Embarkation & Stateroom Embarkation was smooth. It took us all but thirty minutes to get from the shuttle bus onto the ship. The ship was due to sail at 4pm, we arrived at 1pm to be safe. Your stateroom is not ready when you board the ship, but that is to be expected. The crew did do a good job to have the staterooms ready ahead of the 2pm time deadline that staterooms are supposed to be available by. The stateroom itself was rather spacious, even for three people. We were lucky NCL invited us to upgrade to a balcony stateroom. The pictures on NCL’s website are somewhat distorted – what appears to be a sofa is more of a love seats which is too short to sleep on unless you pull it out. Nevertheless, balcony staterooms are quite a bit larger than regular ocean view ones, offering more closet space and a larger bathroom which had a separate stall with a toilet. The room was in mostly good shape and clean. It needed some dusting here and there and the balcony glass railing could have used some cleaning – but the ship’s crew is on a tight schedule so I did not expect everything to be perfect. With only two hours in between cruises, there is just not enough time to pay attention to every detail. A big annoyance was the air conditioner. The thermostat seemed clogged with dust and the unit had only two settings: off and arctic blast. Oddly, opening the window turns the air conditioner ON. We had to request extra blankets to be able to sleep with the window open although it was warm outside. Being able to sleep with the window open was worth it though. The soothing sound of the ocean made me fall asleep instantly and I'd wake up better rested than ever. That's a major benefit of a balcony stateroom. The sliding door locks in the open position, so it won't slam shut even if the sea gets rough.
Ship The dawn is the only ship I know that has a large indoor pool. It cost extra ($ 100), but my mother loved it. It was reportedly never crowded – almost like having a private pool. The outdoor pool was fun. The sea got choppy every now and then which turned the outside pool into a wave pool. They had to partially drain it a few times as water was going everywhere. There were plenty of hot tubs available at all times. My only complaint is that equipment was frequently out of order. More and more public bathrooms were closed and the showers by the pool never worked. The air conditioning in the ship had the same problem as the one in the room – it was set to deep freeze. I understand some people like it cool, but 65 degrees is too cold, especially when it is 85 outside and you are returning from the pool to your room.
Service Service was mediocre. Our cabin steward was extremely attentive and nice, so were several other crew members that did go the extra mile for us. But too many crew members simply did not care. The service at the Blue Lagoon diner was the worst. They served us desert before the main dish and threw it down on the table as if it was dog food. It was our problem to figure out where to put the desert while we were eating the main course because the tables were too small to fit all of it at once. The food quality also left a lot to be deserved – it had no taste. We contacted the restaurant manager who, to our horror, told us that that kind of service was normal for the Blue Lagoon. The front desk staff also just apologized, but you could tell they could care less. We insisted on reducing the service charge for that day, which they eventually did, reluctantly.
We did have to make use of the medical center on board the ship to get help with a sore throat. It cost $ 175 to see a doctor and get some over-the-counter sore throat meds and five pills of antibiotics. The line was very look (2 hours wait) because scores of people were seeking treatment for hideous looking sun burns. Don't forget the sun block.
Food Outside of the Blue Lagoon, the food was OK. The buffets always had plenty of food and some different choices every day. The quality was what you’d expect from a buffet or better. The main dining rooms had excellent food and service, but the portions are rather small. Even my mother who is a meager 110 pounds was left hungry.
Disembarkation was a pain thanks to U.S. Customs who take their sweet time to determine whether to let you back into the country (what’s the alternative?) NCL allows you to choose your disembarkation time between 7:30 and 10:30am which is otherwise very convenient.