Cruising last January meant missing all of the NFL playoffs and the BCS Championship Game....tough times for a football fan. What a treat to have NCL stream all the playoff games as well as the BCS big game! These were available both in the sports bar on big screen and in our cabins. When others say they can't, NCL delivered!
We booked this cruise for two reasons: Mayan ruins and an offer we couldn't refuse from one of the online agencies we use. It was our first inside cabin after having others from porthole to penthouse. We thought a Caribbean cruise in January for seven days was a good trial as we'd taken a similar itinerary five years ago and knew we wouldn't be missing much in the way of scenery and would be out in the ports for four of the days. We had no problem being inside and actually slept better than ever before. Our cabin was tinier than we'd anticipated, having seen insides on other ships. Storage was very limited (one closet instead of the two we're used to) and no couch. Part of the storage that was there was taken up with the extra bedding and supplies for the bunk bed we weren't using. After the first night, we had the steward separate the beds. This created walking space in the middle of the room and made the cabin much more comfortable to use.
Our ship's excursions to the ruins did not disappoint. In Belize, we chose to go to Lamarai. This was an excellent choice. Our Mayan guide, Gilbert, was extremely knowledgeable. It's somewhat of a trek to get there, including a beautiful boat ride of over an hour. On the way, the boat stopped for us to get crocodiles, iguanas, and bats. We saw many birds as well.
My husband loved climbing the tallest of the ruins but it was too high for me to attempt. We both loved this tour.
In Costa Maya, we chose the Kuhunlich ruins, a two hour bus ride from port. This one features the best preserved masks. I was able to climb two of these as they were not as steep as Lamarai. Our Mayan guide, Luis, was also quite knowledgeable. Another well-spent day!
From Cozumel, we visited Tulum. This is a beautiful seafront ruin. Some chose to spend their free time on the great beach there, but we spent ours looking at all the ruins in the area. We enjoyed this one as well.
In Roatan we chose the ship's snorkeling excursion. Unfortunately rough seas kept us from going out as far as they usually do. We did get to snorkel and see some interesting things. All of our tours were ship sponsored and well run by the local agencies. I cannot always say this about ship's excursions but I recommend these from the Dawn.
Food was very good in my opinion. Service was quite good in both dining rooms and the Blue Lagoon. We enjoyed two of the specialty restaurants, Le Bistro and Moderno which were excellent. Those going on their first NCL cruise should remember to check the menus for the first night onboard. This has been lobster night on our last several cruises. The lobster on the Dawn was the best we'd had in several cruises.
The lounge entertainment was great on the Dawn. Our favorite from 2011 on the Jade, Nathaniel Reed, was featured in Gatsby's and we enjoyed several of his performances. We also liked the band Impac and Duo Luna and wish we'd had more time to hear them. Some performances of those two were in the atrium where there is very limited seating. The first night Stardust show was different from what we expected. Normally it is a sampler of the acts you will see. This time it was the cruise director, Candi, talking and a performance by Greg London, a Vegas entertainer who also performed another night. Candi spent her time asking who had birthdays, etc., and engaging in conversation with a few individuals in the audience while everyone else just sat there waiting for the show to actually begin. Greg London was well-received by the audience.
The other night we attended the Stardust show was for Second City which put on a great show. We attempted to attend their next show. Unfortunately it was located in the Spinnaker Lounge and it was standing room only long before start time. It should have been in Stardust so all could attend. Other nights we chose to hear the great lounge acts or watch the football games in our cabin.
The ship seemed to be at full capacity. There were a number of groups, both clubs and family groups. Unlike many of our cruises, there were a lot of young couples and families. The passengers were a polite group and we were able to rest undisturbed in our cabin. Our steward was not up to the standard of every other NCL steward we've had. That might have been due to a full ship and heavier workload. I did wonder if insides get the same service as other categories. The cabin was clean, however, which is the main consideration.
Both embarkation and disembarkation went well. We drove to Tampa from Virginia and parked at the port. This allowed us to simply roll our luggage to the car and get on the road home promptly. Not having to worry about weight limits was great for shopping on this cruise.
The Dawn is a beautiful ship, especially the atrium area which spans at least up to deck nine where we were located. The space for entertainment was too small there for the great acts that were featured. We missed having the Great Outdoors and only went to the buffet for breakfast where we could be among the early risers and miss the crowd. We also missed the Spinnaker being on the top where everyone could enjoy the view.
All in all, we received exceptional value for our money and had a great time. I would recommend this itinerary and ship for the Western Caribbean.