This is a review of our Norwegian Sun 9 day Baltic Cruise of July 6th - 15th. It his was our first cruise with NCL, having sailed previously with Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. We tend to choose our cruises based on itinerary and value.
Ship layout can be very confusing. Our standing joke became, "You can't get there from here!" You quickly find that you cannot walk from bow to stern on certain decks. Also, when they refurbished some areas (ex: Pacific Heights) they never updated elevator signs and ship maps with new names (Moderno ...). Not all elevators go to all floors, you can not go from the front to the back of the ship on some of the decks containing the most used public areas and/or you must walk through areas such as the casino. The ship is kept in great condition and we never noticed things that others have referred to as worn or in need of attention for a ship its age. We really missed having an indoor pool area and nice comfy padded loungers. The pool area on the Sun is no frills, with little protection from sun and wind. Strange that with this set up she is doing the Baltics now and next year Alaska. Luckily, on this itinerary, use of that area was not a priority. We were blessed with lovely weather on this Baltic cruise but did not hang by the pool much. The adult only pool is right next to the general use pool. The hot tub temp was kept at 98 degrees, perfect for growing all kinds of nasty things, and not hot enough for our liking so we never used them. Ample outdoor seating areas, many loungers.
We like being able to check our onboard account a few times during sailing, and the only way to do this on the Sun is to go to Guest Services and request a printed copy. The television does not have any personalized or interactive options.
The crew is attentive and friendly and always smiling We enjoy interacting with the crew, but we noticed a bit of "reserved attitude", not as outgoing and engaging as some other ships we've been on. Of course, there were some crew members who were shining exceptions and we have no complaints regarding the level of service provided. Overall, it is a nice ship and we enjoyed sailing on her.
We booked an aft mini-suite and others in our group had side balconies and insides.
The mini-suite (9078) was our favorite cabin to date. We felt is was worth every penny. It was noticeably larger than the balcony cabins and we loved the huge bathroom, dressing area and vanity. extra wide balcony and tons of storage. Plenty of clothes hangers were provided, along with two robes, The balcony had two loungers, two chairs and a tiny table. We did have a bit of soot now and then but no food from above. There are printed warnings and announcements requesting that passengers not feed the birds. If you happen to have inconsiderate neighbors, who think the rules do not apply to them, you will find yourself being entertained by some very aggressive seagulls and plenty of bird fertilizer on your railings and balcony furniture. On the aft, these mini-suites have the sofa located at the foot of the bed, not next to it, and there was no privacy curtain. We loved having the bed right next to the large sliding door, what a view! The cabin was tastefully decorated and in good repair. There were two 110 outlets above the desk and great reading lamps. The bed was super comfy. Bedding was in good condition and the towels were very heavy and plush. Pool towels were provided in our cabin and replaced as needed, or exchanged at poolside. This is a very quiet area of the ship. We did feel significant vibration on a few occasions, but nothing that would prevent us from booking this cabin again. Our friends had 9075, the last side balcony cabin. Although the balcony was quite large, they did not like the smaller interior space. The cabin is approx. 10 square feet smaller then a standard balcony, the desk unit with storage is smaller than those in other balcony cabins and there is a loveseat instead of sofa. They would have preferred the inside space, rather than the balcony (to each his own). The inside cabin in the aft (9143) had tons of storage and seemed quite roomy, one of the largest insides I've seen. Although it is a long walk to the aft, the convenience of the rear stairs and the quick walk up two flights to the Garden Cafe, Great Outdoors, Moderno and Sports Bar was a real benefit to booking these cabins.
The dress codes were enforced in the Four Seasons aft diningroom. Members our party who had not read the restrictions were asked to change from shorts into long pants (which they cheerfully did). Service was attentive and courteous. We found the main dining venues to be very unaccommodating to our party of 11. We were asked to sit a different tables, or come to dine at 5:30 pm or after 8:00 pm. It was explained that the timeframe in between was their busy time even though the dining rooms were never more than half-full. We offered to call ahead, but they were unwilling to accommodate us at a single table. After a number of calls to various customer service representatives we were told an exception would be made for us. On the two occasions we ate as a group in one of the main dining areas, we were seated in the central area at three square tables that had been pushed together, and we're virtually the only patrons in the area. We never understood how that was such an imposition, and certainly not in line with the spirit of "freestyle".
Speciality Dining - only three venues were available for pre-booking on our sailing through the NCL website. Of note, once we boarded, every restaurant except Teppenyaki showed availability on the dining monitors every evening during the cruise, in fact, they seemed quite empty.
Il Adagio - Lovely views from every table, but IMHO that is the only positive reason to eat here. Menu offerings and food quality were mediocre in comparisons with other Italian restaurants we patronize.
Teppenyaki - We easily made reservations for our group the minute we boarded. This was without a doubt a great dining experience, well worth the cover charge, mostly for entertainment value, but the food was very good.
LeBistro - best meal of the entire cruise. Variety of menu choices, quality foods, well-prepared and excellent service.
Buffet - the buffet was, well what can I say .... the buffet, crowded and a bit chaotic at times, as others have said. The design is poor, so the flow is disorderly. That being said, it appeared to be the most popular dining venue onboard, even at dinnertime; it was far busier than either of the two main diningrooms. Food selections were plentiful and pretty standard, although we found the free beverage selection lacking- no lemonade, juice or flavored water for lunch or dinner. We got tired of ice tea by day three. The pasta and wok stations were a big disappointment; basically just pasta and sauce - two pastas, three sauces (no additional choices such as vegetables or meat), and one Asian dish of the day, heated in a wok. The pasta and Asian dishes offered right on the main buffet were better. Be sure to try the crepes from the ice cream bar, served after 5:30 pm. The banana and Nutella became our guilty pleasure. We preferred eating breakfast at Moderno, The Great Outdoors or the main diningroom. Room service does not offer morning service until 6:30 am (without an additional charge), and only cold foods are on the selection list.
Overall we found the food quality perfectly fine, no better or worse than other ships, but fewer choices than we are used to. We purchased a wine and water package upon boarding to take advantage of the discount package pricing (which is really almost offset by the 15% added charge).
Bars and Lounges
Ramblas - our favorite gathering place for pre-dinner drinks and tapas. Bright space with lots of windows, great, friendly service.
Windjammer - kind of dark and claustrophobic for my liking. with the photo gallery on one end, but great piano entertainment.
Observation Lounge - spacious, comfy seats, great views
Sports Bar - good service and location. We sometimes took our breakfast plates here from either the buffet or Moderno.
Champagne Bar - in the main atrium; small, centrally located, good for people-watching.
We did not participate in any onboard organized activities, but attended various entertainment offerings: 4-ever, Shout, the Broadway Review and staff talent show. All were very entertaining with a talented cast of performers. I would watch them all again! If nothing else, go to the crew talent show to see the concluding act - Fountains, presented by the Cruise Director's staff. Just hilarious! There were plenty of seats available for performances. Other onboard offerings, including the Not So Newlywed Game, Dancing With the Sun Stars, Quest, and The Perfect Couple, also provided a fun way to pass time.
We are believers that a cruise is what you make of it, and we've yet to have a bad one. This iitinerary was exactly what we were looking for. I would sail with NCL again, but considering our experiences around dining, would probably give preference to other lines first.