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Old October 17th, 2005, 10:12 AM
cljw's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 60
Default Dawn Princess Review (10-1 thru 10-11) Long

Dawn Princess Review
October 1 – October 11, 2005

• 10/1: San Francisco (depart 5PM)
• 10/2: Catalina (1PM) Tender
• 10/3: Sea Day
• 10/4: Sea Day
• 10/5: Puerto Vallarta Tender
• 10/6: Mazatlan Dock
• 10/7: Cabo San Lucas Tender
• 10/8: Sea Day
• 10/9: San Diego Dock
• 10/10: Sea Day
• 10/11: San Francisco (disembark)

Following is our review of our cruise on the Dawn Princess, round trip from San Francisco to the Mexican Riviera.

This was our first cruise with Princess. We have two other cruises under our belts – Cunard’s QM2 and Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas. This was the smallest ship we had yet to sail on, but compared to the first two, almost everything is smaller. What we found though was that smaller definitely is not a bad thing at all.

We sailed with a group of 11. My partner Jack & I, three friends from school, two sets of neighbors, and the father and friend of one of the neighbors. We all had category BB cabins on the Baja deck.

I had heard horror stories of embarkation in San Francisco. Our experience was great. It was about 25 minutes to get through the check-in and security process and onto the ship.

Sail Away:
Spectacular! I’ve never sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge before. It was very foggy in San Francisco, which is unusual for this time of year. Anyway, just as we began to approach the bridge, the fog cleared away giving us an awesome view of the bridge, and of Holland America’s Volendam, which was just astern of us. It was a bit chilly, but we expected that and were dressed accordingly. Of my three sail-aways, this was my favorite.

Some thoughts on the ship
I was very nervous about the size of the ship. I thought it might be too small having only sailed on the two mega ships in the past. Once onboard, all nervousness went away. This ship is a very nice size. It is extremely easy to get around the Dawn Princess. It really only took about a day to get the lay of the ship. The stairwells are in convenient locations that give passengers easy access to all areas of the ship.

Dawn Princess is not a brand new ship, however, her upkeep is impeccable. The only items I could ding would be some carpet wear and some slight stains on upholstery and carpets, which are bound to happen with 1900+ people cycling through every 10 days or so. There was hardly any rust to be seen. The handrails were all in great shape, and the wood decking was as well. The bluish material deck covering by the pool was coming up in one area (this didn’t begin until near the end of the cruise when we had some very strong winds). Overall impression was of a clean, well maintained and well designed ship.

The décor is understated and tasteful. I did like the liberal use of wood (I know it’s probably veneer) which gives the ship a “ship? feel. The color palette was subdued as well. The atrium was beautiful. Four decks high (from deck 5 through deck 8), with some very nice stained glass in the ceiling in some areas. One other item I particularly liked is that on most of the decks of the atrium, there were windows looking out to the sea. They weren’t huge, but you could see out of them from just about anywhere and they let in a lot of natural light. The only deck without windows in the atrium was Deck 6, where the shops were located, but even that deck was bathed in natural light.

Public Rooms
Deck 4:
Medical Center. Never needed to visit, thankfully, although I did smack the front of my ankle into a wood deck chair on the promenade deck on the first night. That hurt for most of the cruise, but not enough to visit the doc!

Deck 5 (Plaza):
This deck also houses, the Purser’s Desk, Patisserie, Shore Excursion Desk and the Florentine Dining Room (this was used for Anytime Dining. It was also the dining room used for Breakfast and Lunch). The panoramic lifts begin on this deck and end on Deck 8. This is also the bottom level of the atrium.

Deck 6 (Emerald):
This deck contains the shops. Regatta (Port Side) is the logo, sundry and clothing store. Illuminations (Starboard Side) is the jewelry, watch, Lladro and Swarovkski store.

The Venetian Dining Room is also on this Deck. This is the Traditional Seating dining room. We had second seating. Originally second seating was to be at 8:15, but after the first day, they changed it to 8:00. Not sure why as they never let anyone in until at least 8:10 – 8:15. This wasn’t a big deal – just a bit strange. (Gave us more time for pre-dinner cocktails in the Wheelhouse Bar!) Both dining rooms are one deck high and are the full width of the ship. They are very intimate, without feeling cramped. The walls are covered in wood and Italian art work. We had a table for 8 (#108) and a table for 4 (#111) which were adjacent to each other. Our table in the front portion of the room, next to a window. This was a great location as the noise level was very low here, so we could talk with our friends without shouting. Our servers were Edwin and Auralia (sp). The service was quite good, but not as personal or interactive as we’d had in the past. This did not take away from it at all, it was just different. The food was quite good and there was always something for everyone. They did have Beef Wellington on the last night, which is a favorite, so that made me very happy! The overall experience in the Venetian was very good.

Deck 7 (Promenade):
Wrap-Around Promenade Deck: The Dawn has a wrap around Promenade with wood decking and wood deck chairs. Big plus in my book. As you walk near the bow, you can see the anchor chain area, which was really neat to see. Three times around equals one mile.

Princess Theatre: This is the main theatre for the production shows, located near the bow. It is an attractive space, but only one level. It has no bar, so the servers must go out to the Wheelhouse to get drinks. Also, we only saw one show in there as most of the show times conflicted with 2nd seating. Princess should look at rescheduling some of them. Not a big deal though – we had plenty to keep us occupied!

Wheelhouse Bar: This is a nautical themed bar, just aft of the Princess Theatre. It is very “club? like in feel, with leather chairs and red upholstered sofas, ship paintings and models. Most of the art auctions were held in this space too. We chose the Wheelhouse for pre-dinner cocktails. We would meet each night at around 7. Our server, Pat from Thailand, took notice of the size of our group and informed us that he would have an area set up that would seat all of us each night. Sure enough, every night one area was reconfigured to fit all of us, along with tables and snacks laid out. Pat was a treat. We learned that he had a 3½ month old daughter back home that he had not yet met. His contract was up on the day we got back into San Francisco, so he was flying home to see his wife and daughter. We were all very excited for him and he definitely rec’d some extra tips from our group for his energetic, thoughtful and fun service. We were also sure to fill out an “Service Excellence? card on him and delivered it to the Purser’s office.

Future Sales: This office is located on the starboard side of the Wheelhouse, near the entrance. The future cruise consultant is Heather. Very nice. She’s been with Princess for 9 years, but is in her first year on board ship. Heather does a couple of presentations on Princess itineraries in the Vista Lounge which we attended. Needless to say, many of our group made use of Heather’s services and booked another 10 day trip on the Golden Princess out of SF for April 2007.

Atrium Lounge: After of the Wheelhouse is the forward elevator lobby and stairs. Just aft of that is the Atrium Lounge. We had a couple of drinks here, but didn’t spend much time in this space.

Jammers: This is the nightclub. It’s a very dark space, but was nice. Lots of neon lights and a flashing dance floor. The good: Purple Hooters! I’ve maintained my championship standing in the Purple Hooter shot contest. The bad: Music – pretty repetitive. I felt like giving them my Ipod for some variety. Karaoke was held here, but again, because of the timing, we really couldn’t get in after second seating. I heard it was pretty bad though – so maybe we were lucky after all ?

Magnums: (starboard side) The champagne bar. Never really went here until near the end of the cruise. It was a quite space, with some sofas and chairs that extended out past the actual bar toward the photo gallery. We would see many people taking advantage of this quite space to read or play board games.

Between Jammers and Magnums was an open area that housed much of the art for the art auctions. We didn’t see much art that we liked on this cruise, but its all subjective. There is a spiral staircase leading from this space up into the Casino. More on that in a bit.

Photo Gallery: This is just aft of Magnums. The formal and candid pictures taken everywhere are posted here for preview and purchase. You can also buy pictures of the ship, photo cards, albums, digital memory, etc. here. Couple of notes: The photographers on Dawn Princess were very good. The candids were some of the best pictures I’ve seen on board ship. Prices for pictures weren’t too bad either. The smaller pictures ran about $14.95 while larger pics ran about $19.95 (if I remember correctly). And we did see people taking digital pictures of their pictures.

Passages Library: Small but attractive library space done in wood tones with nice chairs. We did see folks using this space for quiet reading. We preferred using the pool deck for reading though.

Internet Café: This room was furnished similarly to the library with dark wood tones. Very nice space. There were many stations. Cost was $.35 minute. Internet availability may be spotty depending on satellite availability. They offer computer classes in this space too.

Vista Lounge: This was another favorite spot. It’s a large cabaret style show room in the aft of Deck 7. The whole room is actually oriented on an angle, with the stage being slightly right of center when you look at it from the starboard entrance. The main part of the room has semi-circular sofas in rows along with smaller chairs that revolve. Small tables are also in these areas. On both sides of the room are wonderful lounge areas where groups can get together in a more intimate atmosphere. Bar service was pretty good here as well.

Deck 8 (Dolphin):
The panoramic lifts terminate on this level.

LaScala: This is the Pizzeria. They are open from 12 noon until 3 and then from 6 until midnight. They have great pizza, all personal size. They also have Calzone. Note that the only alcohol they serve is beer and wine, no liquor. At night they expand their menu to include some pasta dishes. These were OK, but their pizza was really awesome. Service was excellent. We had Charlene, from South Africa on our first trip. We liked her so much, we always requested her each time we went there (and we went a lot – did many lunches there). Charlene was a blast. She got the feel for our group right away and fit in perfectly. If you go, ask for her.

Casino: The casino was also on this deck, across from LaScala. The casino was pretty well equipped with slots, card games (black jack, Caribbean poker), one craps table, etc. I don’t gamble much but one of our group won one of the slot tournaments and another came in third in the final slot tournament. A nice architectural feature of the space was a giant stained glass roulette wheel in the ceiling that was over the spiral staircase leading up from deck 7.

Deck 9 (Caribe): Passenger cabins.

Deck 10 (Baja): Passenger cabins.
We had cabin B501. Very small but we quickly got used to it. The cabin had all the amenities we needed. The balcony was nice as well. The bathroom was a bit small and had a sewer like smell to it (This was the only place we smelled that – others had noted in past reviews about the Vista Lounge having an odor like that but we didn’t notice anything). Our cabin steward was Jonnifer. He was great. Knew our routines after the first full day. We never wanted for anything.

There is an observation deck near the bow of both Baja & Aloha decks. The doors are unmarked, but open.

Deck 10 (Aloha): Passenger cabins.

Deck 11 (Riviera):

This deck housed the main pools and hot tubs. There is an adult only pool just aft of the main pool. The pool deck is very attractive with plenty of deck chairs to go around so chair hogging was not an issue on this cruise. Bar service is offered throughout the area, but it may be a bit slow at peak times just due to the volume of orders at the bar, which is located just to the front of the main pool. There was a band that would play periodically throughout the day. They were good, but, like the music in the disco, pretty repetitive after a while. They need to broaden their set.

The Lotus Spa and Gym are also on this deck. We didn’t make use of the spa so we have no feedback. A few of our friends did go and enjoyed it, but mentioned the hard sell of products. The Gym was nice, but too small. Not enough treadmills to go around. It was also difficult to find the sauna (never really did find it). They could reconfigure this area to make it all a bit more user friendly.

Deck 12 (Lido):
Horizon Court: Located in the front of the ship, this was a nicely decorated room with windows all around. There are two separate entrances, one on either side of the ship, with buffet stations on either side. Breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, and late night buffet were all held here as it is a 24 hour operation. The food in the buffet was just OK, nothing to brag about. Did the job, but nothing more. At night, one half of this room was converted into the Sterling Steakhouse, with a $15 cover charge. None of our group made use of this as the main dining room was quite good and LaScala was also a good alternative with no cover charge. We also thought the ambiance for a “upscale? steakhouse just wasn’t there, being that it was in the buffet area.

General reflections:
Staff: For the most part, they were all enthusiastic and fun, providing good service consistently, with very few exceptions.

Laundry: Twice during the 10 day cruise, they offer a $15 special – fill the laundry bag and they will wash everything for $15. Sounds good in theory, but I had two shirts damaged (button broken in half on one and a stain on another), plus when the clothes came back, some were wrinkled. On the positive side, I went to the Purser’s desk with said damaged items and asked if they could please have them repaired. Less than 24 hours later they were back and good as new. So they redeemed themselves in my eyes. No harm, no foul.

Ports of Call:
We had five ports of call on this cruise, which is the most of any cruise we’ve done.

Catalina: This is a tender port. Catalina is very nice to visit once or twice, but as this was our second time there, we just did a self guided walking tour. The marina area is very picturesque. No other ships were in port with us here.

Puerto Vallarta: Very Hot, Very Humid. That said – we enjoyed this port. We also had to tender here for some reason. We did the Jeep Safari excursion. This is a caravan of Jeeps that carry four persons each, led by the tour guide. They take you through town (and past Wal-mart which they jokingly referred to as the American Embassy) and then onto the dirt roads leading into the rural areas. Take note that this is VERY dusty. This part lasts about an hour. The tour ends at the Westin on the beach where a light lunch is served. Holland America’s Oosterdam, NCL’s Norwegian Star and the Carnival Pride were all in port with us.

Mazatlan: Docking Port. We enjoyed Mazatlan. We took a private van excursion offered via Princess. The van picked us up a the dock and took us any and everywhere we wanted to go. Beverages were included. The really nice part was being that we were such a small vehicle, we could get to places that tour buses couldn’t. We also go an early start so we beat much of the crowds. The Carnival Pride was in port with us.

Cabo San Lucas: Tender Port. This was our favorite. We took the Deluxe Coastal Cruise that took us out past Land’s End, up the Pacific and then back down the Sea of Cortez side of the coast before taking us back to the marina. We had lunch at a nice place on the water that had awesome Margaritas. We poked around some of the shops and then went back to the ship. The Carnival Pride and the Crystal Harmony were in port with us.

San Diego: Docking Port. It was Fleet Week in San Diego so there was a frigate and a destroyer docked next to us.. We did no excursions here. We walked to the Seaside Village where we found some great Christmas ornaments. Then we continued up the Gas Lamp district and had lunch at Dick’s Last Resort. For those who haven’t gone there, the staff is encouraged to be rude to the patrons (all in good fun). It was a blast. We then just walked to the USS Midway and did the self-guided tour ($15 each). This is great, but if your mobility challenged, this is not for you. There are a lot of ladders that need to be climbed. I recommend visiting at least once. Celebrity’s Infinity was in port with us. They sailed away first, then we did. We did sail away on our balcony. As we were leaving a couple of sailor’s on the frigate came out and saluted us, which I found moving.

Disembarkation was pretty orderly. We were given colored luggage tags to put on our bags, which were to be placed outside our cabins before 10PM on the last evening and they pick them up. The next morning we had to be out of our cabins by 8:30. The buffet was open for breakfast so we went there and then we just went to the front elevator lobby on the Promenade Deck and waited for our color to be called. We were off of the ship by 10:15. Pretty standard procedure that we’ve had on all of our cruises.

As we live so close to San Francisco, being able to sail round trip from there was awesome. We had a van service pick us up at the pier and we were home by 11:15, unpacked by 11:45 and had laundry going by noon. Couldn’t do that if we had to fly home.

This was our third cruise and the first with Princess. We were very impressed with their operation. The ship is in very good condition and with the exception of that smell in the bathroom, which we got used to, all other areas were top notch. If anyone has any qualms about the ship being “small?, well – we thought the same thing but we loved the ship immediately upon embarkation. We would recommend Dawn Princess and this itinerary highly.

Pictures to follow.

That’s it ‘til next time!
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  #2 (permalink)  
Old October 17th, 2005, 10:52 AM
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Posts: 103


I'm happy to hear that the Dawn is in good shape. We'll be sailing on her for New Years Eve this year. Counting down the days.

Happy Cruising.....

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Old October 18th, 2005, 09:49 AM
cljw's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 60

Well we've begun putting up some photos from the cruise. We have two albums up now - one of "on board" pictures and one of the MANY different cruise ships we saw along the way. Click the link in our signature. The albums should be at the beginning and both start with "Dawn Princes".

Will be posting more pics this evening (it's amazing how time consuming it is to go through all of the pictures, but we love it).

Really appreciate everyone's feedback so far - thanks!
Craig & Jack
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Old October 18th, 2005, 11:06 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 275

I sailed the Dawn last March and agree she's a beautiful ship.

When we sailed, the Pizza place didn't have Calzones - that's sad as I love calzones. The choice of pizza toppings was a bit limited...

If you liked this ship, I highly recommend her sister ship the Sea Princess - they have a 14-day Caribbean cruise that visits 11 islands. I hope they still have this itinerary when I've managed to save enough to take this cruise.

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Old October 24th, 2005, 10:08 AM
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We've finished putting up our pictures from the cruise.

All applicable albums from this cruise begin with "Dawn Princess"

Craig & Jack
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