagne art auctions, educative classes in napkin folding, etc. and the nightly karaoke (for adults only). The Casino on forward on deck 6 is just as great as you would find it in Las Vegas, but you should only go there if you feel you have not paid enough for your cruise. Wellness The El Dorado fitness center aft on decks 11 and 12 is open 24/7 and offers the newest in the field. There are classes in yoga, spinning and aerobics daily. If you do not feel like joining the gym, you still have the option of walking off those extra pounds from the Chocoholic Buffet doing laps on the Promenade on deck 7 where one lap is 612 yards (560 meters) and four laps total 1.4 miles. Or, you can use the jogging track on deck 13. If you are into ping-pong, you can get bats and balls from the Reception desk on deck 7 for use at the two ping-pong tables on deck 13. On deck 14 (access from deck 13, mid ship, you will find a full size basketball court (in a cage so you don=92t loose the ball over the side of the ship) and on deck 13 there are two golf cages provided with free to use golf clubs for putting or driving. When passing between the ping-pong tables and the golf cages, you will pass the life-sized chess game, and please feel free to make your move. Passing later again, it is always fun to see how the game is progressing. If you are on the cruise to relax you will be happy to find hundreds and hundreds of deck chairs facing the Oasis pool and more facing forward on deck 13. Internet As part of my job I need to be able to access the internet on a regular basis. Hence I signed up for the $100/250 minute internet package on the first night of the cruise and enjoyed the wireless internet access in the Atrium, at the Oasis Pool and in the Spinnacker Lounge. Considering this was on a moving ship on the high seas the internet access was not fast, but reliable. Ports o' Call Due to Hurricane Jeanne, our itinerary was changed. On the first sea day, the captain made the announcement that as the channel into Port Canaveral did not have the draught to allow a ship of our size to enter, we would go directly to Nassau=97everyone applauded. The change in itinerary also meant that we missed out on the NCL private island. Nassau We arrived late in the afternoon on Tuesday. The temperature was in the upper 80-92s and so was the humidity! The port was already full (Mariner of the Seas, Disney Wonder, Carnival=92s Fantasy) so we docked at the pier farthest from the terminal building. It was a five-minute walk to the terminal building and then you are in the middle of the town. Nassau is a nice small town with a distinctive Caribbean feel=97slow paced, laid back and peddlers on every street corner. As we stayed overnight I opted to dine on the ship and hit town the next day. In stead of paying big bucks for a city tour I ventured into town on my own and saw the Queen's Staircase, The Tower, The Parliament (which was celebrating it's centennial that day) and then shopping in downtown. Miami Our call to Miami coincided with the arrival of President Bush for the presidential debate the same evening. The Norwegian Dawn was the only ship in Miami and we had a spectacular arrival in Government's Cut. As this was our first stop back in the US after being in the Bahamas, all passengers had to go through immigration. This meant being in line forever as the computer system was down for a while. However, the tour busses waited and everybody got to do their tours. I took the three-hour coach tour of Miami Beach, Coral Gables and Calle Ocho (Little Havana). This was my first visit to Miami and I enjoyed the sightseeing on Ocean Drive and through the city. Port Canaveral We were in the Port at dawn and the tours departed shortly thereafter. I had signed up for the NASA Up Close tour and enjoyed a full day at the Kennedy Space Center, including a three-hour tour of the complex narrated but a long-time NASA employee. All in all As I mentioned before, this cruise was my first and it met all my expectations. I liked the Freestyle Cruising and had a great time on the ship. I will probably cruise on the Norwegian Dawn in the future. For more information on this and other cruise ships as well as passenger ferries please visit www.cruiseferries.net. Best Regards, Cruise & Ferries Net James Donwell Web Designer

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By Dee_CR

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Sep 19, 2004

Bahamas

Yes,The seas were very rough on this cruise.We just got back and even though this is a beautiful ship alot has to be said about the lack of service. I have to comment on the cleanliness of some ships rooms and hallways. There was a big problem with the spa,,the Chinese plunge bath was just dirty, I hate to tell you what I thought was in it. There was this ungodly banging on our floor every night that kept us awake alot, and guess what

it was a bother for customer service to listen to us. I've been on many cruises and I have to tell you to bypass this one and enjoy a real cruise line like Carnival or Royal C. There is not a midnite buffet worth talking about and for any real good food you have to pay extra for it.Norwegian keep your freestyle.

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Sep 19, 2004

Bahamas

I would like to start off by warning everyone not to cruise during the month of September as the weather can change at ANY given minute. My husband, father and 6 other friends went on this cruise, and I have mixed emotions when it comes to it. First things first, let me explain a bit about myself and family. We are all of Arab decent and are Muslims. With all the women wearing the traditional Islamic head scarf (of our own choice

not someone else's I might add). My husband, father and I shared the pent house suite on the 11th floor. Let me tell you that that's the ONLY way to cruise! It was absolutely amazing. The room was massive, and let's just say if i had to stay in my room, the bathroom would have been FINE BY ME. The pent house suite consisted of 2 rooms each with its own full bathroom integrated into one "apartment" for lack of a better word. My father took the smaller room which was the size of a regular stateroom and had everything in that room. He didn't need to use our room for anything. Now, the bigger room which hubby and I took, well...it was gorgeous. We had a dining room, living room and a balcony, then you opened the sliding doors to our bedroom which was attached to the bathroom. The bathroom had his and hers sinks, a jacuzzi with shower nozzle and it had a big picture window over looking the ocean. We also had our own 18" flat 2" thick TV hanging over the jacuzzi. Yes, we used it a lot! The shower stall literally had 4 shower nozzles, you can comfortable fit two people in there to shower, with space between each other. With all 4 nozzles, it was a great massage. The bed was oh so comfy. The service we received was exceptional, whether we were in the room, or at one of the restaurants. Our fave restaurant was Salsa, Mexican cuisine. The food was yummy! We didn't try any of the restaurants that had a cover charge, trust me, you didn't need to. However, some looked really interesting. Instead, we ate at the other places and the buffet and still had a great eating experience. Some of the people we were with didn't eat non-halal or non-kosher things so they found some difficulty with finding vegetarian dishes, but as for myself, my husband and father, we ate everything. Again, the service was excellent. All the staff and waiters and managers were very excited to meet with us and ask us about our background. Staff didn't hesitate to express there curiosity and we in turn welcomed the questions and were eager to answer them. It was really nice not to be judged simply on our appearance and traditional look. I must say though, some of the passengers were not as open and friendly as the staff. Too bad. Now, for our stops: Port Canaveral: Very close to Orlando...we went to Epcot, weather was nice. Cool and breezy and partly cloudy. Epcot was a little boring, not much to do. Next time, going to Walt Disney World instead. Miami: Went to South beach, again transportation was easy and convenient to go to south beach. As soon as we got to the beach, it POURED. Literally we had buckets of rain coming down on us. We stayed under some cafe's umbrellas most of the time. When it cleared up, we walked around and took a bus all over the major sites for only 25 cents (and it had AC!). Tried the beach again, and 5 minutes into it it started to rain again. So we only glimpsed the beach there. Then we went to the mall, and it was nice...nothing to really write about. It was an outdoor mall. Great Stirrup Cay 1st try: Couldn't go there due to rough winds and seas that had come up due to hurricane Jeanne heading that way. So, the captain skipped it and said we would come back to it. Nassau: Quaint area. Atlantis was beautiful, we took a private taxi and visited for a short while. then the driver dropped us off at a beach suggested to me by reception on the cruise. WARNING TO ALL: if reception tells you to go to cabbage beach, just know that you are going to one of the roughest areas for seas. Expect really high waves! Go to Cable beach instead so you can snorkel and actually enjoy the waters. Anyway, the weather could not have been better. Nothing but clear skies and sunshine. We had fun at the beach with the waves spitting us out and then sucking us back in. Which was dangerous since there was no lifegaurd on duty. My hubby unfortunately was tossed out so hard he went ear first into my leg and popped a blood vessel. It wasn't much fun for him after. Thankfully the ship doctor was amazing and took good care of him. Note: get travel insurance, we were glad we did! Great Stirrup Cay 2nd try: We didn't even attempt it. Upon returning to the ship from Nassau the captain informed us that the private island was far too dangerous to attempt to dock due to the coming hurricane making the seas too rough.(we thought to ourselves, really how bad can it be? we were soon going to find out) So, the captain docked in Nassau for the whole night until morning. That was great, but unfortunately, there was nothing to do out there unless you like clubbing and drinking. Since we did neither...we were bored. Downtown Nassau shuts everything at 8pm. The next day we set sail and were pratically escaping the hurricane, but we were caught in it. For 24hrs straight we were hitting seas with 30ft waves and believe you me, even a huge liner like that was being rocked like crazy. That was the first and only day i was sick. It seemed everyone was sick. There were baggies everywhere in case people got sick and nauseous. It was insane! At one point maybe at 1am, the ship felt as thought it slammed into a mountain, but it was only a wave. When the staff starts to look worried, then you start thinking. The Galleria store at the front or back of the ship had there items flying off shelves. If you are prone to getting sea sick, DO NOT sit in the Venetian restaurant. That is located at the back and rocks worse than a roller coaster ride at Six flags! Some poor woman was thrown from her own bed and sprained her ankle badly. I don't think anyone got a good night's sleep that night. There were even some people sleeping on the window seats or outside due to them feeling sick being indoors. Hubby and I and 3 of our friends felt brave and attempted to go outside onto the deck. It took me, and 3 other guys to even attempt to get the door open it was so windy, and once outside, the waves were tremendous. I have never seen anything like that before. It was surreal, almost right out of a movie. We all ran in after we each got our share of fresh air. The day after, we escaped and the seas calmed to the point where we didn't feel a thing. However, there was a layer of salt on everything outside. I felt we spent too many days at sea, and 7 days is way too long to be on a ship. It was my first cruise so i guess i had high hopes. Also, i just wish there was more to do on the ship. Things got repetitive and boring. The shows were ok. Bollywood was a MUST see and it was great. Unfortunately it was on the night the ship was rocking so you can tell that the performers were a little nervous, and one girl actually did fall. I had to give it to them though, they were still amazing. I hear that Royal Carribean has a lot of physical activities on their ships and i'll most likely do one with them that's 4 or 5 days. All in all, it was a great experience with the people and staff of the ship. The ship was VERY clean and neat at all times. Again, i cannot say it enough, the staff was absolutely charming. How do they stand working on a ship for 10 months and still be pleasant? I'll never know, but they were. Well, that's my story...and i'm sticking to it. Next time i'll make sure it's not hurricane season...and a shorter trip would be ideal.

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Aug 1, 2004

Bahamas

We booked our cruise in February, hence i had almost 6 months to wait before our sailing date. I did alot of research and was sort of bumbed out about what i had read. To my suprise this cruise was amazing the Dawn is an absolutley GORGEOUS ship. The food is elegant and the restaraunts are absolutley breath taking. The ship is enormous, and comparing to the other cruise lines I have cruised with the rooms are very roomy, (we stayed in

a mini-suite with a balcony) the balcony was a nice touch. It was nice to go to Florida to see south beach and in port canaveral we met up with old friends. Nassau, Bahamas is breathtaking and you must make an effort to see atlantis. The private island is sort of a joke, it is very pretty but the water was infested with jelly fish and it is very small so make sure you get to the island on one of the first 5 - 10 shuttles.. otherwise it is a great time and you wont want it to end. One last thing, my mother is a clean freak and this was the most clean boat i have ever seen they clean like you wouldnt believe and there are hand sanitizers before you go into and leave every room, restaruant and casino. VERY NICE

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Aug 1, 2004

Bahamas

We just returned from an incredible vacation on the Norwegian Dawn. My husband and I with our three children went with my mother, my sister and her family, my brother and his family. All together we had 7 adults and 8 children, ranging in age from 5 to 15. I will mention that one of the main reasons we all had such a great time is because we were a group - we could all split up and do our own thing, and then meet for dinner later.

My first impression of the ship was how beautiful it was (and having never been on a cruise before, the size of the ship was pretty amazing). The rooms seemed small to us, but once we got used to it, there was no problem at all. The people taking care of our room kept it very clean, and we had plenty of hanging space as well as drawers. Make sure to bring your own shampoo and soap, though. They just have a dispenser in the shower. Another tip - bring a carry on bag with your bathing suits. Your luggage may arrive later in the day, and if the weather is nice, you can go for a swim as the boat sails off. We had a beautiful sailing day, and the party outside by the main pool was so much fun, with great music and drinks, and the sail around Manhattan is always breathtaking. Immediately we were on vacation. At Port Canaveral, we took a taxi to the Nasa Space Center. We all enjoyed it there, but we had about an hour of heavy rain, so we didn't do everything we wanted to do. The next day, we docked in Miami. This was a great day for our entire group. Some went to play golf, some went to the Everglades (the air boat ride) and loved it. The rest of us took a taxi to South Beach. We went to the ocean and then had lunch at a wonderful little cafe across the street - so many places to choose from, they all look great. Afterwards, we went shopping and then headed back to the boat. I would have loved a little more time here. The next day we were at a lovely private island, Great Stirrup Cay. It was a little rainy that morning, so there was no "mad rush" to the little island(it turned out to be gorgeous and sunny). We found a little area with chairs by the beach to keep our things, and despite the crowd, loved this day. We went snorkeling, and also rented floating rafts. There was a Jamaican band and a big barbeque. We stayed on the beach for most of the time, and found that throughout the day, people headed back to the boat - so after a while, it didn't seem too crowded at all. The next day, and last port we visited was Nassau. We had to be back on the boat by 1:30 PM, so not much time to do anything - and it rained almost the entire time, so that "put a damper on things". I went to the Straw market and, maybe because of the rain, it was so packed with people, I had to get out of there. My girls had their hair braided, and my husband took the kids on a horse and buggy ride through the town. I met someone on the ship who said he went to the Atlantis and loved it- that might have been a better alternative. You also have an option of going to the Hilton Hotel, I think for $15 per person. The only problem with this stop is the little amount of time you have. Regarding the restaurants on the ship, the French restaurant, Le Bistro (this is also where you can view the amazing paintings), and Cagney's (steak house) we by far the best. Make sure to reserve early (you can do it 1 day before). Right next to Cagney's there is the Star Bar. This bar has a clubby atmosphere, and is a great place to meet for a martini before dinner at Cagney's. The Main restaurants are the Venitian (grand, beautiful room), Impressions, and Aqua. We never ended up eating at Aqua, but the other two were good, not great, a little like banquet food. Bamboo is another specialty restaurant. We ate there on the first night and the sushi was just OK. The pricing was also a little confusing for sushi, but in the end didn't amount to much anyway. There is also Salsa, the Mexican restaurant and an Italian trattoria, and I did not eat at either. People seemed to like Salsa, though - you need reservations here, as well. The kids liked the Garden Cafe, because it is buffet style. I was only there for breakfast (I am not a fan of buffets in general), and it was a little difficult finding a table. The kids also loved going to the Blue Lagoon, a sort of fast food place - kind of like a diner. During the day, there is also a poolside barbeque - too much of a crowd for me, and the Bimini Bar (overlooking the pool) where you could have lunch. I love the "freestyle" concept, it was great to try all different types of restaurants. There are small surcharges for dining at Le Bistro, Cagney's and Bamboo. I didn't mind paying extra - it was worth it. Now for the "Entertainment" The live shows at the Stardust Theater were very good. I went to two of Jean Ann Ryan's Company shows, "Music of the Night" (songs written by Andrew Lloyd Weber), and "Bollywood" (a Cirque du Soleil-type performance). There were also comedy shows and variety shows, which I did not see. There is a movie theater, which the older children enjoyed. There were even art auctions, which I loved to attend. We all ended up buying some pieces, and it was a learning experience as well. I would strongly recommend going to one of the auctions (there were 3, and I went to 2, both with different works of art). There was always something going on, between Bingo, Shuffleboard, Golf putting competitions, Games for the family - like Family Feud or Jeopardy, Yoga and Spinning classes(this was a very tough class!). At night you could see a show, or sit at one of the many bars, including the Havana Club - a cigar bar, which the men in our group loved. The Casino was also a lot of fun. We even did Karioke at Dazzles a couple of times. Some of the singers were actually pretty good (not me - I just had fun). It is impossible to mention everything there is to do. The best part about it is you can do all these things, or just enjoy your day by the pool (if it is a beautiful day at sea, get your chairs early or you might be out of luck), or work out in the gym and have a massage. Something for everyone to do. Colin, our cruise director was one of the funniest people I have ever met - he was the perfect MC for most of the major onboard activities. With his humor and wit, we are still laughing at his jokes. I was a little worried before I got onto the ship, some people who reviewed the ship complained about rude behavior (in adults) and a large number of unruly children. I found neither. Regarding the dress code - it is resort casual. Most people liked this. During the evening, people dressed up a bit (most of the main restaurants require no shorts or T-shirts after 5:00), and then there is one optional formal evening in which people got quite dressed, there were some tuxedos, mostly jacket and tie. There are always photographers present - it is a great opportunity to take some formal shots of the family. Regarding disembarkation - better to hang back and relax in your cabin as long as you can, just to avoid the crowds. All in all, a very organized disembarkation. It was a vacation until the very end. Have a wonderful cruise!!!!

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Jul 18, 2004

Bahamas

We left on the Norwegian Dawn July 18, 2004 from New York. The whether was overcast. The lines did go pretty quick. I haven't been on a cruise since I was a kid. I loved it. For everything thing 1 out of 10 I'd rate it a 10!! We were at sea the first day and half. Never board. Bingo, shows, casino, eating. Bingo though was little to expensive. $39.99 for 3 cards, $49.99 for 6 cards. But your away and your having fun. Food was excellent.

Service was excellent. Anytime you need something they were there. Just kids I wish they had another place for. Too many. First stop was Orlando. I went to Epcot. Too much money, you don't see alot. If you want to get an idea than it's good. Otherwise don't spend the $100. Next stop was Miami. Went to Miami Seaquarium. Love the dolphins. Which was only $40.00. That was o.k. Not a big South Beach fan......Next stop was there private island. Didn't care for it at all. If your not there early forget it. Went there and came right back. Not enough room. Friday was the Bahamas. That was great. Take a taxi not a tour. Less expensive. Took a taxi to the Atlantis. $4. Walked around town. They could've lived without the private island and stayed more in the Bahamas. All and all it was a very good ship. We had a balcony. I'll never stay in a room without one. The rooms were awesome. Beds very comfortable. They cleaned constantly. One note: If you go with people and your next door to each other, the door on the balcony they can open and you leave open. So you don't have to keep going out the other door. GREAT SHIP, DO NOT HESITATE TO GO!!!!

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Jul 18, 2004

Bahamas

I had a wonderful time on this immaculate ship. I went with my daughter and two friends. It was a full ship right after school let out. The ports of call should have been a clue -- Port Canaveral -- with Disney, the space center and Seaworld, that there would be children galore. Alot of them were running around like lunatics, uncontrolled, with parents oblivious to their loudness and actions. This was our main complaint. How do you

get around this? It's not easy but I think the ship could set aside a restaurant only for adults. They could eliminate some of the extra-pay restaurant space and accommodate clientele who want a calm, child-free vacation. Another drawback, along that vein, was only one swimming pool for 2,400 people. The children would not get out of the hot tubs. The only respite was for the older passengers to go up to the spa area where children were not allowed and swim inside. This did not particularly bother me, because I am not a sun-worshipper. The spa was wonderful. The massages great. The exercise room was enormous. I do not like "free-style" dining. Most of the time we had to wait on long lines on the stairs to get into the 3 dining areas -- Aqua, Venetian or Impressions. The "maitre d'" at Impressions seemed to think he was the head of Studio 54, informing diners of their waiting time. We ate there once, and the service was unusally poor. We were constantly looking for our waiter. With the addition of the Maitre D' and his attitude, we didn't want to go back. But at Aqua and the Venetian, we had absolutely no problems and the servers were wonderful. The food was very good. The cafeteria had a wide range of tasty food for breakfast and for lunch. They had a vegetarian section where you could get very good Indian food, and their omelette and waffle sections were excellent too, although the lines were a little too long sometimes, but if you waited, there seemed to be a lull. My daughter and friends got off the ship to go to Epcot. It was expensive and they felt there was not enough time to really enjoy it fully, although it did take the whole day. My daughter and friend enjoyed the Miami Seaquarium. Only my daughter went to the private island Great Stirrup Cay. She was greatly disappointed but happy it didn't cost extra money. We would have preferred a longer time in Nassau because the Cay was very crowded and uncomfortable, and she returned very quickly. We all went shopping in Nassau. I enjoyed that, although coming from the NY area, there is very little to tempt us. Although there was some expensive jewelry I was interested in, prices were high and they didn't offer you a "price you couldn't refuse". So, I "saved" some money there. We only have 1/2 a day in Nassau...We left a little late because the captain announced they were waiting for 10 people who did not come back to the ship. I had a balcony room, and kept looking for this group to run back at the last minute, but they took away the gangplank, and must have left without them. I would have like to have know what happened, but never got an answer. The shower was great and larger than the ship I was on before. The bathroom was otherwise compact, like most ships. We had two large pieces of luggage and the closet and drawers accommodated everything. I enjoyed the balcony and we had the balcony wall/door removed between my room and my friends'. This was we had access to each other without having to call or knock on the door in the hall in our p.j.'s. The room was constantly straightened and cleaned and we hardly saw the crew members who did such a wonderful job. For TV enthusiasts -- the TV is the worst. Even CNN cannot get more boring. It's true you're not in your cabin for long, but why don't they have on educational or good comedies (I did catch parts of "Everyone Loves Raymond") with remote TV timers for people who like to watch TV before they go to sleep. We were in a TV desert and this is difficult to take when you come from the NY area with hundreds of channels available. The casino was fun and I enjoyed it. The bingo was expensive, and my group avoided it after the first time when it cost them $49 to play cause they got a couple of extra cards. The ship's shows were excellent and I wouldn't miss them. The theatre could not have been designed better -- wherever you sat, you had a good seat. I wish Broadway plays had this kind of seating. The TV games they played, "Jeopardy", etc. were a disappointment. I made a special effort to go to their "Scrabble Tournament" and a husband and wife, plus myself were the only ones to show up. That was a waste of time. Their library was really well-stocked, and the sitting rooms and game rooms were pleasant. On arrival at the pier, the lines are very long, but they move quickly and you're more amazed at the tremendous amount of people going on the ship than annoyed over the lines (one after the other) that you have to stand on. Disembarking wasn't terrible either. You can wait in your room, although the crew was rather eager to get in and clean because 4 hours later, new people are arriving. But the only problem I, and probably every other cruiser had, was being picked up. They have to make it easier for limousines to reach you because this is where the aggravation is. I hope they fix up the Bayonne port so that we can park our car at a reasonable rate, and simplify disembarking. All in all, we had a wonderful time. The Norwegian Dawn crew did their best. Hopefully they'll take into consideration the older traveller too who wants to relax away from unruly kids. I would definitely take their line again. Had a great time. Thanks.

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Jun 27, 2004

Bahamas

My husband and I had a GREAT time aboard the Norwegian Dawn! The ship is gorgeous and the crew works very hard to make sure that everything is the way it should be. My husband and I were on our honeymoon and did not want to take too many excursions since we wanted to do our own thing. We did take the alligator airboat ride in Cape Canaveral, Florida and saw 7 alligators. We also got to try alligator meat-and it does taste like chicken...

It was good excursion to take because it was only 2 hours long. When we got back, the ship was pretty empty because most people went to Universal and Disney, so we had great spots by the pool. In Miami we took a cab by ourselves to South Beach and Ocean Drive. It was cheaper than the ship sponsored excursion and we were on own own schedule. Our cab driver gave us lots of great information about the city and the ride only cost approximately $17. South Beach was BEAUTIFUL! Great Stirrup Cay was absolutely stunning also. We brought our own snorkel equipment and underwater camera with us. We got these great pictures of the fish and the coral. The only downfall on the island is that it gets crowded. You have to get on one of the first boats to the island in order to get good chairs on the beach. We had this obnoxious family next to us-but even that couldn't ruin the experience. Nassau was the last port we visited, and we did not have much time there. It was our least favorite port in that it was not a very nice city. We started to walk to the Atlantis and ended up turning around and shopping right at the port. We did find some great souvenirs there though. My husband and I would definately go on the Dawn or Norwegian Cruise lines again. The free-style cruising was great because you got to choose when and where you went every night to eat. Overall, the food was an 8 out of a 10. Our favorite restaurant was Salsa, a Tex-Mex restaurant. Their fajitas were out of this world! I would highly recommend this ship to anyone. It leaves out of NYC and the views of the skyline were great. We were lucky to have great weather all week, but even if we hadn't there is so much to do on the ship-you'll never be bored. So if you get the chance and are looking for a new ship with great entertainment, beautiful sites, and a great crew, check out the Norwegian Dawn. You won't be disappointed!

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By Tina_CR

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Jun 27, 2004

Bahamas

WE HAD A BLAST! What a great time! The food was EXCELLENT - and BOY did we eat a LOT of it!!! Constant eating! The drinks were excellent, the excursions were excellent everything was great... it really was. We did have a SHORT time in Nassau, but it was actually just enough time for me. In Port Canaveral we went to Universal Studios being as we are HUGE Disney fans and new the only way we were ever going to see Universal was via

shore excursion. We had a great time there. PALES in comparison to Disney, but a great day trip! We went on The Mummy ride... INCREDIBLE RIDE! You HAVE to do it!! (and I'm afraid of rides with straight drops - this was great) We also went on the MIB ride, which was fun and the T2 ride - we bought the "express pass" thing which was THE BEST WAY TO GO -- though they only let you use the express pass once on the popular rides (they only checked off The Mummy ride).. We couldn't use it for Shrek 4D, I guess b/c it was so new -- the wait was HORRIFIC. We were in line for nearly an hour and a half in the blazing heat with a bunch of annoying kids who didn't understand the meaning of personal space (neither did their parents, for that matter)... but the last ten minutes of the wait we were ready to leave the line (or shoot someone) -- so I think my opinion of Shrek 4D was greatly diminished by the horrific wait. Other than that Universal was a blast. In Miami we did the Ocean Drive on the Rocks - drinking tour of South Beach.. we had SOOO much fun! Drunk on South Beach -- woohoo!! LOL We didn't go on shore at Great Stirrup Cay -- not real beach people -- so it was nice to have the ship to ourselves to catch some sun and watch the parasailers. At Nassau we went on our own to see Atlantis -- it was gorgeous... then we hit the stores across from the pier -- cheap stuff! Duty free! Onboard we had a blast -- drinkin' and eatin' even though this annoying group was on board everywhere we went (the couple got married on board and they whole group acted like they were the only ones on the ship -- clinking glasses countless times at dinner to get this old newlywed couple to kiss - blech! But I have to say -- for my first cruise -- this was AWESOME! :)  

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Jun 20, 2004

Bahamas

First I just wanted to state that this was an amazing vacation. My boyfriend and I went and we had a great time. We live in new york already so getting to the port was so easy. We literally showed our passports and got on the ship. This is a Freestyle cruise, so you can eat whereever you want whenever you want and we did exactly that! There were so many choices, either the buffet or several restaurants. We did not eat in the restaurants

that were extra because we thought the food was good in the main restaurants. Our room had a balcony and I recommend that--the balcony is huge and although the rooms are small, they were compact and organized with very well decorated furniture and linen. The shows at night were so entertaining and the performers were extremely talented. I highly recommend a balcony room on the cruise! Good luck!

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Jun 13, 2004

Bahamas

Background -We are a couple in our mid 40s who sailed on the Norwegian Dawn 6/13 sailing with our two daughters, ages 11 and 14. It was our eighth cruise, but first in 10 years. Overall the cruise was very good. Most of the problems encountered were not the fault of NCL or the crew, but due to a few other passengers. The only reservations that we would have about sailing the Dawn again are fear of similar passenger behavior (again only

a few). Embarkation – We took NCL bus 3 to the pier. The bus leaves Harrisburg PA and picks up passengers in Allentown along the way. It was a comfortable 54 passenger bus that was completely full. There were passengers on the bus for the Dawn cruise and the Norwegian Crown Bermuda cruise. The bus arrived at the Crown pier at 12:05, dropped off the Crown passengers and luggage and arrived at the Dawn pier at 12:15. We claimed our luggage, left it with a porter, and got into queues that looked endlessly long. However, they moved moderately well. We boarded the ship at 1:05. There was juice and water while waiting. Overall, I would rate it as a B. The NYC cruise terminal is vastly inferior to the terminals in Miami and Port Canaveral. However, I understand that it will have a much needed upgrade. Cabins – Deciding to go for space over a view, we booked two inside guarantee cabins. We were assigned to two cabins on deck 5 midship. The cabins were identical. They were small, but very functional and nicely laid out. The cabin was adequate for 2, but accommodating 4 would have been overwhelmingly cramped. Each cabin had two lower beds that could be pushed together for two. There was a small TV, small refrigerator, hot pot with instant coffee and tea, a hair dryer and a small safe. The bathroom was a good size for a cruise ship, especially the shower, which was larger than usual. The sink faucet was like a kitchen sink faucet, which was nice. WARNING: The hot water is very HOT. Be careful. Closet space was adequate, but drawer space was a little lacking. There were shelves in the closet for short, polo shirts, etc. Our cabin steward was a young woman from the Philippines. She was quiet, but very nice and quite courteous. We only saw her a few times, but she did a good job. Public Areas – The Dawn is a beautiful ship, clean, and well maintained. The atrium is impressive and the public rooms are very nice, not overdone. There was a very nice library, card room, and game room on deck 12. There is also a cinema for movies. It is far better than watching a movie on the small cabin TV. The lounges were also very nice. The Stardust Theatre was the best that I have seen on a cruise ship, despite the fact that I do not like the color purple. The theatre is on decks 5 through 7 front and has over a thousand seats. All have good sight lines. The only improvement that I could think of is cup holders in the seats for drinks. The pool areas were the only place on the ship where I felt crowded for me. However, we are not sun worshipers, so this is not a problem. We prefer to lounge in shady areas. Sun worshipers can find more relaxed areas on decks 13 and 14 front. The kid’s pool is very good. The fitness center was excellent. It had very nice equipment and enough of it so there was never a wait to get on a piece of cardio equipment. There were plenty of towels and a water fountain with cups. There was a room for spinning classes and a room for other exercise classes. The fitness center staff ranked with the best that I have seen on land. The classes could challenge all levels and were very well done. Kid’s Program – We registered the girls upon embarkation, but they showed no interest in the program. They spent almost the entire week with us, so I can’t comment. We did purchase a “teen passport” with 20 coupons for non alcoholic drinks ($34.50). It’s the best deal on the ship. The smoothies, etc. are about $4.50 each. We bought another for our younger daughter. Shore excursions – We went into all ports on our own. Ports of Call Weather was great all week except for wind and clouds when leaving NYC and a brief (5 minute) shower on GSC. Seas were fine. I did not see any problems with motion sickness. Port Canaveral – Rented a car from Hertz and drove to Kennedy Space Center and had a great time. There’s too much to do. Don’t pay extra for the maximum access pass because you won’t have time to do the extra stuff in a single day. It will take 2 days to see everything. The maximum access pass can be used on two consecutive days. We also went to Ron Jon surf shop in Cocoa Beach. Miami – Took a taxi ($16.50 fare) to South Beach (10th street). Nice beach but we did not go into the water because of Sea Lice and Jellyfish warnings. If you have kids please note that there are topless sunbathers. We then walked around the South Beach area to look at the architecture and stores. We then took a bus to Bayside Marketplace. It’s an interesting mall on the bay, but the stores can be found at your local mega mall, except for a few touristy stores. We had lunch and took a taxi ($5.50) back to the ship. Personally, I would rather see the Dawn skip Miami in favor of Key West. Great Stirrup Cay – Took the first tender to the island. Ride was a little rough then, but the waves subsided later. We rented floats ($5 each). They are fun and relaxing. I highly recommend them. Warning: A number of people thought they were free and kept trying to take them from us when we were not using them. One actually succeeded, but the rental hut replaced it. We also did some snorkeling. It’s a very friendly place for beginners like my children. The beach may be a bit small for a ship as large as the Dawn. More on that later. Nassau – A short stop. We took a taxi to Atlantis ($4 pp). The taxi was an old stretch limo. The girls got a kick out of that. We arrived at Atlantis early, before the guards were in position. Therefore, we got to see a lot of the resort and the dig. We then returned to Nassau for some shopping on Bay Street. Entertainment – Paul Baya was the CD. Paul and his sidekick had a good rapport with the passengers and seemed to be everywhere. Shows – The Jean Ann Ryan shows were fantastic. They are an extremely talented group of singers and dancers. They put on 3 shows, an Andrew Lloyd Webber show, South Beach Rave (a salsa show), and a show called Bollywood. All of the shows are great. Personal preferences will determine your favorite. The house band (Modal Magic) was good. The orchestra was also good. There was a fellow named Fabio who was a great Flamenco guitarist. There were 4 comedians on the cruise. The best was Thien Fu, a Vietnamese juggler/comedian. There was a magician/comedian (don’t remember his name) who was a cross between Woody Allen and Elvis Costello. He interacted very well with the audience, but the magic was basic. Dave Heenan was not very good. There was also a pair of rap comedians. I did not see them, but my 14 year old enjoyed them (we were at Le Bistro). There were movies in the cinema every day. They were also shown 24 hours a day on the cabin TV. Karaoke was held every night in Dazzles lounge that always filled the place. We did not go to any of the late night parties in the Spinnaker lounge or pool area. Restaurants – We tried 8 of the 10 restaurants, plus the pool barbeque and Bimini lounge grill. Blue Lagoon – Fast food, generally good. Chicken wings were decent, but the spicy wings were not very hot. Good potato wedges with cheese and bacon. However, I recommend the oriental noodles. They are very good. My wife enjoyed the fried rice. Garden Buffet – Very good buffet food. It was always clean and had good variety. I had breakfast there every day and some lunches there. There were always good breads and rolls there and the salad ingredients were fresh. I did not have dinner there, but it looked good. There were omelet/waffle action stations at breakfast, various action stations at lunch and dinner. I saw prime rib one night, turkey another night, and a roast pig one night. Small children will like the kid’s buffet area. There were several lines in the Garden Café. The lines in the rear were always short and less frantic. If you head back there, you will avoid the line jumpers and buffet busters. Deli – You could get a good sandwich made there, but it was not a “New York” deli, as advertised. I expected some good corned beef and rye breads. There was neither. However, I did have a nice Italian sandwich on a good roll. Poolside Barbeque – I usually avoided this because of the crowds. Once, it was not crowded and I tried the ribs. The ribs were good and well done but the sauce could be better. Bimini Bar – A good outdoor alternative to the poolside mob scene. They grilled burgers and chicken with French fries and some salads. I had a burger and fries there. Both were good. Salsa – Very good Mexican food in a good atmosphere. The tables overlook the atrium or are at windows overlooking the ocean. The service was excellent. We were there on Sunday night. Italian Restaurant – Food was good, but nothing special. The menu was limited. It could use some veal dishes and more creative sauces. Part of the Garden Café is converted in the evening to this restaurant. They do a good job, but it doesn’t have the same restaurant feel as the other rooms. We were there on the last night. Ironically, this is Italian night in the dining rooms. Dining Rooms – Aqua and Impressions have identical dinner menus. The menu at Venetian had some differences. The food in all of them was very good. Impressions is a very nice dining room. We dined there on formal night after the show. The food and service was very good. The waiters were very attentive. Venetian – We dined there on Lobster night. This is the most formal of the dining rooms. We had a table next to the windows overlooking the ship’s wake. We enjoyed the meal but the servers seemed a bit rushed and less attentive. The bananas foster dessert was a highlight. Aqua was (surprisingly) my favorite. It had a more modern décor. The all female staff was attentive, yet relaxed. They seemed to be the most willing to have conversations. We were there on President’s night and Caribbean night. The President’s menu was the best dining room dinner of the week. Caribbean night had some unique dishes. The jerk pork was very good pork tenderloin, but not what I expected. It was still very good. Le Bistro – Exquisite décor, paintings, food, and service. It was the best dinner that I had on any cruise. It is definitely worth the surcharge. We did not go to Cagney’s or Bamboo. Bamboo always appeared to be pretty empty. Room service – We ordered room service twice for snacks and also while waiting to debark. Except for breakfast, the food was only so-so. It was usually efficient, but once we never received our food. We ordered a snack at 10:45 PM. At 11:30, we called and were told that the food was on the way to our cabin. A half hour later, I was falling asleep and called back. They told me the same thing. I told them to cancel the order. I don’t mind mistakes, but the dishonesty on the 11:30 call did bother me. Not so good – The biggest problem on the cruise was the rude behavior of some of the other passengers. Contrary to what some may believe, it was not children. It was adult behavior. My wife and daughter made one trip to the Oasis pool. They ate and then went to the pool bar for smoothies. They returned 3 minutes later and someone had taken their table. When my wife told them they were sitting there, the response was “I was wondering whose stuff this is, please take it away from here.” My wife was dumbfounded and left. If it were me, I would not have reacted so kindly. It doesn’t matter, these idiots don’t care. We didn’t go near the Oasis pool the rest of the week. We went to GSC on the first tender and got a good spot on the beach. As the island filled up, people came off the later tenders and just shoved themselves anywhere. A woman shoved herself under our beach umbrella and told me that I had to share it with her. When I objected, she went off cursing me to eternal damnation. Several people tried to take our rented floats. Some clearly did not know that they were rentals, but some were angry when I politely told them. One of us had to stay on the beach at all times. Who knows what they would have taken. It is the only that I did not feel secure on any cruise. There were also the standard line jumpers, very late show interrupters, etc. Overall, this was the worst passenger behavior on any cruise that I have taken. I didn’t know that common courtesy and cruise etiquette had changed since our last cruise. I sincerely hope that this is the exception and not common. These people were a very small minority of the passengers, but even 2% (50 of 2500) rude passengers can make things very unpleasant for the other 2450. This is not NCL’s fault, but if it were to happen on a second cruise, I would have to consider not sailing that ship again because of the clientele. It didn’t spoil our vacation, but it still bothers me. We did meet many nice people. Debarkation – Freestyle debarkation is the best. We went up on deck early as the ship sailed into NYC on a magnificent Sunday morning. We then had room service in our cabin until our color was called. We left the ship, claimed our baggage, breezed through customs and took the NCL bus home. It was very relaxed. Overall it was an excellent cruise on a wonderful ship. I would definitely sail the Dawn again.    

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May 24, 2004

Bahamas

I give this cruise two thumbs up. My sister and I planned this cruise and it went above and beyond our expectations. This was my sister's first cruise and it was my second cruise but first with Norwegian. We boarded the Norwegian Dawn out of NYC on May 24th. The ship is amazing. There is plenty to do for everyone. We were in Cabin #5650 and although it was rather small (as many cruise cabins are) it was very clean which is most important.

They did a wonderful job with keeping our cabin neat and clean. If there was anything you needed, they were right there to deliver it to you. As for the entertainment, we couldn't get over the numerous activities that would take place on a daily basis. There was always something to do no matter what time of day it was. We enjoyed this very much. We were entertained by Fabio who was incredibly talented. Fabio kept everyone mesmerized with his talent ..."Exciting No". We enjoyed him very much. We also give two thumbs up to the Karaoke that is offered in Dazzles each night. This was very entertaining as well. It's surprising to see that the person you were sitting next to in one of the restaurants has a hidden secret talent within them. Bollywood was a very good show in the Stardust Theater and we enjoyed the comedy acts as well. Speaking of comedy....the Cruise Director, Paul and the Assistant Cruise Director, Mike were absolutely amazing. What a pair! They continued to make everyone laugh and keep everyone motivated throughout the cruise. No matter where you were, they would appear and get the crowd going. It seemed they were on 24/7. I don't know how they do it. I enjoyed their entertainment the most and hope to see them again in the future. The dining on the Norwegian Dawn was incredible. Our favorite restaurant was the Venetian. The Venetian was very fancy and offered a wide variety of entrees. We dined here a lot. Just as we were finished one meal, our next dish was promptly brought over. The service was excellent. The staff did a wonderful job. The only place that we didn't really care for was the Blue Lagoon but we only stopped there once when we were limited to time and wanted to grab a quick bite. The food seemed a bit greasy but this may have been the choice we made as far as the food was concerned. We also ordered room service and the food was unexpectedly satisfying. It was delivered quick as well and we ordered many different items. The Java Hut had great coffee. We enjoyed a cup there each morning along with there variety of pastries. The Hotel Director, Klaus was a great help to us as well. He noticed we were standing at the Oasis Pool while enjoying the entertainment and asked us if we would like chairs to sit down. Two chairs were promptly brought over and he gave me his card and advised me to use it if I ever needed anything else throughout our stay. Rob kept us entertained with trivia in the Star Bar with other fellow passengers. That was fun! We had the opportunity to meet a lot of people while on board. I look forward to cruising with the Norwegian Dawn again. All in all the ship was unbelievable. We will definitely plan another cruise on this ship. I miss it already. It's tough to get back to reality after enjoying the luxury of all that was offered on board. Great job to everyone ..you do a wonderful job. Keep up the great work and ...see you soon!!! =)

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Mar 21, 2004

Bahamas

As first time cruisers, our expectations were really nonexistent. Personally, I was most concerned about Manhattan’s West Side traffic, as cars spilling out from the ships’ loading zone during Sunday turnovers had trapped me previously. We decided not to arrive “as early as possible” for the noon start boarding routine, despite multiple recommendations to do so. We left the house at 1pm, got there 1:30 and, sure enough, no lines.

We’d done web-based pre-registration and I guess that helped, but Bahamian immigration cards still had to be hand completed all 4 family members these (no, we weren’t moving there). Anyway, we finally boarded, and were quite struck by the luxurious ambiance of the first public area on deck 7. They shoved tall tropical, cocktails at us within 3 seconds of boarding. We demurred when told they were $6.50 per, though had that one “welcome drink” been complimentary, it would’ve been a classy touch. The Norwegian Dawn is indeed a spotlessly clean, richly appointed luxury cruiser, often to the point of opulence (the Venetian dining room comes to mind). The ship’s soaring atrium, visible riding the glass backed mid-ship elevators were not anything we could have imagined in advance. Even the spa facilities, with their tasteful artwork and hardwood lockers were first rate. The kids liked it, too. We could either dump them off at the kids facility where they were kept happily busy by a staff a friendly Canadian girls, or take them to “T-Rex”, with 3 small, but sufficient outdoor pools, 2 of which have spiraling slides and for those cooler windy days, a hot tub to warm them up so they may continue sliding into the pools without towel wrapping. The food, for the most part, was quite good. Their soups, particularly the interesting cold ones, were excellent. Most entrées were good, as well. The only course that was consistently weak was dessert: commercial grade on par with pre-packaged supermarket fare. The only first rate dessert all week came at the surcharge French restaurant, Le Bistro. I had the apple flambé. It’s understandable that having a baker produce that many desserts from scratch is impractical, but upgrading to a restaurant grade commercial supplier would be more consistent with the ship’s image and atmosphere. At breakfast, they’re not too good with pancakes, much too dry. But the omelettes are very good. The pastry baskets, also served at breakfast, are fresh and tasty, as well. Instead of coffee, I had cappuccino all week. The service at many of their eateries is a weak point. At the Venetian, for example, breakfast on one day took so long to arrive (nearly an hour) that it cut into the Miami shore day we had scheduled. More than once, the time interval between beverage order & delivery was 25 minutes. Another time, at the Impressions, which serves good food in an intimate atmosphere, no one took our food order for a half hour and we left. Another time at Venetian, the language barrier with the largely Philippine staff with varying English proficiency levels caused the wrong order to be delivered. Figuring we paid enough for the week, we did the surcharge eateries just twice. As mentioned, Le Bistro, which, if you’re accustomed to New York’s better French restaurants, is no big deal. Still both entrées were good, mine the filet mignon in béarnaise sauce, my wife had fish, also quite good. With a good glass of wine each, recommended with each dish, the surcharge, including default tip, was $40. Worth it? Probably, in as much as I’ve never dined beneath an original Van Gough, with other originals (one each) in the same small room, by Monet, Renoir and Matisse. I’m told they are part of the personal col1ection of Norwegian’s primary shareholder; a Hong Kong based Malaysian billionaire who paid $48 million for the 4 and wanted them displayed in his flagship vessel. (Don’t get any ideas – each is behind a sheet of thick Plexiglas with 4 deadbolts and a separate casino-style dome ceiling camera trained on each masterpiece). The other surcharge restaurant we tried was the Bamboo, Asian cuisine. No big deal except the barbequed duck, which was top notch. Get it if you go there. Each day on the pool deck there was a BBQ. Hot dogs, burgers, chicken and ribs. I don’t do dogs or burgers since mad cow, but the chicken was good and the ribs were the worst I’ve had in memory. Not tender (i.e., undercooked) with a mediocre commercial sauce slapped on after the fact. Also, the hours of this daily BBQ seemed to shift. I missed it twice after being told different things. And now for some criticism. I tend to be exceptionally critical, and much of this is minor. All in all, these points should not have a material adverse affect on the overall enjoyability of your cruise: · They offered no “inside tour”. I’m always curious about the working of a large-scale operation like this and would have enjoyed a peek at the engine room, the bridge, and other behind the scenes facilities. But in a post 9/11 world, no dice. I wonder how big the propellers are? Because of visit to the infirmary (having incurred a knee cut from a shard of glass wedged in the drain of a public hot tub – no fault of Norwegian – just some foolish passenger who didn’t use a plastic cup drinking on the pool deck), I got to see the morgue. It’s really just a deep closet with a “no entry” sign. The nurse opened the door and there’s a German made stainless steel box a little shorter than a refrigerator, but much deeper. It’s got 2 circular hatch-like doors, each to slide one corpse in horizontally. Should’ve brought my camera. But what happens if 3 people pass on? · The NCL sponsored shore excursions I didn’t do. Would’ve done Kennedy Space Center with them on Canaveral, but the premium for a family of 4 above the KSC retail was $135. Instead I rented a car for $40, and we stopped at an orchard for some oranges on the way, and still saw KSC. This kind of premium holds for pretty much all of the NCL-transport provided shore excursions. · Sadly, the one stop most passengers looked forward to was NCL’s private island in the Bahamas. But the winds were high and NCL has no docking capability there; they must moor offshore and use tenders (smaller boats) to get people ashore. As a result, this stop was eliminated. No partial refund or tangible consolation was provided. · The safety presentation was odd. Attendance was sparse and my 5-year-old girl had to strap on an orange floatation device nearly as big as she. They have thousands of adult size preservers but I read, only 20 for infants and nothing in between. Also, the staff couldn’t really answer questions about the lifeboats. They said 150 people could squeeze into each, but one glance at them and 150 people would be a Guiness-book-Volkswagon type exercise. How much food is on the boats? How long would it last? How much fuel (you could see each had 2 propellers)? Radio communications? Nobody seemed to know. · Physical orientation – (bow/stern type stuff) is not easy. They have helpful diagrams by the elevator banks but the best way is to get to a window to see which way the boat’s moving. Then you know the bow is the same direction, stern the opposite. Even crew officers, in their identifiable uniforms, often had difficulty when asked. · While the live entertainment is good, quite professional, the “cinema” should be scrapped or overhauled. It’s a sloped, low-ceilinged room with a small screen and a bad, ceiling-mounted video projector, showing a poor image from a DVD. They do not have 35mm prints of films or the projection equipment to present them. They show the same movies on the cabin televisions. Watch them there. · Room service is plentiful (make up and turn down service) and generally good. But problem solving can have bottlenecks. For example, I thought there was a problem with my phone. I’d use the speakerphone option, but nobody could hear me when I talked. They called in a technician, he tested it and only in testing did he discover the Alcatel phones have no microphone pickup. That is, you can hear through speakerphone, but must use the handset to speak. Not very useful. He said some other NCL ships use Siemens phones and they have the microphone pick-up. Also, the toilet seat in our cabin wouldn’t stay in the upright position (very inconvenient for males). It took a day and a half to correct. · Hot tubs. No shortage of quantity. 5 outdoor, 2 indoor (even 2 more for the staff at the point of the ship’s bow). But getting a high enough temperature is sporadic, if at all. They were consistently 98ºF to 100ºF. Not nearly hot enough for a hot tub enthusiast like myself. A good hot tub is 103ºF to 104ºF, if not a shade higher, especially on a cool night (like March in New York). I logged this issue with the desk. The next day a phone message to my cabin claimed it had been corrected by order of the “Chief Officer” (temperatures raised to 104ºF). That day I tried 2 different outdoor hot tubs. No change. I returned to the lobby desk requesting a meeting with this chief officer (who, I’m told is 4th or 5th down from the Captain) with his mercury thermometer in hand. We’d go from tub to tub dip sticking the water. As you may well imagine, this request was roundly rebuffed and the tubs never did get up to temperature. Don’t be fooled by the presence of an adjustable thermostat dial at the rim of each tub. Most require a wrench to turn and those that didn’t had no affect. · One of the things I liked about cruising (unlike the real world) was not needing to walk around with my wallet. Just the cardkey, with which all additional purchases could be made. Not entirely true. When I went to do laundry, which itself had no additional charge, I still had to buy the powdered detergent and the vending machine only took real U.S. quarters (4 of them). I didn’t have them with me or in the cabin, nor could the room service personnel change a dollar. Finally, another passenger overheard my Larry David-esque conversation with the staff and lent me 4 quarters. (I later slid a dollar bill under his cabin door.) · The spa, nice as it is, has men’s room hairdryers suitable only to those under 5’4”. The cords just aren’t long enough. And unless your from Europe, don’t bring your own; the outlets are 220V only. · Downside to kids facility: bottleneck signing them in & out. One clipboard per age group. Should just computerize for card key drop off & pickup. We really did enjoy our first cruise. There’s enough to do and the pampering is nice. The Dawn is a good first experience. Would I do it again? Maybe. But paying $2,700 (with default tip) to squeeze 4 people into a tiny windowless room for a week does raise the value question. Nonetheless, I’ve no regrets.

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By Sue_CR

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Mar 14, 2004

Bahamas

Wow! What an AWESOME & BEAUTIFUL SHIP! This was my first time cruising so I didn't know what to expect. All I can say is I gained about 10 pounds eating 5 star restaurant food for 7 days! The Norwegian Dawn was MORE than I expected. The staff is SOOOOOOOOOO incredibly nice! Our room was clean 24/7 & the room service every night we got was fantastic! I can't really explain how much fun we had and how great the cruise and experience

was. You'll have to do it for yourself. But believe it when I say it... IT WAS AWESOME! I give it an A+++++++++++++++ Pluses: FOOD, Drinks, Spa, Gym, SHOWS, ENTERTAINMENT, service, staff, ships appearance, BBQ'S!!! Minuses: Port Canaveral, Stingray excursion in Nassau, More time in Nassau  

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  • New

Mar 14, 2004

Florida, Bahamas

Just returned from the NCL cruise out of NYC to Florida and the Bahamas. Overall, I would give this cruise a 7.5 My family (husband and 2 boys) had a great time leaving from NYC without the hassle of flying to Florida. Our rooms were mini-suites on Deck 11 and they were maintained meticulously. My 'complaint' really has nothing to do with NCL. My problem were the other passengers. I guess for some of them, this was their first cruise

or they just don't understand propriety. Many (at lest 30%) of the men came to dinner in ragged, old jeans, with short sleve shirts (no jacket) displaying tattoos. Additionally, there were numerous fat people. I mean really, large people who looked uncomfortable walking on a ship. I know this sounds snobbish, but I am a middle-aged, healthy woman who likes to make a good impression in public, and felt that many people dressed like they were going to the Mall. I think this is what happens when cruises get less expensive and people do not invest (or just buy) some decent travel wear.

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Mar 7, 2004

Florida,Bahamas

Carolyn Gadway This was a first cruise for me and my husband. The dawn is a beautiful ship exceeding all our expectations. The ship is immaculate. The crew is very polite and accomadating. The entertainment was wonderful and there was always something going on. Freestyle cruising is the way to go. The food is very good and even the buffet was wonderfully prepared. Passengers are always informed of what is going on and where. The rooms

have plenty of storage space. There are washers and dryers for passenger use and they are free. Just have to buy detergent. Embarkment and disembarkment went very well considering the number of passengers. I can't think of anything that I didn't like It has been a dream of mine to go on a cruise and I will never forget the wonderful time we had. We will cruise again and it will be with Norwegian cruise line and freestyle cruising.

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Mar 7, 2004

Bahamas

What a great trip. There was soooo much to do for the adults and my 3 boys to keep us busy all day. The food was great, the entertainment was excellent. We took our first excursion to Universal Studios, the next day we spent at the Fontainblue Hotel what a great day you can rent a room and pay a day rate or a cabana pool side. The private island was like a dream the food, the music we went snorkeling had a great day. My only complaint

more time in Nassau Please by the time you get off the ship you feel like you have to get back on. We are planning another cruise for April 2005 and we cant wait. A must do for everyone  

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By K_CR

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Feb 15, 2004

Southern Caribbean

There were many parts of this cruise that I liked, and many parts that I disliked. When I first arrived to the port in NYC, everyone waited in a sitting area for about 2 hours and then boarding took about an hour. We got on the boat and had a safety drill which was rather quick, and then a few friends and I went for dinner at the Aqua restaurant. That first night, the service was extremely slow! The next day was at sea and there wasn't

much to do. The gift shop had nice perfume/cologne and a cute worker named Mike-but that was about it. The people at the Excursions Desk were happy to help plan fun for when we got to the islands, (especially that gorgeous guy Christopher!) The real fun on the boat didn't start until night fall. The entertainment in the Spinnaker Lounge was pretty good but the workers in there were not very friendly. The highlight of the night was always in the Dazzles lounge, where that wonderful singer Dave performed like no other. Kerioke at 10:30 was always fun to watch-especially for the kids. Port Cannaveral was cold and windy. Enough said. Miami was nice to walk around but still a little chilly. Nassau was great and there was so much to do. Great Stirrup Cay was crouded with cruise people but most were having a good time on the beach & in the water. The final day at sea was long and quiet. They played "Seabiscuit," in the Stardust Theater which was WONDERFUL! The Disembarkation was long and slow. Overall it was a nice cruise. Good food & restaurant. Be sure to visit the Blue Lagoon restaurant which is open 24 hours and is very popular with the teens. The staff was mostly pretty good and, again, the entertainment in Dazzles was excellent. It was a fun cruise and a well spent vacation.

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Jan 4, 2004

Southern Caribbean

Our first experience with Norwegian Cruise Lines was this past January, when we took an 11-day cruise out of New York City on Norwegian Dawn! This was our 13th cruise, and it has become one of our favorites! In fact, we are booking the very same cruise again next year, inviting family, friends, and acquaintances to join us for the voyage of a lifetime! To begin with, the pricing was great for an 11-day cruise, and the ship was magnificent!

The “Freestyle Cruising” concept made each day easier to plan…. with no set mealtimes and optional formal nights, we could spend every day doing “our own thing” without having to worry about getting to the dining room at a specific time or bringing a separate suitcase full of formal wear! There are at least 10 wonderful dinner restaurants, others also open for lunch, and a couple are open 24 hours. With so many dining options all day, we could choose at the last minute where we wanted to eat. And the food…. an amazing selection was always available, including French, Italian, Mexican, Japanese with sushi….. as well as a New York-Style deli, vegetarian buffet, fish and chips, hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza…… and almost every day there was a barbecue out by the pool with ribs, steaks, chicken, hot dogs and hamburgers….. a changing menu each time. Even breakfast was a culinary delight, with changing items on the buffet as well as made-to-order omelets and waffles. The main restaurants served International Cuisine as well as American Specialties, with excellent beef, chicken, seafood, and vegetarian options every single night! Only three of the main restaurants had an added service charge….. we never even needed those restaurants, because there was so much to choose from at no added charge! Tipping is easy; a $10 per day per passenger debit comes off your credit or debit card or cash deposit every day. At the end of the week, there it was: $110 per person tip, which assures that everyone who serves you all around the ship gets a fair share. Since seating isn’t traditional, you almost never get the same waiter, waitress, or bus person twice…… so this policy streamlines the process for you and makes sure no one is ever left out. The people who serve you every day, with no complaints, are an amazing cross-section of the diversity of populations around the world. There are usually well over 80 countries represented on every cruise line, and these people work hard to keep us happy, pampered, and never wanting for anything. So many of them come from countries that have few jobs with decent incomes, so their hard-earned money is sent back home to help their families. I always think about the homesickness they must endure in order to provide this well for their families. And I keep that in mind when I think about giving extra tips to people who serve you more frequently, such as the cabin stewards. We had an inside quad cabin, which means we were VERY CLOSE together! Compared to other ships we’ve been on, these cabins were quite small. But the monetary savings was so great that it was worth a few extra Tylenol PM’s and earplugs! And when I say small……. I do mean it! The two lower beds have just enough room between them for a third roll-away bed; there is one upper bunk. Now THAT was close! The bathrooms were quite roomy, and the closet and drawer space were fine. It’s that darn sleeping space! But let’s face it, you don’t spend much time in the cabin…….. do you? The ship’s features and amenities were fantastic! The pool area had plenty of room for all……. with lots of lounge chairs as well as tables and chairs, a good-sized pool, two big hot tubs, a raised stage for the calypso band, a big bar for drinks and ice cream, and a large area for the barbecues. There is also an upper deck on each side of the pool and an arena-style tiered deck with lounge chairs. The spa was truly world-class, with a large gym as well as a big swimming pool, a couple of different types of hot tubs, comfortable lounge chairs facing the big windows at the stern that looked out at the ocean wake, saunas, steam rooms, Japanese plunge pools……. and lots more! And right up front on this ship is a large hot tub where we immersed ourselves, despite the cold January air, for the BEST view as we sailed out of New York City in the dark! The hot water meeting the cold air gave off a great bunch of steam, and we were truly floating along in a misty, ethereal fantasy world! There was wonderful entertainment all over the ship……… the big show lounge had three seating levels, and there was plenty of room for hundreds of people at a time. The shows there were among the best we’ve ever seen. There were also smaller lounges where we could enjoy other entertainers. Our personal favorite was Dave Morgan in Dazzles Lounge; he is an amazing classic and popular rock guitar player and singer with a sound system he created that gives a full band backup sound. My only complaint about any of the areas aboard this ship is that there are too many inside places that allowed smoking on the port side of the ship…… those of us who sat on the opposite side in these lounge areas weren’t free of the effects. I wish they would make all confined areas smoke free…… then those who want to smoke must be outside on the port side by the pool or on the open decks. As long as they don’t throw their butts over the side, I guess we’ll leave them alone! There were also card and game rooms, a quiet reading and writing room, and a nice library. There were plenty of shops specializing in all sorts of duty-free bargains, from jewelry and porcelain to rum and champagne. Now, you may think I’ve said everything I like about this cruise; but I am now going to tell you the other BEST PART! The itinerary! One thing I’ll say is that we rarely, if ever, take a tour associated with the cruise line. You can do all of the same tours for less money with certified guides and taxi drivers everywhere you go in the Caribbean…… and with personalized service, you’re not stuck with way too many people being shuffled around whether you’re ready to leave a sightseeing vista or not. After two and a half days cruising from winter into the warmth of the Caribbean, we arrived in St. Thomas. We’ve docked every other time in St. Thomas, but there were three ships already docked and the Dawn and one other ship anchored in the harbor and we took the tenders (life boats) to shore. Our favorite destination, since we’ve traveled all over St. Thomas in the past, is to take a cab to Red Hook and then ride the ferry over to St. John; our favorite beach there is Cinnamon Bay, where we happily swim, sun, and snorkel all day! It’s not an expensive trip and well worth the cost to get away from the crowds on St. Thomas. Coki Beach on St. Thomas is another option for an inexpensive cab ride…… beautiful emerald water, wonderful snorkeling, but the beach is more crowded. Just go down to the far left, though, and the crowd thins out. Then, of course, there is beautiful Magens Bay beach, one of the most famour beaches in the world. It tends to be crowded, but the scenic beauty there is worth staking out your spot on the sand. Our second island is Antigua, known for its 365 beaches. With a history rich in sugar production, there are beautiful sugar mills still standing that are photogenic as well as interesting. We passed by several beaches and our driver left us at one of them and came back for us several hours later, at a prearranged time. Next we visited Barbados…… very British, drive on the left, with both Caribbean side (almost no surf) as well as wild Atlantic side (surf’s up!) beaches, a butterfly farm, caverns, wonderful architecture…….. Barbados really has something for everyone! Grenada, the Spice Island, is a jewel in the sea. Its harbor is said to be one of the most beautiful in the world, and I’m sure that’s true. There is a rich history there, as well as all over the Caribbean, but part of this island’s history includes the U.S. liberation as the Cubans were gaining a stronghold there. There are signs everywhere thanking the U.S., although it’s obvious that not everyone agrees that it was something good for Grenada. Anyway, Grenada is lush and with all of the spices grown there, the air is perfumed with their amazing aroma. After a wonderful tour with the same driver we had there 13 years ago, we ended up at the beautiful Grand Anse Beach, where we swam and sunned (not much snorkeling there) until it was time to head back to the pier. We took water taxis back to the pier and from there we took the tender back to the ship. This is always a tender port, as they don’t have room for the large cruise ships to dock. The next island was Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic)…… which is the most mountainous island in the Caribbean and boasts 365 rivers, which means lots of amazing waterfalls; much of the island is covered in rain forests; the largest boiling lake in the world is here on Dominica. At the end of our private tour, we went to a beach to swim and snorkel among the “champagne bubbles” that bubble to the surface from way below. That particular beach, however, was not sandy but rather it had cobblestones that weren’t the easiest to walk on. But the walk was worth it when we swam out and looked below with our masks to see brilliant fish as well as bright yellow pipe coral, huge pot coral, fan coral, and so much more. Our last island, and the shortest day, was Tortola. The choice to either stay on Tortola and go to a beach or take the ferry to Virgin Gorda to The Baths was an easy decision; we took the nice ride across to Virgin Gorda! The geologic wonder known as The Baths is truly a must-see! If you’re not in the best shape, once you reach the end of the initial descent, you might want to stay at that beach and not take the path that continues on to the left and toward the lagoon. You will still be swimming among the rocks for less expenditure of energy. If you decide to head toward the lagoon, it is a challenge to scale rocks, climb ladders and steps, and crawl through little tunnels and low-hanging areas…. but once you get to the lagoon you know it’s worth the trip! The huge boulders that have tumbled into the sea are an incredible sight to behold! The snorkeling is even better, just because of the backdrop of these ancient rocks! This was a wonderful setting for our last port of call. The last two and a half days we sailed back into winter, and the last morning we awoke to find several inches of snow on the deck. It was at this point that we wished we could do a back-to-back cruise and just stay onboard to sail southward again……… into the turquoise and emerald waters and the beautiful islands that beckon us every year. I think you get the idea that we really loved this cruise. In fact, we have already booked it again for next January 9, 2005. Our son Jared is a travel agent, and we are inviting everyone we know (and even anyone we don’t know yet) to join us on this sailing! If you want more information about our big group, please email Jared at [email protected] for info! If you would like any information from me, please email to [email protected]! On a scale of 1 to 10, this cruise was at least a 12!

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  • New

Dec 28, 2003

Bahamas

New Year’s Eve Cruise 2003 This was our third New Years cruise, our first on NCL. My wife and daughter (age 11) have been on Holland America (5+), Carnival (2), Celebrity (1) all thru the Caribbean, Alaska, Bermuda and New England and think we know our way around ships, so NCL’s “Freestyle Cruising” was an interesting new option. It had a few plusses… but many minuses. EMBARKATION: We chose this cruise because it left from

NYC, avoiding the needs to fly at the holidays during an orange alert. We’ve sailed out of NY several times and knew the drill, but NCL’s was one of the smoothest embarkations ever, thanks in part to the pre-registration process for passengers on the NCL website. We arrived at the Passenger Ship Terminal about 12 noon, paid $168 to park for the week, and were thru the lines and on the ship in about an hour. We departed spot on time at 4 pm in time to enjoy the harbor at twilight. RESTAURANTS One of the big selling points of “Freestyle Cruising” was the choice of restaurants and no fixed “seatings”. We tried most of them, especially enjoying Le Bistro (at a surcharge of $12.50 per person). The Tex Mex eatery was only so-so… sort of like a Scandinavian’s idea of Mexican food. And Bamboo, the “all you can eat” sushi parlor was a rip-off. There’s a $10 surcharge and only a limited selection of sushi, much of it pre-made and refrigerated. Anything more exotic than a tuna roll is priced a la carte. Most nights we went to the two big restaurants, the Venetian and Aqua. The food was good, though the portions were small and service, though harried, was slow. The upstairs buffet restaurant, “The Garden”, was pretty good though usually crowded. It’s “NY style deli” was mediocre. The 24 hour “Blue Lagoon” was pretty good and very popular with teens. Don’t miss the “Chocoholic’s Buffet”, an afternoon exercise in obscene consumption of mass quantities of food by hordes of morbidly obese passengers. There were two “formal” nights, both optional. I only saw a very few tuxedos and a smattering of business suits. Another plus for “Freestyle Cruising”… you can wear resort casual attire any night you wish without feeling under-dressed . THE SPA My wife and daughter both went and said they enjoyed it : massage, nails, hair. As with all cruise spas, go up to the Spa and book early as soon as you get on board, especially if you want a massage on the first day at sea. Prepare for sticker shock when you get the bill. KIDS CREW This kids program was a big disappointment. On Carnival our daughter could sign herself in and out and come and go and she pleased. On NCL, any kid under 13 must be signed in and out by a parent… at least a 15 min. inconvenience for one of us as we had to go all the way to the top rear of the ship just to do paperwork. The counselors were mediocre, often sitting watching TV with the kids instead of leading activities. The final day at sea one of them even discouraged our daughter from even showing up instead of doing her job. She was tired and seemed intent on getting some rest instead of working with the kids. As a consequence, our daughter sat around complaining of being bored instead of being engaged with kids her own age. At holiday time all of the cruise lines bring on extra staff to handle the kids… usually barter work unemployed young people from Canada. They get a “free cruise” in return for a few hours a day working with the kids. What paying passengers get is unpaid staffers with a bad attitude… kids who think they’re on a cruise, instead of working a job. SERVICE The staff has to be given marks for trying. With 2,700+ passengers on this sell-out cruise, they were kept busy. But the food servers need a lot more training. While gracious, always referring to us as “sir” and “Madame”, they lacked the profession panache we've come to expect in the main dining room of cruise ships. A few examples… In the Venetian: My wife drinks decaf. The waiter started pouring regular coffee (about an inch) before she stopped him. He went to get the decaf and tried to keep pouring, creating a half-caf mixture. Instead, he should have removed the mistaken half-pour and brought a fresh cup. Another… at lunch, also in the Venetian, we had a Thai salad which we both thought was much too salty . When we mentioned this to the waiter , she said “Oh, I’ve never had that dish.” What she should have said was “I’m so sorry. Can I bring you anything else, and please let me share your comments with the Chef.” At diner in Aqua, the server inquired how I wanted my leg of lamb cooked, and I asked for medium-rare. When she brought the lamb, she said that only medium was available.... period. She should have come see me as soon as she knew the situation, explained their error, and offered me the menu to select something else if I didn't want medium. It was ungracious and not focused on the needs of the diner. We noticed that the servers are rotated throughout the ship's various restaurants, buffets, snack bars, etc. Our head waiter one night was mopping floors in the buffet the next day. I guess NCL figures they can use a staffer anywhere, but there's a trade-off. Servers don't learn the fine points of excellent service that's appropriate in a formal dining room. In fact, we thought the servers in the Venetian seemed stressed and were often confused about where tables were, leading us to wonder if they are trying to compensate for inexperience or poor training. My wife's pet peeve about the Venetian, the main dining room: Guests arrive at the top of a flight of stairs that go down into the dining room. The "greeter" inquires about the number in the party, decides where to seat you, then calls the table number down the stairs. The space and noise in the room requires the "greeter" to call the number loudly and sometimes repeatedly, and it made my wife feel like we were dining at IHOP. Not very classy or personal, certainly not the way a formal dining room should be run. TIPPING How do you motivate a staff when they all share tips ($10 a day per person)? On most ships with fixed seatings you get to know the waiter, they go out of their way to please you and are rewarded accordingly. On NCL you may never see the same waiter again, so the service is cordial but just so-so. Some waiters, bar tenders and cabin stewards were wonderful. Most were just adequate. THE SHIP We had two cabins… an outside twin with a balcony and an inside single. They were both fine… smaller than on Carnival, but well appointed. The showers were bigger than on most ships, but why no bar soap? The ship is quite new, and it shows. The public rooms are lovely and very tastefully decorated. The ship was spotless, even after a very messy New Year’s Eve. Cleanliness and hygiene were a top priority with hand-washing lessons on the TV and waterless sanitizing stations greeting you at every restaurant. It paid off… none of us got at all sick. THE PORTS We rarely chose a cruise by its itinerary. It’s the calendar that dictates our choice. But we were pleased with the two US ports on this cruise… Port Canaveral and Miami. The tour options at both were phenomenal. Nassau was nothing new to us (and only a 6 hour stop). NCL’s “private island” Great Stirrup Cay was nice, but far too small for our mob. The biggest surprise was our first and last days, leaving and returning to NYC, sailing along the East Coast. I was fearful of gale winds and blizzards, but it was sunny, calm and in the 50’s. ENTERTAINMENT The stage shows were spectacular, especially “Bollywood”, one of the most creative such shows I’ve ever seen at sea. The ship’s big band was excellent as was the magician / comedian. But celebrity comedian Jimmy (Dyn-o-mite) “JJ” Walker was just awful… not funny and on stage three nights! I’d have much rather seen some newcomer than witness this has-been! Another plus… a big movie theater showing almost first-run titles (repeated the next few days on the in-cabin TV system). A negative… NCL charges $3.95 for daily “newspapers” (photocopied satellite versions of the NY Times, Wall St. Journal, etc.) which other cruise lines disperse for free. And the TV only offers CNN, TNT and ESPN. Why no local channels while in port??? NEW YEARS EVE Here, NCL scored big points. Admittedly, they were hawking their own champagne all evening. But there were free glasses of bubbly for all to toast in the new year at midnight as well as hats, noise makers, streamers and little glow-sticks. The mob scene around the pool on the top deck was festive, unlike on Carnival last year where it was filled with over-boozed, under-aged teens… a bit scary for my daughter. The scene in the Spinnaker Lounge was even more civilized thanks to the big band and a definitely more adult crowd. DISEMBARKATION This is easily the worst part of any cruise… the mad crush to get off the ship. But here again, NCL’s “Freestyle Cruising” scored major points. While we arrived on time at 8 am at the dock in NYC, there was no mandate that we had to vacate our cabins and sit in the public rooms as on every other cruise line. So, we enjoyed a leisurely sit-down breakfast in the Venetian restaurant and lolled in our cabin for another 90 minutes before our “color” was called. We strolled off the ship about noon, found our bags, cleared Customs and were in our car driving home in about 15 minutes… amazing! WORDS OF ADVICE As soon as you’re on board, book dinner reservations at the specialty restaurants. They accept reservations 48 hours in advance (ie on Tues. you can book for that night and Wed.), so book early for the best times. If you don’t have a reservation, eat early (by 6 pm) or late (after 8:30 pm) and you’ll never have to wait. Get a soda card (actually a sticker on your key-card). It’s $28.75 for the week, but worth it if you drink a lot of soda. Bring your own soap. The cabins only offer liquid soap and shampoo. If anyone has any specific questions, I’m happy to answer them as best I can. Others’ comments have been most helpful in the past, so I’m happy to reciprocate. Just e-mail me at [email protected]

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Dec 21, 2003

Bahamas

Boarding didn't go very well. They check you in quickly but no one offered to take our bags and we had alot of trouble finding our stateroom which meant we had to lug very luggage all over the ship. On another note, you can board the ship as early as 12:30. We had a room with a large window. The room was spotless but somewhat small. They have an excellent blow dryer so leave the one you have at home. The room also had a safe, mini bar

and a good amount of storage space. The room can fit up to four but I think that would be very cramped. Since it was just myself and one other person we had enough room. The staff cleans the room twice a day and they do a great job! Every night the man who took care of our room left us an animal made out of towels. It was adorable! The food was excellent. The desserts were particularly good and some of the soups were amazing! The three main restaurants all have the same menu. I thought the most beautiful interior was the Venetian. Classy and spacious. There are three restaurants at which you have to pay a cover charge Cagney's steak house, Le Bistro, and the Bamboo an Asian restaurant. We didn't go to any of them so I can't comment. Even if you don't eat at Le Bistro make sure to go in so see the beautiful original art they have. There is also the Garden Cafe which serves a breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet. All three meals are very good but breakfast was my favorite. Finally there is a Trattoria and a Mexican restaurant which I did not go to. The staff was wonderful. I didn't meet one person who wasn't friendly and helpful. Everyone goes out of their way to make sure you are satisfied. One night when the Venetian was crowded the service was slow. Aside from that, we had no complaints. The ship had a great spa and fitness center. They offer great classes everyday at the gym (yoga, pilates, kickboxing etc) for only $5. The ship had an indoor and outdoor pool. Both were very nice but the outdoor one tended to get crowded so I'd suggest going to the one inside. There were 7 hot tubs and one hydro therapy tub. 6 were outdoors and one was in the spa. The hot tub in the children's area is actually good to use because it is much less crowded (and not kitty size). There was a very nice library, tons of board games and chess and checker boards in the card room. There was also a jogging track, a basketball and volleyball court, ping pong tables, shuffleboard and a life size chess board. The entertainment was good. There were shows every night. They have a surprisingly good broadwayesque company with some excellent dancers. They did a bollywood show and a show where they did a variety of different songs. Both were very enjoyable. I also saw a standup comic and magic show which were both ok. They also had live bands playing, karokee and parties every night in the Spinnaker lounge.

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Dec 14, 2003

Bahamas

Introduction: This was my fifth cruise, and first to the Bahamas and Florida. The itinerary from New York was as follows: Day 1 - Departing New York at 6:00 PM Day 2 - Day At Sea Day 3 - Port Canaveral Day 4 - Miami Day 5 - Great Stirrup Cay Day 6 - Nassau Day 7 - Day at Sea Day 8 - Arrival back at New York Getting to the ship: The Norwegian Dawn sails from New York for this itinerary. Since we live within 110 miles of the pier,

we took advantage of the NCL bus that leaves from our area and goes directly to the port in New York. The weather when we boarded the bus was overcast, and quickly degraded as we began the 2.5 hour (usually) trek from Hartford to NYC at 10:00 AM. Five hours later, due to a large snowstorm that turned the interstate into an SUV graveyard, we were pulling into the pier. It was about 3:00 PM. From when we got off the bus until we boarded the ship it was about a half hour wait in a line. There didnt seem to be a separate latitudes line at this point, which was a bit disappointing, but as we were just heading out, we paid no attention and we were glad to be leaving the bad weather (or so we thought). The cabins: We had booked a guaranteed inside cabin, and when we checked in we had a cabin on deck 8, cabin 8657. This cabin was very convenient to the upper part of the atrium area and the salsa restaurant. The cabins on the Norwegian Dawn seemed a bit larger than typical, and their was plenty of closet and drawer space. The shower and bathroom are adequately sized. Water temperature and pressure was fine. A hairdryer is provided, but you might want to bring your own. No irons are allowed (but if you have one, bring a travel iron). I have heard that on some decks there is a self service laundry area, but there wasn't one on our deck. The fantastic decor. There are even master paintings by Renoir, and Monet, and Van Gogh in Le Bistro for your enjoyment. Deck 4 was the lowest deck, and was the entrance and exit point for tenders and shore piers. Decks 5 contained only staterooms. Deck 6 contained part of the Stardust Lounge, where most of the shows are held, and various cafe's and restaurants such as: The Venetian restaurant, Le Bistro, Impressions, Aqua, Havana Club (cigars), Gatsby's, and the Dawn Club Casino. Deck 7 contained the atrium area (entrance when in Miami and New York), the Java Cafe, the Blue Lagoon restaurant, Pearly Kings Pub, the huge Galleria shopping area, Stardust Lounge, Dazzles, Tepanyaki, Bamboo, Sake bar, and the photo gallery. Deck 8 was mostly devoted to staterooms, but contained the Salsa restaurant and bar as well. Deck 9 had mostly staterooms, but also the internet cafe. Deck 10 is devoted to staterooms. Deck 11 also contained the gorgeous El Dorado spa, including an indoor pool. Deck 12 contains the Spinnaker Lounge, all the conference rooms, card rooms, library, cinema, pool deck, and kid's T-Rex pool deck, and the Garden Cafe and La Trattoria specialty restaurant. Deck 13 is the Sun deck/jogging track with the Teen Center and the Bimini bar and Star Bar, and Cagney's Steakhouse. Deck 14 was your Sports deck with the top of the Bimini Bar and Grill, and the Garden Villas area. The Restaurants: The Norwegian Dawn has three main restaurants for the nightly menu, with each of them offering slight variations of the same theme, so you really have to check all of them to determine your best fit if you want to eat in the main restaurants: Venetian in the aft of the ship, and Aqua and Impressions which are more midship. Aqua and Impressions are right next to each other and separated by a removable panel. For quick fare, you can eat also at the Blue Lagoon, which serves quick burgers, fish and chips, and other appetizer type foods. There are also several specialty restaurants that range in additional price from FREE to $18.50 including: Bamboo (oriental sushi and teppanyaki) for $10.00 all you can eat sushi and oriental barbeque, Salsa (free) tex-mex, Le Bistro ($12.50) Mediterranean French style cuisine, La Trattoria (free) Italian style, and Cagney's Steakhouse ($18.50). The Garden Cafe was where the buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner were held. The Java Cafe had a la carte dessert items available as well. Popcorn was available in the Pearly Kings pub (good to remember prior to going to see a movie!). Occasionally, there are outdoor barbeque buff ets on the pool deck weather permitting... which was very limited during our week due to the cold weather. There is also a NY style deli tucked into a corner of the Garden Cafe. The following is a breakdown of the various restaurants: Garden Cafe: This is the buffet restaurant of the Norwegian Dawn. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is very large, with several lines from each direction, so there is never really any waiting. Staff is there to assist you in finding the shortest entry point so that you don't get bogged down. Food was fine for breakfast, with typical breakfast buffet food, including omelet stations (yum!) and Belgian waffle stations. Seating was fine, and seemed plentiful the times we were there. We didn't really have too many lunch items there, and generally we didnt do buffets for dinner, so it would be unfair to comment on those. The Venetian Restaurant : This is one of the main restaurants, located aft. The Venetian offers the same menu as the other main rooms, but with slight variations. For example, on one evening Venetian offered filet mignon while Aqua offered grilled tenderloin. Service is excellent from both hostesses and waitstaff. Dinner menus are pretty typical of NCL, and seemed to be well thought out. The Venetian is larger than the other rooms, and has traditional high ceilings and a big panoramic view off the stern of the ship. Aqua/Impressions: Located midship, these are the other main dining areas. Lower ceilings here create a more intimate setting, and basically the same menu as the Venetian, but with it's own twists. Service is excellent from both hostesses and waitstaff. One thing to note is both hostesses and waitstaff in Aqua are female only... Impressions is located next Aqua, and usually carries the same menu as Aqua, but seemed to be more backed up because it is smaller. I think some people did not know how to find Aqua or Venetian as readily and seemed to line up in front of Impressions. Aqaua/Impressions is where the signature Chocoholic's buffet was held, on the first day at sea, at 2 PM. Because the menu was slightly different than the Venetian, if you weren't partaking of a specialty restaurant, you really need to check both menus which are posted in hallways near each restaurant in order to make your preferred choice. Le Bistro (Deck 6 midship): Le Bistro is the french alternative restaurant that serves Mediterranean style cuisine. The restaurant is a wonderful experience and offers a complete menu in a beautiful setting. The $12.50 cover charge is well worth it. We had a wonderful dinner here. The chocolate fondue dessert is to die for, and there are other great choices as well. We make sure we have one night at Le Bistro on every Norwegian ship. Make reservations early by visiting the atrium area. They tend to fill up later in the week, so if you don't want to dine late... get your request in quickly. They also have seating in the wine cellar if they are booked up, so ask about that. The master paintings located here are fabulous and are said to be worth a combined 10 million dollars easily. The service is so very excellent and can even be fun if you let them entertain you. Salsa: We never got a chance to eat here, as it is FREE, and was booked later in the week. The only times available were very late, and our schedule could not accomodate it. Many people raved about this specialty restaurant however. Bamboo: Sushi and teppanyaki grill... They have a happy hour 50% off the cover charge ($10.00 usually) each day from 5:30 to about 6:30 I think. We aren't really into sushi, and have oriental food alot at home, so we didn't attend this restaurant. It was never really crowded. If you are into Sushi, then for $10 you can't really go wrong. Cagney's: Steakhouse, with an $18.50 cover charge. We couldn't justify the charge when there was so much other beef entrees around the ship to go and spend that amount in Cagney's, so we skipped it. I hadn't heard of too many going there, but I didn't hear any complaints either. La Trattoria: Located next to the Garden Cafe, this restaurant features Italian food. While we have dined in this type of specialty restaurant aboard other NCL cruises, we jsut didn't find a reason to go this time. The food is good, but you need to be in the mood for Italian. Midnight Buffets: The Norwegian Dawn offered only one midnight buffet on this cruise. The signature “chocoholic” chocolate buffet where everything is made from chocolate was held on the first day at sea, but at 2 PM rather than at midnight. Cakes, pies, fruit dipped in chocolate, moose, cheesecake, fudge, you name it and if it was made with chocolate they offered it. I only managed to make it partially through the line before my plate was overflowing. One nice touch is that they will offer to transfer your chocolate to a "to go' plate so you may take it back to your cabin. Interestingly, there was no picture time scheduled... so if you were not first in line, it was pretty much disheveled if you wanted to take pictures. The contents were fabulous however, and very delicious. Here's a tip.. read your freestyle daily and get in line about 15 - 20 minutes early at IMPRESSIONS, not the Aqua entrance to get in quicker. Entertainment: Entertainment on the ship is scattered throughout. Of course, there is a casino. Every night there is a sail-away party on the pool deck. The band there was actually a classic rock band, and was pretty good, but was largely unheard because of the cold weather. There was live top-40 style music in the Observation Lounge, although the musicians were not quite as talented as the poolside band. In some of the bars, there was a piano player who also sang. The main shows were adequate and were located in the Stardust lounge. They ranged from magician acts, to little Broadway ensemble shows, to singers. Karaoke was also offered from time to time in the Dazzles Lounge every night. The "Star Seeker" show was fantastic. 15 acts from among the guests auditioned, the top 10 were picked, and performed on the last night. The winner was certainly deserving, being a saxophone player in the style of Kenny G. He was extremely talented, as were all 10 performers. Shore excursions: OK... this is were the story gets a little bleak. No fault of NCL, but the weather was horrible. Great Stirrup Cay was cancelled. Diving in Miami.. CANCELLED before we even left New York for no apparent reason. Most tours in Nassau were cancelled or modified because we had to go there a day earlier due to canceling the stop at Great Stirrup Cay. The two-tank dive we had scheduled turned into a 14 foot (and I had to dig a hole to get that deep) one tank dive on a shallow reef for $45. Not exactly a value. If we had booked our own shore excursions ahead of time (rather than the ship), we would have been out of luck because of the itinerary switch. The shore excursion people basically had little to work with, and they really need to update their brochures for this trip because it is highly inaccurate. More than 50 percent of the Nassau tours were eliminated and another 25 percent were changed because of the switch. Weather Related Issues: Aside from the bad weather in the Bahamas, we were also subject to incredibly rough seas heading out on December 14th, and again when returning north on December 19th and 20th. Wave heights were in the 25 foot range and a large number of passengers could not handle it. Even several of the crew were seasick. This is the big risk associated with cruising in the winter on the Atlantic. Almost all outdoor deck activities were cancelled as well, due to the rocking of the ship on the days at sea and the cold winds. The poor band had to play on to nobody outside. Freestyle Cruising: We were both veterans to the concept of Freestyle Cruising. Basically, what this allows you to do is to have the freedom of choosing who, and when, and where you want to eat every night. Basically, we chose what time we wanted to go to dinner and showed up when we felt like it. Except for the specialty restaurants, reservations are not required. You can sit with as few or as many people you like to. I would recommend that if you have a party larger than 8, make arrangements with the maitre'd of whichever main dining room you wish to be in ahead of time, as it may be hard for them to set up the proper table for you. The tipping is also automatically added in to your final bill. At a rate of $10.00 per day per person, we found this to be a bargain. It had no appreciable impact on level of service that we could decipher. Summary: Despite the problems with the weather, we both enjoyed this trip, and the Dawn is really a fantastic ship. Everything is gorgeous throughout the ship and you never get the feeling that there are over 2000 people on board at any point. I would gladly cruise on the Dawn again, just not on this itinerary. I would prefer the Dawn in the Caribbean where it is more stable and less rocking. All of the staff are pleasant and work hard to make people enjoy themselves. I would recommend the Dawn to anyone, but choose your time of travel wisely and your itinerary as well.

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Dec 14, 2003

Bahamas

Our day started out bad. We left home on Dec. 14th in a raging snow storm, not knowing if we would ever get to the Norwegian Dawn or not -- but we made it somehow. Our drive to the pier, which normally takes less than an hour, took over two hours this time. Because we left home early to avoid some of the storm, however, we arrived at the pier just after 12 noon and were pleasantly surprised to be moved directly to the check-in area. Although

there were a few glitches, the boarding process went very well and we found ourselves onboard the Dawn and in our stateroom by 1:20 pm. Our room was a balcony stateroom on deck 10. The room was very clean with a king size bed, a small settee, a small desk, table and chairs. It was very cozy although somewhat small. There was very little closet space and the bathroom was incredibly small. I managed to wedge myself into the toilet area, but had to either back in or walk in, depending upon my purpose for being there. There was no room to turn around once inside. The shower was somewhat more accommodating, although not overly spacious and with very little water pressure. The Norwegian Dawn itself is a beautiful ship, and Norwegian has introduced the greatest idea in cruising to ever come along - Freestyle cruising. We never did like the way dining room seating and dining times were handled, but we learned to live with it. On most other cruise lines you must opt for either early or late dining. You cannot have early breakfast and late dinner, or visa-versa. It’s either early, late or skip. The freestyle dining concept is fantastic. I like the idea of being able to dine when I want, where I want and with whom I want. I can have breakfast at seven and dinner at 10 if I want, and I am not locked in to the same stuffed-shirt tablemates that sometimes come with traditional dining. On this cruise we dined most often in the Venetian main dining room for dinner, but we did visit Cagney’s Steak House, a specialty restaurant, for an out of the ordinary dinner on my birthday, our last day at sea. The food, service and ambiance at Cagney’s is superb. There is a cover charge, but it is well worth it. I cannot say as much for the Venetian dining room or the other restaurants we visited. In the Venetian the food was terrible. For four evenings in a row I had my entrée served in an indescribable brown sauce which tasted burned. I had Prime rib in this burned sauce, steak in the same sauce and even Beef Wellington in the same unpalatable sauce. Finally I switched to rack of lamb -- you guessed it, the same sauce. I do have to admit that the service in the dining room was excellent, but the food -- not good. I managed to avoid that brown semi-liquid paste on the last two nights in the dining room by ordering Duck ala Orange (excellent) and an Italian dish which was very good. Another restaurant we visited was the New York Deli. Definitely not a New York Deli! I had to explain to the server how to make a Reuben sandwich, and when it arrived it was two pieces of rye bread separated by a couple of thin slices of pastrami covered by a miniscule splotch of sauerkraut. No dressing of any type. Definitely not a New York Deli Reuben. How dare they claim to be a New York Deli. We also visited the Blue Lagoon Café several times. The Blue Lagoon is a nice little 24-hour fast food style place only without the fast food service. The food, although limited and plain, is good. I had an excellent tomato soup a couple of times, and the Shepherd’s Pie is also very good. But if you are looking for fast, forget it. We didn’t even attempt breakfast after the first morning, opting instead for a continental type breakfast in our stateroom each morning. Oh, and forget about room service. We tried once, and after an hour and a half wait, called up and cancelled. Except for the food, we had a very pleasant cruise. The ship’s staff is very friendly and helpful. Our cabin steward was constantly on the job. We did meet a lot of very nice people on this cruise. One of our favorites was a waitress, Corduta, in Pearly King’s Bar, a sports type bar on deck 7. She was one of the most pleasant people I have ever met. We stopped just about every evening to chat with her and have a martini before dinner. The bar prices, by the way, are very reasonable on this ship. All in all we had a pretty fair cruise, but, would I go back to Norwegian? I doubt it. Since excellent food is always one of the highlights of every cruise, we were very disappointed with this one. I didn’t even gain weight. We really enjoy cruising and can’t wait for our next Celebrity cruise in May. More than ever, now, I am convinced that Celebrity is the only way to go.

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Dec 7, 2003

Bahamas

This is about the most beautiful ship I have ever seen. Attention to detail was outstanding. The service in all areas was impeccable from the cabin steward to the store personnel. The food however was just average and showed much room for improvement in variety as well as preparation. The ship was very stable providing a very smooth ride even in rough seas. Every staff member seemed to be genuinely concerned that you were pleased with

the ship and its service. The senior staff were available on a daily basis and not hidden away. The variety of resturants was vast and it was impossible to sample them all. Out favorite was the Aqua which was small and intimate as was the Impressions. One night we tried Cagneys steak house which carries a $17.50 per person surcharge and decided that it was not worth the extra charge. The steak was not prepared per request however the service there was also very good. Embarkation was a nightmare as it usually is in New York with an overlap of oncoming and outgoing passengers. Disembarkation was not a whole lot better again due to the port not the ship. It has improved somewhat since I was last there in 1995 but still needs vast improvement. Parking at the pier is $24 per day. Driving to the pier is its own adventure. The balcony cabin we had was very nicely set up with adequate storage space, a small refrigerator and a safe. The bed was the most comfortable I have ever experienced on a cruise ship. The bathroom is unique in that it is sectioned into three seperate areas including a good size shower. The freestyle cruising experience we had was very welcome. Being able to dine when and where you want made this seem more like a land based resort. Even though Norwegians tipping policy is to charge $10 per person per day to your onboard account we found the friendliness and service from the crew to be outstanding and among the best we ever had. The servers couldn't do enough to make sure you were satisfied. The atrium and other public areas were breathtaking and very well maintained. The ship is so large that I found carrying the small map of the ship around made finding things much easier. I would recommend this ship for everyone from first time cruiser to the more experienced cruisers. The photo staff were available whenever you wanted a photo however they did not seem to be always around pushing photos. Room service although having a limited menu was fast and pleasant. The prices in the ships shops were high however if you watched for the daily specials you could save a great deal. Coffee onboard although always fresh was extremely stong. We really hated to see the cruise come to an end.

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By Jen_CR

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Nov 30, 2003

Bahamas

Just got back yesterday (12/7/03)! For his birthday, I surprised my boyfriend with this cruise. We had a really great time overall, but there are a few things that kind of bothered us a little. Keep in mind that we had an overall GREAT time on the cruise, and we would definitely recommend it to our friends. So don't let any negative comments disappoint you. You will have a lot of fun...I miss it already! 1)Sunday & Monday- The lines

were very long when we got to the pier in Manhattan. And just when you think the waiting is finally over, there's another line to wait on. But don't get too annoyed, they go pretty quickly. TIP: Fill out all the paperwork and immigration cards before you get there. And don't forget your passport or birth certificate and another form of photo ID...they won't let you on the ship without it. Also there are 2 days at sea, and it can get a little boring. I suggest bringing a book or a deck of cards so that you can at least entertain yourself during those hours when there's nothing going on. However, they leave a daily itinerary on your door, and all of the ship's activities are listed out on there. It makes planning the day a lot easier. Definitely go to all the shows. They were fun. And try to meet other people early on because it really does get boring on those sea days. 2) Tuesday-Getting off the ship in Port Canaveral was a project, so get there early and don't forget to bring your driver's license and key card. They were pretty strict at that port. We paid $15 each and took the 1hr bus ride to Epcot. There was more than enough time to check everything out there. 3) Wednesday- Miami was nothing special. They should get rid of this port (along with Port Canaveral) and give you more time in the Bahamas. We did take the "Latin Tour of Miami" ($36 each) and that was nice (say Hi to Miguel...they tour guide. He was awesome!). They take you to Coral Gables and Little Cuba. Coral Gables had beautiful Italian and Spanish style houses. It was a very nice tour, but they don't bring you to South Beach, so we paid another $15 (each way) and took a cab after the tour. The shuttle bus (which also goes to South Beach) is $15 each, so it costs the same. Looking back, I wouldn't have bothered going to South Beach at all because a) there was no one at the beach (it was a Wednesday in December), and b) there's nothing to see during the day (except for Versace's house). South Beach is famous for it's night life, but during the day it sucks. I felt like the whole day was a waste of time and money. Don't bother going shopping in Miami...unless you don't have the Gap or CVS in your home town. I'm from NY, so there was no point in going shopping in Miami. Same stores. But it was probably great for the foreigners. 4) Thursday - The seas were very rough, so they decided to bring us to Nassau instead of the private island. That was cool because it gave us a little more time to spend shopping and checking out "the Bahamas." We loved Nassau. The local people were usually very helpful and nice, but the people at the straw market were annoying and rude. They would almost follow us around which made it hard to really shop because someone was constantly trying to pressure you into buying something. And ladies, tie your hair into a ponytail or something...you will be asked constantly if you want your hair braided (which I didn't). I have long blond hair which definitely made me a target...lol And keep in mind, the women in the straw market seem nice, but they get snippy and rude if you ask them for a price and then don't buy it. Definitely a great place though....we walked to the water tower and Queen Elizabeth steps, which was beautiful. Bay Street has a lot of shops and jewelry stores, so this is definitely a shopping day. Get the 4 for $10 T-shirts. 5)Friday-Great Stirrup Cay is a pretty little island. I though there was going to be a bigger beach area though. There's not much sand between the rocks and the water, so try to get there early so you can find a good spot. Bring goggles...there are so many beautiful fish that swim right up to the shore. Would have been better if we had goggles. And one big TIP: BRING WATER SHOES! The ocean floor is very sharp and slimy. People were getting hurt while walking around in the water. There is also a little market behind the bbq area, but it's expensive compared to Nassau. The bbq was not very good...definitely not as good as the food on the ship. Definitely eat breakfast before you leave the ship. There is also a cool Caribbean style band playing music...nice touch. The water was beautiful and the ferry ride was very short (and very bumpy, so sit down). Overall, this was a fun beach day! At night - Really good shows...don't miss them. And make reservations at one of the main restaurants because it's Surf and Turf night. 6) Saturday - At Sea- Go to the shows...play cards and read your book if you get bored...Or go donate your money to the casino ;) 7) Sunday- New York- Don't bother waking up early unless you are NOT an American citizen. They are called down first around 8:30am. Everyone was assigned a color, and our color wasn't called untill 11:00am. So if your color is purple, wake up late, eat breakfast, go take some last minute pictures of the ship and make sure you packed everything up...but definitely don't rush...you might even need your book again. ;) Overall, it was a really great cruise and we had a good time. Our balcony stateroom (room 10662)was really pretty and had more than enough space for us. Big closet, 3 drawers, coffee maker, blow dryer, safe and fridge. The balcony was awesome and we will never get a regular stateroom again. The bathroom was always clean with new towels every time we got back in the room. The cleaning crew was working 24-7. There are 10 restaurants, and they're all pretty good. The three main restaurants have the same menu, so just pick your favorite atmosphere. Salsa, the mexican restaurant, was pretty good. There are also three restaurants that have a cover charge. The steakhouse, the Japanese restaurant (Bamboo), and the French restaurant (Le Bistro). We went to Bamboo and Le Bistro....they were really good. I recommend going to Le Bistro at least once. And Bamboo is half price between 5:00 and 6:00pm. The Garden Cafe on deck 12 was good for breakfast and lunch, but it was kind of hard to find a table sometimes. If you walk to the opposite end of the restaurant there should be some empty tables there. And one last thing...go to Dazzles Lounge at night. The singer is awesome...Have a great cruise and e-mail me if you have any questions... [email protected]

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Nov 23, 2003

Bahamas

My wife and I along with our 3 kids (ages 16, 14 & 10) and my mother-in-law, spent Thanksgiving week on board the luxurious Norwegian Dawn for a 7-day cruise to Florida and the Bahamas. Wanting to be aboard as early as we could, we arrived at the pier at 12:30 p.m. after a half hour on the ramp that goes up to the departure area. The reason for the jam was because passengers on the previous trip were still there being picked up by

their rides as our batch came in. Checking our bags was a cinch but the line to the check-in area spilled out to the gate. After another hour of waiting in line and filling out immigration forms for the Bahamas, we finally made it to the counter where they take your picture and is linked with your ID/key/credit card. Everytime they swipe your card when you leave and board the ship, your picture appears on the screen. A truly great security feature. Finally, after posing for a pre-departure portrait with a picture of the ship as a backdrop, we got on board at 2:00 p.m. If you take this cruise, I suggest that you get there no earlier than 3 p.m. Our bags were already outside our cabins when we got there so there are no bellhops to tip. We had 3 adjacent inside cabins on deck 8. One adult to a child per cabin is their rule. As you board the ship, you immediately notice how massive this ship is with a lobby bigger than that of a 5-star hotel. But you enter your cabin and you wonder how they were able to fit 2 single beds, 2 desks and 2 mini night tables plus a bathroom with a shower. You maneuver your way around the cabin the first 2 days but after a while you get used to it. The cabin is clean, the beds are comfortable and the bathroom is spotless. They keep it in this condition with the 2 make-overs a day. You never come back to the mess that you left behind since our room attendant Fernando cleaned it in the morning and late afternoon. He also makes dolls out of your towels and places them on top of your bed with a chocolate mint on your pillow. Nice touch! There are 10 restaurants but 3 of them charge a cover. We went to all of them except for Gatsby's that charges $17.50/person. The Bamboo Sushi bar had excellent sushi and sashimi that kept coming by via a conveyor that passes your table. The Filipino wait staff were so courteous and helpful and kept asking us if we wanted something else other than what came by. We asked for unagi (eel) and got it 2 minutes later. If you like Japanese food, it's worth the $10 cover charge. The Venetian is like the main dining room since it's the biggest and can accommodate a big crowd without reservations. The prime rib was so tender and delicious that I didn't put any steak sauce on it. The Garden Cafe located on deck 12 offers buffets for people who don't want to wait and be waited on. Aqua and Impressions are continental while the others are themed according to their names. A good word of advice: Friday night is surf & turf night, meaning lobster and fillet mignon so make your reservations as early as Monday. We couldn't get a table that night at any of the theme restaurants until 9:30. My teenaged boys spent most of the day playing basketball, swimming and playing video games at the arcade. My ten year old was kind of lost since she's too old to be supervised but too young to wander by herself. They have an activity center for her age group where she spent the afternoons and gave us the time to be alone. The bars are well stocked with domestic and imported wines and beer. Domestic beer is $3.74 each with the 15% gratuity included but you can get any domestic wine and beer at half price during happy hour at the Pearly King's Bar. The beer drinkers took advantage of this by buying buckets of 6 beers for $11.22. Sammy the bartender was so accommodating and very knowledgeable especially with mixed drinks. The casino on deck 6 is small but large enough to offer table games such as blackjack, Caribbean poker, 3 card poker, baccarat, casino war and let it ride. It also has roulette and craps and hundreds of slot machines ranging from nickel to dollar. The only thing missing from this casino as in other ships, is the complimentary drinks. Yes, you pay for them and the only way around it is by signing up with the club to earn points/dollars that can be used to purchase drinks. The Port Canaveral stop didn't do anything for us. My kids have been to Orlando several times and didn't want to go to the Space center so they stayed on the boat and played basketball. My wife and I took the bus ride to the Mall and Wal Mart where I bought a bar of soap since our bathroom had dispensers that you push and gel soap squirts out. Miami was also a waste of time since we really didn't want to go shopping in Bayside and walk around South Beach so we spent the day laying by the pool and read. In Nassau, we went to Atlantis to see the aquariums and we really enjoyed watching the sharks and thousands of fishes. It's similar to the Mandalay Bay attraction where you walk in a tunnel surrounded by aquariums. It costs $25/person to get in and $8/person roundtrip for the cab ride. The Great Stirrup Cay is an island with white sand beach and clear and pristine waters where you can see fishes and stingrays swim alongside you. They have a bar and hold a barbecue cookout for lunch. The only drawback is toilet facilities which we found rather disgusting. I guess it's the lack of water pressure that made it hard for them to keep them clean. Back to the ship at 2:30 p.m. where everybody headed to the pool and the party continued. Entertainment is so-so. The band at the Spinnaker lounge was mediocre. The singing duet at the Dazzles Bar bored me after a couple of songs. Phil Hughes the ventriloquist was funny on the first show but kind of became predictable on the second. Kieran the cruise director is funnier I think. The singer who played the piano was great. A combination of Barbra Streisand/Bette Midler/Bernadette Peters, she entertained the older group to which I belonged. The Karaoke Bar was entertaining until the kids took over. a quartet of 3 men and a woman sang pop songs and were okay but listening to them night after night can be boring too. When the ship docks in New York at around 8:45 a.m., don't rush to get out since we didn't disembark until 11:00 a.m. Had I known it I would have spent another hour sleeping. The color coding of disembarkation was wonderful and efficient but then it was our turn to meet heads with the next batch when we got out of the pier. NCL should start boarding at 2:00 p.m. since the ship doesn't leave until 6 p.m. anyway. On the overall, I recommend this ship to everyone, young and old. It's a great experience and I would do it again!

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Nov 23, 2003

Bahamas

My seventh cruise and first "free style" one. My wife and I got to the pier at around 3:30 p.m. and proceeded to the check-in area without a problem after depositing our luggage curbside. Passports, Bahamas immigration cards and credit card were required as we presented ourselves to the counter. It was a breeze and I didn't even realize that they our pictures as we checked in until we boarded the ship when the attendant swiped

our cards and revealed our ugly smugs. Once on board, we automatically went on hoiday mode. I knew that our luggage was still in limbo so my wife and I decided to go to the nearest bar. Navigating our way around, we found the Java Cafe right in the lobby or Atrium as they call it. There was a crowd at this juncture of seasoned cruisers booking restaurant reservations for certain dates as we overheard them. My wife and I sat back and ordered drinks while we adjust to the goings-on. Passengers are still boarding and wandering around trying to get their bearings as we idly observe, and then our bartender asked us if we had lunch yet. My wife and I looked at each other and then asked, "where is lunch being served"? We scooted to the elevator and took it to the 12th floor for a buffet at the Garden Cafe. There was a deli station there so we grabbed some lox on a bagel w/ cream cheese. Full and ready, we proceeded to our cabin and found our luggage outside it. We slid the card and opened the door and voila, saw the room that we were going to spend 7 nights in. It wasn't so bad; There were 2 twin beds, with 2 tiny night tables that are big enough to hold your reading glasses and a book; a 13" TV mounted on a shelf; A closet big enough for 2 people; a desk with enough room to lay your laptop and wallet; a coffee maker with cups in a hidden shelf; a bureau w/ 3 drawers enough for 2 and the bathroom, sparkling clean with enough shelf space for 2 and a sliding glass door shower. This is far better than the inside cabins that we stayed in in previous cruises, so I'd give it a 2 thumbs up! Unless you're honeymooning, how much time would you spend in a cabin?  

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Oct 5, 2003

Bahamas

My husband and I just returned from sailing on the Norwegian Dawn and it was by far the best vacation we have ever taken. Everything about the Norwegian Dawn is positive, the rooms are clean, the ship is in great condition, the staff is more than accommodating and polite, the food was terrific and most of all getting on and off the ship for embarkation, disembarkation and shore excursions was smooth every time. Lastly, the cruise directors

on the ship are great; they keep you so well informed through out the trip. I highly recommend this ship for anyone looking to cruise.

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By Sue_CR

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Sep 14, 2003

Bahamas

Well...I'm back and what a wonderful cruise we had! The ship met all of our expectations. We were three friends ages 55,52, and 46. When we arrived at the NY pier we were told through NCL's web page that we were headed for Canada instead of the Bahama's because of hurrican Isabel. We were not very happy about the change, but at least was able to pack for colder weather the day before. Upon arrival at the pier, the Capt, made the announcement

that we WERE going to go the the bahamas. A lot of happy cruisers cheered, including us. Embarkation was flawless. We were sitting having lunch by 1:00 in the Venetian, (one of many fine dining restaurants) I will not bore you with the typical comments. We did have the best time. I will, however, tell you what I think should be brought with you, fixed, or changed. We were sharing a balcony room, 9536, aft. The room is smaller than the average balcony I am used to, but we made due. Only one plug available. The bathroom does have a plug in ONLY for shavers, so my suggestion, bring a a/c adaptor for 220 volts. Will help. They do supply a hairblower, not big on wattage though. Do bring your own if need be. Since you are charged on your sign and sail card the gratuaties for the week (70 dollars) you will notice that the service is not as personal as when you tip at the end. The service was good, but not at all personal. The restaurants are fabulous. No need to pay extra at the specialty restaurants (Cagneys, Le Bistro, etc) Food is just as good in the Venetian, Salsa's and especially in Impressions (my favorite...ask for Dhuri to wait on you, wonderful and adorable) If your so inclined to enjoy a good Martini, do go to the taste test in the Star bar. For 10 bucks you get to sample over 6 drinks and meet a lot of fun people in the process. You may want to take a nap after this event! LOL Get to pool deck early. Seats are taken quick. As far as the itinerary, Port Canaveral, Miami, Stirrup Cay and Nassau...here's my take. Dump Miami all together and give us more time in Nassau. We only had from 7-2 and I would have loved to stay there the entire day. MUCH TO SHORT TO EXPLORE. The casino on the ship is great. Two of us won over 500 dollars each, which is always a plus. The cruise director was fair. Not too funny. The shows were typical Las Vegas Review. Try the jacuzzi's in the spa...fabulous. If you have any questions at all, I would be pleased to help you...just send them to my e-mail. Happy cruising!  

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Sep 7, 2003

Bahamas

I am thirty-two years old, and I work in the entertainment industry. My wife is younger, and works as a hair stylist. We are frequent cruisers, usually on either Royal Caribbean or NCL, but we particularly like the flexibility of the Freestyle concept developed by NCL. The variety of dining options and times makes for a far more relaxed experience, rather than traditional cruising where you have the time and place for all meals dictated

in advance. In addition, the NCL disembarkation process (where you can stay in your stateroom until you are called) is far more civilized than the somewhat chaotic approach of other cruise lines, with passengers strewn all over the ship in every public room and passage. The Norwegian Dawn is currently NCL’s flagship (launched end of 2002), and it really is a ship of tremendous options and diversity. There are 10 restaurants, numerous bars, a Broadway style theatre, a large show lounge, cinema, library, internet café, health spa and pool, swimming pools, karaoke venue, disco, casino and much more. Our cruise left New York City on Sunday Sep 7th 2003. We embarked about 12 noon when lines were relatively short. Most people seem to embark between 1 and 2:30pm. Staterooms Although our experience was marred (I’ll come on to that in a moment), generally the rooms are much better than average, both in quality of finish and size. We stayed in an outside cabin on deck 8. The rooms are very well designed to make the most of all the available space, with plenty of storage. Fixtures and fittings are high quality, featuring wood paneled draw units and wardrobes, a full length mirror, and a reasonable sized bathroom. The bathroom was divided into three areas – the toilet, the basin, and the shower, with sliding screens for privacy in between. A good quality chrome finish hairdryer was appreciated, but the 14” color TV was a little too small, and only had a small selection of regular channels, such as CNN and TNT. The majority of the channels were ship oriented and inevitably were trying to sell you something, whether it was a shore excursion, a meal in one of the restaurants with a cover charge, items from the onboard shop, spending time in the casino and so on. The moving map channel is interesting as it enables you to see the details of the route. If you bring your own electronic items onboard, the rooms have two power outlets, one 110V (USA/Canada) and one 240V with the UK style socket outlet. If you are from other European countries you will need to bring an adaptor to convert to a two pin outlet. As I needed internet access via my laptop, I was astonished to find that only a small number of staterooms can currently gain internet access directly from the room. The Dawn is one of the newest ships afloat, and many older ships have internet access from every room. There does not seem to be any logic behind which rooms can and can’t get access, but the internet manager on deck 8 can advise you. Fortunately, I had wireless access on my laptop which meant I could still connect to the onboard wireless network for internet access, but I had to be in a specific area, namely the atrium or the pool deck at the top of the ship. Of course, there is an internet café also, with plenty of computers available. Whatever option you go for, be warned that it is not cheap - $100 for 200 minutes of access. On a positive note the connection speed is amongst the best I have experienced onboard a ship, certainly much faster than a 56k modem. I mentioned that we had a problem with our room, so I will explain. We booked an outside cabin that, according to the brochure, had a restricted view. I’m not sure about other rooms within the same category, but our experience was that the view was virtually completely blocked by lifeboats. The windows consisted of two narrow, vertical slits – through one of them all you could see was a lifeboat, and through the other all you could see was a glimpse of the sea to the side of one of the lifeboats. Apart from some daylight coming into the room, it might as well have been an inside cabin. Having paid for an outside cabin, and expecting to have a reasonable view of the ocean, needless to say we were very disappointed. It should be made much clearer that you will not be able to see the sea! Service The service onboard was inconsistent, but generally good. It varied between poor and excellent, mostly in the acceptable to excellent range. We found most restaurant staff attentive and willing to serve, and a few individuals really shone. We made a note of their names and mentioned them in our comment card because they should be rewarded for going the extra mile. We have been told that NCL do read all the comment cards and they reward their staff who have been singled out by passengers for special commendation and promotion. In the lounges, bars, and on deck, the bar staff tend to be a little too keen, and you can often feel hassled to buy drinks. With incentives given to staff for high bar sales, there seems little hope of a resolution to this perennial problem. Restaurants As mentioned earlier there are no fewer than 10 dining options, and most guests will not experience them all during their time on board. Here is our summary of those we visited: The three main restaurants are The Venetian, Aqua, and Impressions. All three serve the same menu, which changes each night, invariably featuring a theme such as ‘Presidents Dinner’, Italian cuisine, or Caribbean night. ‘The Venetian’ is the largest and in our view, most impressive of all restaurants. Situated at the back of the ship, it has high ceilings, a grand staircase, and borders on opulent. ‘Aqua’ is a much smaller, water themed restaurant with blue décor, subdued lighting, and low ceilings. It has a very peaceful, relaxed atmosphere, and is perhaps the most romantic setting of the three main restaurants. It is also at the rear of the ship. ‘Impressions’, mid ship on one side, is similar in size to Aqua, with slightly brighter lighting, and features some wonderful paintings on every wall. Reservations are not normally required for these three restaurants, but you may reserve a table if you wish. The busiest times are between 6pm and 8pm. We chose to eat after 8pm on most days and we found the atmosphere far more relaxed as a result.An Italian restaurant ‘La Trattoria’, and ‘Salsa’, a Tex-Mex themed restaurant were other alternatives although we did not try them. Other more relaxed dining options are the Garden café on deck 12, which is a large buffet style restaurant with good food and good variety. Also, ‘Blue Lagoon’ on deck 7 mid ship is a 24 hour fast food style restaurant with table service. Typical fare included stir fry, fish and chips, burgers, chicken wings, and so on. The food was piping hot, excellent quality, and we chose this option for lunch on several days. The other restaurants all had cover charges, which varied from $10 to $17.50. This seemed puzzling to us as the concept of cruising is supposed to be that the cost of the vacation includes all food, and a number of passengers clearly felt cheated that they were required to pay extra in order to experience some of the restaurants. In our opinion a better way of doing this would be to have an optional charge at the time of booking, say $30 for 3 meals in these restaurants. ‘Cagneys Steakhouse’. This had the most expensive cover charge of $17.50 but the food and service were exceptional. The focus was on steaks, but there were a number of seafood options such as lobster. Cagneys is located at the top of the ship on deck 13.‘Bamboo/Tepanyaki/Sushi Bar’. These three restaurants are all located in the same area and feature Asian cuisine. We visited Bamboo, which had a very tasty and well presented meal, although the service was the poorest of all restaurants in our experience. ‘Le Bistro’ has French cuisine and although we did not try it, it seemed to be popular amongst guests. Again, the issue of the cover charge for many of the restaurants was clearly a matter of concern to many passengers who were quite vocal in their disapproval of this arrangement. Having paid for the cruise, it did not seem right to ask passengers for an additional fee to eat at many onboard restaurants. Although we did sample some of the restaurants that had cover charges, with the exception of Cagneys Steak House, the food was just as good in the main restaurants, and although the service was a little more personalised and less rushed, we did not feel that the charge was warranted. Entertainment The ubiquitous Jean Ann Ryan company has the stranglehold over most of the onboard shows, and whilst two of the three shows were very good, they were not the best we have seen on a cruise ship. The first show was a South Beach (Miami) themed song and dance performance which quickly became monotonous. Perhaps because of not wanting to pay the royalties of well known songs, the show consisted mainly of poorly composed tunes which were merely okay, never outstanding. When the audience heard the familiar sound of a Gloria Estefan number however, they perked up, and it was obvious they appreciated hearing a familiar song. Sadly, the choreography in this show was repetitive, the dancers were not well synchronised, and of average ability. Only the Russian Adagio couple shone. The second show, Music of the Night, was by far the best offering in our opinion. A deal with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh has meant that the Jean Ann Ryan company can bring the songs of Andrew Lloyd Webbers most famous musicals to their cruise ships. It appeared that the cast had been chosen for their abilities in this show rather than the other two, as they appeared more comfortable and more suited to the performance. Having said that, the singers were still only of average ability, lacking the power and conviction that the songs required, even singing flat on a number of occasions. At times, they appeared to be going through the motions, probably thinking about their next time off in port, rather than the emotions of the songs.The last show was ‘Bollywood’, an Indian themed variety show which featured the same cast of singers and dancers. Apart from the Asian influence, there did not seem to be a logical development, with scenes being played as independent, at times disjointed sections of the show. At times, there seemed to be close similarities to a ‘Cirque du Soleil’ style show, with aerial acrobatics and similar music, but cruise ships are limiting in how far you can take this sort of performance, and it’s my opinion that it’s better not to copy, but rather innovate and offer something new. The Jean Ann Ryan company also jumped on the bandwagon of the popular Moulin Rouge movie, taking songs and styles from it and using them in all three shows. Again, we would have preferred to see an original interpretation of well known songs. Although some of the audience gave standing ovations, we felt this was undeserved. Perhaps being from a theatrical background made us more demanding, but when you know what can be done (yes, even on a cruise ship), it does tend to make you look at shows in a different way. On a positive note, the staging, sets, lighting, and sound were all excellent, as were the resident orchestra/band. The theatre generally has very good sightlines, apart from the top tier side seats, which were located behind glass panels and which seemed unnecessary. Air conditioning vents in the back of each seat were appreciated, although there were no drinks holders which was a minor inconvenience. A variety of other shows were featured during the week – there was an excellent comedian, and a concert pianist who nobody had heard of, but who appealed to the older generation. We would have liked to have seen a good magician.Other entertainment venues around the ship offered alternatives, and the small groups, and jazz bands were all excellent. Itinerary For us the attraction of the cruise was the ship rather than the ports of call. With two and a half days at sea, we new we would have time to enjoy the facilities on board. Having said that, sailing from New York City was a highlight for us. With stunning views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty that you could only otherwise obtain from a helicopter, it was a perfect start to the vacation. After a full day at sea on Monday, the first port of call was Cape Canaveral in Florida. This port is ideal for a visit to Kennedy Space Center, just a few minutes drive away and definitely recommended. Otherwise, another popular option is to take one of the shore excursion buses to Universal Studios or the Disney theme parks in Orlando, about an hours drive away. The next day brought us to Miami, where a number of shore excursions are available. We opted to explore south beach and the Bayfront shops on our own.NCL’s private island Great Stirrup Cay is in the Bahamas, and we had a full day there, docked away from the island, with a tender service to and from the boat. Although the island was a taste of paradise, it was overcrowded, and the music from the band was far too loud (and I like music loud!) The barbecue lunch on the beach was excellent. Nassau, as most frequent cruisers will know is a tourist trap, and we only went ashore to get some items from the pharmacy. Sure, it’s worth a browse around the shops, and you might get a good deal on jewelry or alcohol, but we feel it is over hyped as an interesting destination, and we were pleased to leave. Finally, a couple of other minor niggles. Firstly, there were two many announcements on board. Most of them were promoting an event and since everyone had access to the daily cruise guide, they were unnecessary and irritating. Apart from the frequency, the announcements were also far too loud. They might need to be that loud on Holland America, but not on NCL where the average age is far lower and where most passengers hearing is still intact. Although the ship is generally pristine, already signs of wear are showing in some areas. For example, outside the Pearly King and Queens pub, the entrance sign had many pearls missing from it, and it looked shabby. I doubt whether they were real pearls anyway, and sadly, I suspect that passengers were to blame for removing them. Regardless of the reason however, the sign should have been repaired or replaced before it got to that state.Passengers are encouraged to have their photos taken against a variety of backdrops during the cruise, and for some passengers this is an ideal opportunity to have a formal portrait. We found the photographers to be helpful in setting up a suitable pose, and as we were a family group, we selected six photographs that we wished to purchase. To our amazement, when we went to buy these, we found that whilst a discount is given for four photos, after four, the price goes up! There is absolutely no incentive for buying more than four photos! Whoever made up that rule doesn’t understand the concept of how to satisfy customers, and as a result we just bought 4 photos, the remainder got thrown away! The debarkation process off the shipwas smooth. The problems came when we were waiting on the pier, which I suspect is the fault of the New York authorities that manage the pier. We debarked approximately half way through the process, and because there is no room on the pier, it was absolute chaos. The sidewalks were completely blocked with passengers coming off the ship, which meant that passengers arriving to check-in could not get through. The sheer volume of people waiting to get taxis meant that we were waiting well over an hour on the sidewalk with all our luggage. Vouchers were issued by the taxi controller, and we had about 60 numbers in front of us! Many people gave up and paid exorbitant prices charged by the illegally operating car services at the terminal. There has to be a better way of structuring this process, and it left us irritable and frustrated, spoiling what should have been an enjoyable last day in New York. Finally, there is the controversial matter of tipping. Coming from the UK, we find the cruise ships concept of tipping a little hard to come to terms with. A tip, by our understanding is a reward for exceptional service. If someone goes out of their way to do something special for you, it is customary to tip. However, what we find difficult to understand is that tips are expected on cruise ships for virtually all members of staff who serve you. Tips are automatically added to the check when you order a drink, yet the waiter was just doing his or her job. Perhaps we are being cynical, but it struck us that the tipping policy is a clever way of enabling cruise lines to get away with not paying their staff as much in wages. On NCL, $10 each day is charged to your onboard statement per person, to cover tips for waiters and room stewards etc. This is hardly a tip - surely it is an extra charge? Let me emphasize that we are not against tipping; we think that it is proper to recognise service that goes the extra mile, but the concept seems to have gone a little too far in some areas so that tips are expected whether or not you have received good service. On NCL, if you have received poor service in some areas, you will still have paid your $70 in tips per person for the week, regardless. In some cases, it seems to have taken away the incentive for staff to provide exceptional service - they know they will be getting the tips anyway! Our puzzlement of the tipping matter extended to taxi rides in New York. All taxi drivers that we rode with were talking on their cellphones for the duration of the ride. They did not drive considerately, in fact they drove aggressively and dangerously, and they were abrupt, yet they all expected a tip. We gave them a tip as it is customary, but we couldn’t help thinking that the original reasoning behind tipping seems to have been lost. Overall, we rated the Dawn very highly compared to other cruise experiences. The freestyle concept definitely gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from us. We know that in any vacation there will be good points and bad points and on balance we were very happy with our cruise experience. NCL have a good understanding of what cruise passengers want these days, and the cruise more than met our expectations.

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Aug 17, 2003

Bahamas

This is my 5th NCL cruise, and my first on a "freestyle" ship, and I am disappointed with the whole freestyle idea. Of course, you can do what you want when you want, but you have to pay for it! (Or as one performer at the show quipped, "Freestyle means a $10 cover charge.") Let me start by saying that embarkation in New York was very smooth. They had a special check-in area for Latitudes members. All in all, the

process went very well. We're a bunch of traditionalists in my family, and we knew even before the cruise that we didn't want to do the freestyle dining. Rather, we wanted to have the same restaurant, same table, same server, every night. And it worked out well, since the 3 main non-paying restaurants have just about the same menu. (The other "alternative" restaurants charge between $10 and $17.50 cover.) We chose the Venetian Dining Room, and lucked out with Mario, our maitre d' and Iustina, our waitress. Originally, we were told we could only get set dinner times for 5:30, 6:00, 8:30 or 9:00 and that we should try a few restaurants before making our decision, but we persisted and requested an 8:00 seating every night ... and got it. Wow! Was it great to pass by the lines of people waiting for dinner at 8 PM, so we could get to the Maitre d' (who knew our name) and say "We're here!" Freestyle may be good for some, but we like to be on a schedule. The food was very good, but not excellent. The rack of lamb was very good, but the lobster tail was tough. Also, as an enticement to get you off the private island, they scheduled the chocoholic buffet (the only grand buffet of the whole cruise) at 2:00 in the afternoon. This was really weird! And all the sand they had to clean up in the dining room! Also, because there is no main or late seating, the wait staff doesn't serenade or dance for you. Otherwise, they'd be doing it 5 times a night. I kinda miss this fun part of cruising. The food in the Garden Cafe (buffet) is good. I don't know why they offer Indian food every day. Does it have mass appeal? The executive chef is Indian, but still ... Also, the New York deli is nowhere near New York quality. Otherwise, the buffet food is good and varied. I know I'm going from topic to topic here, but allow me to comment "freestyle": The camp: The kids' camp was a big disappointment. Unlike Carnival, for instance, the ship charges for babysitting when it is in port. We only had 2 days at sea. The camp is becoming a nice profit center! Also, the area for the 2-5 year-olds was extremely small; the 6-9 year-olds get a much bigger room. There are not as many things to do as on Carnival either. I remember the Carnival kids' program having something new every hour, but on the Dawn, there was hardly anything planned! The ship: The ship is new and beautiful. Everything is clean. The rooms are small. The bathrooms need more shelf space. The door separating the toilet from the rest of the bathroom is a nice feature, as is the sliding shower door. We had 2 kids in our room, so one used an overhead bunk bed and the other used a trundle bed that slid out from one of the regular beds. The walls between the cabins are thin, but the ride is very smooth. The ports: Port Canaveral has a very nice port area. We skipped the very expensive shore excursions throughout this cruise, and did our own thing. In Port Canaveral, we went to Kennedy Space Center, and paid one-third what the ship was charging. For the $28 we spent per adult ticket, Kennedy Space Center was a real bargain! In Miami it rained all day, and we didn't leave the ship. (Of course, those with the shore excursions got very wet!) My complaint is, the ship came up with rainy day contingency plans at 11 AM, which is really late! They ran a movie for the kids at the camp, and line dancing for adults, as well as a movie in the cinema. They should have had a schedule of constant movies in the cinema all day! Another thing, this ship will be running out of New York all year round. Why did it not build a retractable roof over the pool for rainy days, as well as for cruises during the fall, winter and spring? Rather, they have a lap pool in the spa, but they charge $10 per person to get in, and no one over 15 is allowed. Again, money, money, money! Nassau: We went to Cable Beach. It was beautiful. Well worth it. Ask your cab driver to take you to the beach at the Wyndham Hotel. The private island: As in the past, Great Stirrup Cay is wonderful, although it can get a bit crowded. My recommendation is ... get yourselves some extra hot dog or hamburger buns from the buffet to feed the fish. They come right up to you. It's very cool! On the negative side, every toilet in the ladies' room was unflushable. It was gross. The shows: This was, by far, the best part of the cruise. The Jean Ann Ryan Company never fails to delight and excite. They put on three shows, a South Beach revue, the songs of Andrew Lloyd Weber, and the exotic Bollywood, which I really doubt anyone in the audience under 20 understood. Also, the Norwegian Dawn band was phenomenal, full of energy and great sounds! The cruise director, Rich Clesen, is very energetic. He used to be a stand-up comic, and it shows. One of the shows not to be missed is the crew talent show. Now, I happened to be in the Star Seekers talent show, but they take it far too seriously. Whereas passenger talent shows used to be fun, they now have a big audition process to weed people out, and the ultimate goal is that the winner could possibly get a contract to perform aboard NCL ships. My disappointments: They are marketing this freestyle biz in your face a bit too much. They put the alternative dining venues' menus in your mailbox every day, or thrust them at you in the lobby. Even the waiters wear buttons that say, "Aloha. Ask me about cruising to Hawaii." Please ... don't these poor people have enough to do ... you want them to pitch cruises, too! The gift shop is all the way in the back of the ship, not in a central location. It was always empty, and the prices are horrendous ($97 for a man's Hawaiian shirt, $150 for a pair of shoes!) Basically, NCL is cutting costs everywhere: No more bar soap in the bathrooms, you have to pump your hand soap, shower gel and shampoo. No more free fruit punch or lemonade throughout the day, just water and iced tea. The bingo games are something like $19.99, $29.99 and $39.00 for the cards. A 5x7 photo is $9.99. If you want to buy your embarkation photo, you have to buy it along with a photo of the ship and a keychain, and the whole package is $19.99. You cannot buy the photo alone. The mixed drinks at the bars cost as much as they would in the city. The restaurant cuts costs by eliminating the bus person and wine steward (there is a server and a runner). No one comes around with a selection of rolls at breakfast; there is just a small basket at your table. Well, I guess I've done enough complaining. Here's something good: Debarkation: This part was really good. You can hang out in your room until you leave, so you're not stuck in some lounge with hundreds of others. Our orange tickets were called last, so we got off the ship at 11:30! Would I sail with Norwegian again? I'm not sure. This is not the Norwegian I was on even 4 years ago. Thanks for reading. Love and cruises, Debbie

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Aug 10, 2003

Bahamas

August 10 -- Got on the ship at 3:20pm went to our cabin and chilled until dinner time. than we ate dinner and went to a show an then to bed. August 11 -- I went to the Garden Cafe for breakfast. Then I walked around. Than I went down to our cabin, watched some TV, and took a nap. After doing that, my Grandpa and I went for ice cream by the pool. (they had ice cream every day but it was really melted because they only packed it in ice).

I also went for a swim in the pool. After that we went to our cabin to get ready for dinner. We went to dinner and then to a show. After the show my grandparents went to sleep and my father and I ordered room service. I had roast beef on rye while my father had turkey on French bread. We also had two iced teas to drink. And then we went to sleep. August 12 -- Today we were in Port Canaveral, Florida We woke up at 7:30am because our tour left at 8:15am. We had breakfast in the Ventical restaurant. After breakfast we got on a bus to go to Universal Studios. It was really hot on the bus because they didn't have AC. Here is a list and information on the rides we went on: Jaws: I thought this ride was fun but it may be scary for children under 10. You ride in a boat and there is a fake shark trying to attack your boat. Also there is a part where you are close to fire and you can feel the heat of the fire on your face. But in the end you get back safely. Earthquake: A very fun ride. When you get on the ride after they talk to you the train moves out of the station and you go to another station for the earthquake. There is a lot of noise and the train shakes a lot. Also there is fire close to you. Men in Black (last ride) This ride was very cool. You shoot these ray guns at aliens and at the other car. (Long lines for double riders, go in the single rider line) If you go in single you will get in the same car but not in the same row. Also this ride spins a lot, it may make children dizzy. There was a long wait to get on these rides plus we had to go back to our ship. After we got back to the boat we went to dinner and a show. Then just as last night my grandparents went to bed and my father and I had room service then we went to bed. August 13 -- Today we were in Miami, Florida. We went on the Everglades airboat ride. We got in a bus for a hour ride. We got there and we got the front seat in the airboat. They gave us earplugs so the noise won't hurt our ears. We went slow at first but then we picked up speed. We stopped and our guide told us about the Everglades. We saw crocodiles bite each other. Than we went back to the bus, went back to the ship and had dinner. Than we went to a show and to bed. August 14 -- Today we were in Nassau, Bahamas. Went on a tour called " see and sea". We got on a boat and went out to another boat in the ocean. We changed boats and then we went down below and saw all kinds of fishes swimming outside the boat. That was cool. Than we got off the boat and we got on a tour bus and we took a guided tour around Nassau. Than we went back to the ship, ate dinner and went to a show. Than we went to the Blue Lagoon and then to bed. August 15 -- Today we were at Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas. This is NCL's private island. We had a lot of fun swimming and eating there. Than we got back on the boat and went to our cabin to take a nap. Than we went to dinner and to a show. Than we went to sleep. August 16 -- Today was our last day at sea. We woke up at 10:00am and went to breakfast. Than we went back to our cabin and we just chilled out to dinner. After dinner we went to the show and then to bed. August 17 -- Got off the ship at 11:00am. Had to wait a long time for my uncle to pick us up. I had a great cruise and I would cruise with NCL anytime. 

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Aug 3, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

The ship is beautiful. Freestyle Dining is the way to go. Everyone was very professional and the staff was the best. The only problem was disembarking in some ports; the line to get off was horrendous and took forever to get off the ship. I realize this is still a new ship, so I guess the kinks have not been worked out yet. My 11 year old sons gripe was that the game room had 3/4 of the games out of order and the pool was too small.

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Jul 27, 2003

Florida/Bahamas

We returned yesterday from a wonderful NCL Dawn cruise to Florida and the Bahamas. After reading some negative comments on message boards, I was a bit concerned prior to sailing, but had and absolutely wonderful cruise vacation, and would recommend this ship to anyone! Bus service: Prompt and efficient. (Note that you will arrive later at the pier when taking the bus service -- approximately 1:30 PM) and also you cannot use express

debarkation, but this was not a problem and the bus made the trip to New York stress free. Embarkation: Relatively smooth, although arriving in the afternoon makes the lines longer. Go early (11:30 AM) if you can. Cabin: Category G, Obstructed view outside cabin with four people. Large enough for our needs. Little drawer space. Mainly shelves and closet. Pack lightly. Nice vanity. Spacious bathroom. Refrigerator, safe, hairdryer (good one), coffeemaker. Bring small plastic food containers. Take creamers from buffet for coffee and put in frig. Leave hairdryer home. Didn't need over the door shoe holder. Fourth bed is on floor, not bunk style so floor space is limited when beds are turned down. View was good. Little obstruction from lifeboats. Restaurants: We ate dinner mainly in Impressions, which was wonderful! Service from Paul and Anak was great! The three main restaurants have the same dinner menu, so it is a matter of which one you like best. We ate at the Venetian the first evening and is was very nice but not as personal as Impressions. If you are prone to motion sickness, do not sit by the back windows in the Venetian. They are floor to ceiling and are over the engine and this was unsettling to some. We ate at La Trattoria one night and found the food to be excellent there as well. We did not eat at Salsa, or any of the surcharge restaurants, since we enjoyed the food so much in the main restaurants. Tip: Ask to see the menu book at reception the first evening, and decide based on that which nights you would like to try a specialty restaurant. Breakfast in the Venitian was delightful, and I also enjoyed the Garden Cafe. We had lunch on deck each day. Great barbequed ribs! Sunday: Prime Rib Monday: Formal Night (optional)- Beef Wellington Tuesday: Italian Dinner-Shrimp Scampi Wednesday: President's Dinner- LBJ's Steak Thursday: Caribbean Night-we ate at La Trattoria since this was our least favorite menu in the main restaurants Friday: Farwell Dinner- Lobster & Filet! Saturday: Chef's Dinner - Veal Scaloppini Entertainment: Really enjoyed the South Beach Rave, also Bollywood was good. We missed the Music of the Night show. Bands were all excellent, in particular the house band, the Ironics, and Roots Link. Violinist Domonique Eva and her juggling husband were good, but she was a very talented musician doing a lot of schmaltzy showbizzy stuff. The comedian, Chris Clobber, was hysterical! Best entertainment on the ship. More of a cerebral comic, but very funny. I believe he is leaving the ship though. Movies are run several times a day in the cinema. They are ones that are out on video and have been edited to a PG-13 format. Shore excursions: Only took one - Sea Island Adventure in Nassau. Went to a beautiful island which was much less crowded than NCL's and had a nice lunch. It was a bit overprice, but very enjoyable. In Port Canaveral we used Art's Transportation to get to the Space Center and saved $17 per person. Space Center was okay, but I think Cocoa Beach is your best bet in the hot months. Stayed on the ship and enjoyed the pool and facilities in Miami. Great Stirrup Cay is beautiful, but much too crowded for this size ship. Tip: Other passengers said they went to the Hilton in Nassau for $15 pp and had a great day on the beach. This is an 8 minute walk from the ship. Gym: Husband said it was the nicest he's seen on a ship. I worked on putting on, rather than taking off pounds! Spa: Didn't use. Casino: Didn't use. Bingo: One game -- too expensive! Too much else to do! Shops: Nice but pricey. Photos: Nice selection, typical ship prices. Soda program: Didn't use. (Ice Tea is free) Teen Passport: Get one of these if you have a teen-smoothies are great! Teen Program: Kids went the first night, met friends and then just stayed with them the rest of the cruise. They only went to the movies for teens after that. Make you teen go the first night or they will not find many kids there after that. Talent Show: What an amazingly talented group of people! My son was the pianist and I was very proud of him, but I was so impressed with the talent that these passengers had. Many were as good as professionals! Library: Nice selection Pool: Too small for this size ship, but otherwise nicely designed. THERE WAS NO SMELL OF SMOKE IN MY CABIN WHICH WAS ON THE SMOKING SIDE OF THE SHIP. THE FOOD WAS GREAT, THE STAFF WAS COURTEOUS, AND THIS WAS ONE OF THE BEST CRUISES I HAVE BEEN ON! AS THE COMEDIAN SAID, "SOME PEOPLE WILL COMPLAIN ABOUT ANYTHING. IF THERE IS A WHOLE IN THE SIDE OF THE SHIP, COMPLAIN. IF THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH RAISINS IN YOU OATMEAL, PLEASE BE QUIET!"

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Apr 19, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

My wife and I went with our kids ages 12, 10, and 7. We had the AB penthouse suite which exceeded our expectations. The ship is beautiful and staff courteous. On the downside, we found the kids program to fall short of that other lines provide, offering Limited hours, activities, and no offer to watch kids during shore excursions. And adult onboard activities are also limited. Those that they do have have an extra charge such as $5 for

Yoga and stationary bicycles, $10 for martini demonstration, etc. This cruise line caters to kids but is best for over 40 cruisers with no kids who want a quiet, nice, elegant cruise. As for their "freestyle" concept, it appears to me as just another way to get you to part with your money.

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Apr 19, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

Excitement filled the air as passengers boarded the new Norwegian Cruise Lines ship, the Norwegian Dawn. This is the flagship of the Norwegian fleet, and for good reason, the Dawn is just remarkable. The ships interior is beautiful, with artwork, sculpture, veneer wood paneled walls and a decor which just flows wonderful throughout the ship. Better yet, this ship is the pinnacle of an evolution of efficient passenger ship design, with

logical public spaces and passageways. First impressions of the ship are overwhelming. You just want to explore the ship. And I must confess, even after a week, there were areas that I had yet to see. The variety of dining areas was unique, and almost every palette could be satisfied. My favorites were Salsa, the Sushi Bar (Bamboo) and Cagney's Steakhouse. Each restaurant had it's own very personal feeling to it, from the artwork on the wall, to the lighting, which made every dining experience, making you want more. The heavy use of linens, glassware and festive decor is reminiscent of any fine dining establishment on shore. Since this was an Easter cruise, it was near capacity at 2,600 passengers. This was my first holiday cruise, and will definitely be my last. When the ship is run near capacity, things tend to bog down. Making reservations was a hassle, and the 790 kids on board made me feel like I was on a Disney ship, instead of a Norwegian one. Of course this is not the norm. I was on the Norwegian Sun a month before, and I couldn't count more than 50 kids on a ship of over 2,000. The staff and crew aboard the Norwegian Dawn are fantastic. Everyone greeted me with a smile, and were always helpful. The ships concierge, Amanda and the Hotel Director, James Deering, could not do enough to help me out with any of my requests for access in the ship, or meeting staff. It's quality staff like this that really makes Norwegian shine, and I cannot commend them enough. Clearly they love their jobs and it shows. This week our cruise was the Eastern Caribbean route, originating in Miami, and after a day at sea, stopping in San Juan, St. Thomas, Tortola (BVI), day at sea and then Great Stirrup Cay (Bahamas). I've done the Eastern Caribbean a number of times, and was more looking forward to the ship then anything. In San Juan, it was quite hot in the morning, but the skies grew quickly overcast and it down poured in the afternoon and evening. Oddly enough, this is a great time to use the numerous hot tubs, and the one on the forward top deck has a fantastic view of the surroundings around the ship. I went into town (Old San Juan) to find an internet cafe and find some lunch. Latin American food is one of my favorites, and there's no short supply of local eateries to satisfy anybody's taste in spicy food. I ate at Papa Maria's and for $6.00 had a great lunch. The only internet access I found was at Ben and Jerry's, but was much cheaper than the ship ($.75/min on the ship vs. $5.00 for 15 minutes on shore). After a night of very slow cruising (St. Thomas is less than 100 miles away), we arrived at the cruise ship pier in St. Thomas around 8:30 a.m. It was very overcast, and soon there was a downpour, which did not let up. I departed the ship late morning for the Tramway up to Paradise Point ($15 roundtrip). Within 5 minutes of departing the ship, I was completely drenched from the rain, and there were no umbrellas in sight. I envied the Radisson Seven Sea's passengers who were walking around with ship provided umbrellas. On the way up to Paradise Point, I soon realized that the top was cloud encrusted, and sure enough, visibility went to zero. To make matters worse, it was pouring rain there as well. Every time I've been to St. Thomas, it has been clear and sunny, so this was a first. After being denied a fantastic view of the island, I took the Tramway down, got a cab and went to the downtown area, only a few miles away. There are not many sidewalks in most of St. Thomas, and with the huge amounts of traffic, you have to be careful walking around, and avoiding cars. After some shopping at the best place for sweets in the Caribbean, The Chocolate Shop, I returned to the ship. By late afternoon, the rain had stopped, and we were graced by a nice sunset and warm temperatures. Our next destination was Tortola, where I did some snorkeling at Virgin Gorda (The Bathes) which had huge boulders, and a beautiful sugary beach. The reef had a variety of fish, and I saw one huge stingray slowly gliding over the sandy bottom. The ships dock at a cruise ship pier which is only a few hundred yards from town, so you can walk just about everywhere. We shared our dock with a Costa Cruise lines ship and the two ships together dwarfed everything in sight. In these small ports, the top of the ship has fantastic vantage points to see everything within miles of the dock. During our next sea day enroute to the Bahamas, the Hotel Director gave me a tour of the bridge and the galley area. It's fascinating to see how everything works on these ships like clockwork. The bridge is very high tech, and system redundancy is the standard. The galley was incredibly clean, with clearly managed food preparation areas that efficiently cook, produce, display and deliver the thousands of meals prepared daily. It always amazes me how they can produce so much food, and at a very good quality. We arrived at Great Stirrup Cay, but tendering ashore took some time. Offloading 2,000+ passengers took some time. They have a reservation system in place (colored tags) to help manage it, but it still falls very short of the Freestyle advertising. You can't go when you want, and yes, there are lines. Getting back on the ship towards the end of the afternoon resulted in long waits. While I've been to the Private Island a number of times (it isn't so private when you're sharing a small beach with 2,000 other passengers), most of the other passengers seemed to enjoy it a great deal, snorkeling, playing volleyball, or just soaking up the Sun on the beach. That night there was a passenger talent show which was surprisingly quite good, the theater was packed. Most of the other passengers attended the regular shows, and were quite pleased. I saw the comedian a few times, but wasn't all that impressed. I guess my idea of a nice evening is sipping on a martini and listening to the piano bar. My two favorite bars (both in atmosphere, decor and location) were the Star Bar (located amidships) which had the most excellent pianist, and the Spinnaker Lounge, (located forward deck 12) which doubled as a stage and disco later in the evening. The Spinnaker is where most people ended up later in the evening. Dazzles had Karaoke and other live entertainment at various times, and Gatsby's had a regular piano-bar entertainer who was quite good. To be fair, the ship had so many entertainment options, that I did not even come close to experiencing them all. Navigation around the ship always takes a while to get used to, however to the credit of NCL, there are well placed directories and ship deck legends throughout the ship, and primarily at elevator and stair landings. I was in cabin 8636 on the port side with a window. The cabin was compact and efficient, with 110/220V service and a built-in hairdryer. There was adequate closet space, but for more than two people, it would be cramped. They actually had a trundle bed underneath one of the two single beds, and then a fold-down bunk bed for the forth. There was a built-in refrigerator and safe. The bathroom had sliding glass door enclosed water closet and shower. I simply can't imagine more than one person in that small bathroom at a time, so the water closet door is a unnecessary waste of space, and it does confine the area a bit. The use of lotion dispensers in the shower and above the sink is a great idea (I use them at my condo) which saves cleaning time and is better for the passenger. The cabin also had a small color TV along with a phone that had a voice mail system (it even allowed you to personalize your own message). The neatest thing about the cabin was the dial-selector gizmo outside the door. You can dial the following: Do Not Disturb, Welcome, Please Turn Down Cabin, and Make Up Cabin. The only problem was that the selector was outside, so the bored kids onboard would turn them to -Please Make Up Room- at 3:30 a.m. I would have put them built into the door, and include a peephole (there were none) so to see who was at the door, you had to open it. A Word About Freestyle Cruising: Norwegian coined the term Freestyle Cruising to try to differentiate its ships and cruises from the rest of the industry. It claims to make cruising more tailored to what the passenger wants, and without rigid structure, touting no waiting, no lines, and doing what you want, when you want. This will have been my second Freestyle cruise, and while the concept may have some merit, it doesn't work well. Freestyle cruising is what the luxury cruise lines already do, but it works well there because they have some well needed structure. Dining Options: This is where the concept could really shine. The variety of restaurants is fantastic, and the food in the pay (cover) dining areas is great. However, making reservations is a hassle, and even in the free ones, you have to wait in line at times. If you're single or want to meet people at dinner, good luck. Meeting People: It's a challenge to eat with other people, not as advertised. Best to try to meet people at the bars or events. Holiday Travel: I highly recommend avoiding cruises during Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's and Easter. These are when the ships are full of family cruisers, and when the ship is at capacity, which means lines. Dress Code: The huge discrepancy of what people wore was quite dramatic. Some people felt that Freestyle meant that wearing shorts in a fine restaurant was their option. It provided a uncomfortable mix of dress. And what could be a very classy ship, becomes diluted into very casual dress. At or Near Capacity: Freestyle cruising doesn't work when the ship is full or near capacity. On this cruise, there were 2,600 passengers. I was informed that the ship could hold a total of 2,900 passengers. There were 790 kids on this cruise (normally there are 42). The non-cover restaurants had lines, as did the tender ashore on the private island. The disembarkation had huge lines, with lots of waiting. Bottom line- when the ship is full, Freestyle cruising doesn't work well. Event Times Overlap Freestyle: Trying to eat dinner and get to a show were incredibly difficult. A number of times people would be seen rushing to eat (because of reservation hassles) to catch a show, it was anything but doing what you want, when you want as it describes in the brochure. Tipping: Tips are automatically added to your onboard account. The amount is $10 per day, per person, which gets divided between your cabin stewards and wait staff. Drinks carry an auto gratuity of 15% (including soda). The service is quite good in the restaurants, even though you don't have a regular waiter. I miss not getting to know the staff, as is in traditional cruising. And I imagine that the wait staff would prefer personalized service, so that they're working for the tip. Art: The art aboard the ship was fantastic. The decor and lighting were well thought out to only enhance the experience, I can't say enough about this. It was quite clear that a great deal of thought, design and planning went into this ship and the public rooms. There are times when you walk around the ship in sheer awe. I'm a firm believer that you shouldn't criticize without offering some solutions to what doesn't work, and with Freestyle the concept could easily be molded into a fine working, well oiled machine. First, don't take reservations. Let the restaurants take capacity as a function of space available. Use beepers if there is a waiting line, so that passengers could spend the time having cocktails at a bar. Second, have a set seating time for main restaurants, with shows scheduled around those times. Third, if charging a cover, make it work by charging more during peak times, and less during slow times. This would more fully utilize the capacity of the staff and facilities. Eliminate the a-la-carte pricing, and offer a all-inclusive price if passengers wish to have a carte-blanche for the restaurants. Also have a soda card that works. You have the option to purchase a all-you-can-drink soda stamp on your room card, but it doesn't work everywhere, and even the staff weren't sure where exactly it did work. In all, the Norwegian Dawn is a beautiful ship, and well worth cruising on. After the week I was aboard, it was to be repositioned to cruise out of her new home port of New York. Personally, I love to travel out of Miami, and would never take a cruise ship out of New York. What really makes the cruise excellent were the friendly staff and crew. Nice job NCL, the Dawn really does shine. Good seas and fair winds Greg "Pepe" Giese Madison, WI 4/27/2003 Photo Tour of Ship and Cruise at: www.cruisingreview.com

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Feb 22, 2003

Eastern Caribbean

Cruises: 15 total - CCL, RCI, Premier, HAL, NCL, Celebrity, Windjammer, and Princess. Stateroom: 11022 Category AF Mini Suite. Starboard Side, Forward. As in the past, I’ll start my review with a quick summary and then go into detail for those of you brave enough to continue reading my ramblings. Positives – Ship

Design Cabin Concierge Service Cleanliness Price Tender operations Entertainment Freestyle Dining Freestyle Disembarkation The Passenger Mix Room Service Reception Desk Staff Negatives- Dining Room Service Food in Bamboo Drink Prices Pre-Cruise Hotel Not enough time to do it all! Summary- Rating on a scale of 1-10 – 9 I had originally decided to rate this cruise a tad higher, but a couple of things still are bugging me a few days after returning. So I dropped it down a notch. While on the cruise, I even thought of dropping it lower because of a few things that were sub par. But the things that make a cruise great were still there. Great friends, a beautiful ship, a hardworking and capable crew, interesting ports, perfect weather, and a comfortable cabin. When deciding if I had a good experience on a cruise, I ask my wife and myself a few simple questions: Did I get my money's worth? Yes. Cruise prices are at an all time bargain. I started out with a JJ inside cabin and then did an “up sell” to a category AF Mini Suite. After the AC on the Sun, it would have been hard to go back to steerage. But we were fully prepared to do just that if the right price didn’t come along. It did and it helped make the experience more pleasureful. Honestly, I simply couldn’t pass up the original inside cabin price. Sailing on a BRAND NEW SHIP for 7 days for less than $500 was just too much for a cruiseaholic to resist. It’s like putting a steak in front of a starving man. I swallowed it in one bite! At that starting price, it was not too difficult to “upsell” when the opportunity arose. Would I go on this ship again? Yes, but not for a while. The ship’s crew and specifically the dining room staff and the food preparation staff still have a lot of work to do to get where they need to be. Dinner in most of the dining rooms was EXCRUTIATINGLY SLOW. This was our fourth NCL cruise, all “Freestyle” so we do have something to compare it with. I will get into more detail later, but this could be one exceptional ship once all the kinks are worked out. I’ll keep an eye on the reviews coming out of her and once they start to get the wrinkles ironed out, I’m back on this ship again, for sure! More on the ship itself later. Did we enjoy ourselves? Excessively. Wow, did we ever have fun. Give die hard cruise nuts a gorgeous ship, 7 days of perfect weather, interesting ports, a cooler full of beers and a rented vehicle on St. John’s and they just can’t help having a great time. Add in the crazy antics of the Cruise Critic message board crowd some great entertainment in the lounges and the occasional exceptional server and you have a recipe for 7 days of cruisie nirvana. Having sailed on the Sun, the Sky and the Sea, we could see some striking differences in the way “Freestyle” is being implemented. It doesn’t work that well on the Sea, but that’s because there was no such thing as Freestyle when it was built. The Sky and the Sun seem to have it down pretty well. The Dawn has some unique challenges that I’ll get into later, but this ship has the potential to become a “legend” among cruise ships if it overcomes them! My only fear is that the Dawn has tried to take the Freestyle concept to its logistical limits. You’ll see what I mean when we get to the dining room. Tips – A few quick tips for those of you who don’t want to read all the rest of my ramblings….. Get to the port early if you want to. They always say they won’t be boarding until 1 PM, but the truth is, if the ship gets cleared early enough, they will start boarding as early as 11 AM. But don’t expect the kind of priority embarkation for suite passengers you get on the Sun. There is no priority lounge and embarkation seemed a little less organized this time. The ship was a little later clearing both coming and going this time and there seemed to be quite a line outside the security area. Maybe someone else can relate his or her experience with later arrival and non-suite status embarkation. Be specific when ordering a drink. As I mentioned in my review of the Sun, when you ask for a drink, specify the size and the type of glass you want. If you don’t specify, you might get a large expensive drink or a “souvenir glass” which costs considerably more that just a regular drink. Just because the bar staff is wandering the pool deck with the big tall colorful glasses, doesn’t mean that’s all they have to sell. You can always ask them to bring you a regular drink of the same kind and volume and for a lot less with out the fancy glass. If you want a souvenir, get one. But don’t assume you won’t get it the next time. If you don’t specify, you probably will! The ship does not dock at the pier in Old San Juan. So be prepared to get a taxi. Sharing the ride will save you money, so make friends! Use the free buses in San Juan for your own walking tour of Old San Juan. Get on the bus and take it to El Morro or San Sebastian forts and then walk down San Juan Hill to the port area. Stop at the visitor’s center and get a map with points of interest. It’s located at the west end of the downtown pier area. Then make sure you get on the NORTH BUS. When you see the fort. Just get off. It’s an easy walk down compared to up. And “free is good” in MrTractor’s book. Stay generally towards the harbor side of old town. You’ll easily find lots of interesting things. The monument to Columbus, two forts, the statue of Ponce De Leon, the monument to the women who saved the city from the Dutch invaders, the Puerto Rican White House, historic churches and parks, not to mention lots of shopping and breathtaking views. Follow Calle de Christo (Street) down to where it crosses Calle Fortaleza and you’ll find several nice outdoor cafés on an old cobblestone street where it dead ends into a famous shrine. Some good shopping opportunities surrounds this whole area. Try the guava coladas at the Mexican restaurant and ask for chips and salsa. They’re free, too! At dinner, try to get there early if you want to catch the evening’s entertainment. Slow dining room service was the norm. I would suggest telling your waiter, “We want to be done by 7:30,” or whenever and insisting they stick to it. On formal night, we were in the dining room for over 3 hours and never had a chance to see the shows. Make your dinner reservations for the alternative restaurants early. If you are not a suite passenger, you can only book for the next day. This means the morning of the day before you plan to go, not the same morning. If you are a suite passenger, I would still suggest booking early for the Teppanyaki grill and le Bistro. They get filled up later in the week as people get use to the “Freestyle” concept and want to try something new. A couple of days in advance are usually enough for suite passengers since they don’t have to compete with “steerage.” Don’t pay extra for Lobster on Thursday. If you go to an alternative restaurant, specifically Le Bistro, on Thursday and want the Lobster, don’t let them charge you extra. It’s available to the whole ship. Some of the folks we talked to paid extra, while others mentioned it to the staff at the restaurant and were not charged the extra fee for lobster. Lead Time for Room Service Breakfast. If you are ordering right off the continental breakfast form for room service, service is right on time. They ring you about 2 minutes before they knock, so don’t expect to lie there in bed after they call. Get your tip money ready because they are there before you know it! For breakfast, my wife likes to enjoy Eggs Benedict. But it’s not on the form. Not to worry. Just send in a written order! I don’t know if this works in all categories of rooms, but it sure worked in our mini. Order a special breakfast from room service 20-30 minutes ahead of when you really want it. Each time we ordered it they would call at the time indicated and say, “You ordered such an such. It will take another 30 minutes because it’s not on the menu.” If you ordered it for earlier, you get it right on time! Cruise Critics Party- Find other passengers you might like to meet even before you set foot on the ship. Freestyle cruising requires a little different mindset than a traditional cruise. You are not going to be seated with the same person each night and you may find it more difficult to form a bond with other passengers if you don’t prepare yourself. I’ve found one of the best ways to do this is by posting a note on the message boards like the one on www.cruisecritics.com. After we booked, I put a note on the section reserved for Norwegian Cruise Lines topics. Before we left, the post, “MrTractor booked on 2-22-03 Dawn” got over 3,000 “hits” and almost 60 people responded to the call for a get together for sailaway. Not everybody showed up, but those that did had a good time and we became fast friends with most of them. We had a really interesting mix of kids and retirees, people from different countries, straights, gays and there was even a rumor of a “lifestyle couple” that was there but stayed as “lurkers.” This sailaway really got the fun started. One notable individual showed up in his tuxedo jacket, shirt and tie with Bermuda shorts and tennis shoes. This was after a “thread” about how much more class suite passengers have than “steerage urchins.” Sometimes it’s easier to meet people on line before hand than it is on the ship. You can find out a little about them and what kind of interests you may have in common from their messages. Teens are the hardest group to please sometimes, and many posters find out who else has teenaged kids to “hang with” on these chat boards. The teens on the ship all seemed to be having a lot of fun. So unless you are going on this cruise to be alone and have a quiet time with a spouse or loved ones, post your name on one of the boards and have some fun with the other passengers- even before you board the ship! Ah, the power of the internet! Get The Map- Most folks don’t know that a map charting the ship’s course is available at the Reception Desk for just $5.00. It shows all the islands of the Caribbean and has a hand drawn plot of the course of the ship during your cruise. It is stamped by the ship’s stamp and signed by the Captain. It’s dated with your cruise date and makes a great memento of your week on the Dawn. Just ask Traci or one of the nice helpful young ladies and the Desk and they will arrange it. It takes a couple of days for you to get it but it’s delivered right to your cabin. The $5 is just put on your onboard account. I doubt if you could buy a map of the Caribbean at a store for less! When booking a hotel in South Beach on Orbitz.com, if it looks too good to be true, IT MOST ASSUREDELY IS! More on that later… ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- OK. Drum roll please………………….. And now ladies and gentlemen, the full “MrTractor” review of his trip on the Norwegian Dawn…………. (Cue the snazzy show band music)……….. (MrTractor enters wearing his black tuxedo, this time with a confetti print bow tie). Good evening fellow cruisers and thanks for listening! Tonight I’m inviting every one of you to embark upon a voyage on the brand new and beautiful Norwegian Dawn. To a place the weather is always perfect. Where there is no rain, only “liquid sunshine.” It’s a place where no one can be grumpy or whiny (for long). Sad faces become happy, grumpy people join in karaoke and the Captain sends a bottle of wine with his compliments. Come with me and my fellow adventurers to a place where……. Even the life boat drill can be fun. So turn on some Caribbean music, get your self a frothy drink with fruit hanging off of it, put your feet up and try to get through this incredibly long but hopefully informative and entertaining review. Since I never take any notes during the cruise, some of the events may be a little jumbled. And forgive me if I forget or misspell a name or two. I am writing this as I decompress from a ten-day vacation and struggling to use what brain cells I have left. Besides, while I’m on the ship, I’m having too much fun to write anything down! Please, no flames or junk mail. And Sam, no grading for spelling or grammar. This is just one man’s opinion. Remember, your mileage may vary. (YMMV) Getting to Miami- As is our MO, we decided to arrive in Miami the day before to avoid stress about missing the ship. Remember the PRIME DIRECTIVE: DON’T MISS THE SHIP! That applies at embarkation and in port. We took a late flight on USAir out of Reagan National (DCA) after work on Friday arriving non stop in Fort Lauderdale at 11 PM. We had an exit row seat for my 6’4” frame; the flight was on time and uneventful. No major complaints, although I did like the American Airlines new seats on our last flight to Miami better. Since it was so late and the cruise lines didn’t offer shuttle service that time of the night, we decided to just jump in a cab. This was not the cheapest option ($75 to our South Beach Hotel) but since we got such a great price on airfare and we wanted the quickest option, this just seemed to be the best way to go. After getting our bags we made the cab ride south from Ft. Lauderdale and then through traffic in South Beach on Friday night (WooHoo! Party!) We arrived at the Beach Plaza Hotel South Beach at the stroke of midnight. This is where things took a serious turn for the worse! For those of you not interested in our tragic and disappointing arrival in South Beach, feel free to skip to the next divider line. This gets pretty ugly. And I know many of you probably hate to hear a grown man whine……. ---------------------------------------------------------- A couple of weeks before the trip, I was looking for a hotel on Orbits.com somewhere near the pier for a reasonable price. It could be in either downtown Miami near the pier or South Beach and it didn’t have to be the Ritz since we only planned on being there about 10-12 hours total. We planned to get in late, hit a club or two, get up the next morning bout 9:30-10 am and then get a quick breakfast on Ocean Drive at one of the outdoor cafés. I noticed a pretty good price on a small “boutique” two star hotel on the 1400 block of Collins Ave. This would put us on the beach side of the block and be right in the action. Fantastic, right? Well, we were dropped off at the hotel, paid the driver, dragged our bags in and presented ourselves to the hotel clerk. Keep in mind this is midnight in a strange city carrying a large sum of cash and four large bags of luggage. We weren’t from around there. I had talked to some folks on the chat boards that said the hotel was nothing fancy, but comfortable and safe enough for a short night’s stay. Besides it was right in the middle of all the clubs and restaurants in South Beach. Cool! I used Orbitz.com to book it. And if I PAID IN ADVANCE I COULD GET THE “SPECIAL PROMOTION” PRICE OF ONLY $58, instead of the rack rate of $200 or the regular low price of $129. I grabbed it like the last piece of chicken at the softball team picnic. MISTAKE!!!!!! This turned out to be the classic example of a “BAIT AND SWITCH” trick. You know, the one where the auto dealer advertises the brand new car for $6,999 and when you get there, “Darn, we JUST SOLD THAT ONE, BUT LET ME SHOW YOU THIS LITTLE BEAUTY.” Well it seems after making the reservation weeks in ahead of time, PAYING IN ADVANCE, and even calling ahead to tell them we would be coming in late, ….Lo and behold, they somehow MISPLACED OUR RESERVATION!…… About twenty minutes of arguing and fuming ensued. But all was saved!!….. THEY OWNED TWO MORE HOTELS JUST A FEW BLOCKS AWAY AND…. …. despite the TERRIBLE ERROR on MY PART…. THEY WOULD DO WHAT THEY COULD TO FIND ME A PLACE TO STAY IN SOUTH BEACH AT MIDNIGHT. You can imagine my utter joy and admiration for the management of this hotel and the Orbitz.com reservation system. The manager and the clerk huddled. I growled. My wife fumed. I thought we were going to have to call a cop. So did the clerk. I showed him the paperwork I printed from Orbitz.com. He took it. My wife glared and steamed some more. He fumbled with his computer and then pulled out a piece of paper and wrote something on it. He nervously handed it to me and said, “give this to the clerk at the front desk when you check in. It’s only a couple of blocks down that way.” He tried pointing down Collins Avenue without coming from behind the counter. “Just catch a cab and you’ll be there in no time” “What?” I said looking at him through a sneer and then at the paper. It was directions to the other hotel and a note saying that we were to get a room there and that we had paid. At this point I had two choices. Either take the room or sleep on the street. We pulled our bags back out to the street into the carnival-like atmosphere that is South Beach on a Friday night. It wasn’t 15 seconds before we had a cab driver waving at us from the other side of the street. Maybe he was in on the scam, too, I thought as he pulled up, blocking dozens of cars from continuing cruising the beach. We loaded the trunk up with our suitcases. The way the driver threw them in the trunk, the lid wouldn’t close. So there we are crawling down the middle of South Beach with the trunk open and all our luggage sticking out. We were certain by this time the next member of the scam team would grab a bag or two and disappear. The cab pulled up to the front of the hotel and we forked over another $10 for cab fare. We found the lobby and the front desk. We handed the Cubans working the desk our piece of paper from the previous hotel. He asked for a credit card. I said, “This room is prepaid.” Then he said OK, but he still needed a photo ID and $2.14 for the in room safe. Did he just say “In Room Safe?” Sure enough, I looked at the counter and there, proudly displayed was a sign that read, “FOR THE SAFETY AND SECURITY OF OUR GUESTS THIS HOTEL PROVIDES A SAFE IN EACH ROOM” The fine print said, “There will be a charge of $2.00 plus tax per room.” Why, I wondered, would I need an in room safe other than to protect myself from the help at the hotel? If someone had invaded my room while I was there, I can assure you I would have opened the safe for them. So it could only have been to prevent theft by the help. Not a good sign. I paid the $2.14. He handed us a room key and said just follow the hallway all the way back and then all the way to the right. We pulled our 5 suitcases up a few stairs and down the hallways to our “room.” The first thing we noticed was that the door handle was broken. After several minutes of trying to open it, we decided one of us had to go back and ask the clerk for assistance. That meant one of us had to stay alone with the luggage in the dimly lit hallway near the rear exit door. We flipped a coin and Barb lost. She would stay with the bags. (Actually, she insisted that I go, since she doesn’t speak Spanish.) The clerk explained the “trick” to getting the door open. I returned and got us in. We discovered later that not only was it broken on the outside, but it couldn’t be bolted from the inside! I can only imagine what the prisoners at the Hanoi Hilton must have felt when they were shown their cells. This is the closest I ever hope to get to that feeling. We pulled our bags inside for safety- and because we had no other choice. What we found can just loosely be called a hotel room. The room had a king sized bed that we can only surmise had been recently rented by the hour, no doors on the closet, an afterthought of an air conditioning vent hanging from the ceiling, 1950 vintage rust (I hope) stained bathroom fixtures, and a small shower. There was about 6” between the bed and the dresser, so the drawers were almost unusable. The tap water ran brown for a few minutes before it started to clear. The light fixture above the mirror in the bathroom was a single bare 60W bulb. The small shower had a slimy uncovered drain about the size of a CD. We kept waiting for something to slither out of it. Or stick its head up and have a look around. Then things got really scary. We pulled the curtains at the back of the room to see the “view.” Have you seen the pictures of East L. A. after the Watts riots back in the 60s? This was what crossed my mind as I looked at what was an abandoned building and a trash filled alley behind the hotel. A rundown fence leaned against the buildings as if it had surrendered, too. I spent the next 20 minutes on the phone. I called Orbitz.com. They refused to take any responsibility for what had happened. All they could offer was the number for the reservation company that booked it. Apparently, Orbitz.com really doesn’t actually book you, they just supply the web site as a way of channeling bookings to other reservation companies. I called the number, hoping I could actually find someone willing to help. I started the conversation with, “ I’m really sorry you had to be the one to answer this call.” I then launched into him. I was feeling so pi$$ed that I didn’t even feel sorry for the poor kid. To his credit, he listened to all of it and was very sympathetic. He said there was no way to get another room at that time of night. He promised to call back after talking to his supervisor and to the hotel. I hung up not expecting much to happen before we returned from our cruise. We decided to get some sleep as it was now about 1:15 am. As I got in bed, the grumbling roar of the air conditioning unit helped to drown out some of the noise from the other rooms. I lay there trying to imagine it was the sound of the waves as they crashed against the hull of our ship. It worked for a minute or two. Then a deep sense of DREAD came over me. There we were, in a fleabag hotel after being maneuvered there. With nothing but a thin pain of glass between us and the dark back alley, with all our cash, valuables and passports sitting in a safe that I had rented because they said I needed it. I had heard stories about these kinds of tourist robberies on TV. I was certain that someone would be crashing in the window at any moment with a very large knife or a gun. Or for that matter, just come right in the front door since it was impossible to engage the bolt. Our unannounced guests would know exactly where the money and valuables are - that’s what the safe is for! With a great deal of politeness and decorum, they would request that the safe be opened so that they might share in our good fortune. I, naturally would respond, “Of course I won’t open that safe, I PAID OVER TWO DOLLARS FOR ALL THAT SAFETY AND SECURITY” Not likely. I crawled out of bed, opened the safe and took everything out of it except an old phone card and about $20 in one dollar bills. The rest I hid around the room. When the intruder entered and demanded the safe be opened, at least they would think they got what they came for. I slipped back in the covers, still wondering how we got there. I was just closing my eyes when my cell phone rang. It was the customer service rep calling back. He had talked to the hotel and they refused any responsibility. His supervisor wouldn’t be back until Monday. I would (I hoped) be somewhere in the Caribbean Sea by that time. He promised he would get this resolved and since it was now almost 2 am, I told him I would expect to hear from him when I returned. I said a little prayer and was now too tired to resist the urge to sleep. With the air conditioner crashing against the side of our South Beach ship, I tossed and turned all night. Miraculously, my worst fears were not realized and we awoke to an absolutely gorgeous south Florida morning. I scooped up all our valuables and our cruise tickets and stuffed them in my safari shorts. Thank goodness for all those pockets. We went next door for some strong coffee and a quick breakfast at a sidewalk café and then crossed the street for a quick beach walk. We slipped into the drugstore for some bottled water and then to the liquor store for some supplies. We returned to the hotel just before check out, grabbed our luggage and stepped to the curb. A cab pulled up as if on cue. I hoped that was a sign that things were about to get better. Thankfully, they did. OK. I’m back now. Those of you who skipped to this part, welcome back. Those of you who hung in there, thanks for letting me vent! On to the Norwegian Dawn! Our cab from the hotel pulled into the cruise ship terminal about 11:15 to find many passengers still coming off the ship from the previous week. I had planned a surprise for Barb, a mini suite instead of an inside cabin. So while she was preoccupied with finding the right entrance, I quickly changed the room number on our luggage tags. We tipped the porter and headed to check in. The first person we saw was an NCL rep asking us if we had both our Bahamas and BVI immigration card filled out. We were never sent a BVI card, so we had to stop and fill it our before we headed to the counter. The place was nearly empty, so we stepped right up to the first Latitudes station. They check all the papers, swiped our credit card, took our digital picture for ship security, handed us our back our NCL credit card and we were done. Other than the fact that they could have sent us the BVI card ahead of time, embarkation for us was a breeze. They directed us to the next room, which was a large open area with the usual embarkation photo backdrop, a place to pick up your key card and a stand for juice and water. Looking out the large glass doors and windows, you could just see the large bow of the ship moored behind the Dawn – the Sun. As I entered the room, I asked if there was a priority boarding area for suite passengers. She said, “This is the priority embarkation area.” It sure didn’t look like the one we had for the Sun. I honestly don’t think there was one, unless it just wasn’t included with a mini suite. At least for an AF mini, we didn’t get the red carpet treatment like we did for the AC on the Sun. But in the end it worked out better for me. It helped me keep my secret. We were early and there was a travel agent luncheon and a wedding party or two that got on first, so we waited here about 30-40 minutes. While we waited, we chatted up some of the other passengers and watched the bride and the wedding party fidgeting before the big event. I decided it was too late to talk them out of it, so I went back to chatting up the folks around us. There was a nice couple from New York, a family from Pennsylvania. Then I heard someone call “Hey, Mr. Tractor! I’m Deb in New Hampshire!” I can only assume she recognized me from mug shots in the post office or from the pictures on Webshots.com. Either way, we got to meet some of the folks we had been chatting with on the message boards before the cruise. They seemed like a nice All-American family. Little did I know they would turn out to be “Lifestylers.” (Just kidding, we all know who they were, don’t we?) They soon announced they would be boarding by the rows of chairs we were sitting in. Luckily we were the second row called. And even although we were about the 250th to arrive, we were about the 50th to step on the ship. I told you things were going to improve. We stepped onto the ship and were asked for our key card, which was swiped each and every time we went on or off the ship. We stepped to our left to the staircase and this is where we saw the first of dozens of amazing art works on the ship. An original Andy Warhol flower print. We wandered the ship briefly, but I wanted to get to our room as quickly as possible before Barb could figure out we weren’t in an inside cabin. We took the elevator up to the 11th floor and headed to the starboard forward location of our cabin. As we moved along the colorfully carpeted hallways, Barb noticed that there weren’t any inside cabins in that area. I said, “There must by some mistake.” I walked up to cabin 11022 and stuck in my card. Barb said “What are you doing, this isn’t our……..” Then she realized there was no mistake. The usually suspicious MrsTractor had been thoroughly surprised. This led to some malingering in our room a while before exploring the rest of the ship. A cruise is a romantic experience to begin with. But MrTractor found on this trip that……… ……..a fifteen category upgrade from an inside to a mini suite…. …..unleashes unbridled passion! I love it when a surprise really is a surprise. Things were really looking up now! Time to explore the ship………. The Ship The ship was amazing. It’s brand new and seemed to be just about as big as I would want a ship to be. No rock climbing or ice skating, but the ship was filled with great places to dine, sun, drink, walk, swim, sing, dance and view, people watch and listen to music. At every turn while we explored the ship, my wife, who is an interior decorator, would say, “That’s just perfect!” I’m not a ship’s engineer or architect so I can’t give you an explanation of the relative strength of the hull and bulkheads or any of that technical stuff. And so many others have described the ship in detail, so I won’t go into all the rooms and the color schemes. I’ll just give my impression of the ship as it relates to this one passenger’s expectations. In terms of facilities, this ship was as near to perfect as you can expect a ship to be! Design- The layout was great. It seemed easy to navigate with plenty of signage at every turn to help. A fantastic atrium that acted as a “town square” and meeting place. Choices- This is what makes Freestyle so great and there were plenty of them. So many great dining places and lounges. Quiet spots and party hearty discos. The Pools- And I’m not just talking about the main pool. The main pool was beautifully tiled with a stadium seating area for lounges that was really neat. Four large hot tubs around it made for high capacity tubbing fun. The forward deck area had a nice quiet area with one large hot tub. The rear of the ship was the kid’s pool with slides and play areas that looked great. My wife wouldn’t let me try the slide with the dragon, darn it! She said I wasn’t (acting) old enough! The spa pool is free and a great little quiet spot. Sit and read while watching the ocean fade off in your wake, then try the reclining Jacuzzi or the regular one. Again, lots of choices. Deck Areas- There never seemed to be a problem getting a chair even on the beautiful sunny sea days we enjoyed. Then there was the Promenade deck. Colorful artwork depicting the areas just inside the walls gave you festive and upbeat feeling as you walked off those extra calories. On past cruises, when I walked the Promenade, I found myself looking out to the ocean. On this ship, the artwork was the focus of your attention, as there was a new mural to look at every 10 paces or so. Aesthetics- Ship is literally a work of art, both inside and out. The hull with the Statue of Liberty on one side and dolphins on the other was really distinctive. It wasn’t hard to pick out which ship was ours in port! Despite these and the colorful murals on the promenade deck, it didn’t seem to detract from the outside beauty of the ship. Inside, the ship was filled with art from great artists. Matisse, Gaugin, Van Gogh, Worhol and others are featured. I admit I am no art expert. The masterpieces in Le Bistro could have been fakes for all I knew. But it was still neat to dine in their shadow. I felt somehow more important just being in the same room with them. And if they were real, you have to say it’s not every day you get to sit in a room with over $200 million in masterpieces. Andy Warhols series of prints with flowers adorned the forward staircase and his series on Mao Tse Tung decorated the rear staircase. It was fun to see the progression of colors as you walked up or down. Sort of like one of those flip card movies in slow motion. The color scheme in the atrium and the hallways was very Caribbean, and the lounges were what I would call art deco contemporary. Sort of the Jetsons meets South Beach. But I don’t mean anything bad by that. In fact we thought it was great. Check out the fun and wacky chairs in the starboard side of Spinnakers. Getting your picture taken in the big circular one or the zebra lounger makes a great shot on formal night. Especially with several of your new closest friends! Dining Venues – One of the great things about Freestyle are all the dining choices. This ship had the most of any ship I’ve ever sailed on. Possibly the most of any ship at sea! The toughest decision we had to make all week was where to eat next. Yet, the dining rooms are where we ran into our only problems with the ship and its ability to please a cruise passenger. The Venetian is the largest and busiest of the places to eat. It’s open for the three main daily meals and hosts the Chocoholic Buffet. The times we ate there, the staff seemed a little confused at times, didn’t seem to give the personal service and attention we deserved and, at dinner especially, the meal took an EXCRUTIATINGLY LONG TIME. In defense of the wait staff, it seemed to be more a problem with getting the food to the servers at dinnertime, rather than the staff not getting around to serving us. Granted this was the busiest time of night. But even with that taken into consideration, the water glasses were not often attended to, the table wasn’t cleared in a timely manner and the table did not seem to be meticulously set like in other dining areas or on other ships. I can only assume that since this is a “free” restaurant that the least experienced staff is assigned there. Also, I’ve heard that there is no pre-made food. In other words, when you order a meal, it is made individually for each order rather than having a bunch of orders of say, Beef Wellington, sitting on a hot counter waiting to be picked up. This could account for a lot of the delay in getting the food to the waiters. This was especially irksome when we were trying to get to an activity or catch a show. We missed the juggler one night because it took so long to finish dinner. We assumed this problem was a result of trying to get dinner at the peak time. So in San Juan, we came back early for a 6 pm reservation at Salsas. The food was slightly above average and the venue and presentation were interesting, but again, it took us over 2 hours to finish. Once again, too late for the 7:30 show time. We went to do other things, and then caught the late show, but we missed the comedian that night and had to catch his show later in the week. If there is one thing that I can say didn’t go well, it was trying to get through dinner at a reasonable speed. We ate at Venetian, Le Bistro, Salsa’s, Aqua, the Garden Café, Impressions, Blue Lagoon, Bimini’s, and finally Bamboo. Oh, and we had Eggs Benedict in our suite 3 mornings during the cruise. Just write out by hand on the card you leave on the doorknob if you want a special dish for breakfast. See tips above for how to do this. We had tried the Teppanyaki Grill on the Sun, and although it was fun, we decided we would try the main restaurant outside the grill. On the Sun it was called East Meets West and on the Dawn it was called Bamboo. Some folks complained about the sound of the piano player in the lounge just below, but we found it to be kind of nice to have live music while we dined. My wife who had raved about the rest of the ship, found the décor to be a little cheesy. Fake flowers and neon lighting. The restaurant did seem to be in the hallway, but that but that didn’t seem to bother us. The service by our waiter Winnie was attentive enough, although his English needs some work as we had some problems communicating. We had to say things two or three times, as he stood smiling and nodding. The main reason my wife wanted to try Bamboo was for the Peking Duck. She said it was tasty. I decided to be brave and try something different. I started with some sushi, which wasn’t bad. Then I went with the Three Kinds of Pork to get a variety. It was served in a unique black lacquered box that was separated into four quarters. The presentation was good, but unfortunately the food wasn’t. In three of them were the portions of Thai, Chinese and Japanese Pork and the forth had rice, each in its own individual bowl. It was also served cold. But not on purpose. I had them take it back and bring me another, but by the time I got it, Barb was well into her meal. They also brought a large side of steamed vegetables for us to share, but there was no place to put them in this box contraption. So I had to ask them to bring me a plate. Should I have to ask them to do that? I didn’t eat all of it because it was getting late. I suppose I could have ordered something else, but I was already full from snacking earlier, so we left feeling a little unsatisfied. Remember this was an alternative restaurant we paid an additional $10 per person for. The kicker here is that the next night - guess what was on the menu at the free dining room? That’s right, the only reason we chose Bamboo over all the other restaurants – Peking Duck! I won’t let this prevent me from saying this is a great ship and a memorable cruise, but the time it took to be served and the experience we had at Bamboo prevents me from giving this cruise a near perfect score of 9.5. I think I’ve rambled on enough about the dining areas. We did not eat at La Trattoria (an area of the Garden Café converted at night) or Cagney’s (a $17.50 service charge for steaks?). Now just a few notes about the food. Food – a few dishes we liked and where we had them: Escargot (Le Bistro) Caesar Salad (Le Bistro) Chocolate Fondue (Le Bistro) Avocado and Grapefruit Salad (Venetian) Caramelized Pear (Venetian) Lobster, Lobster, Lobster (Thursday night in all the restaurants.) Chateaubriand (Impressions) Beef Wellington (Venetian) Seared Tuna Steak (Venetian) Veal Marsala (Aqua) Fish and Chips (Blue Lagoon) Oysters Rockefeller – (Impressions) Ribs and Paella – Private Island Our List of “Favorites” – Restaurant- Impressions Martini Bar- Star Bar Quiet Spot- El Dorado Spa Noisy Spot – Stadium Seating at the Pool Excursion- St. John’s Island by Private Chauffer (Thanks again Islandfan!) Place to Shake a Tail Feather- Spinnaker Lounge (late) Hot Tub – Recliner Spa in El Dorado Spa Outdoor Bar – Bimini’s Best Place for a Beer- Pearly Kings Pub Best Piano Bar – Pearly Kings Pub (if Skip is still there, don’t miss him!) Place to Meet for Cocktails and Hors de’ oeuvres – Salsa’s Waiter(ess) – Miki in Impressions Cocktail Waiter(ess)- Marie in Salsa’s (Just off the Norway, our next adventure). Other topics……… Wine Service- There are no wine stewards on the NCL Dawn. So wine is ordered from your waiter or from the bar staff. The wine we ordered was served at the right temperature, with the right glass and was opened properly. The wine selection was fairly good and the prices were about what you would expect to pay in most restaurants. They had a deal for wine drinkers that was basically “Buy Five and Get One Free.” Save all your receipts and the last night turn them in for a free bottle with the NCL Logo on it. I am a Cabernet drinker, but all they had was Merlot or Chardonnay. That’s no big deal. This plan isn’t quite as nice as the 7 bottles of wine for $100 on our last RCI cruise, but it worked out to be about the same. The last three cruises, I have gotten the free bottle and brought it home. My tradition is that I won’t drink it until I replace it with another from our next cruise. Take the five bottles we bought, the one we got from the Concierge, the one we got from the Captain and the free one, that’s 8 bottles. I think we spent around $135 including gratuity, so we weren’t far off. Bar Staff- In case you are worried about pushy bar staff, don’t be. They seemed to be pretty available, but didn’t really get in our face. They wandered the deck with souvenir glasses and buckets of beer, but always seemed to be unobtrusive. See the tips above about ordering a drink. The drink prices seemed a little high, especially for call brands. Order a stinger or a Stolichnaya martini and expect to pay around 6-7 bucks with gratuity. That seems a little pricey. If their goal is to increase onboard revenue, those prices can only encourage more smuggling instead of less! Disembarkation- Freestyle is the best way to leave the ship. Get up, shower, get some breakfast, walk the ship, see all your friends and then get off when you are ready. The ship was a little late getting cleared, as usual due to someone who has not paid their cash account or a non-US citizen not reporting to Customs and Immigration. There were a number of German tourists onboard and the last few announced names all seemed to be something like “Helga and Bruno Schnortenzumen please report to the Immigrations Desk immediately.” It was almost 10 am by the time we got cleared for the first colors to be called. We were in no hurry, so we got the latest color tag to be called, white. We were taking the shuttle to Ft. Lauderdale to pick up the PT Cruiser rental for our post cruise stay. Since we were flying out of there on the way home, it made sense to take the NCL transfer. $15 per person one-way. We were the last ones to get on the bus, so we got to spend the maximum amount of time on the ship that morning, chatting with all our new friends and getting their email and snail mail addresses. I was glad we didn’t have to fly out right away. Much less stress. And besides the “Bronze Goddess” needed another shade or two for her tan. Working With The Concierge- Sarah Rio was our concierge this trip and just like Julie Sedwick on the Sun, she did a superb job. I heard one other passenger from Alabama who will remain nameless (but his screen name on Cruise Critics is BAMA X 2) say that she was difficult to deal with. My experience was quite to the contrary. Let my just offer a few tips to our friend from Birmingham that may help in future dealings with people with an understanding of politesse. 1) Never demand anything. Ask nice. 2) Always use a soothing and polite tone of voice 3) Always express your appreciation for their service both monetarily and with a thank-you 4) Mention the name of the last concierge you had and what a great job they did 5) Understand what they can and can’t do for you and don’t ask them to break the rules. They are happy to bend them a little, like getting tender passes for your friends or getting you priority embarkation even if you don’t have an early flight, but don’t ask them to pull the ship over so you can take a picture. 6) Never use phrases like, “What the h – e double toothpicks is the problem, BIATCH!” This leads to a great deal of misunderstanding and may affect the manner in which you are treated. Here are some of the things a concierge can do for you: 1) Priority Tender Tickets – This only came in handy at the private island on the eastern route, but on the western, it might be more important. On the Sun, the concierge actually met us and escorted us onto the very first tender before anyone else was allowed to board it. On the Dawn, you simply got a white card saying “VIP Tender Pass” and it allowed you to get on any available tender. 2) Dinner reservations – If your cabin category starts with the letter A, you are allowed to make a reservation at any of the alternative, reservation only restaurants at any time, so long as they are available. In lower categories, you may only call the day before. This is extremely helpful with the Teppanyaki Grill in Bamboo or Le Bistro as these can get filled up especially later on in the week. 3) Arrange for transportation – They can arrange for a rental car, or as in our case bus transfers to the airport. We just called and she sent two transfer tickets up to our room and put it on our onboard account. They can even arrange for a rental car in port. 4) Private parties. She can arrange for a private party in your suite if you wish and if its big enough. She can arrange for hors d’ oeuvres, a special menu, bar set ups and even servers in white gloves if you’d like. These will incur special charges, so ask before you arrange a party. It cost us around $100 plus gratuity to have a party in our suite with hot and cold food and two bottles of Champagne. Not that bad when you consider it. 5) Suites usually include a bottle of wine or Champagne. If you didn’t get one, ask when you get in. They may send one right up! 6) Shore Excursion Tickets – If you haven’t already made plans and want to use the ship’s excursions, no need to stand in line. Just call and tell them what you want and the tickets are delivered to your stateroom. We really enjoyed having Sarah take care of all of the things we asked her for and we give her the highest marks. A little Dale Carnegie goes a long way, doesn’t it BAMA? The Cabin- Everything in our mini was new and well decorated. Entering the door, you pass through a short foyer area with a mirror and some shelves to leave those “grab before leaving” items like camera, key card, hats, etc. Just past the foyer mirror was the bathroom door. Our compact, but comfortable and efficient mini suite bathroom had a single large sink with a faucet that looked like it was big enough for a kitchen and it swung out of the way, too. It had a full but not particularly large tub. No whirlpool like in the AC on the Sun and a little tough to fit two adults into- *but still fun trying* - and a separate room for the head. The sliding doors on the shower and head saved a lot of space and made for a lot more usable space. Pass the bathroom door, and you have a vanity with a stool, several drawers, good makeup lighting and several types of electrical outlets. Entering the main room, you have a queen-sized bed pushed together from two twins with end tables against a mirrored wall. On the wall opposite the bed there is an inset mural of a garden scene that made the room seem classier than just a standard balcony room. Past the bed was the sitting area with a large pull-out sofa, two basic chairs, a small dining table, a small double-decker cocktail table, more cabinets, a writing desk an electronic safe and a small fridge. The paneling and furniture were made of glossy cherry wood. The coating on it reminded me of bulletproof glass. I wasn’t wild about the plastic look to the wood, but I think the designers may have succeeded in using a material that would survive the many years of use and abuse to come. The sliding glass door to the balcony was large and panoramic. It had a nice locking feature that allowed you to open it all the way or any position in between and then flip the handle to lock it into place. On the balcony were two large aluminum framed mesh chairs and a small table. The deck material was teak, something we missed last time we had a balcony. I think this was because we were right next to the AB suite and our deck was an extension of theirs. Nice of them to share! This room was a very comfortable base camp. There were only a couple things I would have changed. First of all the heavy opaque curtains that separated the sleeping area from the sitting area, should have gone around the bed instead of just separating the two areas. I realize this is nice for creating two rooms. But my wife likes to sleep right up to the point where she smells coffee. It’s less intrusive if room service can enter the room without being able to see who’s laying in bed. Also, There was only one outlet for US electrical appliances (unless the ship supplies adapters). Its fortunate that we brought an outlet bar or there would have been chaos on formal night with all the stuff my wife wants to plug in. Hair dryer, curlers, iron, camera battery charger, etc. Whew! At least she looks good when she’s done! The soundproofing was good and we never heard anyone else unless they were on their balcony. The safe, fridge and our key card worked flawlessly. The room number on the outside of the room has a nice feature. It’s a color wheel that indicates what you want the room steward to do. Welcome (Green), Do not Disturb (Red) or Make Up Room (Yellow). If you want to be alone in the afternoon, just put up the “Red Light.” This is great for those afternoon adult naps just before dinner that have become such an important part of our cruise experience. He, He. But don’t forget to switch it back before you leave for dinner. They will not violate your space until they get the “green light”. And you won’t get turndown service. We made that mistake and had to turn down the bed ourselves! How primitive!!! And no mint!!!!!! Entertainment- The shows by the Jean Ryan Company were the usual spectacle of dancing and set design you would expect. My wife said the girls showed too much of their glutemus maximus, but that didn’t bother me one bit. OuCH! Waddeyesay!? Anyway they seemed a little more extravagant this time possibly because of the larger venue. The main theatre is large, has excellent sight lines and comfortable seats. There is plenty of elevation from row to row so even shorter folks can see over the heads of tall people like me! The larger stage must have inspired Jean Ann Ryan to create a larger production. Bollywood was the most extravagant exposition I’ve ever seen performed at sea. I say that not really knowing if I liked it, but it wasn’t boring! The acrobatics were amazing and the costumes ornate. I agree with some other posters that the “Farewell Show” ending with “We are the world” sung by the crew was a little too schmaltzy, but I guess they we trying to give us a warm fuzzy. It generated a few smiles, but also a lot of smirks and rolled eyes. Skip Sauers in the Pearly Kings Pub was terrifically entertaining. He can play virtually anything you ask and has an energy and enthusiasm that you’ll love. He has a quick wit, so don’t get up and leave during the middle of one of his songs. He has a little bit of a rough edge on him compared to the other pianist who plays Gatsby’s Roger Carr. Skip took his place in Gatsby’s one night for a Billy Joel Tribute. He can play even the most obscure songs by Joel and if you’re a fan, you won’t want to miss him. He may not be your cup of tea for a quiet cocktail before dinner which is why he spends most of his time in the Pub. But that little bit of an edge from that Auzzie energy was just our style. Ask him to play “Never Say Goodbye” and original tune he wrote about one of the dancers on the ship. Have him tell you the story. It’s an exceptional song and you can tell he really loves singing it. I was a little underwhelmed by the band in Spinnakers at night. It was sort of like the Mothra maidens go disco for K-Tel Records. But, hey, it had a good beat and you could dance to it, so it was still great fun. The Ports- San Juan- We had been to San Juan several times before so we decided to take off on our own. Four of us Cruise Critics “IslandFan” and “The Suze”, “Bronze Goddess” and myself all headed out for the gangway around 11:30. We caught a cab to old San Juan, about a 10 minute, $10 ride from the International Pier (Not the Downtown Pier) and got off near the visitor’s center. We looked around for the free buses for a while and when the first one came along, we asked the driver if it went to the fort. He said no, we wanted the North (Norte) bus and that we could catch it just down the street in front of the shopping area in front of the first pier. No problem, we’d wait. Well, not being the most patient person in the world, after about 15 minutes of waiting I suggested just getting a cab. That was not met well with our group, so we decided to wait a little longer. That’s when IslandFan and I spotted the DonQ distillery retail store across the street. He and I said we were going to run over there while the ladies waited for the bus. We would bring them back a drink and we would try to keep an eye out for the bus. Not a great plan. The bus still hadn’t gotten there when the girls decided they wanted their rum punch right then! They were giving out free rum drinks of all descriptions and giving the spiel about DonQ being the number one selling rum in Puerto Rico. It tasted fine to us. They won’t let you leave with your drink anyway, so it was just as well the ladies joined us. We walked back out and decided whichever next bus came next - we were going to get on it. After a few rum punches, it didn’t seem to matter as much! We did, even though it was the Central bus. As soon as we got to the back of this bus we looked out and the North bus had pulled up behind us. When we got back there, the bus driver said he was going off duty, but that he would take us the place where we could catch the next North Bus. Of course when we got there, the bus was already almost full. So we jammed our way in to the packed bus. IslandFan thought it would be nice to sing a song since we were all getting to know each other so intimately. This was in keeping with the “Rainbow Camp Counselor” role he seemed to relish later in the week. So naturally I started singing. It seems a French tourist who was standing behind us didn’t like my rendition of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” and began scolding me and her husband (who was sitti

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Feb 15, 2003

Western Caribbean

I was a little skeptical about taking a cruise on such a large ship. The Norwegian Dawn accommodates over 2,000 people, but we never felt overwhelmed. The plusses: (1) Embarkation was a breeze. We stayed in South Beach the night before and took a cab to the Miami port. We arrived at the port about 12:15 pm for a 1:00 boarding time. No lines - we were on

the ship by 12:30! Our luggage didn't make it to the room until 3:30, but who cares. We learned our way around the ship and had a leisurely lunch. (2) I'm sold on Freestyle Dining. I never much cared for structured dining times on cruises and NCL has done away with that. For dinner, passengers can choose among 3 lovely restaurants that have the same menu but different decor. Go whenever you want; sit with whomever you want. A buffet restuarant is also available. Other restaurants are avaiable for dinner, too - some requiring a reservation and others a reservation and a cover charge. For Breakfast and Lunch one can choose the buffet restaurant or one of the formal dining rooms. A 24-hour cafe and room service are also available. (3) We splurged (it was my husband's birthday) and got a mini-suite. If you can afford it and like some quiet time on your own balcony, it's worth the money. The 2 joined beds made a king-size bed; spacious bathroom; room in the cabin to walk around without bumping into each other. There's also a mini-fridge and mini-safe. (4) The Spa was gorgeous. I treated myself to a manicure, facial, and massage. Though a little pricey, it was worth it. My husband loved the workout room. Lots of new equipment in a spacious setting. (5) If you like casino gaming, the casino on the Norwegian Dawn is good. It has a nice variety of table games at low minimums (Blackjack, Let It Ride, 3 Card Poker, Caribbean Stud Poker) as well as some of the newer slot machines. No live poker, though. (6) Check-out was easy. Everything is charged to your cabin, including tips, so no scrounging around for cash on your last day. The minuses: Not many. (1) The food was good, but not great. The positive spin on that was that I probably didn't gain any weight! (2) One of our stops, Costa Maya, is not worth getting off the ship for. It's Cozumel about 25 years ago - just a bunch of stores around the port. We weren't interested in any of the excursions at that port, but others were. Overall: We had a great cruise. Passengers on the ship were of all ages, but tended to be alot of families. We went during the week of President's Day when many school kids are out on vacation, so that may be why there were alot of kids, particuarly teens. (That was never an issue. The teens make fast friends and had their own lounge to hang out in.) The entertainment was good; some acts were terrific. The showroom is beautiful. Though our cruise was fully booked, we never had a problem getting a seat. Lastly, the ship is indeed large. There are plenty of elevators to get between floors and maps are everywhere, but it can be a long walk from bow to stern. (The positive spin: Use the stairs to get some exercise and work off the extra calories!) If you don't like to walk or have trouble getting around, you may want to re-think whether this ship is right for you.

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By Lisa_CR

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Feb 15, 2003

Western Caribbean

My husband and I took our first cruise ever on the Norwegian Dawn. I am ready to go again now! We had a disastrous beginning to our trip. We missed the boat because of 10 inches of snow in the mid west and would have arrived at the port 3 hours after the boats scheduled departure. Northwest Airlines was extremely helpful, and flew us to Jamaica the next morning to meet the boat at its first port, while giving us meal and hotel vouchers.

For this reason, I highly recommend arriving at your departure port the night before-nearly our entire plane was cruisers on all different lines that missed their boats. Once we arrived at the Dawn, we were overwhelmed by the size and beauty. It gleamed like a Vegas hotel! The staff was great, and we were in our room in minutes. Food over all was delicious! We spent one evening at the Japanese restaurant for which there is an additional $10 per person charge. The service was phenomenal and so was the presentation,...and the food was good. However, it was not any better than the main, free, restaurants. We had rack of lamb, sirloin, veal, and one night I had the unadvertised special at the Italian restaurant-lobster! I ordered a second plate for desert, (total= 4 tails that night). The deserts were only fair, but the ice cream was wonderful. The buffet restaurant could be very crowded at times, and we only glimpsed at the chocolate buffet. The line was out the door and people had 2-3 plates each PILED with cakes, etc. We went for a walk instead! Drink prices were high, but not outrageous (wine starting at $4.95 a glass, mixed fruity drinks mostly around $5.00-$7.00, $1.50 for a can of pop). The coffee bar was great, and the cappuccinos included at dinner were great. Deck side grill lunches were also fun and good (steak, ribs, burgers, etc.) The Venetian was my favorite and we ate breakfast and dinner there often. Stunning, huge dining room with gorgeous view off back of boat. Sprinkles Ice Cream bar has only 2 choices of flavors and one topping at a time and was open only in the afternoon for limited hours, which was disappointing. The Freestyle seating was awesome! We never waited for more than 5 minutes to be seated. The staff was extremely pleasant and the service was fast, contrary to other reviews. We enjoyed chatting with the young wait staff who are from all over the world and hearing of their "adventures" at sea. We did walk through the other restaurants and saw the famous paintings-you can see them from the hallway through the restaurant windows instead of paying $12.50 per person to eat in front of them. Ports-Jamaica we went to Dunn's River Falls. There is a nice little beach at the bottom to drink a Red Stripe, listen to reggae and relax. The Falls are impressive, but we did not climb them, and saw many people coming out with bloody shins and knees from falls ($10 for park entrance-extra for special shoes to climb and climbing guide). Cayman-Had to tender in rough waters, delayed two hours in getting off because of this. NOTE-when they say pick up tender tickets, it is first come first serve for departure times, so go early if you want a full day at port. The NCL Stingray tour was sold out, so we grabbed the first tour operator we saw. $30 per person included a snorkel site and then Stingray City. A must do! Chest-deep water with 4-foot creatures sliding all over you! This took 3 hours, then we walked around the port and shopped. Costa Maya-Rainy and windy. We did the NCL tour to the "special beach" which included drinks. Not worth it at all. It was an hour drive and locals were peddling the whole time. The beach is small and the drinks were only OK, but we sure drank our money back. The beach at the dock is nicer with a pool, hammocks, and a great outdoor restaurant and bar. Spend the day there or on the boat. Cozumel-We walked around to local dive shops and found a snorkel trip that went to three sites for 3 hours total, drinks included (pop, beer) $30 pp. It was fantastic! We were pretty near the boats (8 in dock that day) and the water park (Chakkunuba) so we had little travel time in the glass bottom boat and lots of water time. The we cleaned up on the boat and walked around the city and shopped. Very nice. The last day at sea was great! The pool is crowded on these days, but at dusk everyone went to get ready for dinner. We had the entire pool and a hot tub to ourselves, only 20 people or so were left on deck for the other 3 hot tubs and tables, etc.) It was a perfect end to the trip, watching the sunset in a hot tub drinking pina coladas, alone! Went to one show, the comedian, and he was great. Departure was smooth and quick as well. BEST TIP-GET A BALCONY! We had breakfast there, watched the sunrise/set, and moon, watched the other cruise ships at night following us...very cool. Rooms very comfortable, larger than expected. I did feel the motion of the boat but took non-drowsy Dramamine every day and never was sick (and I am usually the motion sick poster girl). Loved it! Are already planning to do the northeast fall trip, and Hawaii next spring. Norwegian definitely won our vote!

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Feb 8, 2003

Southern Caribbean

The Norwegian Dawn is a beautiful ship. The freestyle dining was most enjoyable and this was one of our best cruises. Having sailed twenty cruises, I feel obligated to let repeat customers know that it is not always best to book ahead. We were invited to sail as a latitude member at a special price. To make a long story short, we actually could have saved several hundred dollars had we waited to book our cruise. The cruise line when approached,

would not make any adjustment. in fact, I wrote a letter to the cruise line and one to the latitude club after our cruise. I indicated my feelings along with some suggestions. They have not shown any courtesy by even acknowledging my letters. Thank you for allowing me to "vent". I will probably sail on NCL again, but not without some hesitation.

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Nov 30, -0001

Bahamas

This was a great cruise. The ship is very modern with lots of great facilities. The food in the main restaurants was very good. Traveling with a 5 month old I liked the idea of freestyle cruising, we found that if you went to the Venetian restaurant, which is the largest restaurant on the ship we never had to wait for a table for any meal. We ate at only one specialty restaurant Salsa, the food was ok but not great I thought the food in

the main restaurants was much better. The staff on board were fantastic, very friendly and very helpful. The ports were not all that impressive we stayed on board at Cape Canaveral (we did see the space shuttle launch) and at Miami. The private island is the same as most other cruise lines, beach, bbq and ocean. We arrived at Nassau on Thursday night, and left on Friday morning. The one problem I found is that it did not give you a lot of time to explore the island, especially with a baby. The other issue with the boat is that there is really only one major pool which on sea days did get a little crowded, but it was not as bad as I thought it would be. I would defiantly cruise on the Dawn again though, I love going spending time on the boat, enjoying the food and all the facilities. It was also great being able to cruise out of New York so no flying to the boat.

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Nov 30, -0001

Bahamas

Month: August 24th, 2003 To start this ship was beautiful and the rooms were very nice, we had a balcony room and were traveling in a group of 25 people. We spent alot of money to enjoy a cruise but found the staff to be completely unfriendly, I have cruised before and never seen such an awful display by most of the employees. They avoided helping you rather than do their jobs, easpecially in the buffet area you could choke before someone

offered to get you a drink. I believe this may be because of their automatic tipping policy, why work when you alreay know what your tip will be. Our staterooms were tidied but not cleaned the glasses were not replaced just rinsed, the floor had sand on it and it took 2 days for her to vaccum. Then to top off our trip five of the twelve rooms became infested with what the staff of Norweigan called sand flys. We complained of being bit all night long and were told that there was nothing they could do. The maid said she would clean the carpet, what on earth would that do? We called and called and were told that the hotel Asst. Manager would be in contact with us, of course he never contacted anyone. We went down to the desk, only to be told they could only make a note of it and that we would have to contact their main headquarters in Miami, of course no one there has responded. Never again would I travel Norweigan, the ship was dirty the staff was unhelpful, half did not understand english, and they had no idea where anything was onboard. Take my advise do not travel aboard this ship.

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Carribbean

Our seventh cruise with NCL, and this one was great! The balcony room was fabulous, with a great room steward. The shower was roomy (hard to believe)! Plenty to do on board, from bingo to shuffleboard, basketball, ping-pong, movies, great shows, gambling, etc... Great trip for those who can get laid-back. If you are uptight, stay on land, because there is no schedule on vacation. Ports were good, had to tender into two of them, but still had plenty

of time in ports despite waiting to tender ashore. Worst thing about the cruise was the number of whiners who expected everything to be given to them for free. People who 'paid good money' for their cruise and therefore expected everyone around them to kiss their butts(selfish, soft jerks!). The cruise was relatively inexpensive compared to a land package and provided everything you could need for a week including good food, entertainment, and comfortable accomodations. Same extra expense items as any other cruise line. Very clean ship and well-groomed, attentive, courteous crew. Food was good, definitely plentiful, but lacked the dazzle of previous cruises. Nonetheless, I managed to put on ten pounds through the week! Our balcony stateroom was good. The best thing about it was being able to enjoy the view from the balcony while your spouse is getting ready for dinner. Plenty to do if you wish. Sports contests, Wii tournaments, BINGO, other diversions, but also quiet places on board to relax. The whole list of excursions was appealing, go to the Baths on Virgin Gorda. Beautiful beach and great swimming in an idillic setting. Fabulous boat and crew. Horror stories are from those who would bitch if someone hanged them with a new rope. If you can relax enough to enjoy the freedom of living on your own schedule in fantasyland for a week, you'll enjoy this cruise. If you or your spouse like to pick things apart, please avoid cruising, you'll ruin the trip for others!

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

This was a very disapointing experience for my Wife and I. I am glad it was not our first cruise or it probably would have been our last. I am sure some of the guests on this cruise felt it was the best time of there lives, but compared to our other cruises we were disapointed with the service we received. The food in the buffet and the main dining rooms was mediocre at best, there was a very limited offering in the main dining rooms, and on one

night my wife was served a RAW strawberry souffle. If you want iced tea with your meals in the main dining room you should ask for it as soon as you sit down or you will be nearly finished eating when you get it. I feel this is somewhat intentional to try to encourage people to use the "specialty restaurants" which range from 10.00 to 25.00 per person plus the expected tip, we only tried Salsa's which was very good with excellent service. In the buffet areas most of the iced tea dispensers were not working for most of the cruise, the same ones were used for juice during breakfast and worked fine then, go figure? When we boarded the ship we had to wait about 3 hours for our cabin to be ready and when we entered we could not believe how dirty it was, there was a very heavy coating of dust on everything in the room, much more than could happen in just a couple of days. when we complained we were told if we would leave it would be re cleaned, after about an hour we returned and it was much better but still not what we would expect. During our cruise I think our Steward was mad because of the first complaint because we did not receive even the most basic of service we had on our other cruises, on Tuesday night we had only one wash cloth which we shared just to keep peace, on Friday night we had NO wash cloths, after calling the desk to complain we were brought 2 cloths, when I got in the shower and was all wet I discovered we also had no shower gel. During the week we only had turn down service one night, and no towel animals. There was not a lot to do on board unless you like Nintendo wii, there were some decent movies in the theater. Bingo was played most days it costs from 25.00 up to 89.00 to play 4 games with prizes ranging from around 100.00 to 200.00. The casino has the tightest slots I have ever seen, the largest jackpot won during our entire trip was just under 2000.00 and that was the only large pot. The stage shows were pretty good except for the comedien. The magic show was excellent, as were the dance shows. We tried the discover Samana excursion and were disappointed. We waited almost an hour for our bus to leave because they said 3 more people were coming, they never showed up. After driving about 30-35 minutes we stopped at a road side shop which had a few local crafts and handmade cigars for almost an hour. We continued to the other side of the island, another 30 minutes or so where we were told that because we were running so late we only had 25 minutes befor we had to be back on the bus which only left enough time to find a restroom and run back to the bus. The Coral World excursion was very nice if you like to see animals and nature in an upclose setting. We were really looking forward to the cain beach chillout in Tortola which was cancelled due to lack of interest. Great Stirup Cay was pretty nice just to walk around and relax. After returning home from our cruise we wrote NCL a detailed letter about the service we basicly did not receive, after about 3 weeks we received a response with an appology and a 100.00 per person credit to use on a future cruise which can not be used with any other discounts or credits, this is basicaly what any returning customer receives so we really didn't get anything. NCL definetely won't be getting anything else from us.

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

Cruise Line: NCL Sailing Date: December 28th, 2002 Introduction: We just returned from a New Years sailing of NCL's brand new Norwegian Dawn, to the Eastern Caribbean. This was my 29th cruise and 12th for my partner. We have sailed NCL before and are Latitude Club Members. We tend to think of NCL as a budget cruise line and were interested in sailing their brand new Flagship. This was only the Dawn's second sailing, so we excepted that

there would be bugs to be worked out. The demographics of this New Year's sailing saw many large family groups, of the 2700 passengers, 700 were children 17 or under. This caused many problems with lack of deck space, dining room reservations and lots of kids roaming the ship unsupervised. We can't help comparing the Norwegian Dawn with our last cruise on Celebrity's Infinity. Both ships are about the same size but the Infinity carries 25% fewer passengers. Embarkation: We flew from Philadelphia to Miami early on the day of departure. We booked our air through NCL, thus receiving transfers to and from the ship. After picking up our luggage from baggage claim, an NLC representative led us outside, where our luggage was placed to be taken to the ship via truck. We then had a two hour wait, as the first buses to the ship would not arrive at the airport until 11:30AM. There went our hopes of being on board by noon. The first bus to the Dawn arrived at our terminal at 11:45. After a short ride to the pier we started the very long embarkation process. The special line for Latitudes Club Members moved slower than the regular line. NCL just didn't have enough people processing paper work. It took almost an hour an a half and several lines before we finally boarded the ship about 1:30PM. Two friends, who got to the pier about 2PM, waited in line for over 2 hours before boarding. There was still a good size line behind them and the ship sailed two hours late. Once on board there was no one to take our hand baggage and lead the way to our cabin. The boarding process, on our Infinity sailing, just 4 months earlier, was a snap. We where on the ship with in 15 minutes of reaching the pier. A White Gloved crew member greeted us and escorted us to the cabin. Staterooms: We had booked a guarantee outside category "H" cabin and received just that, cabin #4506 on deck 4. No upgrades on this fully booked sailing. These outside cabins, on the lowest passenger deck have only a very small porthole. The porthole provide little light and no view. The price we paid was a bargain as compared to what other ships offered for a 7 night New Year's sailing. All cabins except Villas and Penthouse Suites tend to be compact by today's new ship standards. They are however, well designed and nicely appointed. Lots of drawer, hanging, shelf and hook space. Twin beds can be made up as a Queen. Light cherry wood fixtures, with cream color walls, accented by bright shades of Aqua, for bed spreads and carpet, make for a pleasant decor. The bathrooms have a sliding shower door and another sliding panel to close off the toilet area. The cabin and bathroom had good light and a powerful, hand held, hair dryer. The closet area had a small safe and micro mini refrigerator. Another nice feature was the adjustable sign wheel, just to the side of the cabin door that allows one to signal, "Do Not Disturb", "Make Up Cabin", "Turn down Cabin", or "Welcome". Our nod for cabin size and design goes to Infinity, but we liked the Dawn's bathroom better. Our two attendants were accommodating, keeping the cabin spotless. On the last night when we returned to our cabin we found we had no towels. It took two calls and one trip to the reception desk before clean towels were delivered. The problem was the front desk person keep insisting that housekeeping had placed clean towels on our bed. When the housekeeping attendant finally delivered the towels, he admitted that he had placed the towels in another cabin down the hall. Gays and Lesbian: NCL did post "Friends of Dorothy" meetings for each evening. Our group of four attend the one the first night. It was held in the small Star Bar. Two other guys showed up, only ordering a drink, then left. Another, we attended mid week was held in Dazzles 2, which is the late night club for the 18-20 year old set. The four of us were alone that night. The last night out we tried again, back up to the Star Bar, this time when we walked in, we saw about 10 lesbians sitting at the bar. We had met two of them the night before at one of the shows. We had all found each other during the week. Again, we were the only guys. There were a number of gay guys on board. We ran into most of them late night in the Spinnaker Lounge. A couple of the gay dancers were always there too. The amount of gays and lesbians on board was smaller than I was excepting. This might have to do with the fact that several Gay and Lesbian Travel The Dawn was specially built for "Freestyle Dining." While we enjoyed dining in the different restaurants each evening, we did missed the experience of dining with other passengers and having the wait staff know your all yours needs. There are ten restaurant to choose from each evening, that did cause some problems. While the food was outstanding in every venue we tired, getting seated at a popular times was impossible. Service was friendly but very slow and a four course meal took well over two hours each evening. There were long wait times and once seated, we waited long periods until our orders were taken. Each course came slowly. The hard working wait persons were friendly but understaffed, tables would sit empty and uncleared. The maitre'd never had time to stop by the table, they were always clearing and resetting tables themselves. The "reservation only" and "extra charge restaurants" where no better. This is a basic run down of all the restaurant on board. Aqua, Venetian and Impressions are considered the three main dining rooms. They all served the same menu, just in a different decor. While Aqua and Venetian are large and noisy, Impressions was smaller and charming and our favorite. All three are no charge and first come first served with no reservations. Anytime between 7PM and 9PM we found lines at all three. When the 7:30PM evening show let out at 8:30PM, there was a mad dash to these restaurants. People trying to make the 9:30PM show were still in the dining rooms even though they were seated at 7:30PM. There are two other, no charge, theme restaurants, with reservations only, seating 5:30PM-10:30 PM. Reservations are made the day you wish to dine there, either in the lobby area or by calling a special reservations number. Salsa, on deck 8 for Tex-Mex cuisine and La Trattoria, on deck 12 for Italian. La Trattoria provided us with our best and speediest service of the week. The Maitre'd even stopped by the table twice. Extra charge Restaurants include, Le Bistro for French cuisine, $12.50 cover, Cagney's Steak House, $17.50 cover and Bamboo Asian Restaurant, $10.00 cover. The same reservation system is use for these venues. Located within Bamboo are the Sushi Bar and Teppanyaki, both with "A La Carte" pricing. The Bamboo was the most under used restaurant on the ship and Reservationist pushed this choice. NCL would be better served to offer a No Charge Chinese style restaurant in this space. The only extra charge venue, we tried, was Le Bistro on New Year's Eve. We had made 8:30PM reservations and the Maitre'd tried to seat us in the undesirable Wine Cellar. This area is just outside the main entrance to Le Bistro and open a main lounge and traffic area. Only after I demanded to see the Hotel Manager did the Assistant Food and Beverage Director arrange for us to be seated inside the dining room. This charming room is full of original works of art by French Masters. Estimated value of the art work, is said to be over 16 million dollars. The food here was as good as served elsewhere on ship. The art work and wild mushroom soup, served in hollowed out bread was worth the extra charge. We were thinking about going to Cagney's Steakhouse one night but after reading the menu we didn't think it was worth the extra cost. All the dining rooms had excellent steak and beef offerings, so why pay extra just to order steak? The Garden Cafe, Norwegian Dawn's buffet, on deck 12, offers a no charge, casual theme dinner each night. Blue Lagoon, on deck 7, offers a small 24 hour snack style menu. Wait service breakfast and lunch were served in the Venetian on deck 6 aft. While the Garden Cafe, had buffets for these meals. Lunch time would also see a barbecue set up out by the pool on deck 12. Hamburgers and hot dogs there available at the Bimini Bar and Grill, on deck 14. Most days there was $10.00 "all you can eat" Sushi at the Sushi bar. There was never a lack of food 24 hours a day. Room service was offer from a limited menu if you didn't want to leave your cabin. The quality and taste of all the food was outstanding, far exceeded our expectations, service fell short. The Garden Cafe buffet was always busy, and cluttered with soiled trays and dishes left on tables. The buffet lines were not refilled promptly, drink and ice dispensers were constantly empty and not refilled even when brought to the attention of staff. The only area where there was not a shortage of staff, was the bar service on the open decks. These people were everywhere and in your face, pushing drinks. There was not a bar server or Sommelier in any of the dining rooms. We were told that NCL has eliminated them. Your wait person took drink and wine orders, slowing the dining room serve even more. An interesting side note, one night I ordered a bottle of red wine listed under "French Wines", the bottle once open and sampled, turned out to be a lovely Red from Chile, not France. When I pointed this out to the Maitre'd in Impressions, he acted like he could not care less. No offer was made to replace the wine with a bottle from France. Food quality and taste, Norwegian Dawn, service Infinity. Entertainment: The three "Production Shows" staged by Jean Ann Ryan are not to be missed. They were the best of all my 29 sailing's. The beautiful Stardust Theater on decks 6 and 7 was the perfect venue for these shows. There where comedy acts, piano players and singers in the many bars a lounges throughout the ship. Spinnaker Lounge on deck 12 forward was the venue for the evening lounge acts and the late night disco. Bingo, trivia games and karaoke where part of the normal cruise ship activities. The were deck games including shuffleboard, basketball, golf green and giant chess pieces. Deck 12 had a nice Cinema with a large screen but it was never used for other than a couple of kids movies. TV's in the cabins, did show movies, but the times and titles were never listed. Games of chance could be found in the Dawn Club Casino on deck 6. This large, nicely laid out casino was always busy. I am not sure how well the payout was on the slots, since I do not play them. Everyone seamed to be having a good time. Gym and Spa Facilities: Deck 12 aft houses a large, 24 hour fitness center. There are many tread mills, step machines and stationary bikes. TVs line the walls, as do mirrors and some ocean views. One deck below, is the El Dorado Spa, open until 11PM each night. This area includes men's and lady's lockers with steam rooms and whirlpool tubs. In between, the two locker areas, is a large lap pool and hot tubs. There are a few lounge chairs, facing the large aft windows. Use of these facilities are free. Standard spa type treatments are offered for a fee, as are some classes in the Fitness Room. These facilities are for passengers 16 and over, but were over run by large groups of younger kids and teens all week. The location of, what should be adult only facilities, is right next to and below the T-Rex Kids Center and Teen Club. In comparison, the "Infinity" has a better spa and fitness center, and enforces their adult only use of these facilities. Outside deck space: Deck and sunning space it tight for a ship with this high a passenger capacity. On sea days every deck and lounge chair had towels and personal items on them by 8AM. The where no real areas for those who like to sit in the shade on an open deck and read a book or enjoy the ocean passing by. The pool and the five outside hot tubs were always full with kids and young teens, even though there is a kids pool with their own hot tub located aft. The Infinity beats out Norwegian Dawn in deck space and design. Parties: The sail away party held topside around the Oasis pool was very good, better than most. There is a large bandstand right over the pool and our Cruise Director and his staff, along with the band did a great job in setting a party mood. Another large outdoor sail away party and barbecue was planned for 7PM the night we sailed from San Juan. Rain forced the party into the Spinnaker Lounge. Need less to say this put a real damper on the festivities. New Year's Eve saw good weather and a large, festive deck party that went on until the wee hours. We only got to the party just prior to midnight as the service in Le Bistro was every slow and we were not seated in the dining room until 40 minutes after our reservation time of 8:30PM. The Norwegian Dawn wins this one, hands down, best deck parties. Public rooms, bars and lounges: As befits a ship this size, there where lots of pubic area to relax, card room, game room, Library, writing room, chapel etc. There where a number of private meeting rooms as well. Most of these facilities located up on deck 12. Bars and Lounges included The Pearly King Pub, Salsa, Gatsby's Champagne Bar, Java Cafe, Dazzles Lounge and Dazzles 2 for the 18-20 year old set, Star Bar, Juice Bar, Topside Bar and Bimini along with the fore mentioned Spinnaker Lounge. Havana Club offered a cigar and pipe smoking area. The Internet cafe was large and had the latest up to date equipment. The $0.75 a minute charge was on the steep side, the room was never fully used. Overall the Dawn and Infinity are about equal in the public room area. Ports of call and tours: We didn't plan on taking any tours offered by NCL, since the four of us friends, traveling together, had been to some of these ports before. NCL does offer lots of tour options and you can pre book prior to sailing. Prices are about the same as other lines charge. I always think you can do better, going on to the Internet and booking with local tour operators, who will pick you up at the pier. There are tours offered, in most ports, right at the pier. Again a push between the two ship when it comes to tours. Mon. 12/30, San Juan: Sailing into San Juan harbor was lovely, passing El Morro Fort on the way. We didn't dock at the main terminal, in Old San Juan, but off in a remote part of the harbor, several miles away. About an hour after the ship was cleared for disembarkation we headed for the gangway. There was a long line waiting to get off, even though they had two gangways set up. Every passenger had to have their plastic key/credit/security card swiped. This was a slow process, and there were on officers to help speed things up. Once off, we opted to walk the mile or so from the pier, to the main highway area. There, we were able to catch a bus at $0.50 per person to Old San Juan. We spent a pleasant afternoon walking around this part of town. About 6PM we took a taxi, at $3.00 per person, back to the ship as it was looking like rain. There was only a short line to reboard the ship. Celebrity wins this one, since they had two ships docked at the main dock. Tues. 12/31/2002, St. Thomas: We docked early morning and after a late breakfast we left the ship about 11AM. Problems getting off the ship, were worst this day. There was only one gangway set up and groups were already returning form the early morning tours. The pier in St. Thomas is located about a mile outside of main part of town. There is a shopping area set up at the docks with branches of the same stores in town. The prices were about the same. We found many waiting taxis, which are mostly open air style or vans. The cost of a shared ride is, $2.00 PP to town, $6.00 PP to Megan's Bay beach. You can rent one of these taxis by the hour as well, I didn't notice the charge per hour in St. Thomas but $20.00 per hour was posted on the side of the taxi in San Juan. The weather was sunny so we headed for Megan's Bay beach, where there is a $3.00 entrance fee. Megan's Bay is a beautiful, horseshoe shaped, beach that is always listed, as one of the top ten in the world. There are several restaurants, showers, bathrooms, and covered picnic areas lining the mile long beach. After a couple hours of sun and fun, the clouds rolled in and we got caught in a downpour. Soaked we quickly changed and grabbed an open air taxi back. We opted to return to the ship while our friends were dropped off in town to do some shopping. At 3PM, we arrived at the gangway, to find a line, the length of the ship. It took 3/4 of an hour to get back on board. It started to rain and we got soaked again, but this time, not in our bathing suits but in our regular clothes. Interesting, was the fact that we were docked in between two other large ships, Carnival's Pride and Celebrity's Century. Neither one of these ship had even the smallest line for returning passengers. NCL might want to take a look at what these other two lines are doing right and what they are doing wrong. I am sure the answer is not enough knowledgeable personal supervising the process. This seamed to be the problem through out the week, whenever we encountered slow or poor service. After a quick change into dry clothes and a snack in the Garden Cafe we got back off the ship to do some shopping in the stores located on the pier. The rain had stopped but the sky was still overcast. We stayed shopping until the last of the stores closed at 6PM. The line was still just as long to get onto the ship, but this time, officers standing at the gangway helped move it along. We departed at 7PM. The weather cleared in time for the wonderful, New Year's Eve Party on deck. Wed. 01/01/2003, Tortola: We docked early and got off the ship mid morning, no lines. Tortola is part of the British Virgin Islands and we docked a short walk from Road Town, Tortola's main village. A tourist information booth, right on the pier, handed out maps and answered questions. Since it was New Year's Day, most of the shop were close. We asked about the ferry to Virgin Gorda and the beach area known as The Baths - $26.00 and a 40 minute ride. We opted for the $6.00, 30 minute taxi ride to one of Tortola's free, local beaches. We enjoyed the trip up and down the other side of Sage Mountain. The driver of our, open air, shared taxi, pointed out places of interest along the way. After several hours at the beach, we returned to the ship, late afternoon. We expected lines but found none. Maybe this was because other than tours and the beach, there was not much to do on Tortola. We found that most passengers were already back on board. Fri. 01/03/03, Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas: This was the third time I was to visit this private Island getaway. On my first visit, years ago, the weather was too bad to anchor and tender ashore. On that sailing the Captain heard for Nassau where we docked for the day. Two years ago, on the Norway, there was a medical emergency on board and we dropped anchor off the Turks and Cacaos Islands so a passenger could be taken off ship. This time weather got to us again and the Captain felt we could not safely off load passengers. We head further north in the Bahamas for calmer seas and a cloudy. The Norwegian Dawn was not really prepared for this extra, non deck, day at sea. They tried to have some half hearted activities but none interested us. We headed for the very well stocked library and spent the day with a good book. Someday I'll get to do the Private Island beach party. Security: There are security cameras in all areas of the Norwegian Dawn. We got friendly with a couple of the entertainers on board, they told us that the security cameras watched passengers and crew alike. Interestingly, theft is a real problem with crew on board, according to them. The entertainers, who are not considered crew, were very willing to tell you all the little secrets of the ship. One of our friends had his Walkman taken by a crew member from the men's spa area. He had been listening to it while using the tread mill in the gym. He when into the locker area just outside the men's shower, warped the Walkman in his shirt, place it with his other stuff on a shelf and went to take a shower. When he returned about five minutes later the Walkman was missing form the shirt. Two other passengers who where in the locker area said that a NCL crew member walked over to the shelf, went through the items, found the Walkman and asked them if it was theirs. When they said no he put the rest of the items back on the self and but left the locker room with the Walkman. Yes, my friend should have known better and got a key from the spa reception deck and put his things in a locker. What happened over the next 16 hours upset him more than the loss of the Walkman. Starting with the Spa manager, security people, and ship Hotel Officers, no one took much interest in solving the crime. The witnesses were not interview, the surveillance tapes were not reviewed and my friends repeated call to find out what was happening, were ignored. The morning of disembarkation, when he was finally told, by the of security, that there was nothing NCL could do, my friend called the Miami Police, from his cell phone. They came on board and took a Police Report, which is needed in order to make an insurance claim. The head of Security was not happy about this. Bottom line, no Walkman, no thief found, no help from NCL. Disembarkation: Like most cruise ships, Norwegian Dawn uses color coded luggage tags, for disembarkation. Since our flight from Miami back to Philly was not until late, we took dark green tags, for flights after 3:00PM. The paper they past out with the tags indicated that they would start debarking about 8:30 and our color would be called about 9:40. Bags needed to be placed outside your cabin by midnight. We followed orders but when we returned to our cabin about 1:30AM we did not see any of the baggage being picked up. They ship offered breakfast that morning either, room service, Aqua Restaurant or the Buffet in Garden Cafe. We opted for the Garden Cafe, which was packed. From about 7:00AM on we heard the standard paging of passengers to come to reception or the customs area so the ship could be cleared. At about 9:15 they started calling the first color. We were in no hurry to disembark so we had another cup off coffee and went back to our cabin to retrieve our hand luggage. At 10:15 dark green, the last color for those going via NCL transfer to either Miami or Fort Lauderdale airports, was called We left are comfortable chairs, on deck 12 to walk down to the deck 5 gangway. As we descended the central stairwell, halfway between deck 6 and 7, we encountered hordes of passengers pushing and shoving and yelling that their color had been called. What a mess, again no one from NCL around to supervise. I think the person calling the colors was just calling a new color every ten minutes with no regard to the length of the line. From that point it took another hour in this cattle line to get off the ship. We would have went back up on deck, but by that point there were a few hundred passengers behind us. This line was because they were swiping your plastic security card one last time. I understand the reason for this last security check but no announcements were made that you would need these cards. They only announced that you would need your photo ID and customs declaration form. Not knowing you would still need these plastic ID cards, many passengers either left them in their cabins or packed them away in their hand luggage. Worst disembarkation in 29 cruises. Someone from NCL should sail with Celebrity or even Carnival, they both do a much better job getting on and off their ships. We found our luggage, board the bus to the airport, checked in with our flight and headed to the airport hotel. We spent several hours sitting buy their pool having drinks and lunch before our 6PM flight home. Conclusion: The Norwegian Dawn is a beautiful ship with great food and entertainment. Very good value for the money. We enjoyed our cruise and so did our friends. We didn't let the things that went wrong spoil our good time. As an architect and designer I spent 25 years in the Hospitality Business, designing and consulting restaurants and hotels. The Norwegian Dawn's problems in these areas can be corrected but only if NCL cares to correct them. Two suggestion I would make; First, move the show times to 8:30PM and 10:30PM. This would force those wanting to see the earlier show either to dine before seven or after 9:30PM when the dining rooms are less crowded. Those going to the late show could eat as late as 8:30 and still make the last show. Second, eliminate the deck 4 cabins, there are so few of them anyway. Because they are so close to the water line, you hear the ocean and the boom of the waves hitting the side of the side. This is more true through the night when the ship picks up speed. It didn't bother me but it does get quite noisy and freaked out some other passengers. Many of the public rooms, which didn't get much use on our cruise, could be moved down from deck 12. These would include, the chapel, library, writing room, game room, meeting rooms, cinema, card room, etc. These areas are used mostly during the day when the ship is either docked or cruising slowly. The freed up area on deck 12 could then be used for higher priced cabins, thus generating more revenue. Since this is a brand new ship I don't think NCL will be making these changes anytime soon. But, they might want to look into it for future newbuilds. All in all, we would sail on the Norwegian Dawn again but would think twice about a Holiday Sailing, just too many people. Dan Tobey Phila., Pa.

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Nov 30, -0001

Carribean

If you like friendly responsive staff, well organized tender travel, working toilets then this cruise ship is not for you. If you are bring children and not concerned about a cruise director who likes to use "potty" words, then this is a cruise for you. Rooms were good and food in premium restraunts was very good. Food at non-premium restraunts was average and service was average. We enjoyed the itinery but the constantly broken toilets and poor

room service people made the trip less than the expected cruise care I have come to appreciate. The food at the Premium restaraunts was very good. The food at the non-premium restaraunts was average. The service at premium restaraunts was good the service in non premium restaraunts was average. Stateroom layout is nice. Our room was 4510 which was horrible while at sea. Large waves sounded like thunder. NCL should never have rooms that are so forward on the hull. Tried to change the room the first hour on the ship and was denied. Alright. Standard fare. Rented cars at islands on my own. Overall, the ship is really nicely done. Unfortunately, the first day the toilets stopped working and when I tried to call to report no one answered the call. I had to go the the main desk where the informed me that all the toilets up to floor 9 are not working. This event happened several more times during the cruise and it made relaxing a real challenge.. The people who clean the room took our beach towels one night and refused to replace them which meant we would be charged for the towels. The room staff were never friendly and we found their response to our asking for replacement towels down right nasty. I guess this is what happens when the tip is included in your bill versus paying the tip based on actual service? The beach towels were embarassing. Stained, holes and rips. While on a beach, I compared the nice plush towels that people on Carnival cruise were provided and I felt like I was on the kmart of cruises. They had nice plush towels and we we had these towels that I would have put in the garbage had the been mine. It is ironic since Carnival is supposed to be a lower level of cruise lines than Norwegian. We took a cruise over Christmas week and there were many children on board and we found that the cruise director had an obsession for using "potty" words. Seemed like he was fascinated by bodily functions! It was just not something you would like to hear over loud speakers or on the cruise network channel. Worst of all, he used words like "crap" and "piss" during the supposedly family oriented shows in which Children as young as four were in the audience....very inappropriate! The tender process to Stirrup Cay was a disaster. It took us over two hours to get to the island using the tenders. They sent tenders off half full and used only one door to launch the tender even though several are available and then each passenger had to go file through the ID scan process. We have cruised many times and this was the first time we experienced such a long wait to get to an excursion. We have come to associate Norwegian's freestyle cruising as another was of saying lack of service and politeness by the staff. We will opt to take another cruise line next time.

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