This was a great cruise! After a long and brutally cold winter, warm Caribbean breezes were a welcome treat.
ARRIVAL & EMBARKATION: Our flight was scheduled early, so we had to wait around the airport for awhile until a shuttle bus came. Apparently, there was some sort of delay and they didn't let people off from the last cruise until a little later than expected. That's ok. I'd rather wait than have to run for my life. We got to the dock around 11:30, and flew right through and on to the ship.
ROOM & SHIP: Our room was ready not long after we arrived, and other than having a broken latch on a shelf, it was in good shape. It has a flat screen tv and the usual channels. I do wish they would modernize the navigation channel. It just seems so dated.. oh well. The ship is in good shape, well maintained and there are no visible problems with it. The only issues were with the ice and drink machines in the buffet. I don't know what the problem is, but they were out of order a lot.
FOOD: Really good! We had no complaints with the food. The buffet is typical buffet food. The Dawns buffet is "cafeteria style", like the Star, and not the modular sections that some of the other ships have. Newer cruisers will stand in line out the door, but you can skip to the middle section and get food, like pizza, Indian and other items there. However, if you want a salad or other items that are at the beginning, you'll probably have to wait in the line. The third section has the desserts and an ice cream machine that never seems to be cold enough to make a firm ice cream. If you're lucky, some kid wont cut in line and then break the machine like happened to me. There is a hand dipped ice cream stand by the pool with some other flavors besides chocolate and vanilla.
We also ate at Moderna, Cagneys and Le Bistro, as well as the main dining rooms. The steak at Le Bistro was perfect, Cagneys was ok, but our favorite was Moderna. Its like a buffet that comes to you! Everyone should try eating there. Its just a unique experience, with great food.
ENTERTAINMENT: This was probably the worst part of our cruise. There were 3 variety shows, Tim Kaminski, Band on the Run and Bollywood. Tim Kaminski is funny, but it seems like he has more time than he can fill. So there's a lot of people standing around on stage not doing anything for awhile. Bollywood was a really high energy production with acrobatics, singing and dancing and probably the best show of the week. The dancers earned their pay with that show! We skipped band on the run. Its been on every cruise we've been on. Seeing it 2 times is 1 time too many.
FELLOW PASSENGERS: Most people were nice, and it was a good mix of people. Lots of older cruisers, and lots of younger (20s-30s) passengers. There were few children, but probably 50 or so teens. And teens being teens, made a nuisance of themselves wherever they were. We found that we couldn't go out to deck 12 or 13 after dinner because they were just everywhere. We came around the corner and heard one say "I'm going to do it to the next girl I see", which happened to be my wife. Fortunately, he chose wisely or there would've been a broken teen in sick bay. But I saw him think about doing whatever he was planning for a second.
As I mentioned earlier, the ice machines in the buffet were frequently broken, and had a sign on them saying "out of order". Now, I'm not sure exactly what people think when they see a sign that says somethings broken, but that usually means its broken. It does not mean, please try me and stomp off in frustration.
We were supposed to stop in Roatan Honduras, but the Pearl had a crew member shot in port during a robbery. So NCL decided to cancel the Dawn and Jewel. Many passengers did not agree with this decision. I understand their reasoning, and feel bad for the family, but 4000 people and a port should not be punished for a robbery gone bad. That's like having a cop get shot in your town, so they decide to close the town for your safety. Anyway, we got an extra sea day, which allowed us to discover that we are not the kind of people who can do a transatlantic cruise.
Belize: We had to tender, which always sucks, but it is what it is. So the port authority said the water was too rough, and decided to hold tender boats for about half an hour. Well, this proved to be too much for some people. The family behind us in line did nothing but yell and fight with each other the whole time because they had to wait and "didn't want to hear any static" from the crew when they got to the boat. Another guy came down the stairs and when he was told he had to wait in line, he slammed his hand onto the rail hard enough to make me think he was going to get security called on him. Seriously people, you're on vacation. We really felt bad for the crew members that have to deal with these kinds of people. The tender boat was pretty big, and spacious enough for us to get some shots of the Dawn.
We went horseback riding in the jungle, which was pretty neat. The horses are very tame, but are trail horses and are trained to follow each other. So sometimes it was hard to get them to move how you wanted. Afterwards, we went back to the entrance area for some lunch and sat by the pool. We even got to hold an iguana! The port was really nice and well maintained, but the city itself was really poor. I hope the cruise money starts flowing into the people hands.The guide on the bus said the current mayor is putting a lot of effort into construction and revitalization, so that's a plus.
Costa Maya: What a beautiful island! We went snorkeling on a private beach in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. We barely saw any houses or structures on the 25 minute drive. The water is clear and clean, and the food was delicious, but you have to pay for it. Kayaks are included with the beach along with an inflatable water park slide thing out in the water. That's a lot of fun, but be ready to be exhausted! Our snorkeling guide was actually worried that we would give bad reviews because the current was pretty strong and we didn't see a lot of underwater life. It was a great day and I have nothing bad to say about it.
Cozumel: We went ATV riding in the jungle and it was really dusty and dirty, but fun. Afterwards, they dropped us at a beach. It was really crowded and we didn't want to go into the water. It wasn't very clear and seemed dirty. Although I think it was just seaweeds, but you know, it just didn't seem appealing. So we just walked around and took pictures. We got a burrito from the food stand and seriously, if you haven't had real Mexican food, you haven't lived. The Mexican food we have in the US is actually Tex-Mex. Real Mexican food is simple and clean and doesn't use heavy sauces or spices. We watched them make all the food fresh from scratch, which is another thing you don't see in the US.
DISEMBARKATION: We put our bags out the night before, but walked off with the easy walk off people. No problems, but we had to wait at the top of the escalator until the bags were ready, about half an hour. No big deal, but you get to watch the lady directing people and if she seems mean to you, you should sit and watch what she has to deal with. She tells people to have one hand free to hold onto the railing. You would be surprised how many people decide they need to fight this. One guy said he had an early flight, so he couldn't free up a hand. Ooookkkk? Good thing for her, she didn't care and made him free a hand anyway. Boy was he mad!
There were no delays or issues with customs, they separate the non US citizens and review their papers before the ships cleared. If there are any delays, its because they won't go to the meeting point for customs. There were several people they had to page several times, which meant no one could leave until the non-US citizens were reviewed.
CONCLUSION: This was a great cruise, and one of the few my wife said she wants to do again. We really enjoyed ourselves and other than a few minor issues (mostly with other people acting dumb) and missing a port, had a wonderful time.