Norwegian Dawn Cruise Review
The Norwegian Dawn is good for the whole family, reunions, or friends, but not for a formal environment.
Built in 2002, the Norwegian Dawn was one of the first cruise ships designed to accommodate the line's then-revolutionary "Freestyle" concept of cruising that brought a more relaxed structure to on-board life. As on other Norwegian ships, passengers can choose when and where to eat in the vessel's many restaurants, dress it up or dress it down, and choose their own entertainment options (from a fairly diverse set of choices). The food in each of the Dawn's two main dining rooms is complimentary, but a number of other eateries come with an extra charge and most beverages are not included. Norwegian Cruise Line offers varying beverage packages, though.
While nearly a decade old, the Dawn has just emerged from an extensive overhaul in dry dock that, among other things, brought 58 additional cabins (nearly half of which were new suites). It's a good vessel on which to bring your whole family, have a reunion or just hang out with friends, as long as you're not looking for a formal environment.
Gene Sloan's Opinion on the Norwegian Dawn
After nearly a decade at sea, the Norwegian Dawn no longer can be counted among the newest, hottest ships, and yet it’s still a solid choice for would-be cruisers, particularly families. While nowhere near as big as Norwegian’s latest ship, the Norwegian Epic (which is more than 60% larger), it offers a wide assortment of family-friendly activities including a large children’s area with programs split into three age groups, a dedicated children’s pool area and a main pool area with multiple pools and hot tubs.
Like other Norwegian ships, the Dawn is a good choice for cruising newcomers who are fearful of an overly structured cruise experience — the kind where passengers are assigned to a particular restaurant table at a particular time each night for dinner. This was one of the first ships Norwegian purposely built with its industry-changing eat-when-you-want, where-you-want “freestyle” dining focus in mind, and it offers an unusually wide array of restaurants for a ship its size. We’ve always been a fan of the Dawn’s Asian eatery, Bamboo, even if the menu isn’t quite as adventurous as we remember it being in the ship’s early days; other eateries, including Cagney’s Steakhouse, definitely could be better. We also think the Dawn has one of the best interior layouts of vessels its size (something it shares with several sister ships including the Norwegian Jewel and Norwegian Star). The flow between the Dawn’s many restaurants, lounges and bars is superb.
In recent years, the Dawn has spent a fair amount of time sailing out of northern U.S. ports such as New York and Boston, where the cruise choices are limited and the ship often is one of the most modern (and affordably-priced) options around. Keep in mind that it’s a mass-market ship. While it does offer two of the largest suites in the industry (its oddly gigantic, three-bedroom Garden Villas, which come with their own private outdoor garden area, steam room and whirlpool), it’s not a luxury product by any means, and even when staying in the top suites you won’t find the level of service you would on a vessel operated by such luxury lines as Silversea or Seabourn.
Gene Sloan writes about cruising for USA TODAY, the nation’s top-selling newspaper, and oversees USA TODAY’s online cruise site, The Cruise Log. Sloan’s stories also are distributed by the Gannett News Service to more than 80 other U.S. newspapers with a combined circulation of more than five million, including the Cincinnati Enquirer, The Detroit Free Press, and The Arizona Republic.
- Balcony Stateroom
- Oceanview Stateroom
- Bedroom Garden Villa
- Deluxe Owner's Suite
- Owner's Suite with Two Balconies
- Two-Bedroom Family Suite with Balcony
- Family Suite with Balcony
- Penthouse with Large Balcony
- Mini-Suite with Balcony
- Mid-Ship Balcony
- Family Balcony
- Family Oceanview Picture Window
- Mid-Ship Oceanview Picture Window
- Obstructed Oceanview
- Oceanview Picture Window
- Inside Stateroom
- Family Inside
- Cabin Amenities
- Le Bistro
- La Cucina
- Sushi & Sashimi
- Blue Lagoon
- Moderno Churrascaria
- Garden Cafe
- Bimini Grill
- In-Room Dining
- Pools & Decks
- Pool Areas
- Sun Decks & Open Areas
- Deck Plans
- Lounges & Public Spaces
- El Dorado Spa & Beauty Salon
- Other Activities
- Nightlife & Shows
- Shows & Other Entertainment
- Service & Staff
- Staff & Ship Policies
- Health & Safety
- vs Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Epic
- vs Royal Caribbean International Freedom of the Seas
- vs Carnival Cruise Lines Carnival Magic
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