Overall this was a great vacation. We sailed 9 days total, 5 ports, and 3 whole days at sea. We had a total of 7 in our party (all family, no kids). I'll try to keep this review to the point.
embarkation: Smooth. We arrived shortly after 11 am and go through fine. We waited about 1/2 hour before they started allowing us on the ship and were on board before noon.
We went straight to the pool to hang out and have drink. We met DeePak who was a great waiter/bartender. He was very nice and we signed up for the pub crawl for Day 2.
Cruise Director Matt made sure we had a "gOOd" time! :-) He's quite a talented harmonica player. On a previous NCL cruise we had Simon and I prefer Simon over Matt but Matt was good and entertaining.
Assistant Cruise Director George (Georges Gorgeous)was good as well as were the other staff (Luz, Chelsea, Peter, and Alvin).
Luz taught me how to Cha Cha and Salsa Dance. Chelsea taught me how to Zumba. Alvin hosted the Pub Crawl and showed us a great time and we met a ton of new friends.
Food - We own a restaurant which serves Certified Angus Beef, Prime. The steaks on board are "Select" so I wasn't impressed with the steaks. I thought shrimp and lobster were rather small too (again, compared to what we serve in our restaurant).
We went to Cagney's one night and were disappointed in the quality of the meat. For $25 we expected a better grade meat than the dinning rooms. However, service was way above par.
We at at Teppanyaki for $25 per person as well and was very good! Entertainment and food was delicious! Service was also excellent.
Aqua and The Venetian - food was average. (Again, remember we own a restaurant so we know food well. The average person may feel food was excellent.) Service first and second nights were slow. Had to wait almost 15 minutes for water, 15 minutes for bread basket. Drink refills were slow. When we ordered more than one meal or asked for alterations, sometimes waitstaff rolled their eyes but did provide us with what we asked for with a smile once served.
Blue Lagoon - 12 to go! (Wings that is!) We loved ordering the chicken wings to go to take to our room or the pub while we enjoyed social hours and watched football. Service at the Lagoon was great.
Garden Cafe - Typical Buffet food. Not much to say here. You can't have super high expectations at a buffet.
Sanitation was great, Washy, Washy = Happy, Happy! :-)
Room Steward - was good. Towel animals were great! We only had 1 robe, asked steward for another and we had it the next day. Steward did miss a dirty used wash cloth upon our check in but other than that did a very nice job and was attentive. He never did restock the "packets" for napkin disposal in our room. However, I did not ask as I was embarrassed to ask such a thing. So just made sure I wrapped my items accordingly.
Casino - staff was very nice and accommodating.
Shows - We went to a few of the main shows and all were great. I love music and they had quite a few musicians on board however my husband doesn't so I didn't listen to them their whole shows.
We did book the Behind the Scenes Tour and would highly recommend it! A great glimpse into the crew areas of the ship and how things work.
Room - We upgraded from a BA Balcony to a Mini-Suite and enjoyed the extra room, separate toilet, and bathtub. Bathtub is a little high and inside of tub seemed smaller, not as wide as home. I had a problem I should have reported but didn't cause I don't like to complain. Our shower and sink water were not hot. At best, lukewarm, even turned to 50. However, my husband said sometimes he got hot water. I showered first so maybe I warmed it up for him??? Or maybe he lied so I wouldn't complain. :-) I don't know but was happy to come home to a hot shower.
Bed - was not comfortable and hard. Could have used fluffier pillows.
Balcony - good sized. The ship is older and the wear shows. One thing I didn't like about the balcony is the walls are slanted up therefore when you look out over the railing and look towards the forward or aft, you can view all of your neighbors! :-) I mean it's possible to walk to your neighbors room from balcony to balcony without any problems. I like it to be a little more private on my balcony.
Carpets - We also own a flooring store so we pay attention to carpet. We loved the carpet on the pearl and I think the Dawn could use more brightly colored, patterned carpets. Carpet was in fairly good shape but I found it boring.
Atrium - beautiful! Lots of music/bands in the atrium. Beautiful, stunning actually.
Overall the Dawn is an older ship and it shows in some areas. She will have some upgrades done while in dry dock this spring. We felt the ship needed more open areas for eating/dinning. On the Pearl, the Garden Cafe goes in the aft of the ship and is open for eating as well as there's a bar. The Dawn didn't have that and we missed that part. Only outside areas were by pool. Several nights we had very strong winds so pool deck was closed.
Disembarkation - smooth. We did easy walk off and got in line around 7:20 and were at Miami Airport shortly after 8 a.m.