NCL just hasn't got it right yet when it allows smoking on balconies.
We were on the "Sun" for 10 day cruise and couldn't go out and enjoy our mini suite balcony because of chain smokers on either side of us. Whenever we opened our balcony door our room filled with second hand smoke. My wife suffers with ASMA and the smoke was very hard on her, also my nose ran a lot along with the sneezing. We first noticed a smoke smell the first day in the hall leading to our room ( 1211 ). Quite a surprise!
If you don't smoke don't book a balcony cabin with this cruise line as you will regret spending the money for a balcony that you can't sit on and enjoy the fresh air and the sea.
We will be spending our cruising dollars with ships that have a no smoking policy on their balconies.
About us. 57/62 year old semi-retired professionals. Our 36th cruises, 12th on NCL and 4th on the Sun. This was our second cruise to the Baltic, the first being on the NCL Dream in 2004. Not terribly fussy, pretty laid back. We were travelling with 10 friends, some of my review may reference their critique of events we missed.
Embarkation - Port of Dover This was our second sailing from Dover and they have a new terminal since our 2004 sailing. The terminal is modern and well laid out. The staff was very friendly and efficient. From the time we entered the door to key card in hand was about 20 minutes. Boarding began at 11:40 although rooms were not ready. In the past a bag check area was available for dropping your carry ons but it was not available this time. Lunch was served in the buffet and the Seven Seas dining room opened at 12:30, which we chose and had a nice relaxing start to our cruise. About the time we were finishing up our coffee it was announced that rooms were ready.
The Ship The interior is done inNCL's typical understated style and is filled with bronze colored woods, brass and bronzy colored granite. In places the interior seemed somewhat stark but overall it is a sleek and elegant ship no glitz or neon. 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.There are a lot of elevators on this ship and they seemed to run more quickly than on most. The central staircases are of the typical spiral type, making attractive places for photos. Several bars, the Internet cafe and customer service areas all rim the atrium. Hallways are nearly devoid of artwork; the artworks in the stairways were large florals, with a different flower for each floor (if it's poppies, I must be near the cabin!).
Dining There are two main dining rooms, appointed primarily with two- and four-person tables. They are easily rearranged for larger groups. The Seven Seas dining room is on the stern, so it has windows on three sides allowing for many window tables. There were no booths, just tables (although some tables had unusual center legs, making it difficult to cross your legs). The Four Seasons dining room is also on deck 5 and more central. The menu is the same in each dining room.
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. The omelet and waffle stations were in a separate location - Pacific Heights which is on the opposite side of the elevators from the buffet. Pacific Heights is a much less crowded area for breakfast but the only serve the above items, along with coffee, tea and o.j. If you want other items for breakfast you can walk over to the buffet and return with them. It is necessary to wear a shirt and shoes in the buffet. An outside buffet area serves nearly identical fare, plus hot dogs and hamburgers. Its seating area was on the stern - 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 didn't need to be fully dressed if you were just passing through. There is a complimentary ice cream bar off the pool area which was open most of the time. The ice cream bar, Sprinkles, has soft ice cream in vanilla and chocolate and scoop ice cream in vanilla, chocolate and strawberry as well as a sherbet which varies each day. They only serve cones, so if you want a dish of ice cream grab a cup from the nearby drink station and they will put it in that.
Several specialty restaurants were available such as a tapas bar, sushi bar, Japanese, Italian, and French restaurant and a steak house. All but the tapas bar and Pacific Heights required an additional fee. Pacific Heights is a lighter fare/health conscious restaurant and no additional cost applies. The "pay" restaurants require reservations and the cost is from $15-$30. There was no 50% reduction for early dining on this sailing. On the two final sea days there were specialty lunches. An Indian cuisine and a jazz brunch. Both were $15 and well worth it.
Spa The spa, off the pool area, had a large assortment of exercise equipment. Several exercise classes were available for a fee. The spa is operated by the Mandara company, and thus operates much like those on other lines. The steam room and saunas were small but free, which is a pleasant return as they had been charging for the steam and sauna. The showers in the spa were much more spacious than the cabin showers and had liquid soap and shampoo available. The showers had transparent doors which might give bashful folks a problem. For those who find the cabin showers too confining, go to the spa.
The spa offers the usual spa treatments along with acupuncture and tooth whitening.
Entertainment The theater 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 two levels to the theater, and several poles created partial obstructions.
I thought the music was lacking on this cruise. There was a pianist who played nightly in one of the lounges. In the Observation Lounge there was a rotation of a DJ, a Latin singing group and the Sun Orchestra for dancing at various times. The main band played a wide variety of musical styles but most of it was geared to a much younger crowd than us so we didn't hang around long for them. On previous cruises there was usually a couple who did nice mellow music for dancing or easy conversation and there was no such couple on this cruise.
Lounges There were several lounges, and the Observation Lounge on Deck 12 at the bow provides a beautiful, sweeping view. It is a nice place to hide away during the day and read, as it did not seem to be used much. 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 e.g. game shows, art auctions 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. It is a great place to view the world and serves complimentary chips and salsa and guacamole each evening. It is open from 5P to 5AM for pizza and pasta.
The pool area has two pools divided by a raised area of four Jacuzzis. The pool water is salt water. Walking decks are the promenade, with 3-1/2 laps per mile and festive murals all the way around; and the sports deck, which 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.
Casino The casino is well laid out and has the usual variety of slots, video poker and table games. There are quite a few penny and nickel machines, a goodly number of quarter and the balance are 50 cents through $5. There are video poker machines ranging from penny to $1. Table games are craps, blackjack, roulette, Let it Ride, Caribbean Stud, Baccarat and Texas Hold-em. There is also a separate poker room for Texas Holdem. Service was prompt and courteous. The usual blackjack and slots tournaments were held throughout the cruise and I believe there was a poker tourney too but I'm not positive. The slots now use paper tickets so I found that to be a welcomed change.
Cabin Ours was an interior II cabin on Deck 9. Storage was more than ample. The desk area had one electrical outlet which was the only one in the cabin. A refrigerator, TV, were standard. The bathroom has a circular shower with a curtain held snugly in place by vertical rods in the curtain. Six storage shelves were provided. There is a real toilet paper holder (so the tissue does not fly off the holder with use), a wall mounted hair dryer, and an outlet for electric razors. The shower has normal single handle controls and an adjustable-height shower head. Liquid soap and shampoo dispensers were in the shower. The bedding is the typical NCL duvet and quality cotton. Robes and coffee makers have been removed from interior cabins but as we were gold members I had requested them prior to cruising and they were there on arrival.
Our cabin was 9311, an interior due to budget limitations on this sailing, plus the itinerary did not make it seem as though a balcony would be money well spent. The white nights also bother my husband a bit, so a nice dark inside cabin was perfect for those 10 PM sunsets and 5 AM sunrises. Our cabin was next to an A/C Room which meant we had no neighbors on one side and it was very quiet.
Entertainment We did not take in any shows other than the Celtic flutist who was fabulous and one of the production shows, Cirque something, which was not to our liking and we left before it was over. We had seen a Cirque production on another ship but this one lacked any true acrobatics and the music and costuming seemed very thrown together. Our travelling companions went to quite a few of the shows and found them okay, but nothing to rave about. Being such a long cruise, many of the evenings were filled with cruiser participation shows such as talent, dancing with the stars and an employee talent show.
The usual game shows, bingo and poolside activities were offered. The ship also has a mesh enclosed basketball court, ping-pong area, and golf driving range and shuffleboard.
In the library the usual board games were available for checkout, and bridge gatherings were held. Friends of Bill and Friends of Dorothy had regurlarly posted meetings. A Veterans meeting was scheduled this time which my husband always enjoys.
Food The quality was a bit better than most other ships, but that is such a matter of personal taste that it is hard to judge. The menus seem to have been revamped along with the new "Whatever" advertising program. In the past I've thought menu descriptions a bit confusing and this time they were a bit abbreviated but the food quality had improved considerably since our trip last October on the Star. We had dinner at the buffet one evening when we were too pooped to read a menu. I always enjoy the chilled soups and only one disappointed me.
Aside from the jazz brunch we did not eat in any of the specialty restaurants that required additional costs. We enjoyed tapas in Las Ramblas, and the menu changed each night. Pacific Heights has the same menu each night and does require reservations even though it is free. An Indian meal was offered for lunch on one of the sea days for $15. One of our friends went and said it was very good.
Wine service was handled by the waiters and went smoothly. There was no wine program available unless you are a Latitudes member; then you could buy five and get one free.
Thankfully, there was no nightly entertainment by dancing waiters, and the dress code was enforced. The Sun now allows nice jeans in the dining room but I saw a few people turned away for shorts and no ball caps were visible either. Buffet food was the usual fare, of good quality and available from about 6 am to midnight. Food was also available at times in the casino. Room service is available 24 hours and is free but you should tip the waiter.
Cleanliness The ship was the cleanest I've ever been on. Hand sanitizing was strictly enforced at embarkations and at all buffet lines and restaurant entrances. They've even added one to the glass elevators, which seemed ridiculous, especially since the kids who "lived" in the elevators had a good time triggering the dispenser and making a puddle on the floor.
Although this ship is due for dry dock in January, it does not look as though it's been years since refurbishment. With very few exceptions the ship is in excellent shape.
Staff One of the friendliest staff I've encountered. They all seemed particularly adept at remembering names throughout the week - a nice touch. I cannot say I encountered a single rude or indifferent staff member.
Disembarking NCL has an express system whereby if you carry all your luggage off yourself, you can be in the first group off the ship. Quite a few people seemed to opt for this. We were off the ship by 6:05 a.m. Unlike the US, there is no immigration or customs at the pier - just walk off and you're done. Those guests with luggage were assigned a color by their flight times. You could wait in your cabin until your color was called, although they did ask that you vacate your cabin by 9:00 a.m.
This and That Tips are added to your account automatically unless you request otherwise.
Security was very good. They seem to have gotten absolutely rabid about liquor smuggling as well as irons, so attempt it at your own risk.
You can request an iron and ironing board from the reception desk. You are allowed to keep it 3 hours.
Photographers: 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.
There was no captain's party for everyone. Just a Latitude's party which was at 1 pm on a sea day. There was a separate captain's party for silver, gold and platinum members. There were only 12 people in attendance so we had a senior officer per person! It was held in Las Ramblas and billed as wine and cheese but you could order whatever beverage you liked.
Drinks were of good quality and volume but the prices are that of a high end hotel/restaurant.
Passengers were a middle aged crowd with quite a few younger folks. There were 900 children on board, according to one of the officers, but it did not seem as though there were that many since they were pretty well behaved. I did notice that the TechStyles room (near the internet cafe) had a sign on it for families with children 2 and under. There was an assortment of toys for younger children in a nice indoor play area. It was hard to judge the ethnic mix of the cruisers but I'd say 50% of the cruisers were anglo. There were quite a few Spaniards and Romanians Announcements were made in English, German, Spanish and French. During the muster drill another language was used but I cannot remember what it was.
It is no longer necessary to bring your life vest to the muster drill.
Movies on the TV were available in multiple languages. Several entertainment and cultural programs were done in Spanish as well as English.
Money exchange is available but the rates are not good, so you are better off even at the airport! A local ATM is actually your bet bet. We found that Euros and US dollars worked everywhere.
As for Internet access, the ship has about 10 stations available.. Per-minute use was 75 cents and packages were available including wireless. Phone service is available from your cabin for $7.95/minute.
The jewelry shop onboard is a Columbian Emeralds shop.
There is no longer creamer on the tables in the dining rooms - it is milk. If you want cream, ask for it and they will bring you a pile of single serving creamer. This is a pet peeve of mine since I use a lot of cream and it looks so tacky, not to mention they were difficult to open.
You can buy a future cruise certificate which is a good deal if you plan to cruise in the next 4 years. You pay $250 for a certificate which will act as your deposit for the entire cabin (unless you are in suites or above)when you book a cruise within 4 years. As an incentive you are given an immediate $100 OBC.
Ports of Call We arranged our own tours for all but one port, but I will provide what information I have based on others reports. Copenhagen - we docked in Free Port, which is the further port from downtown. It is about a 20 minute walk to the other pier. Both Hoho lines pick up at the pier. We used City Sightseeing and found that contrary to reports on CM, the buses do not accept credit cards, only euros. I have forgotten how much it was, but you can find that information on their website. We got off downtown, walked around and did a canal tour with Nette (?) tours for $3/person. He took US, euros, pounds - whatever you had. The tour was an hour and very informative. A great deal in our opinion. Be sure to have a few small denomination dollars or euros in case you need to use a public restroom. The attendant will give you change if you have small denominations.
To return to the ship you need to transfer to a line not shown on the internet map - the blue line. The main lines of the Hoho's drop you at the area near the mermaid statue (who is currently vacationing in China) and then the blue bus takes you back to the ship. The blue bus is not marked and does not look like the standard hoho, which picked you up at the pier so you will need to ask various bus drivers if they are the blue line driver. Two of our group did a segway tour and had a blast. They highly recommend it. You can find them on the internet.
Warnemunde. We took the train to Rostock and had a fabulous day walking about. We lucked in to a choral presentation at the huge church with the astronomical clock and it was indeed a treat. We dined at the market on sausage and apple streudel and had a grand meal on the cheap. We took the ferry back to Rostock and since there was a huge boat festival that day we sailed amidst tall sailing ships, pirate ships, Chinese junks, and boats of all flavors. What a treat. Half our group did a tour to Berlin and found the 12 hour day long but enjoyed their trip. The 3 hour each way drive did not seem like fun to me.
Tallin. There is no need to do a tour here. The walk from the ship to old town is about 15 minutes. The reception desk will give you maps of town if you need them (this was true of Rostock too). We used Rick Steve's book and walking guide, which has always served us well. The streets here are very rocky and steep so if you have mobility issues it could be a problem. Second to St. Petersburg, Tallin was everyone's favorite port.St. Petersburg. We arranged for a private tour with Anastasia Tours and had a spectacular time. There was no comparison to our previous visit when we used ship excursions. An articulate, educated guide, nice quick dining, complete flexibility and topped off the first day with a canal tour, champagne and chocolate. The tour per person for both days total came to $5 less than one day on a ship's tour. I cannot recommend this option highly enough to you.
The weather was very warm, the news said it was the highest temps in 1,000 years, and since none of the buildings are air conditioned it got pretty warm. But even on our previous trip I would remind people about the a/c and advise you to leave your heavier clothes on the bus. The palaces and Hermitage get very warm with all those people in them. You are not allowed to bring back packs or water into the palaces or museums. You can take photos but in the Hermitage you cannot use a flash. Local merchants would take USDs except in gift shops in the churches. Our guide had rubles she would swap for our purchases there.
Helsinki. The only place we did a ship's tour to PourVoo (pronounced PourVoe) It was a nice ride in the countryside to a cute little town, with a cute little church and then to see a few of the more popular sites in town but not worth $160. Although, lunch was very, very nice.
Stockholm. We anchored at Nynsham and as we had been to Stockholm before and were tired we decided to stay onboard. A delightfully, relaxing day. They use the life boats for tenders and it takes 10 minutes to reach shore. The drive into Stockholm is one hour if you have an excursion. I got mixed answers on why NCL has chosen to dock this far out and finally got the bottom line from one of the officers who said, they really don't know. It is a corporate office decision and they do not tell them why - just where. Everyone I talked to enjoyed their visit to Stockholm but felt they were terribly rushed and quite frustrated with the experience since some of them had only 45 minutes at the Vasa and 30 minutes to shop or eat or whatever.
Next year NCL is doing this sailing out of Copenhagen rather than Dover and maybe it will allow more time in Stockholm.
London. We arrived three days early to tour London. One of our group is a Brit and gave us the insiders tour. Fortunately we were there on a Sunday which allowed us to go to the Chelsey Street Flower Market, which was absolutely fabulous. Then off to Curry Lane (I think it was called) - block after block of Indian food vendors and restaurants. We had a grand Indian meal. We got to take in choral evensong at Westminster, which was breath taking. On the way to Dover, our private bus stopped at Canterbury Cathedral so we could go to 8 am mass and tour the church. Spectacular.
We had arranged for First Choice Minibus to pick us up at LHR, take us to the Holiday Inn Express Victoria. On Tuesday he transferred us to the port via Canterbury then fetched us at disembarking at whisked us off to LHR. Very curteous and much cheaper than the NCL transfers. Not the cheapest way to travel, by far, but with a group it made it quite affordable. With 12 people all transportation came to $94/per person.
Overall: I would gladly recommend this cruise and ship to anyone.
Once through passport control, diesel buses carried passengers to the ship, weaving under cranes and through stacks of cargo containers. Reaching the gangway at last, we entered the ship on Deck 5 and faced a very long line in the Four Seasons dining room, where room cards were being issued. As suite guests, my spouse and I were pulled from this queue and separately checked in by staff in the lobby area of the Il Adagio restaurant. After taking photos, we were led to an adjoining room for a one-on-one talk with ship concierge Karin, who asked if there was anything she could arrange for us as we settled in. The one request I had – to reserve a spot in the thermal suite in the spa – was for naught…despite web postings to the contrary, there is no thermal suite on board. As Karin explained, "This is an older ship, and it does not have the amenities you might expect on newer, larger ships." Indeed.
Ship: The Norwegian Sun, built in 2001, is a smaller vessel that feels somewhat dated and out-of-touch even though it is relatively new (perhaps this explainsa planned dry-dock scheduled for fall 2010.) Public areas are small and a bit on the claustrophobic side, and the awkward deck layout, which is configured around a giant central kitchen area on deck 5, prevents easy walking from venues located at opposite ends of the ship. The atrium features four "Panoramic Elevators" that, after leaving decks 5, 6 and 7, travel the remainder of their journey inside a white tube – hardly "panoramic" at all. There are many rust spots all over the exterior decks of the vessel that are in need of painting, and plastic flowers and Papier Mache rocks abound – no fresh flowers were to be seen. The daily newsletter is laughable – frequent misspellings, incorrect information, and page after page devoted to getting you to spend money on jewels, artwork, massages and excursions. I know these elements are part of the cruise line revenue stream, but honestly, NCL goes above and beyond any acceptable levels of advertising when 6 front-and-back insert pages are spent trying to pry your money from your pocket. Separately, the passenger composition on this South American itinerary was largely comprised of travelers from France, Germany and Latin America, and as a result, I observed willful disregard for the rule against smoking in individual cabins and public areas despite admonishments from the crew. Indeed, when walking down the halls of decks 9 and 10, the cigarette smoke coming from cabins was so thick that it would make me cough out loud. I saw several cases of plumbing problems – for example, on embarkation day inside cabins 0129 and 0329 were flooded so badly with sewage that carpets were pulled up, odorizer was sprinkled on floors and giant fans were in place for at least 2 straight days.
Serious customer service issues exist on this ship. Bartenders and bar staff are competent and friendly (especially Marvin in the Observation Lounge), but much of the food service team seems to be preoccupied with socializing with each other – when interrupted from this pastime they are often surly and occasionally downright rude. When we got up to take a look at a breakfast fruit buffet in the Four Seasons main dining room, one server admonished us to sit down immediately and barked, "Let us do our job and you do yours!" During the mandatory lifeboat muster, our station leader - an onboard entertainer named Alan - practiced his dance steps while the drill took place. At the same time his station partner informed us, "Remember you are at Muster Station R. You know what Station R stands for? R is for rich. Like you." (Presumably because this station is a meeting point for suite guests.)
On a positive note about the crew, Concierge Karin is a very hard worker who aims to please. I've read complaints online that "she is never at her desk," but in reality this is because she is constantly in motion, running all over the ship to take care of guests. She is extremely accommodating and courteous, and the majority of this crew would do well to model their behavior after hers.
Cabin: We were booked in Cabin 0265, a Penthouse Suite located aft on the Norway Deck. This cabin is spacious (the photos of the living room area on the NCL website really do not do the size of it justice) and generally well maintained. The bathroom is large, with a separate glassed-in toilet closet (like many cruise ship WCs, this one has a slight smell of sewage), a double-door-enclosed shower, and a Jacuzzi tub that is large enough for a 6-foot tall adult to lie down in. The bathroom has only one sink, however, so washing up and shaving are a one-person-at-a-time affair. Lighting is good in the bathroom, but one minor annoyance: you cannot turn on just one light, say only over the sink - you must turn on all 12 recessed spotlights or none at all (kind of disruptive if you have to get up in the middle of the night). In addition, it sometimes took as long as 15 minutes to get hot water in the bathroom, so if you are in a hurry, plan on a cold shower.
Closet space in this cabin is not as generous as one would expect, especially for a 2-week itinerary. There are lots of drawers, though, and a separate make-up table area in the pass-through closet space between the bathroom and bedroom. The bedroom is nicely-sized, with a very soft marshmallow mattress and a separate set of glass doors that open onto the best thing about this cabin - the generous wrap-around aft balcony, which features room enough for two chaise lounges as well as a table and three regular-size chairs. Watching the world go by on calm sea days makes the investment in this suite worthwhile.
Negatives about Suite 0265: no coffee maker or kettle (let alone the cappuccino machine advertised in most NCL literature describing Penthouse Suite amenities), no in-room Wi-Fi, no extra blankets or pillows without making a special request, and large tube-style Panasonic televisions that are well past their prime, to the point of being nearly unwatchable. A Sony DVD player with surround-sound is outfitted in the living room, but I can't imagine blasting the speakers while watching a movie from the onboard library. A connecting door to the smaller balcony room next door would make this an ideal suite for sharing with kids or another couple, but in our case our neighbor used it for eavesdropping (as he made clear while we were out on the balcony, when he leaned over the dividing barrier and asked about things that had been discussed in private). Beware: noise (and the odd piece of toast flying off a plate) is also sometimes an issue from the Great Outdoors Café located on the deck above - diners frequently drag their chairs (and tables) as they jockey for position alongside the rails. One saving grace during our cruise was that the cafe space above this cabin is unusable in cold or inclement weather, so the noise factor wasn't as bad as it could have been.
The Penthouse Suite comes with Butler Service - ours was a rather shy man named Orlando. In addition to bringing ice (and unpacking your clothes if you ask), the butler brings complimentary canapés in the late afternoon and also delivers room service orders (room service in this suite is a complicated affair in which you call the room service number, they hang up, locate your butler, and he calls you back to take the order and subsequently deliver it). I had but one request of Orlando - to supply a bottle of whiskey for evening drinks. I told him I understood that I would have to pay extra for the alcohol, but he gave me a funny look and informed me that I would have to pay for each shot in the bottle individually! When I asked how that could be possible, given that guests can purchase a dozen bottles of wine from NCL without a "per-sip" surcharge. He just shrugged his shoulders and later I received an explanation from the Concierge: It is supposedly a (newly-introduced) fleet wide NCL policy that guests cannot purchase a bottle of liquor onboard, even if they are willing to pay an exorbitant amount for it - apparently because some guests cannot be trusted not to drink it all at once (how this gets around being able to drink a whole bottle of wine at once is beyond me). In any event, it is nonsensical that a suite guest cannot request a bar setup with a single bottle of liquor for the duration of a two-week cruise.
Our Cabin Steward Fidel was perhaps the best we have ever had on any cruise – he visited several times a day and our suite was kept immaculate at all times.
Food: Overall, the food served on the NCL Sun is consistently mediocre – poorly prepared, sloppily presented and more often than not, reheated from a frozen state. Interestingly, during a casual conversation with the Food & Beverage manager, he revealed that (despite an itinerary with close proximity to some of the best meat and seafood on the planet) none of the protein served on the Sun is fresh. That's right - all steaks, poultry and seafood items are shipped frozen to the ship from Miami because of potential labor strikes from dockworkers and other food providers in South American ports. It's unsurprising then that the resulting meals are less than spectacular. One thing to remember when dining on this ship – the service staff has been indoctrinated with a set order in which to deliver food, and any deviations or special requests (like a pre-dinner cocktail or an extra piece of bread with your meal) cause confusion and turmoil. Service staff is also not very competent, often mixing up orders and dropping food and utensils - the crashing of plates, silverware and glassware onto the floor is a constant in nearly every dining venue on the Sun. The "Freestyle" concept really is kind of a joke – if you don't plan ahead, you really cannot eat "whenever, wherever" – walk-up to the desk of a specialty restaurant without a reservation and you will get a blank stare and a "No!" Here then, is a rundown of each of the restaurants onboard:
Concierge Lounge: Our first dining experience on the Sun was lunch in the Concierge Lounge, set up in the Il Adagio specialty restaurant. Warning signs that a bad meal was forthcoming appeared right away: our waiter was shuffling his feet and singing to himself, even while taking our order, and the tablecloth was stained with food from a breakfast that had been served earlier that morning. I asked for a Diet Coke and 20 minutes later received a Beck's Beer in a bottle. I asked again for a Diet Coke, and this time received a Pepsi in a can. After my third request for a Diet Coke, our server informed me that they only have Pepsi on NCL (first time anyone ever told me), so I said "Okay, let me have a Diet Pepsi then." 42 minutes and $2.24 later, I received the one and only soda that I had onboard. My lunch consisted of a Caesar Salad that would be best described as a few leaves of Romaine lettuce floating in two cups of salad dressing, followed by cold and inedible hamburger "sliders" and French fries that were still partially frozen. I skipped it.
Breakfast is offered in this venue as an amenity for suite guests, and the service was admittedly better than this first meal, but you have to know how to order. If you want a regular amount of cheese on your omelet, specify "extra cheese," otherwise the omelet arrives dry. If you want your English muffin toasted, you must specifically ask for it to be done.
Teppanyaki: During the check-in process, Concierge Karin encouraged us to make a reservation for the Teppanyaki specialty restaurant, because "once everyone on the ship hears about how good it is, you won't be able to get a reservation." We took her advice and made a booking for our first night on ship. After our party of four was seated at the 12-person grill, we placed an order for cocktails. A couple of the requests (a gin martini, a blended margarita) seemed to vex the waiter - a hunch that was proven true when the drinks did not appear until 52 minutes later. After being served soybeans, soup and a salad, our two teppanyaki chefs appeared - making nervous jokes and fumbling a bit as they started juggling knives and spatulas over the steaming hot grill. I had just remarked to my brother-in-law that "This can only end badly..." when one of the chefs lost his grip on a twirling spatula and it sailed across the grill and hit my spouse square in the chest, covering him in food and sauce. After he excused himself from the table amid gasps from our fellow diners, the chefs proceeded to juggle raw eggs, which they also dropped with splats onto the floor. Everyone at the grill grew visibly agitated at becoming the next victim, and I said, "Maybe we should stop the juggling and proceed with the cooking." No one laughed. Neither did I when my spouse returned and the maître d' failed to compensate him for the $25 meal surcharge - instead she offered a complimentary t-shirt cleaning (even though he was wearing a dress shirt and dress slacks). The evening was ruined, as you can imagine, but admittedly the food was fairly tasty (if diners can manage to avoid wearing it).
Four Seasons: Our group of four encountered mediocre food and very surly service in this main dining room (in fact we had a running debate over whether the service is worse in the Four Seasons or the Seven Seas - food is from the same kitchen, and only the serving staff distinguishes the two main dining room venues). Bland dishes like chicken breast with instant mashed potatoes and frozen vegetables abound. On the accident front, I had a shrimp cocktail spilled all over the table in front of me one evening by a sloppy server.
Il Adagio: Dinner is reasonably good at this venue, which specializes in Italian dishes. Order the simple things, like an artichoke pizza, which is crisp and delicious. Service is sloppy, however: it took more than 15 minutes for a server to appear on one busy evening, and an additional 30 minutes to get glasses of water to the table. The reason, according to our server: "We have to go and find more water."
Le Bistro: Food and service were a bit above average in this venue. The cassoulet was decently prepared, with slightly overcooked but flavorful duck. The chocolate fondue was cold, runny and inedible, and although the menu advertises Crepes Suzette "prepared tableside," they are not, obviously for safety reasons (but then why offer it in writing?). If you order selections from the "International Cheese Trolley" for dessert, you'll receive a few slices of American, Swiss and Bleu served along with a plastic-covered packet of saltine crackers. Beware the extra charges for certain menu items that are in addition to the restaurant's $20 cover charge.
East Meets West Steakhouse: Food quality is slightly above average here, with fairly attentive service (although we were turned away in our first attempt to "dine whenever" at 7:30 pm despite the fact that only two of the more than 35 tables were occupied). Jumbo shrimp cocktails with a spicy sauce are a pleasure, and the wedge salad is a classic that was enjoyable. Not so great: gummy lobster bisque and defrosted steaks that were tough and overcooked despite a request for "medium rare." On another evening, to avoid the frozen steak, I ordered rotisserie chicken, which was dry and tough. Again, beware of the extra charges beyond the $25 cover – it's $10 more if you want that frozen lobster tail with your frozen filet mignon.
Sushi Bar: If you like sushi this is actually one of the better dining venues aboard the Sun. Although the fish isn't fresh, the hand rolls are well prepared and suitably spicy. Service staff are attentive and pleasant, a rarity on this ship.
Pacific Heights: Perhaps the worst of the specialty restaurants. After a conversation with the Food & Beverage Manager, I was under the assumption that this venue had been closed – but what he really meant to tell me was that its partnership with the food magazine ‘Cooking Light" has been terminated. And with good reason: the Tomato Soup is like a can of Campbell's with a spoonful of Cayenne Pepper thrown in, and the Mushroom Quesadilla, seemingly filled with instant guacamole and slimy canned mushrooms, is perhaps the vilest thing I have ever attempted to eat. After ordering drinks, our server told us that the 40-minute delay in their delivery was because "The bartender is in the bathroom." When he finally returned to our table 20 minutes later with appetizers, the waiter looked at us and scornfully said, "You switched places on me!" We had not.
Buffet: Typical mediocre cruise-line buffet fare - nothing is great, nothing is horrid. Some tips: you don't have to form a single queue – go to the station that you want (there will be howls of protest, but the reality is, this was set up for diners to pick-and-choose from salads, entrees and desserts rather than follow one singular line). During peak lunch times, head out to the rear Great Outdoors area, which has a separate buffet queue featuring salads, burgers, and desserts. As part of the buffet breakfast in the Garden Cafe, waffles are cooked to order in the Pacific Heights venue, and there is virtually no waiting – probably because it is not advertised and you have to exit out of the buffet, head towards the Sports Bar and make a right to get there. You can also find freshly baked pizza (that is quite good) at Pacific Heights during the lunchtime buffet service.
Entertainment: Live shows: The "Gaucho de la Plata" performance was awkward and uncomfortable - the male "Gaucho" performer became winded after his first bolo dance, then proceeded to make several homophobic jokes in a row. Separately, the "Jean Ann Ryan Dancers" are actually fairly talented...unfortunately the material they are tasked with performing (especially choreography during the Broadway-themed "Encore!" show) is clunky and uninspired. Their "Cirque du Pan" show, a faux "Cirque du Soliel" retelling of "Peter Pan" is the best performance of the lot – fun costumes, cute sets and some impressive gymnastics and aerial acrobatics.
Bingo: The offering of every big cash prize came with an asterix: "$5000 Jackpot! *If you cover your card in 46 numbers or less." Isn't this a very low statistical possibility? Not even one guaranteed cash Bingo jackpot during a two-week cruise?
Casino: Slot machines are like vacuum cleaners - 20 dollars on a 25-cent machine disappears in a flash. Tables were often empty, with dealers staring blankly and singing to themselves. The casino is closed while in Chilean waters (a significant portion of this itinerary), and it seemed to be primarily used as a indoor smoking lounge during inclement weather - the smoke is extremely heavy, with little or no ventilation.
Shop: Despite a sign that excitedly proclaims "We have everything you need! Toothpaste, Mouthwash, Toothbrushes!" - the first two on that list were not stocked during the entire 14-day cruise. When asked, a shop assistant shrugged and said, "We don't carry toothpaste." Separately, several days before the end of the cruise, the store manager encouraged me to take advantage of the "Buy 2, Get 1 Free" port-themed t-shirt offer, because "They will not be available for remainder of the cruise." The shirts were observed on offer long after - in fact, all the way to the shop closing on the final night.
Spa: I am an avid spa-goer, but having experienced the customer service levels throughout the rest of the ship, I opted not to partake of any spa treatments offered by the Mandara Spa. I do have one anecdote regarding the staff, however. My spouse approached the spa reception desk and inquired about getting a moustache trim in the salon (a service advertised on the salon menu). The receptionist told him "No, we don't do that." He walked away in frustration. A few moments later, I approached the desk and asked if it were possible to get my moustache trimmed. "Sure," the receptionist said, "when would you like to schedule an appointment?"
Enrichment Lectures: Presented by Assistant Cruise Director "Szolt the Bolt," these featured sixth-grade level Power Point presentations on such topics and the indigenous peoples and the geology/geography of South America. He was unprepared to give the scheduled talk on whales and wildlife, so he showed a video about Alaskan whales instead.
Excursions: Here are details on excursions offered by NCL:
The Lagoon Bluff: Based on rave reviews, our party of four reserved this Falkland Island penguin rookery excursion via the NCL website more than six months in advance. Once aboard, we discovered that the Excursion Desk staff had switched two of us to a tour time that departed more than 30 minutes later. When I politely asked for the new time to be switched back so we could travel together, the manager of the Excursion Desk told me, "You can either take the tour separately, or give me the tickets back…we have plenty of people who want to take this tour." I told him that this was unacceptable and to make it right. He eventually did, but every time I saw him in the hallway, he averted his eyes and would not speak to me.
Torres del Paine: A very long day that begins in Punta Arenas and includes a bus ride to the airport, a flight in a rickety Cessna plane (the windshield de-icers did not work and the pilot flew blind for more than 15 minutes of the 40-minute trip), a three-hour bus ride around the national park, a great Chilean lunch overlooking a stunning vista at a lake, and a repeat flight on said rickety Cessna. Embarrassingly expensive at just over $1000 per person – NCL should be ashamed at the premium charged for this tour, which ought to cost $500 tops. All that being said, the beauty of Torres del Paine cannot be overstated. Torres is a must-see destination that would be one of the high points of any visit to Chile.
Lake Esmeralda and Petrohue Falls: A scenic excursion as advertised, but expect to share your catamaran ride on Lake Esmeralda with 400 other guests, and just try to get a solitary moment (let alone walk on the trail) at the falls as 7 to 8 buses release their passengers simultaneously. Lunch, served at an estancia, was very good, and featured as an entree some of the best salmon I have ever tasted.
In Buenos Aires, Peninsula Valdes, Ushuaia and Valparaiso / Santiago we used private tour guides that were friendly, informative and significantly cheaper than NCL excursions. If you are interested in contact information, please send me a private message and I will be happy to share details.
Bottom Line: Our 14-day cruise around South America on the Norwegian Sun was a memorable one – the vibrancy of Buenos Aires and Santiago are thrilling, and the natural beauty of Patagonia is incomparable. Despite obtaining a significantly discounted rate by booking via the NCL website more than a year in advance, the nickel-and-diming that we experienced on the Norwegian Sun made this the most expensive cruise we have ever taken (yes, surpassing even a trip on the luxury line Crystal Cruises). And unfortunately, our memories of the ship are plagued by visions of incompetency and ineptitude that would be laughable if they hadn't cost us a considerable amount of money to experience.
"Do you have any money left? No? Ha ha!" - Cruise Director Pedro Cera, emceeing the final show of our cruise in the Stardust Theater.
Norwegian Cruise Lines Sun, January cruse 2011 to the Caribbean a filthy, cockroach infested, fake food, stains on the sheets, no heat, rude cruise, cruise. Want the time of your life then don't step foot on the NCL Sun.
When we arrived on deck 5 to our full window berth I could not believe they expected us to sleep between the stains on the white bed spread and mystery stains on the sheets and pillow cases. After informing the guest services of this several people appeared and we got clean bedding the next morning.
We complained 3 times as did others on our deck, that there was no heat on our floor. I received several written responses that everything was 'Normal'. We received a frayed and torn twin bed blanked for the two of us who would sleep in our clothing all but the last night. After turning a deaf ear to our heat problem on the 5th morning my wife smelt a burning smell in the bathroom enclosure. Wondering if I should call 911 for the suspected electrical fire I called guest services who sent some on in a grey jacketthat examined the bath room and said yes there was something burning in the wall. He placed a call from our room phone and disappeared. I waited what seemed like forever with the door open others passing buy the room commenting they also smelt something burning.
Finally as a lay person thinking it might be a big deal, I returned to guest services where the person at the desk told me yes we have your new complaint that there is no heat in your cabin. So, other could hear me I told them the guy who left thought something in the wall was burning, that turned a few heads and a technician arrived who also agreed it smelt like an electrical problem in the wall. First he removed the wall filter by hand to show a filthy filter with what looked to be cotton on both sides. The walls of the heater were covered in lint and dust and apparently according to him it had caused the fan to stop spinning thus the burring smell from a very hot fan motor. I have included the photos for is tearing the wall out and the filter. I purchased allergy pills (for the snorkeling day to stay dry) on this ship the dust caused a reaction not only with me, but later in an elevator discussing the trip another passenger told me his allergies were real bad also. I told him to pull out his filter and if it was as filthy as mine to demand they change it.
On the second day of the voyager my wife and I went up to the pool deck to get some sun. When she took off her shoe a cockroach wandered out. I captured it in a napkin and returned to guest services with it and quietly explained what had occurred. They sent the 'pest team' who went over the cabin with a small flash light and left. Later that evening after falling asleep the phone rang ( we had arrived on the red eye New Year's evening to Florida from California and with the time changes and flight were tired) guest services wanted to let us know the bug team had determined "that the cockroach was not theirs" . I got up and since I went to bed in my clothing checked my shoes and went to the desk no one knew who placed that call.
The next morning a knock at the door was Christopher in a white uniform who pleasantly enough explained what she had meant was that the bug crew had not found any more cockroaches in the cabin. Funny that night no one knew who called and after time to fix it they had an answer. I was to get another of the many "sorry" as the solution for the problem. He then asked if there was anything else he could do for us. I told him you are big on hand sanitizer but on arrival I had noticed a sticky looking substance on the glass elevator dripping from the roof so could you tell someone to clean it off? As I was to learn they are very good at pretending to listen or care but in one ear and out the other. On the next to the last day I took the hotel manager to the elevator and pointed out what had been there for at least 6 days.
So, filthy air to breath and cockroaches in your personal possession's a great start to a trip of a life time you have PAID FOR WELL IN ADVANCE.
What about what goes inside of you their food? Let's start with the oblivious I also have photos of the long black hair in our morning fruit bowl from room service. How long does it take to pull them out of if they were looking? My wife is blond and I have short brown hair the room guys had short black hair it was quite long and obvious on the green melon chunks. But what goes to the intent of their business model of NCL is that they label the juice dispenser "orange juice" but what they pour into the fountain clearly states orange drink cocktail on the containers. When questioned the dinning staff stated (as Royal Caribbean juices them in front of you) is you can get orange juice for additional cost. Why not say what it is orange drink. Please if your poring fake orange juice call it what it is so we can choose. As it sits at the table it separates into water on top and the food coloring to the bottom. Something seemed wrong with the coffee they brew and again things are not what it seems as the large stainless steel coffee makers are giant instant coffee dispensers. Again we found out that for an additional charge you could have normal coffee where water passes over the grinds.
The buffet always seemed like someone should take a rag and clean it up (photos). Having the buffets in the back of the ship closed caused a jam up at meal times. The first meal I tried on arrival was a mock hamburger. I called it mock as I work for a school and see trays of pre marked hamburgers steamed for the kids, guess what NCL served them the same way trays from the oven sitting in water. As I was adding the condiments the curtain actually hit my hand and I was told by a young man that I would need to go get into another line as he was closing this station. A man in the chief hat watch this so I walked over and explained I was on vacation and did not take orders from the help. I left the plate and went to the fan tail where I was approached by a guy in a white uniform who asked if he could do anything I said "yes, get away from me". We went exploring around noon on another day and found the included Spanish dining area on the Sun. Here are olives, some cheese and a few lunch meats including Baloney and salami with no pepper corns, who goes on a once in a life time Caribbean cruise hoping for a baloney sandwich on white bread.
Dinners were lacking in the prepaid venues and the staff was once again rude. We tried to make reservations for two and were told just come on down "two is no problem". So, that evening after determining many in front of us were in large parties I approached the desk and told her two. She told me "go get back in line". We went out the dining hall and around to the bar where I watch other pairs loiter by the entrance where it would become clear later she was calling out "2" from time to time from her podium. Not knowing if the couples were joining others I needed to wait to be seated to see them finishing before we got our water. Guess the solution NCL staff offered after walking away from the table to tell the head waiter of this, "sorry".
The meals themselfs were time and again a disgrace. On the last night I received the roast beef lunch meat I had avoided with gravy along with one table spoon of canned peas with two baby carrots as the roast beef dinner. If you read roasted potatoes would you expect more than four slices from a single potato? Yes, you can request all the plates or dinners you want. The shrimp cocktail had a very strong taste as if they were old. One night I received 3 thin slices of a steak only Jesus could feed more on a steak than NCL. A note on this cruise the head chief was Indian and it had an influence on the spicing of every thing from fried potatoes, rice with chunks of fish blended in, to the cold cherry soup that was quite good.
Let's go explore the islands with NCL partners, the excursions desk set me up with a power snorkel adventure, where a machine would pull you through the ocean included was an open bar with snacks it was listed as 4 ½ hours on the card provided by NCL staff. The photo of the machines at NCL's website look like machines from James Bond in fact the fans were 10 inches thick with the battery in the handle. Once away I asked for a beer where I was told no beer, wine or spirits but on the way back we could have some rum punch. Off we went to "Turtle Island" for the day among the turtles of course. As we approached an Island the skipper told us how much more fun it would be to dive at a ship wreck. We parked between 10 to 12 other boats with 40 to 60 people each and several scuba diver ships and were informed it was better here than where we had paid to go ( it was also closer to the ship). You could have booked the ship wreck tour for ½ of what we paid for Turtle Island snorkel adventure. When I asked for a snack I was told to have a warm coke as no ice was on board the Jolly Mon. After a written complaints about the power snorkels not having been charged as they quit 10 minutes into the adventure ( I swam back holding one in each arm as my wife is a novice swimmer) no beer or open bar, no snacks, and the crew who must have thought we did not want the last hour on the catamaran and returned 60 minutes early, NCL refunded 50% to those who had signed on to the original letter. I was to find out later the others who had also had dead power snorkels paid the full price to NCL even though they knew the facts about the group's problems.
After the electrical fire I went to the guest services desk where I informed them I had had enough and wanted to speak with someone with "stars or bars" on their shoulders. We met with the hotel manager who I was to believe genuinely was as shocked as we were (or had he done this a thousand times before).The air conditioning person told us this ship has to heat water and send it through the heating pipes but was not fired up, oil cost money that we had given them our money a long time ago. The Sun's hotel manager asked for some time to review the matter and we found $300 ships credit for a ruined trip on the last full day. That took care of the mandatory tipping and the $19.95 photos and a souvenir from the gift shop. Not a refund to our charge card mind you but a credit for ship board retail.
Waiting to meet with him we were able to hear a constant stream of cruisers wondering about this charge or that. A few of the favorite were the man who liking his bartender had given him a tip to only find out that all transactions at the bar had a 15% gratuity charged to them, so a tip on the tip he had given. Another woman wondered about the two 6 dollar charges on her bill. She was informed she had grabbed two small waters on the way to an island, the kind that are 6 for a $1 in a store. NCL has a strict policy of no water or soda being brought on board the charge for a soda card was $60 per person. At the pier locals sell cold water for a dollar a bottle; I wonder if NCL knew this.
In conclusion, if you are still reading the Carnival Dream which we shadowed the trip had 24 hour free Sushi bar with more than California rolls, Pizza and pasta bars, BBQ on the decks and more included in the meals, which the people on St Thomas informed us were very good as we talked at a pulled pork stand eating our first good meal in days. Just to think, at Trip Advisor we had read of a sewage smell from a poster on the Dream and changes to NCL from that fact alone. Yes, they said it was true from time to time there was that smell. On the Sun we went to the 4th floor by accident after a show and it smelled bad, asking someone in the hall about the smell they said it was that way each day. The man also told me there was a banging sound in his wall. Seems the crew had put the gang plank away wrong and something big and metal was striking his cabin wall with each wave. Guest services had told him nothing could be done until we unloaded in 2 more days.
All goes to the business model for NCL, where you certainly do not get what you paid for from fake juice and stained sheets in a room with roaches, to shore excursion that are not what was represented in writing. I have included photos of much of what I have written. Do yourself a favor and explore your options in cruising, sometimes you get far less than what you are paying for and they pocket your money as profits.
When you intentional don't get what you paid for and speak to the 2nd in command all that is left is to warn others in words with large format photos. So, don't do it, there are other cruise lines that you can sail on, our trip was ruined day after day by NCL's, sanitation, food and several rude people. Finally there is always something good to say about anything and talking to others regarding our interactions with the Sun and staff we were able to make some new friends who also were discussed by the treatment to passengers. In the 7 days 3 sets of passengers would travel on her again the overwhelming majority were sick they had book on the NCL Sun and would not do it again.
This was the 3rd time that we sailed on this ship; the last time was to the Panama Canal in 2005. This was about the 4th time that we've been to the Mexican Riviera. Overall, it was a good cruise and we had a nice time.
However, with the advent of Freestyle cruising, this cruise was significantly more casual than any we have been on. Hubby took a suit for "formal night" but did not wear it because he felt that he would be seriously overdressed. I didn't wear the cocktail dress that I brought.
We previously liked Freestyle because it meant that we could share a dinner table with different people every night. That only happened once in 11 nights because so many passengers skipped the dining room in favor of the Garden Cafe (buffet). The dining room was never more than half full.
The ship was spotless and the staff were attentive to all of our requests. The entertainment as usual was good.
If you want a casual experience, this is the cruise line for you.
My husband and I booked this cruise for our 30th wedding anniversay. When we got to our room I checked the mini bar, it was missing half of the contents although it had been checked off as complete. We reported this and halfway through the cruise it was topped up. We checked our statement when we left the ship and everything was OK. One week after leaving the ship a $77 dollar amount was taken from my credit card. No paperwork was every sent to justify this amount being deducted. When we contacted NCL we were told that this was for the mini bar - we took nothing from this bar as it was horrendously expensive. Two months later we have now received a refund (slightly less because of the difference in exchange rate)
Norwegian Cruise Line's reputation is that it's on the "budget" end of the scale of the large ship, major cruise operators. I saw nothing on this cruise to challenge this. I do not mean this as a criticism, but a statement of fact. The "budget" reputation is most evident in the dining experience. If we had went on this cruise expecting the quality or variety of food we found on Princess or Royal Caribbean, we would have been disappointed. Just as I would not call the front desk at a Motel-6 looking for a concierge to make theater reservations, I did not expect a complete first class experience. We had a small suite in the aft end of the ship. While we did enjoy the bathtub and extra room, the additional movement associated with either end of a ship and several days of rough seas more than offset the suite experience.
We have been to Cozumel twice now. I cannot recommend the "Cozumel Highlights & Shopping" tour. The "Highlights" were two trinket and kitsch markets and a tequila making display with a very small Blue Agave garden -- Blue Agave beingthe plant from which tequila is made. The true highlight of Cozumel was, courtesy of the weather, the tender ride to and from the ship. Still, as far as I know, Cozumel is still the only place in Mexico where one can drink the water.
Belize was very good. We had a very good and entertaining guide for an ATV drive in the rain forest with a spelunking stop.
Roatan was interesting. I never cease to be amazed by the diverse history of some of the small, out-of-the-way places we have visited. I had heard that Roatan was home to many ex-pats. If so, I didn't see them.
The ship passed on the last stop on the stated itinerary -- Great Stirrup Cay -- because of the weather and went to Nassau instead. Like most of the passengers I talked to, we considered this a bonus. We took a guided tour of the Atlantis resort's Aquarium. Worth the trip.
Apparently, there are many more trained singers and dancers in the world than there are job openings. I am always amazed at the talent of the singers and dancers on cruise ships. As I said up front, NCL is a budget cruise line. Don't look for ice rinks with an ice-skating show, rock climbing walls, acts you have seen on TV, and such. Still, they do a very good job.
The casino was small, but well run with a friendly staff. They had several Slot, Texas Hold'em, and Blackjack tournaments. They also had one $25 and one $10 Blackjack game dealt from a shoe.
Our only real specific complaint was that our cabin steward seemed a bit lazy. The room was not well cleaned when we arrived and on three of our seven days it was also not properly cleaned. I should add that on our first cruise, which was on a Princess ship a few years back, we had the cabin steward that set the standard by which we have judged all subsequent cabin stewards. A few have come close, but "Ping Pong" was in a class by himself.
Our general complaint is not limited to NCL, but all cruises we have been on. They continue to find more things to charge the passenger for. Not only more things to charge us for, but even higher prices. They are way past nickel and dime. I remember buying the unlimited soft drink package on the Island Princess in 2004 for $2.25 a day. By giving us a free to refill Coke tumbler and a free refill sticker for my key card, both my wife and I had unlimited refills. On the Norwegian Sun this cruise the soft drink package was $6.50 a day. There was also a free ice-cream bar on our 2004 cruise ship. Free ice-cream was gone on our last cruise on Princess. On the plus side, the Norwegian Sun still has a free ice-cream bar. (I remember the 2004 cruise on the Island Princess because it was our 30th anniversary and not only did I remember our anniversary, I took my wife on a surprise cruise. I'm still spending the points I earned on that anniversary. I do believe, however, that my points will be used up soon and I will have to reload with some special surprises for our 35th next year.)
We went to the specialty restaurant one night. There was a $30 surcharge for the lobster. While the lobster was huge, the service was about the same as in the regular dining facilities where no surcharges are required. Drinks are priced about the same as most mid-scale clubs and restaurants, or about twice what they were three to five years ago. Anybody else remember $1.99 Margaritas at a sail away party? And I'm not talking about a cruise I took in 1970. The $1.99 Margaritas were on a cruise this century!
I do believe that most cruise ship operators are trying to pay for the ship via the photography department. I recommend taking your own pictures and going to Kodak.com or Snapfish.com and getting prints for about one tenth the cost.
All in all NCL does a good job in their niche -- as a budget cruise line. We enjoyed the vacation. I would caution you that if you book one of the aft suites, be sure and check the expected sea conditions first. Also, you will not need an alarm on port days. When those side thrusters are turned on, it's about a 78 point bull ride, only closer to eight minutes than eight seconds!
Just finished a 7 day cruise on the Norwegian Sun to the Western Caribbean.
Departure from Miami on Saturday, January 5, 2008 and returned on January 12, 2008.
The itinerary was:
Sat. 1/5: Leave Miami at 4PM Sun 1/6: Day at Sea Mon 1/7: Roatan (Honduras) Tue 1/8: Belize Wed 1/9: Cozumel Thu 1/10: Day at Sea Fri 1/11: Great Stirrup Cay (NCL private island in Bahamas) Sat 1/12: Return to Miami at 7AM
We were in a balcony stateroom (Viking Deck 8 Aft).
Firstly this was a very good cruise, for a number of reasons:The Norwegian Sun turned out to be a wonderful boat to spend a week on. The itinerary was great, interesting ports of call and not too much time at sea. Great weather ( high 70's to low 80's and no rain the entire week).
If you're looking for a nice vacation, in a relaxing environment, but with also things to do and see, would suggest this specific ship and itinerary for that experience.
I'm going to stay away from too many details found so often in other postings.
Honestly, I really don't care if on Thursday morning at breakfast NCL slightlyburned the toast of one of 1800 passengers, and supposedly ruined their entire holiday. Will leave that kind of stuff for others to elaborate on elsewhere.
As far as my takeaways and thoughts from this cruise;
About the Boat ItselfFeel that the Norwegian Sun is a good boat to cruise on. Not too big but with all the typical amenities ( gym, pool, whirlpools, spa etc.) that you need. We ate every dinner except one in either of the two main dining rooms (Seven Seas or Four Seasons). In all instances the food was tasty, well prepared and presented with exemplary wait service. There was always a variety of appetizers and main entrees to choose from that were appealing. One night we ate in the Pacific Heights restaurant for dinner (no surcharge) it also was fine. We usually ate breakfast and often lunch in the outdoor dining space on deck 11 on the aft of the ship that was called the Great Outdoor Café. In the morning there were two omelet stations, eggs and breakfast meats and all the accoutrements, fruit, cereal and pastries. The food was very good and this particular space on the boat was just wonderful for sitting outside (under cover from the sun) and to enjoy a meal. We went to every evening show in the Stardust Theater, and although obviously not to Broadway quality production levels, were usually (but not always) entertaining. The three song/dance productions, by an outside firm contracted by NCL called Jean Ann Ryan, were particularly good. Young actors, singers and dancers who tried very hard to please their audience. The comedians, however, were another story. Think that NCL needs to take a look at who they book, comedy wise. Fair to poor is being overly gratuitous. The passenger participation shows in Dazzles (the night club) like Family Feud and Jeopardy were also entertaining. We'd often stop and have a drink in one of areas with live music, like Deck 12 Observation, occasionally danced, again very nice. Not a gambler so no comments on the Casino. During the two days at sea, like many others, sunned, read a book and just relaxed. One remark that I did hear from our cruise mates is that during these sea days, options for things to do on board (to keep occupied) were somewhat "light." Again, we were happy doing nothing but did want to share that comment that I did hear more than once.
About the Ports of CallRoatan: Must see island. Very undeveloped but you sensed it was on the cusp of becoming a hot tourist destination. Using the internet, identified Victor Bodden tours. For $100 for the entire day, we had a car and private driver, who took us around. We went first to the east end, visited an iguana farm and toured. Then we went to the west end, to a private beach (Half Moon Bay), snorkeled, lounged and had a great fish lunch. Highly recommend Victor as an option for others to use when at Roatan. Our guide named Kem was terrific. Belize: Again, independent of the boat, we booked a full day (7 hour) tour to Lamanai, the Mayan ruins. Used Extreme Excursions, about $75 per person. This is fun. You took a van ride for an hour, then get on an 8 to 10 passenger boat, and for an hour go up a river to reach the ruins. Our guide was IC (Icodore was his formal name). A little wacky but boy did he know the river and his Mayan history, which greatly added to the experience. Going to the site, we stopped numerous times along the river to get within inches of a sunning crocodile. We also saw monkeys, birds, etc. At Lamanai itself, we saw the well preserved remnants of a Mayan city believed to be populated with 50,000 around 900 AD, with two great monuments (100 steps each), ball courts and sacrificial altars. We did get a little spooked however as we were walking back to the boat and IC pointed out fresh leopard tracks on the path we were on. Cozumel: We used a taxi to get to and return from the Paradise Beach Club, a no entry fee (please buy drinks and food) beach area about 15 minutes from where we docked. It was fine, it was a beach. The water was clear, clean and very quiet. It was a relaxing place to chill out. Not much snorkeling action, but they did have water equipment for both adults and children to use. We then walked around in the city before re-boarding. Great Stirrup Cay, NCL's Private Beach: And finally we went to Great Stirrup Cay. It was also good. We had a nice barbecue for lunch, and again the water was wonderful.
Hope this gives you a brief synopsis of our recent vacation. Again, would not hesitate to recommend either the Norwegian Sun or this itinerary to others.
I am a first time cruiser, and had no idea what to expect, other than excellent food.
Well the food is the same food I serve in my nursing home -- edible but plain -- small portions -- unimaginative!!
That would have been ok, but I couldn't get a decent drink. I was more than willing to pay for doubles, but they were only a touch better than the singles!
If you choose this cruise line don't worry about over-induldging! Maybe that's a good thing.
The entertainment was wonderful, the ship immaculate, and the crew very gracious!
I will try another cruise line next time.
Just got back from a cruise on the Norwegian Sun; first-time cruise for me and 2nd for my wife. We took our 3 kids as well and they had a great time although they didn't have many (any) friends to play with that were their age. The average age on our cruise was 67 years old (demographics supplied by ship staff) but this didn't really matter too much to my wife and I as we noted that everybody seemed to be having a great time.
Our arrival went smoothly and our luggage was received w/o any problem. Our cabin stewards were great and did a wonderful job all week long.
The food in the dining rooms was great and the freestyle dining setup was nice. My wife commented that it would have been nice for a formal evening where everybody dressed up but we set our formal nights with our family and everything worked out great. The staff were very good at what they do and we didn't have a complaint about the service. The food in the buffet wasn't so good but you didn't have to eat there ifyou didn't want to so it wasn't a big deal. Drinks were good and the prices were what we paid at the restaurants in Vancouver so were weren't shocked. Even the beers (5.50 for a 16 oz glass) were tasty and not overly priced. (Go to a Sacramento Kings game and order one of their 10 oz budweisers for 8.00 and you'll appreciate the brew on the cruise)
The ship was well maintained and nicely appointed. The entertainment on board was great and there was something going on every night. Shuffleboard, ping pong, hoops and volleyball free of charge. No rock climbing wall or other neat stuff but considering the age of the guests it wasn't much of an issue.
Dance lessons were AWESOME, Free and great fun for all. The only thing that could have been done better would be to have a dance night after the lesson so we could have tried out our new moves. The instructors were very nice and lots of fun.
The Fitness Center staff were terrible. They offered yoga classes and the guy teaching the class had no clue at all. Awful and they charged 10.00/class.
They also were pushing a detox program where you sit in a lecture for 40 minutes and they tell you why you need to detoxify your liver and then try to sell a bodyfat composition test ($30.00 for an electrode based test similar to the testing performed by the newer high tech bathroom scales available at Costco) upon which the results acquired will determine your needs for an algae supplement to detox your liver and colon. Of course, the supplements are what are really going to cost you the $$$ (6-month supply, I didn't stick around to find out how much). The women's instructor was a former gymnast who had no qualifications whatsoever for pushing the stuff they were trying to sell. Quite possibly the BIGGEST RIP OFF I'VE SEEN. SHAME ON YOU, NCL!!!!!!! At least back up the presentation with some citations from legit medical studies (there are some of us on board with medical backgrounds, do they think all passengers are complete idiots?) They prey on the older clientele promising better health and flatter abs (another class based on shaky incorrect science trying to sell the bodyfat compostion test). Very bad indeed and most people we talked to were very disappointed. However, the gym and fitness equipment were very nice.
The casino odds were pretty skewed but that was expected. I think I won 3 or 4 hands at blackjack and blew $100.00 at 5.00/hand in about 20 minutes. Nobody's fault but mine.
Internet access was a ripoff also but I didn't need to use it so it didn't affect me that much (75 cents/minute) WHOA!
Video arcade should have been free for the kids (IMHO)
Not too many other complaints that really stick out, so all in all the trip was definitely a 2 thumbs up!