Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Dawn
Sailing Date: December 30th, 2004
Itinerary: Southern Caribbean
• Great kids program!
• Variety of restaurants, activities
• 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.