Another review of 6/20 DAWN

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11 Posts
Joined Jun 2004
Here are my thoughts...

There were (10) of us total. My wife, I and our (3) daughters (ages 11, 7 and 7) and our good friends (2 adults and 3 children as well).

Embarking the Ship was no problem. Yes, it was very crowded, but it looked worse than it was. We arrived at the pier at 11:30, and were on the ship by 12:30.

One suggestion: Bring a carry-on bag with everything you may want/need until dinner time (bathing suits, sun screen, etc). Our luggage did not arrive to our cabin until 4:30 pm.

We had (4) cabins total.

(2) outside cabins with balconies on the 9th floor and 2 inside cabins across the hall. I thought the inside cabins were suitable to (2) adults of (3) kids...which is what we used it for.

The outside cabins were very nice...small walking areas between the bed and wall, but you make due. The balcony was awesome to watch sunrises, and just to relax..


We all really disliked most of the dining experiences, and I let NCL know it on the ship and through the comment cards.

There were many complaints I had...but the main one was this. The QUALITY of food in the pay restaurants, along with the quality of service, was far better than the main dining areas (Aqua, Impressions and Venetian).

Let me add too...that Venetian was ALWAYS a nightmare because of the extremely slow service, and mistakes on food orders.

The Garden Cafe for breakfast was LOUD, cramped, annoying and sub-par in food quality..IMO...

In fact, when we arrived home yesterday and ate lunch...we felt like we were missing was the NOISE.

We have all cruised many times....and none of us enjoyed the dining experiences EXCEPT for La Trottoria (which we all thought was very very good).

BUT...We were not please with the fact that we had to pay EXTRA for the quality of food and service on Le Bistro...which, for the same quality and service was always offered for free on past cruises.....yes, the difference between the pay and non-pay restaurants were that much.

In addition, Friday was lobster night (well, if you want to call them lobsters...more like jumbo shrimp sized lobsters)....and an announcement was made over the intercomm which indicated that lobster was free in every restaurant on the ship, including the speciality restaurants, except for Cagneys.

So...we walked into Le Bistro and asked if they had the free Lobster...and the hostess indicated YES

Now...we already had reservations at Le Bistro for SATURDAY night...but figured we'll sit in nice restaurant, quieter restaurant and eat for free (well, not really free....we already paid for the food when we purchased our cruise tickets).

So..We went in...sat down..ordered our wine, the kids ordered from the kids menu...and we placed our lobster order. I asked the waiter what came with the lobster...and he said we can pick an appetizer, soup or salad from the main menu...I asked him "at no charge?"...he said "yes"..

So...we all orderd escargots...and salads and soups....

A few minutes later he returns, obviously sensing a misunderstanding, and told us that there will be a $15 charge per person for the orders..

We explained to him the announcement, the discussion with the hostess and my question to him about the charges for soups, escargots, etc..

They huddled for about 15 minutes...making phone call after phone call...finally, the head cheese comes over and says it was a misunderstanding, and there is nothing he can do about it..we have to be charged....

We told him that we can walk 25 feet over to Impressions and get the same thing for free...we never expected to order from the main menu...and we were told we could at NO CHARGE.....we said cancel our order and we will go to Impressions...he said to wait....then came back 5 minutes later and said we can stay and eat for free....

Obviously because the order was already being filled...not out of courtesy, or else he would have not tried to charge us first..

Dinners came....and when we were offer for dessert OR coffee...

The following night we returned and paid to eat...we got dessert and coffee.

Now...another issue with the freestyling is making reservations. You cannot make a reservation until 8:00 am, and only for the same day or the next day.

Let me assure you...unless you are in a suite, or unless you are a party of 4 or will not get a decent time reservation.

We never ate before 8:00 pm at La Trottoria, Salsas or Bamboo...

So..we decided on Thursday morning that Saturday would be our Le Bistro night...however we wanted an early dinner time..6-7 pm..

I knew I could not call until 8:00 am on Friday...

So Thursday evening when we returned to our room and saw the freestyle daily...there was going to be a problem.

Our excerssion for Friday was at 7:55 am. Which means I would not be able to make a dinner reservation for saturday night until we returned friday afternnon.

That was unacceptable to me.....I did not chose the 7:55 am excersion time..NCL did.

So...I went to the front desk..and explained the situation...after about 15 minutes and numerous phone calls...they were able to "bend the rules" and get me a 7:00 pm reservation for saturday night.

When we sailed the Ecstasy and Fantasy years ago...the quality of food was awesome...our friends sailed Royal Carribean and Carnival cruises..and also raved about quality of food..INCLUDED IN YOUR CRUISE...not extra.

Yes...I knew the Dawn had some restaurants that were fee-based...but the difference in quality and service was too much.....

We had a great time because of who we were with...and because we made the best out of it....we loved the Star Bar....and found ourselves there nightly for martinis.

One added note....

The kids club....we brought our kids there for one hour, the first day at sea....picked them up an hour later...all four of them said "Please do not ever bring us back there again".....we didn't. was not fun...nor were the counselers interacting much with the kids.

I never wanted to bring them at all....The kids wanted to try we let them.

Later in the week I saw about (25) 5-7 years olds marching in a pirate parade out by the pool....I saw 3-4 with smiles on their faces...the rest looked miserable...hope their parents were having a good time.

Our kids had the best time...mostly because they did not have to deal with the same things the adults did....we made sure this was a memorable cruise for them...

The adults had a niec time when we weren't trying to find a seat in the garden cafe, or spending 2 hours for lunch in the venetian, or paying extra for food that should be part of the main dining ares (example...the cheesecakes in the main dining areas...just awful....the cheesecake in the pay restaurants...FABULOUS).

I personally do not think this type of cruise is for everyone....and we (10) will not be booking another one with NCL.

As I said...there were many other annoyances...and some to be expected.

Our group always has a good time..and are very easy going....but some things cannot be overlooked.

New Jersey
62 Posts
Joined Mar 2004
Mike, We were on the dawn 6/6 there were 6 of us, all adults. We made reservations for the main dining room for 6pm all week. Then we just cancelled that day we decided to go to cagneys. Maybe cause the week you went they were busier and didnt allow one to make reservations all week.

I am glad that you guys made a great time out of it even thought there were some things that you didnt like. I actually loved it. Yes the service was slow but we didnt mind sitting relaxing and talking while we waited. Now I had no kids and I am sure if my kids were there we would have been ordering room service all week..LOL

There wer 460 kids on board that week and believe me if I saw 20 of them that was alot.

I probably wont do the dawn again only cause now that I've seen it I woukd rather see other ships but I probably would sail NCL again..

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Meriden, CT
2,056 Posts
Joined Feb 2003
Just so others see there is another side, I'd like to note we've been on the Dawn twice, her sister ship the Star, and have booked a 10 day to the S. Caribbean, and planning for a Bermuda cruise on the Crown in 2005. We have dined at the times we chose on each of the 21 dinners we've had with NCL, and have waited only twice, both times at Impressions, about 20 minutes. There were a couple of times we had to switch restaurants when we couldn't get in on the same day, but made them for the next night. The most we've had in our party has been 6, so that is an advantage over those with larger parties.

As for food quality, we found no difference between the regular and specialty restaurants. Of course the menus had more "higher profile" items on the specialty ones, but could not say there was a difference in quality for the same items. The main difference between the restaurants is presentation and atmosphere. We like the thought of choosing what style of dining we would like from day to day, as opposed to having little or no choice, and having a standard seating time. As for the added cost for a specialty restaurant, it is insignificant when you compare it to the entire cost oy the trip.

We often had breakfast in the Garden Cafe, and could not say it was "noisy". Of course it is a cafeteria style facility, with hundreds of people, so it was not like eating at the neighbordhood coffee shop. In fact, those places are quite noisy when you think about it. We also enjoyed breakfast at Venetian, and made our choice depending on our activities for the day, whether we were in a hurry or not, and whether it would be best for the kids. They also enjoyed the Kid's Buffet.

As for Kid's Krew, our one experience was this past April, when my daughter and two young grandkids were with us. We wanted to share the vacation experience with the kids, so would give each one the choice of "staying or going" each time the opportnity presented itself. On all but one occasion they each chose Kid's Krew. I wouldn't say it knocked their socks off, but they had a good time, and spoke highly of the activities.

I agree that NCL cruising is not for everyone, to each his own. Our choice of NCL for each of our five cruises speaks for itself. Until we run out of destinations or circumstances that make NCL the line for us, we will continue to make plans accordingly.
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Long Island, New York
378 Posts
Joined Jul 2003
Finally, someone who feels the same as i did! We sailed on the Dawn last Sept. and I agree with you regarding the food. I found it to be merely passable. I laughed out loud when on the first night we ate in the venitian (sp) and I saw the "shrimp" was a joke. The lobster tails were sorely lacking. We did not choose to eat at any of the speciality restuarants except La Trottoria (again excuse my spelling, its hard to remember) which was fair to good. We also had 2 really bad/inexperienced and rude waiters/waitresses...but we did have one exceptional waitress in Aqua that was fantastic!
Fortunatly, we don't just cruise for the food LOL We loved the ship itself, our cabin, our cabin steward and his assistant, and the ports of call. We are going again, this Sept, this time with family and I am hoping for the best food wise. That cruise was the first time i did NOT gain any weight....(I suppose I should be happy) and I am not expecting to do so again
Thanks for the review!
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Brooklyn, NY
701 Posts
Joined Jun 2003
Hi. We were on the Dawn last August. My wife and our friends all thought the
food was very salty. When we re-booked for this Sept., we told NCL for a low or no sodium diet. But, the food was generally ok. If we wanted more food at the ala carte places, they would bring more. At no add'l charge. We never ate at Aqua, Venetian or Impressions so I can not tell you about the service or wait. We did see LOTS of people waiting to get in though which scared us off righaway. We all ate at Cagney's, Bamboo, the sushi place, La T and Salsa. And the buffet. We liked Salsa's tapas, La T's service was very uneven, but food was good. Cagney's was good. Sushi was ok. We also thought Bamboo was ok. The Buffet was noisy and congested in the peak meal times, the staff was overwhelmed with clearing the tables, but people just left EVERYTHING on their tables. We chose to bus ours so someone else could find a place to eat. If more people did that, the place would clear out much faster.

BTW, the original review did not mention anything about excursions, shows or ship's facilities. I hope they didn't let their disappointment about the food and rsvp system ruin their vacation.

7 days of sun, food, and spending time with my family sure beats 7 days at the office even with the food situation. IMHO.

A vacation is what you make of it. If you chose to highlight the negatives, then that's all ya gonna remember. Did things annoys us? Yep. But overall, I would rather be on vacation than at work.
Commack, New York
5,683 Posts
Joined Jan 2002
I think the dining problem Mike encountered was due mainly to the timing of the cruise. Whenever you sail when school is out and hundreds of children are on board, and the number of total passengers greatly exceeds the normal 2 person per cabin average, it has to impact negatively on the dining experience. We sailed on the Dawn in January and had no problems with the quality or service in almost all the dining rooms. We usually had breakfast and lunch in the Venetian and the food and service were excellent. In the evening we enjoyed Aqua or Impressions and had no problems making reservations at Salsas, the only specialty restaurant we dined at.
We so enjoyed the Dawn, that we have booked her again with six other adult members of our family for another 11 day cruise November 28th when hopefully all the kids will be back at school after Thanksgiving.
I think Mike would experience the same dining problems in any shoreside restaurant that had to accommodate that many children at the same time.
11 Posts
Joined Jun 2004
As I indicated in my original thread, we did not let the dining/food annoyances ruin our trip. We had a fabulous did our children (the kids do not have to deal with the same annoyances...and we did not let it be known to them any issues that we had).

As far as the ship's shows/facilities:
We made one show (mostly because we could never get a decent dinner time reservation) was Rave, I believe....and it was so-so at best. The kids enjoyed the dancing and singing, but I have seen and heard better on Amiercan Idol.
The asian comedian/juggler was funny as well...can't remember his name.

The piano players/singers in the lounges were wonderful..probably the nicest times we had in the evening was spent having a drink and listening to them perform.


Port Canavaral:
We did Sea World on our own, mostly because we received comlimentary tickets from a friend of mine. We enjoyed the Log Flume, Shamu show and Dolphin show. I cannot comment on anything else because that is all the time we had. The park was PACKED and HOT. We were among the first off of the boat, but by the time we got to Sea World (around 11:00 am), saw the (2) shows..ate lunch and waited an hour for the log flume, we had to depart by 5:30. At around $80 a person for a NCL excersion there, It would not have been worth it.

Took a cab to Miami South Beach....we loved it

Great Stirrup Cay:
Beautiful....and wall to wall people and chairs....
We loved the island.....the snorkeling was loved it.

Did the Dolphin $100 a person....was a memory the kids will cherish forever....for me, not worth the 3.5 hours of time for 15 minutes in the water with (1) dolphin...however, with only 5.5 hours in Nassua, had to do something.
11 Posts
Joined Jun 2004
Originally posted by Dolphins
I think Mike would experience the same dining problems in any shoreside restaurant that had to accommodate that many children at the same time.
The problem I had was with the quaility of service and food for what was included in my per person ticket price vs. the sur-charge restaurants, and the limitations to make reservations.

When we go to Hilton Head Island in August, which we have done every year for the past 7 years, the restaurants are packed. However, I am paying to dine there, and I know what my favorite restaurants are...and do not mind waiting an hour to have exceptional food and service.

If the restaurants on the DAWN, that I already paid for with my ticket purchase, offered the same service and quality of food as the "added sur-charge" restaurants...I would have a totally different view....but I know that is not possible, or else no one would pay the extra amount to eat under Matisse.
Brooklyn, NY
701 Posts
Joined Jun 2003
Sorry if I mistook your unhappiness w/ the food = not having a good time. But that's the general impression I got. The food masked an otherwise so-so trip for your family. I am sorry you and your family did not have a great experience.

We did the Sea World thing twice, 1 in San Diego and at Orlando, so we are doing that again and 7 hrs is just not enough for WDW. We saw the lines of people leaving the ship for WDW and we shuddered. I heard there is resort you can go to on a daily pass or, my preference, is visiting the space center. I'm a big Trek fan.

Miami is where we do the beach/Bayside market thing since the beach at the Cay sucks. We stayed aboard at the Cay and had the ship to ourselves.

Nassau was just visiting the straw market for the 4th time in 2 yrs. YAWN. I do want to visit the new Hardrock cafe and get another tie dye t-shirt for me, and chachkas for my co-workers.

I did not do the shows since I am not a show person, but wife and her friends really liked them. The best was the crew talent show.

I am not a bug fan of the pool area. We will be using the kidde pool this time around since our cabin is deck 9 aft. We were deck 8 forward last time. It is a looooooooooooong walk back there.

We also are thinking of doing the Disney cruise next year on the Magic.
22 Posts
Joined Jan 2003
We found our experience with NCL to be very similar, and I agree completely with the OP about the food.. What I don't agree with is the assertion that the number of children should impact the service. We've cruised many times with many children, and have always had fantastic service, with the kids food arriving faster than the adults and the fewer courses that children typically eat making it easier for the serving staff. A good waiter should have no problem serving the number of people seated at the table, regardless of their ages.

And my children also only went once to the kids krew. That was more than enough, which was disappointing because on other cruises I couldn't drag them out of the kids programs, that's how much fun they were.

It's a sad statement when you have to remind yourself that any day away from the office makes for a good cruise, that's not exactly a great endorsement !

Foodie, Disney does a great cruise - I'm sure your kids will love it. Mine cried when we had to disembark. I have to say that they didn't have the best food though, try Celebrity, great food, great service and a kids club that doesn't disappoint.