We were very disappointed with the overall experience. We were big fans of freestyle cruising prior to this cruise. NCL has made several changes to the Freestyle Cruise program which we were told became effective recently. Here is a listing of what we didn't like about the changes:
- You now have to pay a cover charge for ALL of the alternative dining options. The last time we cruised the Dawn there were 2 alternative restaurants that were free. We were told by the cruise representatives that the food quality is now better. We refused to pay extra to eat at a different restaurant, so I can't comment on the food quality at the specialty restaurants.
- They have changed the menus in the 2 main restuarants. The menus are totally different, but don't change during the entire 7 nights. They claim that they are now offerring their most popular dishes every night, but we found it to be very boring and ended up eating the same thing over and over again. We think this is a way to try and make you eat in one of the specialty restaurants where there is an additional cover charge.
- The service in the restaurants was not very good and dinner took forever. The restaurants are crowded because there are no free alternative choices.
- The buffet was horrible. The tables were dirty, they didn't keep up on cleaning up and they were always out of clean cups and silverware. They closed half of the buffet early to switch over from breakfast to lunch making the other side very crowded. One morning they started the switch over just after 10 AM. The dinner buffet was very disappointing, the choices were no better than lunch.
- The per day gratuity charge has increased from $10 per person to $12 per person and now they have made kids a full gratuity charge. We paid $12 per day for our 9 year old and my sister paid $12 per day for my 3 year old nephew. The kids charge used to be half.
- The spa is very expensive and they no longer allow you use of the heated pool/hot tub facilities with a treatment. If you want to use the entire facility, you pay a cover charge of $100 per person or $150 per couple to use the facility for the week.
- The entertainment was very poor. We were last on the Dawn three years ago and the shows and comedian were the same as back then. You would think they would change it up a little. There is no entertainment during the day unless you want to pay for bingo.
NCL has taken the theory that they discount the cruise and then make up for it on the extras once you get on board. If you plan to book a cruise with NCL, add about $200 - $300 per person to the cost of the cruise when comparing with other cruise lines. We cruised NCL frequently in the past because of the NCL mastercard rewards program. They also changed this effective January 2009, significantly decreasing the rewards. We will most likely try a different cruiseline in the future.