Just back from a 10 day Southern Caribbean cruise on the NCL Dawn and what a great time we had.
We have been on 2 other NCL ships and while all are somewhat the same I will say I loved the Dawn's Grand Atrium area. Only negative in design is the removal of Spinnaker's Lounge on the 12th floor; although the suites they added in exchange are very nice, the new location of Spinnakers is dark and much smaller. Hope they don't change the location of Spinnakers on the Pearl before next summer as I would hate to lose the view from Spinnaker's while cruising the inside passage.
Flew into Miami the night before and stayed at the Marriott Biscayne Bay, nice room and close to port. On board the Dawn we splurged for a penthouse suite this time around and loved the extra space, amenities & the embarkation process for suite guests is great as well. We were in a forwarding facing penthouse on the 10th floor and the large deck was great. The wind could be rather strong on sea days but not an issue when lying in the lounger reading a book or star gazing at night. Breakfast and lunch at Cagney's was a huge perk too! The concierge and butler service was also an added bonus, but hands down the room steward on the Dawn was the best of all, hardworking, friendly and so helpful throughout the whole cruise.
We only ate in the main dining rooms twice, not because of the food quality but more so the noise level. Both the Venetian and the Aqua seemed to be louder than I recall the main dining rooms being on past NCL cruises. Enjoyed all the dinners at the various specialty restaurants, with Cagney's still our favorite.
This was also our first 10 day cruise and I loved the extra days. Less kids than other cruises and the average age of the passengers was also a little older so a different vibe than a 7 day cruise but loved it nonetheless.
Did not hit all the shows but the one's we did were great. The last day of the cruise was the Second City Murder Mystery lunch, well work the extra $20 per person, lots of fun.
Having been to Samana on previous cruise in March where we went to Cayo Levantado (beach excursion) we choose the Caves and Mangroves excursion through NCL this time. It was interesting and beautiful but a long boat ride to the National park, which wouldn't be bad but the weather that day was not so great.
We were also there in the spring on the Pearl so we just decided to take a tour of the Island. Found a great taxi driver right outside the port gates and for $15 per person had a wonderful 2 'Â½ hour island tour. Great sites and stops for pictures along the way including an old rum factory and a 45 min stop at a local beach. Talked to some other folks and they did a similar tour via the ship for quite a bit more $$, great price and tour guide.
Did an NCL excursion for this port and hands down it was the best I have ever done. It was the America's Cup Regatta sailing excursions. Along with the crew you ran and raced the sail boat against 2 other boats. If you don't mind working a little on your vacation don't miss this, wonderful time and our boat won! We had more than enough time after the excursion was over to spend the day in town for shopping and lunch.
Antigua-took a tour of the island via a taxi cab, $15 for person, (again outside the port gates) good tour including Nelson Dockyard
Barbados-tour via NCL, shipwreck and turtles snorkeling. It was fun and the turtles were amazing, best to hang back a bit from the guide for better pictures of turtles minus all the legs of the humans.
St. Kitts, another $15 per person Island Tour in an open air taxi, plus a little shopping to end the day!
Overall the Dawn was a great ship, with a great itinerary and fabulous crew. If I had to state one thing I would like NCL to change, it would be the smoking policy. Our room was fine with no smell of smoke but sometimes in the halls the smell was really strong, also they could use a better ventilation system in the casino and or a non smoking section, unbearable at times.