My husband and I had been on the Dawn Princess twice before, for repositioning cruises (those were our first cruises. We've done others since). This time, we went so that we could bring other family members along.
Embarkation was swift. We joined the queue around 2, I think, and while it initially looked like one from a Disney World ride, it only took about 12 minutes until we were checked in and going through security. In no time at all, we'd dumped our carry-ons in the cabins and were in Horizon Court enjoying lunch.
For a week before, I kept talking up the swimming pools to my granddaughter. Therefore, I felt bad when the weather wasn't pool-friendly (but the last two days, the sun came out and it was great. Watching and listening to a Billy Joel concert on the pool deck, eating ice creams while the kids enjoyed the pool, was magic!).
Even without the sun, the two children old enough to attend (4 and 6) LOVED the "Princess Pelicans", the ship's day care/crafts program for kids. The staff were wonderful, which may be why Mr Four and Miss Six begged to go back there each day and evening!
Once again, the staff on board were great. There wasn't anyone we could have complained about. "Molly", our steward, kept our room spotless at all times and kept us in fresh, fluffy towels. Our dining room wait staff at table 189 - Roberto (waiter) and Cipriano (assistant waiter) were wonderful. Cipriano would address our 2 1/2 year old grandson, Jasper, by name each time we arrived. We only ate there 3 nights of the 6 (we did Horizon Court and the wonderful La Scala Pizzeria the other nights), but we looked forward to each meal there and the service was a large part of the reason why. Unlike some others, we made sure to attend the final night to tip our wait staff for all of their hard work for us.
I was happy with the food at Horizon Court. Sure, it's not cutting-edge cuisine - it obviously has to be food that will hold up well heated for periods of time (like buffets everywhere else), but we're not gourmands and it was tasty, so were quite satisfied. They do a good job of feeding thousands of people hot food three times a day. My only gripe (again!) is that they don't label the foods with a "V" for Vegetarian, the way they do on the dining rooms' menus. Come on, they have to make a label for each dish anyway! How much bother can it be to add a "V"? It would save me having to ask each time about each dish I'm unsure of, holding up the line while the server goes out back to check.
My daughter and son-in-law enjoyed the room service for snacks and hot beverages when they didn't want to head to the cafes at night, or when stuck in the room for a napping child. I only used it once, for tea and cereal for breakfast. It arrived on time and the tea water was plenty hot enough (in a thermal jug).
Unfortunately, the Dawn Princess hasn't any rooms for a family of 5, nor does it have adjoining rooms. We had them booked into inside cabins as we were worried about small children in a balcony room. As such, we took an interior cabin as well (last cruise we had a mini-suite, which kind of ruined us for anything else!). My son-in-law was in a cabin with one child, and my daughter was in another with the other two children. That was somewhat a nuisance, and I wish they would do some reconfiguring to make it more family-friendly. A simple adjoining door between two cabins would have been great.
And speaking of families, the age group was much more mixed than it was on our Last cruise (Mediterranean, in May 2013). Thank goodness, more families this time. The Med cruise had an average age of 75 and the entertainment was atrocious (I keep pointing out that even 75-year-olds grew up on Elvis!). THIS cruise had Epithany, which appeared to comprise 5 African-Americans, and was quite good. And as younger people seem to move around the ship more, it seemed easier to get seating around the ship (unlike on the Crown in May, when the oldies would settle in with their knitting bags at all the window seats on each deck, or pull out the cards after dinner while us hapless would-be diners wandered around, plates in hand, desperately seeking seats).
A small complaint was that Princess stations a hostess at the entrance to the food court directing people to use the hand-sanitising glop. If you forget, they remind you. However, on two cruises, I've seen Horizon Court waiters cough into their hands and then handle cutlery and napkins to set tables. It seems that all the info given to passengers in our staterooms about coughing into your armpit and all that, doesn't get passed on to the staff. And again, the hostess - I would rather they stationed someone to direct people to tables, the way they do in restaurants. It drives me nuts to see two people seated next to the window at a table for six, when there are tables for two nearby (but not necessarily by the window). Maybe they need to put the tables for two nearest the windows. We found it very difficult to get a table for the 7 of us in Horizon Court because the big round "family" tables would often have 3 or 4 people seated at them.
I didn't feel so bothered this time with the hard selling. No one waylaid us as we left the ship at ports for cheesy photo ops. I guess there's not much they could dress up as in Tasmania, they way they do in Corsica (Napoleon) or Italy (pizza chefs). To be fair, in Burnie, a local party turns out to meet the ship (including the mayor!). We took the shuttle to the Maker's Market, looked around at the nice crafts and amazing paper mache, had a snack, and headed back (having been to Burnie in the past).
We all enjoyed our stroll around Hobart. My husband and I did it last February, when we did the double-decker bus tour. This time, the cost of that tour for my daughter's family would have been about $150 - prohibitive. So we strolled Elizabeth Street.
My daughter and son-in-law enjoyed the Port Arthur tour (the guided tour is free). The shore excursion by the ship would have cost over $700 for all of us, which was absurd, so we just went on over and discovered the free tour (get off the boat, and you're there). PA is a tender port, and there was a long wait for tender boats because a local ferry kept tying up the only jetty in PA. Unfortunately, I hurt my foot while walking and so my husband and I decided to return to the ship. However, the line for the return tender was very long which was really aggravating as my foot was swelling up while standing there (I iced it back in our cabin and got around ok afterwards, however). We'll return to Port Arthur one day to complete the tour.
My daughter loved the bargain sales on the last full day at sea. I didn't know about the morning one in the dining room, and missed out. In the afternoon, while looking at the "ring sale" (bought 4!), we noticed the Venetian Dining Room had just opened for "High Tea" at 3.30pm. While we were probably the youngest people in the room (we were seated with people we didn't know, which was fine as they were very nice, including the 94-year-old gentleman who was on the cruise alone!), we didn't mind a bit as the food was just lovely. There was white-glove service, and beautiful little sandwiches on bread, rolls, mini-croissants, as well as cakes, pastries, and scones with jam and cream. It was delightful. I was sorry to see it only attended by the oldies, as it's a tradition that deserves to be continued both at sea and on land.
On our last night, we all placed our bags outside of our doors for disembarkation. In the morning, we were all up early, had breakfast in the buffet, and made our way to our departure lounge (for us, the Florentine Dining Room). We were off the ship quickly, and found our bags right away.
I think after this my daughter and son-in-law will want to do another cruise, for sure, as they enjoyed the pure luxury of it (she wanted to use the Spa, but they didn't advertise prices and when we saw a "facial special" for $100+, it kind of scared her off). I know my 4 and 6 year old grandchildren loved it. And when little Jasper is 3, he, too, will be able to enjoy the Princess Pelicans so that Mum and Dad can have a day off (there is no charge for the service, but it's recommended to tip the Pelican staff and IMO, they deserve it!). Meanwhile, my husband and I are planning where to cruise to next... He is actually across the room on his computer, looking at ships and cabins as I type this. ;-)