Cruising to Bermuda on the NCL Dawn from Boston

15 Jul

My husband and I have been on NCL’s Boston to Bermuda cruise several times on both the Spirit and the Dawn. We’d like to share some advice from our past experience. Remember the golden rule of cruising – you have to try very hard to have a bad cruise. It’s a given, no matter what cruiseline you’re on, occasionally there will certain be things that annoy you  – such as rude passengers, bad weather, a meal that doesn’t suit your liking, or not being able to find a chair by the pool – but you, and only you, are in control of whether or not it ruins your vacation. There is truth in the old adage that ‘a bad day at sea is better than a good day at work!’ So without further ado, here are my suggestions for a fun, trouble-free cruise to Bermuda:

  • Arrive Early – to the Black Falcon Terminal in Boston. Any later than 11:30 mean long lines to board. We usually arrive between 10:30-11.
  • Staterooms and Luggage – Rooms are usually never ready until 2pm and luggage is rarely delivered until late afternoon, so keep anything you cannot live without for a few hours with you. I’m terribly neurotic about this and bring a backpack filled with all medications, jewelery, valuable electronics, and at least one change of clothes. Of course I’m stuck lugging it around with me all afternoon, but it gives me piece of mind, lol.
  • Staying in Touch – It can be very costly to keep in touch with family back home. Cell phones work but there are hefty roaming charges while on the ship and on the island (for example, with ATT it’s $2.50/min depending on the plan you have). The ship has Internet access. You pay by the minute to use the ship’s computers or to access their wifi with your own device. The web is very slow (it’s almost like the old dial-up days, lol) because it’s using a satellite connection. If you’re going to be using it frequently, you might want to buy one of the packages they sell on board. Be careful if you have a smartphone because they are always fetching data from apps even when no messages are coming through. I keep my phone in flight-mode which means the radio signal is off so that calls, emails, and messages from Facebook, Google+ and Twitter don’t make their way through, but I can still access my music, ebooks, and camera. While on the island, if you plan to make local calls, it’s cheapest to use a pay phone (bring some quarters), and if you plan to call home frequently check with your cell phone provider about an international roaming package. Bermuda installed island-wide wifi hotspots in 2013. You can get more info on their packages on the TBI website. You can buy the internet cards once you get off the ship at Island Outfitters which is next to The Bone Fish Bar and Grill. It’s hard to miss.
  • Breakfast – We start the day off by ordering a carafe of coffee for room service (use order form and leave it on your doorknob before you go to bed the night before) and then leisurely get ready to go to The Venetian main dining room for breakfast. There can be some ridiculously long lines at the buffet for breakfast – especially later in the morning.
  • Lunch – My favorite place is to go to the Bimini Bar above the pool for a quick burger and a ‘drink of the day’ then lounge around and listen to the band play.
  • Dinner – If you want a reservation at Teppanyaki or Churrascaria Brazilian Steakhouse, make a reservation as soon as you embark in Boston – these restaurants fill up quickly. We usually stick to the main dining rooms and go around 5:45 so we can beat the crowd and get a table by the window. We’ll skip dessert and get something up at buffet later in the night.
  • On Board Activities – I love to go to the wine tastings and the martini tastings. They’re well worth the $15 charge. They give you decent sized samples and they are very informative. While I’m off doing that, my husband likes to go to the casino. There’s also bingo, scrapbooking workshops, quiet time in the library, Broadway-quality shows, night clubs, gem stone seminars, live music playing at various places around the ship, and many other activities to keep you busy. The ship has a decent gym. It’s got ellipticals, treadmills, one rowing machine, free weights (up to at least 60lbs if I remember correctly), benches include – incline, decline, and flat,  machines include – lat pulldown, leg curl, leg press, chest press, abs, triceps, biceps, shoulder press. There is a room for TRX, mats, and a few bands and balls. There are no barbells so forget about squats, bench press, and deadlifts for the week. I also did not see any kettlebells.
  • Portraits – Some say the portraits taken on the ship are expensive, but I think they’re worth it. Usually there is a sale where you buy x-amount of prints and get one free. For us it’s the only time we get to have our photo taken together. Keep your eye on the daily newsletter for photo sessions offered throughout the ship.
  • First Day in Bermuda (Sunday) – The ship arrives on Sunday and many things in Bermuda are closed, but the beaches are open. We usually hop on the bus to Horseshoe Bay and spend the day there then catch the bus back in the late afternoon. The buses have a different schedule on Sundays so be sure you know when the last bus leaves so you’re not suck with a $40 cab ride back to the boat. In the evening we like to go to The Bone Fish Bar and Grill to listen to Randy Lambert play Spanish guitar. He’s known as the Bermudian Jimi Hendrix and he’s an amazing musician. Our friend Livio owns The Bone Fish – so be sure to tell him Lorinda and Carlos sent you. Also say hi to our friends behind the bar – Phillip, Matteo, and Gary, and the wonderful staff including Luca and Bernard.
  • Buses and Ferries – We’ve always taken public transportation while in Bermuda. It’s safe, reliable, and inexpensive. You can buy a 1, 2, 0r 3-day pass that includes the bus and ferry. Note: There is often a long line for the bus/ferry at the Dockyard on Sunday when passengers first disembark and on Monday when the Royal Caribbean ship arrives in the morning. So plan accordingly – either be one of the first off the ship or wait until the lines thin out. The ferry schedules (including info on 1, 2, and 3-day passes) can be found on the Bermuda Department of Marine and Port Services website.
  • Taxis – They are expensive, but a good driver will also serve as a tour guide and give you information about the island that you will not hear anywhere else. My good friend, Donovan, is a taxi driver. I can give you his number if you’re interested in a private tour.
  • Scooters – I would not recommend renting one unless you’re a seasoned rider. It looks easy in the Dockyard area because the roads are wide and straight, but it is misleading. Not only do they drive on the left in Bermuda, but the roads get very narrow and windy. Buses and cars will pass dangerously close the scooters forcing nervous riders suddenly off the road. There are also rotaries and they go clockwise rather than counterclockwise in the USA.
  • Second Day in Bermuda (Monday) – We like to hop on the Ferry to St. Georges first thing in the  morning. It’s the farthest away so we head there first. In St. Georges there are cute little shops, Fort St. Catherine to explore, and Tobacco Bay to relax at. On the way back, take the bus and stop at The Swizzle Inn or Crystal Caves. You may also want to take the Ferry to Hamilton instead to shop some more (be aware that the stores close early around 5pm). Be sure to get back to the Dockyard in the evening to enjoy Salsa Night at the The Bone Fish Bar and Grill.
  • Third Day in Bermuda (Tuesday) – We like to stick close to the ship because it leaves in the afternoon. So we explore the Dockyard. Top picks are the Clocktower Mall (we love the Lisa Rego Art Gallery – we have 5 of her paintings and look forward to collecting more), The Bermuda Rum Cake Company to sample their delicious cakes (they make great souvenirs), Dockyard Glassworks to watch them make beautiful pieces of art, and the Bermuda Craft Market for some unique handmade items, cases of Barritt’s Ginger Beer (our favorite), and jars of Gombey Pepper Jam by the Bermuda Jam Factory. Some people venture off to Hamilton, but be careful to leave plenty of time to return to the ship. The ferries fill up fast soon after noontime. Worse case scenario you’ll need to take a taxi back and it could cost you $50 or more. People always gather out on their balconies to cheer ‘Go! Go! Go!’ to people that come running down the pier just in the nick of time to board the ship so don’t let yourself be one of them.
  • Back On Board – It’s time to enjoy the ship again. Take advantage of the events they have to offer – wine tastings, poolside activities, bingo, casino, workshops, duty free shopping (but don’t forget about those U.S. Customs regulations).
  • Duty-Free Limits – U.S. Customs has very strict regulations for what you are and aren’t allowed to bring back. If you’ve bought expensive art or jewelery be sure you’re aware of the limits imposed (for example $800 worth of items per person). If you’re planning on buying alcohol or cigarettes on board, be aware to the current U.S. Customs regulations regarding the maximum amount allowed. At the time I’m writing this the max is 200 cigarettes per person and one liter of alcohol per person. Check here for updates:
  • White Hot Party – It’s usually one of the last nights on the ship. Everyone dresses up in white and heads down to the Spinnaker Lounge for music and drinks.
  • Disembarkation – Be sure to review the information and plan accordingly – especially if you have an early flight to catch. The lines can be really long – for both the elevators and to be scanned out. This past year it took us an hour to get off the ship.

For more tips check out:


One Response to “Cruising to Bermuda on the NCL Dawn from Boston”

  1. Phil Rice July 15, 2011 at 7:15 pm #

    Very informative review. Thanks.

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