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We took some notes during our most recent cruise on the Norwegian Dawn. I’ve tried to organize them into some kind of order that makes sense. 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! DINING 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? ENTERTAINMENT 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. CRUISE-SPECIFIC ITEMS 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.

Great Cruise - Terrible Upgrade

Norwegian Dawn Cruise Review by Cruises-n-Beaches

3 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: December 2018
  • Destination: Southern Caribbean
  • Cabin Type: Mid-Ship Mini-Suite with Balcony
We took some notes during our most recent cruise on the Norwegian Dawn. I’ve tried to organize them into some kind of order that makes sense.

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!

DINING

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?

ENTERTAINMENT

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.

CRUISE-SPECIFIC ITEMS

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.
Cruises-n-Beaches’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Mid-Ship Mini-Suite with Balcony
Cabin MA 11626
Pay attention to articles that talk about which cruise cabins to avoid. On the Dawn, it’s 100% true that rooms below the Garden Cafe (the buffet) are noisy. You hear every chair that is pulled out or pushed in at a table. And every cart that crosses the floor. There are maybe 5 hours a day you do not hear this. TIP FOR NCL: Have you thought about some kind of felt pad or glider on the chair legs????

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!
Deck 11 Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Snorkeling
    Very good snorkeling excursion. Lots of time in the water. Lots of fish. Bring your GOPRO!!!
    View All 66 Snorkeling Reviews
  • Aruba
    This was our 2nd time in Aruba, the first time without an excursion. We walked around a bit, but found the small shops too small to even feel comfortable in. We plan on exploring resort options in Aruba. If we visit Aruba again on a cruise, we will likely explore excursion options once again.
    View All 1,652 Aruba Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Aruba Cruise Port Review
  • Barbados
    Barbados is very busy if there are multiple ships in port. Catching the $2 taxi ride to Bridgetown was hectic. Once in Bridgetown, we walked around. Bridgetown is a "busy" capital city. Lots of traffic. Lots of taxis. Shops were unremarkable. A driver offered to take us on a tour of the island, but we declined and didn't even ask how much it was. We wonder what it would have been like. Perhaps we will do an excursion if we visit Barbados again.
    View All 1,530 Barbados Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Barbados Cruise Port Review
  • Snorkeling
    We took Henk & Gea's snorkeling excursion on their catamaran, the Sea Cow. We had two snorkeling stops. Very good information on the area and now to snorkel. This would be a great excursion for a beginner based on instruction, but when we went, the currents were a little rough, so beginners may have had a "rough" time.
    View All 147 Snorkeling Reviews
  • Curacao
    This was our second visit to Curacao, the first without an excursion. Willemstad is like many other cities. There's good areas and poor areas. We just walked around this time; took a trip over the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge to the Punda side of the city. It was like most Caribbean cities and was quite pleasant. Our only complaint was that the shops not associated with the cruise line didn't open until 10:00, even though we were there much earlier. Had to "kill some time" until everything actually opened.
    View All 1,254 Curacao Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Curacao Cruise Port Review
  • Catamaran Day Sail
    This was a long trip. We sailed to the Pitons, two volcanic peaks along the coastline. We also stopped at a beach location for a swim. We had a good hour for the swim, which was nice. The beach was nothing to speak of, but we had a good time getting in the warm Caribbean waters.
    View All 66 Catamaran Day Sail Reviews
  • St. Maarten
    The Zipline tour was nice. Very fun. Good views of the city and shorelines. The Schooner ride was unremarkable. Would skip this part of the excursion if we were to book again. The Flying Dutchman is a REALLY HIGH and LONG zipline. It was a GREAT thrill, that we would definitely do again. Few words of advice: make sure to get your group number from the attendant BEFORE you start climbing the stairs. You'll need it to actually get on the ride. Check how many ships are in port. If there are a lot, it will probably take you FOREVER to actually ride it. We were group 19; they were on group 4 when we got there. It took over 2 hours for us to get our turn. And there were only 2 ships in port that day. Again, BRING YOUR GOPRO!
    View All 13,324 St. Maarten Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's St. Maarten Cruise Port Review
  • Magen Bay Beach
    Megan Bay is BEAUTIFUL. We were the only ship in port that day, so it wasn't even crowded. Beautiful, calm water. Soft sand. Our transport stopped at Drake's Seat before going to the beach so we could get perfectly positioned photos of the area.
    View All 236 Magen Bay Beach Reviews