My husband and I are Canadians from the Toronto area and we flew into Boston the night before our cruise. We stayed at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel with a fairly good rate obtained by using Marriott's "Look No Further" rate guarantee. I had found a better rate on Kayak and submitted the claim form to Marriott. They changed the rate on our reservation to 75% of the lower rate I had found on Kayak, so we were happy about that.
Arriving at Boston's Logan Airport we took the public transit to our hotel. There is no charge for taking the SL1 bus towards South Station out of Logan and into the downtown. For our hotel it was an 8 minute ride, getting off at the second stop. The bus actually passes the hotel so it is easy to find and only a short walk from where you get off. This was fairly easy and we saved the $25 to $30 fare I believe a cab would have cost.
The Renaissance is a very nice hotel and we were pleased with the second room they gave us. The first room had a connecting door to the room next door and when we arrived we could hear 3 or 4 people conversing. My husband called the front desk and they moved us to another room with no problem. We spent a very quiet and comfortable night there.
The next morning we did a self-guided walking tour of the Boston Public Library, the Boston Marathon bombing site (very sad), Boston Common and Beacon Hill. This was a fair bit of walking and took us about 3 hours. Heading back to the hotel we checked out and headed to Black Falcon Cruise Port. We were able to see the Dawn from the upper floors of the hotel and we decided to walk, as if 3 hours of walking that day wasn't already enough! I'm not sure I would do it again as my suitcase started to feel really heavy, but it only took us about 15 mins. Near the bus stop where we had gotten off the night before is the stop for the SL2 bus which would take you to the cruise port. For $2.50 in bus fare each I think it would have been worth it. Cab fare would probably cost very little also, but the traffic is very congested around the cruise port.
We were on the ship before 2 o'clock and were told the cabins were ready. We went to drop off our carry on bags and check out the cabin. We had an obstructed ocean view on deck 8. It was the smallest cabin I have stayed in but was perfectly adequate for us. The window was probably obstructed about 60% from the bottom of the window up by a life boat. We had plenty of daylight and could see the water when we were at sea and the port when we were docked. Looking down at an angle I could see the promenade on deck 7 and the water over the side of the ship. We had no noise from the decks above and below us. At night the lights on lifeboat are quite strong and light peaks in around the edges of the curtain. During the first night I woke up at 1 p.m. thinking it was morning since so much light was coming in the window! If you like a completely darkened room to sleep in you might want to choose another cabin or bring a sleep mask.
Our biggest complaint about this cabin is the paper thin walls. We had families on either side of us and we could clearly hear their conversations. We could hear the sliding sound when they opened their drawers! At times it sounded like people were in our cabin talking. I told my husband it felt it was more like we sleeping in a bunk than a cabin! We used earplugs but were still disturbed. Luckily our neighbors weren't the type to party in their cabin. I have to say that although I was pleased with all aspects of the Dawn in general, I would not sail on her again because of the lack of sound insulation between the cabins.
Our bags did not arrive until after 6:00 meaning I had to rush to change in time for our 6:30 reservation in Cagney's. I was unable to shower because we had no hot water in our cabin. This happened 3 times during the week but it was fixed very quickly each time from outside our cabin, but still a bit inconvenient.
We ate in the Garden Cafe buffet, the Venetian and Aqua main dining rooms, Cagney's, Le Bistro and La Cucina. I had pre-booked and pre-paid the extra charge restaurants before leaving home, saving $16 on the package for the 2 of us. Because I had made a reservation for the first night, we also got a free bottle of wine, which we had to ask for at Cagney's. Out of the three of them I would rank Le Bistro as #1, Cagney's as #2 and La Cucina as not worth going to. The food in the Garden Cafe was good, although I would have liked a more extensive salad bar. In my opinion, the food in the Venetian and Aqua main dining rooms was as good as the specialty restaurants, although the atmosphere is more intimate at the specialty restaurants. My husband had a very expensive and very bad Latte in the coffee shop in the atrium. He ordered a large one and complained it tasted like hot water. He asked the server to try again and it was a little better, but not much. However, the piece of cake he had there (no charge) was very good.
We didn't care for the comedian Tim Kadinsky who performed 3 nights in the theater, but apparently lots of other people did, so purely a matter of taste. We really enjoyed the Bermudan Gombey dancers who came onboard to perform in the Spinaker Lounge. Make sure you don't miss that.
We liked all the staff, including the captain, hotel director and the cruise director. I guess a good attitude starts at the top and works its way down.