This was our third cruise on Norwegian - our previous two cruises were on the Pearl. We choose the Dawn because she left out of Tampa, a mere hour from our home. Also, we were told the spa on the Dawn was comparable to the spa on the Pearl (which we LOVED)- more on this later!
We arrived at the Port of Tampa at 10:30 a.m., valet parked our car (well worth the money) and stood in a very short, quickly-moving line. Once we were checked in, we were escorted to the VIP area where coffee, tea, juice, water and light refreshments were waiting. About 30 minutes later, our concierge (Ryan) escorted us onto the Dawn where we were greeted with the usual sail-awayyy cocktail for purchase. It was delicious! Lunch at the buffet was followed by a tour of the ship. The Dawn is noticeablyyy smaller than the Pearl. Public areas are much smaller. There is no buffet area by the pool. The Bliss lounge has been converted to the Spinnaker lounge and deck 12 (where the Spinnaker used to be) is now suites. This means there is no place to look out over the front of the ship except from the sun deck (not a great option when it is windy or the weather is not cooperating). We signed up for the unlimited spa package for the week ($119/person) and then we were summoned to the mandatory muster drill at 3:30 pm. Those in charge of our muster location (area N-1) took roll call and waited for the "no shows" for about 20 minutes. The instructions were repeated at least 3 times for those passengers who arrived very late. What part of MANDATORY do these people not get? And why did those passengers who followed the rules have to sit for more than 20 minutes longer than necessary? I have a theory on this...more to come...
After muster, our cruise critic group of about 20 congregated on the Lido deck by the pool for a sail-awayy party. CC people are the best! We had a blast!
We were in cabin #10226 Aft Balcony Suite which was nice. The balcony was in need of some maintenance (railing need refinishing badly, lounge cushions were a beginning to mold)and the room was not as clean as it could have been (TV had a layer of dust and the corners of the room were not vacuumed) but I don't want you to think I went around with a white glove...I didn't. After all, this was vacation but I did notice a difference from the level of cleanliness from the Pearl. The bed in this cabin was AMAZING!!! We must find out where to buy that mattress! NCL Bliss bed rocks!!!
We went to the Welcome Show. It was predictable and a bit boring. The only other shows we attended was Band on the Run which was good if you like 80s music and Second City which is always funny. The music on board was average, at best. A couple of the individual singers found in various locations around the ship were downright awful. IMPAC, a soul music group, was great.
The Casino is very small and not set up very well. We played the machines a couple of nights. Also, in order to get past the casino on deck 6, you had to go through the casino since no corridor existed (remember how I said the public areas were too small).
King Pearly Pub had Karaoke nightly which was fun...sometimes...depending on the host. One host (from England?) was great and one host who looked like a plastic Ken doll was awful. (Sorry I did not get their names.)
The cruise director, Gio, was brand new, coming on board with us and it showed. He seemed more interested in how he looked, how much he could drink and how well he could dance rather that being a good cruise director.
We went to the White Hot Party and the Quest, both held in the newly located Spinnaker lounge. Both events left something to be desired and I think a lot had to do with the space. The Spinnaker's dance floor is too small, the ceiling is very low and then there are the lights which lower the ceiling even further. This space does not work well to include large groups of people for activities like the WHP and the Quest. Also, the staff on the Dawn was more interested in partying at the WHP than having passenger participation. Very different than the last WHP on the Pearl when the staff would invite you to dance with them. Perhaps more very new crew members??? The Quest was poorly attended perhaps because it was scheduled for 11 pm the night before we arrived back in Tampa. Johnnie, the assistant cruise director, ran the Quest and it was fun but over in less than 30 minutes...what the heck? It was like the crew was just going through the motions, making sure the event happened, not caring about how good the event was....perhaps too many new crew members????
Specialty Dining - We ate at Moderno - very good and the restaurant space is very nice. There are tables you can look out over the water. Food was very good. We also ate at Cagney's (which was my favorite by far on the Pearl). This time we were not impressed. The waiter appeared to be just "going through the motions" and the steak was just ok. Our favorite restaurant was Le Bistro which we ate at two times. Each time we had Edgar as our waiter and he was outstanding! The food was amazing at Le Bistro. My only problem with Le Bistro is (once again) how it is laid out. Too cramped....too many tables...VERY different than the Pearl!
Main Dining - We ate at the Venetian the first night (Surf and Turf night) and lucked out with one of the best tables in the house (right under the large windows). The Surf and Turf was surprisingly good...lobster had good flavor although just a bit overdone and the steak couldn't have been any better! Service was good. We had one dinner at the Aqua which did not go well. The service was poor and the waiter brought my DH's Caesar Salad without dressing and without noticing! (new crew perhaps?)
Spa - This was a MAJOR disappointment. The spa on the Dawn does not compare with the spa on the Pearl but we decided to buy the unlimited use package anyway. The first day at sea at 8 am we were in the "bubble pool" as the first people in the spa. The bubble pool is difficult to get into if you are not blessed with long legs, and even more difficult to get out. Unfortunately, I slipped on a wet surface getting out of the pool after my DH and sustained a sprained shoulder and wrist as well as several large bruises. No cautionary signage was in place warning how treacherous this surface becomes when wet. Please be careful if you use this pool (on Thursday a "slippery when wet" sign was posted at the bubble pool). Needless to say, we did not use the spa again during our cruise. The spa manager and staff were less than concerned about my fall. (Are you sensing a trend here yet?)
Pool - The main pool was nice and easy to get into. The water temperature was a bit cool (I like it that way)and, if you are not fairly tall, you could not stand as the most shallow part of the pool was 5 1/2 feet. There is a wading area to sit in for those who do not swim. The music by the pool was good.
Bars - We loved the Star Bar especially the nightly 2 for 1 martinis! Delicious! And there were also nightly mixed drinks and beer/wine specials at other bars throughout the ship. The Dawn got it right with those specials!
Roatan - we booked an Exotic Island Culture tour on our own through Roatan Culture Tours. Dani was our exclusive tour guide. She drove us around Roatan in an air-conditioned Nissan for over 6 hours. We saw all the sights, visited an Iguana Farm, had a delicious lunch at Gio's by the water, swam in West Bay, and shopped. Dani could not have done a better job and the price was right!!!
Belize - Since this was a tendered port, we did not get off the ship.
Costa Maya - We went to Maya Chan (again an excursion we booked ourselves) and had a fabulous time. I would highly recommend this to everyone! It is paradise, the food and drinks were amazing and the host is exceptional.
Cozumel - No excursions here, just did some shopping.
Disembarkation was uneventful. We had priority status so there was minimal waiting. We were home by 10:30 am - I love sailing out of Tampa!
Overall, we had a good time. It was vacation and a bad day on vacation is better than a good day at work! :)
We will not sail the Dawn again. And, based on our experience, we will look for other cruise lines to sail next time. The last time I left an NCL ship I could not wait to book another cruise and it had to be on NCL. Not so much this time.......