Joeman
Joeman
Joined: Feb 21, 2014
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April 5th, 2018 at 6:28:10 AM permalink
We just got back from a cruise on the NCL Norwegian Dawn a week and a half ago, courtesy of a 'free' cruise offer from Harrah's Joliet. It actually cost us $600 (plus gratuities and incidentals). We had a blast!

We booked an inside cabin, but NCL offered us a chance to bid for an upgrade. I bid a lowball offer, and was rejected, so we kept our inside cabin on Deck 12. The cabin was tiny -- even smaller than the inside cabin we had on our last Carnival cruise. It was no more than 8 ft wide! I laid across the bed with my toes on one wall, and could almost touch the opposite one. But, the only time we were in the room was to sleep or change clothes, so it didn't really bother us.

The location was awesome. I was worried that being on the 'Lido' deck (NCL didn't call it 'Lido,' but that seems to be what people refer to the deck with the pool and buffet as), but we were far enough forward where we didn't notice any of the noise or foot traffic. We were steps from the forward elevators, which was very convenient to get to the casino, the theater and the Asian restaurant. And we were just down the corridor from the buffet.

the ship itself was a little wonky. There were a few decks where you couldn't get from forward to aft without changing decks. I overheard a guy say that whoever designed the ship should design another so he could jump off it!


PORTS OF CALL

Cozumel

I was surprised that we had to tender in Cozumel, but there were 8 ships in port and no dock space for us! We didn't have anything planned for Cozumel, but I had read about the submarine that takes you down to the reef. It ended up being $105 per person (we could have gotten a discount had I booked in advance), but it was worth it. You take a ferry out to the sub and transfer into it. The sub initially dives 50 or so feet down close to the sea floor. We got to see lots of fish and coral plus there was a sunken ship (sunk on purpose to make an artificial reef) to look at. We sailed out a bit until we were at about 100 ft deep. Then the sea floor dropped drastically. It was like a cliff straight down (to 2,000+ feet). Needless to say, we didn't venture down -- our guide said that it would be a one-way trip!

Costa Maya

The port at Costa Maya was a bit of a disappointment. It's all overpriced shops and restaurants in the port, and it's a maze -- there are no signs pointing to the exit. We went around the entire complex and ended up back at the dock. We finally had to ask for directions to the exit. Once you get out of the port, there really didn't appear to be much there.

Fortunately, we had booked a beach day at a nearby resort called Almaplena. My wife said that it was the best day of the cruise. It was $59 pp, and included food & drinks and the 20 min cab ride both ways. We loved it. We almost had the beach to ourselves. It seemed that there were more employees than guests. Great day, and the lunch they served was really good -- fresh guacamole, shrimp tacos & steak tacos.

Roatan

I had found on TripAdvisor a place called Steel Pan Alley where you can learn to play the steel drums. (We learned that in Trinidad, where the instrument originated, they are called "steel pans." To the rest of the world, they are "steel drums.") It is actually a school where the teacher, a retired music teacher from California, teaches kids on the island to play the steel drums. She opens it up for tourists by appointment. She and a couple of her students taught us to play a few songs, and we learned a lot about the history of steel drums.

We had a blast. I was skeptical, but we really did learn 3 songs, and they sounded not bad when we played them. Her students played percussion and lead pan, and we (there were 5 of us total) played the bass, tenor, and alto pans. I would definitely recommend this if you are interested in steel drum music. Afterwards, the teacher offered to take us back to the ship... or the gas station! o.O?? It turns out there was a very nice gas station nearby that had a deli and was, as she put it, not just clean, but "American Clean." There were also armed guards at the gas station, openly carrying shotguns. That got our attention, but I guess a nice shiny gas station in Roatan makes for an inviting target.

We ate baleadas, which were similar to burritos with beans, egg, and choice of meat. They were delicious. Mrs. Joeman and I each had one baleada, and a soft drink, and we split a tres leches cake for dessert. All very tasty, and the total came to 196 lempiras or about $8.35 USD. We ended up walking back to the boat (about 1.5 miles) along the coast.

Harvest Caye

Nope. Too windy to dock the ship. We did an extra sea day instead.


FOOD

As for the restaurants, the Main Ding Room was OK. The food was good, but not great, and the service was very slow. We ended up eating most of our meals at O'Sheehan's pub, and Bamboo Asian restaurant, or at the buffet. The buffet was just OK, but the pub and Bamboo were both really good. The grilled reuben at the pub is outstanding, as were GWAE's recommendation of the buffalo wings. We liked Bamboo so much, we made a reservation for another night right after we finished.

The Kung Pao was excellent, but be warned, the chilis are spicy!! The waitress stressed this point about 30 seconds after I popped one in my mouth! It was a little hotter than I had expected, but it wasn't that bad. It certainly did not ruin the meal for me or anything like that, but I did have tears rolling down my cheeks for the entire meal! :P


I do like the 'freestyle dining' experience that NCL offers, but I think that leads to a reduction of quality in the MDR, as their food service gets spread a little thin.


CASINO

Unfortunately, the casino did not treat me very nicely. Well, I guess I should say VP specifically was unkind. First off, the VP paytables were bad, but a step above what I saw on Carnival. DDB was 7/5 at the quarter level, 8/5 at the dollar level, and 9/5 at $5 and above. 9/5 is not great, but it's about what I've seen on the strip. I did get some nice hands over the course of the week -- a dealt straight flush, quad deuces on DW, trip 4's turning into quads on 2 of 5 hands with a multiplier on STP. But whenever I tried to move up to the $1 level, I got beaten down.

I did OK at UTH, winning 2 out of 3 sessions. On the third, the auto shuffler was having problems, and they had to go through two more to get one to work properly. All of the carnival games had a $10 minimum, which seems really steep for UTH.

The last day of the cruise, I ended up playing a Holdem tournament ($80 entry fee). It's been years since I have played no-limit seriously (I played fairly regularly 10 years ago), and I know my game isn't that good these days. But I figured what the heck? The tournament structure was a little wonky. You got 2000 in chips to start, and blinds started at 100/200! So, you are short stacked from the beginning.

It also featured re-buys and late-entry until Level 3, and there was an add-on for 4000 in chips for another $80. There were a total of 8 players (7 plus one late-entry). I survived until the break at Level 3, getting lucky on 2 all-in coin flips, and had a better-than-average chip stack. I had initially resolved not to re-buy or do the add-on, but when a guy who just busted out on the last hand of Level 2 decided to re-buy and add-on, most of the table (including me) added on.

I ended up head's up with the guy who re-bought at the end of Level 2. I had a sizable chip lead, but lost 2 hands where he went all-in pre-flop. After that, he had the chip lead. Then, he offers to chop 50/50, which I thought was very generous of him. We each got $336 for the chop. The competition on the boat was pretty soft. Someone who knew what he was doing could clean up there.

All in all, we had a great time.
Last edited by: Joeman on Apr 5, 2018
"Dealer has 'rock'... Pay 'paper!'"
ams288
ams288
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April 5th, 2018 at 6:49:17 AM permalink
Great report.

I just went on my first cruise a couple weeks ago (Carnival). We were followed by the NCL Breakaway a lot of the time and it looked so nice that it made me want to go on a NCL cruise.
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smoothgrh
smoothgrh
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April 5th, 2018 at 12:22:07 PM permalink
Thanks for the fun trip report!

Regarding the wonky tournament levels, cruise ships usually try to extract money from their guests any way they can, and having a structure that encourages more rebuys is undoubtedly their strategy. On my first cruise (Carnival), they offered a $5-$10 limit game, which takes in a healthy rake.

I'm sure people have commented about cruise ship bingo—likely the worst gamble on earth. I told my family once not to play because they might charge $10 a card, or $20 for 3 cards, but the prize is the same no matter how many people play. A bingo prize could be $200, but even if 150 people play, the prize is still $200, and the cruise keeps $2,800! And if there are two winners, they split the $200! (I can't remember if that was a simplified explanation, or my memory of an actual game.)
SiegfriedRoy
SiegfriedRoy
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April 5th, 2018 at 1:08:35 PM permalink
Nice trip report!

How were the blackjack table conditions? Did they all move to 6/5 blackjack yet?
DJTeddyBear
DJTeddyBear
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April 5th, 2018 at 1:25:41 PM permalink
Great report.

No craps table?
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Joeman
Joeman
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Thanks for this post from:
smoothgrh
April 5th, 2018 at 1:48:40 PM permalink
@ams -- I saw your report in the myVegas thread. I think we were on opposite sides of the Caribbean on the same week! This was my first NCL cruise -- my last few cruises were on Carnival. NCL does some things better than Carnival, but not always. One thing we did enjoy was it was a bit older than the Carnival crowd I'm used to. Not a lot of kids running everywhere, and just a handful of "drink til you puke" 18-25 yo's.

Get off my lawn!!! ;)

@SmoothGRH -- We did play bingo once during the week. They didn't advertise what the prize amounts were ahead of time (aside from the $5k coverall jackpot, which nobody came close to. I want to say it was 45 numbers.), and they waited until about half way through the second game to announce the amounts. This lead me to believe that the jackpots were a percentage of the total card sales. (Still could be chintzy like 5%). We were cased in the 4 corners game, but not close in the single line or coverall games.

@SiegfriedRoy -- D'oh. I didn't even get a good look at the BJ tables. I want to say they had one $5 table. The payout for a BJ was not printed on the felt, and I didn't notice a sign. Didn't ask, either.

@DJTB -- Yeah, they had one $10 craps table. I think it was 2x odds, but I'm not sure. At $10 minimum bet, I don't usually play much more than 2x anyway. I played a little early on in the cruise, but never made it back to the table after that one session.
"Dealer has 'rock'... Pay 'paper!'"
GWAE
GWAE
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April 5th, 2018 at 3:57:34 PM permalink
I saw that dingo dave was back on the ship. I really like him but my aunt does not at all.

I thought buffet was way below average especially compared to Vegas buffets. Did you go to the top of the pool deck and get burgers?
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Joeman
Joeman
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April 6th, 2018 at 5:16:32 AM permalink
I wasn't a Dingo Dave fan at first, but he won me over by the end of the cruise!

Yeah, the buffet could have been better. We never did try the burger bar up on Deck 14.

Thanks for your suggestion about going to the MDR right when we got on board. We got a table right away.
"Dealer has 'rock'... Pay 'paper!'"
Lucca3927
Lucca3927
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April 6th, 2018 at 3:11:33 PM permalink
I picked up a free cruise with NCL (and some casino money) from a Golden Nugget offer as a member of their 24K club. We'll be going to Venice this summer.

The last time I took a cruise (on RCCL) I didn't play in the tournaments.. Th rules and rebuts were ridiculous but the normal game was easy as can be. Nobody had a clue.
"I should have bet black." - Winston Churchill .
Venthus
Venthus
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RogerKint
April 6th, 2018 at 4:19:26 PM permalink
Between NCL and Princess buffets, I'd go with NCL by a longshot. More seating, more variety, less linear structure, more beverages that aren't an upcharge*, and no person whose primary job appears to be standing there to give you a plate. The last one just feels weird.

*They evidently charge for basic tea in their MDR. I was like, "Uhm. Okay. I'll just get hot water then. I've got a pile of tea bags from the buffet anyways."

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