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.

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  1. Introduction
  2. Cabins
  3. Balcony Stateroom
  4. Oceanview Stateroom
  5. Bedroom Garden Villa
  6. Deluxe Owner's Suite
  7. Owner's Suite with Two Balconies
  8. Two-Bedroom Family Suite with Balcony
  9. Family Suite with Balcony
  10. Penthouse with Large Balcony
  11. Mini-Suite with Balcony
  12. Mid-Ship Balcony
  13. Family Balcony
  14. Family Oceanview Picture Window
  15. Mid-Ship Oceanview Picture Window
  16. Obstructed Oceanview
  17. Oceanview Picture Window
  18. Inside Stateroom
  19. Family Inside
  20. Cabin Amenities
  21. Dining
  22. Venetian
  23. Teppanyaki
  24. Le Bistro
  25. La Cucina
  26. Sushi & Sashimi
  27. Blue Lagoon
  28. Moderno Churrascaria
  29. Aqua
  30. Garden Cafe
  31. Bimini Grill
  32. Cagney's
  33. In-Room Dining
  34. Drinks
  35. Pools & Decks
  36. Pool Areas
  37. Sun Decks & Open Areas
  38. Deck Plans
  39. Recreation
  40. Lounges & Public Spaces
  41. El Dorado Spa & Beauty Salon
  42. Fitness
  43. Retail
  44. Other Activities
  45. Nightlife & Shows
  46. Gatsby's
  47. Casino
  48. Shows & Other Entertainment
  49. Service & Staff
  50. Staff & Ship Policies
  51. Health & Safety
  52. vs Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Epic
  53. vs Royal Caribbean International Freedom of the Seas
  54. vs Carnival Cruise Lines Carnival Magic
  55. Conclusion