Our cruise on the Dawn was our first experience on a Norwegian ship. I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy the Freestyle cruise concept but all in all it was enjoyable. Reading these reviews can be so frustrating, it seems many people who cruise think everything should be of the highest quality and a top notch experience. My question is why are they sailing a mass cruise line? Stop expecting luxury when your paying mass market price! Your not going to get a champagne experience on a beer fare. I'm going to take a guess and say 50% of the people choose this cruise due to the price, it was a very fair value.
Ship - We enjoyed the ship. Nice size, good layout, good condition. I'm sure a few people would rip apart the Dawn due to an a/c or fire suppression system problem that was being repaired outside our cabin door. Our hallway had a plastic runner down for the entire week (oh can you believe something actually goes wrong on a ship that is 9 yrs old and is open 365 days a year) and the ceiling tiles were down for the entire week and the crew was working to repair the problem the entire week. We looked at the positive, our cabin was cool and it was easy to find!
Food - the food was fine to good. The Garden Cafe is a buffet, yes I said buffet! That means it isn't going to be perfect food every-time, it may not be as hot as you'd like, it may not have the seasoning you'd like .... it's a buffet people! The food was fine. As for the main dining rooms the food was quite good. Here is the actual program. The left side of the menu in the Venetian and Aqua stay the same for the entire cruise. The right side of the menu changes every night (we know this for a fact because we ate in the main dining rooms every night!). This is the same basic program that we've experienced on Princess and RCCL. We had some meals we thought were fantastic, others were not our favorites. That's why you have choices! Your not paying $100 a person for dinner, it;s not going to be Ruth Chris. The poolside dining was fine. The hamburgers were good, chicken was good, fries were good.
Entertainment - if you don't like it get up and leave. We did just that at one show. We were fine with the options. The only negative with this cruise was there wasn't enough dancing for the adults. Being a Spring Break cruise there were 1,200 kids (under 15) and probably another 300 16 to 18 yr olds. Lots of young people that took over the nightclub. We made our own fun :-)
Pool - Yep, it was busy. Yep, chairs were saved improperly. Yep, someday the cruise lines will figure out how to handle this problem (that has happened on every ship we've ever been on). One complaint I have is why do people save 5 chairs but only two or three get used? C'mon people ..... we all want to sit in the sun. We felt the Dawn has a lot of chairs and a lot of space to relax. It wasn't nearly as bad as some make it out to be.
Service - not the best service we've ever received, but not the worst. My only comment is Norwegian doesn't do a good job of making you feel special. If you want to feel special and pampered you need to get away from the mass cruise lines. We felt the service was similar to RCCL. Some very good crew members, some not as friendly. Nobody provided bad service.
Opinion - we would cruise Norwegian again ...yes (we actually put down a deposit). Would prefer to not cruise at the peak of Spring Break, but it will be a few years before we can avoid it (kids). The only thing we didn't like is how Norwegian pushes drinking on the 18-20yr olds. It's money for the ship, a headache for the passengers. We had two 17yr olds with us and both told us they could have drank the whole trip if they wanted to. It was/is very, very easy for someone under the age of 18 to obtain alcohol on this cruise. Norwegian has signs up at every bar telling the underage (U.S.) passengers they can buy beer and wine if they have a parental signature. Trust me that did nothing in stopping the few that had signatures into buying for the ones that didn't. If you had a drink in hand nobody questioned anything. We have not experienced that on other cruise lines.
Embarkation/Disembarkation - smooth and fine. Nothing great, nothing bad. It is what it is. You have 3,000 people trying to get on/off at basically the same time. What do you think is going to happen?
Advice - get off your computer and enjoy life, enjoy cruisin' life is too short!