Norwegian Dawn Review
No longer among the newest, hottest ships, yet it’s still a solid choice for would-be cruisers, particularly families.
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Built in 2002, the Norwegian Dawn was one of the first cruise ships designed to accommodate the line’s then-revolutionary “Freestyle” concept of cruising that brought a more relaxed structure to on-board life. As on other Norwegian ships, passengers can choose when and where to eat in the vessel’s many restaurants, dress it up or dress it down, and choose their own entertainment options (from a fairly diverse set of choices). The food in each of the Dawn’s two main dining rooms is complimentary, but a number of other eateries come with an extra charge and most beverages are not included. Norwegian Cruise Line offers varying beverage packages, though.
While nearly a decade old, the Dawn has just emerged from an extensive overhaul in dry dock that, among other things, brought 58 additional cabins (nearly half of which were new suites). It’s a good vessel on which to bring your whole family, have a reunion or just hang out with friends, as long as you’re not looking for a formal environment.
The Norwegian Dawn is no longer the newest ship at sea, but it’s still a solid choice for vacationers looking for an affordable, big ship getaway — particularly if you live in New England. The Dawn is one of just a handful of vessels that sail regularly out of Boston, offering spring, summer and fall sailings to Bermuda and Canada for as little as $349 per person per week. That makes it a no-muss, no-fuss option for Northeasterners who want to skip the expense of flying to the big cruise hubs in Florida to reach a ship (just drive up to the pier, park and away you go).
Unlike other ships sailing out of Boston (which in recent years have included the Carnival Glory and Holland America’s Maasdam), the Dawn offers a wide range of restaurants on board, including eateries serving Asian, French, Italian and Brazilian cuisine, a sushi bar and a Japanese teppanyaki restaurant. As on other Norwegian Cruise Line ships, there’s no fixed dinner seating, with passengers eating when they want and where they want on a nightly basis — a formula that will appeal to people who don’t want to be tied down to the more structured schedule found on some ships.
Just don’t expect gourmet dining. We found the food in many of the eateries to be on par with the chain restaurants found across America (think Olive Garden for Italian). The only restaurants that really impressed us were the Asian cuisine-serving Bamboo and French eatery Le Bistro (both of which come with an extra fee).
The Dawn is a particularly good choice for families looking for a cruise out of the New England area, given its wide range of family-friendly on-board activities and lively deck-top pool areas. Starting in late 2012, in addition to sailing out of Boston, the Dawn also will spend several months in the winter sailing out of Tampa, making it a good choice, too, for families in the Southeastern USA who want to avoid a long drive (or expensive flight) to reach the many ships sailing out of Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
The Norwegian Dawn offers more than 1,000 rooms ranging in size from 142-square-foot “inside” cabins without a window overlooking the sea to 5,802-square-foot Garden Villas that are the largest suite complexes at sea.
The bulk of the rooms on board are 159-square-foot Oceanview cabins and 203-square-foot Balcony cabins. The former have a window overlooking the sea but no balcony. The latter are similar to Oceanview cabins but come with a balcony.
While built for two, many of the standard Oceanview and Balcony cabins on the Norwegian Dawn can accommodate a third passenger while a few cabins can accommodate a fourth passenger.
The ship has several categories of suites, including 667- to 732-square foot Deluxe Owner’s suite that have separate living and dining rooms and can accommodate from four to six people. Other categories of suites include two-bedroom Family Suites, which are 574 square feet and can accommodate up to five people, and Penthouses, which range in size from 355 to 483 square feet and can sleep up to four people.
The ship’s two sprawling Garden Villas each have three bedrooms (each with its own king- or queen-size bed and luxury bath and shower) as well as a living room, dining room, private garden with hot tub, outdoor dining area and terrace.
Our Cabin: Balcony Stateroom
The key card opens the door and even though the Balcony Staterooms are fairly spacious for a cruise ship, it’s difficult to get into the room, especially with a big suitcase. On the right side is the tiny bathroom, on the left closet and storage space. Walk farther in and the room opens up a little, featuring a large, queen-size bed. Between bed and wall are about three feet of space. A french door with a child lock opens to the balcony, which is as wide as the room. At the end of the closet is a little vanity with mirror and the only 110-volt plug in the room.
The Balcony Stateroom has a very comfortable queen-size bed. There is a sofa beside it that can be used as a spare bed. In front of the sofa is a small coffee table. A larger table with chair is in a corner, directly in front of the balcony door. Above it is the TV with a couple of movie channels, several news channels, and some Norwegian information channels (like the captain’s log, the bow camera, shopping advice, and the daily activities). On the left side of the bed is a simple night stand.
There are only two big problems. One, the room has only one 100-volt outlet. Second, the closet size: large enough for two, but three people’s luggage might be stretching it. Second, if the sofa bed is unfolded it’s difficult to get on the balcony.
The tiny bathroom has just enough space for one person. The sink and mirror are in the middle, with the toilet on the right and the shower on the left. Wet clothes can be hung up on the line in the shower. Handles to help passengers move around are placed strategically all over the bathroom.
The closet offers several shelves, drawers, and storage. It’s also the place to look in case of an emergency, as it stores the life vests. Look underneath and you’ll find a small safe. The closet itself is fairly spacious, with plenty of hangers and a built-in shelf, but we don’t think it will accommodate three passengers.
In the closet, above the drawers, is a coffee machine and the mini bar with soda, beer, and wine (available for an extra charge).
The balcony is as wide as the room, with two sun chairs and a little table for food and drinks. Don’t leave your door open when it’s very humid outside or you’ll sound an alarm. From the balcony you can’t see your neighbors, but you will hear them.
Our Cabin: Oceanview Stateroom
The Oceanview rooms are smallish, and most of the room is taken by the queen-size bed. On the right side is the tiny bathroom, and on the left a closet and storage space. Over the bed is a port hole window. At the end of the closet is a little vanity with mirror, along with the only 110-volt plug in the room.
The queen size bed is very comfortable. A larger table with chair is in one corner. As on many cruise ships, the TV offers a relatively limited choice of stations including a couple movie channels, several news channels and several channels showing Norwegian Cruise Line-related information (including a “Captain’s Log” with basic ship information, a channel showing the view from a bow camera and a channel listing the day’s activities). On the left side of the bed is a simple night stand.
One immediately noticeable problem with the room is its lack of 110-volt wall plugs. We found just one, which means travelers with cell phones, computers and other electronics will have to juggle their machines to keep them charged. Another problem we see is the size of the closet, which we feel is big enough for one or two people but could be a stretch if three people are sharing a single room.
The tiny bathroom has just enough space for one person. Sink and mirror are in the middle, with the toilet on the right and the shower on the left. Wet clothes can be hung up on the line in the shower. Handles to help passengers move around, are placed strategically all over the bathroom.
The closet is basically a big unit with several shelves, drawers and storage. It is also the place to look in case of an emergency, because this is where the life vests are. Underneath them is a little safe. The closet itself is pretty spacious, has plenty of hangers and a built in shelf, but we don’t think it is big enough for three passengers.
In the closet, above the drawers, is a coffee machine and the mini bar with soda, beer, and wine.
We did not stay in the rest of these cabins, but we have summaries here provided by Norwegian Cruise Line. Note that any photos on this page may be provided directly by the cruise line and not our reviewer.
Bedroom Garden Villa
These Villas can accommodate up to eight guests. With three bedrooms, each with a king- or queen-size bed and luxury bath and shower, you have plenty of space to revel in. Also includes a living room, dining room as well as a private garden with hot tub, outdoor dining area and terrace to enjoy the beautiful view from. Includes butler and concierge service.
Deluxe Owner's Suite
The Deluxe Owner’s Suite sleeps up to six guests and offers a world of comfort with a living room, dining room, bedroom with king-size bed and some offer a separate children’s bedroom. Guests will have an unforgettable experience in this suite with a convertible sofa, luxury bath with whirlpool tub and a wall of windows to enjoy the great view. Butler and concierge service available. Note: Accommodations shown are artists renderings and are representational only.
Owner's Suite with Two Balconies
The Owner’s Suites with Double Balconies are great for up to four guests. They include a living room, dining room and separate bedroom with king-size bed. Along with a mini-bar, luxury bath with whirlpool tub and an amazing double balcony. Includes butler and concierge service.
Two-Bedroom Family Suite with Balcony
With enough room for up to five people, these Penthouses are perfect if you want to bring the whole family. Includes a living area, dining area, separate bedroom with queen-size bed as well as a separate children’s bedroom and a large private balcony so you can all enjoy the amazing view. Includes butler and concierge service.
Family Suite with Balcony
Bring the whole gang because this suite sleeps up to six guests. It features a balcony, queen-size bed that converts to two lower beds, a sofa bed and additional bedding to sleep two more. Everyone can hang out in the living and dining area and there is a luxury bath with shower. Butler and concierge service available. Note: Accommodations shown are artists renderings and are representational only.
Penthouse with Large Balcony
Up to four guests can stay in these Penthouses that come with a living area, dining area and large private balcony. Also features a bedroom with queen-size bed and luxury bath with shower. Includes butler and concierge service.
Mini-Suite with Balcony
These Mini-Suites sleep up to four guests, include a sitting area, luxury bath with shower, two lower beds that convert into a queen-size bed and additional bedding to sleep two additional guests. Not to mention the private balcony with great view.
These mid-ship staterooms can accommodate up to three guests, with two lower beds that convert into a queen-size bed and a convertible sofa to sleep one more. Also includes a sitting area and floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open to a private balcony. Because these are mid-ship staterooms, you'll have easy access to everything on board.
These connecting staterooms are perfect if you want to bring the kids along. They sleep up to three guests and include a sitting area, two lower beds that convert into a queen-size bed and a pull out sofa to accommodate one more. Not to mention the floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open to a private balcony for the whole family to enjoy.
Family Oceanview Picture Window
Perfect for the whole family, these staterooms can accommodate up to four guests. They include two lower beds that convert into a queen-size bed and additional bedding to accommodate up to two more guests, as well as a big picture window for you to admire the view from.
Mid-Ship Oceanview Picture Window
With room for up to four guests, these Oceanview Staterooms come with two lower beds that convert into a queen-size bed and additional bedding to accommodate up to two more guests, as well as a picture window with a great view. These are mid-ship staterooms, which means you'll be right near everything on board.
These Oceanview Staterooms that have a porthole with an obstructed view, can accommodate up to four guests. Includes two lower beds that convert into a queen-size bed and additional bedding to sleep two more. And of course you'll have access to room service and tons of other great amenities on board.
Oceanview Picture Window
These Oceanview Staterooms have room for up to four guests, with two lower beds that convert into a queen-size bed and additional bedding to accommodate up to two more guests. You'll also have a big picture window to enjoy the amazing view.
These Inside Staterooms are the most affordable way for you to cruise. With room for up to four, you'll have two lower beds that convert into a queen-size bed and additional bedding to accommodate up to two more guests. And of course you'll have access to room service and all kinds of other great amenities on board.
These Inside Staterooms are the most affordable way for the whole family to cruise. With room for up to four, you'll have two lower beds that convert into a queen-size bed and additional bedding to accommodate up to two more guests. Plus you'll have access to all kinds of amenities, like room service and so much more.
The shower has a shampoo and soap dispenser, that’s about it. There is a hair dryer in every room and a wall plug for electric razors (only) in the bathroom. The mini bar contains soft drinks, beers, and spirits available for an extra charge.
The Norwegian Dawn offers internet and phone connections at sea. Access to the Internet costs 75 cents per minute, although there are multi-minute packages that bring that cost down. Internet packages start at $16.50 for 30 minutes. WiFi is available across the entire ship, at the same rates.
Important numbers such as guest service, housekeeping and room service are saved on the phone. Calling home is possible, for a fee, and cell phones work on the ship but you’ll likely have to pay roaming fees.
On TV you can watch several news and information channels, as well as two movie channels.
Like other Norwegian Cruise Line ships, the Norwegian Dawn is designed to offer passengers lots of restaurant choices each night at dinnertime instead of just one or two main restaurants. That said, the ship does have two main dining rooms that are larger than the rest: The Venetian and Aqua. There’s also a main buffet called the Garden Café. The main dining rooms and buffet come at no extra charge, while the other “specialty” eateries cost extra.
The Venetian (deck 6 aft), offers à la carte breakfast, lunch and, dinner featuring traditional American cuisine. If you prefer a lido deck buffet, the Garden Café has an extensive choice, with eggs, salads, soups, pasta and sandwiches – along with a special kids-sized section. Breakfast is also served at the Blue Lagoon, the only place to get food 24/7 other than ordering room service. Room service is free, unless you order after 10.30pm.
Dinner choices on Norwegian Dawn are diverse: The second main dining room, Aqua (deck 6 mid), has a more modern feel, and only serves dinner. There is also an Asian fusion restaurant, Bamboo (deck 7), with a $15 cover charge per person. Located in the same area as Bamboo, in a separate section, is Teppanyaki, a Japanese-style restaurant with just 18 seats. You’ll also find a Sushi Bar in this area. The cover charge for the Teppanyaki is $25 and for Sushi $15. Also featured on the Dawn are two European-style restaurants, Le Bistro with French cuisine, and the Italian La Cucina. Both charge $20 and are located on deck 6. Cagney’s, located on deck 13, is the ship’s steakhouse, and charges $25.
Overall, we give mixed marks for the food on the Norwegian Dawn. We were disappointed with the quality of dishes at the two main restaurants, Venetian and Aqua, and even the dishes at some of the extra-charge specialty restaurants failed to impress us. That said, we give high marks to Le Bistro, the French eatery, and the Japanese Teppanyaki restaurant.
One nice touch: If you can’t finish your meal for any reason, most restaurants will deliver the leftovers to your room.
One thing we should note is that all the restaurants have different names for the same items, especially desserts. If something sounds familiar, it’s probably the item you ate in another place.
Venetian offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and in line with Norwegian’s Freestyle dining plan, anyone can enter at any time (there are no fixed dinner seatings as on many other mass-market lines). We found most waiters to be friendly and attentive, though not all. Some seemed disinterested as they were serving.
If you're eating healthy at breakfast, stick to the fruit plate. Fair warning: fruit comes aboard the same day you do, and loses a little more flavor every day. The waffles were a bit hard, but with enough syrup, they’ll soften. The side of banana compote was delicious. Pancakes come in twos with butter and blueberry maple syrup. The French toast was excellent, though it was more of a cake at two inches high. The best breakfast dish we had was the bagel with lox, cream cheese, and onions.
Venetian’s lunch is a good alternative to the Garden Café. The stuffed portobello was good, if dry at the edges. Our angus burger was well prepared. Unfortunately, our New York strip was almost well done, instead of medium rare, as we'd asked for. The calamari was almost perfect.
Dinner at the Venetian didn’t seem quite as good as in the Aqua, even though the menus are identical. Our appetizer, blue crab cake, tasted a lot better than it looked. Eggplant parmesan was clearly kept under heat lamps for a long time, as the cheese already had hardened and lost flavor. The turkey looked and tasted like hospital food.
Desserts, like appetizers and main courses, change daily at dinner. The flan was delicious with a pleasant caramel taste. The apple pie, however, was really not good at all; neither cold nor warm, the crust soggy.
Teppanyaki is a style of Japanese cuisine that uses iron griddles or grills to cook for to an audience of diners – and it's a really fun experience. Right in front of you, chefs toss spatulas and knives, make eggs disappear into their hat, shape fried rice into a fish while cooking the meal. It’s fun to watch, and the food is very good. Reservations are highly recommended, as the place is popular. The restaurant is open from 5.30 pm to 10.30 pm, for a $25 surcharge. Overall, we were very satisfied with the food and the service at Teppanyaki and would definitely recommend trying it.
With 18 seats around two griddles, Teppanyaki isn't very big. Each place setting has both chopsticks and forks (for those who have less experience with chopsticks and don’t want to starve at dinner).
After the delicious edamame, miso soup was served, a little cold but tasting pretty good. The seaweed salad was excellent – at least, the seaweed and ginger dressing were. The iceberg lettuce under the seaweed, however, was less than impressive.
There's a choice of nine entrees of traditional teppanyaki and combinations (like surf and turf, Japanese-style). Watching the preparation of the meat gave us confidence that it would be cooked as ordered. We asked for medium rare, and we got it.
Teppanyaki serves only two desserts: green tea cake with ice cream and sesame caramel, and “fruit sashimi,” essentially a fruit plate. The green tea cake is definitely worth a try.
Decorated with prints of Van Gogh, Matisse, and Monet, lit by dimmed lights and candles on the table, Le Bistro is the perfect place for a romantic dinner. As one of the more sophisticated restaurants on the ship (with a $20 surcharge) expectations were high, but the spot lives up to them.
As an amuse bouche, we got a salmon spread with olives and toasted baguette. The mussels in Pernod-cream sauce were excellent, and for the more adventurous, Le Bistro offers escargot with a garlic-herb crust. We chose coq au vin for the main course. The chicken melted on the tongue, and the skin was delicious (yes, you really should try it). Only the onions were a little undercooked.
As for seafood, Le Bistro serves a fruit de mer course, with mussels, shrimp and fish, on a bed of linguini with a creamy white wine sauce. Think this sounds good? It is.
Also very good is the 32 oz. Angus rib eye steak for two, carved at the table. The meat was medium rare and very tender, and it could easily feed three.
Cheese after a meal is supposed to help digest the heavy French food. Le Bistro’s cheese plate consisted of Camembert, goat cheese, Roquefort and Muenster, along with figs, cranberries, and crackers. We would have liked to see more variety and maybe another french cheese instead of the Munster, but it’s a good finish.
The Chocolate Napoleon is a flourless chocolate cake with hazelnut crunch and cream, not too heavy but still very chocolatey. Another good pick is the classic Apple tarte Tatin, served warm. And don’t forget the best all: crème brûlée, with a crusty top and sweet vanilla creme.
La Cucina looks like a nice restaurant in the middle of Italy, with large paintings on the walls and tall windows, altogether a very pleasant ambiance. The staff tries to add to the spirit by greeting guests in Italian, though most of them are clearly not from Italy so it borders on the absurd.
The menu is “molto italiano” with antipasti, pasta, pizza, tiramisu and ice cream. Large paintings on the walls and big windows give you the feeling of being in a old school restaurant in Rome or Venice.
The antipasti plate included tomatoes, olives, prosciutto, peppers, and capers. The beef carpaccio with arugula and Parmesan was cut thinly, but the edges were a little brownish. As for main courses, we recommend the pork saltimbocca. The sauce with sage and red wine was the best part about the dish. The biggest disappointment we had here was with the gnocchi, which arrived cooked to a texture resembling chewing gum. The pasta frutti di mare on the other hand, was fantastic, with lots of fish, shrimp, and mussels and an amazing tomato sauce.
The tiramisu of La Cucina is delicious. The ladyfingers are soaked in coffee, the cream is sweet, and the tiramisu melts in your mouth. The flourless chocolate cake with mascarpone creme was good, but it might be chocolate-heavy for some.
Sushi & Sashimi
For a cover charge of $15 per person, passengers can eat as much sushi as they want at the Sushi & Sashimi Bar. It’s open all afternoon until 10.30 pm, and there is no reservation needed.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have the best experience. It wasn’t a bad meal, but service was lacking. Our waiter either was busy (despite the eatery being nearly deserted) or just plain rude, but he wasn’t attentive at all. We’re guessing it was the latter, as we noticed him showing far more interest in the two young girls next to us.
The design is fun, with a motorized conveyor belt carrying sushi to diners. The sushi chef periodically puts little plates on the belt, and they arrive right in front of you. The Sushi & Sashimi Bar is a silver chrome block with bar stools and the conveyor belt running the perimeter.
The menu offers nigiri sushi or sashimi with tuna, salmon, octopus or prawn, and sushi rolls like California, spicy tuna, and shrimp tempura. There are also some more exotically-named rolls like the Godzilla Roll and the Rock & Roll.
There are also two combos, Diamond and Ruby, with an assortment of nigiri, sashimi and rolls. Both combos are large, with lots of different flavors. The sashimi was cut a little thick. As for the sushi, some rolls were quite good, but all the rolls had too much rice and sometimes even sweet rice instead of vinegar.
Sushi & Sashimi offers the same desserts as the Teppanyaki.
The Blue Lagoon is in line with the rest of the ship’s decor, greens and blues with pink columns. It has more of a diner feel with a beautiful view to the Atrium and ocean. Also like a diner, it’s open 24/7, serving up breakfast and comfort food.
Most of the time, the service is friendly and spot-on. On busy days, however, it seems the wait staff is totally overwhelmed and the restaurant understaffed – we had to wait for half an hour for our food to arrive.
Blue Lagoon’s breakfast menu isn't long: a build-your-own omelet, a scrambled egg croissant, or the full plate with eggs, bacon, sausages, and toast. The only problem we had, was the runny whites on our eggs.
Lunch and dinner are the same. From 11 a.m. on, the Blue Lagoon serves comfort food: buffalo wings, hot dog, burger, soups and dips, as well as two salads. Although the buffalo chicken wings are not very spicy, they are tasty. The spinach artichoke dip should be called spinach-cheese dip, with just one piece of artichoke in the little bowl. Hot dogs are hot dogs; there’s a limited number of ways to mess them up… not cooking the onions long enough is one of them, unfortunately.
A big disappointment was the fish and chips: a single piece of fish, some regular fries, tartar sauce, and green... something, supposedly pea-puree, that tasted awful. We had fish and chips ashore, when anchored in Bermuda. That included several pieces of fish and thick cut fries. It tasted amazing. That’s how it's done.
The New York cheese cake comes with a blueberry sauce and the vanilla pound cake with a strawberry sauce. Both cakes were flavorful, but the vanilla pound cake could have used more sauce.
The Aqua’s dinner menu is the same as at the Venetian, the other main dining room on the ship. The only difference between the two eateries is their decor and size. Some days you’ll find traditional turkey and gravy, other days lamb chops and sea trout or a rib eye with baked potato and Mexican meatballs. There’s a “Favorites” menu that never changes. The Aqua and Venetian menus change daily, called the chef’s specialties. Dessert choices include sorbets, sherbets, pies, and puddings.
Compared to the Venetian, Aqua has a more modern decor. The walls are covered with modern art, from Matisse and others, and is brighter than the Venetian, which makes it less formal.
We had a mixed experience at Aqua. The salmon tartar was too salty, but the Garden Broccoli Bisque tasted the way it should.The steak we ordered here — a ribeye — was not prepared as we requested, and looked more like something you’d get at a corner diner. Although the sea trout was a little overcooked too, it tasted good, especially the sauce.
If you over-eat during your main course and want something light for dessert, there is a lemon sorbet that fits the bill perfectly — very tasty with a lemony essence that is present but not too overpowering. There’s also a pecan pie served with chocolate ice cream and caramel liqueur on the menu that we found a bit disappointing. The pecan pie itself was done well, but the caramel liqueur was not a good choice as it did not pair well with the chocolate ice cream or the pie.
To get a bit into the Latino style, Norwegian decorated this part (as the Blue Lagoon) with some little extras, like wooden barrels, rattan chairs, and decoration made of the same material, as well as pink and green columns.
Churrascarias (grills) are all over Brazil and gaining popularity in the U.S. Norwegian is the first to bring this type of restaurant to sea. It's very easy: you get a card with a red and a green side. Green side-up, waiters with skewers of meat keep serving you until you flip the card to red (green means go, red means stop, go it?).
The whole experience would have been a lot better if the waiters would have been a little faster. There were plenty of breaks in the flow when we didn’t know what to do – our plates were full of salad, but without any meat.
All-you-can-eat is the motto of churrascarias, and this is no exception. The eateries’ salads are tasty. The meats, alas, were a disappointment. We were excited to see a traditional picanha cut on the menu, but it wasn't as good as we're used to on land. The garlic beef was fatty, with little garlic taste to qualify the label. The chicken, meanwhile, was still pink in the middle, and the lamb was overcooked.
Overall this was one of the worst dinners we had on the Dawn. Were the chefs just having a bad day? There’s no way to know as we didn’t have the time to give it a second try.
The papaya cream we had for dessert tastes just as you’d expect – like papayas – but it’s nothing very special.
The Garden Café
The Garden Café is the only buffet you will find on the Dawn. It offers breakfast from 5.30 am to 11.30 am, lunch from 12 pm to 3 pm and dinner from 5 pm to 9.30 pm. On the menu are eggs benedict, fresh fruits, baked potatoes, sandwiches, sausages, humus, and salads – and even soft ice. They have something for every taste.
It looks and feels like a regular buffet in the Garden Café. There are isles between buffet and tables, where you can get drinks. At the front side is a little area just for kids, where they have their own little buffet and tables to sit at. Unlike the rest of the kids areas, adults can get into this one.
Breakfast is basic, but there are lots of choices. The eggs benedict was cold, and the hollandaise sauce wasn't very good. The yogurt is nothing special and the bacon a little soggy. Beyond those gems, the breakfast is merely mediocre. Garden Café is also the only place where you can get fresh orange, grape, or apple juice.
Lunch offers sandwiches, sausages, and more cold food than hot. This is probably a good thing, as you can get a better a la carte lunch at Venetians or burgers at Bimini. Of course it wouldn't be a buffet without things like mashed potatoes. Dinner has a wider selection of hot food, but also a lot of salads. Most the food in the Garden Café during lunch and dinner tastes good, but it’s nothing special.
The Garden Café has an ice cream station and also offers jello, cakes, fresh fruits, and a cheese assortment for dessert.
The concept of the Bimini Grill is pretty simple: you ask for a hot dog or a burger, they grill it in front of you, and you do your own chemistry (ketchup, mustard, relish, etc.). Don’t forget to grab some fries. You don’t pay any extra charges. It’s an open pool-side space with umbrellas and plastic chairs.
The menu consists of burger, hot dogs, and fries. The dress-it-yourself burgers are freshly grilled, as are the hot dogs, and all the ingredients, like onions, tomatoes, and salad are cut and ready to go on your burger.
Cagney’s is located on deck 13 and has a beautiful view over the ocean. The restaurant looks like one of the old steakhouses in Europe. Red wood chairs with leather cushions, red wood tables, place settings (but no table clothes), and black and white photographs on the walls.
Even though the menu is not very long, it is exactly what you would expect from a steakhouse: New York strip, T-bone, rib eye, prime rib and filet mignon. Appetizers include shrimp cocktail, crab cake, and oysters. Side dishes like the Cagney Fries with truffle oil and Parmesan sound promising.
We got the shrimp cocktail, which was nothing special. The cocktail sauce was good and the shrimp were well prepared, but it didn’t wow us. The lamb chops on the other hand were great, charred on the outside and pink on the inside, perfect. The Cagney Fries sounded good but didn’t deliver. They had a very strong truffle smell to them, but only a few of them really tasted like truffle or Parmesan.
For dessert Cagney’s offers a variety of the same things you get in other restaurants, as well as some specials. The sampler plate, for example, includes apple pie, cheese cake lollipops, and espresso brownies – all of which are available in other restaurants, too, just with a different name and look. The only special thing in Cagney’s is the raspberry creme brûlée.
The cheese plate was particularly uninspired. It would have been better if it had included something more ambitious than plain Swiss cheese, Parmesan, and Brie.
Ordering room service is easy. There’s a speed dial on the phone, and it takes about 30 to 45 minutes for delivery. Breakfast has to be ordered by 4 am.
There is a special occasion menu for room service that includes a selection of cold or deluxe hors d’oevres, a jumbo shrimp platter, Caspian sea caviar, and a collection of international cheeses with different breads. All of these items take about an hour to prepare and are charged separately. Other than that, you can get Pizza, Burgers, Salads, Sandwiches, Desserts and special dishes for kids.
Breakfast can be delivered from 6.30 am to 10 am. There’s a choice of different fruits, juices, breads, yogurts, cereals, and preserves. Other drinks, including coffee and tea, are also available.
The pizza isn’t quite New York or Chicago quality, but it’s okay. Burgers and sandwiches are great for a late night dinner after partying.
There is a choice of cheese cake, strawberry pound cake, and chocolate cake, which is the same brownie-like, flourless cake you get in the main dining rooms.
As on other mass-market ships, most drinks on the Norwegian Dawn come with an extra charge, including all alcoholic drinks and sodas. There are several beverage packages available if you intend to stick heavily to one type of beverage for the trip. These include wine, beer and soda packages. Most bars and restaurants serve beer, wine, soda, and coffee but charge extra if it’s not in your package. Mixed drinks can be ordered in all bars, as well as most of the specialty restaurants, like the Teppanyaki.
Beer & Wine
The Norwegian Dawn has an extensive wine list with selections from all over the world, available at all the restaurants. If you prefer beer, the choices include Budweiser, Miller, Samuel Adams, Guinness, Heineken, and Fosters.
At Gatsby’s and Star Bar the Norwegian Dawn offers martinis and other mixed drinks. The Topsiders bar offers daiquiris, margaritas, and piña colada. These are pre-mixed with the alcohol added later, so you can order them virgin. At Moderno you can get some Brazilian mixed drinks, like caipirinha and batidas. Drinks cost between $7.50 and $10.
Norwegian offers a dining room wine package on embarkation day and you can pre-order a bottle of wine. Beer can be bought in a bucket six for the price of five. Other than that there are no booze packages.
NCL offers water and soda packages with unlimited fountain soda or water for $6.25 per person per day. Juices are also available and for breakfast Garden Café offers fresh grape, orange, and apple juice.
You can get drinks in several bars all over the ship. On deck 12, right next to the Oasis Pool, is the Topsiders Bar. Some nights this bar turns into a club where you can dance all night long under the stars. One deck above and overlooking the pool is the Bimini Bar & Grill, serving burgers, hot dogs, and drinks. For those who prefer a good pint of beer, there’s the Pearly King’s Pub on deck seven, offering a variety of brews and an always-on ESPN.
For a quieter and more sophisticated evening, try Gatsby’s on deck six. The bar offers a variety of champagnes and wines. Smokers and cigar aficionados shouldn’t miss the Havana Club for hand-rolled premium cigars and drinks, especially the whiskeys and port.
The Spinnaker Lounge has a dance floor and is used for different activities and shows, like dance classes, bingo, and comedy shows, as it holds up to 500 people. On some evenings, the poolside bar Topsiders turns into a night club. The Star Bar offers drinks in a quite and dimly-lit ambiance with live piano music, making it a perfectly romantic spot.
All clubs and bars are open all night long.
Gatsby’s is a martini/champagne and piano bar. It is located on deck six between La Cucina and Le Bistro. During dinner time, a lot of people stop by while they are waiting for their table at one of these venues, and it also draws a crowd later in the evening as people come by to listen to live piano music. Most patrons we saw here appeared to be around 30 years old or olderso it’s not aimed at kids. The drinks list is long, including some fine champagne, and there is often some kind of live entertainment here, like piano music or a “guess that song” game.
Gatsby’s has comfortable armchairs, lots of painting and some Venetian-esque statues. A staircase goes to the upper level, and the place is bright, it is a nice place to conclude the evening, or start it.
Gatsby’s doesn’t offer any real food. Each table has a small vase with a mix of peanuts, crackers, pretzels, and other crunchy snacks.
Gatsby’s is a martini and champagne bar, but you can also get mixed drinks, beers, or spirits.
There’s live music every night, either on the piano or playing the guitar, and sometimes playing trivia games.
Spa & Fitness
El Dorado Spa & Beauty Salon
The El Dorado Spa & Beauty Salon on the Norwegian Dawn is managed by Mandara Spa and offers the full range of spa and beauty treatments, from Botox to Swedish massages.
Prices range from $119 for a La Therapie HydraIift facial to a five-session acupuncture therapy for $599, excluding an 18% service charge/tip. Norwegian offers several specials throughout a voyage, wherein several treatments are put into a package (different options for women and men) and offered for a fraction of the original price.
Located in the spa area is El Dorado’s Hair Salon. Here you can get your hair cut, colored, highlighted, or just styled. Also available are hair treatments for colored or dry hair, as well as different manicures and pedicures. If needed, you can also get a waxing. Men get their own treatments with “Ultimate Facial with Shave” or just a deep cleanse grooming.
El Dorado Spa also has a pool, jacuzzi, and hydro bath. The separated men and lady’s relaxation areas both have a panorama window with a beautiful view of the ocean. Behind these areas are the locker rooms with showers, saunas, and steam rooms. Before the renovations, these rooms were also available to the gym users.
El Dorado offers a selection of manicures and pedicure: the exotic Hand Ritual Manicure, the Fire and Ice manicure or pedicure, and the ordinary Shellack and Acrylic manicure/pedicure.
Norwegian Dawn features a large fitness center that will appeal to athletic passengers as well as those who want to fight the estimated five pounds of cruise-related weight gain. The room is equipped with elliptical machines, treadmills, bicycles, rowing machines, and circuit machines. There is also a gym area with mats and free weights, as well as a separate spin room with several bikes. Classes, like Fab Abs, Boot Camp and yoga, as well as seminars (such as “how to increase your metabolism”) are also offered. Be aware, though, that a lot of seminars are just the beginning of a sales pitch.
Golfing can be practiced in the so-called golf cage on Deck 13 (starboard). Norwegian hired a golf professional for clinics and instructional seminars. In our case it was Brian Leeds of the PGA. To put these practices to the test, there are also golf excursions on shore.
Also on Deck 13, there are two ping pong tables. Paddles are provided.
Shuffleboard courts are on the Promenade Deck (two on each side) and on Deck 13. The Dawn also organizes shuffleboard tournaments.
There is a small basketball court on Deck 14, and Norwegian organizes basketball tournaments during cruises.
Chess and Checkers
On Deck 13 are two giant chess and checkers boards, where everybody can show their skills.
Pools, Sun Decks & Open Areas
The seawater pool is six feet deep and kept around 82 degrees. On all four corner are hot tubs, for adults only, two of them with roofs. Near the pool is the Topsiders bar, which serves drinks and ice cream, and the Bimini Grill, which serves burgers and hot dogs. On one end of the pool area is a stage where, on sea days, a band plays Caribbean tunes. Some nights, the pool area turns into a party zone with a DJ, dance, and drinks.
Sun chairs are lined up around the pool, as well as tables in the pool casino.
This is a pool area just for kids that include water slides and a little fountain. Parents can watch their kids from the outside but are not allowed to enter the area.
The Promenade is decorated with paintings that look like works from Matisse, and there also is an area that has an Asian theme.
Sun Deck Quiet Zone
The quite zone has a beautiful view of the bow and the ocean behind it. There is also a jacuzzi, in case you get too hot, but don’t want to go to the Oasis pool.
Lounges & Public Spaces
On deck 9 you’ll find the Internet Café with about a dozen desktop PCs. Wireless is also available throughout the ship. Norwegian Dawn offers Internet packages starting at $8.25 for 15 minutes up to $100 for 250 minutes. If you don’t want to buy a package, you’ll be charged 75 cents per minute.
Havana Cigar Club
The Havana Lounge it the only place in the ship (other than in cabins) where smoking is allowed. Cigars and some prime malt whisky, port wine and sherry are kept in a humidor. The same drinks are sold in Gatsby’s too, if you’re a non smoker.
At night, the Java Cafe has live music and good drinks. In the morning, it’s a popular place to get coffee. The coffee costs a $1.50 a cup and even though they supposedly use a special roast it didn’t taste any better than the complimentary coffee served at the Venetian or Garden Café. They do have an espresso machine for fancy drinks, however, and sell all kinds of cakes in the afternoon.
The service here, at least during the day, is mediocre to rude. When we asked about the coffee, we were treated to no response, followed by a rude statement about the special coffee beans.
The Sake Bar offers the same drinks as the other bars, as well as straight sake and mixed sake drinks. It is a good place to wait if you have a reservation for Bamboo or Teppanyaki, or to simply hang out.
Normally, the Library is located on deck 12. However, this area of the ship was still under refurbishment while we were on board.
There is a video arcade for the young and young-at-heart. Unfortunately, it’s small, and a fair number of its games are old.
Lectures & Classes
The Spa offers complimentary lessons on health and fitness.
Shows & Performances
There are plenty of shows on the Norwegian Dawn. Every night brings something a little different in the ship’s main theater — one night a magician, the next night a comedian. They’re all are announced in NCL’s Freestyle Daily. Shows are free and usually start around 7.30 pm.
Dawn’s Club Casino is located on deck six. Gamblers have the choice between hundreds of slot machines (from a nickel to $25 per play), 10 Blackjack tables, poker tables, craps, and roulette tables. There are also slot, Texas Hold ‘em and blackjack tournaments, as well as gaming lessons and a special ladies’ night. While the ship is at sea, the casino is open until sunrise.
You’ll find hundreds of slot machines in the Dawn’s Club Casino, with generally the same span of themes you’d expect to see from a moderate-sized gambling floor. Unlike most terrestrial casinos, however, the Dawn’s Club only sticks to basic slots: you won’t find anything particularly unique or over-the-top here.
You’ll find a variety of card games in the Dawn’s Club Casino. The casino also hosts several tournaments over the course of the trip, including a Texas Hold ’em and Blackjack competition.
You won’t find too many non-card tables in the Dawn’s Club. There’s one craps table and an automated roulette table. The roulette table is a bit creepy since it keeps operating even when nobody is playing.
The only other casino game of note is the arcade favorite where you shoot tokens into a bin that’s overflowing with them, hoping your coin will be the one that pushes untold wealth over the edge of the bin and into your pockets.
The casino has a bar that serves both full meals and drinks.
Unless you’ve earned 1,500 “Seabucks,” drinks will be charged to your room. Reel Club members can accumulate points and redeem them for gifts.
Children have their own pool and activity areas that are off limits for adults. We did manage to take some pictures of the pool area and the Teens Club, but the other areas were not accessible. The ship offers all kinds of activities for kids from 2 to 17, like Freestyle Play Time, Dodge Ball, tournaments and other games.
Like duty free shops found on most cruise ships, Tradewinds sells souvenirs, jewelry, cigarettes, and cigars. Some designer clothes and accessories are also available, but the choices are sparse. Prices start at $40 for designer handbags, $20 for knickknacks, such as cups, and $35 for a carton of cigarettes.
Port o' Call
If you want jewelry or perfume, Port o’ Call is the shop for you. They have a selection of chains by the inch and all kinds of designer fragrances, as well as other jewelry and watches.
The Photo Gallery sells all the pictures shot by the NCL’s official ship photographer. Passengers can find and purchase their favorite photos. A variety of frames, from the simple to the kitschy.
Staff & Ship Policies
We found service to be a bit spotty at times. For the most part, the waiters in the various restaurants were quite attentive and pleasant, but a few seemed less than interested, especially in the Sushi Bar and Java Café.
After a few hours on board the steward knew us by name. He kept the room neat and clean and fashioned an animal out of our towels every night. Otherwise he was invisible. Stewards are available until 9pm.
NCL automatically adds a $12 service charge for every day you are on board. This is divided to all the wait and room staff, including your room steward, butler, or concierge. A 15% gratuity is also added automatically on every extra charge for drinks, specialty restaurant dinners and spa services. Of course, if you had exceptionally good service, you can leave an additional tip.
Norwegian Cruise Line’s flexible “freestyle” format includes flexibility in dress, and the dress code is casual. Even so, some restaurants, such as Aqua, Venetian, Le Bistro, and La Cucina require a little more formal dress code, meaning closed shoes and pants (no shorts) for men, and dresses or nice shirts for women.
The more you sail with Norwegian, the more rewards you get. The Latitudes Program is divided in four tiers: Bronze (one cruise), Silver (five cruises), Gold (nine cruises) and Platinum (14 cruises). Benefits include a members-only Cocktail party, onboard credit of up to $250, priority debarkation, and a complimentary “Behind the Scenes” Tour, depending on your level. Upon completion of the first cruise, Norwegian offers complimentary enrollment into the Latitude Program.
Health & Safety
On embarkation day, the crew performs a safety drill. Participation is mandatory. Passengers are shown where to go in case of an emergency, how to put on a life vest, and how to recognize the alarm’s sound. It’s a lot like the emergency drill on a plane, but with a lot more people.
There are about 20 lifeboats fixed above the promenade, as well as smaller, inflatable ones. All rooms are equipped with at least one life vest per person, stored in the closet.
A medical clinic is located on deck four, the lowest passenger deck of the Dawn. When the ship was rocked by a storm on our second cruise day, leaving some passengers feeling ill, it turned out to be a very busy day for the clinic, and they kept up with the added traffic just fine.
Smoking is allowed in cabins, on cabin balconies, in the ship’s casino, along the promenade deck and at the pool bar. The only public place inside the ship other than the casino where smoking is allowed is the Havana Lounge.
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