Family of four (2 grown boys) traveled on the Dawn for a holiday family get together. We have cruised previously with RCL, Princess, Carnival, Celebrity, and Windstar.
Embarkation: drove to pier at 12:20 PM. Dropped bags with porter and attempted to use a discount parking lot 4 blocks away. Drove in and drove out. One guy trying to direct vehicles and collect money. Also, lot was small gravel area with not enough room for maneuvering SUV's or pickups and not covered.(It would have been $66). Drove back 4 blocks to ship and parked in covered 4 story garage with ample space between vehicles for $105. Walk to ship was 5 minutes. Lines were long and slow but we were onboard at 1:30 PM. We went straight to lunch in the Venetian. It was empty and service and food was good.
Cabin: mini suite for us was huge. No balcony so there was way more space than necessary and more storage than necessary. Floor to ceiling windows the width of cabin. Bathroom was very large.
Our sons however had an inside cabin on deck 10. Ridiculously small with inadequate everything (storage, seating, desk space, open area). Good thing they spent little time there. One mattress in their room had springs coming through! Complained to guest services and the next day a different mattress with egg crate foam was delivered.
Dining: the Garden buffet on deck 12 was always very good. Most times it is crowded but they constantly replenish the choices and there is something there for everyone. We ate a couple of breakfasts, a few lunches and even one dinner up there. Food was always plentiful and very good to excellent. Make sure to try the made to order crepes at dinner time.
We ate in the Ventian for dinner 2 nights. Service was mediocre at best (waiter served me cold coffee and when I asked for it to be changed he forgot and never returned with fresh coffee. Waited 20 minutes for dessert while the cup with the cold coffee sat on table as a reminder to the waiter.).Food choices are boring and it is noisy. There is always Salmon (very good), chicken breast (very good) and steak (fair to good).
Last 2 nights we ate in the Aqua restaurant. Service was good to very good with unexciting choices. Even the desserts are unimpressive.
Specialty dining: La Cucina first night was just OK. Food was not as good as my local everyday Italian restaurants and the service despite the place being mostly empty was very slow. Waiter took dessert orders and never asked us if we wanted coffee or tea. He brought desserts and we never saw him again.
Le Bistro was a very nice dining experience. Service was very good and we all ordered different main courses and we all thought the food was very good.
In summation, there are many choices for all meals but most will be mediocre. Quality, selection and service were less than what I expected and experienced on other ships.
Lunch by the pool had really good charcoal grilled items every day.
Entertainment: typical Broadway type shows catering to older folks. Some specialty shows that were very good (Second City Comedy Improv and Gregg London). Several duo's and music groups that were good but could have been great if they weren't required to cater to older folks.
All in all the cruise met our expections considering I was not expecting to be wowed.