By David G. Molyneaux, editor, TheTravelMavens.com
The weekly cruise from Boston to Bermuda and back on Norwegian Dawn, May through October starting on Friday afternoons, is a unique vacation.
While some other ships sail to Bermuda in summer on cruises of various timing from New York and Baltimore, the seven-night Boston voyage seems to offer the best yin and yang of surf and turf.
Not only do you get three lazy days at sea, but also three days to explore Bermuda from the dock outside your cruise ship cabin.
Then, there’s Boston, and the opportunity to book a hotel and hang around one of the country’s most delightful cities on either end of the cruise. Downtown Boston is modern and easily walkable, with self-guided treks that will take you along the waterfront and to such historic sites as the Freedom Trail. Boston features top shopping, seafood restaurants, and an efficient subway system with stops at local icons such as Harvard Square and baseball’s Fenway Park.
Aboard the dawn:
Spray me with a little cruise ship sunscreen, and hurry
If you cruised in fall 2011, you were among the first passengers to see the newly renovated Norwegian Dawn, which is the only cruise ship to make the seasonal Boston-Bermuda run, floating out to sea past Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. (When fall’s chill arrives, the vessel heads south to Miami for its winter season in the Caribbean.)
Last-minute purchases of fall cruises, after children are back in school, often are a bargain. In early September 2011, Norwegian was advertising the seven-night Boston-Bermuda trips as low as $449 per person for two in an outside cabin and $399 in an inside cabin.
Sprucing up, enlarging Norwegian Dawn
The 2,244-passenger Dawn debuted in 2002 at the early stages of NCL’s Freestyle Cruising approach to dinner – eating whenever you wanted in any of at least half a dozen different restaurants. During the past nine years, while the rest of the cruising world copied many of Norwegian’s dining innovations, the Dawn faded a bit and was in need of renovation.
During drydock in the spring 2011, NCL spruced up Dawn’s cabins with new carpets and furnishings, including flat-screen televisions, and added the Moderno Churrascaria restaurant (in the space previously occupied by Tex Mex). The new restaurant, like the popular Brazilian steakhouse on the much newer Norwegian Epic, features a large salad bar and roaming passadors, the servers. Meats – including steak, sausages, lamb, and chicken – arrive every few minutes on skewers until you say uncle, turning over a table pad from green to red. Lamb chops, sirloin steak, and marinated chicken were particularly good, worth paying the restaurant’s added fee of $20 per person.
The biggest change on Dawn is forward on Deck 12, where Norwegian has moved out the popular Spinnaker Lounge (now on Deck 8) and some other public rooms to install new cabins and suites.
Views from the old Spinnaker Lounge’s floor-to-ceiling windows, high above the bow, are now dedicated to the passengers booked in four Owner’s Suites, two on the corners and two in the middle, sleeping four-six people. Each of the Owners Suites has a separate bedroom, with additional sleeping capability in the living room. The two middle suites, which have a second interior bedroom, can be connected with a corner suite for a large family.
Ten of the suites have balconies; all are at least 400 square feet, spacious but not offering a lot of personal privacy, even with the room screens that pull out around the queen-sized bed. The rest of the new cabins on Deck 12 are interior rooms.
In May 2012, the Norwegian Dawn is back in Beantown for the summer, cruising to Bermuda out of a renovated port that has been spruced up, repainted and modernized. Boston’s port is convenient, only a few minutes from the local airport, train station, or the eastern end of Interstate 90.
Cruise ships on the East Coast
In June 2012, the 2,974-passenger Carnival Glory inaugurates cruises north from Boston, on four-night and five-night trips to Saint John, New Brunswick, and Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Other regularly scheduled Bermuda cruises from the East Coast in 2012 include: Norwegian Star out of New York (7 nights); Holland America’s Veendam out of New York (7 nights); Celebrity Summit out of Bayonne, N.J. (7 nights from New York Harbor’s Cape Liberty); Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas out of Bayonne (5 and 7 nights) and Enchantment of the Seas out of Baltimore (6 nights Bermuda only, and 8 nights that include stops in Boston and Newport, R.I.).
Bermuda, which is 640 miles east-southeast from Cape Hatteras, NC, and about 1,100 miles northeast of Miami, is a British overseas territory that is easy to explore for shopping, beaches, and golf. If you want to look local, bring knee socks to wear with your Bermuda shorts, and it wouldn’t hurt to put on a button-down shirt with necktie.
As long as the local bus drivers don’t pull one of their strikes (as they did in August 2011), public transportation will take you anywhere you want to go, such as visiting the towns of Hamilton and St. George’s – oldest of the British colony towns – or grabbing a towel from the ship and heading to one of the islands’ many beaches. I bought a three-day pass for $28 that included rides on ferries and buses all over Bermuda.
In late summer, be aware that tropical storms may alter your itinerary. In August, the Boston cruise a week ahead of mine caught some rain, and the cruise a week behind me spent some extra time at sea dodging the effects of Hurricane Irene. My cruise was all sunshine and lazy days.
David Molyneaux writes a monthly column about cruising for newspapers around the United States. This column appeared in summer, 2011. Molyneaux is editor of TheTravelMavens.com