Norwegian Dawn Cruise Review by Cruises-n-Beaches
- Sail Date: December 2018
- Destination: Southern Caribbean
- Cabin Type: Mid-Ship Mini-Suite with Balcony
Please keep in mind our personality while reading this review: mid-40’s, husband & wife. Low-Maintenance & not very social by nature. We try to avoid conflict when possible. We’re from the midwest, so give us a chicken breast, steak, and/or potato, and we’re good. No fancy meals really required. My occupation deals a lot with process improvement, so I always see things differently.
Keep in mind that everyone has different preferences. For example, I’ve read reviews where people complained that they didn’t make enough announcements over the PA system. I personally LIKE cruise directors who are constantly in my ear! So, here it goes...
DAWN, IN GENERAL
The Dawn seems like an average NCL ship. This is our fourth NCL cruise, and for the most part, the Dawn is true to NCL. We like this size of ship. It (usually) makes things go fairly smoothly compared to some of the bigger ships. We were disappointed that the Dawn came out of dry-dock in 2016 missing some major improvements. No interactive touch screens near the elevators like on the Epic. No USB ports for charging in the rooms, and NO power near the bed at all.
Attention USA Travelers: At least in our room, there was only one semi-usable 110 volt outlet in the whole place. (Outlet #2 is in the bathroom and really only usable for razors.) The Dawn’s sister-ship, Jade, was recently outfitted with plugs and USB ports, but the Dawn has yet to be modernized like that.
The Dawn had some weird layouts, but overall, it is a solid ship. For example, there are two (uneven) sides to the Garden Cafe, but only one Ice Cream machine — and it was way in the back on the side they usually closed after the dinner rush. So when you wanted cookies, snacks, and ice cream in the evenings, you had to get the cookies on one side, and then walk all the way around to the other side to get your ice cream. Not terrible, but just a nuisance.
The stair towers are clearly marked as to what floor you are on, but this ship does not clearly identify which stair tower you are in. Can be confusing at times. We did figure it out after 4-5 days.
The theater seems appropriately sized for this size of ship. Plenty of seating, especially when there are two shows in a night. I’ve read reviews to the contrary, but there was always room at our showtimes.
We didn’t use it, but the kids area seemed very nice. Their own pool, some small slides, etc. On a 10-day cruise like this one, there aren’t a lot of kids anyway, but the ones that were there were well-entertained.
We didn’t like the fact that they played quite a few games & trivia at the Gatsby’s bar area. This area is adjacent to a cigar bar, smoking area, and the casino isn’t far either. You couldn’t even walk above it on Deck 7 without smelling smoke. We are sensitive to smoke smell, so we avoided that whole area for the entire cruise. This meant missing out on some activities, but I was able to spend more time getting some sun instead!
The food was good, as expected. The Aqua dining room was good, but nothing wowed us. The buffet seemed repetitive. I get the repetition at breakfast, but not the other meals. They didn’t seem to have a lot of “theme nights” at the buffet, though. On past NCL cruises, there was always signage at lunch indicating what the theme of the night would be. Sometimes it’s nice to not do the dining rooms and just hit a buffet when you know it’s “Mexican Night” for example. Just an observation. And why can’t cruise lines figure out how to make a good pastry?
We went to most of the shows in the Stardust while onboard. We typically went to the early show, but the 7:00 and 9:00 are supposed to be the same. We believe the entertainment in the theater was the best we’ve had on any of our cruises. Comedian/Juggler Dan Bennett is awesome (we’ve seen him before), the Newlywed/Not-So-Newlywed game didn’t disappoint, Michael Somerville had a very good show, the aerialists were impressive, magician PJ Wen was amazing (I was sitting there shaking my head multiple times), and the Elements show was very entertaining as well. Solid lineup, in our opinion.
We believe the following items were specific to our itinerary, or port, so they are grouped here:
On this cruise, there were PLENTY of deck chairs on the pool and sun decks, even on a sea day. First time we’ve ever experienced this. We’re theorizing that since we embarked in San Juan (and we know there were quite a few Puerto Ricans on this cruise), that Puerto Ricans don’t cruise to lay by the pool and catch rays. They can do that at home!
1:00 arrival in St Lucia. CRAZY trying to get off the ship. Everyone trying to leave at the same time. It took us over 30 minutes to get off the ship. Luckily, we still made our excursion meeting time. Barely! TIP FOR NCL: When you arrive mid-day, get the people with excursions off the ship first. Then let the others go. Note: we heard that the forward gangway was a lot better, but can’t verify that. If that WAS the case, it would have been nice to announce that fact over the PA system.
We were disappointed that they waited until the last night to break out the chocolate chip cookies. Plenty of oatmeal raisin, but my wife was really holding out for the CC!
I won’t go into port-specific items here. Our itinerary was awesome. Lots of stops and only one sea day. We love waking up in a different country every morning!!
NCL TRAVEL AND TRANSFERS
Due to promotions and incentives, this is the first time we allowed NCL to book our travel. The hotel was very nice and it was nice to have to have NCL worry about finding a suitable hotel, given that our original hotel (and even the 2nd choice) seems to be behind on hurricane recovery efforts. We had a room, and didn’t have to worry about anything. Flights are another story…
We were in the very back of the plane each time. I’m sure NCL chose the cheapest seats they could. I’m inclined to never allow them to schedule airfare for me again. And as indicated before, the debarkation was WAY to early for the return flight.
The transfers themselves went well. On the way in, we were met at the airport and taken directly to the hotel with no issues or delay. Same from hotel to port. The story of the transfer from port to airport has more to tell, though.
As far as the Port of San Juan, the NCL transfers we had seemed to be the way to go. There seemed to be quite a bit of chaos in the port, with a HUGE backup of traffic coming into port. Our NCL transfer was easy to get to and we were out of there… However, the 8:45 debarkation time for the transfer was WAY too early for our 3:30 flight. We had to wait around for over an hour before we were even allowed to check our bags. And there are no seats other than the hard floor! Then we sat for five hours, before our four hour flight. And after a brief layover, it was another two hours before getting home. It was a long day that really didn’t leave us with a “WOW” feeling about our vacation. One thing we might look into next time in a similar situation is to book an excursion with airport transfer included. NCL considers San Juan a “port” so if you’re getting a credit per port, that should apply there as well. Something to look into...
Will we go on NCL again? Absolutely! Was this the best NCL cruise we've been on? I think it COULD have been, but the room location just took too much away from the experience.
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Also, beware of the upgrade! If you have a balcony, I highly suggest NOT upgrading to a mini-suite. The only difference is a bath tub that is too narrow for most people to even sit in. And you don’t have as much vertical room until your hands hit the ceiling. And the kicker for it is the mini suites are on deck 11 — one floor below the Garden Cafe. Our “upgrade” from a balcony to mini-suite was a failed exercise. Looking back on it, I should never have done it. And to think I actually PAID for what turned out to be a downgrade!!!
The Guest Services staff TRULY TRIED to be helpful, but ultimately failed. They offered to secure us a 2nd room for sleeping purposes. Leaving out some detail, it took 2 days for this to happen, and only then did they get us a room on Deck 5 (6 decks below our main room) and that room was below one of the dining rooms on Deck 6. We declined the extra room, shoved some free ear plugs in our ears and muddled through the noise. This will likely be my last attempt at an upgrade. If you’re a planner like we are, stick to your plan!
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