I was looking forward to sailing on the Norwegian Dawn after seeing many ads on TV for the cruise and hearing positive things. When we were able to get a last minute booking on the July 5th departure after being told the ship was sold out, I was very happy and excited.
When we arrived at the port, check in was pretty smooth. There was a bit of line, that moved somewhat slowly, but once we were at the agent's desk, check-in went relatively quickly. We boarded the ship and were given our complimentary glass of champagne which was a nice touch. The last cruise we went on, we were given some very nice looking mixed drinks upon boarding, but immediately told that we had to pay for it.
We went straight to our cabin, an inside on the 10th floor. We decided to book an inside cabin to save some money since we figured we would hardly ever be in the room. As soon as I opened the door, I felt let down. The room was very small and kind of dark. The was hardly any floor space, the bathroom was tight, and the only TV was a 13 inch "tube" TV. in an awkward spot. Over my bed was a bunk bed that was folded up and on the wall, but it left an awkward 4 inch ridge over my bed. I hit my head on it accidently a few times. The TV only had 4 or 5 commercial channels. The rest were NCL channels promoting their excursions, specialty restaurants and stores. Can you imagine a ship TV without CNN? Well this one did not have it. The room had a nice mini-bar that was well stocked which was a nice touch. Ofcourse like most hotels, the items were ridiculously priced. Our cabin steward was very nice and friendly. For the most part she did an excellent job keeping the room clean, and consequently was the only person we gave an extra tip to. However, on more than one occasion, we didn't have enough towels, and twice no bath mat. The NCL staff was terrible in supplying these items. It took hours to get the towels. We never received the bath mat. We were forced to use a beach towel as a mat once, and the other time I had to physically leave my room and go ask for one. The night before the cruise ended, I didn't have a wash cloth to use in the morning. When I called housekeeping, they claimed they would send someone up with it, but never did. The next morning, my friend had to go out in the hallway and find a cabin steward to get the wash cloth.
The freestyle dining is no good. There are only two "free" elegant restaurants, the Venetian and Aqua. These restaurants fill up quickly. Most people want to eat dinner between 6 and 7:30, so they can attend shows and other activities. Consequently it becomes almost impossible to get in the "free" dining rooms during these times. A ship staff member actually suggested that we have dinner at 5:30 or 8:30. So much for eating when you want to. If you don't have a reservation, you will be waiting for a while to get in. Some guests complained of having to wait over 45 minutes to get a table. If you tried to reserve a table you had to do it a day in advance or at 8:00 in the morning or something. The other so-called free restaurants amounted to a snack bar "Blue Lagoon", a cafeteria style buffet "Garden Cafe", and a hot dog and hamburger stand "Bimini Grill". Hardly places where you want to eat dinner. Once inside the "free" restaurants, the service was fair to poor. The waiters were slow and many times had trouble understanding you. One night our water glasses had horrible dishwasher water spots on them, which looked terrible. We waited 10 minutes before anyone took our drink order, and then another 10 minutes before the drinks arrived at the table. The waiter would take our meal order, and then come back a few minutes later and ask us again what we ordered. The menus are the same every night, no variety. One night when we did eat at 5:30. The maitre D tried to steer us to sit in a part of the restaurant that we did not want to sit in, even though the restaurant was virtually empty. If we did not insist, our preference would have been ignored. The food in the Aqua and Venetian restaurants was good but not great, but the food in the other free restaurants, was basic fast food and mediocre. I saw people walk away from whole plates of food at the Blue Lagoon, the only 24 hour restaurant, which is more like a snack bar. The specialty restaurants were very nice, if you could get a reservation, but costly. You had to pay $25.00 plus a mandatory 18% tip and whatever your drinks cost. You could see how this could easily add up. So basically you have pay to get good food and good service.
The shows were good but not spectacular. If you went to any show that was not in the main theatre, the Stardust, unless you arrived early, you would end up standing. The disco, Dazzles lounge, was a joke. A 10 x 10 dance floor in an open lounge. No feeling of being in an exciting club with lights and video screen and club atmosphere. The DJ was terrible, no variety in the music. While you sat there hoping they would play a song you would want to dance to, you were constantly hounded to buy drinks by the bar staff.
The pool area was also very disappointing. Very crowded, and the main pool had no shallow section. So basically, if you did not know how to swim or tread water, you could not use the main pool, unless you were willing to hold onto the edge of the pool. There was a 4 foot deep pool behind the stage, but it was small and isolating. I felt like I was in a kiddie pool. The hot tubs were always crowded and hard to get into. There just weren't enough of them. The beach towel service was awful. You would sign a slip for the towel, and then when you returned, they couldn't find your slip. Thankfully I was not charged for the towel. Once I put my towel on a nearby table, with no one seated there, while I used the hot tub, and someone swiped it. One of the days the ship was docked in Bermuda, by 11:00 a.m. they were out of towels. The person behind the desk was rude. I asked him if there was anywhere else on the ship I could get a beach towel, and he coldly said no. Can you imagine being in a beautiful tropical island, and not being able to get a towel to get to the beach? I finally went back to my floor and begged my cabin steward to give me the towels.
The onboard spa was nice but very pricey. For a hot stones message, after the mandatory tip, I paid almost $200. The massage room was small and not prepared properly. There was one thin sheet on top of the table. Even the sheet they gave you to drape yourself was one sheet and thin. To add insult to injury, the therapist opened the door to my room without knocking first. I felt like my privacy was violated. She suggested some products after the massage to use, but they were also ridiculously expensive. For the price of products, I could have had another massage. The most ridiculous and unfair part was that there was a fee to use the spa pool area, even if you had already paid for spa treatments. This gave you a feeling of being nickeled and dimed by NCL. Everywhere you looked on NCL, you were having to pay for petty things. It was ridiculous.
In summary, the cruise was very disappointing. You pay for your cruise, and then get on board and are confronted with all of these "hidden costs" including a $12.00 a day gratuity charge. If the service had been excellent, I would not have minded paying the gratuity. It's like bait and switch. It's a way for NCL to keep the cruise booking price artificially low to get you on the ship.
I would skip the Dawn and NCL unless they make radical changes.