The 77,000-ton 1,970-passenger Dawn Princess is the second ship in Princess Cruises' Sun class (which also includes Sea Princess and Sun Princess) and is now permanently based in Australia. The ship offers Australia/New Zealand, South Pacific, Hawaii and world cruises -- and is run like an Australian cruise ship. That means onboard prices are in Australian dollars, Vegemite replaces peanut butter at breakfast, and the fitness center runs classes like "legs, bums and tums." Unlike Princess' other ships, Dawn Princess does not offer a flexible dining option in the main dining room (passengers can dine at early or late seatings, or simply choose a different venue), and features Australian entertainers, TV and movies, and even sports games onboard.
Now considered a mid-sized ship (at least these days -- when it launched it was considered large), Dawn Princess offers a cruise experience that hews to both Princess traditions and contemporary travel styles. The ship has the requisite multi-million dollar art collection, a nice health and fitness facility, two main showrooms, an around-the-clock restaurant, a few alternative eateries, and 410 cabins with verandahs (a low ratio today but fairly revolutionary in design when the ship was launched). A 2009 refurbishment added Princess's signature adults-only Sanctuary sun deck and the giant Movies Under the Stars LED screen, as well as upgraded carpeting, upholstery and hull paint.
Dawn Princess is far more intimate than its 21st-century siblings, but that also means that facilities are neither as expansive nor as well equipped as those on the fleet's newer vessels. The size is especially felt in the Horizon Court buffet venue (where options aren't as varied as in other lido buffets), the cramped workout room and the underwhelming teen lounge. On the other hand, having two show lounges is a great way to give passengers more entertainment choices each night, and Princess really utilizes the space it does have with a wide variety of onboard activities, everything from ceramics to dance classes, game tournaments to computer workshops.
Dawn Princess attracts the experienced cruiser who has done shorter cruises on other lines and is now venturing out into longer sailings on an upgraded class of ship.
The Venetian and Florentine Dining Rooms are virtually identical dining rooms, differing only in the color of decor and in the exquisite murals depicting Venice and Florence. Both rooms contain lovely wood and etched glass panels which create a feeling of intimate dining. There are several tables for two, four or six as well as more traditional tables for eight. The food preparation was very good on my cruise, beautifully presented and interestingly varied. Vegetarian selections were excellent and desserts superb. And pastas, a Princess signature option at every meal, were varied and always excellent. A good selection of healthy choice items is offered every night. Waiters are efficient, friendly and helpful.
Princess does not offer its signature Anytime Dining on Dawn Princess. Dinner is served in two set seatings in each dining room with assigned tables and tablemates. Guests with first-seating dining may arrive for dinner at their assigned dining room between 5:45 and 6:30 p.m.; second-seating diners should show up between 8 and 8:30 p.m.
Breakfast and lunch are served from 7 a.m. until 9 a.m. and from noon until 1:30 p.m. in the Venetian Dining Room only. For these meals, open seating prevails.
A popular dining venue is the casual Horizon Court, open 24 hours a day. If you're used to ships where the pool deck leads to the buffet restaurant, you'll need to retrain your brain -- Horizon Court is one deck above the swimming area. The buffet -- which is tiny by new-ship standards nevertheless offers excellent hot and cold breakfast options from 4 a.m. until 11:30 a.m., along with European specialties and an abundance of fruits and breads. Lunch, served from 11:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., includes hot entrees, a carving station, a salad bar, and pre-made salads and sandwiches. The nightly dinner buffet (5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.) serves a DIY version of the main dining rooms' menu. You can graze in between meals with light snacks served from 3:30 until 5:30 p.m. and again from 10 p.m. until 4 a.m.
At dinner, a section of the Horizon Court becomes the Sterling Steakhouse, Dawn Princess' alternate dining venue. It serves surf and turf type dishes from 6 until 10 p.m. for a 20 AUD fee per person. Reservations are recommended. Menu items include a selection of starters (New England clam chowder, brie and papaya quesadilla), five choices of steak (including filet mignon, Porterhouse and Ribeye), barbecued chicken, the fish of the day and a four dessert possibilities (ranging from chocolate pecan pie to raspberry creme brulee).
La Scala Pizzeria, another alternative for lunch or dinner (11 a.m. until 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. until midnight), is a lovely slice of Italy with delicious pizza and calzones. Like a true pizzeria, you can even order takeout. The Balcony Grill, overlooking the pool deck, is open from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. and offers hot dogs, burgers (plain, cheese, chicken or veggie), bratwurst, knockwursts and Doner kebabs. Oh and don't forget the French fries.
For a treat, sundaes, ironically located near the Oasis Spa and expectedly near the youth center, serves up soft-serve ice cream and popcorn during movie screenings for free. You can also order specialty coffees, iced coffees and smoothies for 3 to 5.50 AUD, and film-favorite junk food for a couple of bucks.
Afternoon tea is served daily in the main dining room from 3:30 until 4:30 p.m. Waiters bring around your choice of Lipton or Bigelow tea in a variety of flavors (Darjeeling, chamomile, Earl Gray, mint), as well as finger sandwiches, scones, cookies and French pastries. Live music adds an elegant touch.
Room service is available 24 hours a day free of charge. Choose from sandwiches (roast beef, tuna, veggie), salads (with or without meat), soup, burgers and hot dogs, Croque Monsieur and pastries. Continental breakfast is available by ticking off choices on the stateroom breakfast card and hanging it outside your door before you go to bed. Pizzas can be ordered from La Scala for a delivery fee of 2.50 AUD. Beer, wine and soft drinks may be ordered for a fee, as can hors d'oeuvre platters for your in-cabin soiree.
Dawn Princess passengers booked in cabins with balconies can order several special, romantic meals to be served restaurant-style on the verandah. Champagne Breakfast is available from 7 until 11 a.m. for 35 AUD per couple. It includes a half bottle of Champagne plus goodies such as smoked salmon, warm pastries and Quiche Lorraine. The four-course Balcony Dinner is priced at 125 AUD per couple and is served from 5:30 until 10 p.m. Enjoy one cocktail per person, canapes, a bouquet of flowers, an 8 by 10 picture and a half-bottle of Champagne pre-dinner. Order from the set menu (Pacific Blue Crab Cake, Broiled Tail of Cold Water Lobster, Surf and Turf) or choose from the dining room dinner menu. You can also make special requests.
You'll find elegantly appointed public areas, including a stunning art collection and an abundance of live foliage throughout Dawn Princess. On Deck 5, the ground floor of the soaring central Atrium is the informational hub of the ship with the Passengers Services, Captain's Circle past-passenger program and shore excursions desks all located here. The central part of the floor is taken up with comfortable couches adjacent to a small stage for duet or quartet performances. Adjacent is the patisserie, serving up free pastries and coffee, tea and alcoholic beverages for a fee.
Up one deck and overlooking the atrium are the ship's two shops. Regatta sells the typical cruise and logo-wear, sundries and duty-free alcohol. Illuminations offers more high-end buys, including jewelry, perfume and watches.
On Deck 7, the small Passages Library is one of the most elegant libraries afloat. It's well stocked with hundreds of recent hardcover books and also offers a paperback book exchange. Warm mahogany bookcases, Wedgwood blue carpets and Old World accents create a cozy reading area, offering a great view of the sea from the seven soft leather stuffed chairs that face the windows. Pick up daily brain teasers or drop by to put a piece in the puzzles on the table just outside.
Around the corner, the Internet Cafe has multiple stations for surfing the Web or e-mailing home. Package prices are 250 AUD for 1,000 minutes, 175 AUD for 500 minutes, 100 AUD for 250 minutes, 55 AUD for 100 minutes or 0.75 AUD per minute for a pay-as-you-go plan. Past Princess guests may get free Internet packages as part of their loyal cruiser perks. Laptops are also available for rental.
Also on Deck 7, the Photo Gallery and Shop is the place to view and purchase the professional photos taken on your cruise. A machine lets you print out your own photos from the cruise by inserting a DVD, CD, memory card or USB memory stick. Prices range from 20 to 35 cents per print. Additional photo-related gear is on sale.
The Card Room is hidden among the Deck 12 staterooms. It's well stocked with board games and card tables for game and bridge play. Bridge competitions are held regularly under the supervision of guest masters. Nearby is a conference room for onboard meetings.
A Medical Center is located on Deck 4.
Dawn Princess has five types of cabins: insides, outside, balconies, mini-suites and suites. Of the 975 staterooms, 603 have windows and 410 have balconies. Most cabins are decorated in a peachy-orange color with hints of blue (though inside cabins are predominantly blue with beige highlights). All standard cabins come with a small TV (not a flat screen), mini-fridge, telephone, desk/vanity, hairdryer (attached to the wall by the vanity, not in the bathroom) and closet. Nice touches in inside and outside cabins are a shelf behind the bed and individual reading lights. Bathrooms have reasonable storage space and showers with the dreaded clingy shower curtain. They're stocked with bottles of Lotus Spa shampoo, conditioner, lotion and shower gel.
Inside cabins range in size from 138 to 148 square feet. Standard outside cabins with picture windows range from 135 to 155 square feet, while deluxe outside cabins are larger at 173 square feet. Dawn Princess has a wide selection of staterooms with private balconies, nearly 70 percent of all outside cabins. Balcony cabins measure 151 square feet and come with a 31.5-square-foot balcony, which has space for two chairs and a small table. Space inside these cabins may feel tight, particularly if shared with children.
Mini-suites are actually two-room suites with the bedroom and living room separated through an archway. These staterooms feature a split bath with toilet and sink in a separate room from the tub-shower combo (with massaging shower head); a walk-in closet; and TV's in both the bedroom and living area. These cabins come in a wide variety of sizes, from 366 to 538 square feet (including long skinny balconies ranging in size from 66 to 117 square feet).
Six suites are 538 to 695 square feet, including large private verandahs that vary in size from 150 to 204 square feet. The suites feature a sitting room with a pullout couch and dining table, separate bedroom, a large marble bathroom, whirlpool, and walk-in closet.
Nineteen ADA cabins (seven outside, 12 inside) range from 213 to 305 square feet.
Each cabin deck has a self-service laundromat with washers and dryers. The cost is 1 AUD per load in any machine (so 2 AUD to wash and dry one load). Detergent is available in machines for purchase, and each laundry has an iron and ironing board. They're most crowded on sea days or the last day of the cruise, but beware, these machines are tough commercial units and should be used with care on delicate garments.
Ten AUD per person, per day is assessed for passengers in both staterooms and suites. Passengers can change or remove gratuities from their onboard account at the purser's desk, and then tip appropriate crewmembers in person.
|Fitness and Recreation|
The pool area on Deck 12 has a choice of three swimming pools, two tiered mid-ship pools and one small aft pool shaded by a dome in the center of the Spa area. All have whirlpools adjacent. Towering over the two main pools is Princess' signature Movies Under the Stars screen (see Entertainment).
Tucked out of the way on Deck 15 at the front of the ship is the adults-only Sanctuary sun deck. (I mistakenly assumed it would be near the spa, and was a little confused to find it two decks up and across the ship.) This serene relaxation space can fit up to 32 passengers and comes with a 20 AUD per half day cover charge, which gets you a plush padded lounge chair (two are double loungers for couples) and the care of the Serenity Stewards who will bring you chilled towels, healthy beverages and fares, and MP3 players with relaxing soundtracks. Unlike some of the Sanctuary areas on newer ship, this one does not have cabanas for al fresco massages.
The Lotus Spa on Deck 12 aft offers free sauna and steam rooms, as well as a full range of spa treatments and services. The treatment rooms are located behind the spa reception area, but the salon (for hair styling and manicures) is located across the hall. Treatments run the gamut from a Swedish massage (131 AUD) to a pedicure (72 AUD), Oxydermy facial (186 AUD), a detox seaweed body wrap and massage (215 AUD), teeth whitening (164 AUD) and Ionithermie detox (175 AUD). Men are not forgotten with special male-oriented facials, massages and shaves. But book early. Appointments for sea days can fill up within a few hours on embarkation day. The spa is typically open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.
Dawn Princess' fitness facilities are located in a glass-walled health center off the stern of the ship, offering striking views while you exercise. The gym is equipped with three stationary bikes, four recumbent bikes, six elliptical machines, eight treadmills and a variety of free weights and resistance machines. The fitness equipment is really packed into a small space, and there are only a few small TVs for mid-workout entertainment. The center is open from 7 a.m. to until 10 p.m. An aerobic room across the way houses spinning bikes and stability balls. Personal training is available for (94 AUD for an hourlong session), and a variety of classes are available. Some classes, such as abs and stretching classes are free, while others, like yoga and spinning, incur a 13 AUD fee.
Additional recreational facilities include a netted sports deck under the ship's funnel, with volleyball, badminton, paddle tennis and a half basketball court. A small golf center allows passengers to enjoy computer-simulated play on 18 of the world's top golf courses, plus two fantasy courses designed for some amusing frustration.
For walkers and joggers, an outdoor promenade deck goes all the way around Deck 7.
The "Fun Zone" children's center features a cleverly glassed-in splash pool to isolate the sound of screaming youngsters from sunning adults, a castle, play house, children's theater, TV with videos and computers with children's software. This area is great for children 3 to 7 (called Princess Pelicans), who participate in a supervised program of games, arts and crafts and free play. The program is offered for toilet-trained kids only. Children younger than 3 years old can use the youth lounge toys and facilities if supervised by a parent.
Shockwaves is the program for 8 to 12 year olds. Although they share space with the younger cruisers, this age group has activities around the ship, including Jr. CHEF@Sea cooking classes, science projects, pizza and ice cream parties, and sports tournaments.
Kids ages 13 to 17 can participate in the teen Remix program. In the teen center, a large flat-screen TV, dance floor, nonalcoholic bar and a cool jukebox system allow teens to create their own DJ projects under space-age lights. There's also a separate video game arcade next door.
During days at sea, the children's programs run from 9 a.m. until noon, 2 until 5 p.m. and 7 until 10 p.m.; on port days, it runs from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. and from 7 until 10 p.m. The teen program has the same schedule, but runs until 1 a.m. every night. There is no extra charge. From 10 p.m. until 1 a.m. and on port days, there is a group baby-sitting charge of 5 AUD per hour, per child, for the 12 and unders. Except during special dinner outings or pizza parties, or on for lunch on port days, meal service is not part of the program.
Dawn Princess passengers are mostly Australians, with a smattering of New Zealanders, now that the ship is permanently based in Australia. The ship's long itineraries attract a high number of seniors, especially in the off season and on the annual world cruise. However, during more attractive cruising periods, the ship does get a wide variety of passengers, including families and teachers on holiday.
Dawn Princess guests tend to be experienced travelers and cruisers, and many have done shorter cruises on other cruise lines (including sister company P&O Australia).
Daytime dress is casual. Evening dress codes are either smart casual or formal. Princess defines smart casual as "what would be worn to a nice restaurant at home." Inappropriate clothing items include beach wear, shorts, baseball caps or casual jeans (frayed or with holes). Formal attire includes evening gowns, cocktail dresses or elegant pant suits for woman, and tuxedoes, dark suits or jacket and slacks for men. There are typically one to two formal nights per week.
Daytime offerings include all the cruise ship standards: trivia, board and card games, art auctions, cocktail-making demos, etc. However, Princess also offers a variety of "@Sea" themed events. Computers@Sea is the biggest, teaching beginning computer, photo editing and even movie making; Ballroom@Sea classes teach guests to dance; Common Interest@Sea offers social get-togethers for likeminded folks grouped by profession (rescue workers, medical staff), interests (sports fans) or lifestyle (Friends of Dorothy, singles); Scholarship@Sea features educational lectures on topics as diverse as bridge play, astronomy or destination information; plus there are @Sea events for scrapbooking, games, book discussions and ceramics.
One special offering is the Ultimate Ship Tour, which takes passengers behind the scenes on the ship to places like the galley, bridge, backstage area of the theater, engine control room and funnel. The three-hour tour costs 175 AUD and participants receive an official chef's jacket, personalized stationery, luxurious bath robe and a framed photo taken with the captain.
On world cruises, Dawn Princess passengers typically commit to some sort of regular activity, whether that be a passenger choir, a fitness regimen, or learning how to golf, play bridge or use a computer.
In the evening, Dawn Princess can offer a variety of entertainment because it has two show lounges, as well as smaller lounges and Movies Under the Stars. Performances may include guest musicians, comedians, production shows by the ship's entertainment staff and local acts. Themed late-night dance parties allow guests to show off their dance movies with Ballroom Blitz, rock and roll parties, a country western hoe down, and dancing under the stars. Karoke nights are often listed as "Scary-O-Kee" to convince everyone to sing, even if they have "a voice that can peel paint."
The Princess Theater, decorated in a rich burgundy, offers state-of-the-art sound and lighting, a huge stage, comfortable theater-style seating, no distracting tables or bar service and excellent sight lines from each of the theater's 550 seats. The theater is also used for enrichment lectures during the day.
The other show venue is the Vista Lounge, which is a more typical cruise ship show lounge, with slightly tiered seating with comfortable banquettes and little cocktail tables arched across the room. It's perfect for bingo and cabaret performances, and is used as a movie theater when an on-deck event shuts down Movies Under the Stars. It's a lovely room with deep rose carpet and blue and gold seating. Avoid sitting near the bar in the back during show time -- the blender can crank up quite a distraction.
Movies Under the Stars (M.U.T.S.), the big-screen outdoor theater that's proven so popular with the line's newest ships, was installed on Dawn Princess in 2009. The 300-square-foot LED screen shows movies and concerts and is also utilized for larger-than-life Wii play. Complimentary popcorn and blankets (for chilly evenings) are available at evening screenings; snacks, including Ozzie favorites like Tim Tams, Flakes and Cadbury bars, are available for purchase (0.50 to 3 AUD) at the Sundaes ice cream stand.
Deck 7 is the entertainment hub of the ship, anchored by the Princess Theater and Vista Lounge. Heading from aft, the Wheelhouse Bar is located just outside the Princess Theater. True to its name, it sports a nautical theme.
The Atrium Bar on the third level of the atrium has a magnificent stained glass ceiling just off the atrium's opening. It's a quiet place for people-watching and pre-dinner cocktails. You'll often encounter a string quartet or a pianist who serenades guests lingering over the lounge's cocktails or espresso.
Jammer's nightclub is open until the early morning hours and is popular with passengers of all ages. Different nights feature the music of different decades from the 50's to the 90's, as well as Karaoke. Done in gray and mauve, it has carpets with a celestial motif and neon tubes snaking across the ceiling for a startling night sky effect.
Magnum's, located opposite Jammer's nightclub, is the perfect hideaway for a tete a tete over caviar and Cchampagne. The desert cactus window boxes are a nice touch.
Up one floor (a staircase outside Magnum's leads right to it), the Casino has an abundance of slot machines, plus blackjack, roulette and craps tables -- all of which stay lively in the evening. A variety of card tables and art auction paraphernalia share the space.
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