As a break away from the farm my wife and I together with our daughter aged 7 and son aged 5 We began our cruise in Melbourne. Our local friends whom we stayed with the night before dropped us off at the port. We were pleasantly surprised to find that we could drive right up to the embarkation area so didn't need to walk far at all. Once on board we soon found our cabin easily. As we booked only 3 weeks before departure we had to take whatever cabin was available , however, we were very satisfied with our 4 berth window cabin on Riviera deck 5. The only issue we had was some machinery and trolley noise below us when docking at the ports. Otherwise all was ok. We then began the usual exploration of the rest of the ship. I stopped off at the reception desk to cancel the automatic gratuities (along with many others as this is foreign to us Aussies) giving us the freedom to decide. I also took the opportunity to put my name down for the Ultimate Ships Tour which I was lucky to get on later in the cruise. I heard about this on Cruise Critic and am pleased that I had a chance to participate. My only gripe with this tour is that it started at 8-30am while the kids club only starts at 9am so that meant that my wife had to pull out so as to mind our kids.
Food on the ship was generally very good in both the restaurant and buffet. Of course there are always some exceptions. Past reviews of the Dawn Princess mentioned that the buffet area was too small. We however had no problems with this and in fact found it easier to get a table than we did on our last cruise (P&O Ventura).
The Entertainment was great. We thoroughly enjoyed the production shows by the resident singers and dancers. Most evenings we then listed to the fantastic pianist/singer/comic entertainer Tom Franek - highly recommend! The Vista lounge shows were generally not to our liking and possibly aimed more at the older audience.
The Kids club was fantastic. Our children, 5 and 7, were in the Princess Pelicans group (3-7yr olds). There were around 30 in that age group on the cruise but the next group (8-13) had over 100! Our kids loved going there and enjoyed all the activities and movies.
A few rough days at sea made many sea sick but when we reached the Fjord-land area we had a perfect sunny day with calm sailing in the Fjords especially the highlight Milford Sound in which the captain put the nose of the ship with in 20m of the water fall. A new record for such a large vessel.
The ports were all ok but we found it hard at times to find info on suitable activities or trips to keep the kids happy. The on board port expert gave interesting but not always accurate information which made it even more frustrating at times. We did one whole family ship organised shore excursion (Tauranga - Rotorua) which we were dissapointed with as there were 7 coaches on the same tour resulting in a crowded rushed day. In future I would do more research before leaving home and hire a car at the ports where available.
Disembarkation went well. Being on deck 5 we were one of the last to get off. We did have to wait in line for a taxi but as our flight was only late after noon that wasn't an issue for us. The lines were well organised though with a constant flow of taxis.
Overall a very enjoyable holiday.