Just a few words to describe...easy, quick, a breeze. We were a party of 11 and were dropped off at the dock. Porters met us and wheeled all of our luggage (about 18 pieces) onto the ship. We made it through customs to the check in, we sat for a few minutes until our number was called. Within 35 minutes of arriving, we were eating lunch on board in the Garden Cafe...nice.
The food on the Dawn was excellent. We had lunch daily at the buffet and mostly had dinner at either Venetian or Aqua. Venetian had a much better atmosphere. Be prepared to put your name in and wait...most nights we waited about 45 minutes to sit, but there was 11 of us. We tried La Cucina one night at $10 per. The food there was outstanding as well as the service. The Garden Cafe was great anytime of the day. Selections were repetitive, but there was a large variety. If you don't buy the soda card, the drink selections are limited to water, iced tea, OJ and apple juice. Apple juice only available in the a.m.
The staff on board was hit or miss. Our cabin steward was nothing special, we had to beg for towels. For some reason in a cabin for four people, he would only put 2 towels.... why I don't know. Getting the striped pool towels was like trying to pull teeth. The wait staff in the "free" dining areas was mediocre, nothing special. At La Cucina the wait staff however were very good. I understand that it must be difficult to be nice, attentive and smile at everyone all of the time. It must be hard to be away from family and work 9-12 hours a day, 7 days a week for 9 months...I get it.
The ship is beautiful. I read many negative comments before we went about how difficult it was to get around. I somewhat have to agree. The ship seems a little chopped up to me. At some points it seemed we had to go up to get down. There is one area where you have to walk through a restaurant to get to the theatre. We did get used to it very quickly though, and had no problems.
On a nice sea day (we had 4 of them) the pool is way too small. Most times we were shoulder to shoulder and couldn't swim.
Unfortunately we were forced to become chair hogs, sorry. If you didn't claim your spot by 8:30am or so, forget about getting a chair. We learned this quickly after the first day. Though there is signs posted everywhere stating you cannot reserve a chair for more than 30 minutes, the staff did not enforce. But again, the ship is beautiful. We stayed on deck 8 in an outside cabin. Our stateroom was very comfy. The entire ship was very clean and pleasing to the eye.
There was always something to do on board. The magician was awesome, he made a helicopter appear on stage. Whenever you can get a helicopter inside of a ship, that's a bonus. The comedian Dan or Dave Heenan was not funny to me, but there were people who were laughing. The Caribbean Wave band that played island and reggae music was awesome. The nightly singers/piano player in the lobbies and lounges was a treat. Bingo was played about everyday...woohoo. Our group was partial to the Casino. We didn't come out ahead, but duh. We had fun. The cruise director Johnny Sanchez seemed up beat and was visible throughout the week. There were so many other things going on like the Newlywed game, name that tune, Band on the run. Lots to do.
Absolutely a beautiful island. Here's a tip....If you are getting a 3 day bus/ferry pass; do not get in line in the customs area just off the ship. Hook a left and head to the middle of the pier, you will see a small white trailer, no lines no wait. Day 1 we took the bus to Horseshoe Bay beach. This beach was absolutely the nicest we had ever seen. Excellent body surfing and snorkeling. Also enjoyed the cliff jumping at high tide...awesome. Lunch, restrooms and chair/umbrella rental available. Day 2 we went to Elbow beach...it is beautiful but there are no facilities there that we could see like HS Bay. We hopped back on the bus and went back to Horseshoe Beach. Day 3 we did a glass bottom boat ride and shopping. Be prepared some of the bus drivers are nice and some are not, but whatever no big deal. We loved Bermuda.
Again, a breeze. Very orderly and simple...we had no problems getting off the ship.
Some final thoughts. We probably wont take a freestyle cruise again, it just wasn't for us. I would rather payout my tips for those that deserve it. I feel since the stewards/staff automatically get their tip, they do not go the extra mile. We sailed on the Disney Wonder in '09 and liked the fact that the waiters knew our name (this obviously is not the only reason). But overall, the NCL Dawn was a beautiful ship with excellent food and so-so service....we had a blast. I would give it an 8 out of 10. Thanks for reading my review!