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Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Dawn

Norwegian Dawn Cruise Review

Insider Take

Best For People Who Want

Multiple restaurants with open seating dining; Las Vegas-style revues and staged Broadway musicals; 24-hour fitness facilities; full-service spa open late at night; a sports bar with live ESPN broadcasts on multiple screens; terrific facilities for kids and teens.

Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer

The intimacy found aboard smaller ships; traditional cruise dining and dress rules; not to be pestered to attend art auctions and buy, buy, buy at the daily sales in the shops.


There are two main dining rooms onboard Norwegian Dawn; Aqua with its traditional tablecloths and chairs, and Venetian which evokes the luxurious ocean liners of yesteryear with its hushed candlelit elegance, grand piano, staircase and gigantic Palladian windows.

NCL's "Freestyle Cruising" allows passengers to choose when and with whom to dine. Beyond the traditional dining rooms, there's Cagney's Steakhouse, on Deck 7 behind the Grand Centrum, which charges $20 per-person and serves steaks and chops and whole lobsters in a 1930s-ish setting. In Le Bistro, NCL's French restaurant (surcharge $15), appetizers include escargot in garlic butter, and a generous array of salads is offered. Order chocolate fondue -- chunks of fresh fruit served in a pineapple "boat" with a pot of melted chocolate to dip it in - for dessert. The Thai/Japanese/Chinese Shogun ($12.50) serves gorgeous Asian-fusion dishes. The complex also includes a Teppanyaki room and sushi bar (a la carte pricing applies), and a Tatami Room where eight guests sit on the floor to dine.

The least impressive of Dawn's dining areas, The Lido buffet, often has long lines. In the evenings, it's converted into a fee-free Italian restaurant - La Trattoria.

Late-night snacks are available in the casino. The Blue Lagoon serves up burgers, fish and chips, and wok dishes 24 hours a day. Room service is simple, with mostly cold items, exceptions being ramen noodle soup, made-to-order pizza, and grilled cheese sandwiches.


NCL automatically adds a fixed service charge of $10 to the shipboard accounts of passengers over 13 to make service personnel feel appreciated; children between three and 12 are charged $5. Those under three get off scot-free.


The Stardust Theater, with excellent sight lines, presents elaborate, colorful and sometimes even exciting shows. Champagne Charlie's and Galaxy of the Stars feature live music daily; there's dancing in the latter. There's music in Celebrity Disco at night as well, of course, and a D.J. spinning popular dance tunes in Maharini's.

Popular on-board activities range from craft lessons (beaded geckos!) to learning a foreign language (Spanish and Tagalog, the language of the Philippines) to games, trivia contests, and bingo. The casino, Maharaja's, offers a huge array of slots and table games. The art auctions are popular too.


There are six basic cabin types: insides, portholes, windows, balconies, junior suites and suites, all of which feature more assertive colors than the public areas. Indeed, the bedspreads are downright garish. Almost all of the rooms on this ship are interconnecting, making them ideal for friends or family groups. Double metal doors (as opposed to the single composite doors in most other ships) minimize sound seepage between adjoining rooms. But although they are virtually soundproof from adjacent cabins, cabins on Deck 11 can be particularly noisy, with scraping chairs from the Lido Deck midship and aft, or loud nighttime music from Galaxy of the Stars forward.

Outside cabins have a large picture window. Balcony staterooms have a full-wall sliding glass door, floor to ceiling, side to side, and an exterior balcony enclosure made of glass. Balconies are narrow (40 inches), but wide enough to accommodate a white plastic chair, a short lounger and a little table.

Because the ship was designed and built for the Asian market, chairs and handrails, the bathroom sink is lower, and the beds are all lower than most strapping native English speakers are accustomed to, and the furniture just slightly smaller. It isn't that someone's slipped something in your drink!


The gym is small but well equipped. The fitness center contains two small swim-against-the-current pools. The two sexes have separate changing rooms, relaxation rooms, and steam and sauna rooms. The women's side is gorgeous and expansive, with a window-lined relaxation room along the port side. There are a couple of televisions and several comfy chairs and sofas. The Roman Spa, operated by Mandara (Steiner of London in disguise), offers treatments ranging from hot stone massages to body-cleansing wraps, albeit in tiny treatment rooms. The mid-range for massages seemed to be around $100, but specials are regularly mentioned in the Freestyle Daily, especially on port days.

The outside promenade on Deck 7 circles the ship and is the ideal place for a walking circuit; the Sports Deck has a running track (pleasantly unobtrusive, as it is set off from sunning areas by a wall; six circuits to a mile), basketball and volleyball courts, and a golf cage. Ping-Pong tables are located at the aft of Deck 11. The ship's Sports at Sea program offers logo items to those who complete their programs.

The one swimming pool on the Lido Deck, big enough for early-morning lap swims, is nicely laid out and attractive, but can feel a bit oversubscribed in mid-afternoon.

Children's Facilities

This ship is a dream come true for juvenile passengers, with approximately one-fifth of Deck 10 allocated to them. The kids' center itself is divided into several age-appropriate rooms. Then there is the video arcade to keep older children and teens distracted for hours, and a teen disco. The little folks' area features climbing tubes and tunnels, a ball crawl, and lots of soft toys, all in bright primary colors. There's an outdoor activity area and a crafts section. In Buccaneer's Wet and Wild there's an onboard water park, with a pool surrounded with caves and a mountain, two small slides that require entry through a tunnel, pirate's cannons that shoot water, and even a children's hot tub. An amphitheater has been installed between Decks 10 and 11 at the aft end so parents can sit and watch their kids play while getting hammered on drinks from the Raffles bar. There is no charge for the center, which welcomes children from age 2 to 16.


The designated dress code is "resort casual," which for ladies means sundresses, blouses, sweaters, slacks and skirts, and for their male companions shirts with collars, such as polo shirts, and khakis or trousers. Dressing up for formal nights is optional, as informal attire is permitted in several areas, but jeans, shorts, T-shirts, swimsuits and beachwear are forbidden in the restaurants after 5:30 p.m. On the one formal night per one-week cruise, most men say to hell with it and put on a dark suit instead of a tux.


One of the mainstream NCL Free-style ships, many dining options, casual atmosphere, eclectic decor.

Onboard Experience

NCL has become synonymous with innovation in the cruise industry, and this is one of the newer NCL ships that proves it. As the the third ship purposely built to offer the "Free-style" concept of dining there are ten different restaurants onboard. Obviously, this is not a cookie-cutter cruise ship. There is a variety of accommodations, with many interconnecting cabins ideal for family cruising. Sixty-five percent of outside cabins have private balconies, while several inside facing cabins overlook the Grand Centrum. Open-seating dining is offered in the two main restaurants and the French, Japanese and Chinese alternative choices. Don't forget the Garden Cafe Lido Buffet or the 24-hour Blue Lagoon Cafe. There's a wrap-around promenade, expansive kids' and teen facilities, a two-deck 1,000-seat show lounge, disco, cinema, casino, Roman Spa & Fitness Center, and observation lounge. The sports deck has a jogging track, golf driving range, and a court that basketball, volleyball and tennis enthusiasts alike can use.


While there is just enough neon and gilt to remind you are on a cruise ship, each room on the ship truly has its own flavor (appropriate for a ship with 10 restaurants).

Public Rooms

The six-deck-high central atrium, the Grand Centrum, is the ship's social focal point. A black marble floor leads to a grand and elegant staircase, which ascends to the shops above, and to Dazzle's Nightclub lounge, which features music in the evenings. There are upholstered chairs and divans for conversation on the starboard side of the Grand Centrum, and, on the port side, the Java Cafe, a small lounge serving coffee, cakes, cookies and other bar drinks. Behind the staircase is a black marble fountain that can be admired from the atrium's three glass-enclosed elevators as they rise to higher floors.

Spinnaker Lounge, located on Deck 12 forward, is Spirit's vast, bright observation lounge. Floor-to-ceiling glass surrounds it on three sides. A small bandstand and dance floor are in the middle, a large bar near the entrance; a circular stairway descends to a bridge viewing area, and a computerized navigational chart on a raised platform allows you to ensure that you're heading in the right direction.

T-Rex Childcare Center and the kids' pool areas are as good as you'll find on any cruise ship this size. A virtual shipboard amusement park, it features tunnels and tubes, a pool complex with slides and fountains and pirate muskets blasting water, and the best game arcade on the seven seas.


Here is a list of all the alternative dining venues onboard:

Le Bistro French Restaurant - Deck 6; seats 90. The walls are adorned with paintings and the menu is filled with modern classical and contemporary French gourmet fare.

Aqua Main Dining Room - Deck 6; seats 312. Choose from a daily menu that includes selection of healthy, light choices.

Venetian Main Dining Room - Deck 6; seats 468. Venetian is complete with crystal chandeliers, a sweeping staircase and an award-winning, five-course menu. The master chefs are members of the international gourmet society Chaine des Rotisseurs.

Bamboo - A Taste of Asia - Deck 7; seats 114. Pan Asian cuisine with Japanese, Thai and Chinese selections. With a sushi and sashimi bar, a teppanyaki room and many authentic Asian dishes.

Blue Lagoon - Deck 7; seats 92. Blue Lagoon 24-Hour Food Court. Whether you're hankering for a burger, midnight snack or a fast-wok dish, you can enjoy it all in a family friendly atmosphere day or night.

Impressions Italian Restaurant - Deck 6; seats 198. Pasta with a choice of seven savory sauces in a casual atmosphere. There are also fresh salads, pizza, authentic Italian desserts, a fine wine list and espresso drinks.

Garden Cafe - Deck 12; seats 426. A family-friendly menu of omelets, pasta, soups, salads, and ethnic specialties. There is a special kid-sized section for little eaters.

Teppanyaki - Deck 7; Located in Bamboo - A Taste of Asia, you are invited to sit at tables of 10 for a truly Asian dining experience, where preparing food has never been more entertaining, or authentic.

Sushi and Sashimi Bar - Deck 7 The Ginza Japanese Restaurant also has a Sushi and Sashimi Bar where you can enjoy sushi and sashimi expertly prepared as you watch. The menu is priced a la carte.

Salsa Tapas Bar - Deck 8; seats 112. This modern Tapas bar brings Tex-Mex cuisine out in a constantly changing assortment of hot and cold Tapas against the backdrop of huge, bold relief murals.

Cagney's Steak House - Deck 13; seats 132. The upscale, traditional steak house with all the trimmings.

Bimini Grill - Deck 14 Located poolside at the Oasis Pool. Enjoy a burger, pizza and more grilled items. Then stop by Sprinkles Ice Cream Bar.


Service is friendly but may tend to be a little too casual at times. Dinner service can be inconsistent.

Ship Overview

First in the two-ship Dawn-class built for Norwegian Cruise Line, Norwegian Dawn was christened in 2001. The ship introduced many of Norwegian’s groundbreaking elements, and even today, Norwegian Dawn still features some of the largest accommodations at sea. In 2011, a refurbishment resulted in the addition of 50 cabins; the Spinnaker Lounge was relocated and reconstructed; and some other public spaces were also moved.

Purpose-built for Norwegian's Freestyle cruising concept, Norwegian Dawn and Norwegian Star each have more than a dozen dining options, a variety of entertainment selections, and expansive facilities for children and teens.

These ships introduced Norwegian's superdeluxe Garden Villa accommodations, English pubs, and 24-hour dining in the Blue Lagoon Restaurant. Interior spaces are bright and cheerful, especially the atrium area adjacent to the outdoor promenade, which is flooded with sunlight through expansive windows. A second smaller garden atrium with a prominent waterfall leads the way to the spa lobby. Near the children's splash pool is a hot tub for parents' enjoyment.

Norwegian Cruise Line set sail in 1966 with an entirely new concept—regularly scheduled Caribbean cruises from the then-obscure port of Miami. Good food and friendly service combined with value fares established the line as a winner for active adults and families. Innovative and forward-looking, Norwegian has been a cruise-industry leader for decades, and its fleet is as much at home worldwide as in the Caribbean. Several of the line's ships cruise Alaska's Inside Passage, including one of its newest, Norwegian Bliss.

Noted for top-quality entertainment, Norwegian combines action and high-energy activities as well as a variety of dining options in a casual, free-flowing atmosphere. Norwegian's freestyle cruising signaled an end to rigid dining schedules and dress codes. Norwegian ships now offer a host of flexible dining options that allow passengers to eat in the main dining rooms or any of a number of à la carte and specialty restaurants at any time and with whom they please. The ships' accommodations include some of the largest suites at sea, studio cabins for solo travelers, and a private ship-within-a-ship complex called The Haven, a more luxurious area with personalized service.

From a distance, most cruise ships look so similar that it's often difficult to tell them apart, but Norwegian's largest, modern ships stand out with their distinctive use of hull art. Each new ship is distinguished by murals extending from bow to midship.

What You Should Know


  • Showrooms have full proscenium stages for the lavish shows
  • You can look forward to performances by the improvisational company Second City
  • Three-bedroom Garden Villas are among the largest suites at sea, with private whirlpools and outdoor patios


  • Freestyle dining doesn't mean you get to eat precisely when you want
  • Overcrowding can be a problem when the ships are fully booked
  • There is a charge for the most popular restaurants
Ship Stats
  • Crew Members 1,066
  • Entered Service 2001
  • Gross Tons 92,250
  • Length 965 feet
  • Number of Cabins 1,122
  • Passenger Capacity 2,244
  • Width 105 feet
  • Service

  • Food

  • Décor

  • Value

Apr 18, 2017

Review of Norwegian Dawn

Age: 58 Occupation:Farmer Number of Cruises: 2 Cruise Line: Norwegian Ship: Norwegian Dawn Sailing Date: 2016-01-24 Itinerary: Caribbean We were well taken care of. Our cabin was always clean and made up. We had a plumbing concern and it was fixed when we returned, also had a call to confirm that everything was working. I had back and leg problems that started prior to boarding the cruise. I received excellent and effective help from Russell Silich

(Acupuncture) he put a lot of effort into improving my health so I could enjoy the cruise. I had never tried acupuncture before, but am thankful that it was available on the ship. THANKS RUSSELL! Excellent variety and quantity of food. I wish the restaurant food could have been served warmer. Clean and comfortable cabin. Plenty to do. The band by the pool was a little loud for this old man's ears. Excursion providers all went out of their way to insure we had a safe and enjoyable time. I felt appreciated.

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By Dave_CR

  • New

Feb 8, 2016


We were well taken care of. Our cabin was always clean and made up. We had a plumbing concern and it was fixed when we returned, also had a call to confirm that everything was working. I had back and leg problems that started prior to boarding the cruise. I received excellent and effective help from Russell Silich (Acupuncture) he put a lot of effort into improving my health so I could enjoy the cruise. I had never tried acupuncture before, but

am thankful that it was available on the ship. THANKS RUSSELL! Excellent variety and quantity of food. I wish the restaurant food could have been served warmer. Clean and comfortable cabin. Plenty to do. The band by the pool was a little loud for this old man's ears. Excursion providers all went out of their way to insure we had a safe and enjoyable time. I felt appreciated.

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By Tim_CR

  • New

Jan 6, 2016

Western Caribbean

Overall, just fair. Embarkation was worst I have ever experienced. Food quality and dining room service both somewhat below standard for modern cruises. One disastrous shore excursion experience. There are better values out there. Main dining room was somewhat below average. One desert we ordered was described as inedible by our server....she brought it anyway...but she was correct. I would describe wait staff as indifferent. No attempt

to be friendly or do anything other than get your food to you. One time I was brought the wrong dish, and the server started arguing with me about what I had ordered. Italian specialty restaurant (extra charge) was quite good. Breakfasts in the cafeteria were mostly alright...though often line ran out of certain foods. Fine. Nothing special, but adequate. First time I have ever cruised where my stateroom attendant never introduced himself to me. Again, just OK. Evening entertainment was below average compared to other cruises we have been on. One terrible experience in Belize at Crystal Cave Tubing (booked thru the ship). There were 4 cruise ships in port that day, and they could not handle the traffic. We waited in the terminal for an hour just to get a bus to take us out to the caves. I found one of the Norwegian cruise personnel to try to get him to help....but he just ignored me. Once at the caves, there were no guides available...and we sat around for almost 4 hours waiting for guides to show up (always promised in just 30 minutes). Total disaster. Although, once we got into the cave, it was beautiful.

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  • New

Jan 11, 2015

Western Carribean

The cruise was enjoyable, but we encountered 2 issues with NCL that could have been easily remedied that were not. It made me worry about if a larger issue arose. The first was that 2 of our personal bottles of water were thrown away in the dining room. The server brought one to us out of the trash! We went to guest services and were told that we would be alerted once a remedy was reached. The remedy was an apology phone call at the end of the

day instead of just comping us 2 bottles of water! Also, the pools and hot tubs on board were very cold. We asked 5 different people to raise the temperature on the last night with it never being done. One server even told us to get out of the hot tub and call guest services! The food was fantastic. There was a large selection at the two restaurants and one buffet that was complementary. However, for freestyle dining, I found it odd that one of the two complementary restaurants had a dress code for dinner The stateroom was spacious (obstructed port view). The two twin beds that were pushed together did come apart while sleeping on them, but that was fixed after our first night. Our stateroom steward, Alvin, was wonderful. The activities were plentiful, but the majority were odd get-togethers for specific groups. The magic and aerial shows were great. Playa Mia tequila tour, beach escape, and Discover Mexico in Cozumel was very fun (although the tequila tour is just of a man's shop) Ecological Tours snorkel adventure in Belize City was wonderful (island snorkeling and bbq chicken and lobster) Tours by Rony in Roatan (Arnold) was the best way to explore the island and feel safe while visiting a great local beach and having authentic food! Costa Maya-bring cash (all ATMS broken) and get ready to be hassled An Overall fun family trip

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  • New

Oct 28, 2014


After years of dreaming of going to Bermuda, my husband and I decided to take a cruise there. We chose Norwegian, because their sail date was over our anniversary and the time in port was to be 3 days. We scrimped and saved and planned for 10 months for this trip. I don’t know about most people, but a vacation like this is a sheer luxury for us and not something we take lightly. We had cruised on Royal Caribbean before and loved it, and foolishly

expected this cruise to be similar. Now, we understand that no one can control the weather “so we don’t blame the cruise line for the change in itinerary. BUT “considering we received AT LEAST one email “sometimes more - DAILY for a month before the cruise, we know they had our email address. We flew into Boston the day before (another expense on top of the cruise) and when we arrived at the terminal thought we were still going to Bermuda. The cruise line apparently decided that the hurricane had made it impossible to carry thru with this itinerary. Ok “we get that. BUT what we don’t get is not being informed of this change until it was too late to reschedule our trip. Had Norwegian been upfront with us, we would have gladly rescheduled the cruise, flown home and been back to take the cruise another time. To not tell us until we were boarding was just wrong “they knew how to reach us “but they didn’t want us “or any other cruisers “to reschedule. Well, let me tell you “they’d have been better off to cancel the cruise than to keep us captive on a trip to the Bahamas instead. That ship had no business being out in the rough seas “we were cold, it was rainy, the wind was howling, “sitting outside was plain miserable. They had to cancel the poolside barbecues, net the pools (you’d have been washed overboard had you tried to get in the pool), and cancel many shows. At one point we were all scared that we wouldn’t make it back to Boston. I don’t drink alcohol due to medical reasons, but my husband does. They wouldn’t let him buy an adult beverage package if I didn’t get one. WHAT? Other cruise lines “trust “their guests enough to let you do this “we’d already bought the “soda package ““oh but wait “if you buy this it DOES NOT include bottled waters, coffees, etc. like the other cruise line packages do. We felt nickeled and dimed throughout the entire cruise. Their “Freestyle Cruising” is for the birds too. You have to wait over an hour to get a table at the Venetian or Aqua (complimentary) dining rooms, and we know that they are just trying to get you to give up and go pay more at the specialty dining rooms. We had already reserved a night at Cagney’s for our anniversary when we booked the cruise (in February) “another $30 per person for that dinner “so when we showed up for that dinner we were seated next to the busser’s station “great ambiance, really? “and then charged for sparkling water ON TOP of the $60 “good grief. The servers in the complimentary dining rooms were not engaged, and almost made you feel guilty for making them work. The hostesses were even worse “trying very hard to be snooty and make you feel as if they were doing you a huge favor by getting you seated. Don’t even bother eating at the cafes “the food was exactly the same every single day and questionable. Nothing looked fresh and believe me “NOTHING was warm. The tables were disgusting “sticky and dirty. Our balcony stateroom was just ok “very dated “not really clean, the balcony was very dirty. Our steward was rarely around. This was not the cruise we had dreamed of and planned for. The cruise director “Dingo Dave “GAWD “so annoying and really loves the sound of his own voice. We cringed every time he made an announcement. When we got to the Bahamas, we were there a couple of hours and pretty much just wanted to get on a plane and go home. There was nothing redeeming about the locations they chose. We tried many times to speak to someone about our experiences “they made no secret of letting us know that they just plain did NOT care. Also “everything seemed to be a secret “especially our tab. On the Royal Caribbean you can access your tab on the interactive channel on the stateroom TV “not on Norwegian. Nope, you got to go stand in line and waste your time to find out where you stand. The internet package they sell is not worth the money either “I bought 100 minutes for $58 “problem was is that it took a good 5 of my minutes every time I logged on to get it up and running. My husband had also surprised me with an onboard credit for a massage, but because their rates are a “surprise “and not published, he had no idea that $100 was not even half the cost. Plus they made him choose a date. Well I went in on my date he chose, to schedule the massage to find out they “were all booked ““but then in the Freestyle Daily there were all sorts of “specials “advertised. I went ahead and booked a massage for another day “and found out AFTER THE MASSAGE that it was $245 “for a BASIC MASSAGE. Then they tried to upsell $60 lotions. So insulting. This was a basic massage you’d pay no more than $100 for in Denver! Basically “this cruise and cruise line was a waste of our hard earned money and a sheer disappointment.

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