We have done lots of cruising in the last couple years. We normally cruise on Holland-America, Cunard and Royal Caribbean. This was our first trip on Norwegian. It had it's ups and downs but we very glad to be in the warmth and sun . Cruising on Norwegian was very different than we had experienced previously. While we don't mind dressing for dinner, not having to take all those clothes along was fun also. People were dressed in resort casual for dinner every night as requested. The oddest part of the trip was dining alone every night. In all of our previous cruises we had fixed dining with the same dinner partners each evening. For non-dinners we usually ate with others at the table. On the Dawn we ate at a table for two for each meal. They made no attempt to seat groups of people together. We missed meeting other people and hearing about their adventures. Norwegian did a fine job of seating you whenever you wished. Only once was there a wait and that was because we came directly after a show along with everyone else. Even that wait was only ten or fifteen minutes. Dining alone was a much faster experience than fixed seating. We were usually out of the MDR in 30 minutes are so.
Food -- the food was really very good. The menu selections were the same every day in the MDR with three entrees that changed daily. We had sea food nearly every evening. With one exception it was fresh and well prepared. Breakfast was the same every day. They had REALLY good eggs Benedict. Lunch had a few items that changed daily and the rest of the items were the same every day. We ate a couple times in the buffet and found it acceptable but not as good as the MDR. We never tried the specialty restaurants. From what we could see there were very few people eating in the pay venues. We did not use room service.
Room -- it was probably a little smaller than most. In fact it was so narrow that it was difficult to walk on either side of the bed. Another foot wider would have been helpful. There was no couch and no chair except a desk chair. Bed was hard as a rock. Air conditioning control was the best we have ever encountered. Storage was plentiful. The bathroom was great. It was very spacious and divided into three areas, shower, sink and toilet, with doors separating each. BUT the smells which periodically came from the bathroom were disgusting. Apparently this was an on-going problem, because someone had hung an air freshener in there which wasn't helpful. The odor was a real problem. We did not complain.
Itinerary and shore excursions -- We have done most of our cruising in Europe which is much more dramatic than cruising in the Caribbean. However, we found the islands interesting and the shore excursions were first class and well priced. However, there didn't appear to be much to do if you wanted to explore on your own around the port. There were mostly just a string of "cruise" stores. Handling of the passengers to load the cruises was GREAT. All the tour s met on shore. So you didn't have to go to the theater and go through that experience. Norwegian did a great job on the shore excursions. They did a poor job in sharing information about the ports prior to embarkation. There were no speakers on local customs or history. There wasn't even literature passed out. We particularly enjoyed the National Park in Samana, Dominican Republic. All of our guides were well prepared and personable. One excursion into the rain forest on St. Kitts was billed as an easy walking loop. It was anything but that. We spent nearly three hours hiking through the rain forest in very steep and difficult walking areas. The tour was one of the best I have ever taken, but there was an elderly gentlemen on our tour that really struggled. They need to re-rate this tour. Be advised.
Entertainment -- one word sums it up (opps too words) TOO LOUD. The volume level in the main theater was so loud during the theatrical productions that it hurt. This was a serious problem. I can't imagine what they were trying to do. The music was so loud it distorted and you couldn't really hear it. We found the shows to be rather uninspired with poor choreography and not very original. The singers were quite good, but unappreciated because of the volume. There were acrobatic dancers who were amazing and were the best part of the shows. There appeared to be far less entertainment on this cruise than any we had ever been on. Several nights the main theater was dark. There were 3 shows with the cast, one with a very good juggler, and one with a comedian. However, there were many other venues around the ship with first class performers. The various venues were much better than we had experienced elsewhere. The highlight of the entertainment was Second City who did one big theater improvisation evening and several smaller performances in other venues. They were entertaining and innovative. A real breath of fresh air on a cruise line. There is a guy who billed himself as the "bingo boy" -- he was annoying at best. He came into the theater before performance and did some sort of strange warm up. I wish he had gone to some other place.
Service -- wow, we were just really impressed. The crew appears to be very happy and well appreciated by the management. Lots of smiles and friendly service. We really enjoyed it and appreciated. Norwegian seemed to have a lot of off hours activities scheduled for the crew. We never met our cabin attendant, but whomever it was did a fine job. The quality of the service was interesting because there was not much tipping going on besides the auto-tip. We really enjoyed the quick and friendly service.
Embarkation and dis-embarkation -- this was just absolutely the BEST. We arrived and were on board in the sun in about 15 minutes. And leaving was just a total piece of cake. Why other lines cannot do it this simply I don't understand. Kudos to Norwegian.
Overall -- This cruise with it's free style was really different from our past experiences. The change was refreshing and we will probably do it again. This type of cruise might be more enjoyable if you went with other people are family. There appeared to be lots of passengers with their own group. There were also large numbers of passengers from Europe. We had not anticipated that. I guess they were in search of the sun also. The sun, yes, the sun!, that made it all worth while even if the inside of the ship was filled with ugly dusty plastic plants.