I sailed the Western Caribbean itinerary on the Norwegian Dawn from March 15-22, 2003. My impressions about different areas of the cruise and service are below:
EMBARKATION: F- Without a doubt the Embarkation (and to a lesser extent the disembarkation) was the most poorly run part of the cruise as well as being one of the most poorly run embarkation processes that I have experienced. I can not emphasize how poorly run this was. When you walk into the pier, there are two lines, one for US citizens and one for non-US citizens. After finishing in that line, we were directed to another line to go into the main waiting area. After we went into the main waiting area, we waited in third line to pick up our room keys/sail and sign cards which went most of the way around the terminal room. After receiving rooms keys, we were directed to yet a fourth line to wait to go have our pictures taken and then to a fifth line to go through security for our unchecked baggage. I don't understand how Disney and Carnival can do this in less than 30 minutes yet it took Norwegian over 90 minutes. Anyway, this was a waste of time, Norwegian staff was barely friendly and the personnel from the local security company were rude and very slow.
STATEROOM/MAID SERVICE: B+ We were in Room 5596 which was by the mid-ship elevator on the second level of passenger rooms. This was a Category "D". There were three of us in the room which had two twin beds pushed together to make a queen and a top bunk. While the room was cramped, it was well cleaned, had two desk areas, ample draw space and a great bathroom area. Showers had sliding glass doors, had plenty of hot water and plenty of water pressure. There was a 13 inch television for in room entertainment which included CNN, ESPN, a selection of TV favorites and of course, the "Front of the Ship" channel. The room steward was out of sight but not out of mind. The rooms were cleaned well every AM and turned down and re cleaned in the PM. Two of the days there was one person in the room until at least 1:00 PM and even though the steward was "off duty", the room was still cleaned well.
REST OF SHIP: A+ The Dawn had only been sailing for three months and the ship was ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL! There is a state of the art theater, as well as multiple lounges. Crew does a great job keeping the ship clean and it was a real pleasure to be on this ship.
KIDS CAMP N/A The last two cruises I have been on, I have had a child..not this one though! I did manage to pick up a copy of the schedule for the kids and it seemed to be packed with activities. During the cruise I spoke with some parents who had kids with them and the response was universal that the kids were having a great time and could not wait to be with the kids camp.
RESTAURANT/FOOD A+ There are 10 restaurants on the Dawn, most of which are free of charge. A few of the restaurants charge a cover fee/a la carte for dinner. We ate at a different restaurant for the first six nights and decided to revisit the Italian venue for our last evening. Wait staff was always pleasant, friendly and eager to assist in any way possible. My favorite was Le Bistro which is a French restaurant. This is one of the places that charges a cover charge ($12.50 per person). Most mornings we ordered room service and our order was always delivered in less than 20 minutes.
STAFF/CREW/CUSTOMER SERVICE: A- With some occasional exceptions, staff and crew were very friendly and tried to respond to questions, concerns and complaints. I had ordered flowers for one of the members of my party which arrived late, without a greeting and with some of the roses broken. I called and spoke with someone at the reception desk who passed on the problem to the Front Office Manager. by later in the day, the issue had been addressed. The office manager informed us there was not anything she could do about the flowers, however she offered to buy us dinner at Le Bistro any night we wanted. When we arrived for dinner, we were also given a bottle of wine to enjoy with dinner.
ENTERTAINMENT: A- Again this was wonderful during the entire week. There was a show of Andrew Lloyd Weber's music, Bollywood (County of India theme) and South Beach (Latin) theme. These productions were about one hour long each and were spectacular. One night there was a ventriloquist (who used audience members as his "dummies" and another night a very high energy juggler/comedian who was superb. The only bad note was a comedian from New York who just did not seem to connect with the audience and spent most of the time trying to insult people who were on the cruise. The first night NCL did Kareoke, it went over so well that they did it again every night thereafter. I spent the first three nights listening late into the night to a former record company VP turned songwriter/singer sing folk and country with his acoustic guitar. He was absolutely great and it was a great way to spend late evenings. There was a piano player in another lounge and there were always lots of people enjoying his show as well.
SHORE EXCURSIONS: B- We signed up for Shore Excursion in Ocho Rios, Jamaica and Georgetown, Grand Cayman. When we got to Grand Cayman, the sea was too rough for the tender boats to safely load, unload and transport people from the ship to shore so we were not able to go ashore that day. In Ocho Rios, I signed up for a Dolphin Swim and Dunns River Falls. While the sites themselves were exciting, the organization was lacking and the name of the dolphin excursion is misleading. We were ushered onto a bus that first took us to Dunns River Falls. As soon as we got off, those in our party were told that we were being sent to the dolphin swim first. Well when we got there, we had to wait almost two hours for our turn because we had just missed the groups that had gone in. When we did get to go in, we did not really swim with the dolphins, rather we were in the water, treading water when the dolphin came in the area and did some tricks and gave each person a kiss. After noon, we went to Dunns River Falls where we climbed the falls along with many other people. This part was very very exciting and somewhat challenging. I recommend it highly. by the time we finished both parts of the tour, a 3 hour tour had taken almost 6 and we were ready to go back to the ship.
GAMBLING: C We did not spend much time in the Casino but I played some video poker.a game at which I usually hold my own and come close to breaking even when I have played in Las Vegas. It seemed that these machines were set a little tighter as it took virtually no time to lose my first $20 so I gave up while I was ahead of the game. Then again, maybe I just stank that night and played poorly..BINGO cards are extremely over priced compared to other cruise lines and their scratch off type lotto cards which are $5 a piece and guaranteed to be a winner every time. Throughout the entire seven days, I heard of only three occasions (which were announced over the loud speaker) of someone winning more than $1 on the guarantee "win".
DISEMBARKATION: D Another disaster but not quite as bad as the first day. Like many lines, NCL uses color coded tags, but tags are distributed according to the time of your plane departure. The people who were required to report to US Immigration early in the morning did and debarkation should have begun on time at 9:00 AM. It began at 9:45 AM and since we had our car at the pier, we were not allowed to disembark until after 11:00 AM. Even after our tag color was called, we still had to stand in a 15 minute line to get off the ship.
OVERALL B+/A- The Dawn is a great ship to sail on. She is brand new, beautiful, friendly crew and overall great entertainment. It seems that NCL has not yet mastered the little things that separate a very good cruise from an excellent or near perfect voyage. On the day we were supposed to call at Grand Cayman but could not due to sea conditions, the cruise staff quickly put together alternative activities and made the best of an unfortunate situation. I would definitely sail again on the NCL Dawn.hoping some of the current problems might have been resolved by then.