Please excuse the lengthy review, but it is informative and has everything you need to know about the Dawn.
Background: This was my eighth cruise, first on Norwegian. We have the Norwegian Gem booked for next February (we booked that before this.) We have been on 3 Royal Caribbean cruises, 2 Holland America cruises, one Carnival, and one MSC.
Embarkation / First Day
If you read my first review on the Explorer of the Seas from February, I mentioned how embarkation was a breeze at Cape Liberty. Embarkation in Boston happened to be even easier, minus the luggage drop-off. There were a limited amount of porters at the pier, and everyone had to wait in a 10-15 line to drop off their luggage. Once we dropped off our luggage, we went up an escalator to Check-in. There was no line for that and we were able to Check-in within 5 minutes. Next we took our embarkation photo and we were off.
Getting off of the gangway led us onto the ship's exterior promenade, which was decorated with an arch of balloons and a party-esque feeling. There was music and crew members dancing. Yes, they made too big of a deal for it. The ship left the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal at around 4:50, later than the scheduled 4 p.m. There was an overwhelming amount of luggage that needed to get on to the ship, which delayed our departure. (we still managed to get to Heritage Wharf, Bermuda and hour and a half earlier than the scheduled 11 a.m. on Sunday.)
Service on the Norwegian Dawn was impeccable. Each crew member that you would see would acknowledge you, saying 'hello' and 'how are you?' The wait staff in all restaurants was great, though slow in the Main Dining Rooms.
The cruise director, Johnny Cash-Sanchez (yes, that is his real name) was not a very good one. He was hardly ever seen and he was hardly involved. The assistant cruise director, whose name was also Johnny, was a bit better.
For this cruise, we had Cabin 11016, Mini Suite Category MX (Guarantee.) The cabin looked brand new. We loved the balcony and even the bathroom was bigger than normal. At the beginning of the cruise, a piece from our shower was missing and needed to be replaced. This took quite a bit of time to replace, and we couldn't shower at that time. Our lock also wouldn't unlock at the end of the cruise, that required help too.
Entertainment was very good on the ship. The best show came up on night 2, where the production crew performed its first of three shows during the cruise. It was called "Band on the Run," named after the Paul McCartney song. It was about the opening of a night club named 'Club BOTR' (Band On The Run.) It featured Classic 70's songs by artists such as Styx, Queen, and Donna Summer. The finale on night seven was a show by the production cast called "Bollywood," which was very odd and creepy.
The Norwegian Dawn did not have as many amenities as we had on other cruise ships. For example, there was no rock climbing wall (the ship was advertised to have one) or mini golf course. The shops were also poor. There was also no real 'observation decks,' like the helipads on most of Royal Caribbean's ships.
Splash Academy Kid's Club / Entourage Teen Club
The Kid's and Teen Centers were inconveniently located on deck 13, aft. They were only accessible from the aft elevators or going through a secret little entrance to the arcade and going in the arcade. My 7-year old daughter liked the Kid's club. She enjoyed it a lot, but my thirteen year old son didn't love it. It was hardly ever open and there were rarely any activities to do.
The dining could have also been better on the ship. La Cucina, the Italian restaurant had an Olive Garden-esque feel to it. The food tasted no better.
Bamboo, the Asian fusion restaurant was terrible, with a limited food selection, poor food quality, and pretty lame service.
Cagney's, the American-style steakhouse was excellent and was one of our favorite meals.
Moderno Churasscaria, the Brazilian-style Steakhouse, was our favorite meal this cruise. The service was excellent, and the food was divine.
teppanyaki, the Hibachi table set up in a room attached to Bamboo, happened to be a lot better than Bamboo. We love Hibachi, and doing it at sea is no different than going to a Benihana.
The Venetian Restaurant is the more elegant of the two Main Dining Rooms on the ship (the other is called Aqua.) Food was adequate and it took over a half-hour for the APPETIZERS to arrive.
The Garden Cafe was the ship's lido deck buffet. It was comparable to any other ship buffet, nothing special.
The Blue Lagoon "restaurant" is a fast food restaurant, perfect for a quick bite or a midnight snack. It has light breakfast in the morning hours, and serves hamburgers, hot dogs, wings, etc. during the afternoon and night. It is open 24/7.
We docked at Heritage Wharf (adjacent to King's Wharf) at around 9:45 Monday morning, over an hour ahead of schedule. We actually departed Boston 50 minutes late Friday afternoon also. The island is very nice, and small. There is no poverty, either. Read my Bermuda ports review for more.
Disembarkation was easier than normal in Boston. At the end of the gangway, there was a customs officer standing. He took your declarations form, no questioning, searching, or waiting in line needed. Normally, you have to get your luggage first and walk over to a separate section of the terminal to wait in long lines to go to an officer and go through that annoying process. We found our luggage right away, and had to haul it ourselves to the garage, a block and a half away from the terminal. Cruise ship parking was predominantly on the fourth floor, which was annoying.
The M/S Norwegian Dawn still looked brand new, after its month-long refurbishment in May 2011. Another down-side was the television. It had less than say, Royal Caribbean's channel listings. The cruise director could have been better. Kudos to Captain Paul Von Knorring for a job well done. Would I recommend it to a friend, maybe or maybe not. It was not our favorite, nor least favorite. Overall, we still had a great week on the M/S Norwegian Dawn.