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Norwegian Dawn Review

4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating
2976 reviews
1 Award
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Editor Rating
4.0
Very Good
Erica Silverstein
Cruise Critic Contributor

Norwegian Dawn is a ship you love despite its flaws. Built in 2002 as the third ship in the Norwegian fleet to accommodate the line's Freestyle Cruising concept (lots of choices for restaurants, bars and entertainment), the ship has stayed modern with several refurbishments, the latest being a 2016 refresh of public spaces and cabin decor and the addition of new restaurants and bars. Its old bones do create some minor hassles, but the "let's have fun" mentality of passengers and crew and a plethora of options to accommodate all tastes means that nearly everyone has a great time onboard.

Pros

Cons

Bottom Line

Enthusiastic crowd has a fun time onboard, despite upcharges and an older ship

About

Passengers : 2,340
Crew : 1,032
Passenger to Crew : 2.27:1
Launched : 2002
Shore Excursions : 1155

With 2,340 passengers, Dawn feels neither too big nor too small. The ship succeeds by offering so much choice. At dinner, you can choose from 11 restaurants, including no-charge Asian and pub food options and extra-fee steak, Italian, French and Mexican venues. The food is generally quite good, though a la carte pricing in most specialty restaurants takes away some of the carefree fun of trying out multiple dishes. Entertainment, day and night, is plentiful and varied. We especially appreciated matinee shows on sea days that spotlighted Second City comedians and the onboard magician, and the use of the Bliss Lounge, atrium and pool deck as secondary venues for evening events.

Perhaps it's the mainly Caribbean and Bermuda itineraries (read: fun in the sun destinations), but passengers onboard Norwegian Dawn are ready to have a good time. You'll find packed shows, dancing in the atrium, a hopping casino and even enthusiastic beanbag tossing. The lively vibe makes everything seem more exuberant, and you never have to worry about the "dead at 10" phenomenon you find on ships where everyone just wants to sleep after the second showing in the theater. The crew, too, are among the friendliest we've encountered, from the smiling "washy washy" folks at the buffet to the hardworking room stewards who never fail to say hello as you pass.

Unfortunately for Dawn, the ship can't shake its outdated layout and old finishings. The galley on Deck 6 means passengers can't walk from the Venetian Restaurant aft through the midship Gatsby's Bar and surrounding restaurants to the casino and theater forward. We never failed to go down the wrong set of elevators or stairs when looking for the Deck 6 main dining venues. On the upper levels, partial decks and added venues also add to the "you can't get there from here" confusion; the spa entrance is tucked away, the kids' pool is most easily accessed via the arcade one deck above and Los Lobos is so well hidden that we had to ask several people where it was before we found it.

The refit did a wonderful job of replacing garish decor with a more modern look, but be prepared for cabin furniture that's showing wear and tear, bathroom fixtures that might need a call to maintenance and elevator lights that never work. (We heard several tales of the elevators themselves getting stuck between floors, as well.) The most heard -- and experienced -- complaint was bathrooms that were out of order or in dire need of cleaning.

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The last thing to be aware of is the rampant nickel-and-diming onboard. For some, it's an annoyance to be hit up for instant win game and raffle ticket purchases before every show or charged a la carte pricing at onboard restaurants that used to charge a flat cover (or to be tempted by so many extra-fee dining venues). For others, Dawn's reasonable cruise fares -- many people on our trip took advantage of last-minute sales -- means they can afford to come onboard and then only pay for the things they really want. Many passengers mitigate the constant charging by taking advantage of booking offers, like free beverages or dining packages and shore excursion credit.

But, really, cruising freestyle means you shouldn't worry on your vacation. There's no dress code to make packing a hassle. You can try out four restaurants -- plus some extra poolside grills and buffets and continental rooms service breakfast -- without paying an extra cent. You will never be bored. Whether you're a first-time cruiser who lives near the homeport, a repeater enjoying the high life in a suite, a gambler looking to hit the jackpot or earn points toward a free cruise or a 9-to-5er looking for a warm-weather getaway from the daily grind, Norwegian Dawn has a place for you.

Inclusions

Included with your cruise fare:

  • Meals in two main dining rooms and at Bamboo, O’Sheehan’s pub, the Garden Cafe buffet and Bimini Grill; also Continental breakfast room service
  • Main theater production shows and live music in various venues
  • Most onboard activities, except as noted
  • Use of the fitness center (excluding most classes and training sessions)
  • Use of the sports deck
  • Splash Academy kids club

Not included with your cruise fare:

  • Daily gratuities ($15 per person, per day for those in standard staterooms; $18 per person, per day, for anyone in The Haven, Concierge-level cabins and all suite passengers)
  • Drinks, except water, tea, coffee and select juices from the buffet
  • Gratuities of 20 percent added automatically to beverage, spa, salon and specialty dining purchases
  • Room service fee of $9.95 (waived for suites and continental breakfast orders)
  • Most specialty dining
  • Spa and salon services, plus access to the spa's Thermal Suite and hydrotherapy pool
  • Most fitness center classes
  • Select daily activities including alcohol tastings, arts and crafts classes, bingo, and gameshows like Deal or No Deal
  • After-hours kids supervision programs at the Splash Academy
  • Shore excursions
  • Internet access and packages
  • Photos taken by shipboard photographers, artwork from the art gallery

Fellow Passengers

The shipboard crowd ranges from toddlers to seniors, with many in the middle range. Norwegian's "Freestyle Cruising" appeals to a mostly unpretentious clientele, and the overall vibe is super-casual and fun-filled. Expect a local crowd; for example, when the ship sails out of Boston, the passengers are predominantly from New England, New York and New Jersey. Norwegian Dawn is also a popular ship with members of Norwegian's Casinos at Sea Players Club and hosts several invitation-only casino tournament cruises each year. Repositioning and Canada/New England sailings do attract a generally older crowd who are less active at night.

Norwegian Dawn Dress Code

Daytime: The rule of "Freestyle" is a relaxed dress code, so you'll see plenty of T-shirts, shorts and jeans during the day.

Evening: Shorts, jeans and sneakers can be worn in all restaurants except Le Bistro for dinner, though many people do dress a little nicer at night. One formal-optional night, called Norwegian's Night Out, is when some passengers do choose to get decked out and take formal portraits. Smart casual is always requested in Le Bistro; this means jeans or slacks, collared shirts and closed-toe shoes for men, and a dressy outfit for women (including jeans, slacks, dresses or skirts). Kids under 12 can wear nice shorts. Passengers are also encouraged to bring a white outfit for the once-per-cruise White Hot Party. We were surprised just how many people chose to dress for the event.

Not permitted: The only prohibitions are tank tops for men, flip-flops, baseball caps, visors, overly ripped-up jeans and swimwear. These are permitted in the Garden Cafe, though cover-ups or shirts and shorts must be worn over swimsuits and bare feet are not allowed.

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Find a Norwegian Dawn Cruise from A$741

More about Norwegian Dawn

Where does Norwegian Dawn sail from?

Norwegian Dawn departs from Venice, Rome, Civitavecchia, Manhattan, Southampton, Southampton, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Tampa, Dubai and Cape Town

How much does it cost to go on Norwegian Dawn?

Cruises on Norwegian Dawn start from A$741 per person.

Is Norwegian Dawn a good ship to cruise on?

Norwegian Dawn won 1 award over the years.
Norwegian Dawn Cruiser Reviews

It was Good, Please read the review

I believe Norwegian has the friendliest crew at sea.... Read More
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capeman1

10+ Cruises

Age 50s

First Time Norwegian Cruiser - was a bit disappointed !

We did talk to a lot of people who were repeat Norwegian Cruisers - who told us not to judge Norwegian by the Dawn and this trip -- as they were disappointed too.... Read More
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Red E 4 Crusin

2-5 Cruises

Age 50s

Wonderful and Relaxing

We have chosen Norwegian for the past 5 years for our cruises and have always had a pleasant experience. This cruise was no different. It was great!... Read More
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jlburke

2-5 Cruises

Age 60s

12 Night Caribbean Cruise on Dawn

On the whole we had a great time and will continue to sail with Norwegian but NEVER back on the Dawn.... Read More
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realtor123

10+ Cruises

Age 70s

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