I'm a veteran of several Princess and Holland-America cruises, so I've developed some expectations with regard to cruises. I decided to give Norwegian a try, but won't be making that choice again. The quality of their food and service fell far short of what I've come to expect from the other 2 cruise lines.
I've come to expect a level of quality from the food on a cruise ship and felt very disappointed in Norwegian's product. The Dawn offers a multitude of extra-cost restaurants and it's obvious that those restaurants are where Norwegian's priorities are. Those of us who use the no-added-expense dining rooms or the buffet are left with food that rivals a Golden Corral or Hometown Buffet on land - and that's not good.
From watery scrambled eggs in the morning (EVERY morning!) to dried out entrees in the evening, the ship's buffet was a disappointment. Table bussing could have been better, and tables & chairs are crammed far too close together.
I've become accustomed to having "extras" like photos, shore excursions, and directed shopping pitched by cruise lines as a means of fattening their bottom line, but Norwegian took that to new heights. A normally free galley tour on other ships, became an extra-cost "behind the scenes" tour. The Sailaway Party from Manhattan was offered at an extra cost. Even some of the kids parties were offered for a fee.
Our room was fairly clean, but furniture surfaces showed evidence of the previous occupants and the carpet was very much in need of shampooing. Our cabin stewards were fine and kept things in good shape.
The ship's entertainment was uneven. Their comedian and Sinatra-style ballad singer were great, but the revues seemed aimed at an under-40 audience, rather than the predominantly 60+ crowd that populated the ship. Norwegian doesn't seem to know who's cruising.
We booked only one shore excursion - in Halifax, NS - and it was great, but we found that doing our homework in advance for the rest of our destinations saved us a LOT of money, yet gave us a real flavor of each port.
This was the first cruise in my half-dozen such experiences that didn't live up to the quality of the ports we visited. I found myself thinking of the ship as simply a means of getting from place to place, rather than a part of the vacation experience.
If a Norwegian cruise is your first, or you don't mind pay $10-$25 extra for dinner, then the Dawn might be okay, but if you've cruised with other lines, you're in for a disappointment.