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

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So after taking a few pics and reading a few plaques around the wharf and Parliament area, we carefully (and I can’t stress “carefully” enough since everyone seems to drive in a darn hurry in Bridgetown) crossed the street towards the bridge that leads to the Arch and on to the Carlisle Bay area  and kept going straight south down the street, past the Arch.

 

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Eventually we passed the entrance to Pirate’s Cove. This is one of the newer (newest, maybe??) beach bar on the Carlisle Bay stretch of beach. The entrance is not really inviting. You see the sign but all you see there is just a big parking lot and an unassuming barn-like building at the end towards the beach. I guess the important part is the beach area itself. It’s a “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” kindda thing.

 

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Along the way we saw that while Bridgetown is the tourist center for Barbados, it can sometimes be not-so-touristy. Don't get me wrong. We never felt in danger, but not all buildings were in nice shape. You'd have parts where the street looks like this:

 

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Followed by a nice place like this church below:

 

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Edited by Stinger-pr

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Not 3 minutes down we finally arrived at the entrance to The Boatyard. And what a difference, aesthetically from the Pirate’s Cove entrance! Overall, including all the stops for pictures we made along the way and our VERY leisurely walking pace, it was 36 minutes from the gates of the cruise terminal parking lot to the Boatyard entrance. For us it was a very easy and interesting wal and If we decide to come to the Boatyard again (or even to the Carlisle Bay area) we would more than likely walk again.

 

Back to The Boatyard, this place tells you to “come in and have fun” even from the street. We walked up to the registration booth (moved from the center of the parking lot to the side of the gift shop entrance), paid our $25 per person cover charge (up $5 p/p from 2016 and $10 p/p since 2015) and crossed the gift shop and into Heaven! The place was, incredibly, still mostly empty, nice Reggae and island music not too loud over the loudspeakers, a bit of a breeze and a clearing sky!!

 

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The cover charge includes the use of the facilities, including bathrooms, changing rooms, fresh water showers, two chair and a shared umbrella over them or a beach/sun bed. The only caveat with the sun beds is that they are all located behind all the chairs, away from the water and near the bar. So they will be closer to higher traffic area and near the noise at the bar and away from the nice, beach view. The cover charge also includes a free drink (soda, water, Carib beer or the house drink the Shark Bite), use of the big, inflatable water features; two trampolines (one of them almost impossible to climb up to) and a climb-up slide, and it also includes a quick “tour” to swim “with the turtles” and over a shipwreck (I’ll explain the “  “ in a moment). If you opt to participate in the turtle “tour”, you sign up fo it when you pay at the door and they will call you over the loudspeakers when it’s time for your trip. It also includes use of available WIFI (ask for the password at the bar) which was fine near the bar but unstable where the chairs are located (understandable due to the distance from the bar) and a ride back to the cruise terminal(!!). This time we also noted there was visible security around the chair areas. If any outside vendor tried to get close to any of the patrons, they would be signaled and they’d walk away.

 

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Just so you know:

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While there were more then enough chairs available everywhere we settled into a second row pair, just to the left of the pier so we'd have some extra shade later in the afternoon from the pier. As you can see, those rain clouds were still looming but they were slowing pulling away from us, thankfully!

 

 

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I'm glad you're back! We sail on 2/24 and are visiting some of the same islands. We plan on going to the Boatyard when we are in Barbados. We've been there before and thought it was a decent deal for the day. 

 

Thanks for posting the Dailies and menus. I'm always interested in seeing those.

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Do they accept a  credit card for entrance fee or cash only?

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So about 30 minutes after we arrived at the chairs we were called up toward the gathering area near the bar to get ready for the trip to swim with the turtles. You walk up to a side shack near the gift shop were, among other things, they allow you to store your stuff while you’re out on the tour. They also fit you for the mandatory inflating vest and, if needed, they can provide a mask or snorkel for you at no extra charge. We always travel with our so we didn’t use theirs.

 

Word to the wise: Leave a pair of flip-flops, a towel or something of not much value at your chairs when you’re called up for the tour so you don’t loose them while you’re away. Just out of common sense. I wouldn’t leave anything of value unattended at the chairs while I’m away.

 

Warning: The next pictures are actually worked over still from the video I took with the Apeman A80 (GoPro clone). The videos are the only images I have available for this part due to a dumba** lapse of reason from me that I'll explain later on. The pictures are HORRIBLE...  I know. But it was completely by my mistake of configuring the camera all wrong. If you get one of these cameras don't mess too much with the factory settings!! They record nice, Full-HD videos out of the box (I didn't configure for 4K since I don't have 4K capable devices at home yet). What I did was, just after being fitted for the life vest, I got the camera into "dive mode". HUGE mistake!! This turned EVERYTHING blueish and basically ruined all the videos that I took. Under water it was even worse so these pictures required work. A LOT of work to be kindda watchable.

 

So, up and over the pier we went to get to the small boat that would take us to the turtle site. First thing we noticed was the boat was larger than the one they had two years ago.

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And off we went!!

 

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In the picture above you can see all the inflatables, along with the diving platform at the end of the pier and the rope swing. There's always a staff member controlling the rope swing and keeping everything in check.

 

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Below you can see most of the expanse of the Carlisle beach area where the beach clubs are located. From far left to very far right there's Lobster Alive (blue building), Copacabana Beach club in the center and Harbour Lights at the far right.Harbour Lights now offer turtle tours and some inflatables as well and the price of admission is similar to the Boatyard's.

 

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Last time I was at The Boatyard I was unimpressed and somewhat annoyed at the amount of time dedicated to their turtle tour and this time was the last nail in the coffin for this, at least for us. IF we decide to come back to the Boatyard we won’t be taking advantage of this service and here’s why:

  1. The time allowed at the two stops is just too little.

  2. People! There was so many people in the water at the same time that it’s even a miracle that turtles don’t simply leave the area.

There were (I think) 17 of us in our trip. PLUS… Harbour Lights had its boat in the area and, there were at least two other boats that provide the same tour from the beach also there (Bliss Water Sports was one of them and it’s a two story boat). Yes we got to see turtles. All two of them! One was just by the boat when I went in the water swimming away from where everyone was and the other was swimming near the bottom on 15-20 feet of depth.

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Like I said, the turtle sighting for us happened away from where all the people were swimming aimlessly looking for more. And most people simply could care less that there’s more people in the water with them. They will swim and bump into you or kick you without a care in the world. I don’t know about you guys but for us this is no way near our definition of fun. The site with the sunken barge was a bit less chaotic but still very crowded. And this was with just two ships in port, I wouldn’t want to imagine how it is with 3 or 4! When I decided to check out if there were more to be seen where everyone was the turtles were apparently gone. All I saw around me was this:

 

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Time was also at a premium. According to the time info from the videos I took we were no more than 15 minutes at either site. Actually, from the time I started recording at the turtle site (at the boat ladder just before jumping in the water) to the time I stopped the video just before getting back on the boat it was just over 13 minutes. It was almost 15 minutes at the sunken barge and it was mainly because I took my time returning to the boat (I think I was the 2nd to last one to get back onboard).

 

The barge was a bit less crowded and was much more interesting for us than the turtles (and really the reason we took the tour since we can see turtles every now and then back in PR). Fish of all kinds, color and sizes were all over. Too bad the pictures are so bad. The others were much better had I.... NO, no...I won't spoil it!!!

 

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Man, I really wished I had my fins with me. Too bad The Boatyard insists in a "no fins" policy, even if you bring your own (we didn't anyway). They might have their reasons but we saw a ton of people with fins around us so it's not an "all tours do the same thing" type of deal.

 

All too soon, we were back in the boat and on our way back to the Boatyard pier. And it was just in the nick of time since the Jolly Rogers, her party and all her passengers had just arrived at the barge site and it was just about to ge very, very crowded.

 

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This “tour” is almost free since it’s part of the cover charge for the beach club. I think $25 per person is still a good value for the place, especially considering you get that ride back which would be another $5 plus tip p/p if you got a taxi outside. But if you decide to do the turtle tour, don’t expect much out of it. If you want a better experience with turtles as in this is a “once in a lifetime” thing for you, I’d invest in a proper tour which take you to other spots to see turtles. If you want a cheery atmosphere, nice facilities and an included ride back, I’d definitely recommend The Boatyard. There are other beach clubs on that stretch so do your homework on the other and decide for yourself.

 

We returned the equipment to the assembly area, where there was already another group getting ready for their trip to the turtles and DW went to our chairs and I stayed behind to get our complimentary drink (a 7oz. Carib beer for me and a 10oz. fountain soda for her. This time we didn't order anything to eat there since we had decided to just have a late lunch at the ship later on. In the meantime I roamed around and took a few more pictures.

 

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Below you can see the beach area for The Pirate's Cove and the jetskis that are available for rent privately. They are not related to any of the beach clubs and The Boatyard actually warns you to not use them while wearing Boatyard wristbands.

 

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Edited by Stinger-pr

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Once you get near the entrance to the terminal the driver will ask you to have your ship card ready to show since they have to stop at the entrance and security does look inside to see if everyone is holding a ship card. After this, they take you just past the now empty taxi staging area right up to the terminal and drop you off. We tipped the driver a few bucks and were on our way. Inside the terminal tried our luck again with a couple of open WIFI hot spots without any luck (BTW while DW got connected at the Boatyard, I could never establish a connection while there which was baffling since we had exactly the same Galaxy S7 phones). About 95% of the connections are now locked and the few open ones were unusable or we were never able to connect to them. There are a few stores inside the terminal but, compared to other islands on the itinerary, we have found Barbados to be more expensive to shop at. We found everything from trinkets, t-shirts and booze to be more expensive. But incredibly there was one thing we didn't find. Water... We couldn't fined one place were they had any bottled water anywhere in the terminal. You can get ice cream, sodas, beer nut no water. Really?? So we basically zipped through the terminal and headed to the ship. When we arrived at the meeting place for the shuttle, we saw the line was quite long so we decided to walk all the way to the ship. It wasn’t a bad walk, maybe 10 minutes if you don't stop as many times as we did for pictures.

 

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Like I said, we made our walk back to the ship longer by stopping to get pictures of us and of the ship/s, including this guy... The Alpha Nero Yatch which cost a whopping $956,000US PER WEEK to charter (yes..the coma is in the right place). And the price goes up during the summer. Holy Molly!! And yes, I did look it up!

 

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When you come back to the ship you are greeted by a NCL tent where the have some chairs, they have moist, cloth hand towels and cold water (OMG Thank you!!!!).

 

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1 hour ago, brookie848 said:

I'm glad you're back! We sail on 2/24 and are visiting some of the same islands. We plan on going to the Boatyard when we are in Barbados. We've been there before and thought it was a decent deal for the day. 

 

Thanks for posting the Dailies and menus. I'm always interested in seeing those.

I'm glad some of you are still reading!! hahaha.... Apart from the turtle tour experience, we always have a blast at the Boatyard.

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1 hour ago, maja651 said:

Do they accept a  credit card for entrance fee or cash only?

I honestly don't remember but I'd be surprised if they didn't.

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I love your review and the photos, and thank you for the dailies! We're leaving on the Dawn in 11 days, so I hope you're able to post the rest.

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Thank you for the Boatyard review.  I have the Boatyard on my short list along with Rascal's on Brandon's Beach for our stop in Barbados.  They are both walkable... we like to find walkable beaches.  Glad to hear the Boatyard was fun.  Thank you for the info on the turtles.  We might play that by ear. 

Again, Great Review!!  Thank you for taking the time to write it.  Can't wait to read more :)

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I'm another one watching this report. I'm so glad you came back to do a followup! 

We first looked at Boatyard then Copacabana (no real idea on costs as nothing is posted that I can find) and also Rascal's. Is Brandon's Beach walkable from the terminal with someone who has some mobility issues? Unless I missed it I didn't see taxi prices to this beach area.

(BTW, the POC for SJ needs your expertise once you finish up...please)

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Thanks for continuing the review. I work with someone originally from Barbados. 

Can’t wait to show him your pics from there. 

 

Yup, no bacon police on NCL. Nice. 

The welcome back tent with cold towels and drinks is The.Best.Ever. 

 

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Does NCL dock at a different pier than CCL? Your pics of the pier area dont look like what I remember when we were there on CCL a few years back. And, if I remember right, when I was researching going to the Boatyard on our last cruise (which had an itinerary change so never got there), I thought it was a left turn our of the pier to head toward the Boatyard.

 

I still plan to make it there!!!

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On 1/16/2019 at 8:22 PM, JaysMom2 said:

I love your review and the photos, and thank you for the dailies! We're leaving on the Dawn in 11 days, so I hope you're able to post the rest.

Thanks for your words and for reading. I'm shooting to get this thing into overdrive over the next few days so you'll have your full review ready in time.

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On 1/16/2019 at 9:01 PM, bluehawk47 said:

Thank you for the Boatyard review.  I have the Boatyard on my short list along with Rascal's on Brandon's Beach for our stop in Barbados.  They are both walkable... we like to find walkable beaches.  Glad to hear the Boatyard was fun.  Thank you for the info on the turtles.  We might play that by ear. 

Again, Great Review!!  Thank you for taking the time to write it.  Can't wait to read more :)

Thank you for reading and for you patience. We had a blast at the Boatyard. I'll post a little bit more info about it at the end of the post for that day because I forgot to mention a few things. We enjoyed the walk to the Boatyard and if we decide to visit it again or any of the other beach clubs on Carlisle Bay, we would walk again and see a bit more of downtown Bridgetown for a change. Or we might just explore other parts of the island that we've yet to go.

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On 1/16/2019 at 9:43 PM, meatball_nyc said:

Thanks for continuing the review. I work with someone originally from Barbados. 

Can’t wait to show him your pics from there. 

 

Yup, no bacon police on NCL. Nice. 

The welcome back tent with cold towels and drinks is The.Best.Ever. 

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Yes, no bacon police and that welcome tent was unexpected for us but awesome!!

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On 1/17/2019 at 8:40 AM, dltvermont said:

Does NCL dock at a different pier than CCL? Your pics of the pier area dont look like what I remember when we were there on CCL a few years back. And, if I remember right, when I was researching going to the Boatyard on our last cruise (which had an itinerary change so never got there), I thought it was a left turn our of the pier to head toward the Boatyard.

 

I still plan to make it there!!!

Do you mean the pier in San Juan or Barbados?

 

In San Juan, NCL uses the same pier as Royal Caribbean on the east side of the bay. CCL uses Pier 4 at the Old San Juan docks. In Barbados they dock at opposite side of the docks. CCL docks in the same place you see the Reflection docked which is right near the passenger terminal. We were much farther away.

 

When you exit the terminal building at Barbados you can walk straight on the left sidewalk or make a slight right to keep to the one on the right as you walk past the taxis and the parking gates. That street take a left at the end towards downtown Bridgetown. You make a right at the bridge which on pedestrian only towards the beach clubs.

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Ok, so this picture is actually from the ship and serves as perspective as to where we were docked vs. the Reflection (which is docked at the same place where Carnival's Fascination docks).

 

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So we were back on the ship by 3:15pm and were starving. So we made a beeline towards O' Sheehan's which was becoming our go-to place for lunch. We were seated at one of the small (and I mean small) two-tops overlooking the atrium.

 

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We waited about 25 minutes after ordering for our food so I don't think it was that bad, considering the place was more full today than any of the other days we've eaten there. DW ordered some wings with no sauce and I ordered the fajitas. The wings arrived hot and cooked properly but my fajitas were nowhere to be seen. I waited an additional 6 minutes for my food and it was a total disappointment!!

 

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The taste was just OK despite all the apparent condiments it has but the worst thing was the portion.

 

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You get three tortillas and the meat you see on the left is all you get. Yup. That's. All. You. Get!! The rest are just the veggies on the right. I mean sure, these are complimentary but do really need to make 4 orders to actually conjure up 3 or 4 decent adult-portioned fajitas?? I asked the waiter what would take longer to re-order and he said the fajitas take longer so I ordered another portion of wings. Unbelievable!

 

By 4:30pm we were back in our cabin having a drink on the balcony and waiting for sail away.

 

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As we sailed out of Bridgetown harbor we got to see some of the sites and coastline we didn't get to see coming in, including the Mount Gay rum distillery.

 

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And as soon as we were clear of the bay, the pilot's boat made its approach to pick up the local pilot. It was amazing to see this guy make his way down a short rope-and-wood ladder towards the waiting boat while both were bobbing (the small boat much more than the ship) side by side. But at the end he more than happily waved at everyone as they made their way back. He seemed to be having a blast!!

 

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By the way, Those pesky Caribbean rain showers were making their way back to the island so we left just in time. While I'm guessing those aboard the Reflection had a wet sendoff, we were gifted by some beautiful sights and a double rainbow!!

 

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We relaxed on the balcony for a while then started to wash up and get ready for dinner later on. We hadn't booked a specialty restaurant for tonight so we decided to go to the Venetian MDR to check it out. Lie I said before, the decor was, well, very Venetian, with a twist since all of the painting had some kind of alteration done to them to make them a bit less serious. Too bad I don't have a picture of it but it's a little hidden message that NCL is taking the seriousness of a "Venetian room" not that seriously.

 

So here are tonight's menus:

 

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Tonight's service started noticeably slower than any of the previous nights and venues. It took 20 minutes just for our drinks to arrive at the table, AFTER we were given the menu and asked if we'd like anything to drink. 20 minutes for two sodas! This is also when I started being a hypocrite about being on a diet after three days of eating like a pig! I ordered myself some Diet Pepsi and it was horrible! As in like it was just water with caramel color horrible. It had no taste and was flat a heck. You couldn't find a carbonation bubble in that glass if you looked for it with a microscope!

 

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I asked the waitress if there was any chance to get a "good" diet soda and she told me they were having problems with the dispensers and they were coming out like that (which if any of you work on anything F&B related know that is BS and it's simply that someone needs to replace the CO2 tank). Why didn't she say so in the first place?? So I ended up ordering a regular soda which was coming out fine. As with the Aqua MDR previously the bread was cold and hard and, while it tasted good, it was difficult to eat. We just shrugged this as a NCL constant and moved on from the bread. for the appetizer we had a Caesars salad and the bruschettas, which were fine

 

Thankfully our apps and dinner arrived in a timely manner.

 

DW had the New York Strip Steak with french fries (which has got to be the smalles NY strip we have ever eaten) and I had the "Whole-roasted Sirloin with loaded baked potato, spinach, Horseradish and beef gravy". Well, this turned out to be two thin slices of beef loin, a baked potato that was almost bigger than the portion of beef (with a squirt of sour cream and some bacon bit which is the "loaded" part) and a few, small spinach leaves. Do you see any Horseradish??

 

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I could hear Gordon Ramsey in the back of my head shouting "what is it with decorating everything with darned Parsley??" At least everything tasted very good and the stake was cooked to a very good med-well and everything arrived hot as well. So in the end it wasn't a total loss and we ended up enjoying our food. So it was now time for dessert!! (Diet? What diet??)🤣

 

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We ordered some Tiramisu with an extra vanilla scoop for DW and I had some chocolate lava cake with Stracciatella gelato (which is fancy for vanilla and chocolate shavings). Both were tasty and arrived at the table less than 10 minutes after being ordered.

 

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All in all, dinner was good. Aside from the slow start, the flat diet soda and the almost inedible bread everything else was good. Portions were a bit small but it's to be expected in that type of setting. It wasn't bad at all, time-wise since from the moment we were handed the menus to the moment we were served our desserts it took less than an hour. I'm really loving this hour-long dinners in NCL!! And, at least for us, it doesn't feel rushed at all.

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After dinner we grabbed a drink at the atrium and headed for the Stardust theater to see the PG showing of comedian Alex Ortiz's stand up show. We had a blast with this guy, especially since being Puerto Ricans, we can relate to a lot of the material he used for his routine. We could see ourselves in almost everything he was talking about. It was a fun 45 minutes and we couldn't wait for his adult show later in the week. We were sure this guy would be hilarious without a filter!!

 

After the show we made a quick visit to the room to check out the daily and see what activities were upcoming tonight. When we arrived we had another guest towel on our bed. Err... something looked off about him, I don't know. But please hold the sexually explicit jokes about this fellow. 🤣🤣

 

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As I said before, the portions on the MDR were a bit on the small side and we decided to have a late night snack at the Buffet and grabbed some pizza.

 

Word to the wise: If you want a decent pizza (for cruise standards) order through room service and pay the $7.99 fee. Pizza at the buffet is usually warm at best and the dough feels like rubber. Room service pizza was of much better quality that the ones at the buffet, no matter the time of day (or night)>

 

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Before leaving our room we had grabbed our jackets since it seemed chilly from our balcony and we wanted to go to the Latin Fiesta with the Tropical Four band (which were "ON" this evening!) to close out the night. Upon arriving at the pool area we noticed two things: It was very windy again on the outside decks and WOW.....there was a lot of people out for the party!! I wouldn't say it was jam-packed. Not by a long shot. But there were way more people for this than for the "pseudo- sail away" party. This time everybody was into it, not just the Puerto Ricans and the other Latins aboard. This was more like it!!

 

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As you can see we settled on the the deck overlooking the pool for most of the time and this time we saw some servers around so we ordered ourselves some drinks. But all we had patience for were two rounds since they took a lot of time to come back with your drink.

 

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Even Pedro, the Cruise Director (in the center, white shirt) was more into this than a lot of the other activities he'd hosted so far.

 

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Like I said, the band was "on" and looked like they were enjoying the party like everyone else. This even got ME dancing some Merengue with DW who was in utter shock since I very rarely dance at all...haha. We stuck around until almost midnight and by then the crowd had started to thin out. We stopped at the bar for our "last call" and headed for the comfort of our balcony to finish out the drinks. We ended up getting to bead around 1:30am having thoroughly enjoyed our day in Barbados and the night on the ship.

 

 

 

 

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Final thoughts on Barbados:

 

We enjoyed our day at the Boatyard very much and we're debating if we'd come back and make it a beach day there or tour the island the next time we come to Barbados (and the will be a next time!!). Besides Harrison's Caves and expensive Catamaran trips, any suggestions out there??

 

Some things I forgot to mention about the Boatyard:

 

When you arrive you're given a wristband to identify you as a guest. This band has a tear-away tab that you need to present to get your complimentary drink. Your complimentary drink consists of a 10oz (I think) cup of juice or soda, a 7oz. Carib beer bottle or a 10oz cup of the house drink called the Shark Bite. I suggest you get the Shark Bite if you're into drinking. The soda waters down quickly in the heat and all the small beer does is leave you wanting more! But hey, free is better than paid all the time! There are lockers available to rent (don't really know how much for, though) near the door to the gift shop. But unless you plan to walk the beach and be gone for hours, there's really no need for them. We saw a couple of security staff at the beach at all times and when you leave for the turtle trip, the bags stay secure at the equipment shack. We also swam to the water toys and used the slide (oh yes we did!!) and got on one of the trampolines to lay and relax on it baking in the sun for a while. Kids may enjoy jumping on them (which can get quite difficult with the thing moving with the waves) but we just laid there and listened to the siren go off at the Boatyard bar signaling the start of the "free shots" (of who knows what, since they never say) for everyone 18 and older for 15 minutes. Most everyone ran out of the water for this but we just enjoyed the spectacle from the distance.

 

Oh and, you're welcome and Merry Christmas if you were lucky enough to take home my "lost" TG-4 camera and snorkel gear!🤣🤣🤣

 

It's too bad we always find everything more expensive in Barbados than in any other island we visit. Have any of you thought that same thing or is it just us? Also, after having walked to the beach with no problems we would do it again in a heartbeat. We found the taxis the most disorganized and their drivers the rudest of all. So after taking them out of the equation, Barbados got much better for us.

 

Next we stop at an island that DW had visited some years ago and hated it and which would be all-new for me: Antigua.

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Loving your review and pictures. Thank you for taking the time to do this. We are going on the Dawn in March and can hardly wait. It has been quite a few years since we cruised on her and through your pictures I see a lot of changes. I am quite excited to be going on her again. The last time was before the refurbishment. She will be like a new ship for us! We are also doing the same ports so reading about each port & what to do is quite helpful. Again I thank you for doing this and I look forward to reading more.

 

 

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I just found your review and loving it!  It's been years since I've been on NCL, but who knows, it might just be a nice change.

I'm hoping you will provide a little more information about your camera and snorkel gear that became "lost"!?!  That doesn't sound like a good ending to your time in Barbados.  

I'm also interested in finding out why your DW hated Antigua.  The two times I've been, I found it a drop dead gorgeous island and the taxi drivers were excellent.  In the Caribbean, we very seldom do tours and just grab a cab and head out on our own.  I'll have to remember to take the Barbados taxi situation  in mind.  

Thanks so very much for taking the time and work to do this trip report!  I'll be following along and looking forward to more.

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Love your review !!! Leaving Sunday on the Dawn ,so excited !!! Any chance you have the room service menu ? Thank you !

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