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Princess Cruises: Dawn Princess

  • Princess Cruises

Dawn Princess Cruise Review

Insider Take


One of the 1990s ships, smallest in the fleet, good for long, quiet voyages to faraway places.

Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer

Mega-ship activities; world-class cuisine with lots of alternative dining choices; casual attire ships. To meet other singles and party.


You need go no farther than the marble-floored Grand Plaza atrium, with its brass staircase, to realize that a lot of luxury awaits you. Especially when the view is accompanied by a string quartet or grand pianist expertly fingering glissandi. All in all, Dawn Princess is one of the most gorgeous vessels at sea. Combining varnished hardwoods, marble, etched glass, granite, and textured fabrics, the decor juxtaposes classic and modern influences in a way that does not take your breath away, but creates a quietly pleasurable ambiance. The ships each boast a remarkable art collection valued at nearly one million dollars.


For dining and stateroom personnel charge, $10 per person per day (including children) is automatically added to your stateroom account, whether or not they choose traditional or restaurant-style dining. You can talk to the ship’s purser about raising or lowering this amount.

All beverage tabs automatically have a 15-percent gratuity added. In the spa and casino and with other staff, let your conscience be your guide.


Tastefully finished in blond wood with pastel colored spreads, cabins are divided into some 28 categories, though in fact there are fewer than 10 real-life configurations; the category distinctions actually reflect differences in location (amidships versus aft, and so on), and thus price. More than 400 cabins on each vessel boast private, if very narrow, balconies. The ships’ most popular staterooms have 178-square-foot balconies but only 161 square feet of living space, and thus are not for the claustrophobic. Mini-suites with two rooms are among the largest at sea: 374 sq. feet, including balcony and large marble bathroom. Closet space is at a real premium in the standard outside and inside cabins.

All that noted, there’s no denying the generosity of the ships’ amenities package: color TV with movies and CNN; hair dryers; terry cloth robes; safes; mini-refrigerators; and beds that convert from twin to queen size. Three hundred cabins will accommodate third passengers in upper berths. Nineteen cabins on each vessel offer wheelchair accessibility.


Seven-night cruises offer two opportunities to put on the Ritz in formal attire. Many men opt for a dark suit instead of tux while their companions prefer dressy pants to dresses. The rest of the time, think smart casual. By day, don’t even think of wearing anything other than shorts, sneakers, a polo shirt. If you want to toss in a baseball cap that's up to you, you can even turn it backwards.

Best For People Who Want

Elegantly understated decor reminiscent of the Grand '90s, 1990s that is, before ships became floating Las Vegas theme parks. A choice between traditional or personal choice dining options, unusual shore excursions, water sports (Caribbean sailings); facilities for the disabled; outdoor movie viewing on the "biggest LED monitor you have ever seen".

Onboard Experience

When Sun Princess floated out in 1995, it is hard to believe that at a mere 77,000 tons it was at the time the largest cruise ship in the world. It didn't take too long for that distinction to be surpassed, but in any case her beauty, especially internally, was classic enough for Princess for build three more sisters including Dawn Princess, the only other ship of this class still in the Princess fleet. Ocean Princess and Sea Princess have been relocated to Europe.


According to the new Princess Personal Choice dining you can choose fixed seating dinners at 6:30 or 8:30 p.m. in the Regency Dining Room, or opt for making a reservation in the open seating Marquis Dining Room anytime between 5:30 and 10:00 p.m.. It matters little where ambiance and decor are concerned, both are identically furnished. The difference lies in whether you prefer the traditional cruise ship dining service of having the same team serve you for every meal, usually leading to friendlier, more interactive service as they learn to anticipate your dining preferences. The open seating option gives you the freedom to dine at the hour you choose even if it is different every night, with whom you choose. You will be seated at your own table, as at a restaurant ashore, but expect slightly less personal service than if you have the same service crew every night.

Princess has clearly improved the reputation of its food, especially in the areas of pasta and beef dishes. The Sterling Steakhouse features special cuts of Angus beef from its own celebrated brand. Passengers choose either rib-eye, New York strip, porterhouse, or filet mignon from a presentation tray, and watch - drooling, in most cases! - as the chef cooks it to order. Starters include chili, blooming onion, jalapeno poppers, and fresh Caesar salad, as well as the traditional baked potato or fries, sauteed mushrooms, creamed spinach, and corn on the cob. The ships’ pizzerias make your pie to order, and chances are that it will be scrumptious. Desserts are unfortunately not always the grand finale one would expect in such surroundings. Adding insult to injury, the ice cream bar levies its own charges.


Aside from the Personal Choice Dining in the two main dining rooms, the Venetian and Florentine Dining Rooms, for those feeling a bit more casual, there are a patisserie, a hamburger and hot dog grill, a sushi bar, and a 24-hour restaurant in the Horizon court next to the pool area. And of course there is always 24-hour room service, but with a limited menu. The pizzeria seems authentically Italian. The Grill restaurant adjacent to the pool offers casual breakfast and luncheon buffet, and is partially transformed in the evening into the Sterling Steakhouse, with decorative table linen, fine cutlery and table lanterns. (Since seating is limited to 70, reservations are encouraged. The Steakhouse charges $15.00).

A gratuity of $10.00 per person per day for dining and cabin staff is automatically applied to shipboard accounts regardless of which plan you choose. Passengers may increase or reduce this amount at their whim.


The staff, from all over the globe, is both wonderfully personable and attentive to detail. Boarding passengers are met at each stairwell and smilingly directed or even escorted to their cabins. Turndown service with chocolates on the pillow is provided in the evening. Charmingly, wooden deck chairs with steamer blankets are available for the asking on ships bound to or from Alaska.


The single-story showrooms offer unobstructed views from every seat, several spaces in the back for wheelchair-users, good sound, and state-of-the-art lighting. The smaller Vista Lounge offers comfortable cabaret-style seating, while the elegant, nautical-themed Wheelhouse Bar is the perfect spot for pre- or post-dinner drinks and conversation.

Even though these ships are small by today's standards, they get an "A" for effort when it comes to the themed production shows. You won't be razzle-dazzled with pyrotechnics and laser lights, but you can walk away humming familiar show tunes or hits from your youth as you reflect upon how it used to feel to be as agile as the pas de deux dance team.

Expect a slate of individual performers such as comedians, jugglers, singers or magicians to fill in the other nights. Like most smaller ship entertainment, enjoyable for people who are not overly critical.


A great many American towns’ chambers of commerce would love to get their hands on fitness facilities comparable to these three ships’. Indeed, from the Princess Links computerized golf simulator, which lets you virtually play the trickiest holes at the world's most famous golf courses (for a separate charge) to a separate jogging track, there aren't many athletic activities you can’t enjoy aboard.

The stunning multi-level Spa offers whirlpool, exercise equipment with personal trainer, and Steiner's salon. A splash pool on Sun Deck supplements the ships' main pool, on Riviera Deck.

Ship Overview

Launched in 1997 as the second of Princess Cruises’ Sun-class ships, Dawn Princess is based in Australia year-round and uses only Australian currency onboard. Dawn Princess offers passengers a unique experience throughout some of the world’s most exotic destinations, including Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific. The ship has been updated to include popular onboard features, such as The Sanctuary and Movies Under the Stars

Refined and graceful, Sun-class ships offer many of the choices attributed to larger Grand-class ships without sacrificing the smaller-ship atmosphere for which they're noted. The four-story atrium with a circular marble floor, stained-glass dome, and magnificent floating staircase are ideal settings for relaxation, people watching, and making a grand entrance. Only Sea Princess sails Caribbean cruises; Sun and Dawn Princess are deployed in the South Pacific.

Onboard decor is a combination of neutrals and pastels, which are easy on the eyes after a sunny day ashore. The main public rooms are situated in a vertical arrangement on four lower decks, and, with the exception of the promenade deck, cabins are forward and aft. In a nice design twist, the casino is somewhat isolated, and passengers aren't forced to use it as a passageway to reach dining rooms or the art deco main show lounge. Sea Princess also has an outdoor Movies Under the Stars LED screen.

Princess Cruises may be best known for introducing cruise travel to millions of viewers, when its flagship became the setting for The Love Boat television series in 1977. Since that heady time of small-screen stardom, the Princess fleet has grown both in the number and size of ships. Although most are large in scale, Princess vessels manage to create the illusion of intimacy through the use of color and decor in understated yet lovely public rooms graced by multimillion-dollar art collections.

Princess has also become more flexible; Personal Choice Cruising offers alternatives for open seating dining (when you wish and with whom you please) and entertainment options as diverse as those found in resorts ashore.

Lovely chapels or the wide-open decks are romantic settings for weddings at sea with the captain officiating.

What You Should Know


  • You can always escape the crowds by ducking into the cozy reading room
  • No matter what flavor is on the menu, dessert soufflés can't be beat
  • On Riviera Deck a dramatic, partially shaded pool with two hot tubs appears suspended between two decks


  • Horizon Court Lido buffet restaurants occupy the far forward space, meaning there is no observatory lounge
  • There's nothing about the interior decor that'll knock your socks off
  • These are large ships but not large enough to overcome the invasive art auctions
Ship Stats
  • Crew Members 900
  • Entered Service 1997
  • Gross Tons 77,000
  • Length 856 feet
  • Number of Cabins 975
  • Passenger Capacity 1,950
  • Width 106 feet
  • New

Nov 16, 2013

Circummnavigation of Australia and New Zealand

This was an excellent cruise. It was relaxing and very pleasant. If I were to mark this cruise out of 100, I would give it 80 marks. I would recommend this cruise to all Australians. The food in Horizon Court was ample and for a buffet style meal, it was very good. There was a lot of variety. My wife and I were in the Venetian Dining Room. We went there for dinner. Every day we were provided with a menu with with lots of choices. Our waiter

was very knowledgeable, friendly and extremely helpful. We did not frequent the Steak House. One area of the Horizon Court became the Steak House in the evening for the price of $20 pp. This made the Horizon Court even tighter because it was difficult to find a table at certain times of the day.The Riviera deck had sausages and kebabs.The Sundae was really bad. Worse than McDonalds! We kept away from it because Horizon Court provided us with everything we longed for. Afternoon tea was served in the Venetian Dining room with waiters coming around with dainties. The same was also served in Horizon Court. There is a bar on Deck 5, presumptuously called "Patisserie" which only provided a tray with the same food in Horizon Court. It could have provided something much more elegant and dainty as the word Patisserie would require. Rather small but very functional. We had a very comfortable and King size bed. The pillows were awkward and we woke up with a sore neck practically every morning.Dawn Princess was remedy this. The balcony was tight and the floor of the balcony looked old, worn out and rusty in some places. It must be remembered that this ship is 17 years old. It is however, well maintained. The carpet in the stateroom looked old but clean. The toilet is very small with only a shower which suited us fine. The wardrobes were generously provided with clothe hangers and the safe was very easy to operate. We were on Deck 14, stateroom number A540. This room is almost in front of an Emergency exit and the noise of the engines are clearly heard in the corridor. Once in the room, the noise is totally blocked out. The air conditioning could not be adjusted. It may have been the source for the distribution of a flu. Almost all passengers suffered from colds, tonsillitis and coughs. There were activities advertised in the daily Patter. They were many and varied. The shows in the evening were generally very good. Regrettably some entertainers used it to promote their own beliefs which sometimes went against respect for human dignity. One such entertainer suggested that only people invited by Australia should be allowed to enter the country. I believe that Australia is not an exclusive club and as a signatory to the United Nations Charter, our country generously accepts refugees. My wife and I did not go on any excursion arranged by the Ship. However, those who did said that they were well organized and reasonably priced. A visit to the Ship's doctor cost $75. This is very reasonable. The cruise circumnavigated Australia, New Zealand and visited Lombok in Indonesia. I suggest that Dawn Princess could visit a more exciting island in Indonesia. Passports were collected on leaving the Kimberley Coast and everyone had to pay for a Visa. On re-entry to Australia, we had to go through Australian Customs again. Our Passports were also taken before we entered New Zealand waters. We looked forward to this cruise and we were not disappointed. We were more than pleased with our experiences aboard. The crew was extremely friendly and could not do enough to please us. Tipping was not obligatory but I know that Australians tip good service and that was never lacking. Even though the ports of call were for just one day, they provided us with a bird's eye view of the place visited and the cruise through the fiordland National Park cruise of New Zealand, especially of Milford Sound was just marvellous. These were 35 days of relaxation and bliss. Adult passengers were allowed to bring one bottle of wine or Champagne which was generous of Dawn Princess. Embarkation and disembarkation were handled with precision. On re-entry from every port of call, security was high, as we expected. Our embarkation cards were checked and our bags were scanned. We were not allowed to take food from the ship and in Brisbane a sniffer dog was used. In New Zealand we were required to carry an ID. Food was excellent and all Australians and New Zealanders were spoke to were very pleased. Regrettably, not so the Americans? We could not understand that. The seas were kind to us during the circumnavigation of Australia and the visit to Lombok. However, the Tasman Sea gave us a bettering for two days. There was an emergency aboard the Dawn Princess. A fire was detected and all passengers were requested to grab their life jackets and gather at muster stations. It took about two hours before we were allowed to return to our cabins. We were constantly informed of what was happening.This emergency was handled very efficiently and professionally by the crew. In compensation, the Captain offered all passengers wine in the dining rooms. The Captained welcomed us twice. On the first occasion, a few days after departure and on the second occasion, it was a few days before the end of the cruise. On both these occasion, drinks were served with canapes. I could not quite understand why the Captain felt the need to mention the quantities the passengers ate and drank during the cruise. He also said that we entered the ship as passengers and would leave the ship as cargo. I would never have said that to guests in our home. This was a great cruise, indeed!

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  • New

Mar 19, 2013

Melbourne-New Zealand

Ship was lovely with loads of seating in all sorts of corners plus the many bars .Lifts were crowded as there were a lot of people on walkers,wheelchairs & even mobility scooters but I must add that everyone was very good humoured about it & there were many comments when we got in one. Room service was excellent &reception very helpful with any problems. It was a bit of a rat race trying to getfoodor a seat at the buffet, so we only braved that

twice. We retreated to the restaurant after that & were very happy with the food. A good variety & although rather bland was non the less enjoyable.The last few days the chefs excelled themselves & the food went up a notch or two & with things like duck, prawns,lobster & steak all on offer it was hard to choose. The bomb Alaska on the last night had to be seen to be believed, I have no idea how they managed it for everyone but it was delicious. The waiters we had at our table were fabulous, very attentive & a lot of fun. A bit disappointing , not as we'll designed as on our previous cruise. The doors were the problem, they all opened out onto each other & you couldn't move. Storage was good & the bed comfortable. Our steward. Was good. So everything was always slick & span. Not a lot of imagination, a bit repetitive. The shows I thought were amateurish. The musicians were good & the crew show on the last night were good. Had some good films which we enjoyed & appreciated the back rows reserved for people with disabilities, there were quite a lot of us. Shore excursions I thought expensive so made our own arrangements. Over all we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, the seas were calm, the weather mostly good & the days soon passed lazily. Ate far too much & the wheelchair assistance to disembark was an enormous help. Well done Princess have no hesitation in recommending you. Must mention Fiordland, we didn't relise we would be going round so many, it was truly beautiful.

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  • New

Apr 19, 2012

around australia

Very poor value for amount charged. The predominant philosophy seems to be increasing the "bottom line". Predatory prices for alcohol & excursions. Only one bottle of wine allowed on board per voyage, forcing you to spend 3 to 4 times retail for mediocre wines. Wines brought on board are confiscated for "safe keeping". Best ports scheduled for sundays and holidays. Many shops closed. Price of excursions very high. Renting a car is much more economical

and allows you more freedom. Dress code not enforced in dining room. Some passengers came to dine in hooded sweats and shorts. Actually, the ship is like a cruising "bus" loading and unloading passengers at virtually all of the ports on the itinerary. Consequently, many of the passengers exhibited attire and behavior not usually seen on other Princess ships. The ship is tired, has very small cabins, and there is unbelievable noise in moderate to rough seas coming from the stern. The ship has had propulsion problems in the past. The amount of vibration, grinding, and banging precluded sleep. Asked for a different cabin; but told that ship was full. Options were to tough it out or leave the cruise at the next port. There also appears to be a problem on board regarding allergens. Many passengers complained of runny eyes and noses as well as chest tightness and even wheezing. Wondered about mildew in the air-conditioning ducts or filters. Symptoms would clear after stepping outdoors. Hand sanitizers were not provided in the dining rooms. One of the few positives about the cruise was the new rule prohibiting smoking in cabins and verandahs. Generally good; but bland, perhaps to please the predominantly northern European origins of the ship's passengers. Much of the food was salty: but there appeared to be a rule against using garlic in the food, Service in the dining rooms was generally good and professional. Cramped, small, noisy, creaky. Odor of stale urine in the bathroom. Carpet did not look clean. Average Excursions are very expensive relative to value. You are much better off renting a car than riding the excursion coaches. You will have much greater freedom of movement and pay a quarter of the excursion price. The ship scheduled excursions to Australian wine districts although there is a standing rule of only one bottle of wine brought on board per voyage. Once again, the need for profit trumps passenger satisfaction. The worst cruise we have taken in 21 years of cruising. The poorest value/cost ratio. Would not recommend this cruise to seasoned cruisers who seek the company of well-mannered passengers in an atmosphere of civility.

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Oct 24, 2011

South pacific

For starters the destinations were great! The shore excursions were a rip off, your better off organizing yr own once you get to the island. Food was below average still edible though. The rooms were OK I guess yr only sleeping in them they were very clean. There was no Gym staff at the GYM which was very disappointing because a few of the machines broke down. There was smoking allowed on the deck which most people used to walk and exercise

around the ship, very not good for you! I leave the best to last! The entertainment was very very below average! They have this great outdoor movie screen, they call it Movies Under The Stars! I watched 2 movies, which was very nice, you could hear quite well. I am still waiting for the popcorn they keep advertising on their website. Now this is a 14 night cruise, for the rest of the time they featured music videos, documentaries and of course the rugby! I am sorry but I do not consider music videos a MOVIE! Other choices of entertainment was bible studies, how to play bridge, how to gamble at the casino, Bingo, doing jigsaw puzzles at the library, lame comedian who was not funny, oh oh oh and trivia games. Food choices was, formal dinning, buffet or pizza. Lunch was about the same including burgers at the grill. That just about sums it up, I wont be back on this ship I think I will stick to larger ships like the Super Virgo and Carnival Cruises.

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  • New

May 27, 2011

South Pacific

We took a 13 day cruise to South Pacific in May 2011. Had travelled before on Diamond Princess (inside passage Alaska)and found the ship too big, too glitzy and too many Yanks. I was dragged kicking & screaming onto Dawn Princess but was converted in 24 hours. All aspects of the service was 9 out of 10, food, service, friendliness of staff, gym , activities all good. Downside was poor non-smoking policies. Allowing smoking in cabins and balconies

as well as walking/jogging deck is just plain dumb and not consistent with their overt promotion of health. Inconsiderate neighbours next to us (upwind) smoked in cabin and balcony so that we had to stop using balcony and close the doors. The smoked permeated into passage ways and our cabin. Its about time cruise lines came into the 21st century and banned smoking either altogether or severely restricted it to an aft open deck area. Also a lot of bloodshed in the launderies I was told but didn't experience it myself.

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