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Devon

Age: 32

Occupation:Dentist

Number of Cruises: 4

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Norwegian Dawn

Sailing Date: May 27, 2006

Itinerary: 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. devonberry@comcast.net

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