You will have a good time, but as my girlfriend and I feel, there's no real 'Wow" factor on NCL's smaller ships, I hear this is not the case on the Epic, but we have sailed a few NCL ships, and we like it, the entertainment is good, hopefully you will have the band Next Stage on your cruise, they are awesome.
But the food is ok, the Freestyle Dining is a feature we very much enjoy. They have a formal or not night (or two) which you can dress formally if you so desire, and many people do. They have photographers out just about every night for portrait shots which is nice. The staff are very good, never had an issue with any of they, they were always great.
It is a good time, not a lot of bells and whistles on The Dawn, but we enjoyed ourselves, and all I say would be to keep your expectations low, and you will not be disappointed. You will have a good time, just as I mentioned, no WOW factor.
As mentioned the WOW, may not be there, but the Dawn is one of the most popular NCL ships. It constantly comes in first for the ship cruisers will sail or have sailed more than once.
Most mass marketed lines are more alike than difference. You will mainly see the influence of freestyle which is their selling feature. You can dress up for meals but you never have to, what is their signature feature and it is one reason we love the line. Also the crew is the friendliest of all the lines we have sailed which is every mass marketed ones.
Carnival has a more active night life, but there is always something to do on NCL as well. It is just slightly more subdued.
the NCL cabins will be a little smaller.
Another feature that is a selling point are all the dining choices, both free and sub charge selections. Entertainment will be similar.
We went on the Dawn a few years ago and loved the entertainment. While we are fans of HAL and Carnival, we feel that NCL has the upper hand on shows.
We also found the food in the main dining room to be excellent. Spent extra money one night on the French restaraunt and were not impressed. Breakfast buffets are better than most, including fresh waffles, but their desserts are not very good. Better for me, since I am not tempted and not supposed to eat sweets anyway. But, I did miss occasionally indulging.
The cabins are a bit smaller than Carnival, but stil adequate.
This year, we are going on NCL again, this time, the Star. Simply because we enjoyed the Dawn so much and they are similar ships. And, we like the itinerary, with full days in all of the ports.
Hope you have a grand time and please let us know about it when you get back.