Cruise Details

7-Night Bermuda

Boston Round-Trip

Ship: Norwegian Dawn

Prices starting from:

Pricing Info
Inside Oceanview Balcony Suite

$449

$64 per night

$499

$71 per night

$749

$107 per night

$869

$124 per night

Norwegian Dawn - Ship Review provided by Cruise Critic


Ship Review | Cruise Line Review

Overview

Norwegian Dawn, the third ship in the NCL fleet to be designed to accommodate its Freestyle Dining concept, is an intriguing blend of the best features of a cruise experience and a land resort. There's the excitement of a new port most every day (and the lovely relaxation of a couple of days at sea) and a sense of camaraderie that comes from traveling en masse with the same group of people for the whole voyage. And yet there's a wonderful atmosphere of casual flexibility, emanating in a large part from the ship's much ballyhooed selection of ten restaurants (some traditional cruise-style, others most decidedly anything but). It's this strategy, offering the freedom of choosing when, where and with whom one dines, that sets a tone here. The "Freestyle" concept is not limited to dining, of course, but allows passengers to make choices. Dress formally on formal night? Or not. Take in the early musical performance? Or the late show? The spa's open until 11 p.m. most nights, the fitness center and Internet cafe are around-the-clock operations. And disembarkation is the most painless ever -- there's no out-at-dawn boot (unless you've made very early travel arrangements).

While Norwegian Dawn is the third in the "Freestyle Cruising" brigade -- following Norwegian Sun and a sister ship, design-wise, to Norwegian Star -- it's by no means identical. The cruise line has tweaked and honed some of the original concepts based both on experience and on passenger feedback.

Ultimately, the atmosphere on this whimsically decorated and gorgeous ship -- using as its decorating scheme the bright, primary colors of Impressionism -- dictates the experience: fun, easy-going, and relaxing, a ship that is designed to please a wide variety of travelers and most certainly one that attracts first-time cruisers who heretofore had found traditional sea-going regimentation a drag.

Dining

Norwegian Dawn has twelve restaurants plus a handful of casual options and I suppose you could try them all on a seven day cruise but it would be pretty hard. Themes range from Benihana-style Teppanyaki to fish-n-chips. Overall, food and service were good in quality and that judgment is broadened to include those with surcharge and those without. A couple of notes: While Norwegian has made much of the variety -- and indeed there is that -- of its boutique offerings, that mostly applies to dinner. And yet there's still plenty to choose from at lunch.

It's also important to mention that evening dining hours are from 5:30 p.m. - 11 p.m. but passengers must be seated by 10:30 p.m. One area that initially seems to cause passengers some anxiety is in the reservation process but we found it pretty smooth -- and our cruise was 99 percent booked -- managing to snare a seat in every restaurant we wanted to try. There's a reservation desk in the main lobby that's open from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. and passengers are permitted to book just one day in advance. Otherwise, you can call the restaurant directly after 5:30 p.m. Lastly, Norwegian Dawn has teamed up with Cooking Light magazine and menus in the dining room, as well as offerings on the buffet, feature lighter fare at lunch and dinner.

Here's a rundown:

Traditionally speaking, the ship's two "main" restaurants, both on Deck 6, differ mostly in terms of atmosphere. They start with the 472-seat Venetian, which is the most cruise-like (and the one that's typically a bit crowded since it's most often used for breakfast and lunch as well as dinner). It's gorgeous, smaller than most cruise line dining rooms, and decorated tastefully with huge murals depicting scenes of Venice. Because the Venetian is aft, it's overlooked by a huge series of paned window stretching across the entire wall and offering incredible views. There are plenty of tables for two (though they may be in short supply during peak periods). The 344-seat Aqua features a more contemporary (though no less pleasing to the eye) decor -- lots of pretty colored glass and colorful ceramic murals -- and menu. It's also (we think) cruise-dom's only all-female operated restaurant (including maitre d').

While there's much emphasis on "freestyle dining," Norwegian Dawn's maitre 'd says that traditionals can request the same table at the same time every night. Make the arrangements when you board.

Back to Freestyle, one of the benefits is that - because they're not feeding 1,000 people who all sit down at one time - there's no convention-center-banquet feeling. There is a definite improvement (over more traditional dinner seatings) in both service and quality of main dining room cuisine.

Some of Norwegian Dawn's boutique restaurants, where advance reservations are highly recommended (though you can chance it and just show up -- if employing this strategy it helps to want to eat very early or very late), have per-person surcharges, some don't. Of the latter, our dinner at Salsa, the Tex-Mex eatery (this was one that tended to book up every night) was a stand-out. The restaurant also offers tapas and house-made sangria. The 24-hour Blue Lagoon, tucked just off the Atrium, is a fast-food joint and frequently packed. Offerings range from unusual (Shepherd's Pie and pork-fried rice to burgers and fish-n-chips); we found that the more traditional fast food fare (potato skins, burgers, fries, the fish) was the best bet here. Blue Lagoon is also one of the few restaurants to have outdoor seating.

Charging a sliding scale of per-person surcharges (not to mention additional pricing on some items -- read the menu carefully ) are three specialty restaurants where, by and large, you should find the best food and service onboard. Le Bistro ($15.00) features a French menu, mostly traditional fare. Desserts also are wonderful. One distinctive highlight of this restaurant is its collection of four Impressionist masterpieces (Van Gogh, Matisse, Renoir and Monet); there's something incredibly powerful about eating amidst them. Le Bistro, due to its intimate size, is probably the ship's most booked-up restaurant; there is an overflow part that is called the Wine Cellar, a set of tables that sit outside the restaurant (and basically they are part of Gatsby's Champagne Bar).

Cagney's Steakhouse ($20) is a Morton's-like establishment featuring Angus beef, lamb, and seafood -- with sides, like rice, mashed potatoes and creamed spinach, served family style. Bamboo is an elegant amalgamation of three different Asian eating areas -- Thai, Japanese and Chinese. Bamboo ($12.50) is a favorite of many of the crew and officers who are allowed to eat at the alternative restaurants. There's a sake bar, a Teppanyaki room (a'la Benihana and a la carte) and a sushi bar which features an "all you can eat for $10" deal. Impressions ($10.00), formerly one of the "main" restaurants, has been transformed into an Italian eatery where pasta (with seven different sauces to choose from), pizza and salads are staples. Fine wines, authentic Italian desserts and aromatic espressos treat the palate here as well.

Ultra casual options: One of the highlights of our cruise was the daily cookouts held poolside. Featuring all sorts of the usual barbecue fare -- everything was cooked on huge Weber-like grills -- from burgers to ribs to corn on the cob, the cookouts were held at lunchtime on sea days and during the early dinner seating on port days. Not to be missed. The Garden Cafe is the buffet area, featuring the usual no-surprise breakfast choices (omelettes made to order, eggs, bacon, etc.). At lunchtime, one end features delicious vegetarian Indian offerings. Another casual choice is the Bimini Grill (one of the few outdoor restaurants) where, during lunch hours, the grill cooked up burgers, hot dogs and fries.

Kids menus are available in the main dining rooms and the Garden Cafe. The latter has a totally charming kids' dining area with child-size buffet stations, tables and chairs.

There's 24-hour room service from a relatively limited menu. Sprinkles, tucked between two ends of the Topsiders' Bar (poolside) offers free ice cream (you can also shell out a few bucks for premium brands).

Public Rooms

Indoor activities on Norwegian Dawn are primarily concentrated on Decks 6 and 7. The Grand Atrium, with its glass-domed ceiling, is the hub. Here you'll find passenger-service counters (shore excursions, reception), a boutique with fabulous glassware, and, tucked in the center, the Java Cafe. Circling around a balcony a deck above is La Salsa and its bar. In between, on the landing of a curved stairway, is a performance platform where live bands play.

Shopping-wise, beyond the boutique on Deck 6 you'll find the rest of the shops. Unlike some ships where the shopping area is supposed to represent a mall, this Galleria is laid out like an elegant duty-free shop. There are areas for jewelry, cosmetics and perfumes, stylish casual-wear (Tommy Bahama is a mainstay), and souvenirs.

The Dawn Club Casino -- located along the corridor leading to the Stardust Theater rather than distractingly plopped in the center of a well-trafficked area -- offers the usual slot machines and games. The Stardust Theater, which spans Decks 5 through 7, is designed in a European opera house style; it's beautiful and quite comfortable. The Internet Cafe has 17 terminals; NCL also offers wireless access. Passengers can bring their own laptops or rent one. Rates at the cafe itself are industry standard -- 75 cents per minute. Packages are available (100 minutes for $55, 250 minutes for $100); there's a $3.95 activation fee. Wireless fees vary. A wireless card rental costs $10 a day and then there are time packages (250 minutes for $100, 100 minutes for $55 and 33 minutes for $25). To rent a laptop, be prepared to pay $35 a day.

Another series of indoor activity rooms is located on Deck 12. There, in what's dubbed the activity center, you'll find the library -- nice, with an excellent selection of books -- a game room with lots of card tables, a cinema, and a really pretty writing room with comfy couches that overlook the sea.

Cabins

Staterooms, in the usual varying sizes and categories, are beautifully decorated in a whimsical primary color scheme with a faux cherry wood backdrop. Standard inside and outside staterooms have the usual twin/queen bed configurations. One incentive to upgrade from inside to outside is the bathroom: in outside cabins, like balcony staterooms and suites, it's laid out in a really nifty three-part design. The shower (bathtubs for minisuites and beyond) has a sliding glass door as does the toilet compartment.

Balcony cabins come with a small seating area, with a couch that opens up to make a twin-sized bed (the main difference between these and the minisuites, which are simply larger, is that the latter's couch is a double-sized bed). It's important to note (for those sleeping on the pull-out) that it's rock hard. Our enterprising steward solved that problem by giving us an extra duvet to put under the sheet.

Storage space is adequate but not generous. Balconies are outfitted with blue mesh adjustable chairs and a small table.

There's a variety of in-cabin entertainment on television, including CNN, TNT, Cartoon Network and ESPN, plus a variety of movies and sitcoms. One nice touch is in-cabin coffee makers. One oddity (for those bringing along laptops to plug in) is that, for Americans, the only 220-volt outlet is by the vanity, not by the table. Ask at ship's reception for an adapter. There's a mini-fridge but it wasn't filled (which we loved because we could stash our own stuff in it).

NCL has made much ado about its two Garden Villas. These are, we must admit, fabulous (we toured 'em, didn't stay in them, alas) and could be worth the $26,000 per villa charge -- particularly if you split it with a group of friends. Each has a private outdoor garden area (didn't quite get the use of fake plants, however), otherwise lovely, with a whirlpool. Each also has a private sunbathing deck and steam room.

Entertainment

While Norwegian Dawn offers the usual fare during the day (sea days) -- bingo, art auctions, arts & crafts (ribbon roses!) -- there is also an emphasis on lifestyle-improvement topics, particularly concerning health and wellness (stress relief techniques, "sluggish systems," memory enhancement, "secrets of seaweed") and, interestingly, these are not offered in conjunction with the spa.

But the highlight of Dawn's entertainment offerings has to be each evening's "main event," held in the gorgeous Stardust Theater.

The ship also features a variety of bands, playing everything from classical to Latino to torch songs and most of Norwegian Dawn's nine bars, all with varying personalities, offer some kind of entertainment. Favorites included the Salsa Bar for margaritas, the Pearly Kings Pub for offbeat British beers, and the Bimini Bar, way up on Deck 14, for gorgeous views (and wonderful tropical frozen drinks).

Fitness and Recreation

Norwegian Dawn offers a wide range of fitness and recreation services. First: The two-tiered El Dorado Spa and Beauty Center offers up-to-date fitness equipment and a fabulous glass-paneled room for classes in yoga, stretching, aerobics and Pilates. Yoga and Pilates are among those that come with a $5 surcharge.

The spa itself is beautiful and serene. Operated by Hawaii-based Mandara (which is owned by Steiner), the treatments are a bit more exotic, with Hawaiian and Polynesian influences. Guests purchasing a treatment are permitted to use a lovely relaxation room, with padded wicker loungers. Mens' and womens' locker rooms feature a sauna and a steamroom.

The "piece de resistance," however, is the spa's indoor lap-pool (it's an adequate size for swimmers who want exercise). The only problem is passengers occasionally missed the concept of lap swimming and treated it as an alternative to the main pool. There's also a whirlpool and a hydro-pool. Another neat feature found in the spa is the juice bar, with all sorts of healthful drinks; all require an extra charge.

In the main pool area -- which ties in with the Impressionist theme, festively looking like something out of St. Tropez -- there's a plunge pool and a regular pool, plus two whirlpools. There's another whirlpool tucked away on Deck 13 aft that's hard to find. There's also a bandstand for entertainment. Chaise lounges are set up in amphitheater mode and there are -- and this is a nice touch -- tables set up amongst them so you can eat as well as sunbathe.

Sports activities include a jogging track (strangely narrow, walkers are better off on the wider, more relaxing wrap-around promenade on Deck 7). There are golf driving nets, shuffleboard, a man-sized chess board, volleyball/basketball courts, paddle tennis and horseshoes.

One note about chaise-saving around the main pool area: The Dawn's "Freestyle Daily" notes that there is a strict chairs reservation policy and "any item left unattended for more than 30 minutes is subject to confiscation." We found that passengers, on sea days only, totally and completely ignored that policy and in fact by 9:30 a.m. most chairs in prime areas were secured with books and shoes -- and with nobody in sight. We never saw the policy being enforced.

Family

The childrens' facilities on Norwegian Dawn are some of the best in the fleet -- and truly make this a ship that's ideal for families.

The main center of action is the T-Rex, which includes a play gym, movie theater, computer center and even a Snoozes sleeping area for late night sleep-overs. Adjacent (but not enclosed within) there's a T-Rex kids' pool,complete with downsized lounge chairs, a water slide, and a whirlpool.

Kids under two sail for non commissionable fares and taxes. Over two, children pay a child's rate, which varies. Kids under 3 aren't required to tip. For those ages 3 - 12, suggested gratuities are $5 per child per day; 13 and up $10 per day. "Kid's Crew" is divided into three age groups. Junior Sailors (2 - 5), First Mates and Navigators (6 - 12), and Teens (13 - 17). Games are organized on NCL's Great Stirrup Cay.

Only group sitting is available; evenings from 10 p.m. - 1 a.m.; in port from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Cost is $5 per child per hour; the second kid is $3. Port sitting for parents whose children are "on beepers" -- meaning they still wear diapers or Pull-Ups -- is not available (company policy) as the beepers do not work on land. NCL also has developed a fleet-wide discipline policy. The four-step set of rules includes warning, time-out, suspension and dismissal stages. In addition, children under 16 are not allowed on elevators or in the spa/fitness area, without parental accompaniment.

High chairs and cribs are available upon request (either onboard or in advance). Other kid-oriented amenities include kids' packages for soda (for $16 per seven-day cruise children receive a special cup and unlimited sodas). There's also a Kids' Crew Backpack; for $39.50, it includes a t-shirt, sunglasses, luggage tag and the bottomless soda cup. Teens can purchase a "teen passport," which, for $30, entitles the 13- to 17-year-old crowd to 20 non-alcoholic drinks and a farewell disco party.

For teens, there's a video arcade and a disco-styled teen club.

For all ages (under 18) there are daily planned activities though no shore excursion offerings.

Dress Code

The rule of "Freestyle" is a relaxed dress code. Evenings are always resort casual though there is one formal night and many passengers opted to get decked out. Shorts and jeans are not permitted in the dining rooms after 6 p.m. A note: On the last night of our cruise we saw a fair amount of passengers who assumed that dress code standards were relaxed. Nope. Maitre d's were turning away anyone in jeans, asking them to change into resort casual.

Gratuity

Norwegian Dawn has an automatic gratuity program that costs $10 per passenger, per day, and covers tips for all services -- including room stewards and restaurant wait and bar staff. Passengers can opt to pay their own tips, however, by asking at the reception desk.

Overview

Norwegian Dawn debuted in 2002 as the third ship in the NCL fleet to be designed to accommodate its Freestyle Crusing concept. Dawn is an intriguing blend of the best features of a cruise experience and a land resort. There's the excitement of a new port most every day (and the lovely relaxation of a couple of days at sea) and a sense of camaraderie that comes from traveling en masse with the same group of people for the whole voyage. And yet there's a wonderful atmosphere of casual flexibility, emanating in a large part from the ship's much ballyhooed selection of some 10 restaurants (some traditional cruise-style, others most decidedly anything but). It's this strategy, offering the freedom of choosing when, where and with whom one dines, that sets a tone here. The "Freestyle" concept is not limited to dining, of course, but allows passengers to make choices. Dress formally on formal night? Or not. Take in the early musical performance? Or the late show? The spa and fitness center is open until 11 p.m. most nights, and the Internet cafe is an around-the-clock operation. And disembarkation is the most painless ever -- there's no out-at-dawn boot (unless you've made very early travel arrangements).

Ultimately, the atmosphere on this whimsically decorated and gorgeous ship -- using as its decorating scheme the bright, primary colors of Impressionism -- dictates the experience: fun, easy-going, and relaxing, a ship that is designed to please a wide variety of travelers and most certainly one that attracts first-time cruisers who heretofore had found traditional sea-going regimentation a drag.

Dining

Norwegian Dawn has twelve some 10 distinct restaurants to choose from, and I suppose you could try them all on a seven day cruise but it would be pretty hard. Themes range from Benihana-style Teppanyaki to steaks to heavy French bistro fare. Overall, food and service were good in quality and that judgment is broadened to include those with surcharge and those without. A couple of notes: While Norwegian has made much of the variety -- and indeed there is that -- of its boutique offerings, that mostly applies to dinner. And yet there's still plenty to choose from at lunch.

It's also important to mention that evening dining hours are from 5:30 - 11 p.m., but passengers must be seated by 10:30 p.m. One area that initially seems to cause passengers some anxiety is in the reservation process, but we found it pretty smooth -- and our cruise was 99 percent booked -- and we managed to snare a seat in every restaurant we wanted to try. There's a reservation desk in the main lobby that's open from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. and passengers are permitted to book just one day in advance. Otherwise, you can call the restaurant directly after 5:30 p.m.

Here's a rundown of the dining options onboard Norwegian Dawn:

Traditionally speaking, the ship's two "main" restaurants, both on Deck 6, differ mostly in terms of atmosphere. The 472-seat Venetian is the most cruise-like (and the one that's typically a bit crowded since it's most often used for breakfast and lunch as well as dinner). It's gorgeous, smaller than most cruise line dining rooms, and decorated tastefully with huge murals depicting scenes of Venice. Because the Venetian is situated on the stern, it boasts floor-to-ceiling windows that stretch across the entire back wall and offer incredible views. There are plenty of tables for two (though they may be in short supply during peak periods). The 344-seat Aqua features a more contemporary (though no less pleasing to the eye) decor -- lots of pretty colored glass and colorful ceramic murals -- and menu.

One of the benefits of the freestyle dining setup is that -- because they're not feeding 1,000 people who all sit down at one time -- there's no "convention center banquet" feeling. And because fewer people eat in the main dining rooms, the spaces feels more intimate than other big-ship dining rooms.

All but one of Norwegian Dawn's boutique restaurants, where advance reservations are highly recommended (though you can chance it and just show up -- and it helps to eat very early or very late), have per-person surcharges. Our dinner at Salsa, the Tex-Mex eatery ($10 per person surcharge), was a stand-out. The restaurant offers tasty tapas and house-made sangria, and it was one of the alternative venues that tended to book up every night. The 24-hour Blue Lagoon (the "free" option), tucked just off the Atrium, is a fast-food joint and is frequently packed. Offerings include traditional comfort foods such as burgers, fish-n-chips, potato skins and fries. Blue Lagoon is also one of the few restaurants to have outdoor seating.

Le Bistro ($20) features heavy French options like mushroom soup, escargot and fish and beef dishes covered in cream sauces. Desserts here are wonderful (creme brulet). Due to its intimate size, Le Bistro is probably the ship's most booked-up restaurant; there's an overflow part that is called the Wine Cellar, which consists of a set of tables that sit outside the restaurant (and basically they are part of Gatsby's Champagne Bar).

Cagney's Steakhouse ($25) is a Morton's-like establishment featuring Angus beef, lamb, and seafood -- with sides, like rice, mashed potatoes and creamed spinach.

Bamboo is an elegant amalgamation of three different Asian eating areas -- Thai, Japanese and Chinese. Bamboo ($15) is a favorite of many of the crew and officers who are allowed to eat at the alternative restaurants. There's a sake bar, a Teppanyaki room (a la Benihana, $25 surcharge) and a sushi bar featuring an "all you can eat for $15" deal. Impressions ($10), formerly one of the "main" restaurants, has been transformed into an Italian eatery where the staples are pasta (with seven different sauces to choose from), pizza and salads. Fine wines, authentic Italian desserts and aromatic espressos treat the palate here as well.

One of the highlights of our cruise was the cookouts held poolside (lunch during sea days, early dinner during port days). The BBQ's featured all sorts of the usual fare -- everything was cooked on huge grills -- from burgers to ribs to corn on the cob. The Garden Cafe is the buffet area, featuring the usual no-surprise breakfast choices (omelets made to order, eggs, bacon, etc.). At lunchtime, one end features delicious vegetarian Indian offerings and a salad bar. Another casual choice is the Bimini Grill (one of the few outdoor restaurants) where, during lunch hours, the grill cooked up burgers, hot dogs and fries.

Sprinkles, tucked between two ends of the Topsiders' Bar (poolside) offers free ice cream (you can also shell out a few bucks for premium brands).

Kids menus are available in the main dining rooms and the Garden Cafe. The latter has a totally charming kids' dining area with child-size buffet stations, tables and chairs.

There's 24-hour room service from a relatively limited menu.

Public Rooms

Indoor activities on Norwegian Dawn are primarily concentrated on Decks 6 and 7. The Grand Atrium, with its glass-domed ceiling, is the hub. Here you'll find passenger service counters (shore excursions, reception), a boutique with fabulous glassware, and, tucked in the center, the Java Cafe. On the landing of a curved stairway, is a performance platform where live bands play.

Shopping-wise, you'll find the rest of the shops beyond the aforementioned glassware boutique on Deck 6. Unlike some ships where the shopping area is supposed to represent a mall, this Galleria is laid out like an elegant duty-free shop. There are areas for jewelry, cosmetics and perfumes, stylish casual-wear (Tommy Bahama is a mainstay) and souvenirs.

The Dawn Club Casino -- located along the corridor leading to the Stardust Theater rather than distractingly plopped in the center of a well-trafficked area -- offers the usual slot machines and games. The Stardust Theater, which spans Decks 5 through 7, is designed in a European opera house style; it's beautiful and quite comfortable. The Internet Cafe has 17 terminals; NCL also offers wireless access. Passengers can bring their own laptops or rent one. Rates at the cafe itself are industry standard -- 75 cents per minute. Packages are available (100 minutes for $55, 250 minutes for $100); there's a $3.95 activation fee. Wireless fees are the same. To rent a laptop, be prepared to pay $35 a day.

Another series of indoor activity rooms is located on Deck 12. There, in what's dubbed the activity center, you'll find the library -- nice, with an excellent selection of books -- a game room with lots of card tables, a cinema and a really pretty writing room with comfy couches that overlook the sea.

Cabins

Cabins, in the usual varying sizes and categories, are beautifully decorated in a whimsical primary color scheme with a faux cherry wood walls. Standard inside and outside cabins have the usual twin-to-queen bed configurations. One incentive to upgrade from inside to outside is the bathroom: in outside cabins, including balconies and suites, it's laid out in a really nifty three-part design. The shower (bathtubs for mini-suites and beyond) has a sliding glass door as does the toilet compartment.

Balcony cabins come with a small sitting area, with a couch that opens up to make a twin-sized bed. The main difference between these and the mini-suites, which are slightly larger, is that the latter's couch is a double-sized bed. For those sleeping on the pull-out, it's important to note that it's rock hard. Our enterprising steward solved that problem by giving us an extra duvet to put under the sheet.

Storage space is adequate but not generous. Balconies are outfitted with blue mesh adjustable chairs and a small table.

There's a variety of in-cabin entertainment on television, including CNN, TNT, Cartoon Network and ESPN, plus a variety of movies. One oddity (for those bringing along laptops to plug in) is that, for Americans, the only 220-volt outlet is by the vanity, not by the table. Ask at ship's reception for an adapter. There's a mini-fridge, but it wasn't filled (which we loved because we could stash our own stuff in it).

Much ado is made about Norwegian Dawn's two Garden Villas. These are, we must admit, fabulous (we toured 'em, didn't stay in them, alas) and could be worth the $26,000 per villa charge -- particularly if you split it with a group of friends. Each has a private outdoor garden area (didn't quite get the use of fake plants, however) with a whirlpool. Each also has a private sunbathing deck and steam room.

Entertainment

While Norwegian Dawn offers the usual fare during sea days -- bingo, art auctions, arts & crafts (ribbon roses!) -- there is also an emphasis on lifestyle-improvement topics, particularly concerning health and wellness (stress relief techniques, "sluggish systems," memory enhancement, "secrets of seaweed").

But the highlight of Dawn's entertainment offerings has to be each evening's "main event," held in the gorgeous Stardust Theater.

The ship also features a variety of bands, playing everything from classical to Latin to torch songs, and most of Norwegian Dawn's nine bars, all with varying personalities, offer some kind of entertainment. Favorites included the Salsa Bar for margaritas, the Pearly Kings Pub for offbeat British beers, and the Bimini Bar, way up on Deck 14, for gorgeous views (and wonderful tropical frozen drinks).

Fitness and Recreation

Norwegian Dawn offers a wide range of fitness and recreation services. First: The two-tiered El Dorado Spa and Beauty Center offers up-to-date fitness equipment and a fabulous glass-paneled room for classes in yoga, stretching, aerobics and Pilates. Yoga and Pilates are among those that come with a $10 to $15 surcharge.

The spa itself is beautiful and serene. Operated by Hawaii-based Mandara (which is owned by Steiner), the treatments are a bit more exotic, with Hawaiian and Polynesian influences. Passengers purchasing a treatment are permitted to use a lovely relaxation room, with padded wicker loungers. Men's and women's locker rooms feature a sauna and a steam room.

The "piece de resistance," however, is the spa's indoor lap-pool (it's an adequate size for swimmers who want exercise). The only problem is that passengers occasionally missed the concept of lap swimming and treated it as an alternative to the main pool. There's also a whirlpool and a hydro-pool. Another neat feature found in the spa is the for-fee juice bar, with all sorts of healthful drinks.

In the main pool area -- which ties in with the Impressionist theme, festively looking like something out of St. Tropez -- there's a plunge pool and a regular pool, plus two whirlpools. There's another whirlpool tucked away on Deck 13 aft that's hard to find. There's also a bandstand for entertainment. Chaise lounges are set up in amphitheater mode and there are -- and this is a nice touch -- tables set up amongst them so you can eat as well as sunbathe.

Sports activities include a jogging track (strangely narrow, walkers are better off on the wider, more relaxing wrap-around promenade on Deck 7). There are golf driving nets, shuffleboard, a man-sized chess board, volleyball/basketball courts, paddle tennis and horseshoes.

One note about chaise-saving around the main pool area: The Dawn's "Freestyle Daily" notes that there is a strict chairs reservation policy and "any item left unattended for more than 30 minutes is subject to confiscation." We found that passengers, on sea days only, totally and completely ignored that policy and in fact by 9:30 a.m. most chairs in prime areas were secured with books and shoes -- and with nobody in sight. We never saw the policy being enforced.

Family

The children's facilities on Norwegian Dawn are excellent and truly make this a ship that's ideal for families.

The main center of action is the T-Rex, which includes a play gym, movie theater, computer center and even a Snoozes sleeping area for late-night sleepovers. Adjacent (but not enclosed within) there's a T-Rex kids' pool, complete with downsized lounge chairs, a waterslide and a whirlpool.

NCL's "Kid's Crew" is divided into three age groups. Junior Sailors (2 - 5), First Mates and Navigators (6 - 12), and Teens (13 - 17). Games are organized on Great Stirrup Cay, the line's private island.

Only group sitting is available; evenings it's offered from 10 p.m. - 1 a.m.; on port days, it's from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Cost is $6 per child per hour; the second kid is $4 per hour. NCL also has developed a fleet-wide discipline policy. The four-step set of rules includes warning, time-out, suspension and dismissal stages.

High chairs and cribs are available upon request (either onboard or in advance). Other kid-oriented amenities include kids' packages for soda. (The unlimited beverage program is $4 per day for kids up to age 12 and $6.25 per day for teens 13 and older.) There's also a Kids' Crew Backpack; for $39.50, it includes a T-shirt, sunglasses, luggage tag and the bottomless soda cup. Teens can purchase a "teen passport," which, for $34.50, entitles the 13- to 17-year-old crowd to 20 non-alcoholic drinks and a farewell disco party.

For teens, there's a video arcade and a disco-styled teen club.

For all ages (under 18) there are daily planned activities though no shore excursion offerings.

Overview

Norwegian Dawn, the third ship in the NCL fleet to be designed to accommodate its Freestyle Dining concept, is an intriguing blend of the best features of a cruise experience and a land resort. There's the excitement of a new port most every day (and the lovely relaxation of a couple of days at sea) and a sense of camaraderie that comes from traveling en masse with the same group of people for the whole voyage. And yet there's a wonderful atmosphere of casual flexibility, emanating in a large part from the ship's much ballyhooed selection of ten restaurants (some traditional cruise-style, others most decidedly anything but). It's this strategy, offering the freedom of choosing when, where and with whom one dines, that sets a tone here. The "Freestyle" concept is not limited to dining, of course, but allows passengers to make choices. Dress formally on formal night? Or not. Take in the early musical performance? Or the late show? The spa's open until 11 p.m. most nights, the fitness center and Internet cafe are around-the-clock operations. And disembarkation is the most painless ever -- there's no out-at-dawn boot (unless you've made very early travel arrangements).

While Norwegian Dawn is the third in the "Freestyle Cruising" brigade -- following Norwegian Sun and a sister ship, design-wise, to Norwegian Star -- it's by no means identical. The cruise line has tweaked and honed some of the original concepts based both on experience and on passenger feedback.

Ultimately, the atmosphere on this whimsically decorated and gorgeous ship -- using as its decorating scheme the bright, primary colors of Impressionism -- dictates the experience: fun, easy-going, and relaxing, a ship that is designed to please a wide variety of travelers and most certainly one that attracts first-time cruisers who heretofore had found traditional sea-going regimentation a drag.

Dining

Norwegian Dawn has twelve restaurants plus a handful of casual options and I suppose you could try them all on a seven day cruise but it would be pretty hard. Themes range from Benihana-style Teppanyaki to fish-n-chips. Overall, food and service were good in quality and that judgment is broadened to include those with surcharge and those without. A couple of notes: While Norwegian has made much of the variety -- and indeed there is that -- of its boutique offerings, that mostly applies to dinner. And yet there's still plenty to choose from at lunch.

It's also important to mention that evening dining hours are from 5:30 p.m. - 11 p.m. but passengers must be seated by 10:30 p.m. One area that initially seems to cause passengers some anxiety is in the reservation process but we found it pretty smooth -- and our cruise was 99 percent booked -- managing to snare a seat in every restaurant we wanted to try. There's a reservation desk in the main lobby that's open from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. and passengers are permitted to book just one day in advance. Otherwise, you can call the restaurant directly after 5:30 p.m. Lastly, Norwegian Dawn has teamed up with Cooking Light magazine and menus in the dining room, as well as offerings on the buffet, feature lighter fare at lunch and dinner.

Here's a rundown:

Traditionally speaking, the ship's two "main" restaurants, both on Deck 6, differ mostly in terms of atmosphere. They start with the 472-seat Venetian, which is the most cruise-like (and the one that's typically a bit crowded since it's most often used for breakfast and lunch as well as dinner). It's gorgeous, smaller than most cruise line dining rooms, and decorated tastefully with huge murals depicting scenes of Venice. Because the Venetian is aft, it's overlooked by a huge series of paned window stretching across the entire wall and offering incredible views. There are plenty of tables for two (though they may be in short supply during peak periods). The 344-seat Aqua features a more contemporary (though no less pleasing to the eye) decor -- lots of pretty colored glass and colorful ceramic murals -- and menu. It's also (we think) cruise-dom's only all-female operated restaurant (including maitre d').

While there's much emphasis on "freestyle dining," Norwegian Dawn's maitre 'd says that traditionals can request the same table at the same time every night. Make the arrangements when you board.

Back to Freestyle, one of the benefits is that - because they're not feeding 1,000 people who all sit down at one time - there's no convention-center-banquet feeling. There is a definite improvement (over more traditional dinner seatings) in both service and quality of main dining room cuisine.

Some of Norwegian Dawn's boutique restaurants, where advance reservations are highly recommended (though you can chance it and just show up -- if employing this strategy it helps to want to eat very early or very late), have per-person surcharges, some don't. Of the latter, our dinner at Salsa, the Tex-Mex eatery (this was one that tended to book up every night) was a stand-out. The restaurant also offers tapas and house-made sangria. The 24-hour Blue Lagoon, tucked just off the Atrium, is a fast-food joint and frequently packed. Offerings range from unusual (Shepherd's Pie and pork-fried rice to burgers and fish-n-chips); we found that the more traditional fast food fare (potato skins, burgers, fries, the fish) was the best bet here. Blue Lagoon is also one of the few restaurants to have outdoor seating.

Charging a sliding scale of per-person surcharges (not to mention additional pricing on some items -- read the menu carefully ) are three specialty restaurants where, by and large, you should find the best food and service onboard. Le Bistro ($15.00) features a French menu, mostly traditional fare. Desserts also are wonderful. One distinctive highlight of this restaurant is its collection of four Impressionist masterpieces (Van Gogh, Matisse, Renoir and Monet); there's something incredibly powerful about eating amidst them. Le Bistro, due to its intimate size, is probably the ship's most booked-up restaurant; there is an overflow part that is called the Wine Cellar, a set of tables that sit outside the restaurant (and basically they are part of Gatsby's Champagne Bar).

Cagney's Steakhouse ($20) is a Morton's-like establishment featuring Angus beef, lamb, and seafood -- with sides, like rice, mashed potatoes and creamed spinach, served family style. Bamboo is an elegant amalgamation of three different Asian eating areas -- Thai, Japanese and Chinese. Bamboo ($12.50) is a favorite of many of the crew and officers who are allowed to eat at the alternative restaurants. There's a sake bar, a Teppanyaki room (a'la Benihana and a la carte) and a sushi bar which features an "all you can eat for $10" deal. Impressions ($10.00), formerly one of the "main" restaurants, has been transformed into an Italian eatery where pasta (with seven different sauces to choose from), pizza and salads are staples. Fine wines, authentic Italian desserts and aromatic espressos treat the palate here as well.

Ultra casual options: One of the highlights of our cruise was the daily cookouts held poolside. Featuring all sorts of the usual barbecue fare -- everything was cooked on huge Weber-like grills -- from burgers to ribs to corn on the cob, the cookouts were held at lunchtime on sea days and during the early dinner seating on port days. Not to be missed. The Garden Cafe is the buffet area, featuring the usual no-surprise breakfast choices (omelettes made to order, eggs, bacon, etc.). At lunchtime, one end features delicious vegetarian Indian offerings. Another casual choice is the Bimini Grill (one of the few outdoor restaurants) where, during lunch hours, the grill cooked up burgers, hot dogs and fries.

Kids menus are available in the main dining rooms and the Garden Cafe. The latter has a totally charming kids' dining area with child-size buffet stations, tables and chairs.

There's 24-hour room service from a relatively limited menu. Sprinkles, tucked between two ends of the Topsiders' Bar (poolside) offers free ice cream (you can also shell out a few bucks for premium brands).

Public Rooms

Indoor activities on Norwegian Dawn are primarily concentrated on Decks 6 and 7. The Grand Atrium, with its glass-domed ceiling, is the hub. Here you'll find passenger-service counters (shore excursions, reception), a boutique with fabulous glassware, and, tucked in the center, the Java Cafe. Circling around a balcony a deck above is La Salsa and its bar. In between, on the landing of a curved stairway, is a performance platform where live bands play.

Shopping-wise, beyond the boutique on Deck 6 you'll find the rest of the shops. Unlike some ships where the shopping area is supposed to represent a mall, this Galleria is laid out like an elegant duty-free shop. There are areas for jewelry, cosmetics and perfumes, stylish casual-wear (Tommy Bahama is a mainstay), and souvenirs.

The Dawn Club Casino -- located along the corridor leading to the Stardust Theater rather than distractingly plopped in the center of a well-trafficked area -- offers the usual slot machines and games. The Stardust Theater, which spans Decks 5 through 7, is designed in a European opera house style; it's beautiful and quite comfortable. The Internet Cafe has 17 terminals; NCL also offers wireless access. Passengers can bring their own laptops or rent one. Rates at the cafe itself are industry standard -- 75 cents per minute. Packages are available (100 minutes for $55, 250 minutes for $100); there's a $3.95 activation fee. Wireless fees vary. A wireless card rental costs $10 a day and then there are time packages (250 minutes for $100, 100 minutes for $55 and 33 minutes for $25). To rent a laptop, be prepared to pay $35 a day.

Another series of indoor activity rooms is located on Deck 12. There, in what's dubbed the activity center, you'll find the library -- nice, with an excellent selection of books -- a game room with lots of card tables, a cinema, and a really pretty writing room with comfy couches that overlook the sea.

Cabins

Staterooms, in the usual varying sizes and categories, are beautifully decorated in a whimsical primary color scheme with a faux cherry wood backdrop. Standard inside and outside staterooms have the usual twin/queen bed configurations. One incentive to upgrade from inside to outside is the bathroom: in outside cabins, like balcony staterooms and suites, it's laid out in a really nifty three-part design. The shower (bathtubs for minisuites and beyond) has a sliding glass door as does the toilet compartment.

Balcony cabins come with a small seating area, with a couch that opens up to make a twin-sized bed (the main difference between these and the minisuites, which are simply larger, is that the latter's couch is a double-sized bed). It's important to note (for those sleeping on the pull-out) that it's rock hard. Our enterprising steward solved that problem by giving us an extra duvet to put under the sheet.

Storage space is adequate but not generous. Balconies are outfitted with blue mesh adjustable chairs and a small table.

There's a variety of in-cabin entertainment on television, including CNN, TNT, Cartoon Network and ESPN, plus a variety of movies and sitcoms. One nice touch is in-cabin coffee makers. One oddity (for those bringing along laptops to plug in) is that, for Americans, the only 220-volt outlet is by the vanity, not by the table. Ask at ship's reception for an adapter. There's a mini-fridge but it wasn't filled (which we loved because we could stash our own stuff in it).

NCL has made much ado about its two Garden Villas. These are, we must admit, fabulous (we toured 'em, didn't stay in them, alas) and could be worth the $26,000 per villa charge -- particularly if you split it with a group of friends. Each has a private outdoor garden area (didn't quite get the use of fake plants, however), otherwise lovely, with a whirlpool. Each also has a private sunbathing deck and steam room.

Entertainment

While Norwegian Dawn offers the usual fare during the day (sea days) -- bingo, art auctions, arts & crafts (ribbon roses!) -- there is also an emphasis on lifestyle-improvement topics, particularly concerning health and wellness (stress relief techniques, "sluggish systems," memory enhancement, "secrets of seaweed") and, interestingly, these are not offered in conjunction with the spa.

But the highlight of Dawn's entertainment offerings has to be each evening's "main event," held in the gorgeous Stardust Theater.

The ship also features a variety of bands, playing everything from classical to Latino to torch songs and most of Norwegian Dawn's nine bars, all with varying personalities, offer some kind of entertainment. Favorites included the Salsa Bar for margaritas, the Pearly Kings Pub for offbeat British beers, and the Bimini Bar, way up on Deck 14, for gorgeous views (and wonderful tropical frozen drinks).

Fitness and Recreation

Norwegian Dawn offers a wide range of fitness and recreation services. First: The two-tiered El Dorado Spa and Beauty Center offers up-to-date fitness equipment and a fabulous glass-paneled room for classes in yoga, stretching, aerobics and Pilates. Yoga and Pilates are among those that come with a $5 surcharge.

The spa itself is beautiful and serene. Operated by Hawaii-based Mandara (which is owned by Steiner), the treatments are a bit more exotic, with Hawaiian and Polynesian influences. Guests purchasing a treatment are permitted to use a lovely relaxation room, with padded wicker loungers. Mens' and womens' locker rooms feature a sauna and a steamroom.

The "piece de resistance," however, is the spa's indoor lap-pool (it's an adequate size for swimmers who want exercise). The only problem is passengers occasionally missed the concept of lap swimming and treated it as an alternative to the main pool. There's also a whirlpool and a hydro-pool. Another neat feature found in the spa is the juice bar, with all sorts of healthful drinks; all require an extra charge.

In the main pool area -- which ties in with the Impressionist theme, festively looking like something out of St. Tropez -- there's a plunge pool and a regular pool, plus two whirlpools. There's another whirlpool tucked away on Deck 13 aft that's hard to find. There's also a bandstand for entertainment. Chaise lounges are set up in amphitheater mode and there are -- and this is a nice touch -- tables set up amongst them so you can eat as well as sunbathe.

Sports activities include a jogging track (strangely narrow, walkers are better off on the wider, more relaxing wrap-around promenade on Deck 7). There are golf driving nets, shuffleboard, a man-sized chess board, volleyball/basketball courts, paddle tennis and horseshoes.

One note about chaise-saving around the main pool area: The Dawn's "Freestyle Daily" notes that there is a strict chairs reservation policy and "any item left unattended for more than 30 minutes is subject to confiscation." We found that passengers, on sea days only, totally and completely ignored that policy and in fact by 9:30 a.m. most chairs in prime areas were secured with books and shoes -- and with nobody in sight. We never saw the policy being enforced.

Family

The childrens' facilities on Norwegian Dawn are some of the best in the fleet -- and truly make this a ship that's ideal for families.

The main center of action is the T-Rex, which includes a play gym, movie theater, computer center and even a Snoozes sleeping area for late night sleep-overs. Adjacent (but not enclosed within) there's a T-Rex kids' pool,complete with downsized lounge chairs, a water slide, and a whirlpool.

Kids under two sail for non commissionable fares and taxes. Over two, children pay a child's rate, which varies. Kids under 3 aren't required to tip. For those ages 3 - 12, suggested gratuities are $5 per child per day; 13 and up $10 per day. "Kid's Crew" is divided into three age groups. Junior Sailors (2 - 5), First Mates and Navigators (6 - 12), and Teens (13 - 17). Games are organized on NCL's Great Stirrup Cay.

Only group sitting is available; evenings from 10 p.m. - 1 a.m.; in port from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Cost is $5 per child per hour; the second kid is $3. Port sitting for parents whose children are "on beepers" -- meaning they still wear diapers or Pull-Ups -- is not available (company policy) as the beepers do not work on land. NCL also has developed a fleet-wide discipline policy. The four-step set of rules includes warning, time-out, suspension and dismissal stages. In addition, children under 16 are not allowed on elevators or in the spa/fitness area, without parental accompaniment.

High chairs and cribs are available upon request (either onboard or in advance). Other kid-oriented amenities include kids' packages for soda (for $16 per seven-day cruise children receive a special cup and unlimited sodas). There's also a Kids' Crew Backpack; for $39.50, it includes a t-shirt, sunglasses, luggage tag and the bottomless soda cup. Teens can purchase a "teen passport," which, for $30, entitles the 13- to 17-year-old crowd to 20 non-alcoholic drinks and a farewell disco party.

For teens, there's a video arcade and a disco-styled teen club.

For all ages (under 18) there are daily planned activities though no shore excursion offerings.

Overview

Norwegian Dawn debuted in 2002 as the third ship in the NCL fleet to be designed to accommodate its Freestyle Crusing concept. Dawn is an intriguing blend of the best features of a cruise experience and a land resort. There's the excitement of a new port most every day (and the lovely relaxation of a couple of days at sea) and a sense of camaraderie that comes from traveling en masse with the same group of people for the whole voyage. And yet there's a wonderful atmosphere of casual flexibility, emanating in a large part from the ship's much ballyhooed selection of some 10 restaurants (some traditional cruise-style, others most decidedly anything but). It's this strategy, offering the freedom of choosing when, where and with whom one dines, that sets a tone here. The "Freestyle" concept is not limited to dining, of course, but allows passengers to make choices. Dress formally on formal night? Or not. Take in the early musical performance? Or the late show? The spa and fitness center is open until 11 p.m. most nights, and the Internet cafe is an around-the-clock operation. And disembarkation is the most painless ever -- there's no out-at-dawn boot (unless you've made very early travel arrangements).

Ultimately, the atmosphere on this whimsically decorated and gorgeous ship -- using as its decorating scheme the bright, primary colors of Impressionism -- dictates the experience: fun, easy-going, and relaxing, a ship that is designed to please a wide variety of travelers and most certainly one that attracts first-time cruisers who heretofore had found traditional sea-going regimentation a drag.

Dining

Norwegian Dawn has twelve some 10 distinct restaurants to choose from, and I suppose you could try them all on a seven day cruise but it would be pretty hard. Themes range from Benihana-style Teppanyaki to steaks to heavy French bistro fare. Overall, food and service were good in quality and that judgment is broadened to include those with surcharge and those without. A couple of notes: While Norwegian has made much of the variety -- and indeed there is that -- of its boutique offerings, that mostly applies to dinner. And yet there's still plenty to choose from at lunch.

It's also important to mention that evening dining hours are from 5:30 - 11 p.m., but passengers must be seated by 10:30 p.m. One area that initially seems to cause passengers some anxiety is in the reservation process, but we found it pretty smooth -- and our cruise was 99 percent booked -- and we managed to snare a seat in every restaurant we wanted to try. There's a reservation desk in the main lobby that's open from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. and passengers are permitted to book just one day in advance. Otherwise, you can call the restaurant directly after 5:30 p.m.

Here's a rundown of the dining options onboard Norwegian Dawn:

Traditionally speaking, the ship's two "main" restaurants, both on Deck 6, differ mostly in terms of atmosphere. The 472-seat Venetian is the most cruise-like (and the one that's typically a bit crowded since it's most often used for breakfast and lunch as well as dinner). It's gorgeous, smaller than most cruise line dining rooms, and decorated tastefully with huge murals depicting scenes of Venice. Because the Venetian is situated on the stern, it boasts floor-to-ceiling windows that stretch across the entire back wall and offer incredible views. There are plenty of tables for two (though they may be in short supply during peak periods). The 344-seat Aqua features a more contemporary (though no less pleasing to the eye) decor -- lots of pretty colored glass and colorful ceramic murals -- and menu.

One of the benefits of the freestyle dining setup is that -- because they're not feeding 1,000 people who all sit down at one time -- there's no "convention center banquet" feeling. And because fewer people eat in the main dining rooms, the spaces feels more intimate than other big-ship dining rooms.

All but one of Norwegian Dawn's boutique restaurants, where advance reservations are highly recommended (though you can chance it and just show up -- and it helps to eat very early or very late), have per-person surcharges. Our dinner at Salsa, the Tex-Mex eatery ($10 per person surcharge), was a stand-out. The restaurant offers tasty tapas and house-made sangria, and it was one of the alternative venues that tended to book up every night. The 24-hour Blue Lagoon (the "free" option), tucked just off the Atrium, is a fast-food joint and is frequently packed. Offerings include traditional comfort foods such as burgers, fish-n-chips, potato skins and fries. Blue Lagoon is also one of the few restaurants to have outdoor seating.

Le Bistro ($20) features heavy French options like mushroom soup, escargot and fish and beef dishes covered in cream sauces. Desserts here are wonderful (creme brulet). Due to its intimate size, Le Bistro is probably the ship's most booked-up restaurant; there's an overflow part that is called the Wine Cellar, which consists of a set of tables that sit outside the restaurant (and basically they are part of Gatsby's Champagne Bar).

Cagney's Steakhouse ($25) is a Morton's-like establishment featuring Angus beef, lamb, and seafood -- with sides, like rice, mashed potatoes and creamed spinach.

Bamboo is an elegant amalgamation of three different Asian eating areas -- Thai, Japanese and Chinese. Bamboo ($15) is a favorite of many of the crew and officers who are allowed to eat at the alternative restaurants. There's a sake bar, a Teppanyaki room (a la Benihana, $25 surcharge) and a sushi bar featuring an "all you can eat for $15" deal. Impressions ($10), formerly one of the "main" restaurants, has been transformed into an Italian eatery where the staples are pasta (with seven different sauces to choose from), pizza and salads. Fine wines, authentic Italian desserts and aromatic espressos treat the palate here as well.

One of the highlights of our cruise was the cookouts held poolside (lunch during sea days, early dinner during port days). The BBQ's featured all sorts of the usual fare -- everything was cooked on huge grills -- from burgers to ribs to corn on the cob. The Garden Cafe is the buffet area, featuring the usual no-surprise breakfast choices (omelets made to order, eggs, bacon, etc.). At lunchtime, one end features delicious vegetarian Indian offerings and a salad bar. Another casual choice is the Bimini Grill (one of the few outdoor restaurants) where, during lunch hours, the grill cooked up burgers, hot dogs and fries.

Sprinkles, tucked between two ends of the Topsiders' Bar (poolside) offers free ice cream (you can also shell out a few bucks for premium brands).

Kids menus are available in the main dining rooms and the Garden Cafe. The latter has a totally charming kids' dining area with child-size buffet stations, tables and chairs.

There's 24-hour room service from a relatively limited menu.

Public Rooms

Indoor activities on Norwegian Dawn are primarily concentrated on Decks 6 and 7. The Grand Atrium, with its glass-domed ceiling, is the hub. Here you'll find passenger service counters (shore excursions, reception), a boutique with fabulous glassware, and, tucked in the center, the Java Cafe. On the landing of a curved stairway, is a performance platform where live bands play.

Shopping-wise, you'll find the rest of the shops beyond the aforementioned glassware boutique on Deck 6. Unlike some ships where the shopping area is supposed to represent a mall, this Galleria is laid out like an elegant duty-free shop. There are areas for jewelry, cosmetics and perfumes, stylish casual-wear (Tommy Bahama is a mainstay) and souvenirs.

The Dawn Club Casino -- located along the corridor leading to the Stardust Theater rather than distractingly plopped in the center of a well-trafficked area -- offers the usual slot machines and games. The Stardust Theater, which spans Decks 5 through 7, is designed in a European opera house style; it's beautiful and quite comfortable. The Internet Cafe has 17 terminals; NCL also offers wireless access. Passengers can bring their own laptops or rent one. Rates at the cafe itself are industry standard -- 75 cents per minute. Packages are available (100 minutes for $55, 250 minutes for $100); there's a $3.95 activation fee. Wireless fees are the same. To rent a laptop, be prepared to pay $35 a day.

Another series of indoor activity rooms is located on Deck 12. There, in what's dubbed the activity center, you'll find the library -- nice, with an excellent selection of books -- a game room with lots of card tables, a cinema and a really pretty writing room with comfy couches that overlook the sea.

Cabins

Cabins, in the usual varying sizes and categories, are beautifully decorated in a whimsical primary color scheme with a faux cherry wood walls. Standard inside and outside cabins have the usual twin-to-queen bed configurations. One incentive to upgrade from inside to outside is the bathroom: in outside cabins, including balconies and suites, it's laid out in a really nifty three-part design. The shower (bathtubs for mini-suites and beyond) has a sliding glass door as does the toilet compartment.

Balcony cabins come with a small sitting area, with a couch that opens up to make a twin-sized bed. The main difference between these and the mini-suites, which are slightly larger, is that the latter's couch is a double-sized bed. For those sleeping on the pull-out, it's important to note that it's rock hard. Our enterprising steward solved that problem by giving us an extra duvet to put under the sheet.

Storage space is adequate but not generous. Balconies are outfitted with blue mesh adjustable chairs and a small table.

There's a variety of in-cabin entertainment on television, including CNN, TNT, Cartoon Network and ESPN, plus a variety of movies. One oddity (for those bringing along laptops to plug in) is that, for Americans, the only 220-volt outlet is by the vanity, not by the table. Ask at ship's reception for an adapter. There's a mini-fridge, but it wasn't filled (which we loved because we could stash our own stuff in it).

Much ado is made about Norwegian Dawn's two Garden Villas. These are, we must admit, fabulous (we toured 'em, didn't stay in them, alas) and could be worth the $26,000 per villa charge -- particularly if you split it with a group of friends. Each has a private outdoor garden area (didn't quite get the use of fake plants, however) with a whirlpool. Each also has a private sunbathing deck and steam room.

Entertainment

While Norwegian Dawn offers the usual fare during sea days -- bingo, art auctions, arts & crafts (ribbon roses!) -- there is also an emphasis on lifestyle-improvement topics, particularly concerning health and wellness (stress relief techniques, "sluggish systems," memory enhancement, "secrets of seaweed").

But the highlight of Dawn's entertainment offerings has to be each evening's "main event," held in the gorgeous Stardust Theater.

The ship also features a variety of bands, playing everything from classical to Latin to torch songs, and most of Norwegian Dawn's nine bars, all with varying personalities, offer some kind of entertainment. Favorites included the Salsa Bar for margaritas, the Pearly Kings Pub for offbeat British beers, and the Bimini Bar, way up on Deck 14, for gorgeous views (and wonderful tropical frozen drinks).

Fitness and Recreation

Norwegian Dawn offers a wide range of fitness and recreation services. First: The two-tiered El Dorado Spa and Beauty Center offers up-to-date fitness equipment and a fabulous glass-paneled room for classes in yoga, stretching, aerobics and Pilates. Yoga and Pilates are among those that come with a $10 to $15 surcharge.

The spa itself is beautiful and serene. Operated by Hawaii-based Mandara (which is owned by Steiner), the treatments are a bit more exotic, with Hawaiian and Polynesian influences. Passengers purchasing a treatment are permitted to use a lovely relaxation room, with padded wicker loungers. Men's and women's locker rooms feature a sauna and a steam room.

The "piece de resistance," however, is the spa's indoor lap-pool (it's an adequate size for swimmers who want exercise). The only problem is that passengers occasionally missed the concept of lap swimming and treated it as an alternative to the main pool. There's also a whirlpool and a hydro-pool. Another neat feature found in the spa is the for-fee juice bar, with all sorts of healthful drinks.

In the main pool area -- which ties in with the Impressionist theme, festively looking like something out of St. Tropez -- there's a plunge pool and a regular pool, plus two whirlpools. There's another whirlpool tucked away on Deck 13 aft that's hard to find. There's also a bandstand for entertainment. Chaise lounges are set up in amphitheater mode and there are -- and this is a nice touch -- tables set up amongst them so you can eat as well as sunbathe.

Sports activities include a jogging track (strangely narrow, walkers are better off on the wider, more relaxing wrap-around promenade on Deck 7). There are golf driving nets, shuffleboard, a man-sized chess board, volleyball/basketball courts, paddle tennis and horseshoes.

One note about chaise-saving around the main pool area: The Dawn's "Freestyle Daily" notes that there is a strict chairs reservation policy and "any item left unattended for more than 30 minutes is subject to confiscation." We found that passengers, on sea days only, totally and completely ignored that policy and in fact by 9:30 a.m. most chairs in prime areas were secured with books and shoes -- and with nobody in sight. We never saw the policy being enforced.

Family

The children's facilities on Norwegian Dawn are excellent and truly make this a ship that's ideal for families.

The main center of action is the T-Rex, which includes a play gym, movie theater, computer center and even a Snoozes sleeping area for late-night sleepovers. Adjacent (but not enclosed within) there's a T-Rex kids' pool, complete with downsized lounge chairs, a waterslide and a whirlpool.

NCL's "Kid's Crew" is divided into three age groups. Junior Sailors (2 - 5), First Mates and Navigators (6 - 12), and Teens (13 - 17). Games are organized on Great Stirrup Cay, the line's private island.

Only group sitting is available; evenings it's offered from 10 p.m. - 1 a.m.; on port days, it's from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Cost is $6 per child per hour; the second kid is $4 per hour. NCL also has developed a fleet-wide discipline policy. The four-step set of rules includes warning, time-out, suspension and dismissal stages.

High chairs and cribs are available upon request (either onboard or in advance). Other kid-oriented amenities include kids' packages for soda. (The unlimited beverage program is $4 per day for kids up to age 12 and $6.25 per day for teens 13 and older.) There's also a Kids' Crew Backpack; for $39.50, it includes a T-shirt, sunglasses, luggage tag and the bottomless soda cup. Teens can purchase a "teen passport," which, for $34.50, entitles the 13- to 17-year-old crowd to 20 non-alcoholic drinks and a farewell disco party.

For teens, there's a video arcade and a disco-styled teen club.

For all ages (under 18) there are daily planned activities though no shore excursion offerings.

Overview

Norwegian Dawn debuted in 2002 as the third ship in the Norwegian fleet to accommodate the line's Freestyle Cruising concept. It maintains an atmosphere of casual flexibility, emanating in large part from the ship's much ballyhooed selection of more than 10 eateries. The "Freestyle" concept is not limited to dining, of course, but revolves around the idea that passengers should be able to choose what they want to do, when they want to do it and how they want to do it. You can dress formally on formal night -- or not. Take in the early musical performance or wait for the late show. The spa and fitness center is open until 11 p.m. most nights, and the Internet cafe is an around-the-clock operation. Even disembarkation is pretty painless -- there's no out-at-dawn boot, and you can practically walk right off the ship.

In May 2011, the ship underwent a monthlong refurbishment, which resulted in the addition of about 50 cabins and the cruise line's newest restaurant concept -- the Brazilian steakhouse -- as well as the reorganization of several public spaces. The gift shops and art gallery were moved from the atrium area to the hall that leads to the casino and the theater. The popular Spinnaker Lounge was relocated and reconstructed, and enhancements were made to the photo gallery, kids' areas and conference rooms.

Although the refurb increased the ship's capacity by about 100 passengers, public areas and hallways remain easy to traverse, and there's hardly ever a long wait to be seated during peak dinner hours. All in all, this 10-year-old ship appears almost brand-new, though we did hear complaints from a few passengers who experienced issues with air-conditioning and closet doors that wouldn't stay closed.

Ultimately, Dawn is a ship with a fun, easygoing and relaxing atmosphere, designed to please a wide variety of travelers -- including first-time cruisers wary of the traditional, more regimented vacation at sea.

Dining

In addition to its two main dining rooms, Norwegian Dawn has 10 distinct restaurants from which to choose. I suppose you could try them all on a seven-night cruise, but it would be pretty hard (and a bit costly for budget travelers and families). Themes range from Benihana-style Teppanyaki to steaks and classic French bistro fare. Overall, food was fresh, flavorful, and, in some cases, even inventive. Service was excellent throughout, though you can expect a bit of a wait to receive your entree during the busiest dinner hours (between 6:30 and 8:30). Meals are cooked to order in small batches, so the food you receive will likely be hot and fresh.

It's also important to mention that evening dining hours are from 5:30 to 11 p.m., but passengers must be seated by 10:30 p.m. Reservations for specialty restaurants can only be made 24 hours in advance, so if you're dying to try one of the ship's more popular spots -- such as Le Bistro (French), Moderno Churrascaria (a Brazilian-style steakhouse and the ship's newest dining venue) or Cagney's (a classic American steakhouse) -- you should book it as early as possible once reservations open up. Tip: The specialty restaurants are much less busy the first couple days of the cruise when most passengers are still orienting themselves. The reservations desk in the main lobby is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Most days, there is also a reservations table set up in the Garden Cafe buffet during lunch hours. Otherwise, you can call the restaurant directly after 5:30 p.m.

Here's a rundown of the dining options onboard Norwegian Dawn. Unless otherwise noted, breakfast and lunch are only offered in the ship's main dining rooms, buffet, at Blue Lagoon or via room service.

Traditionally speaking, the ship's two "main" restaurants, both on Deck 6, differ mostly in terms of atmosphere. The 472-seat Venetian is the more cruiselike of the two, though smaller than most main dining rooms on mainstream cruise ships. It's decorated tastefully in rich emerald greens and golds, with huge murals depicting scenes of Venice. Though not hasty, service is generally prompt. Because the Venetian is situated on the stern, it boasts floor-to-ceiling windows that stretch across the entire back wall and offer incredible views. However, its location is also one of the most motion-sensitive of the entire ship, so if you're having a rocky sea day, you may want to dine in one of the midship eateries like the Garden Cafe or Blue Lagoon. There are plenty of tables for two, though they may be in short supply during peak periods. The 344-seat Aqua features more contemporary decor with lots of vibrantly colored glass and colorful ceramic murals. Aqua is also more dimly lit, which can make for a romantic dinner, despite being in close quarters with a few hundred other passengers. Both of these dining rooms are open for dinner daily, and they're open for breakfast and lunch on alternating days. In addition to nightly specials (they vary slightly by venue), each offers a standard menu of chicken, steak, fish and vegetarian options that does not change from day to day.

One of the benefits of the freestyle dining setup is that -- because the main venues are not feeding 1,000 people who all sit down at the same time -- there's no "convention center banquet" feeling. And because fewer people eat in the main dining rooms, the spaces feel more intimate than other big-ship dining rooms.

Le Bistro (for a $20 surcharge) features heavy French options like mushroom soup, escargot, and fish and beef dishes covered in cream sauces. The fare there is top-notch and served similarly to what you would expect at a high-end land restaurant. Meats are cooked to perfection, and portions are plentiful. Desserts are also a real standout, particularly the perfectly creamy Tahitian Vanilla Creme Brulee. Due to its intimate size, Le Bistro is probably the ship's most booked-up restaurant. It's also the only specialty restaurant that shares a dress code with the main dining rooms -- men are required to wear long pants and shirts with buttons, while ladies are asked to wear long pants, dresses or skirts and tops. Jeans are permitted. Also, note that lobster and some steak dishes incur an additional fee on top of the surcharge.

Cagney's Steakhouse ($25) is a Morton's-like establishment, featuring Angus beef, lamb and seafood with sides like rice, mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. While the meat is cooked and seasoned well, the sides and appetizers are outstanding. The shrimp cocktail is a great size and features a tasty olive oil and herb marinade and cocktail sauce with a nice horseradish kick. Weeks later, I can't stop thinking about the white truffle fries. They only come with one entree, but the restaurant is happy to serve you up a batch as an appetizer or an additional side. You just have to ask. Cagney's also serves breakfast and lunch for select past-passengers and those booked in suites.

Moderno Churrascaria ($20) is a Brazilian-style steakhouse that offers 10 different meats, including lamb chops, filet mignon, sausage and two different types of chicken drumsticks. In addition, diners can choose from options that include international cheeses and dried meats, olives, and pickled and marinated veggies from the restaurant's all-you-can-eat salad bar. They will be served a standard four sides of mashed potatoes, fried bananas, rice and beans. Not all of the meat offerings are great, but the lamb and chicken drumsticks, along with the salad bar and desserts, are well worth the added fee. (Try the coconut flan; it may be the best sweet treat on the entire ship.)

Bamboo ($15) offers three different types of Asian cuisine -- Thai, Japanese and Chinese. It's a favorite of many of the crew and officers, who are allowed to eat at the alternative restaurants. The venue also houses a sake bar, a Teppanyaki room (a la Benihana, $25 surcharge) and an a la carte sushi bar.

La Cucina ($10) is an Italian eatery where the staples are pasta (with seven different sauces to choose from), pizza and salads. Authentic Italian desserts and aromatic espressos are offered for dessert.

The 24-hour Blue Lagoon (a fee-free option), tucked just above the Atrium, is a fast-food joint that's frequently packed. Offerings include traditional comfort foods like burgers, fish-n-chips, salads, fries and stellar buffalo wings. Though not advertised, you can also run down to Blue Lagoon any time of day and place an order to take back to your room; this is a great alternative to after-hours room service, which incurs a fee of $3.95. This place was a hit with many of our fellow passengers, especially the late-night crowd, who made a habit of frequenting it for snacks, desserts and even second dinners.

The poolside cookouts, which are usually held at lunchtime in conjunction with performances by the ship's reggae band, are a popular alfresco option. The BBQ's -- everything was cooked on huge grills -- feature all of the usual fare, from burgers to ribs and corn on the cob. Just keep in mind that if it's rainy or too windy, the festive BBQ will be taken off the menu. For lunch on a sunny day, be sure to try Bimini Grill, an outdoor bar and burger joint that offers a bird's-eye view of the poolside activities, alongside juicy burgers, crispy grilled hot dogs and fresh fries. Both of these options are subject to cancellation and/or closure in the event of inclement weather.

The Garden Cafe is the buffet area, featuring the usual no-surprise breakfast choices (omelets made to order, eggs, bacon, etc.). At lunchtime, you'll find lots of international options, from vegetarian Indian cuisine and Italian pastas and pizzas to Chinese fare and French crepes with a selection of fillings. During dinner, there are carving stations, more pastas and even served-to-order Caesar salads.

And don't forget to make a stop at Sprinkles. Tucked between two ends of the Topsiders' Bar (poolside), it offers complimentary hard ice cream. (You can get soft-serve in the buffet.)

Kids' menus are available in the main dining rooms and the Garden Cafe. The latter has a totally charming kids' dining area with child-size buffet stations, tables and chairs.

There's 24-hour room service from a relatively limited menu -- think sandwiches, chips, pizza, fruit -- but don't forget about that pesky $3.95 late-night fee you'll incur for orders placed between midnight and 5 a.m.

Public Rooms

Indoor activities on Norwegian Dawn are primarily concentrated on Decks 6 and 7. The Grand Atrium (Deck 6), with its glass-domed ceiling, is the hub. There you'll find passenger services counters (shore excursions, reception) and a duty-free cosmetics shop. On the landing of a curved stairway is a performance platform, where live bands play, and the Java Cafe, where you can pick up specialty coffee drinks and pastries.

Deck 6 is also where you'll find the ship's main duty-free shop, which flanks both sides of a long hallway that opens up to some of the specialty restaurants. The shop offers jewelry, stylish casualwear (Tommy Bahama is a mainstay), upscale accessories, alcohol and souvenirs.

The Internet Cafe has 17 terminals; Norwegian Dawn also offers wireless access. Passengers can bring their own laptops or rent them. Rates at the cafe itself are industry standard -- 75 cents per minute -- as are wireless fees. Packages are available (100 minutes for $55, 250 minutes for $100) and include a laptop rental (exclusive of a $3/day insurance fee).

On Deck 12, you'll find the library, which is cozily appointed and offers an excellent selection of books. Though checkout hours are limited, you can almost always grab a book off the shelf to enjoy in one of the library's comfy club chairs.

Cabins

Standard cabins are on the small side, with insides measuring 142 square feet and outsides measuring 158 square feet. These categories have the usual twin-to-queen bed configurations. At 166 square feet, balcony cabins are not much larger than standard outsides, but they feature small sitting areas with couches that open up to make twin-sized beds. The main difference between these and the mini-suites, which are a bit larger (229 square feet), is that the latter's couch doubles as a queen-sized bed. For those sleeping on the pullout, it's important to note that it's rock-hard. If you prefer a softer surface to snooze on, ask your steward for an extra comforter or even a mattress pad. Balconies are outfitted with blue mesh adjustable chairs and small tables.

Bathrooms are laid out in a convenient three-part design. The showers (bathtubs for mini-suites and beyond) have sliding glass doors (no clingy plastic curtains to fight with), as does the toilet compartment. The doors separate each from the central sink area. When both doors are shut, each mini-room becomes semiprivate. All in-cabin toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, lotion and body wash), including those in the in-shower pumps, are by Elemis.

Norwegian Dawn also offers a variety of suite configurations, including the newly added family suites, which each feature a queen-sized bed that converts to two lower beds, a sofa bed and additional bedding for a maximum occupancy of six. Of the 24 family suites, measuring 495 square feet, 10 have balconies. The ship's romance suites, penthouse suites and owner's suites are outfitted similarly, but additional amenities are added as the price-point rises. For instance, penthouse suites each have a separate living room with dining table; owner's suites feature the same, but also have a powder room and whirlpool tub. These suites range in size from the 288-square-foot romance suites to the apartment-sized owner's suites at 750 square feet.

The crown jewels of the Norwegian Dawn accommodations are the ship's two Garden Villas. These 6,694-square-foot cabins are, in a word, fabulous. Each comes complete with panoramic ocean views, a grand piano and full kitchen. The villas have their own private outdoor garden areas with whirlpool and lounge chairs, private top-of-ship sunbathing decks and even steam rooms. These rooms accommodate eight passengers apiece and can be booked together for a total of more than 10,000 square feet and an occupancy of 16.

The ship's original cabins in all categories are decorated in a whimsical primary color scheme with faux cherry wood walls, while the newer cabins feature more modern (and subtle) decor in a palate of rich earth tones. Linens are soft, and pillows are fluffy and plentiful.

Most of the ship's cabins feature 16-inch flat-screen televisions that show programming from a variety of channels, including CNN, TNT, Cartoon Network and ESPN, and a selection of not-yet-on-DVD movies. One oddity (for those bringing along laptops and other gadgets) is that, for Americans, the only 220-volt outlet is by the vanity, not by the table. You can ask reception for an adapter to use on the single European outlet or bring one from home. There's also a mini-bar stocked with a selection of for-fee beer, spirits and sodas. (Don't be afraid to move these to make room for any snacks and drinks you might want to bring back to your cabin -- you won't be charged for touching.) Storage space in all cabins is adequate but not generous; the garden villas and owner's suites go above and beyond with walk-in closets.

Norwegian Dawn has 26 wheelchair-accessible cabins, with an option in every category.

Entertainment

While Norwegian Dawn offers the usual fare during sea days -- bingo, art auctions, arts and crafts, wellness seminars, etc. -- the real highlights of the ship's entertainment offerings are the nightly shows.

Each evening's "main event" is held in the ship's gorgeous Stardust Theater, usually to a packed house. Our weeklong cruise featured everything from a variety show to Broadway-style song-and-dance acts. Our favorite? The Bollywood show. From great voices singing beautiful songs to stunning dancers and incredible acrobatics, it's a true treat. Also be sure to check out a performance of the famous Second City Comedy Troupe (former stomping ground of many Saturday Night Live alums) -- we recommend the late-night, adults-only improv show.

The Stardust Theater, which spans Decks 5 through 7, is designed in a European opera house style; it's beautiful and quite comfortable, though views from some of the side balcony seats are obstructed. The Dawn Club Casino -- located along the corridor that leads to the Stardust Theater, rather than distractingly plopped in the center of a well-trafficked area -- offers the usual slot machines and games, including blackjack, craps and poker. Theater-goers with an aversion to cigarette smoke should beware: you'll have to hold your breath as you make your way through the odorous casino to your show of choice.

The ship also features a variety of bands, playing everything from classical to Latin to torch songs, and most of Norwegian Dawn's nine bars, all with varying personalities, offer some kind of entertainment. Favorites included the Spinnaker Lounge for martinis and dancing and the Pearly Kings Pub for karaoke and offbeat British beers. And, once per weeklong cruise, the ship hosts Norwegian Cruise Line's signature "White Hot Party," for which passengers get decked out in all-white (sheets and towels are acceptable) and dance the night away under black lights, led by the ship's angel-wing-clad staff, who happily demonstrate all manner of line dances.

Several times per sailing, passengers can catch after-hours movies on the big screen in the ship's atrium.

As for shore excursions, you can expect the usual -- snorkeling, catamaran-sailing, glass-bottom boat rides, beach days, etc. Rates are on par with or slightly lower than those of other mainstream cruise lines.

Fitness and Recreation



Norwegian Dawn offers a wide range of fitness and recreation services. First: the two-tiered El Dorado Spa and Beauty Center offers up-to-date fitness equipment and a fabulous glass-paneled room for classes in stretching and aerobics (free) and yoga and Pilates ($12 fee).

The spa itself is beautiful and serene. Operated by Hawaii-based Mandara (which is owned by Steiner), the treatments are a bit more exotic than the average, with Hawaiian and Polynesian influences. Passengers purchasing treatments are permitted to use a lovely adults-only relaxation room, with tile loungers, multiple hot tubs and Wi-Fi. Men's and women's locker rooms each feature a sauna and a steam room.

The piece de resistance, however, is the spa's indoor lap pool. (It's an adequate size for swimmers who want exercise.) The only problem is that passengers occasionally missed the concept of lap swimming and treated it as an alternative to the main pool. There's also a whirlpool and a hydrotherapy-pool. Another neat feature found in the spa is the for-fee juice bar, with all sorts of healthful drinks. The spa's amenities are only available to passengers who purchase either a spa treatment (same day only) or spa passes for $30 a day or $119 a week, per person.

In the main pool area, there's a saltwater lap pool, plus four whirlpools and a bandstand for entertainment. (Another hard-to-find whirlpool is tucked away on Deck 13.) Chaise lounges are set up in amphitheater mode, as well as directly around the pool. Slightly set back from the pool area and out of direct sunlight are cafe tables and chairs so you can grab a snack or cocktail and enjoy the poolside scene without risking a sunburn. On our nearly full sailing, we never had an issue snagging a couple lounge chairs, even during sunny hours.

There's a narrow jogging track on Deck 13, where sports enthusiasts can take advantage of golf driving nets, shuffleboard, a man-sized chess board, volleyball/basketball courts, paddle tennis and horseshoes. Walkers are better off on the wider, more relaxing wraparound promenade on Deck 7.

Family

In addition to the aforementioned family-friendly accommodations, the children's facilities on Norwegian Dawn are excellent and truly make this ship ideal for families. The main center of action is the T-Rex kids' lounge, with play rooms and a movie theater. Adjacent (but not enclosed within) is the T-Rex kids' pool, complete with downsized lounge chairs, a waterslide and a whirlpool. For teens, there's a video arcade and a disco-style teen club.

NCL's "Kid's Crew" is currently divided into three age groups: Junior Sailors (2 - 5); First Mates and Navigators (6 - 12); and Teens (13 - 17). For all ages (under 18) there are daily planned activities -- but no shore excursion offerings. The program, however, will be revamped in 2012, which will result in redefined age brackets. There will be separate programming for babies (6 months to 2 years) and children (ages 3 to 5, 6 to 8 and 9 to 12. There will also be two teen groups for passengers between the ages of 13 and 14, and 15 and 17. The new programs will focus on sports, arts and crafts, theater and technology, and will feature themed days. Planned activities may include circus workshops, parades and scavenger hunts.

Games for kids are also organized on Great Stirrup Cay, the line's private island.

Group baby-sitting is available onboard; evenings it's offered from 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.; on port days, it's from arrival in port to departure from port. Cost is $6 per child per hour; the second kid is $4 per hour. Passengers should sign up for sitting services by 8 p.m. the night prior to when they are needed. There is no in-cabin sitting. Norwegian also has developed a fleetwide discipline policy. The four-step set of rules includes warning, time-out, suspension and dismissal stages.

High chairs and cribs are available upon request (either onboard or in advance). Other kid-oriented amenities include kids' packages for soda. The unlimited beverage program is $4 per day, per child, up to age 12 and $6.25 per day for teens 13 and older. Kids' Crew Backpacks can be purchased as bon voyage gifts; for $20, each includes a messenger bag, a T-shirt, sunglasses, luggage tags and a hat. Teens can purchase a "teen passport," which, for $34.50, entitles the 13- to 17-year-old crowd to 20 nonalcoholic drinks and a farewell disco party.

Family

In addition to solid family-friendly accommodations, the children's facilities on Norwegian Dawn are excellent and truly make this ship ideal for families. The main center of action is the T-Rex kids' lounge, with play rooms and a movie theater. Adjacent (but not enclosed within) is the T-Rex kids' pool, complete with downsized lounge chairs, a waterslide and a whirlpool. For teens, there's a video arcade and a disco-style teen club.

NCL's "Splash Academy" is currently divided into four age groups: Guppies (up to 2, one parent must attend), Turtles (3 - 5), Seals (6 - 9) and Dolphins (10 - 12). The teen program, called Entourage, accommodates passengers 13 to 17. The overall program focuses on sports, arts and crafts, theater and technology, with age-appropriate activities for each group. Planned activities may include circus workshops, parades and scavenger hunts. (Both Splash Academy and Entourage feature a different theme every day, like pirates, space cowboys, jungle fever or circus.)

Games for kids are also organized on Great Stirrup Cay, the line's private island.

For the 3 - 12s, organized activities are typically offered from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on both port and sea days. On port days, a supervised meal fee ($6 per child) may apply. Entourage's hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on sea days and departure time or 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. on port days.

Group baby-sitting is available onboard; evenings it's offered from 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.; on port days. Cost is $6 per child per hour; the second kid is $4 per hour. Passengers should sign up for sitting services by 8 p.m. the night prior to when they are needed. There is no in-cabin sitting. Norwegian also has developed a fleetwide discipline policy. The four-step set of rules includes warning, time-out, suspension and dismissal stages.

High chairs and cribs are available upon request (either onboard or in advance). Other kid-oriented amenities include kids' packages for soda. The unlimited beverage program is roughly $4 per day, per child, up to age 12 and $6 per day for teens 13 and older.

Family

In addition to solid family-friendly accommodations, the children's facilities on Norwegian Dawn are excellent and truly make this ship ideal for families. The main center of action is the T-Rex kids' lounge, with play rooms and a movie theater. Adjacent (but not enclosed within) is the T-Rex kids' pool, complete with downsized lounge chairs, a waterslide and a whirlpool. For teens, there's a video arcade and a disco-style teen club.

NCL's "Splash Academy" is currently divided into four age groups: Guppies (6 months to 3 years, with parent), Turtles (3 - 5), Seals (6 - 9) and Dolphins (10 - 12). The teen program, called Entourage, accommodates passengers 13 to 17. The overall program focuses on sports, arts and crafts, theater and technology, with age-appropriate activities for each group. Planned activities may include circus workshops, parades and scavenger hunts. (Both Splash Academy and Entourage feature a different theme every day, like pirates, space cowboys, jungle fever or circus.)

Games for kids are also organized on Great Stirrup Cay, the line's private island.

For the 3 - 12s, organized activities are typically offered from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on both port and sea days. On port days, a supervised meal fee ($6 per child) may apply. Entourage's hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on sea days and departure time or 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. on port days.

Group baby-sitting is available onboard; evenings it's offered from 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.; on port days. Cost is $6 per child per hour; the second kid is $4 per hour. Passengers should sign up for sitting services by 8 p.m. the night prior to when they are needed. There is no in-cabin sitting. Norwegian also has developed a fleetwide discipline policy. The four-step set of rules includes warning, time-out, suspension and dismissal stages.

High chairs and cribs are available upon request (either onboard or in advance). Other kid-oriented amenities include kids' packages for soda. The unlimited beverage program is roughly $4 per day, per child, up to age 12 and $6 per day for teens 13 and older.

Cruise Critic

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Cruise Details

Included: Shipboard Accommodations, Meals, Some Beverages, Onboard Entertainment and Daily Activities, Port Charges, 24-Hour Room Service

Not Included: Shore Excursions, Personal Expenses, Gratuities, Alcoholic Beverages, Specialty Restaurants, Spa Treatments, Some Taxes

Optional Add-Ons: Flights, Hotels, Transfers, Insurance

 


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Cruise ID:

53323