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Erik Haglund

Age: 35

Occupation:Teletechnician

Number of Cruises: 15-20

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Norwegian Dawn

Sailing Date: March 26th, 2006

Itinerary: 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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