Boston - Tampa cruise on the Norwegian Dawn

Published: November 22nd 2013
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Friday 1stNovember

Boston - embarkation on the Norwegian Dawn

Raining and windy 19’C

We got most of the packing done last night so we could have a relaxing morning. Our first job was to go for a walk to the Goodwill store to donate some of our winter clothes. Next job was to send our winter clothes we wanted to keep back home via the USPS – US Postal Service; so with the box all loaded and taped up we caught the bus north on Washington St so we didn’t have to walk so far to the West Dedham St postal branch. The staff were very helpful and the 10kg box with insurance was on its way back to NZ for $138. This was a weight off our minds AND a weight out of OUR BAGS! With the housekeeping out of the way we called a cab just before noon and headed down to the Norwegian Dawn docked at the Black Falcon cruise terminal. There was no line for boarding, so we were through onto the ship in no time at all. Our room has been upgraded on this cruise from an inside cabin to an ocean view cabin; and then just a week or so ago we decided to pay a little more and receive a further upgrade to a balcony cabin! Normally the rooms are ready mid-afternoon, but we thought we’d wander past our allocated stateroom 9166 to see if it was ready early – and yay, it was all ready for us! We dumped our bags, had a quick bite to eat and went back onshore to get a few extra supplies - since we were going to be at sea for the next three days with no port stops. Luckily we had good wi-fi connectivity in the terminal building so we had a good catch-up with Max on Skype. We got back on board at 4.28pm with final call for boarding at 4.30pm, just in time for the lifeboat drill. And we thought we’d timed it perfectly and missed it! This was a full ship with 2,224 so we made sure we knew where our lifeboat was! J We sailed out of Boston under a beautiful sunset, looking forward to having three relaxing days at sea as we head for our first port of call - St Thomas, U.S Virgin Islands.

Saturday 2nd to Monday 4th November

At sea – averaging 24c

2-4 metre swells initially, calming down to a ripple the further South we head

A very relaxing few days with sleep-ins and some early nights as we ease ourselves into this midway break in our trip. Both the air and sea temperatures have been steadily increasing. Saturday started with 19’C and 14’C sea temp with Sunday increasing to 26’C with the sea at 19’C. Monday was a double banger with 28’C for both! The skies have been bluer and some lazing around the pool has been done, books finished and ice cream eaten. We have attended a couple of shows and a port and shopping presentation but otherwise have ignored the bingo, dance lessons, cooking demonstrations, towel folding classes and daily jewelry sales in the Grand Atrium - in favour of chilling out and enjoying our balcony cabin.

Tuesday 5th November

Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Hot and sunny - 30’C

We started the day the right way with a trip to the gym and had breakfast before heading ashore. We were docked at the Havensight dock area, which is a 2 mile shuttle into downtown, so grabbed one of the millions of shuttles ferrying passengers into the melee of main street Charlotte Amalie. We are looking for watches for each of us for our significant birthdays and this is one of the best places to find deals. Shaun narrowed his selection down to Hublot, Longines and Bremont. Jennie showed some interest in a white ceramic Bulova or Fendi. After a few hours of being recipients of the ‘Salesmanship 101 Advanced Class’ performances, we extracted ourselves from the air-conditioned oasis’ of Diamonds International, Hublot Boutique, Effy Jewelry, Rolex and Cartier Boutique - burgeoning with information but still watchless! Jennie did manage to secure some gorgeous Lauren G. Adams casual jewelry to her delight.

We perused the markets at Emancipation Gardens in town and at Havensight Mall back at the port. We also found some free wi-fi at Delly Deck – an open air bar in the Mall where we imbibed some tropical drinks and caught up with some emails and phone calls. Once we boarded at 4.30pm we stood on our balcony awaiting some late comers who were partying at Senor Frogs! The young women clearly lost track of the time and were very lucky that the ship waited on them – the on-board crowds leaning over the ship’s railings giving them plenty of verbal encouragement to board the vessel – quick smart! Had some good entertainment tonight: world champion juggler Scotty Cavanaugh and high-energy comedian Sam Fedele.

Wednesday 6th November

St John’s, Antigua

Fine with some cloud – 27c

Managed to make it to the gym and got off the boat about 11am, where we caught a taxi to Fort James-a beach close by that the locals prefer that had nice white sand and calm waters. Massages or deck chairs were available for $5 – take your pick or be greedy and take both! The same driver collected us at 1.15pm and we got caught in a funeral procession complete with full brass band coming back through town. It is definitely more developed than last time we were here, with a lot more buildings, markets and duty free stores. With some time to spare we relaxed on the balcony of a bar that overlooked the waterfront and the 3 cruise ships in town, catching up on internet-ness. They gave us a free $5 internet voucher which allowed us an hour on line. Back on board at 3.30pm we took a dip on-board to cool down and grabbed an ice cream to watch us sail away out of port 4pm.

Thursday 7th November

Bridgetown, Barbados

Hot and sunny, 30’C

The bonus of sleeping with the curtains open in our balcony cabin is that dawn gently caresses your eyelids as it peeks over the horizon. The downside is that sunrise is close on its heels prying your eyes open with daggers of bright sunlight at 5.56am J we love these sleep-ins!

Today we were Barbadian Buccaneers, boarding the ship ‘The Jolly Roger’ for a 5 hour sail out along the coastline to do some snorkelling and spot some turtles. We headed out anti-clockwise around the island with a full crew of landlubbers, jamming out to some Barbados tunes. First stop was a shipwreck only about 200 metres from shore, where we hung out for about half an hour. Under sail we backtracked past the cruise ship and hove to in clear waters close to shore, where we were fortunate enough to swim with some friendly, inquisitive turtles who hung around for ages. One baby was very happy to swim along with Jennie on their own for a while – giving plenty of opportunity to get up close and personal with a few adoring strokes of the beautiful creature’s protective shell. We had a bit of fun on the ship walking the plank and jumping off a huge swinging rope attached to the rigging. One of us actually did it and the other watched!

Sailed back under the full power of their mega-amp sound system, with the open bar assisting in lubricating our singing voices and limbering up our dancing feet. The lolly-water rum punch certainly had its desired effect – making everyone who fell under its evil spell feel very relaxed!

With some shopping time under our belt, we checked our emails and we rang home to catch up on some news before we had to get back on board.

Tonight we decided to eat at a specialty restaurant for a change. Impressed with the Bamboo Asian fusion restaurant on the Jewel, we were keen to once again try out their fare.

The restaurant wasn’t very busy so we secured great seats in the window with a view over the restaurant – quite the king and queen seats! Starters were brought over – comprising salt and pepper squid, steamed dumplings, spring rolls and jumbo shrimp & ginger salad – yum, we thought. It was mostly great but the salt and pepper calamari was to disappoint. We had been treated once to the best ever rendition of this dish and we always struggle to find its equal. We followed with orange beef and scallops which we enjoyed. The maître d’ and sous chef both stopped by the table for a quick discussion around the calamari issue and we found this wonderful – a real interest in improving their diners’ experience. A trio of cream brulee was to be dessert – delicious flavours including green tea, adzuki bean and ginger. In our typical fashion we stopped by the Blue Lagoon on the way back to the room for a chamomile tea and decaf coffee – boring aye!

Friday 8th November

Sea Day

Partly cloudy 26’C

The first appointment of the day was a trip up to the salon for Jennie to get her hair trimmed and colour refreshed. It was interesting talking to Lisa from Ireland, one of the hairdressers on board. She is only 20 years old and she explained that most of her friends from back home have left Ireland and are working off shore due to the lack of jobs in their home country. This is a recurring story we now hear almost globally for our young adults. We spent the rest of the day getting a tan, going to the gym, eating and chilling out – as we sailed from Barbados to Curacao.

Tonight’s entertainment was the comedian Tim Kaminski doing his version of “The Wizard of Oz” using the audience as members of the cast-very entertaining!

In the nightclub there was a Tina Turner tribute with one of the singers performing in full gusto complete with Tina’s unmistakable long sexy legs and wild hair style.

Saturday 9th November

Willemstad, Curacao

Hot and sunny - 30’C

The mega pier at Willemstad is only about a 20 minute walk from the colourful centre of town, across the Queen Emma swinging pontoon bridge.

Our first port of call at this “port of call” was to catch up on some internet-ness, so fortunately for us in the Renaissance Hotel on the waterfront there was a Starbucks Café. We made ourselves comfortable and Jen got a soy latte as we felt socially responsible for abusing their internet. With the essential bits out of the way we meandered through the old fort on the way to the pontoon bridge. This is used for pedestrian traffic (and as we observed, the occasional Police car taking a short cut!) and pivots open to allow access for large cargo ships or cruise ships into the inner harbour. We spent a few hours in the oppressive heat trawling through the shops - the air conditioning fighting a losing battle to keep the moist heat down to a bearable level. On our way back to the ship the pontoon bridge opened to disgorge a couple of boats from the inner harbour before closing and allowing us to cross over her bobbing boardwalk.

We walked back through the Rif Fort and explored all of the shops cocooned within the protective embrace of its limestone arches. Jen found some pure Aloe Vera products manufactured on the island before we took refuge back on the ship. We were at this port until 11.00pm so it allowed us time to board the ship to freshen up, grab something to eat and then head back onto the mainland. There was a bit to look at around the Renaissance Mall before we went back into the hotel Starbuck’s to check on any last minute emails.

The Caribbean pool deck party was in full swing as we prepared to sail out of Curacao at 11.00pm, when the Captain announced if ‘Mary’ could contact guest services. This is their way of advising that this person is not yet on board! A few minutes later the gangway went up, the ropes were thrown off the bollards and we set sail, not knowing if ‘Mary’ was on board or if she was now going to have to find another way of getting to our next port at the island of Aruba!

Sunday 10th November

Oranjestad, Aruba

Fine and sunny – hot 33’C

We arrived into Aruba at 8am. Looking out through our balcony doors we noticed some small waves breaking - but no land as we were looking out to sea. This seemed very odd as we wouldn’t expect to see any waves on the starboard side of the ship with portside against the port. We then discovered that there was a sand bar right there – it is amazing to think how well these massive ships are navigated through very tight spaces! The gym was skipped this morning in favour of the port. We had things to do, places to see and wi-fi to find – as per usual. We did have a quick bite to eat in the Garden café – overlooking the port. It brought back memories of five years ago when we did the exact same ship on a very similar Southern Caribbean itinerary. Aruba is situated very close to Venezuela and hence avoids the hurricane zone. It has Dutch, South American and Caribbean influences and offers a huge amount to the tourist – great beaches, snorkelling, lovely hotels, casinos, nightlife, golf, bars, restaurants and of course the wonderful climate. There is a constant trade wind that blows year round but this is quite welcome due to the heat. Last time we visited the island we spent the morning on tour doing the butterfly farm, the aloe vera farm & factory tour. It was great but no need to revisit those. On shore we are met with the word Bon Bini! This means “Welcome” in the native language of Aruba – Papiamento. We, along with a number of others decide to catch the local bus up Noord - to the same beach we previously went to and explored it a little. We found the Marriott Hotel almost at the end of the bus route between Malmok and Palm Beach and disembarked there to check out the place with the view to a potential future stay. It is nice and large with lovely pools and beach chairs etc. After a quick wander through the foyer, shops and beach area we walked along the beach back towards Palm Beach, stopping for a swim or two and tested various deck chairs. The water is amazing – very tepid with only a few degrees cooler than the 33c it is today. We carried on and found the Hyatt – very impressive pool area with a wonderful open air juice bar and swim up bar. The restaurant within their lush gardens came complete with black swans – unbelievable! We pretended to be guests for a quick swim and then popped across the road to find a cool drink. Most of the cafes and bars appear to only open in the evenings on a Sunday, so we were met with many closed doors. Finally we found a lovely little spot serving gelato and smoothies. Mostly open air it had inviting cream chairs and we sat down hanging out for a Broken Heart smoothie – a delicious slushy drink comprising pineapple, mango, strawberry, lemon sorbet and grapefruit –yum! The gelato waitress said she was unable to make these as the bar didn’t really open until later, so she sent us next door to the Italian restaurant Amore Mia owned by the same guy. Luckily they could make these delicious drinks so we sat there and drank them fast - as they were melting at the speed of light in the heat. The bus back to town was packed with tourists and the atmosphere was fun and jovial – sunshine always seems to have this effect on people. Aruba’s motto is “One Happy Island”. Back in Oranjestad we ventured into the Casino briefly for a convenience stop and the chilly air was very welcome. By this stage the heat of the day is extreme, with Jen covering up with white ¾ cotton pants, a white wide brimmed hat and a cotton shrug soaked in cold water to keep cool. We walked over the bridge to the Renaissance Marketplace where we got some good free wi-fi. It was great to get through to Jennie’s Mum on Skype and have a good catch up on happenings from home. Shopping was good today, despite most shops being closed. The alternative was to browse through the roadside market stalls. Jennie bought a tank top, a beach bag, a sundress and then found a turtle from Pandora to commemorate the Caribbean sector of our trip. The local petrol station provided us with our liquid provisions and we purchased a litre of Caju – the juice from the cashew fruit. Always thinking the cashew was a sort of apple we got to try it – and yes, it is very apple-like with a touch of pear-ness – very interesting and great to actually see and taste it after only ever having eaten the cashews – which are the stalk of the fruit. Tired and hot we step aboard the ship about 5pm – just in time to freshen up and go to dinner before the show – busy, busy. The show tonight was an Irish singer, folklorist and comedian type performer – Harry O’Donoghue. We found the content mixed and didn’t stay till the end. Tonight was Norwegian’s Chocoholic Buffet and it was presented in the café between 7.30pm and 10pm. All the usual fare was available including chocolate cakes, mousses, layer cakes, éclairs, ice cream, chocolate coated fruits, chocolate carvings and a chocolate fountain. We did actually have a little morsel on the way to the Spinnaker lounge nightclub. Tonight featured a 70s groove party night and so we called by there in time to see the Production Cast Singers and Dancers perform FABBAlicious on the small dance floor. It was good but being a little worn out from such a hard day we left everyone to the sounds of the live band “Great Ideas” and went to bed about 10pm. Naturally we stopped at Blue Lagoon 24hr café on the way back to get ourselves a cuppa!

Monday and Tuesday 11th and 12th November

Sea days en route to Cozumel

Fine, sunny and hot 30c-ish both days

We enjoy the days at sea. A chance to read, go to the gym and generally muck about with no real fixed plans. The staff on board is great. The meals have been good and we always laugh with one of the Jamaican waiters who always crows like a rooster as he wheels the coffee cart about the morning buffet. His sense of fun is infectious and he carries it through to the evening where he is the front of house in the Aqua restaurant. We love the individual TV screens on the machines in the gym – always showing are movies, information channels on Norwegian ships, this sailing’s navigational logs, port information and so on. It also gives us a chance to catch up on news and weather from around the world.

The pool area is quite busy on sea days but we can always find a deck chair or table to claim for the hour or so that we soak up the rays. There are quiet zones, shady places and then those areas right up close to the pool, bars and live band. The music is great and if you want to you can also partake in fun poolside games with the cruise activity staff.

Jennie caught a demonstration of towel folding where the staff showed the guests how to recreate the wonderful towel animals left on our bed each evening by our room stewards. One tiny one they showed was the mouse. It was explained that if returning to your room any given night and find that no towel animal has been left – check carefully around the room as it might be a mouse hiding to delight you. So far this hasn’t happened to us – we have had a turtle, puppy, crab, stingray and others we aren’t sure about.

Wednesday 13th November

Cozumel, Mexico

Heavy rain – 24’C

We woke to our first gloomy looking day. It was cooler too, just 24c. So we left the ship armed with our brollies and dressed for cooler climes.

With a build-up of admin to do we found a restaurant as soon as we disembarked and got stuck in to tick off our “to do” list. We booked a trip to Cancun for later in the month and did a few menial tasks. As we did this we chose some quesadillas for lunch and kept hydrated with coffee, followed by a Sol beer and a monster mocktail – just so we could feel very Mexican. The rain really came down during our shopping stint so we made good use of the brollies and found ourselves wading through raging torrents that were once roads! We purchased a couple of souvenir t-shirts and returned to the ship for sail-away at 5pm.

14th November
Sea Day
Rainy, windy and rough seas – 24’C

Sleeping last night was accented by squeaks and bumps due to the 3- 4 metre swells all night and all day. A lazy start this morning finishing off a book and watching some TV. Being the last day on board we decided to have lunch in the Venetian dining room, choosing a table in a window so we could watch the crashing waves and marvel at the strength of the seas against the ship. The comedian entertained us again in his matinee performance at 3pm and once it was over it was time to pack and head to the gym. Bollywood was this evening's show performed by the Production singers and dancers - we elected to attend the 6-30pm performance, then have dinner at Aqua. Stopped off in The Spinnaker Bar to watch the Quest game before heading back to the room by midnight to put the bags outside for pick up. Our last night in stateroom 9166 should be more peaceful with the seas calming down significantly by lights out - zzzz

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22nd November 2013

I like the boat at night with all the lights on it. It looks really pretty. What special features are on the boat - are there pools, courts, cafes? Are there playgrounds for kids?
22nd November 2013

......your blog is fantastic team - thanks xxxxxxxxx

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