We enjoyed Valentine's week on the Dawn, a group of 5 family members celebrating my mother's 75th birthday. She and my sister had gone on many cruises with Royal Caribbean previously, but really enjoyed their NCL experience.
No issues with either embarkation or disembarkation, and we found the service in the Venetian dining room to be fantastic--it's a large room, and amazing to watch them keep up with so many people so effectively. Our aft-facing penthouse on the 9th floor was a real treat, and the perks that came with it (often allowing us to skip any lines, breakfast/lunch at Cagney's, butler & concierge service) were certainly worth the added cost and added to our enjoyment.
The evening we tried Le Bistro they were offering a special Valentine's Day menu, not their normal French cuisine, and we didn't care for it or for the service there--I'm sure they were much busier than normal. Breakfasts/Lunches at Cagneys were good, as was dinner at La Cuchina. Garden Cafe was fine for a buffet, and we particularly enjoyed hanging out at the Bimini Bar for the great views. If you're looking for their top-shelf bar, we found Gatsby's to have a better selection of liquor and relaxing piano bar, and we were pleased that we did not take advantage of the alcoholic drinks cost per day plan that was offered, instead paying for a few bottles of wine ahead of time and using vouchers for them at the various restaurants or in the room, ordering other drinks as needed.
For us, what was important was that Mom was wow'd--and she was, raving about the ship, the food, the shows, and the overall experience.
Our favorite excursion was a place on Roatan called Little French Key that we arranged directly with the facility, and it was our best part of the cruise...a little piece of paradise on a private island. When my family members fall asleep in hammocks on the beach, you know it's vacation mission accomplished. :) This was the best part of the trip, and it wasn't on the ship.
In terms of entertainment, shows were enjoyed (comedian, Band on the Run) but the white hot party....wasn't. Much of the non-show entertainment was the cruise staff on the dance floor trying to lead others in organized line-type dances, something we and most others didn't care to participate in. We would have had more fun with just the music and us up there dancing.
We were told that the average age on our cruise was 56, though I would have guessed older and all but one of our party were under that age.
The marketing machine that is Diamonds International and their port shopping consultant Linda were a constant presence throughout the cruise...a real full-court press to get people into their stores through a series of shopping presentations both on board and recorded on TV, flyers, and incentives. We finally surrendered, buying my wife a lovely diamond ring (Valentine's Day, remember?) but had thoroughly researched types/styles/prices beforehand and knew precisely what we wanted and how much we were willing to pay. Having said that, we felt the relationship with DI cast NCL in sort of a cheap light, diminishing the brand for the sake of the compensation they receive from DI.
Having said that, virtually every Dawn staff member I encountered was professional, effective, and trying to help, and they were successful. Combined with an interesting itinerary in the Western Caribbean, suite perks and happy family members, we call it a winner and are considering another trip with NCL--on the Sun, in Alaska.