The ship entered service at the end of 2002. She was intended to operate with Star Cruises under the name SuperStar Scorpio, but it was decided that she would be delivered to Star's subsidiary, Norwegian Cruise Line as Norwegian Dawn. Norwegian Dawn was christened in an elaborate ceremony in Manhattan by actress Kim Cattrall.
Norwegian Dawn was the first NCL vessel to carry hull art. Planned as a way to promote the vessel, the concept was well received and hull art was incorporated on most other NCL vessels, with the exception of those vessels scheduled to transition out of the fleet within the next few years.
Norwegian Dawn the de facto official ship of R Family Vacations, a cruise designed for gay and lesbian families.