I returned today from my cruise on the Norwegian Dawn, my third cruise with this line (have been on the Pride of America and the Norwegian Pearl). I travelled with my parents (their first cruise). Overall it went well but there were some hiccups.
As was in the local news, the Norwegian Dawn was delayed at the port of Tampa as a result of fog. We did not check our email prior to leaving for Tampa so we were not aware that our trip would be delayed. As a result, we went to the port, which was chaos. Norwegian staff provided some information and eventually it was decided that we would be carted off to a local mall via bus. We waited over an hour until the busses arrived (keep in mind that the staff knew the ship would be delayed since 5am, and they were still figuring out what to do at 11am). So over to the mall for lunch (we thought we were going to have lunch on the ship -- already paid for!) then we joined another long line at 4pm so as to drive back to the port and stand in another line to get our room cards etc. Finally to our room and sailing by 1030p -- our luggage did not arrive until near midnight, however. We understood from passengers on the Carnival Cruise, also delayed at the port for several hours, that they received $50 compensation for their missed day of vacation. Norwegian travelers received nothing, but I'll get to further details on that later.
Having been on the Pearl and thoroughly enjoying their spa, I opted to do the same on the Dawn, purchasing a $130 massage and assuming that would come with access to the spa for the day. The massage was nice but I was shorted 10 minutes and was informed that in order to use the spa facilities, I would have to pay an additional $169! I was not impressed.
Upon receiving a comment card in our room, I made mention of the spa issues and the fact that there was no compensation for missing a day (I thought a free drink ticket would be nice!). I received a call from the spa manager the next day and she argued with me regarding the length of my massage, my appointment time (I booked at 3p but was not seen until 3:20, and then the spa manager told me my massage was booked for 3:15). The spa manager was extremely rude and was practically yelling at me. After the phone call (I hung up on her), I wondered why she had even bothered to call -- if it wasn't to deal with my concerns in a professional manner, arguing with me and more or less calling me a liar was far from making me a happy customer.
We later received a call from the guest services manager (or something like that) which my dad took and explained the issue about the spa and the wasted day. The guest services manager had a similar attitude of "this is our policy; this is not my problem; What do you want me to do about it". He was less than apologetic and seemed to have an uncaring attitude. So much for the customer is always right.
The food was great. We really loved Cagney's steakhouse. I recommend spending the extra cash for a great meal. The Venetian and Aqua were also good, but got a bit redundant after a few days. I liked the buffet as well but my dad hated it. His comments included that the guests were treated like cattle and the environment was like a cafeteria (which are both more or less accurate). There were line-ups for food and the room was extremely loud, freezing cold, and the furniture was cafeteria-esque. The only issue we had with the food service is that in the Venetian and Aqua, it often took up to 30 minutes to get a hot tea. They were pretty quick with coffee service but we like tea with breakfast and lunch and it was hard to come by.
Overall, the ship was very nice. The main pool was warm, although small, and there were lots of hot tubs. The ship was clean and our room was big compared to what I have been in before. Only thing I would like to have seen were more shaded areas around the deck -- the lounge chairs were all located in areas of direct sunlight.
Other than the management, the staff were great. We especially enjoyed Cookie (Chip) at Pearly Kings and our room steward.
The entertainment was great. There was a lot to do at any time and the staff were a lot of fun and made it fun for the guests.
As stated, I have travelled with Norwegian before so I knew what to expect ($12 per person per day for gratuities, plus an automatic 15% on booze and 18% on spa services). They are not shy about asking for more tips on the bill though! Sometimes it seemed that their hand was in our pocket all the time though. Simple entertainment activities often came with a fee (eg. $55 for a tour of the boat -- per person) so it can be a challenge if on a budget.
I had a good time overall. There were definitely some things that did not impress me or my parents but I would consider going with Norwegian again -- it would just require accepting the fact that you get what you are given and it's not worth complaining or commenting because they are not interested in hearing or responding appropriately to concerns. The food was great, the entertainment was fun, the ports were nice, and the shore excursions were worth the money (maybe not Gumbalimba park in Roatan though).