12 of us boarded the Norwegian Dawn July 2011 for my dad's 80th birthday celebration. I must be fair and say that my family of 4 (2 kids now 13 and 15)went on the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas, over a year ago. The newest, grandest, fun family cruise and we knew not to expect the same accomodations as the Dawn is older and not the same class of ship. With that said, we loved being able to drive to Boston (30 min. away), park and board the ship with such ease. Great way to start off vacation without the hassles of flying, weight restrictions for luggage etc. For my parents, both active and in good health (70's and 80) it was an easy way to travel. Instead of choosing a family suite or larger room where we shared one bathroom, we opted for 2 inside cabins. Wouldn't recommend it as the room felt musty and the bathing suits just never dried even hanging in the bathroom. Room had a musty odor, yet the room was well appointed, clean and even the bathroom shower was larger than expected. (I'm 5'2, hubby 5'9 so take it for what it's worth). Cabin steward very nice, kept room clean and made animals out of towels every night. (My brother had 2 rooms next to us, parents across the hall in nice room with window and balcony...neither got towel animals...different cabin steward). I told them we tipped better:) Next time I'd maybe get a balcony room and one across the hall without window if adjoining rooms with balconies were too expensive). Speaking of expense, the 4 of us went on the Oasis of the Seas, a much better boat for families, for not that much more $$$ than the Dawn because we had free airfare without our air miles...That's the part that bothered my husband. Okay, so here are our pros and cons.
Pros: Some of the entertainment was great. Don't miss the Second City Improv show. (The big one in the theater). Bollywood, the last night's show, don't miss. Terrific. Magician (Greg) was very good and his memory workshop was interesting but yes,always selling something $60 for his CD's.(Bingo...I don't play but I know it was $39 a card). They seem to always be selling something) Even before each show they sold raffle tickets to raffle off free cruise etc but I don't think it's guaranteed that someone from your actual cruise wins. Felt like I was in a high school show where they sell raffle tickets for scholarships etc.
Also a con...the comedian was fair, at best. Some good jokes, some not so good. Band on the run show, just okay but I still liked the music. Cruise director, Johnny Cash Sanchez was terrible. Not personable at all, hard to understand and full of himself. The worst, all 12 of us agreed. The dancers were good, singers were talented and they all put on a great show around the pool. I couldn't stand people smoking but what can you do. Yes, the casino was smokey too.
Back to the pros. Food was very good. Lots of selections at the Buffet and yes, you can eat healthy if you choose and food always available. Great coffee as I love my coffee so I was a happy camper. Cons: Same things offered almost daily. One chocolate buffet one night. Other than that, desserts were boring and not even tempting. Soft serve ice-cream was the favorite. No sprinkles offered. Diningrooms had one side of menu with daily specials but not that different. Everything was the same old, same old. Tasted very good but we got tired of it. Presentation of food was boring. But again, the food tasted very good so that's okay. We all agreed having been the first time with freestyle dining, that we don't like it. You never have a chance to get to know your waiters and they never get to know you. The lines to wait for a table are crazy. With our group of 12 we could make reservations but still had to wait over 40 minutes one night. Lots of people commented on this as well. Other cruises, the waiters knew what you liked etc and always added a nice personal touch to your dining experience. I will say that the waiters were all nice. The Aqua dngroom was less formal but the Venetian, the nicer of the two, was not that formal. They did allow shorts and tshirts which surprised us as the literature says it doesn't. We aren't formal people but it didn't take much to look like we were going to a nice restaurant. We dined at Cagney,the steak place ($25 pp), which was sooo worth it. Shrimp cocktails amazing and can get as much as you want. Steak fabulous too. Great dining experience. If it was only the 4 of us we would have done more specialty restaurants. My brother's family ate at the sushi place and loved it too. Okay, enough about that. The biggest issue we had on the Dawn was their lack of activities for the teenager. Our youngest in the group was 13, then 15, 17 and 2 almost 20. When we all saw the pool we laughed. Too small for the amt of people on the boat even if it wasn't full capacity, which it was, on our cruise) Don't think the basketball court was even a half court. Too hard to play with so many kids in a small area. (My son lived on the bskbll court on the Oasis and met tons of kids). They had one ping pong table on the windiest part of the ship. We think they just placed it there to say they had ping pong. One shuffleboard and that's it folks. Couldn't get a seat around the pool unless you reserved some by 7:30-8:00 am. I will say, they had a nice adult area and quiet area to read but very windy there but still nice to have. Our kids (13-17) tried the teen lounge but said it was a joke. Tried it 2-3 times and left). Fortunately they had each other. Night time they hung out in groups, some did karaoke, and wandered around the ship. A few nights we adults hung out in the lounge watching all the kids grinding on the dance floor. Felt like we were on spring break. We were too young to listen to the piano player but felt old watching the 20 year olds in the lounge. But we made it fun. I feel bad being so negative as we really did have a good time but the kids would never do this cruise again and I ran into people from our neighboring town say the same thing who had kids our age. Not enough for the teenagers to do. (The kids club for younger kids seemed to be busy and the kids seemed happy). Small area around the kids pool but it looked cute. They do have an arcade where you pay for games. Couldn't they offer a free xbox area like they do at the Beaches Resorts? Great way for kids to meet one another instead of the goofy games they play in the teen lounge.
The gym was adequate and very clean. Had to wait for treadmill, elliptical the first 3 mornings but started to get less busy as the week wore on. 3-4 treadmills out of order, what's up with that? Never used the spa so can't comment on that. Bermuda was beautiful. Where you dock was just okay, not great shopping at all but Snorkel beach was nice. Pretty area. All 12 of us did the Segway tour and had a ball. Also did the boat cruise to see Millionaires Row and let's just say it was an expensive nap for the 5 kids. Staff very knowledgeable but still not worth it. Who needed another boat ride? Went to Horseshoe bay and played tennis at the Southampton Princess. By far the best day! Town of Hamilton is very pretty to see but nothing special to buy AND I am a shopper!!! I so wanted to buy my 15 year old daughter something but she didn't want or like anything, Ended up buying a few things on the boat when they had $10 beach bags etc for sale. Also sold watches, jewelry) Like I said, not great shopping but husband was happy :)
Overall, like I said, we had a fabulous time as we are a fun group and had a blast with each other. The ship was clean, food was good, people were nice, shows were decent.
But for the cost of the ship (7/29th was peak season, don't know why) I would pay a little more and go back to Royal Caribbean. Sorry Norwegian. Until you offer enough for teenagers, we must move on. I must add, that my single, 46 year old girlfriend, who went with a friend the week before us, said the same thing. It wasn't her first cruise, but it's her last with Norwegian. She paid extra for 3 days in an adult relaxation area which she said was so worth it. I can't comment on that as I didn't do it. If you have any specific questions that I haven't addressed, please don't hesitate to email me....
Room 9725, 9727. Two inside rooms, 9727 had a musty smell. Very clean, adequate storage for 2. Bathrooms better than expected. Quiet area. Parents across the hall in room 9720 with balcony. Very nice room with full or queen bed. Rooms close to gym area but not noisy. Back of ship.