My wife and I went on the Norwegian Dawn in mid-December for a Caribbean Cruise. This was our 13th cruise overall and 2nd on NCL. We really enjoyed the cruise -- we find the "anytime cruising" to be relaxing and informal. We still prefer Royal Caribbean and their large fun ships but NCL is the best value of any cruise we've taken.
Embark/Disembark: We arrived at Tampa cruise terminal #3 at 11 AM. We dropped off our bags at the pier and drove across the street to the parking garage - $15 per day but worth it for convenience. There were longer lines to embark than I expected but we were on the ship in 20 minutes. Seemed to go quicker after 1 PM. At the end of the cruise, departing the ship was easy -- we rolled our luggage off the ship and walked to our car, no lines and no waiting.
Ship: The Dawn was recently remodeled and it showed for the ship was extremely clean and overall in beautiful condition. I did not see any rust or dirt anywhere. The atrium was gorgeous, also we liked the Christmas decorations throughout the ship.
Room: We had a standard balcony on the 9th floor. The room was smaller than our prior NCL ship, the Sun, but OK. Tight fit to go around the bed and most of the shelving was in the closet so difficult to use. However, luggage fit easily under the bed. If you prefer more room, I suggest a mini-suite. We did like the bathroom -- largest shower we've had in a balcony, also good layout. Our room steward was very pleasant and efficient, she made some great towel animals. One rec -- bring bars of soap as they only have liquid soap dispensers.
Food: We ate in the more formal dining room, the Venetian, several times. Service was great, waiters were friendly and efficient. Food was good -- lobster on first night was the best, rest of the time it was good to OK. Steaks and beef in general were not good there as they want you to use the pay-for dining options. We did eat at one pay place, Le Bistro for French food, and it was very good and worth the $20 charge. Other dinners we used Garden Cafe buffet which had good choices. The buffet was great for breakfast and lunch, plenty of tables -- we only had a crowd in the mornings just before we were cleared to depart ship on excursions. We also used their free 24 hr restaurant, Blue Lagoon, which had burgers & sandwiches -- it was OK, also a great location to look at atrium. Room service menu was minimal so we never used it.
Fitness/Spa: My wife and I spent a lot of time in the gym and spa. First thing we did, based on other reviews, was purchase the spa pass for $119 per person -- definitely worth it! It gave us access to spa including lap pool, hot tub, and thermal tub, plus a very quiet area with recliners. They limit it to 100 max so it was very peaceful. We liked the gym as it was roomy and never crowded, also all the machines worked and had TV's to watch -- bring a headset.
Entertainment: Had good shows, basic cruise stuff. What we really liked was entertainment in lounges, especially the singing duo in the atrium area - Duo Luna was outstanding and had a large following each night!
Roatan: Fortunately we had good weather most of the stops in spite of it being rainy season. Roatan was low 80's, water temp was 82 deg which was important since we scuba dived. Diving was very good, great reef -- we did the ship excursion which used Anthony's Key Resort. Took a 15 min van ride to get there but worth it, we had 2 great dives. There was some shopping at the pier but shopping got better at each stop with Cozumel having most variety.
Belize: Some rain in Belize, we also had to tender. The tender process was slow unless you had a ship excursion. We took a late tender to shop and found some good places near the dock. Tried the local beer, Belikin, which was very good. We went back to ship early to avoid long tender lines later in the day.
Costa Maya: Sunny weather but windy. Seas were rough which made it hard on water excursions. We took a ship excursion to drive small boats and go snorkeling. Had a 30 min bus ride to beach. Boats were fun but bumpy, snorkeling took some work due to current. Costa Maya would have been more fun on a calmer day. The excursion included a beach break with free drinks so that helped.
Cozumel: We like Cozumel, it was our 4th time there. Unfortunately it was rainy and got real windy later in the day, but still fun. Also there were 3 NCL ships in port that day and so one had to tender -- us. Fortunately the tender ride was only 5 mins and dropped us right downtown. We did a ship excursion to drive the scoot coupes -- side-by-side 3 wheel scooter -- which was fun and we saw north end of Cozumel. Also took us to a beach and shopping areas, especially a great tequila factory/museum. As I said before, Cozumel had best shopping and plenty of choices.