My wife and I took a family cruise with my family on the June 17th cruise of the Dawn. Having cruised with Royal Caribbean before we were excited to see how traditional cruising would match up with freestyle cruising. Here are our experiences....
Getting on the ship in New York was very easy, quick and not a problem at all. We took a bus service to the dock, we were immediately greeted by someone who took our luggage and told us it would be in out room by 7:00 or so. We walked in waited in in line for about 5 minutes, checked in got our sea passes and were on the boat in no time at all.
As for the ship, I have to say it first impression it was nicer, bigger and laid out must better than the Royal Caribbean ship we took, which was the Serenade of the Seas.
Once we could get to our rooms, about 2:00p.m. we were again surprised at the size of the room and the bathroom (seasoned cruisers will know what I mean). Now for the rest of the cruise here are our pros & cons...
Pros: The rooms were huge and bathrooms were big for a cruise. Much more restaurants to try than Royal Caribbean. And not just pay ones, free ones and the food was excellent. The staff was great. Here's a little tip, if you want to just have a drink, go to the Salsa cafe. They have these little areas where you can sit and ask for some salsa and chips. It is a great place to sit and relax. Great Stirrup Cay was unbelievable! Get there early to get a chair and a raft. The rafts are a lot of fun, grab a drink and just float around all day. We saw 2 shows, Bollywood and the opener. Both we very good and the cruise director Matt Baker was very funny.
Cons: Very few thing to comment on. One was the pool situation is a disaster. We were at sea for 4 days and every day it was a battle to get a chair. My advice is to be a "Chair Hog" Get up at 7:00 a.m. and go out and get a chair otherwise you will not have a chair or a spot to sit all day. There is really no tip here it really is that bad.
Second downfall is that other than the Blue Lagoon and room service, there is no real "pick on" food. After a good booze feast we all like a little chips or something and it really is hard to find something at midnight.
So overall how did we like it?
GREAT!! It's vacation how could you not.
Comparing the two are like comparing apples and oranges. I think NCL is more fun if you are going with people or family. We had a blast. The Spinnaker Lounge is a ton of fun every night, Great Stirrup Cay is amazing. Is the food 5 star restaurant, no but is it terrible food, no. It very, very good. Does the waiter/ess wait on you hand and foot, no, but they take good care of you. Rooms are clean, food is excellent, alcohol is alcohol. My advice is if you are looking for a romantic getaway and want to be pampered and get the royal treatment, go on Royal Caribbean. It is a lot more romantic, the wait staff gets to know you, it's more of a relaxed laid back feel. If you are going with people or family I highly recommend NCL & freestyle cruising. It is more a fun, partying feel. More bars, more theme things, more to do with people. I loved NCL and the Dawn. Great trip great vacation, great ship, great time.