Both my room and the food were overall pretty gross. There were splatter marks on the walls both in the cabin and bathroom. Mold/dirt built up in glass door sliders in bathroom. Food residue stains in carpet where it wasn't cleaned very well. The grossest part was when I went to move the ottoman and it had grease all over the back of it. I didn't bother complaining because I heard the people in the cabin next to me already complaining, and I felt bad for the girl in charge of our cabin. The cabin clearly needed a deep cleaning, apart from the quick clean they get when they are occupied. The bed seemed clean, so I let it go. The bed was also incredibly uncomfortable. The mattress was really thin and hard. Twice I needed Tylenol in the morning because I was so sore from sleeping on it.
I also was ill for the majority of the vacation. I had diarrhea within 24 hours of getting on the boat, and had it for the duration of my vacation. It basically ruined my vacation because some days I had to use the bathroom at least a dozen times a day and had stomach pains. I obviously can't prove that I was sick because of the boat, but I know I was completely fine before.
Lastly, the food was really bad. REALLY bad. The buffet was a hit or miss. I avoided anything with mayo in it because I had bad potato salad the last time I was on the Dawn (though at least that only made me sick for one night, not a week). There were burgers every day, and they tasted like the frozen kind. Some of the things were tasty, like the quinoa salad, roasted chilled veggies, kung pao chicken, but alot of things looked like cafeteria type food. I remember seeing "boiled potatoes" as a side on the last day, just cut up potatoes still in the boil water, and thinking that they had really given up. Aqua and the Venetian were basically the same restaurant with the same menu that did not vary much from night to night. There really wasn't much love in the food. Most of it was ok, but nothing memorable. A few things were gross, like the paper thin, grey "ribeye", and the tasteless gnocchi dish. Also there was a problem with sand and dirt in the salad mix. Twice there was a considerable amount of sand in my salad in the dining room, like almost every bite. Once at the buffet there was a small clump of soil in the mixed greens on my plate. It's really no wonder I was ill. Anyway, we figured we would pay extra and try the other restaurants on the ship that charge a cover. Cagney's Steakhouse was absolutely delicious, so at least there's that. The ribeye was a a real steak, cooked to perfection. The baked potato soup was also delicious. The service was impeccable. At $30 a head, though, we could not afford this every night. We did manage to eat there twice, and it was the only food I enjoyed on the trip. We also tried La Cucina, which was $15 per head, but it was just as bad as the main dining rooms, maybe even worse. They were clearly short staffed. Our waiter never got to check on us after we got our food. I don't blame him because he was clearly overworked. We got the lobster fettucine and the chicken parm, and both were gross. The chicken parm was tasteless and mushy. The lobster fettucine was really fishy tasting, just disgusting. We just couldn't even eat them; total waste of money.
The good parts of the trip were the staff and entertainment. I enjoyed all of the shows I went to. Tim Kaminski and the Second City were both very funny and entertaining, and the Bollywood show on the last night was absolutely stunning. I enjoyed the humor of the entertainment staff as well. The entire staff I encountered on the boat were very nice, polite, cheery, helpful, and went out of their way; really a great crew.
I will be trying another cruise line instead in the future. I like that Norwegian cruises out of Boston, and they seem cheaper than other cruise lines, but really, they're not if you have to pay extra for edible food. Even decent coffee costs extra. There is tasteless coffee in the buffet, but decent coffee from the cafe costs $2-$4 at the cafe. Same for espresso. Free on carnival, $2.50 per shot on Norwegian. Carnival was less than $100 more per person, but the food was soooo much better. Carnival doesn't have a good rep anymore, either, so I think next time we will probably try Royal Caribbean.