Norwegian Dawn is a fabulous ship for families, with its family-friendly accommodations, T-Rex kids' pool, Splash Academy and Entourage kids and teens facilities and dedicated programming that families can do together throughout the ship. However, it's best if your kids can stay up until 9 or 10 p.m. The embarkation day welcome event for children ages 3 and up was held from 8 to 10 p.m., and a family deck party and cupcake decorating event started at 8:15 p.m.
Norwegian's Splash Academy is divided into four age groups: Guppies (6 months to 3 years), Turtles (3 - 5), Seals (6 - 9) and Dolphins (10 - 12). Its facilities are located on Deck 13 aft, across from the arcade. The rooms are brightly colored multipurpose spaces, so youth staff can setup games or tables for arts and crafts, and arrange the room depending on the activity. One area has a giant TV for movie-watching, another has separate consoles for video game play. All rooms are accessed only via a staff-manned gate at the Splash Academy reception; adults aren't allowed in, and kids must be signed in and out. (Children ages 10 to 12 can be authorized by their parents or guardians to sign themselves in and out.)
The Guppies room is separate because it's not a drop-off program; parents must stay and play with their children. The room has a giant porthole window and a colorful mat on the floor, but was not very well stocked with games or toys for the little ones. Once or twice a day, youth staff will host a half-hour age-appropriate activity for the toddler set. A bathroom with diaper changing station is accessible from the play area. The Guppies room is generally open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Splash Academy is open 9 a.m. to noon, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 to 10:30 p.m. It offers extended hours on port days, as well as group lunch and dinner, so adults can go out on shore excursions and leave their kids on the ship. (The fee for port day meals is $6 per child, per meal.) Turtles might have activities like making destination-themed crafts or pirate treasure hunts. Seals might have a carnival with face painting and balloon twisting or play sports and games. Dolphins might have boys vs. girls competitions, spy night, Wii challenges or game shows. On our cruise, several activities were dedicated to learning some easy circus tricks that led to a performance by the entire Splash Academy on the last sea day.
Group babysitting is available onboard from 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Cost is $6 per child per hour; the second sibling is $4 per hour. Passengers should sign up for these Late Night Fun Zones in advance; the program will close if no kids are signed up or dropped off by 11:30 p.m. There is no in-cabin sitting.
Norwegian also has developed a fleetwide discipline policy. The four-step set of rules includes warning, timeout, suspension and dismissal stages.
High chairs and cribs are available upon request (either onboard or in advance). Parents can purchase diapers and wipes to be delivered to their cabin on embarkation day. A soda package for kids ages 12 and under is $5.50 per person, per day, plus an 18-percent gratuity, and includes a souvenir thermal mug.
Family activities for parents to participate with kids of all ages included balloon twisting, circus games, Disney movie trivia, the aforementioned deck party with cupcake decorating and face painting, game shows and evening a screening of an animated movie in the atrium one afternoon.
The teen program, called Entourage, accommodates passengers 13 to 17 in the Deck 13 Entourage Teen Club. Norwegian does not separate teens from tweens. The club looks like a funky disco with a lighted dance floor, foosball, air hockey, video game consoles, a flat-screen for movies and colorful seating.
On sea days, the activities get going at a leisurely 11 a.m. with a teen-only brunch. (Norwegian clearly understands this age group.) On port days, the club doesn't open until the evening; check the schedule as opening hours change daily. Teen activities might include movie night, late-night dodgeball, foosball tournaments, group outings to the show and games like Jeopardy or Pictionary. Evenings might be a pool party or themed dance party.