We are fresh back from a thrilling 7 day cruise to Central America out of Tampa, Florida on the Norwegian Dawn, and I am glad to be able to share another boots-on-the-ground travel blog with you after the past couple of posts. This was our second cruise on the Dawn – we sailed the Dawn to the Southern Caribbean back in December (2-part blog post from January is available related to that trip – click January 2018 on the sidebar to find them.) I’d like to provide a review of the Dawn here.
The Dawn went through an extensive drydock in 2016 – and consistent with the title of this post it looks incredible! The ship is extremely well maintained – I noticed absolutely no sign of wear and tear, and there is nothing outdated about the decor which was very fresh, trendy, and modern. There is a dizzying array of dining venues to choose from (5 of which are complimentary!) as well as bars. I felt as though the food in the main dining rooms, Aqua and Venetian, wasn’t as good as it was back in December, but that was okay because we had Bamboo (an Asian restaurant) and O’Sheehan’s (an Irish pub) to dine at instead on the remainder of our free dining nights. There is also a buffet – but I generally do not partake in buffets on cruise ships at all with the exception of breakfast (on any cruise line) because I am not comfortable in huge crowds and found that I’ve liked the food in the dining rooms far better as a general rule. But if you do like buffets, the Garden Cafe on the Dawn has magnificent views, a large selection, and comparatively nice decor for a cruise ship buffet.
One of the greatest benefits to booking on Norwegian are the promotions they offer in their “Free at Sea” program. With an interior cabin you choose one perk, and as you upgrade in stateroom category you get more to choose from. We usually start with the unlimited beverage package for our first perk, and the 3 nights of free specialty restaurants as our second perk (excursions, extra people in your cabin, and wi-fi are some of the other perks). We had an oceanview cabin and were able to book both of these perks, and the specialty restaurants we visited were outstanding. We returned to the Italian restaurant, La Cucina, and the steakhouse, Cagney’s, because we enjoyed them so much last time. We also decided to try Teppanyaki for the first time – where the chefs prepare your meal entertainment-style right in front of you (which you can watch in the YouTube video below!) We also visited Los Lobos again, the Mexican restaurant, for specialty margaritas (the best drinks I had on the whole ship) and homemade guacamole and chips. We really enjoyed Le Bistro – the French restaurant, last time but we didn’t have a chance to return this trip. So many options, not enough time!
It was Spring Break (mine too!) so the crowd was rowdier than last time. “Party hardy” is not our favorite atmosphere – despite my college student status I prefer peace and serenity on my cruises. I didn’t spend much time on the lido deck (despite the good Caribbean band that performed there often) but found a great quiet spot on the promenade deck to relax and contemplate the view. We didn’t need the lido pool because we reserved the Thermal Suite at Mandara Spa. There is an extra cost – but it’s worth every penny. The thermal suite includes a sauna, steam room, pool, 2 different jacuzzis, heated loungers (with an amazing view), and relaxation rooms. (The men’s locker room apparently also has 2 plunge pools that are not included in the women’s locker room – which I was disappointed to discover!) It’s quiet, relaxing, and there’s rarely a crowd. At night we often had the place all to ourselves. The jacuzzis and heated loungers were exactly what I needed after walking and exerting myself all day on excursions and getting around the big ship. I slept so much better after my blissful visit to the spa, all of my tension lifted and my sore muscles soothed!
Another benefit to booking with Norwegian is the stateroom upgrade bid program – where you can tell them what you’re willing to pay to upgrade your cabin and if they have one they can bump you up to they will. We got upgraded from an interior to a balcony last time, but we didn’t have any luck this time (probably because they were fully booked with Spring Break), but we were very pleased with our oceanview cabin nonetheless. It was comparatively roomy for a cruise cabin, had bright, cheerful decor, and lots of storage space. Our steward did an amazing job taking care of our room twice a day for us.
The entertainment was spectacular! Norwegian has our favorite shows for a cruise line. There was a great variety on this trip, from acrobats, to a Vegas-style production show, to magic, to comedy. These were some of the best shows I’ve ever seen – not just on a cruise ship but also on visits to Las Vegas and Atlantic City. We enjoyed spending our nights going to a show, the casino, and relaxing at the bars after dinner.
Staring at the incredible views out at sea, particularly the spectacular sunsets, is another of my favorite pastimes on cruises, and this trip did not disappoint. We sailed through the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea to Cozumel, Mexico, Costa Maya, Mexico, Roatan, Honduras, and Harvest Caye, Belize.
Service was excellent, and highly exceeded expectations. It was friendly, courteous, and efficient throughout the ship. We were extremely impressed that a couple of the servers even remembered us from 3 months ago!
This time I filmed a complete stem-to-stern tour of the Dawn for my YouTube channel which I have to share with you:
The next several blog posts will cover my adventures at the different ports. I wanted to try some new things this time on excursions, and had an absolute blast! I look forward to sharing these experiences with you over the next few weeks. And two weeks from now we will be sailing again – this time on the Carnival Pride out of Baltimore on a back-to-back to Bermuda, the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, and Princess Caye, so I will have a lot more cruise travel coverage coming in the immediate future!
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