We sailed on the Dawn March 3rd sailing. Cast of characters: Hubby, me, and our 3 daughters, ages 23, 21 and 18.
Embarkation was very smooth, We got on board in less than 1 hour and our cabins were ready by 1:30!
We had two, inside cabins on deck nine, 9067 and 9065. While I would always prefer a balcony cabin, with 5 of us on this trip, that was not in the budget. But there are good things about an inside cabin too! Mainly, the SLEEP. It is such a great night sleep in a dark, inside cabin being lulled to sleep by the sway of the boat, total darkness and the hum of the ship. The bathrooms in even the smallest cabin are great. Large shows with DOORS, not that icky shower curtain that sticks to you. The beds were really comfy with nice linens. I wouldn't want to put more than 2 or 3 people in one, but for hubby and me, it was great.
I want to thank NCL for ordering us up the most perfect weather anyone could hope for. 7 days of total sunshine, low humidity and temps in the upper 70's and lower 80's! It was perfect.
We are experienced enough travelers that we are comfortable making our plans/excurions in the ports we visited. You save a ton of money doing it that way. The excursion we choose did not disappoint! In Roatan, we jumped in a cab and went to Banarama for the day. ($15 pp round trip.) They charged us a $10 entrance fee, but that wes more than fair as it gave us each a beach lounger/chair and use of their bathrooms for the day.
Facing the ocean, if you walk left to the very end of the beach, there is the most spectacular snorkeling!! I brought my own mask and snorkel and rented fins. You can rent all snorkel gear there if you wish. We snorkeled, ate and drank our day away at Banarama. Our cab picked us up exactly when we asked them to. Overall, great day.
In Belize, we hired a private cave-tubing tour with Yhonny/cave-tubing.com. We used his company several years ago and had a great time with him then and we knew we would again. We did not hesitate to book him again. We had our own van, own driver/guide for the entire day for not much more than it cost to take one of those cattle-herd tours!! We had a fantastic day with them. The cave tubing is truly spectactular and I highly recommend Yhonny.
In Costa Maya....listen up, because we had a truly, truly special day there. Via Cruise Critic, I read about Nohoch Cay. It got so many positive reviews that we decided to give it a try. It far succeeded our expectations in every way. You have to book it through Island Marketing and they only take about 40 people a day. For $40 a person, unlimited food, drink, beach, chairs, palapas, etc... But the food is not ordinary food. Fresh fish caught that morning. Huge portions of cevechi, tacos, nachos. The owner, Jaime, personally comes and visits you and makes sure that you have everything you need. His employees treat you like family. I could just go on and on, and I'm hesitant to write such a great review for it because I want to keep it to myself. We had a such a great day there that we are seriously considering a land-based trip to Costa Maya just to hang out there for a few days. You will be treated like a king there. The staff is just that good and the food/drink is just that good.
We hit Roatan, Belize and Costa Maya so hard that we decided to just stay on the ship in Cozumel and enjoy the pool. Again, perfect weather and I will say that we had a great day in Cozumel even though we didn't actually go anywhere in Cozumel!
Food - I've been reading reviews on the Dawn's food for months and was a little nervous that the food would not be good, but it was good! I'm not a foodie by any means, but we enjoyed everything we had. We ate at 3 speciality restraunts, La Cucina, Le Bisto and Cagneys. They were all EXCELLENT and WELL WORTH the upcharge. I think Le Bistro was the best, but as I said, all were great. One tip, the best food on the boat is the pool side cook-outs. On our last day, they had a Paella full of seafood, cooked on the pool deck. IT was amazing! The first day they had a great BBQ, but we had already eaten at the buffet and didn't see it until it was too late. The day you get on, eat at the pool, not the buffet!!
With 5 adults on this ship, we spent well over $1000 on the bar bill. We got the 6 bottle wine package, and many buckets of beer and fancy umbrella drinks. We also successfully smuggled some booze on board too. You can carry on all of the non-alcholic stuff you want, so we brought on diet coke, bloody mary mix, 2 bottles of wine (that we paid the corkage fee), pina colada mixer, and smuggled on some cocnut rum and vodka. Didn't save us much money because we still spent plenty, but it did save us a little bit.
Lastly, the crew and shows. I loved the crew on this ship! I've sailed other cruiselines, and this crew just seemed less "stuffy". Geo, the cruise director was awesome all week long. The dancers were lots of fun at the parties. Our cabin Steward, Michael, was great! Daniel, running the karaoke, was fun. Everyone was terrific. I don't know how they do it week after week!!! Our kids ONLY complaint was that everything closed up by about midnight. They would have liked more late-night activities for the 20-something age bracket.
This was our 8th cruise and I've come to one conclusion about all cruiselines. If you want to have fun, you WILL have fun. If you want to find things to complain about, you WILL find them too. No trip is perfect, but we had a wonderful time and for what we paid for this cruise, I think it was an excellent value and I would said with NCL again in a heartbeat!