My teenage daughter and I (Mom), took this cruise in February 2011. Our third cruise with NCL, but first without the guys in our lives!
The Dawn isn't as run down as many on this forum have said. We found it to be clean and comfortable. Our oceanview stateroom was a decent size. The TV in it was old, but who goes on a cruise to watch TV? The most worn out areas I found were the public washrooms - easily avoided.
What we like about NCL is eating when and with whoever we want. Also we like not having to dress up if we don't feel like it.
What we don't like is the constant pressure to spend more money - at Bingo, art auctions, jewellery 'seminars', and virtually every other event they offer on sea days.
We found the 'free' cafe buffet to be quite good. The restaurant meals were great and I did not think the cover charge was exorbitant. We ate at Teppanyaki, Salsas and Impressions and thought all 3 were great value. On others recommendation we ate breakfast at Blue Lagoon - we did not enjoy it. Although the food was adequate, the hostess bordered on rude.
The Second City comedy shows were terrific, as was the magician, Greg Gleason. We did not find the comedian, 'the phat funny man' to be funny, mostly old repetitive jokes.
Grand Cayman port:
We did not take an NCL excursion, but instead booked the jet-ski tour to see the stingrays with Fat Fish Adventures. This was by far the best excursion we have ever been on! There were only 6 of us plus our guide feeding and holding the stingrays. (The cruise ship excursions had hoards of people crowding around a few hapless stingrays.) The jet-skis were new and extremely fast and powerful. The water was a bit choppy which made it a bit difficult for this 49-year-old woman to get back on the jet-ski. Also, the salt spray will sting your eyes, even with sunglasses. Wear cheap sunglasses or goggles and take an underwater camera. Don't be afraid of the stingrays, they are very gentle and friendly!
After the jet ski excursion we did a bit of shopping in town (the shopping isn't as good as Cozumel), then had a 'lunch' of ice cream from the Haagan-Daaz shop... MMMMMMMMmmmmm!
The tendering process was tedious, we stood for 1 1/2 hours in the hot sun to get back on board - they had only one tender running! I don't think an elderly person could have taken this. Once back at the ship, it took a further 40 minutes to unload the tender! If you find yourself in this situation, don't stand in line. Sit in the shade and only join the line when it is almost done - they won't leave without you if there are people still in line for tender.
Thankfully no tenders here, you walk off the ship onto the dock.
We went on the Atlantis Submarine excursion booked the day before through the shore excursion desk on-board. It was a lot of fun. Enjoyable for all ages and fitness levels. The Atlantis employees work very hard to make it a good experience. Bring $10 cash to buy a picture of yourself in front of the sub - but no pressure to do so. There is a gift shop and washroom facilities at the site from which their ferry leaves to take you to the sub.
After the excursion we spent time shopping in town. For lunch, the noisy, busy Senor Frogs did not appeal to us, so we wandered down the main street. We were approached by an older gentleman to come up to his restaurant up a narrow flight of stairs. We followed him up and enjoyed a wonderful lunch at his restaurant, "Toro's Place" overlooking the main street and harbor. I highly recommend this restaurant for authentic Mexican food - we saw cruiseline staff there, so knew it must be good food at a reasonable price! To find it, if you are on the main street facing Senor Frogs, turn to your left and walk along a short ways - it's just past McDonalds.