We were on the Dawn over Christmas, Tampa to WCaribbean. After reading all the pretty dismal reviews, including one from someone who had actually CANCELLED their Dawn cruise due to all this negativity, we were more than pleasantly surprised by most things we found on board.
Embarkation was not too bad at all, although I realse this was made much better by the fact that our cruise date did not include pick ups in Cozumel. However, it was made worse by a bizarre situation at the cruise checkin desks, where non US citizens such as us from UK( although we had obviously already been admitted into the US via strict border control, ESTAs granted etc etc) still had to have their passports re-entered into some computer by someone slowly using "one-finger" typing for each passenger. This led to long queues at his workstation, holding up every other passenger in every check in queue! Surely, if this is necessary, it would be better to have a check-in desk, or two, just for non-US passengers. This would allow the others to board more quickly. I am sure the US passengers would be very happy!
Our balcony cabin, 9192, was fine. Smallish, but lots of storage space. Bathroom tiny, separate wc behind a screen was miniscule! Looking at the size of some of the passengers, I can only imagine they were in large suites...no way would they get in the wc!
Food..we ate mainly in Venetian, we cannot stand the "Zoo" that is the buffet, although the food selection looked good, specially at breakfast, to see fellow passengers pushing & shoving to pile their plates with bizarre food combinations is not my idea of a good time! This does not reflect on NCL, only on the passengers!! What greed some have.
Freetime dining did not work well over Xmas, due to herds of people all wanting to eat at the same time. Lots of vouchers for free bubbly were given out by patient staff at the Venetian check in desk(Well done Gen!!) & buzzers used to the max.
Teppanyaki was great, best steak all cruise(worst steak was Prime rib in Venetian, just inedible, although all other meals good there) Coffee & tea was poor (to our taste) everywhere, take your own & use the equipment provided in cabin!
Le Bistro was adequate...no more, no less. We dine in France often..believe me,Le Bistro is not good standard French cuisine! No-one eats al-dente potatoes!! But the chef for Le Bistro obviously thinks they do!! Wouldnt go there again for a surcharge.
Service was mainly good, especially in the Venetian, although we did feel it was a little false, with expectations of further tipping. Some were surly, but I suppose thats life, & happens anywhere!
The Spa was great, well worth the extra cost. The jacuzzis were great, the pool a little cool, but welcome to escape the children. The on-deck hot-tub at the front of the ship, behind the Bimini Bar, was also a good find, really quiet most days, plus lots of sunbeds available there.
Entertainment was good, Paul, the cruise director(a fellow Brit!) was excellent, although we felt sometimes his British humour may have gone straight over the heads of some passengers. We got totally fed up with the "shopping woman" wittering on constantly about buying diamonds, watches etc etc. We went to what we though would be an informative presentation about some ports, to find it was a Diamond Hard Sell...Thanks, but No Thanks!
A little disappointed by the comedian Tim Kaminski, he relied very much on audience participation, but if that was poor(Wizard of Oz nigh!!!) then the whole show dragged on & was very flat. Second City were much better...impro at its cleverest.
Bollywood was glitzy, we enjoyed it more than we had expected.
So, all-in-all...a great value Xmas cruise! Well done NCL..this was our first cruise with you, we may well return!