My family of four, including two kids ages 12 and 15, and another family including three kis, ages 11, 15, 18 booked side by side family suites on the Dawn a year ago. We have cruise six times before this one.
We arrived in Tampa on Friday, two days before the cruise. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Westshore in a cabana suite. The location was great and the suite was large, not so clean, but large and adequate for two nights. We had rented a car with Alamo at Tampa Intl airport since Alamo will let you drop the car off at the Westin Harbor Island which is close to the port, and Alamo will shuttle you to the port for free.
We arrived at the port at 10:45 and were quickly through security and checked in through the VIP, suite guests check in. We met Virginia the concierge who was very pleasant. Within 5 minutes she gathered a group of about 12 suite guests and sent us with Jennifer, a butler to tour the the ship and show us to our cabins. Jennifer was amazing, but she was the butler for our Friends, right next to us, but not for us. We were in our suite by 11:15.
Our cabin was 12522. It was one of the new family suites. It was a nice cabin, very spacious, with a huge balcony. The balcony had two rattan lounge chairs with comfy covers, a table and two chairs. We spent many hours out on the balcony, away from the loud craziness by the pool. Not to mention on sea days, you had to get up at 6:30 to get a lounger due to the chair hoarders.
We knew we could go to Cagneys for lunch, but were anxious to relax by the pool. We had lunch from the buffet which was fair, then to the deck loungers by the pool. Within a few hours the deck was packed and people were everywhere. The first sea day every lounge chair was taken, not always with a body, but a towel, or flip flop or book. People were bargaining with others to take loungers from others. I am not sure how to remedy this problem, but it was a huge problem. We gave up our four loungers and went on our balcony which was in the sun and not covered, perfect for us.
We did not enjoy the food at all on this cruise. It seemes that in order to get a decent meal you have to pay the extra fee for the extra venues. We ate at La Cuccina and Cagneys and both were excellent. I highly recommend if you are in a suite, eat at Cagneys for breakfast and lunch whenever you can. The food in there is so much better then the buffet or MDR. On Easter Sunday, we sat down in the Venetian and walked out as soon as we tasted the food. We headed to the buffet, more gross cafeteria style food.
In Roatan we booked Ronys Private Island Tour. We went to El Suampo to visit with some children that we brought small toys for. Spent time at the monkey farm and then to Infinity Bay Resort. Beautiful island and felt very safe with Rony.
Belize, we booked Cave Tubing.BZ with Vitalino. We had Abner as our guide, he was great.
Costa Maya we did Nohoch Cay. Being all inclusive we felt the drinks came slowly and the menu we got to eat off of was very different from the menu used by those not paying the all inclusive. Lots of sea grass and while Jaime may limit the all inclusive to 40 people, the water in front of his place was packed with locals who had set up camp in the vacant lots on both sides of Nohoch Cay. Food was good, but beach area had lots of trash in the vacant lot next to us.
Cozumel we swam with the dolphins at Chakanaab. The weather was not good and the water was rough so it wasn't the best day, but the dolphins were fun to be with.
Last sea day, more crazy cruisers fighting and arguing over chairs. People are on vacation, but you wouldn't know it by some of the behavior we saw.
Overall we enjoyed the ports most of all. On board, it seemed the staff was aggravated and unhappy. With few exceptions, the crew seemed as if you were bothering them and they were sick of being on the boat. The food was fair in the non pay areas. I love dessert, but honestly the ones on the Dawn were not worth the calories. It seems NCL needs to re-evaluate charging for everything from decent pizza and good meals and focus on providing quality onboard their ships.
We did self assist debarkation with the concierge since we had a 10:25am flight. We were at the airport by 8:20, plenty of time before we had to board.