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Norwegian Dawn: The Art Of Cruising

(January 22, 2003)

What do Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri Matisse, Vincent Van Gogh, Andy Warhol, and Kim Cattrall of HBO's "Sex and the City" have in common? Would you believe a cruise ship? Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Cruise Line's (NCL) newest ship, has something no other ship can boast; the world's most expensive art collection and the sexiest Godmother, Cattrall. It's an eclectic mix that's not only bringing a breath of fresh air to the high seas; it's also luring more passengers.

The Art Of Freestyle

Norwegian Dawn Hull photo courtesy of NCL At 92,250-tons, Norwegian Dawn is set to make a big splash with the first ever year-round itineraries from New York City to the Caribbean. Accommodating 2,224 passengers and 1,112 crew, she cruises at a maximum speed of 25 knots allowing for weekly New York to Caribbean itineraries.

Dawn makes an artsy statement on the outside as well as the inside. The hull features artwork capturing the spirit of the ship's two focus cities, New York City and Miami. One side of the hull features dolphins playing in multicolor waves while the other side features the Statue of Liberty. 

Andy Warhol's Chairman Mao photo courtesy of NCL While the hull paintings are lively, it's the more serious works inside that are receiving the most attention. The Le Bistro restaurant features four original Impressionist paintings by Renoir, Matisse, Van Gogh and Monet. Warhol's works are located along each floor of the forward grand staircase. On select voyages, passengers will be offered an art enrichment program complete with lectures from a well-known art historian. The works are on loan through 2004 from the personal collection of Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, chairman of NCL parent company Star Cruises.

Claude Monet SUNNY VETHUEIL photo courtesy of NCL Colin Veitch, NCL's president and CEO, compares the ship's Impressionist art to NCL's Freestyle Cruising, which effectively changed the regimentation of cruising. "Students of both art history and cruising will see the connection immediately between Impressionism and Freestyle Cruising. Impressionists, in a short extraordinarily innovative period, broke the traditional mold that had characterized all western art for the entire 19th century. How fitting, then, that we have fine examples of their works on the ship whose ordering in April 2000 marked the announcement of Freestyle Cruising", says Veitch.

Freestyle Tastes

Le Bistro restaurant photo courtesy of NCL Art aside, the Freestyle experience is most evident in the ship's unique dining experiences. Dawn 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:

  • Venetian - An ornate main restaurant offering the traditional six-course dining experience.
  • Aqua - A modern main restaurant featuring a lighter, more contemporary menu.
  • Impressions - A 1900s Grand French restaurant featuring wall-to-wall impressionist artwork, the ship's third main restaurant.
  • Bamboo-A Taste Of Asia - A Japanese/Thai/Chinese restaurant complex featuring an à la carte menu, a sushi and tempura bar and a teppanyaki room. (Reservations required along with a $10 cover charge per-person - teppanyaki pricing is a la carte from $10-$15.)
  • Cagney's Steak House -The ship's premier restaurant 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. (Reservations required along with a $17.50 cover charge per-person)
  • Le Bistro - NCL's signature restaurant featuring the line's trademark menu of nouvelle cuisine and French classics. (Reservations required along with a $12.50 cover charge per-person)
  • Salsa - A modern South American restaurant and bar with a full selection of hot and cold Tapas dishes and authentic entertainment.
  • La Trattoria - Italian-styled restaurant featuring red and white checkered tablecloths, Chianti bottles and a menu offering pasta, pizza and other popular Italian fare. (Reservations required)
  • Garden 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.
  • Blue Lagoon - Food court-styled casual eatery featuring hamburgers, fish & chips, potpies and wok fast dishes
Cocktails can be enjoyed at the following:
  • Gatsby's Champagne Bar
  • Wine Cellar
  • Star Bar
  • Pearly Kings Pub
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.


Balcony cabin photo courtesy of NCLNCL has upgraded even standard cabins on its new ships. Dawn's staterooms feature glossy cherry wood finishing, refrigerators, tea and coffee makers, and unique bathrooms that offer separate toilet, shower, and sink areas 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 accommodations. 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 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.

Garden Villa Suites

Garden villa lounge area photo courtesy of NCL 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. 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.

Inside, the villas offers a large dining room, living room with a state-of-the-art entertainment center, three bedrooms each featuring floor to ceiling windows and luxurious baths with a whirlpool tub and a separate shower. Outside, the suites feature private rooftop terraces, Jacuzzis, outdoor dining, gardens and secluded relaxation areas. In addition, each suite has butler service, which allows for personalized service and menu choices.

Activities & Entertainment

El Dorado Spa atrium photo courtesy of NCL Dawn offers plenty of opportunities for active passengers. The Sports Deck contains basketball, volleyball, and soccer courts, while a two-deck fitness and spa center boasts state-of-the-art 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. Mandara Spa operates the onboard spa offerings, which pampers guests with an exotic menu of spa and beauty treatments combing the best of East and West.

Kids club play area photo courtesy of NCL The ship is family-friendly offering a vast children's center complete with a playroom, outdoor pool, Jacuzzi, movie theater, computer rooms, teen center, video arcade, a nursery and toddler nap room. There's even a special children's area in the buffet restaurant with low-level serving counter and kid-sized tables and chairs.

Large-scale show productions are offered in the elegant Stardust Theater, which reaches up three decks and seats an audience of 1,150. Dancing opportunities abound at Dazzles Nightclub and the Spinnaker Lounge.

AnitaVacation Thoughts

Stardust Theater photo courtesy of NCL Since my last voyage, I was extremely impressed at how far NCL has come in terms of service. Staff was clearly more at ease with the Freestyle service and amenities. The quality of food in the premier restaurants is first-rate; however, buffet breakfast and lunch fare still needs improvement. 

The only other disappointment with this ship was the confusion about tipping in the spa.  An automatic gratuity was added to my Mandara Spa bill that I did not notice until much later.  The majority of cruise spas leave tipping amounts at the guest's discretion.  I did not notice the automatic 15% gratuity added to my bill, nor was it brought up by spa staff that it was added.  To my dismay, I ended up tipping twice!  Clearly, anyone using the spa needs to be aware of this practice.  

As for entertainment, NCL is the life of the party when it comes to fresh amusements. The Cuban-inspired "Fuacata" party even brought jaded New Yorkers out of their shell. NCL delivers an excellent mainstream cruise product, which continues to improve by offering new innovations that truly enhance the cruise experience.

If you go:

The ship begins her year-round seven-day New York to Caribbean sailings on May 18, 2003.  Ports of call on this itinerary include Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas, along with Miami and Port Canaveral/Orlando in Florida. Guests have the additional option of embarking in Port Canaveral as well.  Prices range from $599 all the way up to $26,000. For more information, visit NCL's website.

Additional Related Articles:

Preview: NCL's Sun and Star offer heavenly choices - Read my Sun/Star review from 2002.

Cruise Diva's Norwegian Dawn Preview - Read Linda Coffman's Dawn review and photo tour.

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