Two weeks ago I completed my 4th, and what will be my last cruise with NCL. This was my second time aboard the Dawn, having sailed on this ship 5 years ago. Over the years I have noticed a serious decline in the NCL offerings.
My sister and I booked a mini suite to take our 83 year old mother on a cruise (between the 3 of us, we have sailed almost 20 NCL cruises). I had sailed 2 months ago aboard the Star Princess in a mini suite and can actually compare apples to apples. While the Princess suite is spacious and luxurious, we were immediately confronted with a number of logistical problems aboard the Dawn. Firstly, for a suite, the cabin was ridiculously small. There was a table supposedly for 2, however one chair was tucked in right against the wall, with no room in the cabin to move the table for access. The table's second chair was out on the balcony. The cabin was very narrow, and one of the beds was right up against the closet. There were only 2 drawers in the cabin. The television was a small 15" old style and was not visible from the beds, if pointed towards the sofa. The in-cabin safe had no numbers on it as they were worn out. And no matter how many lights we turned on and with the drapes wide open, the cabin was cavernously dark. However, most problematic was the bathtub, which is built up so high that our mother was unable to access it. To add insult to injury, some of the towels put in our cabin on the first day were either stained or seriously frayed.
When we went to the reception desk to alert them to the problem with the bathtub's height, we inquired if our mother could use the shower at the spa instead. We were told she would be welcome to use it if she paid $99 for the week. We stated that we were not going to pay for our mother to shower but asked if they would provide a shipboard credit for her. They refused. After much discussion, we were offered another cabin which was a downgrade and smaller than what we had paid for. Again, we asked for the shipboard credit. Finally, they offered the smaller cabin for our mother alone, allowing my sister and I to keep the mini suite. While they resolved the issue to our satisfaction, I was disappointed to see that no one followed up with us at all during the week.
At least 80% of the passengers were seniors and there were a number of handicapped passengers on board. While I think the dining room crews worked hard, I was disappointed to see that they did not offer table side coffee and juice in the morning at the Garden Cafe. Instead you would see seniors and handicapped passengers trying to juggle their beverages with their canes and plates. Gone are the trays. When I spoke with a senior host about my observation, he confirmed that it was a change in NCL philosophy not to offer beverages at the table until 8 am, when a cart was sent down the aisles of tables. It was obvious the dining staff are told to quickly clear the tables, but unfortunately, they were often clearing the tables before you were finished, or while you were up getting the beverage.
I also noticed that the quality of food has deteriorated and the selection was far more limited than before.
On the plus side, NCL still offers excellent entertainment, and the spa services were excellent. But frankly, the negatives so outweigh the positives that we each vowed to look to any other cruise line before booking with NCL again.