This was our 16th cruise and the 4th with NCL...it was a cruise over New Years. We previously sailed on the NCL Pearl in the summer of this year....and although the Dawn is an older ship...we expected somewhat of the same. We Drove from Tampa to Miami and parked the vehicle...get ready to pay $20 per day to park.....way too much money, and you have to pay in cash. Although the line was long to get into the terminal..it moved rather quickly...I would say we waited an hour from time in line to time on ship.....I don't think that is too bad when they are trying to get so many people on at once.....a new thing they have added is that after registration, you have to go to another area to pick up your Cards...I am not sure if this is a time saver or not..we then dropped off our small bags into our inside cabin...nice cabin...great shower area..tv could be larger. also, there is only one light to turn the lights on and off and its near the door...we have been on other ships where you can lie in bed and shut off all the lights. We never met our cabin steward...he was like the mysterious cabin steward and while he did a great job in the beginning....he did not make up the room on the last night and we did not get ANY of the towel animals.....I know this must sound picky, but you expect those things.... FOOD: The garden buffet was OK...nothing grand here and it seemed like the same ol thing everyday...we ate here for breakfast and lunch..the other thing that is quirky is that while this cafeteria has two sides.they really dont connect..you have to go all the way outside and choose the left of the right side...what is up with that?....and you would think that the food would be the same on both sides?....no...different food....the only good thing for families is that they have a separate buffet for kids...its a cute little area where they have there own buffet items....I have to admit that I went and stole french fries and meatballs on several occasions from their buffet. The thing we like about NCL the most is freestyle.....we have the choice of where we want to eat and where....there are several "free" places, and some with a co pay....We went to the venetian for the free and enjoyed it very much, there was another place, aqua...but the menu always seemed boring...the best place to eat is Bamboo...it has a co pay of $10 and well worth the extra....we ate their twice...my partner enjoys Sushi and he ordered that for $15 co pay...well worth the $$..the other restaurant that was great was Impressions, excellent Italian food and "free"...the one disappointing restaurant was Cagney's.we did not get to go to this one on the Pearl, so we really wanted to "see" what is was like this time.....Its a great steakhouse...but we did not think it warranted a $20 CO PAY....I had a beef wellington in the venetian and it was great. I lost money at the casino...but to be honest...it had a lot of 1penny slots, and when you lose money at the craps table....you appreciate the penny slots...especially PLINKO from the price is right...I won a few hundred dollars...IN PENNIES...on this machine....the only problem here is ...Since when did the limit become $10?...is this a trend?...I am use to $5 crap and blackjack tables...not on this ship....everything started at $10....really cut into my budget.... Everything else about the ship is OK...i did not use the pools or exercise room since i just came out of gall bladder surgery....I was actually lucky to make this cruise....I guess I need to start buying the insurance!! My partner enjoyed 2 massages...they are really expensive..but he said they were great. They have a great card room and a cinema....although I really enjoyed one afternoon of just lying in bed, ordering room service and watching movies on TV....I really am a couch potato. Every night we enjoyed a cocktail at the Star Bar.....All in all I would give this ship an OK experience..the one thing they excel in is Customer Service. EVERYONE was very friendly, and very helpful. Ports: SAMANA:....ok, why did we stop here?...in one word?....FILTHY...garbage all over the place...very scary to walk around...a lot of street people...and really no shopping except for local flea market type shopping....I guess this is an up and coming port?...you have to tender in, and it was not worth the 40 minute tender ride.....my advice....take this off the list of ports of call until they clean up the city, get a dock, and a shopping area where the boats dock....YUCK TORTOLA.....OK...better but again, not what was expected....some more shopping...but not a mecca by any means...a lot cleaner and not as scary...but not much to do unless you are going to the beach or other water activities.... ST THOMAS.....YEAH....shopping mecca....have been here many times, would love to retire to this location....LOVE IT, LOVE IT
Unfortunately, we did not make it to the private island, Stirrup Cay....the sailing day before..the boat was very rocky...waves were very high and we wondered how the tender boats would reach the island....and sure enough the next day the captain came on and said it was too dangerous to make us go ashore in tender boats.....We were disappointed...but understood completely....
Disembark:....went smoothly..we got up early to eat breakfast and opted to take our luggage off the ship....we were in our car and on the road back to Tampa at 8:00 in the morning!...all in all it was an OK cruise..been on better and been on worse....We would definitely try NCL again....we dont like getting dressed up for dinner and freestyle is the way to go......although our next cruise is already booked on the Carnival Valor in April.
before I forget...ENTERTAINMENT:....we went to several shows and they were all wonderful...very different from other cruise shows....they mixed a variety of dance and song and they had a great comedy troop....second city