Embarkation -- absolutely loved taking a cruise without having to get on a plane!!! Arrived at port about 11:30, flagged down a porter to take one oversized bag - $5 tip let us avoid standing in line to check luggage. Parked car and carried rest of luggage on -- were onboard by about 12:15. Venetian dining room for lunch -- announcement that cabins were ready came about 1:00 just as we finished eating. Checked bag showed up about 3:30.
Cabin -- BA balcony, cabin 10588, port side, advertised at 203 sq ft, but I do not believe it came close to that. One professional review I saw said it measured slightly over 160 sq ft. I suspect it is closer to that figure. A plus is sliding shower door versus curtains on other ships. Bed was very hard -- had room steward add foam pad under sheet -- this did help. Very tight quarters, but good hanging space and lots of hangers. AC worked well. NO comfortable place to sit in cabin -- best was balcony. We had a terrific room steward -- Frank from Costa Rica.
Ship -- nothing really different or good or bad relative to other ships, with one exception. The pool (only one -- regardless of what they call the oversized bath tub next to the main pool...) and it is very very small -- really doesn't work for 2,000 + passengers. If swimming and pool activities are important to you, I suggest you find a different ride....
Universally I felt the staff was probably the friendliest and most competent (always one or two exceptions...) of any of the ships I have been on.
Dining -- I have always noted that if you are looking for gourmet dining, you do not belong on a mass market cruise ship. My favorite analogy is that if the main dining room were a restaurant down the street from your home, you would occasionally go there because it is convenient and you know what to expect for food and service. However, if it were a few miles away, it probably is not worth the drive.... This holds true on the Dawn. We ate 4 dinners in Venetian, 1 in Aqua (stick to Venetian -- same menu and far more pleasant atmosphere). Wife had a couple of good daily specials (pork, salmon), the prime rib was good as was the grilled chicken breast (very small portion -- order a double). My worst meal was the steak from the "always available" side of the menu -- one small step up from a minute steak -- avoid this.
We ate once at the Bistro -- we both had a good coq au vin dish, but I'm not sure the overall experience was worth the $20 pp extra. We also ate at Cagneys, where the $25 pp fee was clearly justified. Very good dining experience. If you are celebrating a birthday or anniversary, this is the place to go. One observation -- Teppanyaki was sold out every night, so if you want that experience book ahead or as soon as possible after boarding.
We ate at the buffet only when forced to (about 4 times, mostly lunch) but I did peruse it multiple other times. Maybe my sample was too small to accurately judge, but I felt this was the worst buffet I had encountered from both a variety and quality of food perspective. Princess wins this battle.
Bermuda -- tough week for the old folks from a weather perspective. Mostly sunny with temps 83-88, but abnormally high humidity -- ranging from 84% to 96%. If you have a problem with humidity at this level, better do Bermuda in April or May. It did curtail some of our onshore activities.
Dockyard -- here's something that could impact you which you have basically no control over (unless you book an aft facing cabin...). When docking, some weeks the port side is against the dock and some weeks it's starboard. It depends upon what maintenance is required in port and which lifeboats need to be run. I am told there is not a set pattern and no way to find out in advance which side will be dockside. The luck of the draw was not good to us -- we were port side to dock. The impact of this is that the balconies on dockside get the afternoon sun, which in our case rendered the balcony uninhabitable from about 2 pm to 8 pm for the 3 days in port. So much for my daily happy hour on the balcony.... I was forced to do my G&Ts in the air conditioned cabin... sigh....
Disembarkation -- this was also first rate. They let you walk off first if you can carry/wheel all your luggage yourself. It started at about 8 AM with usual battle for elevators and then a long line winding around promenade on deck 7 before reaching gangway. I found this superior to trying to find a place to wait after you vacate cabin at 9 AM. We were off ship before 9:00 and home 50 miles from port by 10:30. Loved thumbing my nose at the plane traffic to/from Logan....
- It takes Room Service about an hour to deliver Ice (room steward fills bucket in AM, but mostly melted by 4:30 PM). Speedy alternative is up 2 floors to visit buffet and fill 2 or 3 glasses with ice.
- Best places for burger -- Blue Lagoon (when they're busy so you don't get one that has been kept warm) or Bimini Bar overlooking pool from deck 14.
- Best dessert easily is the cheesecake.
- Was only in casino once to walk through. While I am a gambler, I couldn't deal with the cigarette smoke,
- Entertainment -- liked the 2nd city comedy show, but wife (who does not have my warped sense of humor) didn't think it was funny. Almost Newlywed Game in Spinnaker Lounge was entertaining. Didn't see much else.
- Go to lunch in Venetian after embarkation -- so much more civilized and relaxing than the buffet chaos.
- And finally a comment to those men who take advantage of being able to wear "shorts and a nice jersey" in the dining rooms at dinner -- this does NOT mean the crappy shorts and logo t-shirt you wear to mow the lawn on Saturday morning...!
Don't sweat the small stuff and enjoy your cruise!