Norwegian Cruise Line's
The ultimate expression of Freestyle Cruising
I just returned from a preview cruise aboard NCL's new Norwegian Dawn and must say that I was impressed. The entire concept of what NCL has been for the past several years and how it views itself for the future are all wrapped up in this one vessel. All the other major cruise lines have been building ships that reflect their philosophy and vision for many years but only recently has NCL come under the umbrella of financial stability provided by Star Cruises and been able to build new ships. Despite the capital infusion, the first two ships to enter service, the Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Sun, were fine ships but nonetheless were modified versions of vessels originally designed or ordered by other cruise lines. The Norwegian Star, now operating year-round cruises in Hawaii after debuting last year, is a sister ship to the new Norwegian Dawn and it is these two ships that best represent NCL's future.
Although Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Princess and even Cunard and Costa are building or already operate ships of over 100,000 tons, NCL has kept the overall size of the Norwegian Dawn to 92,000 tons, slightly larger than Norwegian Star but considerably larger than the earlier Sky and Sun, which are of a completely different design. That said, the Norwegian Dawn is a big ship - a very big ship - and due to the wide array of public spaces, restaurants and onboard choices, feels much more like a ship of over 100,000 tons than the new class of 85,000 tonners being introduced by NCL's competitors. That distinction is important to remember when placing clients on board. The ship has more to offer than most cruise ships and compares quite favorably to the "super-mega-ships" now in the water.
Norwegian Dawn is NCL's largest ship, accommodating 2,224 passengers and 1,112 crew, and is the maximum size to fit through the Panama Canal. The ship is fitted with pod drives, which substantially improve maneuverability, and like Norwegian Star, cruises at a maximum speed of 25 knots.
Norwegian Dawn also features NCL's new standards in cabins, with rich cherry wood finishing, refrigerators, tea and coffee makers in every room, and a much larger bathroom unit than other ships, containing separate toilet, shower, and washstand compartments separated by sliding doors. Seventy percent of cabins are outside staterooms and over 70 percent of these have balconies.
Thirty-four suites, 366 standard staterooms with balconies, and an entire deck of 107 mini-suites with balconies are among the spacious and well-appointed accommodations located on the 15-deck ship. There are also 20 cabins of various categories designed for passengers with disabilities.
Most cabins include a sofa-bed or pop-up trundle bed giving a third lower bed and many will have a fourth, pull-down berth. The ship also offers a large number of cabins (including suites and mini-suites) that can interconnect to create a two, three, four or five bedroom area suitable for small or large families.
Norwegian Dawn offers the ultimate opportunity to cruise in style with the spectacular Garden Villa suites. At a cost of $26,000 per week, each of Norwegian Dawn's two Garden Villa suites offer an unprecedented 5,350 square feet of living space at sea. Positioned high atop the vessel in a private area aft of the main sundeck, each Garden Villa features sweeping views of the ocean and an impressive assortment of amenities usually found only at five-star land based resorts.
Like Norwegian Star, this ship offers more dining options than any other ship in the world, with the flexibility of 10 different restaurants and 11 different menus every night. Guests can choose from three main restaurants and an array of seven alternative restaurants, including:
oVenetian - an ornate main restaurant offering the traditional six-course dining experience;
oAqua - a modern main restaurant featuring a lighter, more contemporary menu;
oImpressions - a 1900s Grand French restaurant featuring wall-to-wall impressionist artwork, the ship's third main restaurant;
oThe Orient - a Japanese/Thai/Chinese restaurant complex featuring an à la carte menu, a sushi and tempura bar and a teppanyaki room;
oThe Steak House - Featuring an array of Prime USDA cuts of beef, including filet mignon, prime rib and New York strip steaks as well as a selection of lamb, poultry and seafood entrees;
oLe Bistro - NCL's signature restaurant featuring the line's trademark menu of nouvelle cuisine and French classics;
oSalsas - a modern South American restaurant and bar with a full selection of hot and cold Tapas dishes and authentic entertainment;
oLa Trattoria - an Italian-styled restaurant featuring red and white checkered tablecloths, Chianti bottles and a menu offering pasta, pizza and other popular Italian fare;
oGarden Café/Kids Café - an indoor/outdoor buffet restaurant extending over a third of a deck that features action stations with prepared-to-order omelets, waffles, fruit, soups, ethnic specialties and pasta in addition to extensive and varied selections arranged along 130 yards of buffet serving counters. Kids Café features pint-sized tables, chairs and buffet counter serving pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers and French fries;
oBlue Lagoon - a food court-styled casual eatery featuring hamburgers, fish & chips, potpies and wok fast dishes.
In addition, Norwegian Dawn offers an array of casual snacking and café outlets, including an on-deck grill, an ice cream bar, a coffee shop and 24-hour hot and cold room service.
A quick note about Freestyle Dining on both Norwegian Dawn and Norwegian Star. NCL has truly perfected the concept on these ships and, as far as the dining experience is concerned, it is like a landside resort rather than a cruise ship. There is total freedom of choice and the early teething problems experienced with prior ships have been eliminated. In general, passengers are able to get reservations for the restaurants they wish and at the times they wish. It takes dining to a whole new level.
This type of freedom might seem to be a drawback for groups, which traditionally have been seated together in a ship's main dining room night after night. Interestingly, the concept of Freestyle Dining works well with groups. Experience has shown that most groups prefer some freedom in their dining arrangements and, at least a few nights of every cruise, the individual group members wish to dine on their own. On those nights when the group prefers to eat together, NCL has a system in place that allows group leaders to schedule the group into some of the multiple restaurants on board. This preserves the traditional group dining concept but opens up a world of choices on other nights.
Norwegian Dawn also offers plenty of opportunities for those passengers who wish to work off any unwanted pounds. The Sports Deck contains a basketball, volleyball and soccer court, while a two-deck fitness and spa center boasts state-of-the-art cardiovascular workout equipment, aerobic and yoga area with a sprung wooden floor, steam and sauna rooms, a jet-current exercise pool, an indoor lap pool, whirlpool and hydrotherapy pool. Hawaiian-based Mandara Spa, the world's leading operator of landside resort spas, pampers NCL guests with an exotic menu of spa and beauty treatments combing the best of East and West.
The ship is particularly family-friendly with a huge children's center complete with a playroom, outdoor pool, Jacuzzi, movie theater, computer rooms, teen center, video arcade, a nursery and toddlers' nap room. There is even be a special children's area in the buffet restaurant with their own low-level serving counter and kid-sized tables and chairs.
From Miami, Norwegian Dawn rotates an Eastern and Western Caribbean itinerary through May 3, 2003. The Eastern Caribbean itinerary calls at San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, USVI; Tortola, BVI and Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas. The Western Caribbean itinerary calls at either Montego Bay or Ocho Rios, Jamaica; George Town, Grand Cayman; Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico. Rates for either itinerary start from $799 per person. On May 3, 2003 Norwegian Dawn repositions to New York on a 14-day Caribbean cruise from Miami to Manhattan.
The ship begins her innovative summer season from New York on May 18, 2003 with a series of seven-day sailings to the Bahamas and Florida. Ports of call on this innovative itinerary include Nassau, Great Stirrup Cay, Miami and Port Canaveral, Florida, and guests have the additional option of embarking in Port Canaveral as well.