Norwegian Dawn is seen here entering the port of IJmuiden in The Netherlands at the 11th of may in 2022.
The origins of Norwegian Dawn and her slightly older sister Norwegian Star are in fact not with Norwegian Cruise Line, but with Star Cruises as they were originally intended to become the largest cruiseships ever to be built for the Asian market. The two ships had been ordered by Star Cruises' parent company Genting Hong Kong from Meyer Werft in Germany in september of 1998 as the follow-ups to the slightly smaller SuperStar Leo and SuperStar Virgo, the first two newbuilds for the Maleysian company. Star Cruises had been started up by Genting to bring western-style big-ship cruising to the Far East and these new 92.000-ton ships would significantly increase the capacity for the line. SuperStar Leo and SuperStar Virgo had been already large for the market they served with their 75.500-tons but Genting clearly saw a lot of potential for Star Cruises to grow.
The names for the two new sisters were announced to be SuperStar Libra and SuperStar Scorpio, following the Star Cruises tradition of naming their larger ships after starsigns. But while the ships were being built, Genting bought the financially questionable Norwegian Cruise Line in february of 2000 and relocated the new ships to that company instead. Probably as they now understood that this aquisition had given them the opportunity to become a large player in the western market itself and the line was in desperate need for renewal of their aging fleet. Of course the still un-finished ships were renamed for their new purpose, SuperStar Libra became Norwegian Dawn and SuperStar Scorpio became Norwegian Star. Because the Dawn would be the first ship of the two, the class would now be defined as the Dawn-class of ships. But in a twist of fate, the names of the ships were later mixed up, with the original Norwegian Dawn being launched as Norwegian Star first and the second ship was finally built as the Norwegian Dawn instead. But the name Dawn-class remained.
Construction and general statistics
At the 1st of september in 2001, the keel for the thus Norwegian Dawn was laid and this was a very special occasion for the Meyer Werft as she was the first ship that was going to be built in the new covered buildingdock. The new (second) dock then had a lenght of 384 meters and was among the largest covered docks in the world. It was designed to be able to compete with the largest docks in Asia, as Meyer had become a large cruiseship builder since they launched their first cruiseship Homeric in 1986. To celebrate the laying of the keel, Genting's Datuk Lim Chee Wah performed the traditional coinceremony before the first of the 67 blocks was laid in position within the dock.
The ship was built under yardnumber S.649 and she would measure some 91.470 tons. Her lenght was 294,13 meters, she was 32,30 meters wide with a draft of 8,50 meters. The passengercapacity for the new ship was named as 2256 on a two-passengers per cabin basis and they were catered for by some 1130 crewmembers. The ship was driven by four 14-cylinder diesel engines designed by MAN B&W, providing for a speed of 24,6 knots making the ship one of the fastest cruiseships around. Then still a novelty, she would be propelled by two Azipod VO units instead of traditional propellers. Her homeport was going to be Nassau so the ship was going to fly the flag of The Bahamas.
At sunday the 27th of october in 2002, the ship was docked out of the covered dock and moored at the fitting out pier to be, well, fitted out. She left the wharf during the night of the 2nd and 3rd of november and was the first ship built by Meyer to be able to transfer the Ems river with the use of the Emssperrwerk. This is a barrier in the river that can be dually used as a stormbarrier as well as a way to keep the water within the river at the right depth so that the ships built by Meyer Werft are able to transfer towards the port of Emden with enough water under the keel. Due to the weather at the time, the ship had to make a 15-hour stop close to the town of Leer as the sperrwerk was not ready yet to keep the water of the river at the right depth.
From Emden, the ship then undertook her sets of seatrials in the Northsea, before she was proven worthy enough to be handed over to Norwegian Cruise Line as their largest ship to date at the 4th of december of 2002.
Like her earlier sister Norwegian Star, the ship was designed for the Asian market and this brought about some small inconveniences later on. With Asians normally being a bit smaller then Westerners, the decks are lower then aboard other cruiseships. Also the deckchairs proved to be too small for many people. But she refined the Freestyle Concept that NCL had introduced aboard their earlier Norwegian Sun with her introduction in 2001 so the ship had some 11 restaurants to choose from, including French, Mexican, Italian and Asian cuisine and these are mostly included. Also the use of the fitness-area (exept the classes) is included in the fare, as is the sportsdeck and most entertainment and activities aboard. The Freestyle concept, then really exclusive for NCL, broke away from the traditional rules of cruising and set the holiday vibe above. So the ship has no strict dresscodes, no fixed seats in the restaurants and no times where you will be unable to use the pool to name but a few. The ships interiours also reflect this, in being very colourfull without being overdone giving really the feeling of a modern familyhotel. Unique to the ship are four original masterworks by Matisse, Renoir, Van Gogh and Andy Warhol.
The theater is quite large and is spread-out over three decks, as can be expected by NCL and seats 1037 passengers in one go so there will always be space enough. Alternative to the theater, there also is the large Bliss Lounge, offering smaller scale entertainment. A main feature aboard is also the eight-deck high atrium that serves as a central place within the ship.
One complaint about the ship is the sometimes quite confusing layout, as not every part of the ship is easily accessible by all stairways and lifts. The kids pool for example can only be accessed through the arcade one deck above and the galley is located midships on deck 6, leaving passengers without access from the forward part to the aft part of the same deck.
On the outside, the ship had a first as she was in fact the first ship within the fleet of NCL that recieved the now familiar hull-art. As you can see in the pictures, it is still quite modest in comparissement with the newest ships of the line. After Norwegian Dawn, also the rest of the fleet recieved their personalized hull decorations to make them easily extinguishable.
The later slightly larger Jewel-class of ships were based on the same overall design, but are seen as a totally different class and their interiour passengerflow and placement of public rooms is slightly improved. As these ships were designed with the Western cruisepassenger in mind, also these ships had no problems with the hight of several decks.
After her delivery, the ship sailed the Atlantic for her namingceremony in New York. Here, the ship was named by her godmother Kim Cattrall, an American actress mostly known for her role in the Sex And The City-series. The ship afterwards settled in for a scedule of winter Caribbean cruises out of Tampa, Florida and summercruises from New York to New England, Boston and The Bahamas.
At the 16th of april in 2005, the ship sailed into severe weather sailing off the coast of Georgia and was repeatedly bashed by three 21-meter high waves later nicknamed the Three Sisters. The sisters caused several smashed windows, a few flooded decks and also four people aboard suffered mild injuries.
Another mishap befell the ship at the 27th of november in 2009, when she lost all power while sailing on her way back to Miami. The powerloss caused the ships 2000 passengers losing the ability to use airconditioning, running water, toilet services and electricity. Instead of sailing for Miami, the ship was able to dock at San Juan instead so repairs could be made to the electric systems.
Leaving Bermuda at the 19th of may in 2015, the ship ran aground on a sandbank due to a malfunction of the steering equipment. The high tide helped her out of her position some six hours later and when it was concluded that she had not suffered some critical damage, she was able to be sailing the rest of the cruise as sceduled.
In december of 2021, the ship was greeted by a large gathering of protesters when she docked at Key West, Florida. They were part of the Safer, Cleaner Ships movement and protested against the ever increasing size of cruiseships that sailed through the shallow canal at the port, causing the canal to be dregged by large propellers causing all kinds of environmental issues.
Both in 2011 and in 2016, the ship had big undates to her interiours as she of course now is also one of the oldest cruiseships within the NCL fleet.