I'll start with the good. Embarkation--as soon as we asked where the suite passengers go we were walked thru the entire process. When we were all checked in we got our room keys and sat in the VIP waiting room for our escort. Total time from the curb to on the ship was about 15 minutes. We went to Cagney's for lunch as it was included free for suite passengers. Shirley and I both had the french dip which was pretty good.
At just after one we were able to get into our suite. This was 12506, a family suite with no balcony but a full wall of windows. At about 410 square feet this is a huge room with a king bed and two sitting areas and a huge bathroom with both a large shower with rain head and a large deep tub. It also has a large flat screen, a cappucino/espresso machine, a pillow menu, and a few extra services like a butler, a concierge, free breakfast and lunch in Cagney's for the 7 days, one free dinner in Cagney's, and a chilled bottle of sparkling wine plus priority embarkation, disembarkation, and balcony seating for all of the shows.
Our butler Roland was great. He had a knack for finding us anywhere on the ship just to say high and see if we needed anything. He also set up a nice surprise for us at our 24th anniversary dinner in Cagney's with a special cake and a nice song from the staff. Our concierge Virginia, Though we did not use her services much she was great when we did. Together they made sure we had everything we needed and made the cruise very enjoyable.
To sum up all the good, we loved the suite room and all the extra perks that came with it, Now I'll break down some of the specifics on the rest.
Our biggest complaint was the auto gratuity added to any food or drink that you would pay for. For what we paid for this cruise along with the 12 a day service charge gratuities should have been optional.
The food: Overall the food was just ok to good. We ate in the pay restaurants for dinner twice, Cagney's for dinner, breakfast, and lunch which were all good. For dinner we both had the 16oz rib eye, mine was good and Shirley's was ok. This is a full course dinner with bread, soup or salad, entree , and dessert. Drinks other than water were extra (even coffee). With one glass of sparkling wine (champagne) bill was $88 plus tip. I'm glad this was a suite perk as the quality of the food did not justify the price. Breakfast and lunch were both good but with breakfast you really don't get a lot. As part of the romance package I had got as an anniversary surprise we got a dinner at the Italian restaurant La Cucina. We had reservations for 6 but arrived early. The hostess would not seat us until our 6pm time even though there were several empty tables and when we were finally sat at 10 to 6 the restaurant was only half full. Again this is a full course restaurant. Shirley had the meat lasagna and I had the spaghetti carbonara. The lasagna was a layer of lasagna noodle, a little cheese. an inch of meat, a little cheese, noodle and sauce. with all that it was bland with little to no flavor and I would rate it as bad. The carbonara was good with a good flavor but a bit dry. The complimentary food choices were at best just ok. A few complaints were they kept running out of things and things were cold.
The Entertainment--The greats were Tim Kaminsky's shows and Rock of ages. Both were in the Stardust which is a very nice theater. Second city was terrible and these performers had to be the rejects. Deal or no deal was fun to watch also. The after 8pm various shipboard venue entertainment options were at best just ok and on the level of hotel lounge entertainment. They knew all the words, could sing all the songs, just had no real act. More like background noise while you drank.
The Service--Overall the service was good to great. Only complaints were the sheets on our bed never got changed, bed was just remade (bottom sheet had a hole in it), room steward had mistakenly thrown out two of our souvenir cups, and the hostess at La Cucina making us wait for dinner at a half empty restaurant. We never asked to have the sheets changed (should you have to?), Roland got us another set of cups, and the hostess thing was just plain stupid.
The Ship--The dawn is a beautiful ship from the outside to the inside and on par with the finest hotels or resorts. It is also set up to remove as much cash from your pocket as possible and this hurts its overall rating.
Overall--Due to all the perks you get with a suite room this was a good cruise but if we did not have a suite we would not have liked it. Our biggest complaints were the auto gratuity plus a $12 a day per person service charge. These are both bad moves by NCL and are the reason we will not cruise with them again. A note to NCL, stop back dooring people with these charges. Include the service charge in the cost of the room and make the services worth it. Most people will tip based on service so an auto gratuity is just a forced charge for ok service. If you are not paying your service personnel enough that is your issue and not your guests.