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Stinger-PR's DAWN of an era: A NCL Dawn review (Thanksgiving week 2018)

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9 hours ago, missinver said:

We are on the Dawn in 2 weeks time for 11 day Southern Caribean cruise, so we are thoroughly enjoying your review!

 

That's awesome! That itinerary is 2/3 the same one we did with the addition of the ABC islands at the beginning. We would've loved to be able to do that one. I hope you have a blast. And thank you for reading!

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Anyway, after spending the latter part of the afternoon lounging around the pool and a couple of rounds of drinks later, at around 5pm, we started to make our way back to our cabin to get ready for dinner. Tonight we had our first specialty dinner reservation at Moderno Churrascaria. But on our way there we also wanted to take some pictures with the ship photographers on our way to the restaurant.

 

About the photographs: There were only two, three at the most, photographers to take your pictures. Some were cool, some were nice and some seemed to just be going through the paces. Backgrounds were very generic and so were most of the poses. One of the photographers was using one of the side stairwells from the atrium as his background and, at least in our case, pictures came out horrible. Lighting was apparently poorly metered and they just looked off. They also weren’t very consistent with the amount of poses and the time spent with subjects. Sometimes you’d see a couple get posed a bunch of times, then the next just a few. We had to ask for certain poses we’d seen that we liked in order to get a picture with that pose because the photographer would just do some generic poses and “bye-bye”. In the end we ended up buying a bunch of pictures (like we seemingly always do), but we also discarded so, so many because they were just a bit out of focus, poorly lit (stairwell pictures), had unfavorable poses etc. And since only two to three backgrounds were available, wait times could be long. By the third day, we knew better than to stand behind anyone with more than three family members because it would always take a while. And some people made it worse because they took all the time in the world to set themselves up, completely giving a crap about those waiting behind them.

 

On to our dinner… We arrived at Moderno around 7:10pm and were told to wait for a while since we were too early. 7:10pm for a 7:30pm reservation is too early? Ok, no problem. A few minutes later we were asked if we wanted to sit at the Mojito Bar while we waited and we said “sure”.

 

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DW had a Bacardi Mojito and (since I’d read so much about it here in CC) I ordered a jalapeño cucumber mojito. DW’s mojito was very good and strong and I really hated mine! Dude… You gotta LOVE cucumbers in order to enjoy this. I don’t love them but I don’t hate them either. This was like sucking on a cucumber with some hot sauce on it. The taste overpowered even the rum. Needless to say, the next one was a pineapple coconut mojito which was much more better and tasteful. That was once in a lifetime for me and the cucumber jalapeño thing.

 

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So while downing our mojitos the 7:30pm reservation time came and went and we were still waiting to be seated. We were seeing people that came after us get seated and we were still at the bar looking at empty two-tops here and there.

 

This was just behind us, ready almost from the moment we arrived.

 

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So after DW flagged the hostess down she realized that she’d forgotten about us and came back to seat us, not at the empty table behind us but at a table all the way to the back, almost at the kitchen door. Well at least our food will be hot coming out of the kitchen!

 

Yes, this is all the menu you get.

 

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The concept here is that servers come to your table with skewers full of different types of meat. You don’t really get to choose how done you want it but they basically settle for a medium on all red meat.

 

The salad bar is somewhat limited but everything was well presented and looked fresh.

 

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They also bring you 4 “sides” for you. They were a measly portion of white rice (although you can get as much as you want if you ask), some Yucca fries, sauteed mushrooms, and some mashed potatoes.

 

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Due to the rapid pace of the servers and the unappealing sight of half eaten cuts on the plate, I decided to not take any pictures of the “meat parade”. But trust me, everything we tasted (and we tasted everything!) was delicious! DW doesn’t like meat other than well done but she still found some of the cuts to be very good even when not “done” to her liking.

 

Eventually we decided we had enough and were ready for dessert. I apparently didn’t get a picture of the dessert menu but the chocolate cake (chocolate Tiramisu, maybe?) was rich and good, the Flan (or custard) was almost flavorless according to DW.

 

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Yes, there’s a portion already missing but that mess WAS the presentation on the plate!

 

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Apart from the ho-hum desserts we tasted, we were very pleased with the food quality, service (except for the forgetful hostess) and experience of Moderno and will likely eat here again, even without the Dinner Package since the regular cover charge is about $25 per person, which is really not bad. Texas de Brazil costs around $50 per person (including tax) plus tips for a similar experience. Although the salad bar at that restaurant is miles ahead of Moderno.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Overall, dinner took just over an hour and it was great. Having done 90-120 minute dinner at Carnival, this was getting to be quite pleasant. And we never felt rushed at all.

 

We made our way to the Stardust theater after dinner to catch the second showing of the Soul Rockin’ Nights.

 

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We found the theater quite large and you could enter either from the 6th or 7th deck. Although if coming in from deck 7 on the left, you either had to walk down to the lower seats or cross over on the outside to the other side if you wanted upper level seating since the upper level seats on the left side of the theater are reserved for The Heaven suite passengers only. The show was OK, nothing too fancy, but it was entertaining. Dancers seemed energetic (especially an Asian dancer who was apparently having the time of her life!!) and the singers had good voices. While they didn’t blow us away, we had a good time. As with the pool, no drink servers were seen anywhere in the theater. Thankfully we ordered our drinks in the atrium bar on our way to the theater.

 

After the show we went to Bliss Lounge for a few more drinks and a bit of dancing to the tunes on the Hotwire live band and later with the Bliss DJ.

 

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There were a good amount of servers here but they kindda took their time sometimes. Also, sometimes the drinks were prepared different depending on what bartender prepared it. There was no consistency on how they were prepared, although they were consistently strong, I'll give them that!

 

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The lounge was packed with people of all ages and nationalities. The cruise director hosted the first few minutes but was apparently having a better time with the bar staff than the guests so he stayed close to the bar most of the time. Contrary to Carnival’s  Marcelo (the current CD on the Fascination), Pedro (Dawn's CD, in the black suit below) didn’t really mingle too much with passengers. At least at the times we saw him around.

 

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A bit after midnight we decided to take a stroll outside the ship for a while before going to bed and gave up on it after a few minutes since the wind was still blowing like crazy!! I might be difficult to pick up but it was blowing the water sideways off the hot tub which, BTW we never saw to be closed, even late at night.

 

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It was 1am and we still had some energy left but no activities other than the casino to do so we started to watch a movie in the room and called up some room service.

 

When we got to the room, this guy was waiting for us!!

 

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Although we had the Unlimited Beverage Package, it was no good for room service so we ended up paying for our soft drinks which would’ve been OK, maybe if it wasn’t for the fact that they arrived at room temperature and, as you may know, room temp soda with ice tastes like crap after a few minutes. Thankfully, both drinks were available on the mini fridge and were some of the ones we didn’t take out so we exchanged ours for the cold ones inside and problem solved. I know I got the room service menu around somewhere so I’ll post it later on. Anyway, the food came in hot and was quite tasty. The pizza, especially was way better than the rubber crap they had at the buffet.

 

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My opinion is that Carnival still kicks NCL’s butt with their pizzas and availability. We ended up going to bed around 2:30am after getting our stuff ready for Barbados tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Great detailed review!  Thank you so much for all of the pictures and tips.  I can't wait for March :)

 

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I am an avid Review reader when it comes to planning and this one is fantastic - thanks!  We're going on the Dawn in a few short weeks out of San Juan, can't wait!!  It's been a few years since I've been on a cruise and can't remember, when the ship is in port are you able to go on and off the boat as you please (and of course back on by the 'all aboard' time)?  I understand it's not as convenient when at a tender port but I'm hoping we don't have any of those seeing as the Dawn is a fairly small ship (St. Lucia is a possibility - did you have to tender when in St. Kitts on the Dawn?).  Thanks again for the great review!

 

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St Kitts is not a tender port.  Yes you can come and go as you please at each port.  If it's a tender port it isn't quite as easy but really not a problem

 

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On the Dawn March 10th out of San Juan. Do you know if when the ship is in San Juan if we get on around noonish and drop some stuff off, can we get back off to explore San Juan and get back on by 7 or so before Sail Away? 

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Hi JVik206 

 

I am hoping the answer is yes cause we are on the ship on that sailing too!!  I was surprised to see that at least one review said the Muster Drill is  at 4:30!!!  blown away by that!!  So hopefully we can get on by 7pm ! 

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Loving this review!  Your pics are great and the details are perfect!  That pic of the moon was superb and the dailies and menus are really appreciated.  

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I'm so sorry for taking such a long pause from this review guys. Life has been hectic as hell these past few weeks. But I'll try to speed this up since I know there are some of you with cruises out of San Juan on the Dawn coming up quickly. Thanks you for still being around. That is if you still are.....

Edited by Stinger-pr

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On 1/9/2019 at 10:36 AM, bluehawk47 said:

Great detailed review!  Thank you so much for all of the pictures and tips.  I can't wait for March 🙂

 

Thank you!! I'm sure you will have a blast!

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On 1/10/2019 at 10:58 AM, rachaelb27 said:

I am an avid Review reader when it comes to planning and this one is fantastic - thanks!  We're going on the Dawn in a few short weeks out of San Juan, can't wait!!  It's been a few years since I've been on a cruise and can't remember, when the ship is in port are you able to go on and off the boat as you please (and of course back on by the 'all aboard' time)?  I understand it's not as convenient when at a tender port but I'm hoping we don't have any of those seeing as the Dawn is a fairly small ship (St. Lucia is a possibility - did you have to tender when in St. Kitts on the Dawn?).  Thanks again for the great review!

 

Thank you for reading and I hope this review helps you out in some way.

 

Yes, you can come and go as you please while the ship is in port, even in San Juan in case you want to check in early, grab a taxi or Uber to Old San Juan for a bit and return before the muster drill (4:30pm so you don't have to go to the make-up drill later on) or before "all aboard" time on the other islands.

 

We didn't have to tender at any of the islands we visited. In fact I can't recall any ship sailing from San Juan that tenders at any of the islands.

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On 1/10/2019 at 9:41 PM, JVik206 said:

On the Dawn March 10th out of San Juan. Do you know if when the ship is in San Juan if we get on around noonish and drop some stuff off, can we get back off to explore San Juan and get back on by 7 or so before Sail Away? 

Hi, yes you can do this with no problem but be aware that muster is at 4:30pm, even though sail away is at 9pm. The make-up drill is the next day, which is a sea day usually so even if you miss the first one, the second session will not hamper any time on any island.

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On 1/13/2019 at 5:46 PM, Diane123boys said:

Hi JVik206 

 

I am hoping the answer is yes cause we are on the ship on that sailing too!!  I was surprised to see that at least one review said the Muster Drill is  at 4:30!!!  blown away by that!!  So hopefully we can get on by 7pm ! 

We were taken by surprise with the muster time too. We couldn't comprehend why, if sail away is at 9pm, muster is so early. The fact that you still have people getting on at that time makes it even more baffling.

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On 1/14/2019 at 9:10 PM, Elementstorm said:

Loving this review!  Your pics are great and the details are perfect!  That pic of the moon was superb and the dailies and menus are really appreciated.  

Thank you!! I'm glad you're enjoying it.

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Day 3: Barbados

 

Ok, first thing's first. Here are the Freestyle Dailies for today:

 

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The Next page was the same for every day so I won't bore you posting the operating hours of the ship restaurants and venues for every day. I posted those along with the dailies for day 1 for reference, if you need them.

 

 

 

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Again I got up early to catch the sunrise but the angle of the ship coming in to Barbados wasn’t all that good, at least from my balcony.

 

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The angle of the ship as it drew closer to Barbados made it so that the sun was almost to the front of the ship. I was too lazy to get dressed and go to an outdoor deck forward for better perspective this morning.

 

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I took a few quick pics and went back to bed for a few minutes, hoping to get back up to see our approach into the dock area. But the bed was just too comfy and I stayed for a few extra minutes on bed watching a movie. When I went back to the balcony we had already turned around and were backing up into our berth on the far side of the pier, away from the main industrial area.

 

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Bridgetown, Barbados is not really a pretty port. It’s a pier shared with naval shipping vessels of all kind. And today, there were already two container ships docked on the other side. There was also one big yacht moored just in front of where we’d be.

 

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We have been a few times to Barbados and since we love the beach, and the last time we visited we had a blast at The Boatyard beach club, we decided to make it another beach day at the Boatyard. But we weren’t really in a rush. But on the other hand, there was supposed to be another ship in port with us today so we wanted to be off and on our way before they started disembarking themselves. Since they weren't due in port for just over an hour more, we just slept a little longer. We got up around an hour later, left our stuff ready for the day at the room and headed to the buffet for breakfast.

 

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The sausages today were stone cold and hard. It was the first real food fail of the trip. On the other hand the bacon was available for you to take all you wanted. No begging for it or fighting with a server for it like on Carnival. Awesome!!

 

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The food that ended up in our plates was basically the same as before so I won't bore you with that.

 

We had decided to eat on the side of the ship that faced out to the ocean and caught the Reflection starting to come into the bay so we made our way to the room to get our stuff to get to shore. But when we got to the room we saw this out the window:

 

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The beautiful weather we saw earlier had disappeared and was replaced by huge, dark rain clouds. And they were dropping a mantle of rain over the hills of Barbados in the distance. The worst part: they were headed right for us. Our hearts sank and we started to wonder if our day was going to get rained out.

 

Meanwhile, we noticed the arms from where the life/tender boats hang were extended out. We took a peak over our balcony and saw they were lowering the boats to the water for routine testing.

 

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While this was going on, the clouds grew darker, the curtain of water grew thicker and they drew closer. A few minutes later it started to drizzle and then the rains came.

 

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Stupid me was already making plans to stay on the ship and find out what goes on when you don't leave the ship on a port day while DW was giving me the stink eye for being negative. And she was right, Being from a Caribbean island, I should've know better because I knew these showers usually passed by quickly and it would be business as usual afterwards. And so they did! After a few minutes, it stopped raining, the sun came out and we had a beautiful rest of the day.

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It was just after it stopped raining that the other ship that would be accompanying us today, Celebrity’s Reflection had arrived at the dock area at 9:20 (-ish) a.m., turned around and was backing up into her berth just a few hundred feet from the terminal on across from us.

 

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At this point we decide to just go for it and head to shore so we could be at the terminal before the Reflection was properly moored. We were at the gangway around 9:30am and a noticed there were no “gangway photographers”. Hmm… That’s different from Carnival. We then noticed two things:

 

1- The photo ops were being done behind a prop railing with EVERYONE behind you. They couldn’t even position themselves using the ship as their background, as boringly white as it is?

 

2- Dispelling doubts some people may have, there were shuttles taking passengers from the ship to the terminal.

 

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There were two large-ish buses doing the loop but instead of having one going while the other was coming, they were both picking up at the same time, which defaulted in some waiting time between trips. Some people decided to walk all the way but we decided to wait it out.

 

Once at the terminal we took some pictures of the new Welcome to Barbados sign. It was about time they replaces the old ones since they were already beat to hell and worn out.

 

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We continued on to the terminal which is really not much to write home about. I has the usual trinkets and souvenirs shops, along with the usual jewelry staples and a duty free store. We had hoped to find an open WIFI hotspot but contrary to other trips, there were none we could find. The only “open” ones required us to register and validate with emails and we’re not into putting any kind of info down, even when using a VPN service we pay for on our cell phones.

 

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Once you exit the terminal you see the meeting point for the big tour buses to your left and some more shops to the right as well as the walkway towards the taxi stands. We marched on and made our way outside towards the taxi dispatch area where we ran into DW’s co-worker who along with her husband and friends, were waiting to get a tour of the island. After exchanging plans for a few minutes, we were on our way to our destination. We decided to walk past all the taxis and simply make our way on foot to The Boatyard.

 

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Word to the wise: Make sure to take a pic of this rates and make sure the taxi drivers stick to it. For example, The Boatyard is in Carlisle Bay and according to the posted rate, it should be $4 per person US one way to Carlisle Bay but we have NEVER been quoted less than $5 for the trip. The last time we were here the driver told us that "those were old rates" and the sign needed to be updated. Apparently, two years later, it still needs replacing since it was the same as it was last time. This would be my 4th time on the island and DW’s 2nd. Not once had we had an experience with taxis that can be described even close to good. Even though there’s a “dispatch” area, a lot of the drivers are very pushy. All taxis inside the terminal are shared whether you like it or not. If you want a private taxi you have two options: to basically buy-out all other remaining seats or walk outside the terminal and grab one there. Sometimes the drivers wait around for the last one or two passengers while you bake in the sun on a hot van. Last year we waited over 30 minutes and we were basically taken to another van when all passengers got tired of waiting and sweating and got off the van. When another driver saw this, he said he’d take us. Our original driver didn’t even look twice when he saw us leaving with another driver.

 

This is the taxi dispatch area. They simply ask you were you are going and they point you to a driver.

 

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Where does the ship dock? At the Bridgetown harbor? I’m asking because on google earth I can see a port area closer to Carlisle bay that seems walkable but the harbor area seems far. Just curious.

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33 minutes ago, maja651 said:

Where does the ship dock? At the Bridgetown harbor? I’m asking because on google earth I can see a port area closer to Carlisle bay that seems walkable but the harbor area seems far. Just curious.

Bridgetown

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12 minutes ago, ClevelandCruisin said:

Bridgetown

I know that. Lol. On google earth it looks like there is a Bridgetown Harbour and another port area further down near Browne’s beach where ships can dock. I’m curious as to which one they go to.

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48 minutes ago, maja651 said:

Where does the ship dock? At the Bridgetown harbor? I’m asking because on google earth I can see a port area closer to Carlisle bay that seems walkable but the harbor area seems far. Just curious.

The ship docks at Bridgetown Harbour Cruise pier. Look for it named like that on Google maps. Not really than far from Carlisle Bay at all.

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6 minutes ago, Stinger-pr said:

The ship docks at Bridgetown Harbour Cruise pier. Look for it named like that on Google maps. Not really than far from Carlisle Bay at all.

Thanks that’s what I needed. 

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We kept walking past the taxis towards the terminal exit area and headed towards Downtown Bridgetown.

 

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Upon exiting the terminal we kept to the right sidewalk, along the water as long as we could. While this was most of the way, it’s not “right alongside” the water the whole way. But the first ⅓ of the way was under a nice shade of trees. Along the way we got to see some things that you only get a glimpse or miss altogether when you zip by (and you will be zipping!) Bridgetown on a taxi.

 

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We got to walk along the wharf were most (if not all) of the catamarans and sailing excursion boats dock. When we got there, the Jolly Rogers was still boarding. This is the party boat, guys. And they pack it up as much as they can.

 

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We also got to see from the outside the Parliament Building and the Barbados Independence Arch. None of the previous taxi drivers I’ve had before have pointed any of these things out. I guess if they do, the ride becomes a tour and that costs extra, maybe?

 

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