I just got back from our family/friends cruise departing Tampa on Jan 5th on the Norwegian Dawn. There were 13 of us total, ages between 21 and 82.
Let me begin by saying my cousin and I (23 and 27) picked the itinerary based on the number of different locations visited and hardly looked at the ship prior to booking. In the future, I think I would do it the other way around. Pick a cruise based on the ship amenities and go where the boat happens to go. I found myself at all ports looking at the other ships and wondering why we didn't pick one with a water slide, or a rock climbing wall, or a ropes course. All in all, with the poor weather we had at the beginning of our cruise, perhaps those amenities wouldn't have been used anyway.
Let's start with the stateroom. We were on deck 10, room 10557. We picked an interior stateroom planning to spend most of our time on deck or elsewhere on the ship and only needing the room for sleeping. We wanted to save extra money for shore excursions. Originally there were three females in this room (a room for four) ages 22, 23, 27. A week and a half before the cruise, another friends wanted to come with, so we added a fourth (21) to complete our room. Having been on other cruises before I was under the assumption that our room would have two twin beds and two the folded down off of the wall. Imagine my surprise when I walked in to the cabin and there was only one bed on the wall. Thinking we had been put in the wrong room (even though we booked over the phone with a Norwegian rep) without the appropriate number of beds we went to talk to Guest Services. I wasn't overly concerned because within our group we had five other rooms, all of which had extra beds, but knew it would be a headache to move someone. As it turns out we had what was called a "pop out bed". We were not impressed. The first night our room was turned down and basically there was one giant bed that took the entire room. They took the fourth bed and put it in between the two on the floor already, creating one giant bed with the middle section being five inches lower than the two on the ends. This made getting into the bed on the wall nearly impossible and I would hate to imagine what would have happened if there was an emergency as there was no way to get down without stepping on two people. On the second day we were able to talk to the room steward and guest services again to see if there was another option. For the remained of the trip we had the three lower beds in a U shape with the third bed being against the back wall and the tables being stacked together to make room. It was work-able and felt a lot safer.
Overall, everything that I had was good. The staff was very willing to take specific requests (substituting side dishes) even if it didn't always come out right (two side dishes instead of a substitute). In The Venetian, we didn't have any issues with dinning. Being a group of 13 (not always eating together) we anticipated waiting to be seating. One of the most bizarre occurrences was when we were given a pager and drink coupons. The pager finally went off (really only like 15-20 min) so we went to the dining room. When we arrived we were told that our table was still being made up, lead down the stairs, and told to stand in a little fenced in area and wait. We ended up being there about ten minutes, but why bother paging us the first time if it wasn't ready? Service was good, although at times a little slow. Once you got your appetizer, typically the rest of the meal followed at a good timing. Perhaps a little delay before dessert, but sometimes we needed that. Eating in The Aqua was a different experience. It was not uncommon for someone in our group to order more than one appetizer. In The Venetian, they would bring them one at a time and you would only have one plate in front of you. In the Aqua, two or three appetizers were brought at the same time and we quickly ran out of table space. I thought the buffet food was pretty good. I really enjoyed the oatmeal at breakfast. I thought that most of the desserts looked a lot better than they actually tasted, chocoholics buffet included. My only other food complaint was that it seemed as though they only made bread every other day. One day the bread would be soft and great, the following day it would be hard and clearly old. Then the third day it would be soft again and so on.
While the weather wasn't the greatest at the first two/three ports, it was fun. I was sad that our dolphin excursion was cancelled in Honduras, but understandable. The people of Honduras were sad to see that only one of three ships was able to make it to port (luckily it was our boat) and therefore they only got a third of the tourists that they were anticipating. In Belize we visit the Altuna Ha ruins. I enjoyed the trip, although the ruins site was small. In Costa Maya we just shopped near port and spent the day at the spa (with refunded dolphin money). In Cozumel I did the three reef snorkel, which was a lot of fun, even though it was really only two reefs, one in two locations. I also believe I got stung by a jelly fish but the crew took care of us and fun was had by all.
I mentioned in the beginning that I was disappointed in which ship was selected for our cruise, but that is my own fault. We should have done more research to see what was on board before we booked. Overall, I felt that the activities of the ship were aimed at an older crowd than myself (27). From bingo, to art auctions, to shows based on the 70s. I really enjoyed Tim, the Comedian! I wanted to see the aerial act as the nightly show (and heard it was great) but dinner took too long and we missed it. I briefly attended the Bollywood show (15 min) but found it boring and difficult to hear/understand so I left. As for the nightly entertainment in the lounges, it was eh. The first night there was nobody at the welcome aboard party. Literally less than ten people on the dance floor and maybe 100 people in the whole room. The White Hot Party was the best nightly party as the staff was there to encourage dancing. It seemed to me that essentially the same soundtrack was played every night. Also, all the songs blended together with no breaks and everything began to sound the same. Oh well, it was still fun.