Arrived at the Port Terminal at 10:30 am on Sun Jan 20, took taxi from TPA. No problems with luggage pickup by porter, and fairly quick check-in. We were given boarding group #8 and plenty of seats to wait till boarding. Nice feature was having available the first day cruise planner to check out the upcoming events once we boarded. On board at 11:45, and introduced to the Happy Happy Washy Washy girl on the promenade deck. They were the best in greeting you at the buffet everyday! Went to the Lido (Garden Cafe) for lunch, and had a nice first lunch before became much more crowded. Contrary to other reviews, we felt that the food overall was good to very good, with lots of different choices to satisfy at the buffet. The breakfasts were excellent with fruit and all the expected food items, including omelet and waffle stations. Great Pastries! People who complain about the food (in other reviews) are simply exaggerating their "bad" dislikes. No cruise line food is perfect, and the Dawn's compared equally to other cruise lines that we have been on. Temperature of the food was fine. Nice features include a poolside BBQ on sea days, which could be supplemented with a visit to the buffet.
Stayed in an OA window category room. Bathroom was very nice and plenty of storage space. Negative is the very firm (hard) bed, compared to other cruise lines. Venetian and Aqua dining rooms served good food, and service was fairly efficient (about 1 hour) to complete a meal. Anytime dining is not our favorite, as waits are to be expected (30-45min) if try to eat between 5:30-7pm. Less hectic if go when dining room opens (5 or 5:30) or go later around 8pm. We did both, as we also had a pre-dinner or post-dinner snack at the buffet, to sample more choices of food and desserts. Ate at Moderno and LeBistro, which were both good and different experiences. Many of the specialty restaurants are under used, which causes more patrons to overcrowd the no cost dining rooms. I think NCL should lower the cost of the specialty restaurants to allow more usage.
Western Caribbean port visits were good, and the excursion process was efficiently handled by the staff. I had pre-ordered my excursions, and all the tickets were in the stateroom when arriving to the room. One excursion was cancelled due to rain, and the money was quickly refunded on our onboard account. We did the snorkel/beach excursions and enjoyed them all. Entertainment was very good, especially compared to Carnival, each night was a different show; both the shipboard singers/dancers and the visiting entertainers were enjoyable. Bars and lounges had mixed variety of music, but spaces limited due to the smaller size of the lounges. Public bathrooms were clean and no bad odors. Staff were friendly, and had no bad issues, but saw one couple complaining to customer service that a problem was not being solved.
Dawn was our first Norwegian cruise, and was better than expected. The ship is older and smaller and does not have all the bells and whistles, but overall we really enjoyed the cruise and ship. We bought the spa package, which was really nice, allowing us use of a great indoor pool, hot tubs, and relaxing sitting area. This was a very nice facility and worth the price, if one likes more privacy and pool availability. The outside pool on the Dawn is a bit limiting for use and seating, but we always found chairs to sit, especially toward the front away from the pool.
In summary, unless a really bad experience/accident happens, one should enjoy the good things and not harp incessantly about the negatives. So I wrote this review to counter some of the those negative comments.