In its former life as Regal Princess, the ship had a decent number of affordable balcony accommodations: 184 out of a total 795. By today's standards, however, that's not many, and it's unfortunate for a ship that chases summer weather with a major focus on the great outdoors. The last two makeovers have made major improvements to accommodations, including the addition of family-friendly interconnecting staterooms and upgrades to the suites and mini-suites.
Of the 795 accommodations, 171 are inside staterooms, 440 are standard outside staterooms, and 134 are outside staterooms with private balconies. There are also 36 mini-suites and 14 suites -- all with private balconies.
The 14 suites are 557.5 square feet (51.8 square meters) in size, each with a deep, long balcony and outdoor furniture. They are all located on Deck 11 forward and sleep up to four people using a rollaway bed and a cot; the one exception is a cabin configured for physically challenged cruisers that sleeps just two. Suites each have a roomy living area, a bedroom with a spacious walk-in closet and a large bathroom with a tub and separate shower. A bonus is a separate toilet, which can also be accessed from a doorway at the entrance to the suite.
An upgrade in 2012 saw the addition of new furniture and upholstery, new woodwork throughout and a new color scheme that features elegant dark blue accents on the pinstriped carpeting and plush bed coverlets. Amenities include flat-screen televisions, iPod docking stations, DVD players, Nespresso coffee machines, and perks including a glass of wine on cocktail nights, complimentary laundry service, complimentary bottled water, personalized stationery and an invitation to the senior officers' private cocktail party.
The 36 mini-suites are just less than 366 square feet (34 square meters) in size, each with a decent balcony. They are all located on Deck 11 midship, with two configured for the physically challenged and sleeping two, and the rest sleeping up to three with a single rollaway bed. Featuring spacious sitting room areas, they were also refreshed in 2012 with new wood, furniture and upholstery, and they feature complimentary bathrobes and slippers, fresh flowers and fruit, a welcome glass of Champagne, and canapes on cocktail nights.
Outside staterooms with balconies are divided between decks 10 and 11. Those on Deck 11 are just less than 210 square feet (19.5 square meters) in size and sleep two, although a lower berth can be removed to accommodate a cot. Two of these staterooms interconnect to two-berth outsides. The majority of outside staterooms with balconies are on Deck 10, including the one we'd been assigned to, and they have the same size and configuration as those above.
Although our stateroom was comfortable and nicely styled, by today's industry standards it was a tad small. The bed and easy chair were new, and the warm red wood on the desk and behind the head of the bed had been polished, but traces of Dawn's true age remained in its retro fixed metal lamps and older style telephones.
The overall decor, however, was easy on the eye, with a blue-and-white spotted carpet, cream colored drapes, and off-white walls adorned with a couple pieces of artwork. The only other freestanding furniture was a small easy chair with blue speckled upholstery, a butter-colored faux-leather desk chair and a small high table. The balcony was also small and narrow with a door opening outward, and some aging furniture including two upright chairs and a small table.
Closet space was decent, but there wasn't anywhere to store bags; under the bed was ruled out, as it was too low slung. The bathroom was another giveaway of Dawn's heritage; it was tiny and old-fashioned, although it did have enough storage above the sink for toiletries. It also had a decent sized shower cubicle with a low step, a curtain and a new shower head; the water pressure was reasonable, but the temperature fluctuated wildly between cold and hot all the time and could not be fixed. Complimentary toiletries are provided and include body wash in a refillable container in the shower, as well as sachets of environmentally friendly shampoo and conditioner.
Balcony staterooms come with few perks. Bottled water is available at a cost of A$4.95, but the tap water is quite palatable. On arrival, there were two plastic sleeves on the bed, each containing a robe and slippers, which cost A$29 to use. You can take them home, but if you're in a suite, they're free. Oddly, there were no tissues in our room, something I also noted around the ship in public facilities. When I mentioned it to our stateroom attendant one morning, however, a box of tissues appeared on our bed that night.
The remaining accommodations, which were left out of the 2012 refurbishment, are standard outside and inside staterooms. Standard outsides are located across seven decks, and they're slightly larger than 189 square feet (17.6 square meters) in size with either picture windows or portholes. They sleep between two and four by way of a queen sized bed, which can be configured as twins, and one or two pull-down upper berths. Depending on their location, some standard rooms connect to other quad-share outside staterooms, ideal for larger families and groups of friends. Inside staterooms are also located across all passenger decks, except for Deck 4. They have the same size and configuration as standard outsides, but they sleep up to four people.