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Review of the Norwegian Dawn
Norwegian Cruise Line
Cruise Date: November 2011
Booking: Cruise Line
Cabin number: 11521
Cabin category: (optional)
Parents Beware of NCL
First the "pros", 11-day deep Caribbean with limited sea days is great for those who want port intensive cruises, or have not seen minor ports. A captain (for major line, not NCL) explained to a friend of mine, "the lines are all putting so much pressure on the officers to conserve fuel that we have to leave port earlier and earlier each season due to the restrictions on our speed. Unlike other lines, this 11-day cruise on the Dawn has very generous port hours, often arriving ahead of schedule! This was a real plus. The daily activities seemed on par with most lines, a little something for everyone. I traveled with adult children and grandchildren and we found the children's activities and teen activities to be good and age appropriate, though the teen program might have a bit more supervision. The fares for this 11 day were very reasonable, again a real "pro" for a family vacation. The cabin, restaurant, bar, lido buffet, workers all friendly and excellent. Unlike some ships, all seemed content, happy. While the lack of an assigned table, waiters familiar with your likes and dislikes, and assigned times were not a big hit with me (it is one of the best parts of the cruise experience to me), it was NOT the nightmare I had been warned about. We only waited for a table once in 11 days. The hotel desk was quite a different story (more later in "cons"). All in all, a good value cruise for the price, but definitely not for those who find fault in every cruise, or, who want to compare NCL to RCCL, HAL, or Princess, or even to Carnival (another value line). All things considered I would choose Carnival if looking for a value cruise, but the ports and time in port make this cruise worth what it lacks. Good cruise for families with the informality and flexibility.
Samara in the D. R. is a pro to some, con to others. It truly is the Caribbean as I viewed it while cruising in the 70's. Untouched for the most part, some passengers found it "repulsive" with its tendering, lack of fast food and Starbucks, etc. Others found it fascinating to see the "real thing".
Cons. While we had been warned about the food on NCL, I was still surprised at just how "strange" some of the combinations were, and surprised to find the meals appeared and tasted "microwave" and possibly even frozen to begin? The head chef appears to believe salt can cover any fault or lack of quality, as this seems to be a major part of every dish. I personally did not like not being able to have grilled fish, sea food, etc., as those items not fried seemed to always be just pieces of fish, shrimp, etc. in some kind of stew or sauce (gumbo for instance). I never went hungry of course, but the food was actually below "average" food punctuated by one or two (no more) really good dishes. One excellent lido lunch featured whole, fresh, perfectly roasted turkey! It was as good as any home made Thanksgiving meal.
I was personally disappointed with the Dawn's "refurbishing". Newer innovations were not added as hoped, especially missed the lido deck big screen so popular now, so "going to a movie" is limited to staying in cabin and watching a very small TV. I mention "going to a movie" because on 11 day cruise there were only two production shows, both very good, but again, NOT if people are going to compare them to RCCL, Princess, Cunard, HAL, or even Carnival productions. Side note: NCL (apparently) does not switch out entertainment with sister ships while in port. An 11 day cruise with only two major shows is not very exciting. However, DO NOT MISS THE CREW SHOW given in the AFTERNOON during one of the last sea days. It was FAR BETTER than most of the shows during the cruise, you will not believe your eyes and ears at the talent of the employees. It is so tempting to dismiss this for some other activity, but this is definitely a do not miss show.
The cabin, inside, was the smallest inside cabin I have ever seen (40+ cruises) on any ship! Space was not very innovative as on some ships, to make it worse, the bed "tables" which usually have a couple small drawers where glasses, sun lotion, books, etc. can be kept, were, of all things a VERY tiny OPEN "table", actually quite useless. Much of the space (under beds, shelves, storage, etc.) was taken up for the SHIP'S gear, not for the passengers. Refrigerator was useless, completely filled with things to buy, not an inch for passengers to use. "Extra bedding, pillows, life preservers, and other items not needed, such as advertising books, took up much of the VERY limited space.
Now the most serious "warning". I have rarely found hotel desk employees friendly IF you ask for or complain about anything, no matter how legitimate (HAL is an exception in my opinion, to HAL it seems the customer is always right in my considerable experience on that line). However, I have never, ever, encountered such "automated", rude, employee's as those on this ship. The "incident" was concerning charges of some $400. For "video games" by ONE minor child who were told not once, but TWICE, absolutely could NOT charge on the ID card. We were shown and explained to (as if we were children) that there was NO WAY the child could charge on their cards and were SHOWN how the corner was cut off to prevent this. We were then told we MUST sign their form to charge our card, but it pertained ONLY to the adults. This was explained both at check-in and AGAIN on board. PARENTS BE WARNED, NO MATTER WHAT NCL TELLS YOU, THE CARDS CAN BE USED IN THEIR VIDEO MACHINES, CAN BE USED BY OTHER KIDS, BY ANYONE, AND HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS CAN BE CHARGED. Even after explaining we were traveling with a teen with impulse control problems, we were told over and over "not to worry, children can not charge on card with cut corner". When trying to explain we had been outright lied to TWICE on this point, desk employees were absolutely outrageous. One young "lady", when asked to turn and not try to cover up her name plate replied " CARMEN, from PERU, do you think you can SPELL PERU or should I spell it FOR YOU?? This was the same young woman who YELLED so loud passengers in the atrium stared at her while SHE "screeched" that I was "raising my voice" at her! When asked if she had a supervisor, she did not reply. After three requests for a supervisor, another young employee, also obviously with no decision making powers at all came to ask, "what's all the "fuss" about?" We finally just walked away from these people and decided to contact headquarters after our cruise. This was clearly a ploy by NCL, they obviously do NOT TELL parents that "no charge" cabin cards for their children do NOT prohibit swipes in video machines. PARENTS NEED TO KNOW THIS AS MOST GAMES ARE $1.50-$3.00 AND MORE. Though I had no other interactions with desk employees, as a group they all appeared to be extremely uptight, unhappy, and unsure of themselves. They most definitely have no customer skills, and while they deal with primarily residents of the U.S.A. when sailing from Miami, their limited English and lack of self confidence are so obviously the cause of their very defensive stance. They seem to be "on guard" the moment anyone steps to the desk, our desk staff rarely smiled (unlike all other employees), and seemed to "have" to assert authority even in the most minor ways (looking over 4-6 guests and giving almost a "command", "LINE UP in ONE line please", but this is never done with a smile. Very unpleasant group to say the least ! While trying to constantly "act" important and "in charge", you can see how insecure almost all of them were. They have few answers, definitely can not handle any problem more complex than a lost card, and seem to have an almost memorized "script" to answer no matter what the question or request. I came to think of them as the "customer no service" group. Having just stayed with Mariott the night before the cruise, it was difficult to imagine any of them working in a Mariott hotel, I doubt any would make it a week! You could find more customers friendly folks at a Motel 6 along a highway, and probably could think and solve problems better "on their feet" than any of the folks at the Dawn's hotel desk.
Location: Central Florida
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