How lucky were we to sail on Norwegian Cruise Line‘s Norwegian Dawn on August 5, 2011 out of Boston? In my last post we had just sailed out of Boston, so now we’ll take a look at the ship. We had a balcony cabin (BA), cabin 9638 on deck 9. Normally, I book months or longer in advance and obsess about my cabin’s location, but this was truly a spur of the moment trip. However, the location of our cabin was truly phenomenal. We usually want a mid-ship cabin, something I advise all of my clients to consider. It might cost a little more, but will make your life and your vacation so much better. Imagine that you’re at dinner and you forgot something (your cabin card, lipstick, money for the casino – just go with me here). If you have a cabin mid-ship, you can take the stairs or the elevator to your cabin and be back at your table in less than 5 minutes. Now if you have a forward (front of the ship) or aft (back of the ship) cabin, you might take the stairs or the elevator and then you have to walk the long, narrow hallway all the way to your cabin and then make the trip back. It might double your trip or more, depending on the actual location of the cabin. Now I am all for exercise, but if you’re anything like me, you’re probably going to forget stuff in your cabin all of the time and after a while, the whole walking a million miles to grab a lipstick or to comb your hair or to change into your bathing suit, gets a little old, especially if you’ve had a drink (or two!).
Although we enjoyed our cabin’s location, I do wish we had reserved a larger cabin. At 203 square feet total with a small balcony, we were constantly on top of each other. Now if it were just my husband and myself, believe me I wouldn’t have minded the closeness, but our teenage son was with us which meant that we were under the heavy weight of the stinky teenage sweat that filled our cabin. The cabin had two twin beds pushed together (standard option on most cruise lines), a small sofabed that was a little bigger than a twin and maybe slightly smaller than a full size bed, a coffee table, and a flat screen TV. There was a small closet with a safe and a bathroom. The bathroom was interesting with a shower to the left with a sliding glass door and the toilet area to the right, also with a sliding glass door. The sink area was in the middle, which was fine, but I wish it had more storage or shelving. The faucet was a monstrosity and looked like a kitchen sink faucet with an extremely long neck. When I first turned it on, the water came shooting up and over the sink and all over me so make sure you realize that the faucet swivels and push it back in farther away from you before turning it on.
Back to the location of the cabin, which again was fantastic! It was located near the Internet Cafe, which we didn’t use, but was literally steps from our door. This picture is from the door leading from the Internet Cafe and the second door on the left with the “Happy Birthday” sign is our cabin. Why so important? Take this “secret” door for alternate entry to the decks below. Sure you can take the regular stairs by the elevator, which are only steps away, but why not try something different?
This area led straight down to the Grand Atrium on deck 7 where reception is along with the Pearly Kings Pub, the shore excursion desk, and of course, the Java Cafe. You can go down and grab a quick cup of coffee or if you get an espresso or cappuccino, you can also grab a pastry to knosh on as well. In the evening you can sit with a drink and listen to the live piano music and the different singers, too. One deck down on deck 8 is the Blue Lagoon restaurant, open 24 hours a day with comfort food as well as the brand new Moderno Churrascaria. Anytime we wanted to go anywhere, it was only a few steps away from our cabin and I liked that.
The major difference between the ship inspection that I had completed in June vs. actually sailing on the Norwegian Dawn made for a much better understanding of the ship. For example, I loved the ship, but I do wish it had another pool. This picture is an example of why. It reminded me of the very first cruise I ever took back in the 90’s where it felt like it was wall-to-wall people on the ship. It kind of felt like that on the NCL Dawn, but mostly in the pool area and in the Garden Cafe, the ship’s buffet. I will never understand how anyone could enjoy themselves in the pool with people a mere 6 inches away from you on all sides including the man with back fur and the family with all 12 of their kids in the pool near you. I am not one to get claustrophobic, but here I felt it. I never went in the pool once at all and that is just so sad. Every hot tub and every inch of the pool had people in it. Conversely, the spa pool, which is the longest lap pool at sea, was always empty. Why? Because you have to pay to use it and most people aren’t going to go for that. So instead people are climbing on top of each other to get into the ship’s only pool. Yes, there is a kid’s pool at the back of the ship and although I did see an empty bucket of beer left near the slide, I honestly think only children use this area.
Some quick tips for you if you have never been on the Norwegian Dawn.
- After boarding, head right to the restaurant reservation desk in the Grand Atrium opposite the shore excursion desk. Since reservations are not online yet, if you want to beat the crowds, sign up for your restaurant of choice as soon as you board. If you want to play it by ear and see how things go, I get it, but you might miss out, especially at Teppanyaki, which was almost completely booked on our cruise by the end of the first day.
- Consider dining not only in one of the specialty restaurants, but in one of the main dining rooms (The Venetian or Aqua) for breakfast or lunch instead of hitting the buffet at the Garden Cafe. It will be less crowded and you can enjoy a leisurely meal at your own pace.
- Special dietary needs? When you book your cruise, advise your travel agent or the cruise line of your needs. The earlier out you do this, the more likely you will have better choices on your cruise.
- You must try Le Bistro, the French restaurant on board. This quiet little romantic restaurant never seemed very busy, but the food and service were absolutely outstanding! There were two female servers who sang for the couples with special occasions (I think it was “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”) and they had such beautiful voices that normally people cringe when this happens, but my ears perked up each time they started singing.
- Don’t miss the martini tastings or the pub crawls that they have during sea days. For $25 per person, you get a nice variety of drinks and a way to pass the time while at sea. Feeling stir crazy on board? Sip yet another martini! Don’t ask me what kind of martini this is because I have no idea (something with Midori?) but it was good! The martini tastings took place at Gatsby’s on deck 6 where they talked about how martinis came about, the liquors used, and so on. It’s a nice opportunity to meet and chat with other guests on board and just have a good time.
- Another don’t miss is the karaoke in the Pearly Kings Pub as it is extremely entertaining. Enough said.
- Considering a visit to the casino? Make sure you visit Slot Play Coupons and get your reduced slot play coupon. Pay $25.00 to get $50.00 to use for play in a slot machine.
- Seats for the shows fill up ridiculously fast so if you think you can arrive 15 minutes ahead of showtime, forget about it as you might have to stand at the rear of the theater. Try to arrive at least 1/2 hour ahead of time and you can probably get a great seat.
- Don’t forget to try and book your excursions before you board the ship, either through the cruise line or on your own.
- Ask your cabin steward to remove the items from your cabin refrigerator. You can then use it to store bottled water or your aloe gel for that sunburn that you swear you are not going to get on this cruise.
- My biggest suggestion is to just have fun! Don’t over-schedule yourself and try to do every single activity onboard the Norwegian Dawn. You’ll feel stressed and miss out on the fun that you can have when you do one little thing: RELAX!
Next up will be more on the NCL Dawn and Bermuda! So much to cover and so little time. In the interim, head over to the Travel Shop Girl FaceBook page or visit us on Twitter for all of the latest cruise and travel information!