We just got back from our cruise on the Dawn on 4/25/04. We had a fabulous time and it was the best vacation we've ever had! (Yes, we've cruised before with another line) Here's some tips:
The Venetian, Aqua and Impressions are the only restaurants where reservations are not required. It's literally first come, first serve. The service in all three were excellent!
LaTrattoria's food was marginal and it took us 4 days to get a reservation there. The service was also nothing to write home about.
Salsa was very good too. However as with La Trattoria, go the Deck 7 midship and stand in line at 8:00 a.m. the day before you wish to make your reservation. If you try calling on the phone, it is close to impossible to get through.
The Garden Cafe has buffet style breakfasts, lunches and dinners. The food at all three times was very good! If your hungry after the restaurants close, The Blue Lagoon is open 24 hrs. It has a limited menu, but the food is still pretty good if you're hungry.
If you like playing Bingo, wait until the last two days. The prices for playing Bingo are considerably cheaper than the begining of the cruise.
Juice, Tap Water and Ice Tea is free. Soda, alcoholic beverages are extra. A tip: if you like the speciality drinks, order the first one with the souvenir class. Keep the glass, washing out in your room and the next time you want a speciality drink hand them your glass, which they'll also wash out and refill for a smaller price.
A must: Go to the entertainment shows - the Jean Ryan company is WONDERFUL!!!!! We normally only go to one show on cruises - we hit every show they had and thoroughly enjoyed them. On the last night, they have one show only at 7:45 p.m. - it is a riot!
The cruise director, Ricky Matthews is hysterical - he makes the cruise fun!!!!!
The cruise excursions were okay. We went to NASA and loved it. In Miami we took the B & B Hopper and to be truthful, we could have skipped it. There is not much to do during the day at South Beach and Miami Beach as all of the action takes place at night and you are long gone by then!
Grand Stirrup Cay is a nice, relaxing day in the sun. The have a huge bbq, clean bathrooms and a Straw Market, which unfortunately, I should have gone to.
Nassau is an extremely short trip. We took the City and Pirate Tour which was nice, but cut into our time at Nassau. We got off of the ship at 9:15 and had to be back on board at 1:30 p.m. Our tour ran an hour late ending at 12:20 p.m. instead of 11:15 a.m. There was no time for browsing or shopping. We hit the Straw Market across from the Pirate Museum and only had time to do two rows. It is amazing. Another tip: negotiate your prices. They are willing to move on prices to sell their items as the other vendors carry pretty close to the same items. We could have easily spent a few more hours there.
I'm not sure if you are traveling with children or not. We have an eight year old daughter who had an even better time than us. They have a kids buffet which is scrumptous and she never stopped eating from the time we got on until the time we got off. Every single restaurant has chicken nuggets, etc. The camp was great too! The counselors are fun and they have plenty of family oriented games planned.
The pools are heated which makes life nice. The week we went was Spring vacation, so it was rather difficult to use the hot tubs, which were occupied by teenagers. Another tip: The El Dorado Spa (at no charge) has a hot tub, spa and lap pool for adults only to use.
If you're looking for souvenirs that say Norweigan Dawn, the last day of the cruise they have $5.00 t-shirts on Deck 7 (atrium), along with some really nice watches for $79.99.
Hope you enjoy your trip and happy cruising!