As a first-time cruiser, I had heard stories about great food being available on cruise ships. The Dawn satisfied some of these expectations (the restaurants with cover charges, like Le Bistro, were great) and out of all the "free" restaurants, our favorite was the Venetian, though the food menu was identical to that of Aqua (the atmosphere wasn't as classy). However, I noticed that, whenever I ordered cheesecake or chocolate cake, it felt light rather than rich or dense. The same went for ice cream at the Topsiders Bar near the pool deck. All they had was soft serve ice cream and only three flavors (vanilla, strawberry, butter pecan), and they melted pretty quickly. It seems that anything with dairy is watered down a bit, almost artifical. That was a disappointment. The breakfasts at the Garden Cafe were very good, though - the best was the unlimited smoked salmon, which I helped myself to, and the made to order omelets and waffles. Maybe these things are standard on cruises, but they were new to us.
The stateroom: we had a nice balcony room on the 9th floor. When we entered our room on the 1st day, however, to our shock the toilet hadn't been flushed -someone had left paper there. Ew. We had to call them to come and clean it up. I didn't like that at all. Already I felt the rooms were being adequately cleaned. The bathroom also had a mildewed smell to it. The balcony windows also needed cleaning and grime seemed to be on the edges of it. So it was much dirtier than I expected NCL to be. Also the room felt very small. I was expecting a larger room, but then I'm new to cruising and am used to big hotel rooms.
Entertainment: I was impressed with the quality of the shows, especially Bollywood. Dave Heenan, the Irish foul-mouthed comic, was funny but had the aura of the second-rate (old comedians never die, they end up on cruise ships). The second best was the Gleason guy, the magician who sawed a woman in half. That was fun.
The Ship's Announcer: I don't remember if he was the captain, but he slurred his words a lot when he made the daily announcements. Was he drunk? I was worried we were in dangerous hands. It left a bad inital impression on me - how classy can this ship be if the announcer sounds drunk? Since he spoke the same way throughout the cruise, I realized it was perhaps his odd filipinno accent. At any rate, I would have liked someone with a more confident speaking voice.
WORST: Endless sales pitches. From the moment we stepped on the cruise, I felt we were bombarded by the ship's photographers wanting to take our picture("want a picture beside a pirate? a dolphin? on the staircase? on the landing? at the port? against a pink background? near the casino? near the piano bar? a white background? a blue one?") They even had a large gallery of photos for those standing still long enough to have been victims. By the end of the cruise, we noticed that many people had tossed theirs away. Stacks of unpaid and unwanted photos littered the gallery wall. Norweigan talks about being environmentally conscious, but just think about all those chemicals that went into processing those photos being tossed into the trash. The reason? Each photo costs $20. They even offer customized bobble-heads molded from the photos for $100. Please. That is just so tacky.
Also tacky was the shameless sales pitches by their show performers. Heenan and Gleason promoted their DVDs and magic tricks to sell after each show. I guess that's within their rights, but I was annoyed because it was yet anothe pitch to get money.
On the 7th level, the main deck, they offered dozens of cheap watches, tacky jewelry and "gold chains by the inch" for $1. Who buys gold necklaces by the inch? Also ordinary Guess handbags were being promoted as if they were Gucci. Tacky!
Even the stateroom wasn't safe. Every day we got flyers pitching the sales to the spa, and on the next to last day, we were invited to the infamous $10 sales day at the Galleria gift shop. The only brand on hand was Bijoux Terner, the 99 cent store of "luxury merchandise."
And of course, there were the waiters at all the bars and shows who were constantly asking us if we wanted to buy a drink.
Money, money, money! I know I'm taking a vacation to buy souvenirs and sightsee, but it felt like everybody had their hand out. I guess this is the legacy of the recession.