This was a cruise for a family member's wedding. We had about 30+ extended family members of all ages on the cruise. We are all from the Boston area, which made this cruise very convenient. Overall I found the cruise to be just average and am not jumping to return any time soon. It wasn't horrible, but there are things that need to be improved before I would consider another NCL cruise.
The bell hop that took our luggage must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed. He was yelling and screaming at the cabbies, scolding them. He was so rude and inconsiderate. I know that he doesn't work for the cruise line, but he seriously needed some training on customer service. Everything after that was smooth. People that we spoke to as we got set up and ready to go on the ship were very nice. We got to the pier at around 11 and weren't able to board the ship until around noon. Once on board, they said they would make an announcement when our rooms were ready, but by 2:30, we hadn't heard an announcement, so either the speakers weren't working where we were or they never made one. We went to our room and got unpacked.
The staterooms on the Dawn are looking a bit dated. We had a mini suite and enjoyed having a little extra room compared to the balcony. My cousin had a balcony and he wished he paid a bit more for the mini suite for a little more room. The stewards need to pay a bit more attention to detail. There were several things that were very dusty and clearly hadn't been cleaned in a while like the soap dispenser or shelves in the closet. One of the drawers got stuck multiple times and needed to be forced open and closed. A light went out in the bathroom and was never fixed. In addition, one day I was out on my balcony when they were cleaning the glass on the outside and I got sprayed pretty good by the man washing the side of the boat because he wasn't paying attention. No apology, he just kept on washing. The bed was also VERY firm and not very comfortable. You can ask for a pad to be put on the bed. It helps a little, but not enough to make the bed comfortable enough.
Om addition, being on deck 11, we were right under the pool area. The scraping the the pool chairs as mentioned by others wasn't really noticeable, but the biggest issue was the blaring music that went until 1:30am up at the pool for several nights. When I knew exactly what song was being played at any given time, where they were in the song, and what the DJ was saying, I mean the music was incredibly loud. The music was completely over the top.
The ship itself is in decent condition. I thought the public areas were in good shape and were well maintained. The pool and upper deck need quite a bit of improvement. The pool was the smallest pool on a cruise ship I have ever seen, especially for there only being one outdoor pool (besides the kiddy pool, which wasn't bigger than a hot tub). With three sea days on the Boston to Bermuda cruise, I found this unacceptable. It was not very pleasant to sit by the tiny pool with unbelievable loud music all day. We ended up buying a spa pass to escape the craziness of the pool.
I will admit, I went into this cruise expecting mediocre food based on other reviews and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality in the specialty restaurants. The food in the buffet was not very good. The breakfast was the only thing that was edible were the eggs that were cooked in front of you and the fruit. One day, the ham had gone bad, and a family member who owns a restaurant, made them take the ham off the buffet because it was clearly past it's useable date. A couple of people got sick after eating it too. The main dining rooms were slightly better, but by no means blew me away. The service was pretty slow in the MDRs and the food was average. The two soups I had were either very salty or bland. Lunch is the same food every day. The bolognase was better than expected, as was the Chicken Milinase. The chicken sandwich was not that great. The shrimp Caesar salad came drenched in salad dressing, so I learned to ask for dressing on the side. Some days I got two shrimp, others five. It was really inconsistent. Regardless, the desserts were terrible for lunch or dinner. Service at the MDR, for lunch or dinner was horrible. I felt like an inconvenience to the servers and they had no personality.
The specialty restaurants were slightly better. The quality of the food was better in the specialty restaurants, as it should be since you're paying extra. The service was also better and more personable. We ate at Le Bistro, Cagney's, Moderno and the Asian restaurant. Le Bistro was the best of the specialty restaurants and totally worth the money. We had an excellent meal there. The appetizers and entrees were all fantastic. Dessert was less than stellar. Cagney's was also pretty good. The lobster bisque was terrible, but our steaks were great. Moderno was just okay. It wasn't terrible, but the service was slow and the food was just okay. The Asian restaurant was with our entire group. They did a good job of handling the group. They brought out appetizer plates for the whole table. The entrees were decent. Desserts, were once again poor.
We got the spa pass for the week for $119 and felt it was expensive but worth it given how crazy the pool was. The spa pass allowed us to use the lap pool (really just a 3' deep pool that's a little long. No lines are in the pool to help people do laps and know when to turn), hot tub, thermal pool, sauna, relaxation room and locker rooms. They had ice water, tea and OJ for guests. They only sell 100 per cruise, so it was never very crowded. The relaxation area overlooked the back of the boat, so it was a nice view when cruising out into the ocean. I had a hot stone massage as well. It wasn't the best one but wasn't the worst. They just used the hot stones to massage you, they didn't place the rocks on you in strategic spots like other hot stone massages I've had do. At the end of the massage they try and sell you $18 bath soaks (for one bath!!!) and other beauty products that are very over priced. I also had my hair done in an updo for the wedding and thought the hair stylists did a good job. I would recommend the salon for an updo for special events.
We used the fitness center several times throughout the cruise. It's a decent size with pretty good equipment. They don't have a ton of free weights, but have decent cardio equipment. We took one class (free) and thought it was pretty good. The fitness center was a good perk to the cruise and underutilized in my opinion. I do with there was more of a view outside besides from just the elliptical machines. The treadmills faced a mirror and the bikes saw a little bit of the kiddy pool.
The casino was a decent size and was busy a night during our sea nights. During the day it was dead. I participated in the Blackjack tournament and made it to the finals. It cost $15 with a players card and $20 without one to enter the tournament. There were about 15 rounds in the tournament spanning 3 days. It wasn't clear that the tournament was three days when we signed up for our round. They also could have done a better job of communicating the process. All finalists won a bottle of wine (You could buy in a store for $7) and the winner walked away with $500 (varies based on how many enter). The slot tournament had fewer rounds and a slightly smaller payout (~$450 or so, plus the wine), so it really varies. Overall, I didn't think the smoke in the casino was too bad. Equal to what you would find in a typical Vegas casino. Just enough to be annoying and make you not want to spend too much time in there (just my opinion).
The disembarkation process was very chaotic and was not explained very well. We just happened to walk by the area that had the luggage tags out and saw that we could pick some. There was no explanation to us in the daily (if we actually got it - that was hit or miss) on what to do and where to go to get the tags. What did we need to do? It wasn't until the night before we were leaving that we finally were told about the process, and at that time most of the tags were gone. If you had an early flight, you were out of luck and had to walk off your luggage. Announcements on when you could and couldn't get off the ship also weren't very clear. We got off with the folks that were carrying off their luggage and all of the luggage was already spread out in color groups just waiting for us. Our tag said 9:30, but we were off the ship with luggage in hand by 9am. They need to do a better job of communicating this process. Everyone in our group of 30+ felt the same thing.