We arrived in Tampa, and stayed the night at the Homewood Suites. This hotel has a park and cruise package roughly $130 per night for a 1 bedroom suite with full breakfast. You park your car in their garage, and they take you to and from the cruise ship. This saved us quite a bit of money; highly recommended.
We had a MA Balcony room; decent size, nice deck, very comfortable. Be sure to ask for a pillow top ontop of your bed and also outside wool blankets.
We started out headed to Latin America and it was darn hot with smooth sailing. we returned from the last port (Cozumel) and it was cold with rough seas.
1). Smaller Ship
2). Great Cabin Stewart
3). Polite crew
4). Great ship for kids and they were everywhere
5). Embarkation and disembarkation was fast and smooth
6). Great Port Schedule (Roatan, Belize, Costa Maya, Cozumel)
7). Morning room service
8). Cagneys Steak House was excellent
9). Good White Hot Party for the party going crowd and well, at Spring Break it was quite full and
1). Food - not great is an understatement. If you have cruised with other cruise lines, you will understand. Nevertheless, I did not want for food, cook or clean all week.
2). Belize tenders - rough waters or just a total disaster? Not sure but for sure we did not pull anchore until after 6 pm. Our tour operator told us this is the norm for the Dawn, so don't worry if your excursion runs late as the Dawn seems to always run late
3). Injury in State Room. Very poor design in cabin caused me to catch my foot, crash to the ground, bruised with a bad sprain. NCL refused to give me a wheelchair and wanted to provide free wheel chair service, or rent $300 a scooter. No thanks
4). ONE pool other than the little kids pool? Seriously. We cruise on every major cruise line that has 2 pools; with top for the cold days - the Dawn lacks in space in this regard, which is fairly important.
5). Grossly overpriced shore excursions (book your own outside of NCL like everyone else, save money)
This cruise had excellent ports
1). Roatan. We enjoyed very warm weather, warm waters, good service. Take your snorkel gear, grab a cab to the beach and swim out a bit. Snorkeling is like being in an underwater aquarium. Water feels like Key West.
2). Belize City. We enjoyed very hot sticky weather. Go with .BZ tour operator for the Zip and Cave Tubing.
3). Costa Maya, raw beautiful Mexico Mayan Riveria probably the only non uber developed part left. Leave the Port (too expensive, nothing to do or see). Took a $2.00 cab to the beach, stopped at a great little beach resturaunt. So many types of Drinks ($4.00 if paid in Peso's). Fantastic Nachos and Chevice. water is very shallow, warm and safe. Skip the AI - no way you can get your moneys worth and not as nice as the non AI places.
4). Cozumel. Opposite of Costa Maya. This is my 15th or more trip there and it once was a tiny cute little Mexican Island. Now it is a grossly commercial overdeveloped place reminds me of Cancun. Expect to pay 2-3 times what you would pay in the USA for the same thing and Cozumel does not accept Peso's only US Greenbacks. Also no credit cards. They must be pulling in a ton of money. 8 cruise ships per day, plus (gosh knows how many) huge resorts says enough. The weather was very cold, windy and rainy with rough waters. Had to skip our snorkle adventure.
Seriously would have preferred NCL private Island to Cozumel. Very tired of commerical Mexico; want some peace and quiet.
Overall, I think my kid had a good time, which end of the day is really important. We like Holland and a few other higher lines but there have been cruises where my kid sat in the room watching movies.
If you have kids, I would recommend Royal Caribean over NCL. While we did like the concept of "Freestyle" cruising, it just leads to poor service and poor food quality.
I should also mention, NCL seemed to upcharge upcharge. Did order a pizza (room delivery) and it was huge and good. Why does this cost $5.00 and room service is free? Go figure.
Can't complain about the upcharge at the Steak House as it was quiet, good service, and my "boys" eat so much, they ordered several Filets (HUGE) that it was well worth the $25.00 cover charge. Just having a quiet dinner with good service seemed worth the upcharge though sad to say. Excellent food and service has always come free in all of our past 25 or so cruises.