Cruise editor Rebecca Tobin sailed a short cruise on Norwegian
Cruise Line's newest ship, the Norwegian Dawn. Her report
ew York, New York. If you can
make it there, you'll make it anywhere, the song says. The question
is: Would you want to make it anywhere else?
The answer for Norwegian Cruise Line, or at least for the line's
newest ship, the Norwegian Dawn, is no.
NCL CEO Colin Veitch had told travel agents who were clamoring
for a year-round ship in the Big Apple that the line was taking a
wait-and-see approach to
wintertime New York cruising. But due to positive agent feedback
and a favorable first-hand experience with a sales
meeting/repositioning cruise from New York, NCL's top brass decided
not to delay the decision.
And so the Dawn's season in Miami will be short-lived; this May,
it will become New York's first year-round, homeported ship.
New York's passenger terminal will be crowded with ships this
summer as cruise lines draw on one of the largest drive markets in
the country. While the Dawn handles Bahamas/Florida cruises, the
Norwegian Sea will offer clients the time-tested New York run to
But by November, the Dawn will have the docks to itself.
The Dawn is a sleek ship, and with a speed of about 24 knots,
it's fast enough to be off the coast of the Carolinas by the first
morning of the voyage. And, if all goes according to plan, guests
will be able to mill about in the sun while on the ship's pool
Although the sun was shining on NCL's New York preview cruise in
December (which actually went up the coast toward Rhode Island),
nobody was milling about outside. During the safety drill, guests
strapped on life preservers over winter coats and turned their
faces away from the sharp chill.
I thought a wintertime New York cruise meant we'd be rocking and
rolling on the ship -- shaking more than the entertainers at NCL's
late-night dance parties.
However, we sailed out of New York harbor on water as smooth as
The vessel's sunbathing areas looked lovely enough, with tiered
rows of deck chairs in the midship pool area and on the aptly named
Inside the vessel, the colors and decor are fun and funky --
without being frenetic.
There's a Miami Beach vibe on the Dawn, including some playful
pink and blue pastels and lots of greenery in the grand atrium.
There are other Caribbean influences aboard the vessel; the
seashell-patterned carpeting in the cabins, for example, and the
salsa band that struck up a lively concert in the atrium one
Fittingly, the brightly colored restaurant and bar that
encircles the atrium a few decks up is called Salsa, an updated
version of NCL's tapas bar. The venue serves full portions of
Caribbean, Tex-Mex and South American food.
Food, of course, is a major pastime on the Dawn -- not just the
eating, but the planning, the choosing and the cooking. The ship
features 10 different restaurants.
The vessel was custom-built to incorporate NCL's Freestyle
Dining concept, meaning guests can eat at any hour, any day, at any
restaurant, with any style dress -- well, as long as it's "resort
casual"; i.e., khakis and casual skirts.
On the Dawn alone, guests have the option of Italian, French,
Japanese/Thai/Chinese fusion, steak, South American, buffet or
The three main restaurants, which serve varied menus, seat
anywhere from 236 diners to nearly 500.
Three specialty restaurants require cover charges: Bamboo, the
Asian fusion restaurant that features two teppanyaki tables and
self-serve sushi concoctions on conveyor belts; Le Bistro, NCL's
French mainstay; and Cagney's Steak House.
Le Bistro comes standard on every NCL ship, but the Dawn's
version stands out, if only for the artwork. Four original
paintings by Impressionist masters Van Gogh, Matisse, Renoir and
Monet hang on its walls.
The paintings were donated from the private collection of Tan
Sri Lim Kok Thay, the chairman of Star Cruises, NCL's parent
However, the ship's emphasis on artwork isn't limited to the
restaurants. On each landing of the vessel's staircases hangs an
Andy Warhol from his Pop Art series "Chairman Mao." The portraits
of Mao Tse-tung greet guests on every level of the ship.
It's fairly easy to get your bearings while aboard the Dawn. The
vessel is similar in layout to NCL's Hawaii-based ship, the
Norwegian Star (NCL calls the Dawn its "Star of the East").
At the top of the ship are the Dawn's two Garden Villa suites,
NCL's signature, 5,350-square-foot, three-bedroom suites featuring
their own 1,712-square-foot private garden backyards.
Featuring decor similar to a modern Manhattan penthouse, the
suites boast 360-degree views; some of the best viewing is from the
windows in the gigantic marble bathroom. The windows are tinted so
guests relaxing by the pool can't look up and into the suites.
Garden Villa guests, meanwhile, get their own Jacuzzi and
Cagney's Steakhouse also is perched high on the ship along with
a classy cocktail hideaway, the Star Bar.
Most of the restaurants are positioned on decks seven and eight,
along with the casino and the Stardust Theater.
NCL's theater productions could be called unique. The show I
caught, called "Bollywood," combined elements of Cirque du Soleil
(lots of fancy, spinning trapeze work) with "Arabian Nights."
Although it was daring and different, several members of the
audience looked a little befuddled. Keep in mind: This is not a
typical musical revue or traditional cruise-style Vegas
Off to one side of the ship is the Pearly Kings Pub, where, on
our cruise, several travel agents were taking some time away from
ship-searching to relax with a pint.
Phil Papa from Papa's Travel in Secaucus, N.J., called the pub a
"nice, cozy area."
At a nearby table, Joanne Tobin, a consultant at Independent
Travel in Kingston, Mass., called the ship "tastefully done."
"The Venetian [restaurant], the enormous gym; the staterooms,"
she said, ticking off some of the areas the ship that impressed
Two other areas really stand out aboard the Dawn.
One is its enormous, dinosaur-themed kids zone, the T-Rex
Childcare Center, a
fun play-care area that includes fun, habitat-like jungle
Outdoors on the aft area of the vessel is the T-Rex Pool, which
features water slides, a kid-size hot tub and a wading pool. Be
sure to note the kid-sized tables and buffet serving stations in
the Garden Cafe eatery.
The other is its bilevel spa. The entrance to the 11,302-square
foot El Dorado spa is pretty neat -- imagine a vaulted interior of
an ancient Mayan temple or cave.
The facility contains a lap pool and Jacuzzi area that will be
perfect on sea days when it's a little too chilly to venture