Norwegian Sun Cruise Review by Medtech2: The Sun is a Good Experience
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The Sun is a Good Experience
We drove to Port Canaveral and stayed at The Country Inn and Suites for their Stay and Cruise package. The room was clean and the bed extremely comfortable. Embarkation in Port Canaveral was very easy. Our shuttle dropped us at the curb and porters were there to greet us and take checked luggage. I need to add that when we received our luggage on board it looked like it had been dragged around the parking lot a few times. It was dirty and scuffed, with the fabric abraded, and two of the bottom feet were broken.
Entering the terminal was a breeze. Have your passports open to your picture and a copy of your ticket in hand. Then you enter the door and put your belongings on the conveyor belt and step through a metal detector. Your passports and ticket are scanned, your picture taken for security, and your credit card run. There was no line to take the Embarkation photo which was in front of a green screen. They apparently photo-shop the ship behind you. The Sun will remain on More the old style system where you have to search for your picture on the wall. They will hold them in a folder behind the desk once you locate them. They did not offer a disk with all photos for one set price as other ships do.
Both MDRs were open for lunch, as was the buffet. We ate at the Four Seasons and had New York Strips which were very good. Food, of course, is subjective and will also depend on who is cooking at the moment. As far as the buffet, we never ate lunch or dinner there but did eat Muesli there for breakfast a couple of times. The buffet did not serve Eggs Benedict so we ate a few breakfasts in the MDR. I had heard that there was a breakfast pizza available in Modernos on the Sun but the crew had never heard of that item. Crepes were fantastic in the buffet and we had one every evening. People rave about the cold soups on the buffets but we never saw them. I am obviously blind and missing something here, lol!
The rooms were ready early, about 12:30. I found this ship somewhat confusing. You have to walk through some venues to get to other venues, rather than using a hallway or indoor promenade. By the time we unpacked and walked the ship it was time for the Lifeboat Drill, which was held on deck. It was short and sweet and would have been even shorter if people understood what a straight line was. One spouse in front of the other, not side by side...On the Sun the lifeboats are hoisted above you on the deck, not hanging to the side. While this is great for keeping the views for the cabins, I think safety-wise it would be easier to launch lifeboats that are already at deck-side. Since the Concordia I have also become more aware and noticed several "hoist" stations if you should actually have to go over the side on a line and inflatable rafts about the decks of the Sun.
Sail-away started at 4pm but by the time we got there around 4:45pm the party was breaking up. Granted it was overcast and quite windy but the CD and her crew disappeared pretty quick. Only a DJ was playing at that time also, although a live band had been playing earlier. This was disappointing. They were grilling with charcoal on the deck, and the burgers were quite good.
We were in a balcony cabin which was comfortable for two but I feel would be crowded with any more people in it. The bathroom has a very small circular shower with a curtain and there is no room to shave your legs or move out of the way of the water to soap up. Also, as soon as I turned on the water the curtain billowed for a millisecond, enough to flood the bathroom floor as the lip is so low.
The TV in this cabin is an old tube type but one advantage here would be that you could bring a DVD player or game system for the kids and hook it up, which you could not do on the new flat screens. There is a small table in front of the couch on the Sun to use if you wanted room service.
Entertainment throughout the week was very good, done with a production crew. The first night was the Welcome Aboard Variety Show which had a couple numbers from the show crew and a lot of talking from the CD. It was pleasant and the female singers in this crew are very good. The Sun's Stardust Theater is small and has many views blocked by columns, even though they still placed seats there. People would see an empty seat, sit in one, then immediately have to move.
Our steward did not have the same skill set as other stewards we have had, but that could be an age and experience thing. He emptied our fridge as requested but just put the items on the shelf above the TV, which I could have done, and which then took up a shelf. By 4 pm the first sea day the bed was still not made. We did not receive our ship pins for being latitudes and had to ask for them at the Service Desk. He constantly knocked on the door and never seemed to learn our schedules but he did greet us by name. We soon learned to put the green "make up room" sign in the key slot when we went to breakfast so he would go ahead and do his job. He would not come back again until turn down in the evening. The bed in our cabin was hard as a rock and I woke up aching from head to toe every morning.
Our Meet & Greet was the first sea day at 11am in the front Observation Lounge, which is a very nice space that also has an observation deck in front of it outside. There is an open promenade and jogging track (due to the placement of the lifeboats). Kids were in every hot tub on the Sun and there was no place to escape them. The Sun pool deck was crowded and noisy.
People seem to like a "soaring" atrium but I found the elevators on the Sun just broke up the ship into small bits and cut down on the flow from one end to the other. The glass elevators on the Sun did nothing for me and were redundant with the other elevator bank placed a few feet away. There was a coffee bar in the Atrium with free coffee off to one side that was not very good. The crew member manning it told me I had to buy a specialty coffee to be able to have a pastry from the case, even though on other ships the pastries are free.
That first sea day was also the Latitudes Party at 1pm. It was in the Stardust Theater and there was no way to mingle. You sat and had to wait for a waiter to bring you a drink or a canape. Choices were slim and we only got one go round before the CD started talking. Then the Captain spoke and introduced the other officers.
Photos with the captain were available that evening but I happened to see him in the stairwell and he nicely obliged us with our own private shot.
Entertainment that evening was the Showtime: Encore! which was an amalgam of Broadway hits. The production cast did a very good job but we had to arrive 45 minutes before showtime to get a good seat as the seats at floor level are all on one level and there are those pesky columns on the top level. I was taken aback by the cheek one couple displayed. Even though it CLEARLY states in the Daily that there is no reserving of seats they had typed up "Seat Reserved" signs to hold their seats, then happily plopped themselves down later. One thing I really did not like each night before the Sun shows were the crew walking around trying to sell those pull tab lotto tickets. I found it gave the pre show a cheap carnival atmosphere. After the show there was a 70's themed party in Dazzles and the dance floor was packed! The band Sol Play was just excellent and this was just a great fun time.
We did the Everybody Loves Rays excursion in Cozumel and I heartily recommend it. You meet at the pier and take a very short taxi ride to the place. Since we were a large group they split us up into two groups. One group snorkeled while the other learned about the rays and vice versa. The reason I prefer this excursion over the one in Grand Cayman was the fact that the area was sheltered from much wave action. The guides took great care of the Rays. I have seen pictures where people in Grand Cayman are holding the rays up and out of the water and this is very stressful for them, akin to someone holding your head under the water. The guides were knowledgeable and had us first pet the rays, then feed them, then hold them (at the surface with their gills still under water). They took a variety of pictures of everyone and these were available as single prints for $10 or all the pictures on a CD for $25. The fellow who prepared the CD corrected for under or over exposure on the shots and the CD contained some very good professionally done underwater pics of the Rays. BTW the barbs are clipped here as these rays are captive. One of the families had previously done the Stingray City tour in Grand Cayman and they said they much preferred this tour. When they did Grand Cayman it was very crowded with not so many rays and very unorganized. Especially for kids or the elderly this excursion in Cozumel was educational, fun, and very much controlled, safety wise.
The snorkeling part was fun as a guide periodically fed the fish and rays so they would swarm around him. You are allowed to use your own camera in this part. After both groups were finished, which took about an hour, anyone who wanted to could go out on a water trampoline. There were hammocks available to lounge in, hermit crab races for the kids, a free soda, and snacks for purchase. There was a fellow weaving personalized wrist bands and massages were available. There were freshwater showers and clean bathrooms. Your wrist band also got you a free (very small) margarita in Margaritaville on the way back to the ship. I had the Fish Tacos there and they were quite tasty. They have a roped off swim and play area you can use, with various trampolines.
The Silver Latitudes party was scheduled for 5 pm in the Observation Lounge but we were also picked for the raffle for Dinner with an Officer and they wanted us to meet at 5:45 pm in the Seven Seas Restaurant. Talk about scheduling things close together!
We ate dinner with Teo Grbic the Staff Captain, who is from Croatia, and two other couples. I was seated at Mr. Grbic's left and thoroughly enjoyed the conversation. We turned out to be the same age and had two children the same age. He is in charge of all personnel on board, and ship security. Since the Sun does not have a brig they actually had to handcuff an out of control passenger to a post one time, until the man sobered up enough to promise not to trash the cabin he would be confined to. Mr. Grbic is from a seafaring town and has been on the sea since he was 19.
After dinner we attended the Stardust show with Aaron Shaw, a very talented tenor, who sang operatic and other tunes. We were so tired from the Stingray Excursion we totally missed the Dance Party that evening.
The Sun Casino is located mid-ship deck 7 and there are no effective air-cleaners. It was so bad I heard several dealers coughing horribly. There is no way I would be able to play any games in there. My eyes burned just from walking quickly through it to get to the art gallery. For some odd reason the Kids Korner is located forward on the same deck as the Casino. If you were coming from aft you would have to walk through the smoky Casino to get there. A few crew members told us they would go up or down a floor in order to not have to walk through this area, it was that toxic. The casino was the only place smoke was horribly bothersome. We happened to sit on the smoking side of the pool deck one afternoon and any smoke was quickly blown away by the wind. We had a smoker in the cabin next to us and that smoke also blew quickly by and did not enter the cabin from the balcony.
In Grand Cayman we did the Turtle Farm excursion. The lady at the desk told me I would not need a bathing suit as there was only a wading pool for youngsters to get in and hold a turtle. Not So!! If you do the Turtles, Turtles and more Turtles trip you also get access to the Turtle Farms water complex. There is a freshwater pool with slide and a salt water pool with many fish and turtles swimming in it so you could snorkel. We totally missed that part. However we did get to hold turtles ranging in age from 4 months (so cute!!) on up to 11 months. After that they were too big to hold. They also had an aviary and we were given a cup of nectar to hold and some nectar drinking birds would come to sit on your hand. They were not hummingbirds but they were very similar and quite beautiful.
We finally tried the wings in the Sports Bar for dinner. They were crisp and very good. My only complaint with the Sports Bar was that even though the menu said Open 24 Hours they are only open from 5:30pm to 5:30am. I know I would not want wings at 3am but I would definitely want them at 3pm. Since we did not want to miss regular dinners this was the only time we enjoyed them.
The show that night was SHOUT! The Mod Musical. It featured five of the ladies from the Sun production cast and they were phenomenal. The ladies clearly out-sing the guys in this group. Again I went back to the cabin to sleep but my husband went to The Perfect Couple Game Show and said it was outright hilarious to watch.
We had climbed Dunn's River Falls 25 years ago and figured it would be the same but much more crowded so we did not do any excursions in Ocho Rios. Staying on board in the morning allowed us to enjoy trivia, origami and Yahtzee, which were really fun. We walked to the Main Street to shop a little, saying No Thanks with every step. I know people get upset at the hassle but these folks are just trying to earn a living. There's no sense getting upset or even feeling unsafe, which I've heard people say. The taxi drivers and sellers might walk along with you but just keep walking. One fellow had a great trick. He handed us coffee bean necklaces and said they were free. As we entered a shop he said we could tip him if we chose to when we came out. Sure enough he stuck to us like glue the minute we exited until we gave him a dollar a piece. No worries.
We ate at a Greek restaurant that advertised free internet to use my Ipod to get online a bit. Unfortunately I am so used to an automatic log in at home that I could not remember my email password to save my life, but I did remember Facebook, lol. If you don't feel like Jamaican food this place has a really good Greek salad with really good feta.
Once back on board we also did Win, Lose or Draw and another Trivia game. I can see how some people cruise just to cruise, and stay on the ship in ports. The activities were fun. Complete strangers become friendly boisterous playmates during these activities. The pool area was relatively empty also.
The Chocolate Buffet occurred during regular dinner hours. I find NCL's desserts to be less than stellar. The absolute best thing to get is to go to the Garden Cafe and get a crepe. The brown sugar one with whipped cream is simple but oh, so good. They also had a chocolate fondue right where the crepe station is and there is a service-person who dips your items for you, which is a good thing germ-wise. The fondue is quite tasty and if I had thought no one would notice I would have asked for a bowl full. YUM! The show that night was a juggler/comedian, Jason Ross Garfield, who was quite funny.
The White Hot Party was held in Dazzles and it was very tight quarters on the dance floor. The backdrop had cartoonish videos playing. Only Jaime wore the white wings and she took them off almost immediately. I did not feel the dancers engaged the audience at all and I caught one young lady giving my husband a funny look. I noticed she only engaged the younger folks. We rarely saw any officers we met at the Meet and Greet out and about on the Sun.
Next was a sea day. We did the Behind the Scenes Tour in the morning. WOW! Very impressive! The Sun was just inspected by the USDA and received a score of 100. I work in a laboratory and we calibrate our fridge thermometers yearly. They do it DAILY. They have reminders everywhere about proper procedures. I noticed that if someone stopped to talk with us, even if they did not touch anything they washed their hands again before resuming work. Everything was incredibly clean and it was downright fascinating. All the baked goods are from scratch but they are so uniform and perfect it is hard to believe. The prep work that goes into cooking thousands of meals per day is unbelievable but capably handled. Everyone has at least 2 years of culinary training. We saw the kitchen and storage areas. They can carry enough provisions for three months worth of sailing. They typically take on $250,000 to $300,000 worth of provisions per week. As long as the ship is 12 to 25 miles from shore they pulverize all leftover food and discharge it for fish food. All recyclables are crushed and baled to be put out in port. Trash is incinerated and the ash is also disposed of in port, not at sea. All the trash from staterooms, etc, is separated by someone in order to recycle as much as possible, so remember that when you throw yucky stuff away. Glass and any chipped or broken china is ground up and also baled. Used cooking oil is put in huge drums to be recycled. The chef who spoke to us assured us that no request would be turned down. (I did test this--I ordered a Grilled Portabella with Blue Cheese instead of Goat Cheese and it was perfect.) There is a special small galley just for those meals requiring special handling for allergies, etc.
The laundry has giant machines that press and fold the sheets and towels. Crew quarters are scattered about on these lower decks. They have their own small laundromats to clean their clothes. Laundry that passengers send out is cleaned in separate machines from the ship's laundry.
The bridge was very interesting and Captain Tommy Stensrud talked to us about the navigation systems. Everything is computerized and digital and everything has a back up. Three officers are on the Bridge at all times. Ships logs are sent electronically by satellite to the home office. The officers quarters were up in this area.
That afternoon we saw the Crew Talent Show with acts ranging from singing to dancing to comedy. It ended with a hilarious skit by the CD's staff. When we got back to our cabin we had been sent a bottle of wine and some chocolates but there was no card so we did not know who sent them.
The show that evening was Rock You Tonight which was nonstop singing and dancing from the Sun production crew with a classic rock theme. The show ended with many of the Officers, Staff and Crew filing on stage. A man who had been cruising for seven weeks on the Sun had asked to present the Captain with a plaque and his wish was accommodated. Later we participated in Sing It If You Know It. I am amazed at the number of people who can name a song from literally one note.
The last day was spent at Great Stirrup Cay. We had rented a clamshell at the excursion desk the first day ($29.99) so did not need to line up to get tender tickets. It was overcast but you can still burn easily and I saw several very red people. There are a few spots around with dappled shade from the few trees and I was surprised these spots were not already taken. If we had not already paid for the clamshell I would have parked there, even though they are not "front beach." We got in line to rent snorkel gear for my husband and were at the window before we could finish filling out the liability waiver. The young lady actually made us leave the window just to finish the signing, although it only took us a second.
Snorkeling was not that great and I can only imagine it was due to the construction. We did see a barracuda and one solitary stingray and flounder, amongst a variety of the typical reef fish. There were some jellies in the water but they were the small round ones and did not sting. I did see a clear plastic cup too deep for me to retrieve and I made a suggestion on board that they use biodegradable cups here.
The buffet was pretty good but they only had water and horrible tea to drink, besides the bars selling drinks. Even though the last tender supposedly left at 5:30 they took down the buffet at 2, INCLUDING THE WATER(!!!!) I asked at two of the bars for water and they would not give me any, telling me to go try at the buffet area or the exit, neither of which had water. When I was at the front beach bar the lifeguard came up asking for water and they would not give him any either! I was dumbfounded at that!
Having no water available after 2 was unexcusable and also there should at least be some fruit available. My blood sugar plummeted and, coupled with my extreme thirst, forced us to return to the ship at 3. Low blood sugar can cause major mood swings and by the time we were back on board I was pretty bad off. I went immediately to Customer Service to complain, after first warning the young lady that I was pretty livid. I did manage to keep it together and she wrote down my concerns to give to the Food and Beverage Director to pass along to NCL, as the Sun was leaving for Europe the next day.
The last night we ate in East Meets West, the Sun's steakhouse. We had gone ahead and bit the bullet and applied for an NCL Mastercard and got a 2 for 1 coupon. Otherwise the food in the free restaurants was so good I would not have paid extra to eat. I had the Lamb Chops which were perfectly grilled and very tasty. Emily Post might cringe but I even ate the last bits of meat off the bones. My husband's T-Bone, however, was another story. It was tough and he did not like it. I tasted it and it was not as good as what we would grill at home. They exchanged it for a filet which he proclaimed was quite good. The famous Cagney fries were a disappointment as the Truffle Oil was severely lacking. The waiter insisted we try desserts and the Raspberry Brulee was very good, surprisingly berry tasting. The coffee was the first decent cup I had all cruise. I had mentioned the weakness of the coffee to the provisions officer on the Behind the Scenes Tour. If you should take this tour and he asks about the quality of the food, speak up, because he truly needs feedback about the quality of the food provided by the vendors. If you are wondering about the coffee, they have gone to a computerized system everywhere but the specialty restaurants, and it is programmed weak.
We did go after dinner to the Crepe station for one last crepe. I discovered a wonderful combo. Ask for a crepe made with the chocolate from the Chocolate Fountain. OMG!! I was in heaven and told the crepe guy how much I loved him, lol!
The show that night was the comedian. He was funny but I enjoyed the singing and dancing shows more. We went to the gameshow Quest. I had never been but NOW I understand the little extras you should pack on a cruise. It was hilarious fun and we were on a team with a great couple we had met way back at the Country Inn and Suites. The game can be quite physical in challenges but even with my bad hip, as long as I tried we got a point.
Embarkation was a bit crazy in that we were forced into a long line single file down the hall to the Four Seasons. Customs was a breeze, and we were back on a shuttle to our car in no time. All in all I would cruise the Sun again. Less
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