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Old November 6th, 2005, 03:44 PM
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Default The illusive NCL Sun Review

I know this is not where it belongs, but I've posted this twice in the Reader Reviews section and it never seems to "take". Since several people have written about it, I decided to stick it here until such time as the cybergods permit it pop up in its proper spot.

NCL Sun, sailing 10/16/05

Itinerary as printed: N.O., Cozumel, Belize, Roatan, Playa del Carmen,
Itinerary as sailed: Houston, Cozumel 2 days, Veracruz due to hurricane Wilma

About us: 52/57 Louisianians, 23rd cruise, 5th on NCL.

Port of Houston: I have sailed from here once before and at that time things went much smoother. To my knowledge only NCL currently sails from Houston so they dot get a lot of practice. On the day of our sailing it was particularly disorganized but this was the Sus first sailing ever from there and they arrived in port 2 hours late so that coupled with a 300 or so staff change may have contributed to the poor communications evident during boarding, but all in all once we got inside the building we were onboard in 80 minutes. From the time the lines opened it took about 25 minutes.
Boarding began at 12:20 p.m. Parking is $7/day in the lot adjacent to the pier.

The walkway to the ship is very long and steep in places so if you have any difficulty walking inclines I would suggest you get a wheelchair.

Greeting onboard was chaotic but again due to new staff.

The Ship: The Sun is one of the ships built for freestyle cruising so is superior to the Dream, Sun or Majesty which wve sailed in the past. No real bottlenecks. The interior is done in NCs typical understated style and is filled with bronze colored woods, brass and bronzy colored granite. In places the interior seemed somewhat stark and a bit claustrophobic but overall it is a sleek and elegant ship. No glitz or neon here. The atrium area is a bit on the small side and the panoramic elevators are oddly shaped (kind of keyhole shaped, narrow at the entrance, ballooning out toward the rear) which made for difficulty in loading and offloading. The central staircases are of the typical spiral type and attrative spots for photos. Several bars, the internet cafe and customer service areas all rim the atrium. Hallways are nearly devoid of artwork but that in the stairways were of large florals, with a different flower for each floor - if is poppies, I must be near the casino! Hallways were carpeted in brickdust red with buttery yellow walls. Common areas were blue carpet.
All carpet and wall surfaces were in excellent repair.

There are two main dining rooms which are appointed primarily with 2 and 4 person tables. They are easily rearranged for larger groups. The 7 Seas dining room is on the stern so it has windows on 3 sides allowing for many window tables. There were no booths, just tables although some of the tables had unusual center legs making it difficult to cross your legs.

The buffet was well laid out and only the beverage area was weird. The ice dispenser was in the center rather than at the beginning near the glassware. An omelet station was off to the side as was a separate belgian waffle station. It is necessary to wear a shirt and shoes in the buffet. There is an outside buffet area serving nearly identical fare and hot dogs and hamburgers. Is seating area was on the back of the boat and a very pleasant spot where you could dine in your bathing suit. You do need to pass through the indoor buffet to get there but you didt need to cover your nakedness if you were just passing through. There is a compimentary ice cream bar off the pool area which was open most of the time. At lunch and dinner the waffle station became the dessert station and the omelet island was stir fry or Indian cuisine. Several specialty restaurants were available such as a tapas bar, sushi bar, Italian restaurant and steak house. All but the tapas bar required an additional fee. On formal night the steak house was reduced from $10 to $5.

The spa is positioned off the pool area and had a large assortment and number of exercise equipment. Yogo and Pilates classes were offere for a fee and aerobics were complintary. The spas is operated by the Mandara company and thus operate much like those on other lines. The steam room and saunas were small but free. The showers in the spa were much more spacious than the cabin showers and had liquid soap and shampoo available. The showers had cute little transparent doors which might give bashful folks a problem but more problamatic for me was their tendency to slide open as the ship rolled. But it is definately the place to shower.

The theatre seats were high backed which created a bit of a problem for short people like me who had to crane a bit to see above the back. Seating down front was much more comfortable. There were 2 levels to the theatre and several poles which created partial obstructions.

There were ample number of lounges and the Observation Lounge on deck 12 at the bow and provides a beautiful sweeping view. Is a nice place to hide away during the day and read as it did not seem to be used much during the day. It is nicely appointed with rattan furniture and a medium size dance floor. Dazzles is more centrally located and has a larger dance floor and many activities such as game shows, art auction and bingo were held there. A champagne bar adjoins the atrium as does a coffee bar. The Sports Bar on deck 12 had many TV screens and served 22 types of beer.

The pool area sports 2 pools divided by a raised area of 4 jacuzzis. Pool water is salt water.
Walking decks are the promenade with 3 1/2 laps per mile and sports festive murals all the way around and the sports deck has a padded walking surface but requires something like 12 laps to the mile. The promenade deck is the boat deck so it is covered walking while the sports deck is sunny.

The casino is well laid out and has the usual variety of slots, video poker and table games. There are 10 penny machines, 18 nickels, a goodly number of quarter and the balance in 50 cents through $5. There are 4 $1 video poker machines, 4 quarter poker machines and 8 progressive quarter machines. They are connected to other machines in the fleet. Table games are craps, blackjack, roulette, Let it Ride, Caribbean Stud, and the first ve seen of Bacarrat and Texas Holdem.
Casino service was prompt and courteous. There are wireless video casino machines available for rent and I dot understand them but they were available outside the casino and in the sports bar.

Cabin: Ours was an inside cabin on deck 10. ve forgotten the category but is number 0129.
It was the most spacious interior cabin wve ever had. Storage was more than ample. One large closet and a short closet in another cabinet with 3 drawers. The desk area had 3 large drawers below and 1 above with also held the safe. On the opposite was a ceiling to floor set of 6 shelves about 10 inches wide. A refrigerator, TV, DVD player and 4 cup coffee pot were standard. Folgers coffee was provided. There is one electrical outlet The bathroom has a circular shower with a curtain held snuggly in place by vertical rods in the curtain. 6 storage shelves were provided. There is a real toilet paper holder so the tissue does not fly off the holder with use. There is a wall mounted hair dryer and an outlet for electic razors. This is not a regular looking plug, I guess shavers are different. The shower has normal single handle controls and an adjustable height shower head.
The bedding is the typical NCL duvet and quality cotton bedding.

Entertainment: The shows were excellent and usually 45-50 minutes in length. The comedian was of the Bill Cosby squeeky clean but funny variety - very refreshing. Lounge entertainment was all excellent. A great show band, a terrific combo who had both been with MoTown groups in earlier lives, a very talented pianist in piano bar, the usual pool side Caribbean combo who were better than usual. To my taste, all entertainment was better than norm.

The usual game shows, bingo and poolside activities were available. There is a mesh enclosed basketball court, ping-pong area, and golf driving range.

In the library there were the usual board games available for check out and bridge gatherings were held. DVDs were available for rent.

Many groups held meetings on board, Friends of Bill, Friends of Dorothy, veterans, red hat ladies, medical professionals and some others I know ve forgotten.

Food: Quality was a bit better than most other ships, but that is such a matter of personal taste that it is hard to judge. I did find the menus ridiculous in their descriptions, though. There were times I honestly could not wade through the fru-fru descriptions and it became quite the joke with many about whether some of the items were soups, deserts or the names of facial cleansers. Lobster night actually had real, decent sized lobsters.

Wine service was handled by the waiters and went smoothly. No wine program was available unless you are a Latitudes member - buy 5 get 1 free.

Thankfully there was no nightly entertainment by dancing waiters and the dress code was enforced for the most part.

Buffet food was the usual fare and was of good quality and available round the clock with the exception of change-over pauses in service. Food was also available at times in the casino.

Cleanliness: The ship was the cleanist ve ever been on. Hand sanitizing was strictly enforced at embarkations and at all buffet lines and restaurant entrances. A sign at the captains party noted that hand shaking was discouraged.

Staff: Even though many were brand new to the ship, they all seemed genuinely interested in helping. They all seemed particularly adept at remembering names throughout the week. Nice touch.
I cannot think of a single staff member who was rude or even indifferent.

Disembarking: NCL has an express system whereby you carry all your luggage off yourself which allows you to be the first group off the ship. Quite a few people seemed to opt for this. We were off the ship by 7:20 a.m. and breezed through customs. We exited the parking lot at 7:30. Wow!
You are allowed to wait in your cabin until your group is called.

Tips: Are added to your account automatically unless you request otherwise.

Security: Very good. They were not shy about intervening in subdueing unruly patrons. One man raised quite a fuss in the casino, throwing chips about and being your basic obnoxious drunk. He went on to dinner where security came and politely removed him from his table, took him to the office and restricked his onboard account to non-alcoholic beverages only. He was also warned that should he be a problem again he would be put off the ship or placed in the brig. Another idiot decided to beat up on the elevator controls while yelling at his new bride. Security tracked his little drunk butt down and placed him in the brig til he sobered up and they determined he was ot a threat to his wife. I hear he was also fine for the damage he did to the elevator.

This and That:

Photo: Almost invisible! The photography staff was available for formal photos and as always at the pier but they were not in your face every time you turned around.

Announcements were kept to a minimum.

Drinks were of good quality and the prices seemed to be in line the RCL from last month.

Patrons: middle aged-older subdued crowd, but not ready for the morgue. It was not a party crowd but lots of dancers and well behaved people. Mostly US citizens. Not many children but school is in session.

Internet: about 10 stations available but I always use the more affordable shoreside outlets. Per minute use was 75 cents and packages were available including wireless.

Passenger talent show one night was the usual embarrassing combination.

The jewelry shop onboard is a Columbian Emeralds shop.

Latitudes comps seem chintzier than in the past.

Overall: d do it again in a minute - and plan to next fall when she returns to New Orleans.
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Old November 6th, 2005, 05:49 PM
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Boy that walk to the ship is a dousy isn't it, but we have done it twice and are not worse for sear. Both times we have sailed out of Houston have been nightmares, the first was the worst. this was back in the days when NCL first used the port and had the old "STAR" sailing the Texaribean, probably about 8 years ago. Last Nov it went a little smoother, but still not like most ports.

Thanks for writing your objective view with a positive twist. NMNnita
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Old November 6th, 2005, 06:45 PM
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Hi Magnolia Blossom,

What a great review! We're looking forward to sailing on the Sun in December. Your review eases my mind quite a bit and provides lots of information.

Thanks,
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Old November 6th, 2005, 08:55 PM
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Thanks for posting your excellent review and impressions of this ship and cruise... it gave me some real good information ! Since NCL has evidently changed some of the N Suns cruises... out of Miami, I changed a reservation on the N Jewel to this ship for the eastern Carib, departing on Feb 4th. It was also considerably less expensive, which does not hurt, either ! A DVD player and coffee machines, a nice clean ship and a balcony cabin... don't think I can ask for more than that ! ANYBODY planning on this 2/04 cruise might respond, too.....

-Richie...

About three months to go !
Prior: HAL Noordam, Baltic cruise sept 01
RCCL Radiance, Northwest, May of 2002
RCCL Enchantment, west Carib Jan of 2005
And Pacific Princess ages ago in 1984 when I was a kid !
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Old November 6th, 2005, 10:35 PM
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Wonderfully objective review with loads of information! Thanks for sharing.
First I have ever heard of a brig on a cruise ship!

Thanks again,

Pat
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Old November 7th, 2005, 07:40 AM
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NMNita, yeh that walk is something else.
I didn't notice it on this trip (not that it didn't happen, I just don't recall) but on our first one the staff was making a diligent effort to offer wheelchair rides for elderly patrons or those who appeared to have difficult walking. Of course lots of these folks said, 'oh, I can make it', only to get half way down the walk and need to flag down assistance.

Richie87 - the Jewel was cheaper than the Sun? Wow, brand new ship - what a deal.

Even though Houston is a confused little port we still like it because of our ability to drive there. Let's us save the air miles for San Juan embarkations!

Happy Monday, ya'll
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Old November 7th, 2005, 09:50 AM
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Magnolia...
It's the other way around... the Sun was a lower fare than the Jewel..
most likely because a.) The Jewel IS a new ship.. and b.) this E. Carib
itinerary is from the looks of it a fair amount less cruising miles... still the standard 7 night, however. Thanks again for the great review...
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Old November 7th, 2005, 02:14 PM
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Thank you for the review!! I learned ice cream was free! I wasn't sure about that. HUbby will LOVE that as he was all set to miss the soft serve that they have on CCL ships. I told him the only thing he will laugh about or complain is the size of the cabin which is 25 square feet smaller than the outside cabin on CCL but it has a aft balcony so he will deal with it after he laughs of course! Debbie
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Old November 9th, 2005, 04:03 AM
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nice format for your review..perhaps future reviewers will copy it
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Old November 9th, 2005, 08:04 AM
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Richie - oh, yeh - that is what it said, isn't it? Well, I attended Louisiana public schools so I'm not altogether responsible.

Yeh, the ice cream was a great plus. I hadn't expected it. If memory servies me correctly (oh, how quickly we forget) there were the two usual soft serve flavors and four hand dipped flavors, which changed from day to day. It was nice too that it was right off the buffet , adjacent to the pool area and open all day! How much better could it get?
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