This was my second visit to the Dawn (first was a fall New England cruise, wonderful!) and my fifth cruise with Norwegian. I am loyal to Norwegian because of the Freestyle concept and the ships, are a comfortable fit. I chose this cruise because of the ports and booked it back in August for a spring break cruise with my 22 year old daughter. She had never been on a cruise before and I was so excited to share this with her. We are from Central IL and flew down the day before. I usually do this now after a last minute flight change almost caused my husband and I to miss the ship for an Alaskan cruise (on the Pearl, also wonderful!) We stayed at the Comfort Inn downtown and it was pleasant and quiet, away from all the crazy. Wow! I must be the most naive 52 year old on the planet because I had no idea that New Orleans was so wild! Of course I had heard of Mardi Gras, but I just figured the partying stopped when that was over. No way! There are dozens of restaurants, bars, strip clubs, bead and mask shops, beggars, homeless, street musicians, you name it! We took a trolley ride and saw the million dollar houses and at the end of the cruise we did the "New Orleans tour and drop off at the airport" excursion. We stopped at a historical cemetery and a pretty park for beignet pastries. It was a wonderful way to end the cruise. I must say, southern hospitality is alive and well in New Orleans. Such friendly people!
The taxi dropped us off at the port around noon and we were soon on the ship. Our room was not quite ready but it was fine with us so we waved a visiting steward away. Our steward was not feeling well on embarkation day because she had just returned from the Philippines. We got settled in and went to eat in the garden cafe. Unlike the Gem in New York, the buffet on the Dawn has plenty of seats.
I purchased the specialty dining package and used Norwegian Mastercard points (25,000) to pay for it so basically it was free. There were many folks on the trip who had the free drink package and I must admit I was quite envious of all those pina coladas and margaritas being passed out. Because it was spring break, there were dozens of college kids on board. Usually my cruises are a bit quieter but we had a lot of laughs at their drunken expense. Hey I was young and fun once! Anyway, I did hear the f-word a bit more than I am used to on a cruise and we spotted several kids smoking pot on deck 13 where they thought they were hidden. Speaking of deck 13, there is an awesome hot tub up there that most people don't know about.
We went swimming with the dolphins in Cozumel, snorkeling with stingrays and sharks in Belize, visited a nearby private beach in Honduras, and visited Maya Chan private beach in Costa Maya. Other than Maya Chan, our excursions were NCL. Maya Chan was a very hospitable beach with yummy food and drinks but the water was yucky and driving through the city of Costa Maya was depressing. I will not ever visit this port again.
The shows and entertainers were exceptional, every single one of them. This ship has one of the better NCL Second City troupes and we went to the Murder Mystery luncheon on Saturday, the final full sea day. The cost was $20 each and well worth it. You don't get much food at it but you can always hit the buffet for a snack afterwards. Be sure to check the Freestyle Daily on Monday for sign up times because you cannot just walk up to guest services to book it whenever the mood strikes.
Please pay attention to the port schedule because after our first three stops, guest services put out an intercom call for the guests who were not on board, and then the ship left! This happened to some college girls in Honduras who got lost and then they had an ordeal on their hands. I have no idea if they made it back on board or not but it is a good testament to do an NCL excursion because they will not leave you if the tour runs late. Speaking of excursions, I booked ours a few weeks ahead of the trip online and the passes were in our room when we arrived. So easy and no waiting in a long line.
We loved the food and the dining package. Our favorite restaurant was the Italian La Cucina and we loved being in Stephen's station. He is adorable and I want to adopt him! Please tell him I said hi!
Despite my high score and glowing review, all was not wonderful on our cruise. My luggage still had not arrived by 6 pm and the man next door explained that he found his in front of another room on the other side of the ship. I went in search of mine and also found it way far away. Very frustrating! I got very sick one day and threw up many times (which is hard on my old muscles). So I was then sore every time I had to cough or sneeze. My daughter ate the same foods as me and felt fine so I cannot blame it on food poisoning and I felt great the next day. Although I am a Silver Latitudes member, I did not receive my ship pin or nightly chocolates. Yes I know, who needs an Andes mint when there is a ship full of food but I like to save them up and snack on them on the trip home. We also did not receive our customs form on the last day and had to go in search for it, through the crowd, before we could leave. Also, this is the Caribbean and it is loaded with insects. I came home with at least 100 bites. They are not from mosquitoes but something else (sand flies?), and they itch and are going away very slowly.
My daughter and I had a great time together and are very grateful for this trip and the fact that we made it home in one piece. Of course everything fell apart once we made it to O Hare airport but that's just a long and stupid story.
Do you have a question about the Dawn? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.