Our group of 16 returned on August 31st from a wonderful week on the NCL Sun. Out of the 16 we had four children ranging in age 1 to 14. More than half the group had cruised before on different lines. We made our own arrangements to fly from New York to Miami and were going on two difference flights. Both our flights went smoothly.
My main concerns when traveling are good weather, clean rooms and decent food. Before going on the cruise some of our group read reviews to get an idea of what to expect and what to do on the islands. Some of the reviews I read on a variety of websites were totally contradicting, two people with completely different experiences that were on the Sun during the same week. Of course, this is not surprising; everyone has a right to his or her own views. Some people see the glass half full and some half empty. I believe our group was the half full type.
I thought embarkation went fine; we got on the ship within an hour, the only thing holding us up were photos takenas you boarded. We met up with the rest of our group and had lunch and drinks and walked around the ship. We were told our luggage would arrive by six, if I recall correctly everyone got their luggage in time to shower and change for dinner at 6:00.
We made reservations in the Seven Seas restaurant and had a table for sixteen and a very polite and very nice waiter. He did some napkin tricks and origami, which was entertaining for the kids and us adults also. After that, we had a different waiter for the rest of the week, Made, from Bali, he was also very nice, polite and accommodating. What memories they have, I couldn't imagine dealing with a table of 16. He was wonderful and we tipped him extra and also the other waiter helping him, they deserved it. We ate all but one of our dinners in the Seven Seas and went to the Four Seasons one night. Our dinners ranged from good to excellent. They had some really interesting and unique choices. They always had a cold soup on the menu and they were delicious, more like dessert than soup. They had a variety of appetizers and entrees, a vegetarian dish every night, which is what my sister in law usually ordered and she said they were very good., there was always something on the menu to order and if you couldn't make a decision the waiter would bring out both your choices. The desserts were delicious, I am still thinking about them. If we saw something on the Four Seasons menu that we preferred we could order it even though we were dining in Seven Seas. The staff was very accommodating and they went out of their way to make us happy. I read a review that said that 90% of the staff on the Sun weren't nice, don't know what ship he was on but we never came across anyone who was not accommodating and friendly.
The ship is new and beautiful, very clean. Some of the group figured it our right away and some it took a little longer. We didn't have any problems getting from one side of the ship to the other. Our rooms were a good size. Some of our group had balcony rooms and some had inside staterooms for four. The inside state rooms for four were roomy and the sofa bed pulled out, my nephews said they slept fine. They brought in a crib for the one year old. What I would recommend is to bring a illuminated clock so if you are in an inside room you don't have to turn on a light to see what time it is. Even in the balcony room, once you close the curtains it is dark so that would be helpful. The phones can be set for wakeup calls, which is convenient. Our steward Charles always had a smile for us and our room was spotless beds turned down with a chocolate on each bed. On our first night we left our room looking like a clothes bomb went off and found it nice and neat when we returned. We tipped him extra at the end of the week, because we wanted to.
The pool area was nice and since someone in the group was always up early we never had a problem getting lounges in the sun and also in the shade. The group that had cruised before said the two pools were a good size; they also had four Jacuzzis between the pools. They are not pools to swim in but to just get wet. They were salt water and were emptied every evening and refilled. I don't know if that is what all the pools are like on other cruise lines. I thought it was a great idea. They were pushing the drinks, could be a little annoying at times, the drinks were $4.95 for a regular size but if you wanted the special glasses they started at $7.95 and up (depending on the size) refills were then cheaper.
The buffets, well, they were buffets, we weren't expecting gourmet meals. I enjoyed the fish and seafood salads that were served and they always had a variety of desserts (yummy) we always found something to eat and were happy with our meals, no complaints. We mostly ate breakfast at the buffets and also went and had sit down breakfast in the restaurants which was very good, lots of choices on the menu and much more relaxed than the buffet.
The shows were good. Bingo Bruce and Rich are very funny, whenever they put on a show, they had you laughing, especially the audience participation, it is always amazing what the audience will do and say. JJ Walker, (from the TV show Good Times) put on a comedy show, he was very funny, he then performed with Rich and Bingo Bruce and the other comedian on the ship, it was a good show. They had a singer, Jane L. Powell who has a beautiful voice, we saw her both times she performed. The entertainment was really good.
In the Caymans, some of the group took the ship excursion to Stingray City and raved about it. My nephews didn't want to get out of the water. The rest of our group went to the beach. The beach was beautiful but there were lots of rocks on the beach, especially getting in and out of the water. It was painful getting in and out. We sort of felt that our taxi just dumped us at the first beach he came to. We set a time for him to pick us up and he charged $3.00 per person each way. We then went into town and looked in the shops a while.
In Roatan, not all the group got off the ship and some that did were a little reluctant. Some of the reviews that they read scared them and they also read about the sand fleas on the beach. I wanted to go to the beach, the pictures I saw on the internet looked beautiful. When we got off the ship we were approached by a gentleman and we discussed going to West Bay, he arranged for a van to take all of us and charged $15.00 per person round trip. He would come and pick us up at the time we wanted and he would be paid when he returned us to the ship. The ride to the beach was on a road along the shore that was eye-opening lots of shacks and poverty. My nephews had questions, they had never seen anything like that. All the children we passed waved hello, I kept thinking how lucky we were and I am sure the rest of the group was thinking the same. We may have gotten the oldest van on the island and we were wondering if we were going to make it up and over the mountain to the beach. Some of the views were just beautiful. We came to the Mayan Princess, which is under construction and look like beautiful villas, and our driver walked us to the beach, after seeing all the construction we didn't know what to expect but as we walked through the restaurant/bar onto the beach we were in paradise. I have seen many beaches and this was up there on top of the list of most beautiful beaches. There were lounges we could use and umbrellas for shade as long as we ordered drinks or food. No problem for our group. We had a wonderful day. I didn't want to leave. A couple of the group got bites from the sand fleas but they don't itch just leave a red mark. Nothing to be concerned about.
Belize - make plans for an excursion because there is nothing to do in the city. I went to Caye Caulker, one of the islands, I took a water taxi that was by the tender, the cost $12.00 US round trip, there is also another water taxi by the swing bridge in town with a better schedule. It took 45 minutes to get there and the ride was really nice and water beautiful. We passed many islands along the way. They dropped me off and I walked across the island, that took about 5 minutes or less. There are restaurants and shops, it was cute. The beach, well, the whole island is sort of a beach but the area I walked through was not a really soft sandy beach and there was a lot of sea grass and small wooden docks every 20 feet or so along the beach side. I sat under a palm (lots of palms) and relaxed. It was a very laid back atmosphere. I caught the water taxi back (and they are right on time) and enjoyed the ride back.
Cozumel - Some of the group went to Chankanab to snorkel, the water is absolutely beautiful, lot of fish, my nephews were very happy taking underwater photos, which you can buy there and also rent snorkel equipment. We then went to meet the rest of the group at Mr. Sanchos. They have a restaurant and bar on the beach with pallapas for shade chairs and lounges. You can use it as long as you buy drinks/food. The weather was good for most of our time there and then a storm came through that lasted about ½ hour. Then the weather got nice again. It seems it only rained on that side of the beach. We then went to town and looked in the shops. That night was lobster night which some of us had. They served two tails, the lobster was delicious, so tender, we had bananas foster for dessert, who could ask for a better day.
Our day at sea was spent relaxing. I made an appointment for a hair treatment and scalp massage. It was absolutely wonderful. Dina also massaged my neck, shoulders and top of my back. I almost fell asleep. Wonderful way to end the cruise.
So that was our week. Our weather was absolutely beautiful food great and accommodations wonderful. I was happy.
My wife and 2 children just returned from a one week cruise on the Norwegian Sun. I would like to take the time to give everyone some feedback.
We arrived at about 11:00 AM. We parked in the covered parking (we live in Miami) and left our bags with a porter. We were immediately led to the check in station where we checked in with almost no line. We had to wait to board until Noon. We boarded with no difficulty and were taken to your cabin by an NCL staff member.
We had a balcony cabin on the Norway Deck. Between my wife and 2 kids we had 7 bags of varying size. The bags all arrived by about 3 -4 pm. We took a tour of the ship and had some lunch while we waited. Once the luggage arrived we unpacked all 7 bags and latter discovered we had a whole other shelf area next to the TV we didn't even use. The room was beautiful and clean. The Balcony was wonderful. I don't think I could take another cruise without it. (This is our 12th Cruise). Theroom had a safe, TV and refrigerator. It also had a writing desk and two chairs on the balcony with a small table. The bathroom was large enough and the shower worked great.
We loved the Ship. I have no idea what the complaint were about as far as colors. I think it was immaculate and beautiful. Our last two cruised were on Carnival and so this décor was a nice change from the more garish neon look. There were plenty of bars and deck areas to sit and people watch or sun. Our favorite place was the Windjammer bar, mostly due to the outstanding singer Roger Hernandez. He has a tribute every night to a different singer, Billy Joel, Elton John etc and later all requests.
THE FOOD AND RESTAURANTS
We managed to eat in every single restaurant except the Tappanyaki. (sp). We enjoyed them all. We had no problem with a wait time or service time in any of the restaurants. The food is very good. I don't expect gourmet quality on any ship that has to serve 2500 guests. We really enjoyed the ambiance of the specialty restaurants such as "The Bistro, Pacific Heights, East Meets West, and Adaggio. We ate in the main restaurants twice. Sunday night for the gala welcome dinner (we dressed formal tux and all as did may on board) and also for the farewell dinner on Thursday night. Both times we had minimal wait for our table and were waited on very quickly. I believe the quality of the food in the Restaurants with a surcharge is similar to the main dinning room, possibly a bit better. However, we really enjoyed the atmosphere of the smaller restaurants and the attention of the staff. The famous Chocolate fondue in the Bistro was wonderful.
I think we have been spoiled for other cruise lines until they match NCL for this concept. This was our third cruise with the kids. The previous ones were on Carnival. We cruised about 9 times BK. (before Kids). With the freestyle cruising we were able to take the kids (age 9 + 11) to dinner or order room service for PB &J at about 6 pm every nite. At seven PM it was off to the Kids Corner for the Children. Mommy and Daddy then had the pleasure of dining alone in anyone of the 9 restaurants. It was wonderful! Getting reservations was no problem anywhere the morning of the meal or the day before. This was a luxury that made this a truly wonderful mix of a vacation with the kids and without at the same time.
THE PORTS AND EXCURSIONS
We reserved Capt Marvins stingray tour in Grand Cayman with another Cruise Critic member. It was the two hour trip that visited a reef area and Stingray City. It couldn't have been better. While we were on a smaller boat that easily held the 10 of us, we watched the Giant ferry carrying 200 or so people from the NCL excursion nearby. The captain of Marvins boat told us about the Stingray and helped us feed them. Being only 10 in our group made the experience very special DO NOT MISS THIS TRIP. My kids and my wife were awed by the beauty of the Stingrays and petting them was a trip. On Belize we booked with Action Belize a boat trip ECO tour. Other than the guy picking us up not having a sign on him, once we verified who he was we were taken to the boat. The trip was about 3 ½ hours in the mangroves on the boat seeing beautiful birds and alligators. We were taken to "Bird Island" that was a nesting area for IBIS and Herons. It was lovely. There was only the four of us on this tour and it cost us $49 per person. In Roatan we took a cab to a few places but I don't recommend this. They didn't understand where we wanted to go and we didn't get there. This was a wasted stop for us, but I'm sure the trip to the beach or snorkeling was good for others. I highly recommend taking a ship trip on this stop. Cozumel was shopping time for us. We had been there many times before and we got some great deals on boots and a beautiful Chess set for my son. We had a great lunch in Panchos back yard.
Sorry, other than listening to Roger Hernandez, we didn't attend any shows.
My kids loved it. My daughter is handicapped and has other medical issues. They gave us a beeper so if we could roam the ship with no worries of problems. They beeped us when we were needed. My son really enjoyed his time with the Kids crew even more than Carnival.
I had planed to have a good time on this trip and not be hyper critical of anything. Well as it turned out, that mind set was not needed. If there was any question in my mind before this trip as to the crews attitude about the automatic tipping, there isn't now. I don't think we came across one single sour crew member on board. Everyone was exceedingly friendly and nice. From the minute we got on till the minute we left. The room stewards were great as were all the waiters in all the restaurants. The casino was fine and I came away a winner. After a 10 year hiatus of not traveling on NCL, I may have trouble choosing a different line now.
Amy and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary on the cruise. As most of our "cruise critic group" is aware, I surprised Amy with a "renewing of our vows" party on the Thursday prior to our sailing. Obviously, this made our cruise that much more special.
This was our ninth cruise. Three on NCL's Starward 1981, Leeward 1994 and Sunward 1992; Carnival Celebration 1987, two Big Red Boat cruises 1993, 1994, RCCL Grandeur of the Seas 2000 and the Grand Princess 2001. We stayed in a category BA cabin on the Norway Deck with a balcony and shared it with our 20 year old son Ryan and 16 year old daughter Lindsay. (More on that later).
First and most important of all, we had a fantastic time. There was a lot of good and a little not so good, but as Regina said in her review, "it's how you choose to deal with those things that will determine how you perceive your vacation."
Embarkation was the most efficient and fastest I have experienced in nine cruises. We drove from Orlando and arrived at the terminal around 11:30. We unloaded our bags(8 suitcases and 4 carry-on bags!!!), parked the car, walked through the terminal, checked in through the latitudes check-in area, took our picture with the half naked women and were in our room within 25 minutes! Personally I liked the picture with the half naked women!!
THE SHIP A-
My biggest joy when cruising is the ship itself. I could just as much enjoy a cruise that was only at sea as one that stops at several ports. So with that in mind, the Sun was new, very well kept and clean. The layout was efficient and easy to get used to after one day of roaming around. Had this been our first cruise, I would have been overwhelmed and tremendously impressed with the ship. However, I cannot help but compare the ship to the RCCL Grandeur of the Seas and the Grand Princess cruises. The Grandeur of the Seas was just that...you were taken in by the grandeur of that ship. It too was new and gave you much more of a luxury liner type feeling. There are few words to describe the Grand Princess. It was much larger and elegant with an incredible amount of private spaces to get away and be on your own. While the Sun might not have been as impressive, we had just as good a time that we had on the "Grandeur and Princess."
My second biggest joy on a cruise is the food, and in general the food on the Sun was Good, VERY GOOD and in some cases EXCELLENT! We ate dinner four nights in the Four Seasons Restaurant and three nights in specialty restaurants. Except for one breakfast, we ate in the Garden and Great Outdoor cafe every day. Here's the breakdown:
Four Season's Restaurant B+
We ate there on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Thursday evening. I would rate the Saturday meal and Sunday meal (lobster) as very good. I also ordered the Beef Wellington on Sunday and it was good, but not great by any means. I ordered the steak on Monday and it tasted like and had the consistency of shoe leather!! Don't order the steak! The breads were very good and most of the appetizers were very good as well. We had different waiters each evening and I felt the service was good, but definitely not near as good as the specialty restaurants.
Le Bistro A+
I agree with Melissa's review. It was awesome!! I ordered the Filet and it was great! The Escargot was wonderful, the mushroom soup was great, the Caesar salad was excellent and there just are no words to describe the chocolate fondue!! Just be careful!! I ate mine and half of everybody else's!! Let's just say you wouldn't have wanted to come in our cabin later that night, and while snorkeling at T'sul Ha in Cozumel the next day, the fish seemed to really keep their distance from me!! HA!
Il Adagio B+
The food was very good other than the Veal. I ordered the Veal Chop and it seemed kind of tough to me; however, my brother ordered the same dish and devoured it like it was the greatest thing he had ever eaten. Goes to show how different people are and how no one should take these reviews too seriously, as all of us have our own likes and dislikes. We had 8 people and the restaurant can only seat four at a booth. So we sat in side by side booths. I would not recommend this. Only go if you are a couple or foursome. Every booth faces the window and you will be able to see the sunset. Unfortunately, that was the only night that there was not a decent sunset. Others I spoke with raved about this restaurant. I was very tired that night, so don't take my comments too serious.
East Meets West A+
East meets West charges $10 service charge person as do Le Bistro and Il Adagio. You can hand pick a lobster which is a la carte. You can also order Sushi which also is a la cart. Otherwise the service charge covers everything else on a really good menu. This restaurant was just as good if not a little better than Le Bistro minus the chocolate fondue. I ordered the pot stickers appetizer, crab wonton soup, and the Japanese Tenderloin dish. Amy had the Sea bass which was out of this world! I also had a sampling of just about every dessert (which did not have the same effect as the chocolate fondue)!! Everything was Excellent. The presentation of the desserts was really cool and they all tasted wonderful.
Garden Cafe and Great Outdoor Cafe B
These restaurants are really one in the same. The Great Outdoor Cafe is located just outside the Garden Cafe on the back of the ship. They virtually serve the same menu. The Outdoor Cafe does on several occasions serves cheeseburgers, hot dogs, ribs and great French fries. In the Garden Cafe, as well as the buffet line, they also have a create your own egg or omelet station, a fresh fruit station and a hot and cold cereal station (the bowls are not large enough to hold all the cereal). The food was good and the service was decent. The lines at times were much longer than I experienced on RCCL or Princess. The juices and fruits were sub par and limited. Again the RCCL and Princess ship excelled in that category. Anyone who is expecting a five star meal in the buffet (I have no idea why anyone would expect this) should skip breakfast and eat lunch and dinner in the specialty restaurants. On a side note, it would be interesting to see how many people on the ship die of heart disease. It is simply amazing how one small plate can hold so much bacon, sausage, corn beef hash, and eggs!!!! HA!!
We did not eat in Pacific Heights, Ginza or the Tappas restaurants.
One last note. My son Ryan is a strict Vegetarian. Every restaurant had a vegetarian meal and lots of choices amongst the appetizers and soups. He thoroughly enjoyed every meal except the vegetarian meal in Le Bistro. Le Bistro's spent way too much time on the presentation rather than the quality of the vegetarian meal. The portions were small as well. He more than made up with it with several appetizers and desserts. All the other restaurants were very accommodating including the buffets. We couldn't find any soy milk or ice cream. We asked our TA to make those arrangements. Next time we will make those arrangements directly with NCL.
We love all kinds of music and entertainment and we love to go the shows on cruise ships. We enjoyed all of the music we heard in several of the lounges and absolutely loved all of the shows we attended. The entertainment overall was the best we have experienced on all of our cruises. Here is the breakdown:
Jane L. Powell (AKA.The Chocolate Goddess of Love) A++
What a performer!! With a voice range from the lowest of lows to highest highs, she will entrance you with her renditions of many popular songs. She is funny, talented and it's a wonder she isn't on the billboard charts. Her rendition of Chris Crosse's "Sailing" was my favorite. She performs on Monday and closes out the cruise on Friday night. We bought her CD and my son took a picture with her. Listening to the CD makes you feel like you're back on the cruise ship again!!
Mary Ellen Hooper A
Mary Ellen was a wonderful comedian. She had us practically rolling in the aisles and wiping the tears from our eyes as we howled in laughter. She performed on Saturday night and also closed out the cruise on Friday night as well. On Sunday night she performed in the observation lounge at 11:30 for a late night show, but we missed that one. She also was on the panel of the "Liar's Club" event which was in Dazzles Lounge Thursday evening. She was hoot! Don't miss her show!
Acrobatics of the Power of Two ARudi and Christy are married and performed some outstanding (Cirque type) acrobatics. Christy is a blonde, tall, very physically fit beauty. They are amazing together!! If you are into a lot of "slap stick" kind of comedy (which I am), Rudi is hilarious in all his antics. Warning to all women.if you are looking for some attention, sit on the front row stage left!! As Rudy would say, "I likeeee you.Rudy has five brothers that all grew up in the circus. We saw his brother perform on the Grand Princess last year! Rudy was also on the panel of the "Liar's Club" and was hilarious.
Jean Ann Ryan Company A
The Jean Ann Ryan Company I believe has been with NCL from the start. They are by far the best "regulars" on any ship we have sailed. They performed on Saturday's welcome show, Sundays "Encore! Mr. Producer," Tuesday's "Que Noche," and Thursday's "Cirque Pan." We did not make Que Noche or Cirque Pan. They were wonderful in the shows we did see. Encore! Mr. Producer was great. It is a tribute to the producer (forgot his name) of musicals like "My Fair Lady," "The Witches of Eastwick,," "Oliver," Les Miserables," and several others. There rendition of "The Witches of Eastwick," and "Les Miserables" (my favorite play of all time) were sung and choreographed wonderfully!! Don't miss this show if you like Broadway hits!!
The music throughout all the bars and lounges were very good. Our favorite was Roger Hernandez who played each evening in the Windjammer Lounge. He looked like Billy Joel's brother and on several occasions did an hour tribute to Billy Joel. The lounge was my favorite. There were bar stools around the Piano. Then there was an area filled with cocktail tables that were non-smoking. Behind a barrier there was a wonderful cigar bar and private smoking area. A wonderful place to listen to good music, smoke a cigar and sip on a brandy!!
TOUR EXCURSIONS A+
Rather than bore everyone with the details of each excursion I will expound only on two:
Captain Marvin's Snorkeling and Sting Ray City A+
Unbelievable! Amy, Ryan, Lindsay, my brother Ron and I joined about 20 others from our "cruise critics group" to go see the stingrays in Grand Cayman. We were one of the first groups to get off the ship to take the short 5 minute tender ride to Grand Cayman. We all walked along the narrow streets for 3 blocks or so to Captain Marvin's shop. We checked in and even though we had pre paid over the internet, we had to run our credit card through for payment. You can pay cash at this time if you prefer. While we were waiting to be picked up from the bus we bought some muffins, donuts and coffee from a bakery about a block away. The food and coffee was very good. But we paid an additional charge of about $4 because of the currency exchange rate. I also was given change in Cayman bills and coins. Be sure to take $10 or so in dollar bills if you want to buy anything to eat. This also would hold true for Belize and Roatan.
The first bus could not fit all of us, so a few of us waited another 15 minutes or so for the next van. The ride was about 20 minutes to the boats. There were two boats that our group was divided on. Our first stop was at what they called a reef garden. The waters were crystal clear and we saw many different types of fish and coral. Then it was on to Stingray City witch was only a minute away. This is where the tour gets real interesting. My son Ryan was one of the first people to jump in. Very shortly I heard him loudly screaming and laughing. He was completely surrounded by stingrays. I jumped in and after walking a few steps was engulfed by the stingrays as well. What an awesome experience!! When my daughter came in she immediately jumped into Ryan's arms and screamed. My wife and daughter did not spend much time in the water!! It's not for everyone, but the stingrays are really harmless. Our guide was excellent. He helped all those willing to hold and feed the stingrays. You hold out the food away from your body and place it underneath their body for them to eat. It feels like a vacuum cleaner when they suck the food out!! They feel like giant Portobello Mushrooms!! You can just watch if you don't want to get out of the boat. This tour is a must!!! The ship offers a similar tour, but the group sizes are larger.
Reggie's Cave Tubing A+
So many people have written about this, I can't say much more than they already have. So I will give you some hints and try to relieve your mind of any hesitancy you might have. The driving is not as bad as some make it out to be. The streets are very narrow going through the city, but all the drivers and pedestrians seem to know what they are doing. So as you squirm at some of the near misses, no one on the road seems to care or notice. Once out of the city there is are very few cars on the road, so it is very easy to do 80 mph. Our driver actually pretty much held steady at 65 mph. It was no problem for me, Ryan or Lindsay to hike through the jungle. There were couple of steep areas that were very mildly challenging, most anyone under 60 years old would have no problem maneuvering through them. The hike through the jungle felt more like a leisurely walk on a path in the woods. We did see neat things such as pineapples, cabbage patch, and cashew trees with real cashews on them. We broke open a mini-coconut and ate the meat. It was actually very good. There is a cave that you can walk into and shine your light about 50 feet straight up and see dozens of bats hanging on the top. I was worried the water would be real cold. It was about 75 degrees and felt great. The caves were awesome and tubing down the mini-rapids was fun. The ships tour is a little shorter, costs almost $30 pp more and has larger groups. I was in the half of the "cruise critic group" that had the flat tire at the restaurant. We had three hours before the last tender and I was never worried. I chose to turn this lemon into lemonade!! We enjoyed the lunch, talked to the talking parrot they have at the restaurant, helped change the tire and took several pictures of this Kodak moment! Great time! Highly recommend it to everyone.
Between the four of us we also took three of ship's tours. Lindsay and I snorkeled at T'sul Ha in Cozumel. Ryan and Amy toured Tulum in Cozumel and took the East end tour in Roatan. They were all great tours.
There are "two pools" separated by a cluster of four Jacuzzis. It's really one big pool. The area is clean and nice, but two side by side pools are not enough for 2000 people in my opinion. Too bad they couldn't have designed the ship with one more adult only pool or to place the two pools at separate ends of the ship. Remember I am comparing, the Grand Princess had five pools, but also had 3000 people.
Mandarin Health Spa C
I never learn. I went to the spa as I have on other ships also. They as well as the spas on other ships were overpriced and didn't provide as good as service as you can get in your neighborhood spas for half the price!! Advice..get a massage the day before the cruise!!
Daily on-board activities B
The sun offers lots of daily activities such as line dancing classes, health and wellness classes, kitchen tours, bridge tours, bingo, aerobics, yoga, computer classes, etc. The ones we attended were well done. No better or worse than other ships we sailed. The only disappointment was the "pool games." They played more or less of a trivia game with a small gathering of people around the stage. No belly flop contests, no "how many ping pong balls can you stuff in your bathing suit contests," and my favorite "no chugging a can of beer swimming relay and passing out!"
On board shopping B
There was a Columbia Jewelers that sold mostly very high priced items. There was a $10 dollar store that sold everything for $10. It had most things you find in the $1 store back home! The NCL store had a good variety of clothing, hats, perfumes, alcohol and souvenirs. Princess and Grandeur both had better shopping if that's what you are in to.
Photo Gallery F
This truly was a very big disappointment. Every year I pledge to my wife that I will not buy many pictures but end up buying a lot of pictures. This year the Photo gallery made sure I had no choice. The second day of the cruise their processing equipment broke. On Monday, since I didn't see some of the pictures that we had had taken on Sunday, I asked the Photo Gallery representative where they were. He told me they would not be up for viewing until Wednesday night. Well, there were no new pictures up all week. I heard about the broken processor through someone with our "cruise critics group." I understand and accept that equipment breaks down. But wouldn't you think they would have some type of backup? I can't imagine how much revenue they lost last week. I am more upset that they obviously lied to me on Monday night and did not tell me about the break down. Anyway, it's just one of those things. We took over 250 of our own pictures, so we have lots of great memories!!
Cruise Director and staff A
Paul Baya was great. He ranks up there with the best of the other directors on other ships. The staff was very helpful and a delight.
As I said at the beginning four of us shared a BA cabin on the Norway Deck. We had four large suitcases, three hanging bags and about four other bags with miscellaneous items in them. My son chose to live out of his suitcase. There was plenty of room for Amy, Lindsay and I to store all our things in drawers and storage areas. There would have been room for Ryan's things as well. Every one of the bags fit comfortably underneath the bed with room to spare. The balcony was a great place to sit out and relax and read. Four in a room kind of kills romantic interludes, but being able to be with your children and share such a wonderful experience is priceless. And I gotta tell you, we are fortunate to have the two greatest kids on the face of earth!! A word of advice..enjoy and cherish your children every day!!
Room Steward C
Our room steward, George was average. We didn't see much of him. When we did he was not very friendly or outgoing. No neat designs with the pillows or towels at night. My mother who was on deck 8 had a great steward who new just about everyone's name on their floor and made really cool designs out of towels such as elephants, peacocks, etc. He was so good; he was voted the best employee of the week. NCL puts out a form for everyone to nominate their favorite employee for the week. Be sure to fill one out as it is really an honor to be recognized for great work.
I have to say a few words about our "cruise critic group." Since we traveled with other family members we didn't get to spend a lot of time with the group. The times we were together on the excursions or in the bars or shows were great. It was great to meet people you only knew through the internet. Everyone was so nice and I hope to have the opportunity to see everyone again. How about a reunion cruise!!!
I envy future cruisers who go on the ship for their first cruise as you will use this cruise as your benchmark for future cruises. The more cruises you go on, the more you tend to compare. Make no mistake, we had a great time on the Norwegian Sun and would go back on her anytime. One last word of advice to fellow cruisers..relax and enjoy every minute of the cruise experience. Leave all your "hang ups, stresses and baggage (not the suit case kind) at home. Life is way too short to short to get upset about any minor annoyances.
Let's spend a few minutes dreaming of our next cruise and reliving the days past. Before we close our eyes I want to state the negative, then we will dream of the positive. It's hard for me to find the bad but, after talking to several passengers, a few things come to mind. Overall, freestyle was just what the doctor ordered, yet there were negatives. We needed to plan if we chose to eat in the alternative dining rooms, so that is not totally freestyle. We were not seated with others, only two or four of us. The salad bar in the buffet was less than inspirational. Breakfast was, at best, cheap Vegas style, both in the dining room and at the buffet. Belize could be scratched and no one would know (or care). Getting reservations for a Habachi-table seating took an act of God; maybe the Sun should add 12 more seats. Right now there are 3 seatings, each with 12 seats, not too many will get seated in any one night. The casino help could smile. It would make our losses a bit less painful. That's it guys;no other negatives.
Now, let's start from the beginning. We arrived about 11a.m., check-in took 5 minutes, then we waited for the gates to heaven to open. At 11:30 we watched the first cruisers glide through the gates and we followed maybe 5 minutes later. By 11:40 we were in our cabin. Our cabin steward told us the cabin was not quite ready; we did not know the difference. But after inspecting everything, we left to examine every knook and cranny of the ship. We say the knooks, but probably missed some crannies. Lunch was served both in the dining room and the buffet. We chose the buffet, which was much better than expected. The meatloaf was tasty, the mash potatos real and the desserts great. Hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill smelled wonderful and the taco bar looked really good.
We returned to our cabin and our luggage arrived about the same time. After unpacking, with more storage space than the other ships we have been on, we spent a few minutes on the balcony before meandering up to the awesome observation lounge to meet with the 20 plus cruise critics group for a drink. All but one couple we had expected arrived for a short visit. We had reservations at Le Bistro that evening. This is a must for everyone who chooses the Sun. My daughter selected the wild mushroom soup served in a bread bowl, caesar salad and sea bass. I delighted in the best Escargot I have even eaten, followed by asparagus topped with smokey hollandaise sauce, definitely not from a package, a delightful spinach salad and the special of the day, steak Dianne; not huge, but certainly plenty. I normally do not get dessert, yet the strawberry flambet got to me and my daughter couldn't turn down the chocolate fondue with fresh fruit, which was enough for 2 or 3, not one.
After dinner, we wandered off to the casino, not a good bet (for me, anyway). We called it a night about 11p.m. On Sunday at sea we chose the breakfast buffet which I have already mentioned, and then tried to find a lounge or seat on the pool deck. Kiss that goodbye . We ended up on the 12th deck with plenty of space. A little problem when I ordered a drink and had it served in the $6.95 glass, which I hadn't asked for. No big deal; the bigger deal was that drinks were not consistantly priced. One bar charged one price, another a different price. This made no sense, but, again, not a big deal. After we had enough sun, we returned to our cabin and got ready for lunch and the art auction. We chose the buffet, which was more than satifactory, and soon were off to the auction. Only concern there was the lack of champagne. They advertise an Art Auction with free champagne. Well, it was a good thing we went for the auction and not the champagne. We did manage to get one glass. The auction was fun, especially when I won a painting worth $250, it is claimed.
The rest of the afternoon, which was only a few minutes, we spent sipping a cool one on our balcony. This was the formal optional night. As you can imagine, we saw about everything. I did not see any long dresses or tuxes, but some very dressy attire. I wore a silk skirt and linen top, my daughter a cute dressy sun dress with a summer sweater. We felt right in place. Dinner tonight consisted of the best crab Louis I have ever had, followed by cold avocado and watermelon soup, lobster and pasta - which I thought was a bit under-cooked - and the soup was good, I guess.
But now I know why I don't order cold soup more often. After dinner we ventured off to see the Jean Ryan Company show. Oh, Peggy had wild mushroom soup, caesar salad and lobster with baked potato. She can be a bit boring. Anyway, the show, as always when you see the Jean Ryan Company, was outstanding. Monday was a day in port for most, but we chose to stay on ship. Now we got lounges by the pool, could eat where and when we wanted, and totally relaxed. We did have a Sun Ritual treatment at the spa. It was much better than any spa treatment I have had in the past and, apparently, better than some of the tours to the island. Seems that swimming with the stingrays can be positive or negative, depending on what you expect. The island is nice, but very expensive. The afternoon brought bingo by the pool, followed by auctioning of the horses. Do you want too know more? Let me know.
We, again, chose a standard restaurant. We ate at the Seven Seas. The food was good, but not quite what I would have chosen had I known. Again, pasta was not quite cooked. I did have awesome salmon. Now to the casino, where I preceeding to grab back some of the money I lended to them the first few days. The slots were paying better than most cruise lines, but I was not getting rich. Wednesday morning we meandered down to the Four Seasons for breakfast. I had eggs Benedict; OK, but probably packaged hollandaise sauce. The staff was almost so friendly that I wanted to say, "Go away." In fact, by now, I am wondering how anyone could say anything negative about the crew? Everyone has bent over backwards for us. As soon as we finished breakfast, we grabbed our towels and away we went to Roatan. We chose a private tour, which took us on a short city spin, followed by a beach stop at Half Moon Bay. Our driver and the proprietors at Half Moon bay were wonderful. The snorkeling was not as good as Tabyana Beach, but the price was right and we had a wonderful time. Next time, I think we will try Salt and Peppers.
We got back to our cabin about 2 p.m., showered and grabbed a quick bite at the buffet. The lunch buffets were wonderful and this is from someone who's not a buffet person. We decided to do the tapas bar in the evening. After a glass of wine and several tapas, it was time to try something new for dinner. Back again to the buffet; but we were too full to eat. We missed the show (actually, I missed the show). The casino said, "Come see me" and I showed them. I won $150.00 on the quarter machines. I cashed in, went back to our cabin and, after a quick nightcap on the balcony, we went to bed. It was nice to know our room was clean with everything in place. Our cabin steward and assistant were the best. We were lucky to have an early tender, thus Wednesday we were off the ship and on our way to Belize before 8 a.m. Breakfast was to die for: my birthday cake, tomato juice and a cup of coffee. Not really to die for, but better than nothing. Prior to sailing I had contracted with Action Belize to tour the river and see the wildlife. Well, we toured the river, all right, but if that is all the wildlife they have to offer, they need to learn how to party. Using the bathroom in the tour guide's house was not our idea of the perfect tour. I felt saved, since most of those we talked to were not any more impressed with Belize and their tours than we were.
We returned to the ship safely, though our nerves were shot to heck. A quick shower and we were off to try the hamburgers fresh off the grill. For those from the west, you will understand my comment; they were not In and Out burgers, but the next best thing. Dinner was in the Italian restaurant. We had heard some negative remarks and were about not to even give it a try but, after after hearing the remarks from our friends from New York about how good it was, we gave it a try. Boy, are we glad! I had the seafood cocktail, which was succulent; caesar salad, joining Peggy, and shrimp scampi with 40 gloves of garlic yet. So, if you don't like garlic, go somewhere else. Not only was the food as good as I have ever had, the service was outstanding - as it was throughout the cruise. We didn't have a reservation until 9:30, so we saw the show. Magicial, if you can call him that, left a bit to be desired. I guess he's better than losing your shirt in the casino.
Thursday is shopping until you are dropping day. We had planned on shopping and then snorkeling. After shopping for 4 hours, there was no way could we think of going snorkeling. Biggest disappointment about Cozumel was that my favorite jewelry store lives in the past. As usual we stopped at Pancho's Back Porch for a drink and did some shopping. If I wasn't so hot and tired, I would have gotten a temporary tattoo in a place I will not discuss right now. Can you imagine the shock my conservative husband would have had? That is if he even noticed. Everyone we talked to that did tours, booked through the ship or on their own, had a wonderful experience. Dinner tonight was in the Pacific Heights, of all places. Me, diet food? I don't think so. Back up. I love to cook, and if I could cook light food the way the Sun did, I would never cook heavy food again. The show featured the Jean Ray Company for the third time and again we wished it would last forever. I wished they had closed the casino down forever.
On Friday it was almost over. It's breakfast in the buffet again, complete with a tasty omelette, bacon, juice, fruit and rolls. Not the best, but filling at least. While Peggy ventured to the crowded pool area, I could feel my perky little nose pealing, so I headed back to the room to pack It was so so sad. Then it was on to the showroom for bingo and the chance to win the cruise. No winners here. After lunch in the dining room for the first time, Peggy wandered to the Art Auction, I finished packing and wandered to my favorite place. You guessed it: the casino, stopping along the way to pick up some last-minute gifts. The gift shop isn't the best I have seen. I left a few bucks everywhere I went and Peggy left serveral at the Art Auction. We had a drink on the balcony, changed our clothes and it was off to the Habachi grill. Thank God for our conciere, Ray, Mr. Wonderful. He was able, somehow, to get us reservations. If not for him, we would still be waiting and I would not want that to happen. The food made Kobi's look ordinary. We both had steak and shrimp. Peg decided to go to the show and I should have. She says Jayne Powell was wonderful. My slot machine was not, but could have been worse.
You know I thought I was just lending all this money to the casino; but when I got my printout I realized I gave it to them and they were not going to give it back. With luggage in the hall, our last drink consumed on our balcony and the eyes feeling heavy, we said good night to the Sunny, Sun Sun for our last time on this trip. Debarkation was smooth, we were at Miami Airport early and on our way home. Glad to see hubby, but I actually had a tear in my eye when I walked the gankplank for the last time. For Peggy and me, it was the perfect cruise. As some new found friends of ours put it: the cruise was so different they thought they were cruising for the first time. Everyone needs to judge for him or herself and we have many choices but, for me, freesyling is the only way.
Our seven day cruise to the Western Caribbean aboard the Norwegian Sun was blessed with near perfect weather. The Sun is one of the newer ships in this line, less than a year old.
For our taste, the ship is not too big and not too small but just right. If you enjoy "people watching" this ship will suit you. Although busy, you never get a feeling that it is overcrowded. Much of this might be the result of the Norwegian Line's "Freestyle Cruising Program". There are no assigned dining times. Of the nine restaurants on the ship, two are buffet and open almost 24/7 (you can't get food all the time, but coffee is always available and fresh.). The two main dining areas, Four Seasons and Seven Seas restaurants are open for breakfast and dinner. There is a two hour window for breakfast here, usually 7am to 9:30am, and dinner is 5:30pm to 10pm. You may come during these times whenever you like, and seating is up to you. If you choose to seat alone you may. The other five restaurants have a pris fixe cover charge of $10/person (LeBistro - French, Il Adagio - Italian, East Meets West - Asian Fusion eg. )or a modest per piece charge - The Sushi Bar and the Tapas Bar.
The ship itself is immaculate. The cleaning staff is on duty constantly. If you are a sparrow and enjoy the sunrise, watch them do their thing at 5am. Although medium large by today's standards, after a day, you should know your way around the ship. If you do get confused, there are large schematics of the ship with indications of where everything is (you are "here" is indicated) at each of the elevator banks. There are twelve elevators - Four aft, Four stern and the four "Hyatt Regency" open glass ones in the central atrium which goes from deck 5 to deck 11.
We had an "Oceanview Stateroom" on deck 4. This kind of stateroom used to be known as a cabin, which is exactly what it is. The real staterooms are few and located on the uppermost decks - These are the ones which come complete with separate dining room, bedroom, living area, and private deck with Jacusi and butler thrown in. That's a stateroom!!!. However if you don't have $10,000 -15,000 for the week, you will do just fine thankyou on deck 4. You need to consider how long you spend in your room. If it is under two hours, not counting sleep time, don't waste the money. The rest of the ship is one big floating hotel - why are you in your room? - except for horizontal entertainment, all the action is on the entertainment and fun decks. Deck 5 has the main restaurants, Deck 6 has the dance hall (Dazzles), the Cigar Bar, the Piano Bar and the orchestra section of the Stardust Lounge; Deck 7 has the Casino, the dutyfree shops and the balcony of the lounge; Deck 11 has the three pools (one kiddie)and the four large jacuzzis and about one bar per person (well it felt that way :-), the buffet restaurants, the buffet restaurants, the video game room for teenagers who simply can't face reality (the computers are in the atrium on deck seven for computer addicts who can't face reality :-)The charge for internet is $7.50 per MINUTE!! That oughta cure you.) Deck 12 has the speciality restaurants and oh yes, more bars, just in case you missed a drink going from deck five to deck twelve.
The food was superior. Please be realistic when evaluating food on cruise ships. Remember that over 3,000 people need to be fed AT LEAST three times a day (that includes the crew). The buffet restaurants are cafeteria style. It's ok, not great, as you'd expect cafeteria food to be. The selection however is extensive. We thought the cold seafood salads were excellent, esp. the scallops seviche. But if you are the hotdog-hamburger-frenchfrie-make your own salad- type, you'll do fine. There is an omlette chef here for individual orders. Advice: If you are in no rush, have breakfast in one of the two main dining rooms. You are served, there are no trays. The breakfast menu here alternates, and we were particularly delighted to find Eggs Sardou on the menu on two mornings. Here is also where you will find smoked salmon with onions, capers, tomatoes and creamcheese, herring, bagels, smoked kippers etc. Coffee cups seem to refill automatically by the attentive staff. Dinners were for the most part very good to excellent, with the President's Night a must. The exec.chef worked in the White House for years, and this menu is based on the favorite dishes of several administrations. Order dessert first. Order ALL of them. :-). The Captain's Fairwell dinner was also a treat. The rack of lamb was particularly good at the President's, and all of the NYers and NJers seemed to be ordering the "surf and turf" at the Fairwell. You needed to order both the lobster and steak dishes separately and then stick one or the other on the same plate, or hey, eat everything! This is because the mainrooms operate the way banquet halls do and all of the appetizers and entrees are plated up in group in the kitchen. This is also why you should not expect anything in these rooms other than high end banquet style cuisine. For what it is it was superior.
The excursions for the most part were well planned and hassle free. We find that unless you know the island or port from a previous visit it is best to take a guided excursion. The ports of call here were Grand Cayman; Roatan Island, Honduras; Belize; and Cozumel, Mex.
Not to be missed at Grand Cayman is Stingray City. The sandbar is no more than five feet deep of water, and the stingrays are so used to people that they are like the pidgeons at the 42nd St.library - they live so you may feed them. Roatan, still not developed for cruise tourists especially, has a goofy quirky charm that comes from a lack of any real development. The people there are absolutely wonderful and friendly, albeit poor. Please don't haggle with the little boys over their handmade trinkets. If they want six dollars for a necklace, and you like it - don't offer five. Be a sport because this kid will then feed his family for a week. The best part of the day here was sitting on a porch drinking beer and talking about life in general with some of the locals which included expatriates who no doubt found Belize too civilized if that's possible. The Mayan ruins excursions were offered at Belize. We opted for the speedboat up the coast along the huge barrier reef and mango groves. The snorkeling was incredible as visibilty in Shark Ray alley is like looking through clear glass. San Pedro, the small village on Ambergris Key where we had a very decent lunch at one of the open air pubs is also charming and lined with dirt streets. Spend the afternoon looking in some of the local craft shops, then have a few cold ones and listen to reggae music at one of the joints. Cozumel, of course, for those who already know, is discount shoppers heaven. You want it, they got it. Of course they also have Mickey D's, Burger King, Hardrock Cafe, etc. We saw the small Mayan ruin on that island on a tour. I did the Chevy Chase Grand Canyon perusal from "Vacation"; and thankfully it was mercifully brief. There are some fine silver shops which are government run right on the premises, and the deals here were great, as was the quality (.925 Sterling). Playa Sol, the nicest public beach here, had excellent facilities for the day crowd. The sand is not as fine as one would like. It is not like the sand on Aruba's Palm Beach, but you won't step on any rocks or broken shells either.
The organized activities program is run very professionally, they are well organized and fun for those who need such things. Moreover, if you do not like these things, the announcements for them are non-intrusive, and not overdone. Same thing goes for staff photographers. We were never "assaulted" or interrupted during a meal to stop and have our pictures taken. If you want your picture taken, ask them and they will be happy to do so, otherwise for the most part you are left alone.
In summary, this is a great ship and cruise, for families and couples. The ship is large enough that there is room for those who crave quiet and privacy, those who like to mix and mingle, those who like to gamble away their money, and those who appreciate casual and relaxed food service of superior quality.
We are two nearly first time cruisers (I went on a cruise to Mexico when I was six years old), so this review might be a bit naïve.
Ship & Cabin
We were in one of the larger inside cabins and it was very roomy. There was a King sized bed and an additional single bed sized sofa with enough room to walk on either side of the bed. Plenty of closet, shelf and drawer space, a little fridge and a TV. We were pleasantly surprised at the spaciousness of the cabin. When we cruise again we will splurge for a room with a balcony - it isn't worth the extra money for a window, but it is for a private balcony to sun on. The first night after most of the cruisers had turned in, we did our own exploration of the ship. This was great as some of the ship was confusing (the dining room we always ate at could only be accessed from one stairway/elevator).
There are two decent sized pools, though they are always packed during the sunshine - as are the basketball courts and fitness center, especiallyduring the morning hours. The running/walking track is less used and was a nice place to get some sun, fresh air and exercise.
We thought the food in the dining rooms was great! Lots of great seafood (though I wasn't very impressed with my lobster on the second night), and fantastic dairy - the butter is heavenly. We heard from friends we met on board that the food in the specialized restaurants is even better, but we were happy enough with the main dining menus that we felt no compulsion to shell out $10/person. The breakfast buffet is great if you like danish, but the eggs are horrible and cold and runny - if you have to do the buffet, go to the omelet bar and have them make your eggs fresh. We would have liked to have breakfast in the dining room more, but most days you need to be in there before 8 or 9 am to have breakfast and make an early tender.
Our one other complaint was the chocolate buffet - they didn't serve milk! We took ours back to the room and ordered milk from room service...
I thought the performaing company, the Jean Ann Ryan Company, was fantastic. One of their shows was a bit bizarre (Cirque Pan - think Peter Pan), but they were always entertaining. I am sure that I will see one particular performer someday in movies or TV - he would make a incredible villain. The comic, Ted Hollum, is horrible and actually cleared a packed room with his late night (adults only) comedy. The cruise director and his staff are quite amusing and put on a good little comedy hour towards the end of the week.
Ports and Getting to Them
The tendering to ports wasn't as bad as we thought it would be. The process at Grand Cayman was so quick, we hardly had time to go back to the room and grab our fins before we were on a boat to the island. Grand Cayman is very nice. We snorkeled first at Cemetery Reef (a five dollar taxi ride from the dock). I didn't like the fact that the fish there were so accustomed to humans feeding them and so essentially swarm you - I much prefer the authentic experience of chasing the fish, not the other way around. Scott loved the fact that all the fish schooled with him though.
We then took a lunch recommendation from our cab driver (don't remember the name of the place). It had good food (if a bit expensive, but everything on Grand Cayman is expensive), and a deck with a set of stairs to the water. We left our gear at the table and went snorkeling at a wreck right there off the restaurant.
Tendering to Roatan was more difficult. It took a few hours to get on the island. Roatan is very primitive and exiting the gates at the dock is a bit scary. We were accosted by locals trying to get us in their cab (it was like a scene out of a documentary). We paid $30 to rent a car and driver for the entire day and this included a 15 year old English speaking "guide". Didn't know anyone who got a better deal - we had to do a lot of talking for ours.
The driver took us to a little beach with a store and restaurant. There is a beautiful reef right off shore and plenty of non-reef swimming space too. Watch your stuff (or have your guide watch it for you), because our friends had their bag (and camera and sunglasses) stolen off the beach.
We did a shore excursion in Belize so didn't have to worry about getting tender tickets. We went cave tubing at Jaguar Paw resort. This was very cool. Not too strenuous (even though the description calls this a heavy exertion activity). It was a bit exhilarating however when our head lamps went out before we got to the end of the cave. This included a chicken and rice lunch. Many excursions include lunch, but if you don't drink sugar (like I don't), be sure to bring your own beverage because they won't provide anything for you but coke and beer.
In Cozumel we took the shore excursion to the Tulum Mayan ruins. Unbeknownst to us, the excursion included a forced stop at a jewelry store where we were subjected to guerilla sales tactics. After we complained to the excursion director, we got 30% of our money back and were told this tour would be changed for future cruises. If you are good at haggling, take some time at Tulum to shop. We got some great deals. The shopping at Cozumel is a lot of the same old touristy things in all the shops (T shirts and stuff).
We thought it was very nice to be able to eat where and when we wanted. I had read comments about service being poor because of no incentive for good performance, but we didn't see this. Only one of our servers was bad, and we were glad that because of freestyle cruising, we didn't have to have her every night. We learned a few nights in to request a table by the window, and they met our request every night we asked. At dinner after Cozumel, I was treated to the sight of three late cruisers running to catch the ship. It was also nice to be able to wake up late and stay in our room until our group debarked.
All in all we had a very good time and felt that despite a few complaints, the Norwegian Sun met most and exceeded some of our expectations.
We celebrated our 45th anniversary with a cruise on the SUN. It was fantastic. We cruised to Alaska on Cruise West last August but this is the first 'big' ship we had ever been on. So we consider this to be our first cruise experience! We chose the SUN because we wanted a Freestyle experience and a new ship. It was the best decision for us!
We left Boston the day before to stay at a hotel in the Art Deco district, the Lowe's Miami just in case we were delayed by anything. Wonderful. Lovely hotel, great dining and we walked the beach for quite a while. So we were rested by the next morning and took a cab to the pier. We had no trouble boarding, just followed the crowd and were in our rooms by noon. We dropped off everything we were carrying and began to explore the ship. We had a BA cabin on deck 10 on the starboard side of the ship. Loved it! Clean and roomy. Larger than I expected. Bathroom small but adequate. Good storage. Balcony was wonderful to have. Took great pics ofMiami skyline before and after our cruise. The changing sky conditions made great photos. We checked out the restaurants first , and had our first drink on the SUN. (Not to be the last) The lifeboat drill was a breeze and we met several people standing on line.
I really didnt care which restaurant we ate at as long as it was a window seat. I grew up near the water and have loved it all my life. We ate early (6) every night mostly because we had been on an excursion all day and never had that much of a lunch to speak of. Have heard people rave and complain about each of the SUN's restaurants and it's just the luck of the draw. We never had a poor meal.
Our anniversary meal was at the back of the ship at the Seven Seas with a table for two at sunset watching the waves made by the ship with the sun setting slowly. Our meal was excellent and the service was better. We were not rushed - it was heavenly. I wished I had brought my camera because I missed some great shots of a sunset.
Unlike every other review, we decided to do all the ships excusions since we were new to cruising these waters and countries. Grand Cayman: We had take Capt Marvin's trip when we were in the Caymans 3 years ago for a week. This time we chose to do the kayaking and snorkeling trip. We had plenty of time to shop. There were about 14 of us on this trip. The kayak guide was great explaining the eco system of mangroves then took us out into the bay for some great snorkeling. We got back about 3 hours later tuckered out from all the exercise.
Roatan: We chose the snorkeling and sailboat excursion since we are from New England and do a lot of whale watching cruises. Oliver, from the SUN, was with us and we had a ball. The snorkeling was the best we have ever done, our guides were fantastic. The group only numbered about 25. Lunch was great at a local restaurant who closed the cafe for this group for the morning. After lunch, we went on the sailboat for 1 1/2 hours. It was a glorious experience.
Belize: we took the ships excursion of cave tubing. Our group was only 40. The walk thru the jungle was no problem. Going down to the river was tricky but really no problem and the drifting through the caves was awesome. This time we took several cameras and will always cherish this different excursion along with our past treasured ones of white water rafting, ballooning over the Arizona desert, helicopter trip to the top of a glacier in Alaska; it was right up there with those wonderful experiences.
Cozumel: We took the Sailing, Snorkel and Beach tour which was a lovely trip. Snorkeled for about 45 minutes (I could have stayed longer) relaxed at a very clean beach and partyied all the way back to the dock. We showered and changed and went back to shop. I did not care for the shopping as much as in Grand Cayman, probably because I had bought almost all my gifts in Cayman. There was a man standing outside each and every jewelry store agressively selling the wares of his store. It reminded me of something else! We chose to go back to the ship for an early dinner and a cool one!
Ship's Entertainment: We went to everything! Enjoyed it all especially Jane L. Powell! After to 9:30 show we went to the casino where the slot machine from hell would beckon to me. I just fed it and it spit its treasures out 2 or 3 machines down from where I sat! The lounge entertainment was fun. Everyone tried so hard to please that I simply cannot and will not criticize! Paul Baya the cruise director was to be commended on his constant good attitude, his amazing talent and good nature.
All in all, there was so much to do on the ship we never got to do most of it. I woud love to do the cruise again because there were so many choices left undone.
Disembarkation was a breeze. We just followed instructions. Chose to take a taxi back to the airport instead of waiting for the bus. My husband and I hate lugging luggage after a trip and wanted to maintain our holiday cruise flavor for as long as possible. We did!
I know I left something out so if there are any specific questions, .......................
My fiance and I just returned from the Norwegian Sun's western caribbean and it far exceeded our expectations. The emabarkation process was a little slow but it wasn't as bad as I had heard. The ship is beautiful and clean. We had a Category G porthole and there was plenty of room. The safe was a godsend for jewelery and valuables we didn't want to take on shore excursions. Make sure you take advantage of the shore excursions!! There is a wide variety and although a little expensive they are well worth the money. We LOVED freestyle cruising. We are in our late 20s and don't equate getting dressed up with vacation. There were plenty of people who chose to dress up but we didn't feel out of place because we hadn't. We took advantage of the freestyle restaurants onboard and they were really nice. We especially enjoyed the hibachi table and Italian. It was not difficult to obtain reservations and we were seated promptly. There was a lack of variety of food at the lunch buffets every afternoon but being that we were off the ship 4/7 days, that didn'tbother us as much!
In Grand Cayman we decided to explore the beaches and shopping on our own which we enjoyed very much. In Roatan we took the catamarran/snorkeling trip which we loved. the scenery was beautiful and calm. In Belize, we went snorkeling in the Barrier Reef feeding rays and nurse sharks and spent the afternoon at a beach club. In Cozumel, we rented 4 X 4s and went offroading in a caravan. It was an excellent combination! We had a terrific time and I am sorry it went by so fast.....!
My wife (49) and I (50) sailed on the Sun 4/13/02. Beforehand, we compiled a group of cruise critic members on the the Cruise Critic NCL board and were recognized by NCL as a "Group", which offered us a few nice perks. The best of which was the chance to meet some wonderful people on board and to make some great friends. We have cruised with NCL twice in the past, twice with RCL, once with HAL, once with Premier and once with Dolphin. We both agree of all our cruises, this was the best yet.
Embarkation: We arrived at Miami airport from Baltimore at around 10:30, left there by 11:00 for a short ride to the pier, and after a very easy embarkation process we were on board in our Superior Inside stateroom by 12:15. We went directly to lunch where the line long at the Garden Cafe, but to be expected. This was basically the only time we had to wait in line to eat.
The Room: We had booked a "L" Gty and received a 5 category upgrade. The stateroom was the largest and nicest we havehad; more storage than we needed, a refrigerator which we really didn't use, a safe which I found VERY handy, normal size cruise bathroom and lots of room. This was a large stateroom! As usual the steward was very attentive.
The Ship: The ship is brand new and was wonderful. I thought the Atrium was impressive. The show lounge had decent sight lines and surprisingly never full. Lots of little bars and alcoves for meeting friends and of course many dining options. We ate mostly in the Four Seasons or Seven Seas and found the food to range from good to very good. Never bad, but never great. We've had better food on other cruises, including NCL. We ate in LeBistro once, and my wife will talk about the chocolate fondue for ever. The casino was typical, the gym was huge, four large hot tubs plus one in the kiddy area. Lots of lounge chairs on deck.
Entertainment: I think NCL has the best entertainment going and this cruise is no different. They should pay Jane Powell what ever she wants to keep her on board because she is absolutely wonderful. Do NOT miss her shows. The comedian and magician put on good shows and the dance troop (Jean Ann Ryan) were the best we've seen . Any of the lounge entertainers we stopped to listen to were excellent. Although we didn't do much of this (wore out from other activities and time spent in the casino) they all seemed to have a steady following and what we did hear was very good.
Itinerary: This is where this cruise really shines. In Grand Cayman we did Captain Marvins 3 hour trip which included Sting Ray City. If you haven't been you must! Awesome. In addition we went to two other snorkel sites which were great. In Roatan we did the Salt & Pepper trip which was very nice. It included round trip transportation to the West End, a beach with lounge chairs and umbrellas for the day, decent snorkeling off shore, and a good local lunch which included a lobster tail. In Belize we did Cave Tubing with Reggie, a local, and it was wonderful. I recommend it to all. You hike along a fairly smooth trail for about a half an hour but the hike goes at the pace of the group so I think it is passable for most. In Cozumel we tried Dzul Ha for snorkeling but found the current much to strong so we ventured to Chaakanab and although the current was strong there also, we were able to snorkel. We also had fun watching the people swim with the Dolphins. We had lunch there and although a little pricey, it was very good and it was real mexican. We also did some shopping in Cozumel. If you like the water, snorkeling, diving, beach, this is the itinerary for you.
Staff: The staff were very good. Any time we asked for something reasonable it was accommodated. The group coordinator Christina welcomed our group and the Concierge "Ray" took great care of us. From making sure we had a place to meet, to helping us with communication via notes in rooms to priority tendering services. We only needed to ask and Ray took care of the Cruise Critic Group. We met in the Tapas bar twice and each time the staff there were very attentive, put tables together for us and made us comfortable for our "gatherings"
Freestyle Cruising: I like both traditional and freestyle. I think freestyle is the rave of the future. If you prefer traditional, ask for the same waiter, same table at the same time each night and they will accommodate!! We enjoyed being able to go to dinner with newly met friends, and the option of dining when we wished. We eat early and never waited to be seated and found all of our wait staff to be attentive and competent. I personally have a distaste for dining on board at an additional fee, however after the meal in the LeBistro, I'm afraid I've been converted to the other side and will probably do it again!
In short we had a wonderful time. If you have the opportunity to join on line acquaintances for a group cruise, I can only say our experience was terrific. We dined with newly met friends and went on excursions with several of them. I've read lot's of NCL bashing on line and find it from my experience to be unfounded. I rate them even with RCL and way ahead of HAL.
We've just returned from the Sun's Western Caribbean tour. This trip was a wonderful experience. As with any cruise or other vacation, there were some minor annoyances, but we had an overall great time. My three previous cruises were on a smaller ship from a now defunct line, RCI's Grandeur, and Celebrity's Zenith.
The ship is lovely, not eye-popping, but a pretty lady. Our oceanview stateroom with picture window was adequate, the deck seven location - very convenient. We used the stairs more than the many elevators to justify all that extra eating. The kid in me still had to ride the atrium's glass elevators once in a while.
The staff is attentive, efficient, and personable. Strangely enough the least friendly and helpful people I encountered were manning the reception counter! When being served by countless staff members, finding two or three who are less than enthusiastic about their jobs is nothing to get too upset about.
Embarkation day is always the worst for me. My recommendation is to spend the night before in your port if you have the time and budget to do this. For those of us who flewin that day (arising at 4:00 a.m.) those lines we faced were not pleasant. Travel-weary passengers are stressed, hungry, tired, and cranky and just want to get on the ship. Non-U.S. citizens were on the ship in no time at all, Latitudes members next, while the remainder of us U.S. citizens suffered through horrendous lines. NCL needs to improve this system.
After finally getting checked in we made our way to the welcome aboard luncheon buffet. My thinking ability was numb from exhaustion and when the luscious tropical drinks were shoved in our hands with a bright, cheery "Welcome aboard!" I thought they were complimentary. Wrong! Turns out we needed these drinks as we had another interminable line to wait in for lunch. We had plenty of time to meet and commiserate with some wonderful fellow passengers. by the end of the week, after meeting many new people of all ages, we felt we had sailed with an exceptionally great group of people.
After showering and booking the excursions we didn't want to miss, it was soon time to eat our first dinner aboard. Much has been made of freestyle versus traditional cruise style dining. It's really a matter of personal preference. I enjoy both and see advantages and disadvantages to both. I missed having the same two servers who become familiar with your tastes. Traditional serving also usually has a more seamless flow between courses. Freestyle had a wait time between courses similar to what you'd find in a busy restaurant. Not such a bad thing, but with so much to do on the ship you don't want to spend too much time dining. As the week progressed I noticed this timing improve considerably. A big advantage to freestyle is not being locked in to the same time (and don't be late!) each night. It's nice not having to clock watch toward evening to be sure to be ready in time. I also liked not having the same tablemates for the whole cruise and could get a table for two if desired. Sometimes there was a wait for a table and sometimes not. We chose to eat two dinners in each of the two main dining rooms and the other three nights ate at the Garden Cafe buffet. We didn't try the alternative restaurants as we couldn't see paying an extra charge when there was perfectly acceptable food elsewhere. In fact we enjoyed all our meals on this ship. Be sure not to miss the stations if you eat at the buffet. The fresh fruit carving station is a nice touch at breakfast as is the pasta station at lunch. I recommend trying Las Ramblas, nestled in the corner of deck 12 aft for some appetizers before dinner.
On Sunday night, the Welcome Party/Captain's Gala Dinner night, I estimate 95% of the passengers dressed in formal wear. It was great fun milling around the Atrium Lobby on decks 5, 6, and 7 people-watching everyone in their beautiful clothes. This night had the longest wait for a table in the main dining rooms because so many enjoyed the champagne party and ate late. We skipped dessert that night to make room for the midnight Chocoholic Buffet. Dessert lovers like me are in heaven here. My feet had had enough of high heels, so I changed back into comfortable clothes before this indulgence. O.K., so I needed more waist room too.
We chose this particular cruise because it had the combination of a new ship and an itinerary that appealed to us. We only signed up for two shore excursions, but they both exceeded our expectations. On Monday in Grand Cayman, our first port of call, we did Stingray City where these graceful creatures swam around us and brushed against our legs like cats wanting attention. Quite a sensation. We were actually able to briefly hold a few for pictures occasionally with more than a little help from our guides. The water was clear and warm and the young tour boat operators who brought us out to the sandbar were a lot of fun and very knowledgeable. Our next adventure was the dolphin encounter in Roatan, Honduras, on Tuesday. We were assigned in groups of six to work with a trainer and his/her dolphin to interact with these magnificent animals. This was an experience we'll be remembering and talking about for a long time. Even the taxi ride to the resort was an education.
The excursion booklet NCL sent with our tickets didn't describe anything of interest to us in Belize. After hearing the ship's warning about not exploring the "city" on your own except in a group, I decided to just shop for some souvenirs in the stores around the boat tenders area Wednesday morning. I was impressed by the clean, modern restrooms there. In the afternoon it was relaxing to enjoy the Sun's pools with so many passengers in port. These can be the only times to find an available chair.
Our final stop, Cozumel, has grown since I was there many years ago. Be prepared for aggressive shopkeepers who expect you to bargain with them. But there are also fine, upscale stores in this bustling shopping district. Of course, we purchased silver and t-shirts. After lunch we took a taxi to Chankanab Park. While this is a very nice park, don't expect to find a sandy beach here. Many were snorkeling and diving, but for waders and non-swimmers like me, the entries to the water were steps built between treacherous rocks with dangerous looking surf sloshing in. Not very inviting for a cool dip. If I go to Coz again, I'll book a shore excursion.
Throughout the week we tried to make good use of all the ship has to offer. We thoroughly enjoyed a galley tour and a bridge tour, something not offered on any of my previous cruises. A song and dance company on this cruise offers different musical production shows and we caught three of them. These were fabulous. We also saw the final show featuring a comedian and then a singer, both also excellent, and wished we had seen the other shows they had been in. For me entertainment is important on a cruise and Norwegian didn't disappoint.
I will not hesitate to recommend this cruise, this ship, and this line to my friends. I can only hope they have as much fun as we did!