Sailed on Norwegian Sun June 22, 2003. Nine in our group, ages 11-82. Cabins, catergory BA balcony. Rooms were clean and taken care of well. Overall appearance of ship was excellent. Entertainment excellent. We all enjoyed Alaska, and enjoyed the stop in Victoria, BC. Could use more time in ports. Biggest complaint from all in our group was the quality of food in Buffet and on some nights in the main dining rooms. Freestyle dining was no problem, but service unpredictable.
Good one day bad the next depending who was waiting on you. Servers didn't seem to happy to be workingk, and most of them didn't crack a smile. Might have something to do with tipping in advance??? Would cruise NCL agian, but would hope for an improvement in the food quality.
Just got back today after 7 wonderful days at sea. We had a GREAT time. The weather was beautiful, the crew was great all very friendly and very efficiant. We went to Grand Cayman, Roaratan, Beleize and Cozamel. We went horseback riding on Roaratan that was great, horses were gentle the sceanary was beautiful then on to a bar-b-cue on the beach also good. The water was beautiful.
There were 2 main dining rooms on the ship they were good and 5 specialtie restaurants all were great except Pacific Heights our group of 6 thought there food was terrible. I like the free style dining but I do miss having an assigned wait staff for the week its nice to have someone that knows what you like and dislike by the end of the cruise and having there undevided attention all week. That part is all gone with freestyle dining. However aside from that the cruise was great. I have no complaints.
My extended family of 11 took a New Year's cruise on the Norwegian Sun. Most of have cruised several times before. Personally, this was my fourth, and it was our first experience with Freestyle Cruising. We very much enjoyed the ship and the ports of call. I will try to address items not mentioned in other reviews of this vessel.
We specifically chose this cruise because we felt Freestyle would work well for a larger group. However, the opposite was the case. If it had just been my wife, my son and I, we would have enjoyed the Freestyle dining flexibility much more. The cruise line states that larger groups can work with the maitre d' to make reservations in the regular dining rooms. However, this means eating before 6:00 p.m. or after 8:30 p.m. If we wanted to eat at 7:30, and all be at one table, we had to take our chances with Freestyle.
One night we waited an hour for an available table. Another night we were told we would have to be at separate tables, but eventually we all got one table. On our last night we had reservationsat Pacific Heights (one of the specialty restaurants; I'd give the food here a C), and a woman from another party had a meltdown at the hostess desk, screaming that the ship had messed up her group's reservations every night (party of 16). Bottom line: Freestyle has a tough time with larger groups.
We got the impression that the staff was not particularly well trained. Many times we couldn't get answers to questions from people that should have known the answers. We got at least four different answers regarding when we could make dinner reservations. When our diving-with-the-stingrays excursion in Grand Cayman was cancelled due to high winds, the dive people had no answers to our questions about other possible excursions. Someone from the shore excursion desk should have been there to help us all arrange other excursions. We wound up with a beach trip, but once we went ashore, it was confusing to discern our transportation from the private taxi drivers selling the same trip; then we didn't have the right tickets at the beach for chairs, drinks, etc.
Another example was at dinner. One evening, two folks from our party ordered the special salad of the evening, greens with goat cheese and pine nut vinaigrette dressing. One person got a plate of goat cheese. The other got a plate with a wedge of iceberg lettuce, and the waitress brought a plastic bottle of Seven Seas dressing and squirted it on the lettuce. The automatic tipping process has its positive aspects -- mainly that the staff is not walking around with their hand out on the last day -- but there are drawbacks too. Not having the same waiter every night means you don't build the rapport that you get with traditional cruising. Also, it seems that the staff has no incentive to provide impeccable service, as they know they will get their tip anyway.
We wanted to find a private charter for the whole family on a day sail, and we found exactly what we wanted on Roatan, where Salty Dog Sea Charters (www.roatansailing.com) has a 34-foot vessel for charter. It was perfect for our family outing. Captain Dusty met us at the dock with his mini-bus, which took us to West End Beach. He picked up fresh sandwiches on the way. We sailed along the coast for about two hours and had soda, bottled water, beer and rum drinks. Then we anchored and snorkeled along the barrier reef. Great snorkeling! After dive master Allie finished guiding us through and around the reef (she was great with my 12-year-old son), we returned to the boat for a delicious lunch, then returned to the ship. It was a great day -- not only much better than any excursion the cruise line offered, but cheaper and longer. Phone service is very poor on Roatan (this is a very poor country), but e-mail works fine, and Captain Dusty is very responsive.
Cave tubing in Belize is a lot of fun. They aren't kidding when they say that the trail is muddy and the water is cold. Being from Maine, we scoffed at what they considered to be cold water, but when we got out of our tubes to go around the rapids, most of us were shivering. However, this is something you just don't get to do in other places, and we got some great pictures.
If you have a pre-teen who likes soda, definitely get the soda bracelet at the kids' club for $16. We figure we made that money back on the first day. They also sold teens a coupon booklet for soda and frozen drinks. We didn't buy one, but it seemed like a good deal too.
Bring a lighted clock for your cabin. There are no clocks anywhere other than on the TV, and it only shows the time every so often, when tuned into a station. And bring a bar of soap for the shower unless you can live with liquid body wash for the week.
With Freestyle Cruising, you can wear any clothing (long pants and collared shirts) on any night. However, our ship had two optional formal nights, a Caribbean night, a 60s night, etc., which we did not plan for. As it was all optional, it's no big deal, but it would have been nice to know in advance in case we wanted to get dressed for those nights.
Nonetheless, the bottom line is that everyone in our group had a great time, enjoyed the ship and the food, loved the ports of call, and would recommend the cruise to anyone thinking about taking it.
I am going to do a detailed review in the coming weeks.. but for now a quick impression of this our 5th cruise, and the Norwegian Sun!
Hands down the nicest ship I have sailed yet! GREAT BOAT! Our previous 5 cruises were on the Norwegian Wind, Carnival Destiny, Carnival Inspiration, and Carnival Triumph. The Sun beats them all in almost every catagory!
5 of our 7 days had calm seas, and even on our final night with 45 mph winds and the roughest seas I have sailed to date the Sun never quivered. The smoothest Ship I have ever set foot on! Not sure why.. but this ship is all but motionless!
The crew and staff were the nicest, most friendly, and helpful folks I have encountered to date. The ship is all but spotless, and the folks around the dinning and eating areas kept everything in order. I never saw used glasses, plates, or the like left setting for more than 2 minutes! This was far better than our previous experience with Carnival's ships, and even an improvement vs our previous Norwegian Wind sailing.
This ship is also just the rightsize! Not to big, not to small. Our fellow 1950 to 2000 cruisers made this a good size crowd and a great cruise.
To all of you who have yet to try NCL (norwegian cruise lines), or to you who have not tried NCL since Star Cruises (Orient Lines) took them over a couple years back... Give them a try! These guys now have their act together, and with the New Head Guy coming over from Princess Cruise Lines things are imporving, and improving FAST! You can bet that the big Bby Carnival is now looking over their shoulders quite often. NCL is gaining fast!
With the new Norwegian Dawn hitting Miami & the Caribbean this week NCL now boast an impressive fleet sailing from Miami. By the way, upon seeing her yesterday... the Dawn is one slick boat also, and maybe the prettiest ship I have seen to date.
Now back to the Sun. The only suggestion I have for her is that they perk-up the entertainment a bit. The Jean Ryan & Company singers/dancers were outstanding... but some of the musician during our cruise were.. well... Boring & Sad. More on that in my detailed review coming soon.
The ports of call were great, the food wonderfull, and the activities good. A great cruise that I would highly recommend!
A little abut us. This was my 4th cruise, one on the Carnival Mardi Gras years ago, one on a line I can not even remember(high school senior trip), and one on the Celebrity Galaxy taken last year. I will use the Celebrity cruise for comparison. I am 32 and my husband is 34.
Fair warning, this is a long review.
We both have a deep love of the Caribbean, and each time we travel we make the list of pros and cons of cruising versus flying to an island and staying for a week. We really like to have a lot of time to explore the whole island, and relax, something that cruising does not afford. I picked this particular cruise for 2 reasons. The first reason being the itinerary. I have been to Cozumel several times and love it, and I've been to Grand Cayman as well. I really wanted to see Belize, and I had done some serious research on Roatan thinking we might like to spend our vacation there for a week. Being that Roatan is a bit primitive it seemed like stopping there on a cruisewould help us decide if we would ever like to stay in Roatan for a week rather than get there and not know what we were in for. We also liked the idea of Freestyle cruising, the second reason we picked this cruise. We do not like to have to get dressed up every night while on vacation, and really liked the idea of eating where you want, when you want, wearing what you want to wear. That being said, I'll now get on with the review.
We booked our own air which was considerably less money than what Norwegian offered. We left Raleigh/Durham at 0815, had a short layover in Charlotte, and landed in Ft. Lauderdale around noon. We opted to take the transportation offered by Norwegian to the port. There were several representatives waiting at the baggage claim. We gave them our transportation voucher, which was $30 per person round trip to and from the port. We thought the $15 each way was reasonable compared to a taxi. After all the luggage was collected, we went out to catch a bus to the port. The group stood outside waiting for the bus for a 30-40 minutes. I have no clue what took so long. The bus ride to the port took about 45 minutes.
I read tons of reviews before taking this trip, and it seemed that embarkation was either easy or a long wait. As our luck would have it, we stood in a very long line for well over an hour. The life boat drill was scheduled to start at 1530 but that had to be delayed as we, along with many other people were still trying to get on the ship. Embarkation was not really a whole lot of fun.
Once we were on the boat our first mission was to find the room, and our second mission was to grab a bite to eat. We were starving. We went to the garden cafe, which had just been closed in preparation for the life boat drill.
We had cabin # 9047. It was fine. We splurged on the balcony, which was really nice. We did not spend lots of time in the room, and did not use the balcony as much as I thought we might. There was plenty of storage space, just like everyone says. I personally thought the decor was a bit strange, I am not really into the nautical look, but that was a cruise ship after all. The bathroom was typical, and tiny. The shower was very small, and made my bathroom at home feel palacial! I did not pack a hairdryer, I normally only use one to dry my bangs, so the one provided by the ship suited my needs just fine. I did bring along my own soap and shampoo, the stuff in the shower dispenser is not that great. The one thing that drove me absolutely nuts in the cabin were the linens. They do not have a fitted bottom sheet. The bottom sheet is tied them around the bed corners which came undone every night so every morning I would wake up lying on the mattress pad. ACK! The blanket was strange as well. It was like using a twin sized blanket on a queen sized bed, too small, so I had to wrestle my husband for blanket every night. Our cabin stewardess was very sweet, but did not do the greatest job. Our room on the Celebrity cruise was always kept sparkling, and I felt the Celebrity cabin steward went the extra mile. I did not feel that way on the Sun. Our stewardess always made our bed and turned it down at night, and kept the bathroom stocked with clean towels, but that was about it. She was always pleasant and friendly to run into in the halls however.
The life boat drill went off without a hitch. Fair warning, if you do not do it at the scheduled time, they WILL make you do it the next day. It is important to know what to do incase of an emergency, and really does not take that long.
We left the port around 5, and had beautiful weather virtually the whole vacation.
The Sun is a nice boat. We liked the Galaxy better though, it was just a prettier ship. The atrium was nice but not really impressive. I'd read many times in the reviews that the layout of the boat was a bit strange, and I have to agree with those comments. It did not always flow smoothly, but we could always find our way.
We liked the freestyle dining. It was really nice to be able to go into the restaurants whenever we liked. I was however very disappointed, and frustrated that no matter how hard we tried, we could not get a reservation for Le Bistro that was before 2130, and we really did not want to eat that late, so sadly, we never ate there.............we were looking forward to the fondue! We ate most of our dinners in the main dining rooms. They were hit or miss. I had some great meals, and some things I would not recommend. The grilled chicken "available every night" was really awful, I do not suggest that. My husband ate the beef Wellington, and really disliked it also. The Caesar salads in the main dining rooms were really good, and the cold soups were good as well. We also enjoyed the desserts. We never had the same table twice, so we did not get to know the wait staff. The waiters were for the most part friendly, and provided good service, some better than others. I have no complaints about the service rendered in the main dining rooms. The meals were generally fair to pretty good. We tried the Tapas bar one night. My husband had a HUGE French Martini which he loved, I had sangria. Mike ordered a French Martini in the main dining room the next night, paid the same price, and the drink was abut 1/4 the size and "it sucked"! We had 1 meal in Pacific Heights (which was also very difficult to get a reservation) and really enjoyed it! I had the vegetarian lasagna which was a gigantic portion, and Mike had the meatloaf. He said it was some of the best he ever had. Dessert in Pacific Heights was not at all good, but we regret we did not eat there more than once.
We ate breakfast every morning at the Garden Cafe/ Outdoor Cafe buffet. I thought the food was okay, not great, but not horrible. There was not much variety from day to day, and I was disappointed in the variety of fresh fruit. Mike had an omelet almost every day from the man making omelets, and he thought they were excellent. We loved eating outside on the deck above the outdoor cafe. We had lunch in port a couple of times. We at buffet lunch a few times which was okay, and had a nice lunch 2 times in the Seven Seas dining room. We did not go to the Chocolate buffet, we were sound asleep! Overall dining was okay. We thought the food on Celebrity was much better, and the buffets on the Sun could not compare to Celebrity. That being said, you can still eat yourself silly on the Sun if you choose to do so.
The ship had activities scheduled to be what seemed like around the clock. You could be as busy as you wanted to. They had pool parties, art auctions, bingo, the spa, food, food, and more food, the casino, and so much more I could not possible name it all. Mike and I are not the get drunk at the pool party and limbo kind of people. During our first day, a day at sea we enjoyed laying out on the deck in the beautiful sunshine, watching Cuba go by. Seeing Cuba was a pleasant surprise! One of several surprises. I particularly liked Roots Link (band). I am a Bob Marley nut, and am never too far from a Bob Marley CD, and Roots Link played LOTS of Bob which could not have made me happier.........kicked back in my lounge chair, drinking a pina colada, seeing Cuba, and a BEAUTIFUL, super blue Caribbean with great Bob Marley tunes to listen to. It is, as I had read in many reviews, difficult to get a lounge chair, which was frustrating. The evening entertainment was great. We caught two of the Jean Anne Ryan performances which were enjoyable, they are a talented bunch. We also caught Jane L Powell. She was really funny, and had a great voice. Mike saw the comedian, and said he was a riot. I was not feeling great, and was in the cabin.
One thing I am going to throw in here........as previously mentioned, we had terrific weather, and the seas were like glass. This boat really rocked. I was quite surprised just how much motion we felt. I've never been on a ship that rocked that much, especially with such smooth seas. I got a bit green around the gills the night of the comedian, and had to go to bed. I have to wonder if something was wrong with the boat.
I am now going to focus on the ports, the whole reason I go on a cruise to begin with.
GRAND CAYMAN: This was our first port. It was a beautiful warm and sunny day. I opted to book a snorkeling trip with Captain Marvins to Stingray City after having read so many wonderful reviews about them. This snorkeling trip was the highlight of our vacation! We had to tender in which was not really a bad process. We were a few minutes late getting to Captain Marvins place, but they waited for us. The staff at Captain Marvins were lovely people, and the price of the trip was right, much cheaper than what Norwegian offered with more stops. After getting to the waterfront shop, they put us in a van and took us to where the boat was docked. We had a group of about 25, which was fine. The boat was NOT overcrowded which is really important to us. Some of the other boats we saw at Stingray City were bursting at the seams with people, looking like a boatload of refugees. I am SO glad we were not packed in like that!!! Our first stop was the coral gardens which was an excellent place to snorkel. The water was crystal clear, the fish were abundant and varied as were the gorgeous corals. Our second stop was at a barrier reef. This was really cool also. One of the staff lured out a large moray eel for everyone to see....very cool. The corals and fish in this spot were also loverly! The final stop was stingray city which is a memory that will be with me forever. It was a unique and exciting experience. The water is crystal clear, and about 4-5 feet deep. You take off your fins and get into the water. All of a sudden there are stingrays all over the place looking for food. We did feed them, and also held one. They are really soft, and not at all slimy. I will admit, I did sort of scream a time of two, and just backed away when I felt too surrounded by stingrays, but they are really impossible to get away from. They are kind of like cats rubbing against you looking for food :)
Mike and I both LOVED the whole stingray experience, and the whole trip. The snorkeling was absolutely sublime, some of the best we have ever done, and the good folks at Captain Marvins were great guides. I HIGHLY recommend this trip with Captain Marvin. After we finished snorkeling, we were dropped off in Georgetown where we left, and had a little bit of time to shop. We did sample some of the rumcakes at 2 shops. The rumcakes are expensive, but such a yummy treat. I brought a few home with me, and when I feel like I am missing Grand Cayman, we'll happily eat a rumcake! Before we knew it, it was time to get back on the ship. I really do not think they allow enough time in port, one of the cons of cruising in my opinion. Grand Cayman is such a lovely place, they should really allot a few more hours. I felt cheated in a way because after you tender over, and they make you return to the boat 30 minutes before sailing your down to having less than 6 hours in port!
ROATAN: This was the second port, the biggest reason I booked this trip. Roatan gave me a different perspective on things which was good. In my opinion a vacation is meant to experience different peoples and places, not to hide on the boat because a place is poorer or different from where I live. It is a beautiful mountainous island. It has a nice new pier, so no tender. This was the only day where the weather was less than perfect. It was a bit cloudy, and rained early on, but than cleared up. I wanted to go to Paya Bay for the day, as I had read in so many reviews, but we never booked it with them. I regret that we did not go there, it sounded like a wonderful resort, and once again, the price was better than the ship and they offered more. We ended up booking the Tabyana beach/snorkel excursion. The ride to Tabyana beach was a bit scary along the winding mountain roads, but there were some beautiful views of the Caribbean from atop the mountains. Tabyana beach was like a tropical paradise, lined with palm trees. There was a band ( did not catch their name) that was fabulous that played at Tabyana beach. They did an awesome job with .........you guessed it.......Bob Marley! These guys even played Redemption song. They were great, I could have listened to them all day. As I just mentioned, the beach was beautiful, but WAY overcrowded with people from the cruise. Mike and I both like seclusion, and this is why I regret not booking something with Paya Bay. We were told that Tabyana beach had a reef with some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean. We went out for about 45 minutes. The coral was really nice, but the fish were not as abundant as in Grand Cayman. I shivered in my fins when I saw an idiot standing up on the coral well offshore waving to people! The people on the boat that run these excursions really need to do a better job stressing the importance of not touching the coral in any way shape of form. It was all downhill for us from here. After we got out of the water my poor husband turned green ran to the nearest palm tree and lost his breakfast. Return service to the boat was not supposed to start until 1400, and it was around 1300. Mike was just too sick, and after practically begging, they got us a cab back to the pier. We were told that we would not have to pay because it was already taken care if when we booked our excursion. The cabby that took us back had to pull over several times for Mike to hang his head out the door and........ When we arrived to the pier he demanded to know "who is paying me!?!" and charged us $20. Mike was took nauseated to argue, so I paid him the $20. I did complain about this, and Norwegian was nice enough to credit our account $20. I gave Mike a Benadryl, and he had to rest in bed. I decided that I did not want to miss the port, so I ventured out on my own. I did not feel threatened or unsafe in anyway. Yes, people pestered me over and over to buy their goods, but I would engage them in conversation, and politely decline if I did not want to buy what they were selling. I enjoyed the people on the island. I did take a bunch of quarters, and passed them out to the really little kids selling things. Right as you get off the boat you can hold a spider monkey named Choo-Choo, and a neat lemur. (Yes, I love animals). After about an hour of walking around port I checked on Mike, who was feeling a bit better. We than both walked around for a little longer. I liked Roatan, and its people. I am not ready to go there for an extended vacation, but I'd bet in a few years it will be a really great place.
BELIZE was our 3rd port. The ship drops anchor about 9 miles off the coast, so this is a tender port. The tenders are really fast, and only take about 10 minutes. We wanted to book the shark-ray alley snorkeling tour, but were (regrettably) talked out of it by the guy who handled the dive in program. We ended up doing the cave tubing trip that the ship offered. We took a bus ride through Belize City (which was surprisingly poverty stricken) into the Maya Mountains to the Jaguar Paw Resort. The ride was in an air-conditioned bus, and took about an hour. I am just approximating all times, I never really paid that much attention to my watch. Once we were out of Belize City it was amazing just how there was absolutely nothing but wide open country. Our tour guide (Carlos) was friendly did a nice job narrating the whole trip, telling everyone about Belize. One thing that sent up a red flag when considering an extended visit to Belize was the fact that Carlos told us the speed limit is 60, but there is no highway patrol in enforce it. It really made you think that if you were here alone and ran into trouble that chances are good you will not be able to get help. Once we arrived at the Jaguar Paw Resort, we were given water to drink, and had to walk up a REALLY ( I stress REALLY) STEEP hill and down the other side to a place where we could store our belongings. That hill made my legs sore! We were given inner tubes, and headlamps and began the LONG hike to the river. I don't think the hike would have been as difficult as it was if it had not just rained. The trail was VERY muddy, at times ankle deep, and EXTREMELY slippery! Good shoes are a must, and so is bug spray. I estimate the hike was a mile or so, and I did not find it to be leisurely, but this was because if the mud. The flora in the jungle was stunning, I just wish I could have enjoyed it more instead of constantly looking down, not to fall in holes and slip in the mud. There was a steep, and what felt like a dangerous climb down into the river. Once we made it down, it was into the innertube, and off we went. The water was almost clear, and a refreshing 75 degrees. The hike was hot and humid, so the water was nice. We tubed through 3 caves, each taking about 30 minutes. The caves were neat, and we saw the occasional bat. After we finished tubing we had a good lunch at the resort, than it was back to Belize City. Mike and I walked around the shops at the pier for a couple hours before tendering back to the boat. I liked Belize, I think if we took an extended vacation there it would have to be on one of the Cays. I would not go into Belize City flying blind if you are not familiar with it, as we were not. I would definitely have an activity planned. Like Roatan, I think Belize is up and coming, and in a few years will be a great place. I do love all the eco-tourism Belize promotes.
COZUMEL was our final stop (sniff, whimper). I just love Cozumel. This was my 4th time in Cozumel, and Mikes 2nd. We always go to Chankannab Marine Park when we are there. Originally we were just going to wing it in Cozumel and catch a cab to the park, but swimming with the dolphins was on my life's list of things to do. We booked the Dolphin Encounter in Chankannab. It was another beautiful sunny, hot day, perfect for our encounter, and snorkeling afterwards. Upon arrival to Chankannab, after a miserable cab ride with a really hateful driver, we were instructed how we could and could not touch the dolphins. We were given life vests and walked to a submerged platform. The water was about 3 1/2 feet deep on the platform. The dolphin encounter was really disappointing. If you are considering this, I think the one offered on Roatan looked better. We got to touch the dolphin about 2 times and she did some neat tricks, and that was basically it. Not exactly swimming with the dolphins.
We stayed for several hours in the park. Chankannab (and all of Cozumel) has the most fantastically, beautiful, tidy-bowl blue water that is crystal clear to swim in. I've been snorkeling at Chankannab since I was 14. We rented snorkeling gear for $6/day. I think the reef has suffered over the years, and the fish were not as abundant as I remembered last time we were there. IT is fun to get some tortillas to feed the fish. It is still a lovely place to spend the day. We had a nice lunch in the park. We also walked around the Indian exhibit, with the Mayan home replicas you could walk through. It was beautifully landscaped and maintained. After we finished in Chankannab we returned to the boat, showered, and went back out to shop and walk around. We ate dinner at Casa Dennis which was delicious. We ordered the platter for 2, which was large enough to feed a small village! Everything on the platter was for 2, and it had pork, and skirt steak, chicken taquitos, and enchiladas, empanadas, guacamole, jalapinos, onions and mushrooms, fried bananas, and tortillas, and I am sure there is more that I am forgetting. It was sooooo good, I highly recommend Casa Dennis. The drinks were also great, and were even managed a free shot of Tequila! The meal was reasonably priced, and the service was excellent. Sadly, soon after dinner it was time to get back on the boat for our last day at sea, and to head home.
SERVICE on the boat was fine. I have no complaints about the service. I thought most of the staff were friendly, attentive, and definitely worked hard. These people work 7 days a week! I did not feel like drinks were being pushed too hard on deck. We were asked if we wanted anything from the bar, but not excessively. I lost $ in the casino, but I'd have more luck winning money from a parking meter. I tried my hand at Black Jack, and thought the dealers were helpful.
Overall the cruise was a good experience. I think the shore excursions were way too expensive! I would personally not sail Norwegian again, because we both felt that although the service was fine and the boat was nice, and the food was good, Celebrity was a few steps better in every department.
Please feel free to contact me if I've forgotten something you want to know about.
Finally! I am nearly decompressed and caught up at work and sat down to rip out a review. Sorry about the length. As usual, I got a little carried away. Take it away, Maestro.......Ship: Norwegian Sun Itinerary: "Exotic" Western Caribbean. Miami, Grand Cayman, Roatan, Belize, Cozumel. Travelers: Jerry and Barb Hoehn Travel Date: November 2 to 9, 2002 Ages: Mid to late 40s Traveling with: Friends Mike and Beth (Ages: Mid Forties, First Cruise) Cruises: 14 total - CCL, RCI, Premier, HAL, NCL, Celebrity, Windjammer, and Princess. Stateroom: 9076 Category AC Penthouse Suite. Portside, Aft Agent: Barbara Coe, BestPriceCruises.Com (Free Plug there Barb)
I'll give you the Summary first and save many of you the trouble of reading my rambling and ranting.Positives - Aft Penthouse Suite Concierge Service Cleanliness Food in Dining Rooms Embarkation Veranda Price Tender operations Entertainment Freestyle Dining Disembarkation The Passenger Mix Did I mention the Penthouse Suite? Negatives- Loud Pool Games Pool Deck and Show Lounge Bar Waiters Drink Prices Not enough time to do it all!
Summary- Rating on a scale of 1-10 - 9 (Not perfect, but nobody's complaining!)
Whatever slight irritations there may have been were veryminor and not worth a second thought. Sometimes you couldn't find bar service on the pool deck and you had to go get your own drink. But that was just another excuse to walk around, chat up the other passengers, use the WC or graze at the barbeque for some spare ribs. Everything is an opportunity for fun on a cruise if you look at it the right way! It's possible this rating may be somewhat skewed by the fact that it was our first experience staying in a penthouse suite. We were pleased with our Category C cabin on the Grandeur of the Seas. But the AC Penthouse Suite on the aft part of the ship was truly amazing. I know the AA owner's suite was larger and the AB Romance Suite had a heart shaped hot tub, but if I had to do it again, I might pick this cabin over either of those cabins. More on that later.
When deciding if I had a good experience on a cruise, I ask myself and my wife a few simple questions:
Did I get my money's worth? Yes. We got a very reasonable price on the AC suite. But beyond that, the ship was very well laid out, the crew was hard working, the entertainment was great, the food in the dining rooms exceeded expectations and the passenger mix was comfortable. Not too old, not too young, not too many special interest groups, etc.
Would I go on this ship again? In a second. It's only a matter of time and money. We enjoyed our trip on the Sky, which is close to identical to this ship. We had an inside on that one and weren't disappointed. Our pleasure was only magnified by the Penthouse Suite on the Sun. The crew was generally terrific, it was clean, nearly new, and the choices of dining and entertainment options seemed endless.
Did we enjoy ourselves? Immensely. We really enjoy Freestyle as it is practiced on the Sun and the Sky. Not as much on the Sea, as it was not built with Freestyle in mind. But the Sun and Sky have the program down to a tee! Only once did we wait for more than a minute or two for a table and that was at the busiest time in the main dining room.
Tips - A few quick tips for those of you who don't want to read all the rest of my ramblings…..
Get to the port early. They always say they won't be boarding until 1 PM, but the truth is, if the ship gets cleared early enough, they will start boarding as early as 11 AM.
When you ask for a drink, specify the size and the type of glass you want. If you don't specify, you might get a large expensive drink or a "souvenir glass." If you want one, get one, but ask for it that time and don't assume you won't get it the next time. If you don't specify, you probably will!
Make your alternative dinner reservations early. Suite passengers can make reservations for the whole week in advance. Others can't. We didn't make it to East Meets West because we decided too late to try it. And we were in a suite! Reservations can be made one day for the next day. This doesn't mean that you can call at dinner time one night to reserve for the next night at dinner. This means if you want to get a reservation for dinner tomorrow night, make the call EARLY the MORNING BEFORE you want to go there. You can always cancel if you change your mind. If you can't get a reservation, you can always try showing up at the door and checking with the maitre'd. People sometimes "no show" and this worked for us in the past on the Sky.
Put insect repellent containing DEET on BEFORE leaving the ship in Roatan or for cave tubing in Belize. I think the bugs know the cruise ship is in port and they start swarming just like the hawkers. And don't get DEET on anything. It literally took the polish right off ladies nails and eats into polymer plastics.
It's cold in many of the restaurants and lounges. Especially the Observation Lounge. Girls, bring a sweater.
It's VERY cold in the caves in Belize especially for the ladies. I would suggest wearing a wet suit, but the walk through the jungle is pretty hot and you may be uncomfortable doing that. We did Reggie's Cave Tubing and at least we had a jungle walk and a portion of the river to float down in the sunshine. On the ship's tour, they never got out of the caves except to walk to and from the buses a short distance. Just be prepared to be cold on either trip since the water is about 65 degrees.
Get a deck chair near the pool early on sea days. As usual, there is a lot of saving. If you plan to get a chair near the "action", you'd better get your breakfast in the Garden Cafe. Or get a cup of coffee and enjoy it on deck for a while before you go to breakfast. I hate chair saving. But once you've put your stuff on a lounger, the others around you get filled up and people see you there, then I suppose its "legal" to claim them. I think the rule is up to a half hour. That should give you time to go the dining room for breakfast or lunch if you desire. We personally don't like to be down where the pool is. Its noisy, too much foot traffic, not as much breeze on a hot day and too much screeching and splashing from juvenile cruisers (I'm including all ages in this category). Our favorite spot was Sun Deck starboard side forward.
Just a quick suggestion for NCL if they happened to be listening: It seemed like there were a lot of nice young couples aged 30 to 45 walking around the ship sort of "unconnected." They have "singles parties," "kid's parties," "friends of Bill W" meetings, and even "gay and lesbian" get togethers. Why don't they have adults only "Couple's Parties" of some sort? I got the feeling that with Freestyle Cruising, it's sometimes harder to connect with other folks that you didn't come with or connect with at places like CC, RTC or CM before you cruise. I realize that not everybody goes on a cruise to socialize. Maybe some go for the relaxation, or the food or the gambling or whatever. But most want at least some interaction with other passengers. If not, then why cruise? Why not take a land vacation where you're not contained on a large floating party barge for most of 7 days? I think these young couples would have welcomed an opportunity to socialize with others on the ship. (See my last paragraph for how important
OK. Drum roll please…………………..
And now ladies and gentlemen, the full "MrTractor" review of our trip………….
(Cue the snazzy show band music)………..
(MrTractor enters wearing his black tuxedo with Caribbean Plaid bow tie).
Good evening fellow cruisers and thanks for listening! Tonight I'm inviting every one of you to embark upon a voyage to exotic and exciting places never before seen by grumpy, whiners who don't know how to relax and enjoy themselves. If you are one of the above mentioned people, stop now. You'll only feel worse. Come with me and my fellow adventurers to a place where…….
Even the life boat drill can be fun!
So turn on the calypso music, get your self a frothy drink with fruit hanging off of it, put your feet up and try to get through this incredibly long but hopefully informative review.
(Remember, this is just one man's opinion). Your mileage may vary. (YMMV)
Trip to Miami - The main reason I mention this is to tell you how great it was to fly on the newly refitted American Airlines coach seats! Last year we flew Delta into Ft. Lauderdale and it was tight. At 6' 4", I really appreciated the new legroom and width on our American Airlines flight. If you are tall and or large, it's worth the extra $10-20 RT to fly American. We arrived Friday night and stayed at the Holiday Inn South Beach. Cheap room from Priceline.com. Rented a Cadillac because It was the biggest thing they had other than a minivan (hey, what's romantic about a minivan?). Also a car rental was better because of our desire for flexibility and the amount of luggage being taken. Should have rented a U-Haul truck. With all the school supplies and our over packing we had the trunk full and the back seat stacked with boxes and luggage. Any more and we would have had to make two trips! More on the school supplies later.
Miami, South Beach - Had dinner on Lincoln Road at one of the outdoor Italian restaurants "Carnevale." Nice meal, great service and great atmosphere. The Holiday Inn South Beach is too far north. Stay further south on the beach if you can or over near the port. It was a lot nicer than the HOJOs, but not as convenient.
Embarkation Day - We loaded up our Caddie after breakfast at the hotel. Barb and I took a walk on South Beach while Mike and Beth checked in with the kids back home. We took a quick tour of downtown South Beach and headed past Bayside shopping center over the causeway and into the port of Miami. Our ship was waiting. After so many cruises there is still something amazing about driving over that bridge in Miami and seeing those humongous vessels lined up like great white circus elephants ready to parade down Government Cut. We dropped off our bags and the ladies stayed with them while we took the car back to Enterprise Rental Car. Its right downtown Miami instead of the airport and they have a very prompt and courteous shuttle service to and from the port. The driver seemed to sense our excitement and anticipation. There was another couple in the van with us. "What ship are you guys on?" I asked. It was a Carnival ship. It looked nice, too, as we turned into the port parking lot. But we were happy to note that Since we were "Suities" or "Suite People", we had a priority embarkation area. But our traveling companions didn't. We asked one of the agents if they could go with us and, at first, she said "no." We asked her to check with Julie, the concierge, if it would be OK. Julie came out and introduced herself and said, "No problem." Things were starting out nicely. I introduced myself and our little group and said "You must be Julie Sedgwick. Your good reputation has preceded you." She looked up at me not the slightest bit surprised and said "Cruise Critic Dot Com." "Right," I said and we all laughed. We proceeded to check in where we were offered tea, coffee, water, juice, pastries, sandwiches and comfortable chairs. When it was our turn we were individually checked in and our photos were taken digitally. We waited a couple of minutes and then Julie personally escorted us on the ship. We didn't feel rushed or pressured and could have walked right past the photographer for our embarkation photo. Darn! No Las Vegas s A waiter's assistant named Maja (?) was there to escort us. He took our carryons and knew just how to get to our cabin. I realize this may not be the way most passengers embarked, but I didn't hear anyone else complaining and when I looked over at the lines of other passengers, the lines didn't seem long at all.
The Cabin-We had seen the 360 degree tours on the internet and knew pretty much what to expect. It did not disappoint us and the pictures only did it partial justice. This is possibly the best on the ship. Not the largest or the fanciest I suppose compared to the owners suite, but considering the amenities, services, size and especially location, it was the favorite of all who surveyed it. IMHO, there is no better location on the ship than one of the aft penthouses between passenger decks. They are not only huge, but have all sorts of cool stuff in them. We hooked my laptop up to the surround sound stereo system in the living room and had continuous music playing from my MP3 library. The balcony - scratch that - the veranda, was truly that - a veranda. I was about 8 feet deep and 20+ long. It wrapped around about a third of the width of the ship. The veranda floor was made up of the same blue decking material you find on the upper sun decks. Teak would have been nicer, but the effect was like a cool blue pool "Let's see the rest of this place" I turned to say to my wife Barb. She was gone. I heard a sound somewhere between a sigh and a scream. She had found the bathroom. The bath and dressing area was bigger than the last stateroom we stayed in! "What no hot tub?" she joked. When she pulled back the curtain to the whirlpool tub, she almost cried. The whirlpool tub was big enough for a family of four (although two seemed to fit perfectly! HA!). A separate shower, separate commode, 5 foot long marble top sink, separate dressing area with vanity and phone, more storage than you could ever use on a 14 day cruise, individual zoned heat and A/C and computerized combination safe. The living room was separated from the bedroom by two frosted French doors to allow access for the butler or room service and provide complete privacy. It had a fridge, plenty of extra glassware, a large sofa, two chairs, a large high coffee table that we used for dining and serving. There was a wall unit that included a desk, the menus from eve Later that week, we met the couple that was staying in the Owner's Suite at the Captain's reception. They wished they had their cabin in our location! They much preferred the stern location. Also, our room was between passenger decks while theirs was directly under the Observation Lounge where dancing and music was played until very late. I could go on about this cabin, just allow me to say……………
Heeyouuuuuweeee! GolDANGit that was a great cabin!
The Ship -I realize this was not the fanciest or most exclusive cruise ship sailing the seven seas. But it was very nice. I personally prefer the color schemes on Royal Caribbean ships, but the decor on the Sun was very pleasant. Some of the colors seemed a little disjointed, but overall, the interior was tasteful, pleasing to the eye and comfortable. The Sun was a handsome gal on the outside, too. And it was a nice size. Not too big, not too small. 9 restaurants. Two pools separated by four hot tubs. Pool Deck was all teak, while the Sun Deck was the same blue mesh that was on our veranda. It kept the decks cool, dried instantly, and it made moving deck chairs around easy. On sea days, our little group of four camped out on the upper deck forward near Champs bar and the outdoor barbeque. It was much easier to get a lounge up there. I could close my eyes and drift off to the sounds of the Calypso band. From here, the noisy pool games weren't quite as annoying and it was on the other end from the thump, thump, The Sun had some great lounges. Our favorite was the Windjammer. Roger Hernandez was terrific. He sounded more like Billy Joel than Billy Joel does! "Twice as Nice" plays mostly in Dazzles and brought back memories of being young in the seventies and the DJ in Dazzles was great to shake your tail feather to until the wee hours. Corey in the sports lounge made great acoustic music. I love that kind of music and wish I had picked up a few of his songs to play when I get home (on my guitar, not on the stereo!). Rick and Vince are really outstanding musicians. They played in the Observation Lounge. I called them Elvis and Clapton. They smiled when they heard that. That's also where karaoke was held.
The ship itself was well kept and clean. The promenade deck has the most lively and colorful murals on the walls. We put on our life jackets for the drill and even enjoyed strolling the deck looking for our muster station. I had my digital elph camera and we hammed it up with someone's aunt or gramma by taking a few self portraits. She thought it was neat. I don't remember who she is, but she is now part of another happy cruise memory.
The Ports -C
ayman - We had been there numerous times on past cruises, but our friends had not. Sting Ray City is a must for first timers, so we finally decided to do it together. We wanted to get a full day in, so we had to start early. This would give us enough time to do SRC, hang out and have lunch at the 7 Mile Beach Club, the wife's favorite spot on the island, and still do some shopping. Since we had to use the ship's tour, we hoped it wasn't sold out. It was. We enlisted the help of our concierge. She sprang into action. She said she would get back to us as soon as she knew anything. The response for SRC was so great that the Dive In desk decided to start a second group at 9:00. This allowed Julie to slip us in to the first group. I felt like Julie had started the second group just so we could get what we wanted. Maybe she didn't, but it still felt GOOOOD! The ships tour left a little later than expected due to the large number. It was a little more expensive than Nativeway or Captain Marvin's, but left a little Tip - This is a tendering port, so if you don't go on an early ship's tour or have a suite with priority tendering, then don't figure on getting off too early. There are always plenty of independents willing to take you to SRC. But don't wait too late. Remember the PRIME DIRECTIVE: DON'T MISS THE SHIP! Tendering was pretty efficient, but it does take time to get that many people off the ship.
Roatan - We got into port around 10:30 and stepped off the ship around 11. We had planned something unusual this cruise. I had heard about others who tried to help some of the local schools with supplies and equipment. After seeing all the poverty in these third world countries, I thought it was time to do something nice while there and I heard about a couple who was attempting to build an orphanage on the island. We arranged to meet with Brad Warren, director of Child Sponsorship International in Roatan. We have enough enemies in the world. I thought this might in some small way make a positive difference in the way the people of this area saw Americans. Something other than a meal ticket stepping off a giant ship. Then we would go to Bay Island Beach Club for some snorkeling at the famous "Spooky Channel." We called and made a reservation with the resort operator. Their web address is http://www.bibr.com. (Free plug there Cam). The resort sent "Tex" a tall friendly man who is native to the island. He broughage he is building for 40 orphaned and abandoned children. The Warrens had lunch with us as a guest of the resort. They shared their thanks with us again and left. We had plenty of time to go snorkeling. Tex was our guide for this as well. I promised not to go into ALL the details of our trip (a promise I seem to have already broken!), so if you want to know more about Brad's work, check out their web site http://www.csiroatan.org. They are doing great things in very difficult circumstances.
Tip - Don't be intimidated by the crowd around the last gate from the pier. We talked to people who stayed on the ship because of them. Get off the ship! It's a wonderful island; you just have to get out of the port area to the resorts. And if you use one of the taxis to give you a tour, or you plan to have them return you to the pier from a resort, don't pay them until you return. That's kind of a rule the government has put in place to make the island more "cruise friendly." The people of Roatan in general are poor, but they are very friendly and accommodating. The same precautions you would take in any foreign country apply, but don't come all that way and not experience this island and its people. This port is also known as a dive and snorkel paradise, so if you plan to only snorkel or dive once on your trip, this would be the place to do it!
Belize City - The harbor is very shallow and the ships must anchor far from the pier. So this is another (the second and last) tender port on this itinerary. The secure pier area is new and nice. Lots of shopping for almost anything you would want to bring home. Local crafts and jewelry, Cuban cigars, local rum, t-shirts, and the usual junk. Try the 190 Octane smoothie at the food court if you are feeling daring. Smooth, but kicks like a mule! The first person we saw when we stepped off the ship was Reggie. We went with Reggie Cave Tubing after hearing recommendations on CC. The ship has a similar tour, but we figured on living dangerously! (See tips in summary section). Belize seemed to be a nice enough place, but somehow I felt a little less secure there than I did in Roatan, despite its relative wealth. Perhaps because the port was right in the middle of the country's largest city. Rudi, our driver and cave guide told us that there were a number of ethnic groups including many Chinese from Hong Kong and Ta Cozumel - It rained all day, but we still got off the ship. To a real cruiser this was just "liquid sunshine." My wife quickly came up with a plan B (the B is for Barb). No little bit of rain was going to prevent MY wife from exercising the traditional rights passed down for generations from her foremothers - SHOPPING! We had planned to go to Chankanhaab to do some of our favorite activities - sunning, eating, snorkeling, drinking, and snoozing, but the weather turned this into a shopping and Carlos and Charlie's kind of a day. Oh, well. Shielded by our cheap clear plastic rain parkas, credit cards and cash, we bravely stepped into the tempest. We spent the morning stepping over rivers of rain in the flooded streets, shopping around on the high ground and having lunch at one of the restaurants on the square. As the tourists, locals and cruisers all huddled in the shelter of the colorful cafes it felt good to be somewhere else than in beltway traffic. The margaritas flowed and the guacamole was tasty. Watch ou I needed a nap. After all we had to keep our strength up. Tonight, Thursday was a special night…
What's that honey? Oh, yeah. It was also our 21st wedding anniversary.
Sure I remembered, Suitie, er, I mean Sweetie…….
Tips - This is an all new pier area. When you get to the end of the pier, straight ahead looks like the best and safest way to get to the town. In truth, you are being "herded" into the new shopping mall where you must walk for about a half a mile through an upper level of the shopping mall before finding your way down to the sidewalk. If you want to see these all new shops, feel free. If not, just as you get to the end of the pier, turn left. You will head to an area that looks like it dead ends into a loading dock. It doesn't. At the end of the fence you can step right out to the sidewalk on the waterfront side of the main street and proceed directly to town or cross the street and go right to Carlos and Charlie's. I personally resent being "tricked" into a shopping area, so we avoided the mall area until our second trip off the ship. The town has become so commercialized in recent years. Most of the old shops that we used to go to for bargains on quality Mexican jewelry and silver have been bought up and t
Entertainment - As I previously mentioned, the choices were many. Jane L. Powell was entertaining as usual and had great fun bantering with the audience. Billy Prudhomme juggled and joked to the delight of all. As I mentioned, the lounge acts were simply great. Fabio Zini entertained us for wine and Tapas in Las Ramblas several nights with a Flamenco guitar style that exudes passion with the fiery Latin rhythms of his Spanish/electric guitar. He had many of us on our feet dancing and clapping along. Ok, so maybe the wine helped a little, but he was still great. We only saw the welcome show in the Stardust Lounge and a short portion of the "Cirque Pan", but they all had the same full production value you can expect from the Jean Ann Ryan Company of dancers, IMHO the best at sea. We had seen the comedian, Jeff Harms, on the Sky a couple of years ago. He was even funnier. We both have teenaged daughters and he always kills with his shtick on them. We chatted up with him at the Observation Lounge bar and he said he remembered ta THERE WEREN'T TOO MANY ENTERTAINMENT OPTIONS, just TOO LITTLE TIME!
Tips - As usual, try to get to the shows about 20 - 30 minutes early to get the best seats. The seats within the first ten rows are the best. The seats in the balcony and behind that have decent sight lines and comfortable chairs (better than the Sky and many other ships), but there are some support poles in the way in several locations. Again, when you order a drink from the waiters in the show lounge (or anywhere else for that matter), be specific! In any case, there always seemed to be plenty of seats for the shows. I would guess due to the number of choices available to passengers at the same time as the show and the Freestyle dining concept. But the Windjammer was usually packed when Roger was playing.
Here is another interesting tidbit for you. Jane L. Powell usually does a portion of her show down from the stage at the level of the seats. For whatever reason, she always seems to favor the left hand side of the stage as you are facing it from the audience. If you want to be up close and almost "part of the show," sit there. But be warned, she has an entertaining, but sharp wit and won't tolerate anyone not paying full attention!
Food - I was generally pleased with the quality of the food in both the main or alternative dining rooms. The service was not consistently excellent, but we had no major complaints. I can mention one thing that was irritating with the wine service. We got the wine we wanted when we asked for it, was served properly and at the right temperature in the proper glass. It was just that it seemed like there was always a great deal of confusion when we left a bottle unfinished in one restaurant and wanted to finish it in another the next night. They even tried to convince us that we had finished a bottle of wine that we knew full well that we had not. We insisted that they keep looking and intimated that we wouldn't be ordering any more wine until they found that one. Lo and behold, it appeared. With so many restaurants, I can see how it might be difficult to keep track of all that, but NCL needs to fine tune that aspect of Freestyle to avoid confusion and possible customer dissatisfaction.
Never ate at the buffet until the last morning for breakfast. "Wifey" found a few interesting things there, but didn't expect a gourmet meal either.
Favorite dishes in the dining rooms- Beef Wellington, Lobster (Thursday night after Cozumel), Prime Rib, Shrimp with Forty Cloves of Garlic (Il Adagio), Imperial feast in Teppanyaki. Again, YMMV.Best place for hors d' oeuvres - Las Ramblas Best Place for a Martini - Windjammer Best place for Dancing - Dazzles Best Outdoor Bar - Champs Best Bar Service - Champagne Bar (ask for Roberto!) Best Place to see MrTractor and others (Rumncoke!) Look Silly - Karaoke in Observation Lounge v
There was an ugly scene in Penthouse Suite 9076 the last morning of our cruise. A man was holding a Penthouse Suite HOSTAGE! A negotiating team of four cabin stewards, three executive chefs, a souse chef and a five man security detail had to talk him down from his veranda. Finally an executive chef came up with a plan. He coaxed him down by tying a medium rare slice of Beef Wellington to a stick and leading him quietly down the staircase. As if in a dream state of disbelief, they led him through the atrium, past stunned passengers and crew alike and down the gangway.Women screamed! Mothers shielded the eyes of their children. Grown men openly wept.
It seems I had forgotten not to pack the clothes to disembark in!
by the time I realized what was happening………….. it was too late.
(Cue the spooky background music).
MY CRUISE WAS OVER!
(Blood Curdling Scream)
Relax, would you? That didn't really happen. Well maybe the part about walking naked off the ship in a trance. But it didn't look that bad in the newspapers. They got my good side! HAAA!
You're doing Freestyle! Freestyle is the best way to get off a ship. Even though we could have been with the first group due to our "suitie" status, we hung around with our new and old friends and exchanged email addresses and chatted. The ship was late getting cleared, but we had a late flight. We used Enterprise for an SUV this time. Even though we got rid of all those school supplies in Roatan, we had more luggage coming back! I swear it never fails! It defies the laws of physics@#!!!!. Our little group of four had lunch at Snappers at Bayside (had to try those stone crab, rumncoke!), shopped, stopped into Hard Rock Miami (yeah, been there, got the T-shirt). On to the airport and another comfortable and uneventful flight home. I love flying into Washington's National Airport at night. The view of the monuments is stunning!
I could go on in detail about the butler and the concierge, security, the casino, the ship's decor, the hardness of the mattresses, the color of the carpet in the dining room etc. etc. etc., but I think this review has already gotten out of hand. I plead guilty to the charge of wanting to share the fun. There was so much we enjoyed on this trip. I hope the next guy picks up a tip that might help this cruise just a little more enjoyable. And those of you who were on this trip, maybe it will help you relive some of the nice times we had during that all too short week.
Let me finish by saying that this will go down as one of our most enjoyable cruises. Someone asked me once to rate my top five cruises. That was hard to do, since I've never had a bad one! What I found was, that it was the people that made one cruise a little better than another. Our interaction with the crew has often been important, especially on traditional cruises. On a Freestyle cruise, the crew isn't as big a part of the experience, even though they did a good job connecting with us. Most importantly, it's the people that we meet and the family and friends that come along that make a cruise great. This cruise was a wonderful example of that. People like Mike and Beth, John (PlanersEdge) and Cynthia (Rumncoke), Crysta (Flamingo) and Chris, John and Sue from Manchester U. K., Raul and Diane "Shananayia" from San Luis Obispo California, Rene and Carlos the charming couple from the Dominican Republic we talked to at dinner in Teppenyaki, Anne , our next door (mini suite) neighbor from Sumter, SC who had jus It's back to steerage for Mr. and Mrs. Tractor, but with great cruisers like these, it won't matter. Thanks to all of you for another great cruise!
Just returned from a great cruise on the Norwegian Sun. We would like to share our experiences and suggestions with anyone contemplating this trip. Our group consisted of 7 people, with the center of attention on our 85 year old (young) mom. My wife Linda and I, my brother Joseph and his wife Rosemary, and my sister MaryAnn and her husband Joe rounded out our group. Other than mom, we are all in our mid 50's.
Embarkation - Unlike other positive posts in this area, our experience was unfavorable. We were told my Norwegian Sun employees at the Miami Airport to arrive at 2:40 p.m. since the passengers from the previous week were late getting off the ship (customs problems). As Latitude preferred members, it took us 2 very long and frustrating hours to get checked in. NCL needs to do a better job managing the check-in lines. First time travelers got checked in twice as fast as Latitude members. This was the low point of the trip. Aside from this experience, everything else was extremely positive.
The Ship - The ship is only 1 year old, very well-kept and clean. We woulddefinitely recommend a cabin with a balcony. Our cabin was on the 9th deck. Plenty of storage room with a great shower. Since the room is dark, we would also recommend you pack a night-light.
Attire - Loved the idea of not having to pack gowns and tuxedos. Even though some people still decided to "dress-up", we packed only casual clothing and never felt out of place. For dinner, sneakers, jeans and shorts are not allowed in the restaurants, but resort casual is fine (e.g Dockers, Capris).
I would rate the food from good to excellent. My recommendation is to try all the restaurants. Don't get locked into any one restaurant since they all have different features.
Garden Café and Great Outdoor Café (B-) - One in the same restaurant; cafeteria style. Good place when your time is limited, you have kids, are into burgers, pizza, fries or late snacks. Our group preferred a sit down relaxing style breakfast, so we chose to have it at the Seven Seas Restaurant.
Seven Seas (A-) - We ate there on Saturday, Sunday and Thursday evenings and every morning for breakfast. We made reservations with the maitre'd when we arrived on the ship for dinner at 6:30 pm for each evening. He held our table for us each night with the same waiter. When we weren't going to have dinner there, we just let him know that day. We found the food to be very good. Service was excellent (waiter was Danielo). Surf and Turf on Thursday was great!
East meets West (A+) - The service charge of $10.00 per person ($5.00 if reservations are before 6:30 p.m.) and well worth it. I had the Sea Bass which was terrific. We split some Sushi and appetizers of Dim Sum. The Crab Wonton was good. Presentation of food and atmosphere of restaurant made this restaurant a fine selection. The waiter was better than excellent. Treat yourself, go for the upgrade.
LeBistro (A+) - Awesome experience!! I ordered the mushroom soup and the Filet Mignon. For dessert the chocolate fondue is an absolute must. by far, this was my best meal of the week.
My brother and sister-in-law ate dinner one night at Il Adagio. They weren't overly impressed. Gave it an OK.
We did not eat in the Pacific Heights or Ginza restaurants. Had ribs and appetizers at the Tappas restaurant and they were excellent. For lunch try the Barbecue Ribs at Champs when offered over the traditional fare at the Garden Café. Twenty four hour room service is a great option to have (and no extra charge).
We tried to take in as many of the shows as possible.
Lisa Donovan (A+) was sensational. We were somewhat disappointed when we heard that Jane Powell (the feature performer) was on vacation but Lisa Donavan put on a marvelous high energy performance two nights during our week.
Jean Ann Ryan performers (A+) - We saw the performances of Encore! Mr. Producer and Cirque Pan. We would highly recommend these shows if you like musicals and Broadway hits!! Exemplary combination of dance and song. All members are very talented.
Comedy - Ted Holum was very funny especially the final performance on Friday night. Vinnie Mark is only average.
Lounge Acts - Roger Hernandez does an impressive tribute to Elton John and Billy Joel. Twice as Nice does a good 70's show. Roots Link Band is very talented. In addition to the pool calypso type music, they can perform all types of music. I would have preferred a better mix.
Service - All of the waiters, stewards and staff we met were friendly, attentive and courteous to our needs. (Be careful, whenever you are offered a drink, you will pay for it. Sometimes it may seem complimentary.)
Tour Excursions (A+)
Grand Cayman - Captain Marvin's Snorkeling and Sting Ray tour was superb! We would highly recommend this excursion. Group is under 15 people with one on one instruction for snorkeling. Boat makes 3 stops. First is general snorkeling (bring your underwater camera for great shots of beautiful fish and coral). Second stop, instructor joins group to feed the Eels. Third stop is only in 3 feet of water, where you can actually hold the stingrays.
Cozumel - 65 foot Fury Catamaran. Trip includes sailing, snorkeling and beach party (4 hours). Margaritas, beer and soda included in the price. We had a blast on this trip, great combination of some beach time/snorkeling and partying. (If you do only one excursion, this is the one.)
Roatan - A beautiful but under-developed island. Tabyana Beach in the west end is the favorite location. My sister and brother-in-law took an independent cab ride along the Coast and enjoyed it very much. We only got off the ship to do a little shopping. Nothing impressive to buy.
Belize - Unless you are into the Maya Ruins, use this day to stay on the ship for some spa or poolside activity. We wasted 4 hours taking a horrible bumpy van ride to the Maya Ruins. I saw enough ruins in the first 5 minutes of my trip. This is an old poor city with people living is terrible shacks. In my opinion, Belize should be eliminated as a stop. I would have preferred spending 2 days in Cozumel.
This was our second cruise with NCL and it was better than expected. My recommendation is to experience all that the ship has to offer, don't restrict yourself to certain restaurants and activities. Don't get caught up in minor annoyances. Let your "hair down", relax and put aside your problems and the world's problems and have a great time! You deserve it!
My husband and I are in our 40's, he is a dentist and I'm a Reg. Dental Hygienist. We recently returned from a wonderful trip aboard the NCL Sun. This is our first cruise as a couple without our teenage daughters. Keep that in mind when reading our review; realizing we would have fun alone no matter where we went :-). I had some last minute trepidation concerning the NCL line, wondering if it would live up to the standards of Celebrity and RCCL, that was hurridly dismissed as soon as we boarded this lovely vessel. I think this is our 12th cruise.
The lowest point of the trip could be our hour waiting to board the ship, but we used the time to people watch realizing newer safety regulations are being enforced. We purchased the picture they take of you as you board the ship (and leave in your room for $20). I'm glad that we did because the photographers on our cruise lost/misplaced or many of the rest of the weeks photos or so they told us.
The resturants should all be tried, especially Le Bistro. Pre-dinner we enjoyed theTapas bar several nights. Free-style was wonderful and we are hooked on this concept. We always enjoy our sailings, but seldom are excited to reboard the same ship we just disembarked. We will sail on the Sun again. The public spaces are well thought out, restrooms well placed, the showers in the kiddie area are a nice touch and servers are pleasant, courteous and helpful especially if treated that way.
Our balcony cabin was great for viewing the lightening storm we had early one morning. We were lucky enough to watch a pod of dolphins jumping on our ships waves another morning. Also we saw many flying fish and jellyfish. At night I sat out on the very private balcony watching shooting stars. Oh I miss the view and the sound of the waves breaking against the ships hull!
In Grand Cayman we did the Captain Marvin stingray tour that we'd set up ahead of time on the internet. Do a search for " Captain Marvin " and you will find his site. We even met the Captain who is in his 80's. It was our anniversary and my dear husband surprised me with a ring from one of the jewelers insuring Grand Cayman will always have a special place in our hearts.
Roatan we rented a jeep and drove around the island. We made sure our driver spoke English (you have to insist) so that we could hear about the island's history and sites. He took us to see one of the weathy family's home near Fantasy Island and on the way down the steep driveway the woman homeowner driving a 4 runner drove us off the road and hit our rear panel on my side! Wow-scary. We purchased some very nice pottery and hand loamed table runners in Roatan. Also buy Rum here and in Belize, give it as gifts if you don't enjoy Rum because it's some of the best rum I've ever tasted.
In Belize we also used our home internet to sign up for cave tours with Reggie and his wife Shelly. Wonderful!!
We've been to Cozumel 8 times and usually rent a jeep and drive around the island which we did this time as well.
Can't comment on any of the shows because we didn't see them. We aren't gamblers as a rule but did put $2.00 in a quarter machine striking it "rich" to the tune of $220. Take the exercise classes, they are fun and well organized. We have nothing negative to say about this ship. The food is so-so in the buffet, but most ship buffets are like this. We eat breakfast in the formal dining room everyday and they accomodated our every request. We'll be sailing again over New Years on the Spirit (family reunion cruise) and on RCCL Explorer of the Seas the end of March. We met many wonderful people aboard the Sun that we are keeping in email contact with. Really I can't say enough good things about this trip and think going in with the attitude of having a good time (especially for the great price) is important.
Let's first get the weather out of the way: it was fantastic the whole week, with a little needed cloud cover in Cozumel to knock back the heat.
About Us: I'm 45, my wife is 37, and our two kids are 15 and 6. This was our 10th cruise. We cruised once on the BRB, 4 times each on CCL and RCI
Leaving NYC out of LAG: Pushed back 4 minutes early at 07:18, then sat on the runway till 08:00 due to claims of bad weather down south. Smooth flight, still arrived on time. Miami Airport to pier: Luggage arrived fast, no wait for a taxi with set fair of $18 to pier.
At NCL Terminal: Arrived shortly after 11:15, walked right up and checked in, no lines. Mentioned we did early registration, didn't seem to matter. Then had to wait till the boarding started at 12:00, seems the Coast Guard delayed clearing the ship, a NCL rep said they usually have it cleared around 11:30. Still, a short wait on line, aboard by 12:10.
The Paxs: Was told there were 2,224 aboard, over 400 kids. There was still space for some300 more paxs.
The Waiting In Line: Never had a wait for dinner, the shows, or tenders, even for disembarkation. All the waiting was spent on line boarding the SUN, and that in itself, was fairly short.
Our Cabin: No escort. Found our Cat BA cabin #1002 on the Deck 11 (pool deck), a forward facing cabin next to the Owners Suite (1003), with our balcony having teak decking with 2 full size chairs, 2 full size lounge chairs, and one table. Cabin was spotless though wear and tear was evident (stained carpets, chipped furniture, even had a piece of molding fall off the wall). Nice 19-inch color TV with video jacks in the front for playing back your recorded videos or video games if you brought along a PS2. Two twin beds were pushed together to make a King. The sofa was a pullout double, fairly comfortable. Two robes were found in the largest closet. The bathroom has plenty of storage, a 'gift basket' of soaps and creams, and the shower stall has dispensers of soap and shampoo, and can accommodate a average size adult. A plate of fruit was delivered to us by our cabin steward. Home for the next 7 days.
Our Steward: Joseph was fantastic...Joseph got the Star Performer of the Week award. Need I say more! (he got dinner for two at an onboard restaurant of his choice, a gift certificate, and most important, a day off). Never had a problem being shorted on towels or ice, being denied any request, and always had complete upkeep of our cabin. Joseph was Omni-present, always there, remembered all of our names and always shouted a hello to us, even when we strolled past him in another cabin, down on his hands and knees, scrubbing the door to their bathroom.
Tour of the Owners Suite: Joseph gave us a tour of cabin 1003 since those folks hadn't checked in yet. All's I can say is; WOW! And that was before we saw their balcony, which was even larger than ours, with a hot tub.
Life Boat Drill: Quickest we've experienced, all of 14 minutes, though we had a female Drill Instructor shouting out orders...NCL (or her) do take their safety seriously!
Departure: Pretty close to on time, a bit after 4pm. Enjoyed the sailing out of the port of Miami all from the privacy of our balcony, cocktail and binoculars in hand. (as they would always be, during the rest of the cruise, especially on Sea Days, when sailing into port, or seeing land masses off in the horizon)
Freestyle Dining: Loved it! Worked real well for us. Usually went to dinner between 6 and 6:45 PM. Never had a line for getting into the restaurants, though we usually started to see line queue up when we were leaving.
Waitress, Dining, and Restaurants: First night, we choose the 7 Seas Room, and due to probably the best waitress we ever had: Bogdanka, we never wanted to leave table 216 (all the way aft by the windows, port side) and try the 4 Seasons. Our first meal took all of 35 minutes, the service was that great, didn't even feel rushed. Every dinner we had was under one hour, except for Thursday when leaving Mexico, as we wanted to stretch out dinner and see Cozumel float by during sunset and see all the city lights. We also did Pacific Heights and East Meets West (cover charge is $5 up till 6:30 PM, no charge for our 6 year old).
The Meals: All generally good in the 3 rooms mentioned above:  7 Seas: Ate a lot of soup, fish, salad, pasta, and steak...good to very good. Even enjoyed the two lobster tails you get on Thursday. The few times we had dessert (we usually ended up doing a 'pu-pu' platter of entrees), we found these to also be good. Our 6 year old's kids menu had plenty of choices to satisfy her (and me at times) Do try for aft tables by the windows. During the duration of the cruise, we kept hearing how much better the service was here -vs-other tables in the 7 Seas or 4 Seasons.
 Pacific Heights: Saturday night we made reservations for Sunday at 6pm. We had our choice of seats. Really enjoyed the pork chops and calzones. Great Southwestern chowder!
 East Meets West: Whoa...nice mixture or clash of the two cultures. Great beef dish, the wontons were unlike any I've ever ate before. Once again, sampled a little bit of everything, a totally different food experience -vs- the take out Chinese down the street. I enjoyed everything I touched, my wife was a little more judgmental, but still thought the food was 'unique'. Again, 50% off the cover charge if you have reservations before 6:30
 Las Ramblas: always enjoyed any of their food they had out. Great soup and sandwiches. No pressure ever to buy a drink. Place was never crowded. Great service. Check their open times, not as liberal as the other restaurants.
 The Buffets: Not bad, variety and volume is the name of the game here. Always something slightly different each day for breakfast or lunch. The made to order omelets were very good and always sported a line. During Sea Days, the Outdoor Grill had some very good variations of BBQ food, and at least 3 different type of chicken wings and pizza were available during the cruise. Tables always seemed to be bused in a timely fashion (saw 3 staff members swoop down on the same table within seconds of it being vacated) . Hint: always go to the aft stations, usually less crowded. You will be given hot towels to wash your hands before eating
 The Sports Bar: They no longer serve munchies here
The Shows: Never crowded, never had a problem finding a seat, though we usually showed up 15 minutes prior to the start. Missed the first night, attended all other shows. Enjoyed Cirque Pan and the first Jane Powell show (nothing else needs to be said except her 2nd show, the ships 'Farewell' show, seemed a little weak. Didn't care for Que Noche at all. Jimmy (JJ) Walker was onboard and had a real funny act (not one shout of DYNOMITE!). Liars Club was also a very enjoyable experience. The various lounge singers earned their pay plus some.
The Cruise Director: Rich C and Bingo Bruce got the job done. I'd say slightly above average. Rich was dead on with the Rain Man and Pee Wee Herman. Appears NCL doesn't stage 'passengers' in the audience to interact with the CD during shows.
Various Ship Board Activity: Always had plenty to do or watch. Could get free bingo cards, $9 cards for 5 games, or $12 for the daily jackpot. The casino is nicely sized, plenty of slots (though they weren't kind to me), midnight snacks can be found here. Enjoyed seeing the art auctions, playing volleyball, basketball, hitting golf balls and baseballs. The pool deck band and activities such as Ice Carving demonstrations, Horse Racing, etc, were also good.
The Pool Deck: Some decent late night shows were held on the stage here. During the days at Sea, this area does indeed get crowded and feels crowded. Perhaps one large pool -vs- two small ones, would have been a better idea? Usually didn't have a problem finding a lounge chair, but when we did come up short, no problem just parking it on the wooden wall that surrounds the two Oasis Pools and hot tubs. The children's pool area was nice for the limited amount of space they devoted here. Was never too crowded, could always find a lounge chair and tan, with great views of the sea. There is also a bar nearby.
The Ports of Calls and Excursions: JUST EXCELLENT!  Grand Cayman: NativeWay sports must be giving Capt. Marvin's a run for their money in terms of clients. Great personal service for us 15 on this excursion. We had the 2 stop 2 ½ hour snorkel tour turn into a 3 stop (Barrier Reef, Coral Gardens, and Stingray City) 3+ hour tour. $25 per snorkeler, $10 for my wife and daughter to come along for the ride and watch us do our thing. All 3 stops were great, the fish, coral and stingrays were a-plenty. Just fantastic clear, clean water at the sandbar, and I couldn't do justice trying to explain the Stingray experience...gotta do it. They even picked up a ray and brought it over to my daughter who was sitting on the boat and let her feed and pet it, where she was promptly awarded with a nice spit of water in the face, from the ray. (hope my pictures do this overall experience some justice). Juice and ice water were included and we were dropped off at 7 mile beach on the way back. We thought 7 mile beach was over-rated, no soft white sand where we were (believe it was the Royal Palms area, though we had great views of the Sun). Had time to visit Eden Rock, get a cocktail at the Paradise Inn, and feed the fishes Corn Flakes and watch them go crazy.
 Roatan: Loved It!!! Beautiful Island and people. We were able to dock here. After experiencing the rush of being swarmed by taxi drivers and tour operators, we negotiated hiring a taxi for the day. Prices started at $100 for the four of us, everyone ending up being happy with the price of $60 we settled on. We ended up with Jermnoy Webster, taxi #140 and off we went for a tour of the east side of the island with stops at the airport tower (what views), two ship wrecks, and the Las Palms shopping area (just a beautiful beach area with a seaside bar, white sand, baby palms, lounge chairs, and docks leading to both the sea and by sides) before heading off to tour of the West End/Bay side. During our drive up the mountain, we had great views of the sea on both sides, with tropical vistas, did a few 'Kodak Moment' stops. We ended up at what I believe was called the Maya Princess Resort on West Bay beach, just down the beach from the ships excursion at Tabyana...what a great beach, one of the best examples of a true Caribbean, tropical beach experience. You must stroll along the white sand from the coral wall at the Tabyana side, all the way down to the end of the beach, passing docks and all the little beach areas and clubs, all surrounded by palms and tropical plants. We stayed here for almost 3 hours while our driver waited for us, then went back to the pier, via the southern route, with great vistas of the sea, houses on stilts, coral beds and NCL SUN in the background. ***Do note: Roatan is indeed a poor island. We saw families living under blankets stretched over clothes lines, in ravines between two hills. Some school buildings were mere planks nailed together. A gas station consisted of a shack, where you bought gas in gallon jugs (a nasty dark orange looking gas that made our taxi run real bad the rest of the day (added a little charm to our Roatan experience) that was poured into the tank via a funnel. Still a great, lush tropical island, with some of the happiest, always smiling people, we've ever met in the Islands***
 Belize: Another great experience due to Reggie (cave tubing for my son and I) and his 19 year old son (Zoo/City tour for my wife and daughter)!!! Reggie met us on the dock, and by 09:30, the 12 of us were off for cave tubing in one of his air conditioned vans. All the good praise you've read about Reggie is 110% accurate! We highly recommend Reggie for both tours. Excellent hike through jungle and bat cave and along the banks of the river. Loved forging the river in our tubes, holding onto a rope, to reach the other bank of the river. Was indeed a bit muddy in places, with uphill portions using cuts in the rock, wooden planking, or tree roots, as steps. The river was just at the right height with the right amount of current. Only had to forge the rapids twice (not because they were too fast, but because the water depth was too shallow...ever hear of a butt bark?). Great experience floating in a deep, dark cave in the underworld, hearing the faint sound of rapids down river, then turning on your head lamp to see the interior light up. And the best was saved for last: we exited the last cave into a tropical sun shower, while tubing down a wide portion of the river, leading to a fork: you had the choice of walking over a gravel bank or riding the current through a 90 degree bend in the river, testing your tubing navigation against a few 'obstructions', have no fear, Reggie was there! He had your complete safety in mind, which was his number one concern! (this portion of the trip is avoided by the ship's excursion).
 Other Belize highlights: driving through a shallow, fast moving river on the jungle trail leading to the caves, having Reggie narrate the local history of the surrounding mountains, describing the plants, flowers, and fruits that were seen during your hike through the jungle, hearing about the undiscovered Mayan temples still waiting to be excavated, seeing a trail of green marching across the jungle floor in front of you (ants carrying little leaves that they 'process' into mold and then eat), a visit to the BAT cave, and finally, a stop at a local restaurant for rice and beans (or was it beans and rice, there is a difference.) and drinking a cold local brew, watching the local parrot strut around on the floor, muttering in Spanish. This stop had drop dead gorgeous views of lush plains and valleys with tropical plantasia and palms, leading to vistas of mountains in the background shrouded in clouds...a true Kodak moment. Thanks Reggie!!! Oh, do note, Reggie pointed out a street NOT to walk down, as he was dropping folks off in town for a 5 block walk back to the ship. Drugs are the major crime in Belize City which has Capital Punishment with the judge declaring: Hang, till you're Dead, Dead, Dead!
 Cozumel: NCL no longer offers the Passion Island Excursion, too many mixed reviews. However, no worries, found my lost shaker of salt at Playa del Sol! A great stop and ya know what? This was the only excursion the ship offered that was cheaper than doing it on your own. But first: the taxi drivers were on partial strike (full strike the day before) and NCL arranged water taxis for $8 R/T to Playa del Sol (cheaper than the $14-15 taxi ride one way) and $22 for a beach break: all the great stuff that has been posted here before that the beach offers, plus beer and drinks for the day at $22 -vs- $25 the beach wanted. The pool was outstanding for our kids, all the activities they offered kept us entertained for hours. We then went back to the ship around 1:30, showered, lunched, napped and left again at 4pm for:
 Mini Golf: What a great little oasis right past the town plaza, get to see the real side of Cozumel during your walk to the course, passing sidewalk cafés, markets, and local artists at work. While you pay $7 for the adults ($5 for our 6 year old), your given a menu of CDs to chose from, to be played while golfing, asked what type of refreshments you want to drink before you start play, and then given a 2-way radio for ordering drinks while out on this tropical, shaded course. Just a fun time had by all, with our 6 year old getting the only hole in one. We did spend some time fishing our ball out of the various pools and waterfalls while also checking the trees and bush for local animals and inspecting the fruit that was growing.  Other Cozumel Activities: hair braiding, $1 a braid, including beads, being solicited for cigars or to get high, watching the local artists draw and paint, shopping, watching the local taxi drivers march and strike, walking along the seawall, having a peak inside C&Cs new location, then enjoying a stroll along the seawall and pier back to the ship, and eating dinner while sailing off into the sunset, seeing Cozumel slip behind in the ships wake, while being winked at by the two lighthouses.
***NOTE: Unlike or recent Voyager of the Seas cruise where the ship was the highlight, the ports of calls and the excursions where the SUN's highlights for us!*** Disembarkation and home to NY: Got some lime green tags to be on the last call off the ship. Was told this would be at 10:05. We got called and left our cabin at 09:11 and where into our taxi to the Miami airport at 09:34. No problem with finding our luggage or waiting in line for customs...nice job NCL: able to wait in our cabin the whole time after having breakfast. At Miami Airport: Swimming pool, hot tub, lockers, shower, pub grub, cocktails, and working our tan for 5 hours...geez, almost felt we were still on the SUN, but nope, Airport Hotel, Rooftop Club in concourse E, and what a great view of take offs and landings for you airport buffs. We had a 5:15 PM flight. No problem with early check-in of luggage. Once again, American Airlines played the overbooking game and we left 35 minutes late to NYC. Slightly nasty flight attendants this time, they must of had a long day. Touched down at 8:18pm, grabbed our luggage, and home at 10pm. Would we sail NCL again: Hmm, possibly. The Dawn likes like a nice ship, but we won't go right out and book the SUN again. Like quite a few others we spoke to, seems RCI is the game in town, but we would try Princess or Celebrity before doing NCL again. After being on the VOTS, even at some 78,000 tons and being over 840 feet long, the SUN felt small and slightly lacking in various aspects the VOTS offered. I guess we're fans of the bigger is better idea. Though we thought the service was superior on the SUN. And, Freestyle dining worked really well for us!
Finally, our dislikes/just ok part of this cruise experience. Please keep in mind the good far outweighed the bad and most of below were observations:
Having to wait till 5:30 the first night to get our kids their soda cards, and you can only get them from the Kids Club. (do note: you can pre-order the cards and have them waiting for you at checkin, but you need to pre-order at least 3 days in advance of your sailing date. No hotdogs, burgers, or pizza to be found (even though they were announcing pizza can be had in the Garden Cafe) till about 5:45 PM on embarkation day...try getting the kids to eat fish, meatloaf, or curried chicken during lunch...didn't work, they were starved by dinner time (though Dad screwed up and forgot about room service) The selling of drinks in souvenir cups: NCL stations at least 2-3 staff members right outside the doors leading onto the pool deck, handing you a drink as your stepping through the door, never mentioning they cost money, nor wearing any kind of button saying the same...we didn't fall for it, but many people did, especially with the announcements of: "Come join our sail away party" No sliding doors leading to the pool deck from the cabins/atrium. Not one cushioned deck chair to be found on the promenade deck. No NCL staff 'supervising' the Kids Pool. I know kids will be kids, but the bigger ones had no concern or courtesy towards the little ones and after quite a few knock downs, being splashed or squirted, it looked like a Jerry Springer show fight was gonna break out between some parents. TV Channels...Hmm, too much TNT and 'our favorite' shows being shown over and over again. The first run movies were pretty lame and only got worse the 5th time they were on. And to see all the ship's shows put on during the week, you have to 'type' in channel 28 on the remote as the up and down channel selection buttons skip right past 28 I thought I saw the ship rats (think mall rats) start to show up about 2pm on the last day of the cruise, but they were nowhere to be found, cluttering up the stairwells and being surly when politely asked to move aside, or just plain old hanging out in the elevators, after midnight, like they were around early afternoon. I think NCL had some sort of teen program going on during the late hours of the last night, good for them! Having the talent show in the observation lounge, too small a venue, with very poor sight lines. Credit foul-ups. We were lucky, NCL only gifted us with a $30 bingo charge we didn't make. IMHO, NCL needs to allow you to view your credit statement via your TV or at least give you your statement earlier than they currently do. They only allow you to address disputes from 05:30 to after 8am on disembarkation day. The line was very long: $150 charge in the salon that didn't happen, with the lady missing her NCL provided transportation to someplace and being told she had to take a taxi without NCL picking up the tab, a gentlemen being charged $90 for a advance in the casino he didn't request, another false charge for bingo, etc, etc...some lady was on line so long with her little kid, that the kid got sick and the lady had her kid stand in the middle of the atrium, throwing up and making a mess, as a type of payback to NCL for making a mistake on her credit account and then having her wait in line for so long to have it corrected. Finally, can't blame this on NCL, but it leaves a bad final impression of your cruise experience when disembarking and someone B&Ms and cries that you cut them off in line to customs because you weren't ahead of them in line, when they walked of the gangplank, and then have them muttering behind your back, all the way through customs and into baggage claim. This was a long review, sorry. Disregarding the above, we did indeed have fun in (and on) the SUN!
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.