This was our third time cruising NCL, and first time on the Dawn. Other ships included the Pearl and Spirit. We selected this cruise because of the itinerary and previous good experiences on NCL. Have also cruised on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Ships many times.
We left Chicago's snow and cold, and flew to New Orleans the day before our cruise. Stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn New Orleans Airport, which is near Lake Pontchartrain. They have a free airport shuttle along with very nice accommodations. We enjoyed a late night meal at the hotel which was absolutely delicious; Turkey club, with Mac n' Cheese side, dish-killer! There is a casino nearby with a complete floor that is nonsmoking, which you can walk to, or take a complimentary shuttle.
Sunday morning the front desk called a taxi to take us to the cruise port, about 20 minutes away, supposedly $33 for two people. Be sure your taxi gets in the NCL line at the port, and not Carnival line. Our taxi driver was not that alert, and I was able to save us some time here. At the terminal, the NCL baggage handler greeted us warmly. Once inside, we filled out the health forms, showed our passports and checked in with our EDocs. We were all done within twenty minutes and onboard by noon. No problems. Great customer service throughout the terminal.
We had lunch in the Garden Café Buffet and then began to explore the ship. It was cool out and there was an extremely heavy fog and at times the downtown buildings along the Mississippi River, and the majestic bridge seemed to disappear. The Life Boat drill was conducted in the Venetian Dining Room & went smoothly. The fog delayed our departure by 2 hours, and since it was dark out, we did not get to see the city and shoreline as planned. Safety first. I heard they shut down the Mississippi for all vessels excepts cruise ships that evening.
Our ports included Cozumel (Xcaret), Belize City (Baboon Sanctuary), Roatan (Gumbalimba Park and Tabyana Beach & BBQ) and Costa Maya (Yaya Beach) We loved them all!
We were very pleased with our cruise and the ports. The ship was spacious and well kept with the exception of a few Women's restrooms that needed some attention at times, not always. We went to the shows in the main Theatre. Most shows were very good including the Illusionist, who was quite gifted. I still can't figure out how it did what he did. There was a afternoon show the last day at sea, where we saw the end... and he gave some tips to his tricks. Probably would've loved the entire show. The Second City Comedy Show was quite funny and Elements, which is their Main Production and was lovely.
There is one outdoor pool with 2 whirlpools that we did not use, due to inclement weather on sea days, and no time while in port. There is an indoor pool in the Spa area, with 2 special whirlpools, which we would have loved to use. We declined to pay the $125 per person fee for use of the indoor pool. We thought that was too much to spend for the limited use we would need it for (2 hours on the two sea days). We have enjoyed Celebrity and Royal Caribbean Ships that have Adult Only Indoor Pools areas with no extra charges. The indoor pool looked very nice and the few times we stopped in to gaze, nobody was even using the pools. Suggestion, they could sell day passes for $10-$15 per person if they need to, if they need to limit the number of persons, and see how that goes.
I love walking around the ship outside (Deck 7 on the Dawn). There was ample outdoor space on the Dawn for this, with some "smoking areas", which selfishly, I hope they eventually do away with.
Shuffleboard. Ping Pong, and Outdoor chess? Yes they have it. We played Ping Pong - loads of fun, and great way to start the day. I would've loved some "quieter" music poolside, for a portion of the time.
We enjoyed eating breakfast in Blue Lagoon, which was a relaxing way to start a port day. Lunch in the Venetian Dining Room is a treat, and we tried a variety of options, especially loved the hummus appetizer. The Bimini Grill served a mean burger (hot dogs too), higher deck overlooking the pool. My husband enjoyed the ice cream served pool side on many days. The buffet was ample, and sometimes there was a line at the beginning. We did not realize at first that there are different stations with different choices and you can pretty much avoid waiting in line. We ate dinner in Venetian and Aqua, and were satisfied with the variety, presentation and quality. The food was very good. Some of the appetizers are overly generous. My husband loved the Chocolate Volcano dessert, which he ordered 3 different evenings. I asked for a small portion in the dining room for dessert and was always accommodated. We received great service from all of the wait staff, who were pleasant and most accommodating.
Our stateroom attendant was efficient and our room was always kept clean, and the towels at night were quite extraordinary, over and above what we've been used to. I loved the Sea Turtle Artwork on our wall, my favorite creature on earth.
The casino was like most, with some new games to have fun with. We pretty much broke even. There was a nice snack station next to the bar, which again, was nice to get some fresh fruit while gaming.
On the last day, we ate breakfast in the Aqua Restaurant before getting off the ship, and chatted with some fellow cruisers, comparing notes. This was their first cruise and they wanted to know how the Dawn compared to our other cruises. My husband said it best "We've never had a bad cruise". A lot is what you make of it. Don't let little things annoy you and if something needs to be addressed, then do so, right away, and you'll have a much better time. The staff is there to assist you.
Getting off the ship was a breeze. We found our luggage quickly and were whisked through customs.
The staff overall was wonderful, and did their job well, and were truly "Vacation Experts".
We took a cab to a nearby car rental agency to explore Biloxi for the day before flying home on Monday.
We are enjoying sharing wonderful stories and memories about our cruise with friends and family, and of course look forward to our next Adventure.
Our Inside room was one floor above the Spinnaker Lounge, AFT, and not too far from the lifts. Quite noisy the first night from the events in the Lounge. Did not bother my husband at all. Once I got used to the sounds, I slept well every night. Nice size shower, very Comfortable bed and Luxurious linens. There was a large framed Sea Turtle in our room, as if picked especially for me. We choose inside rooms at times so we can cruise more often.