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Age: 40


Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Norwegian Dawn

Sailing Date: 2009-07-5

Itinerary: 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 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 is all card tricks...GREAT show! The Magician also does a "memory" show on the last 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 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 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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