We just returned from the 10 day sailing of the Norwegian Sun (November 25 -- December 5). I'll write my review and try to be objective although it would be difficult for me to find much to criticize on The Sun. This was our 4th cruise (2nd with NCL) and by FAR the best we have been on. We loved every minute of it. Most of my review will be about The Sun rather than the ports -- we cruise for and enjoy the actual cruise the most. The ports are nice extras for us, but we love the ship and actually 'cruising'. We didn't do any excursions and just went around on our own for a bit at each port.
This will be a longish review so if it is too long -- the short version is that we would HIGHLY recommend The Sun and NCL. The crew, cruise director, cruise director staff, entertainment and officers were all wonderful -- the best we have sailed with. As before, we loved freestyle cruising.
We are in our mid/late 30s. Being a 10 day sailing out of Florida, most of the passengers were somewhat older than us. We enjoyed this and enjoyed talking with many of the passengers and it was a very relaxing cruise. Our first 2 cruises were 7 or 8 day cruises. Last year we took a 10 day and that is our preference. I find that (for us) -- on the last couple days of a cruise we are sad that it is almost over, so we truly enjoy more days on a longer cruise than a shorter one! I don't know if the ship was sold out, but it never really felt crowded anywhere (except for maybe the buffet!).
I almost didn't book this cruise. We only booked approximately 2 weeks prior to the sailing. Compared to other ships, I didn't find tons of info in the message boards about The Sun (although most of what I did read was positive). I did read it was a smaller and older ship and hesitated to book at first, but am so glad I went ahead. After this cruise, we now have a preference for smaller ships. You see the same passengers more frequently and get to know them. In addition, the staff and crew are better able to get to know the passengers on a smaller ship.
We spent 2 days in Miami prior to boarding The Sun. We took a taxi from the airport to The Intercontinental. $32 plus tip. Being from Canada, we don't convert a lot of money to U.S. dollars. Our currency is at par or fairly close to it (one way or the other) most of the time right now, but changing our money to U.S. costs more due to bank conversion fees. We take a little U.S. cash for the ports but mainly use a specific credit card that doesn't charge the typical 2.5 conversion fee. Surprising (to us) the taxi driver did not accept credit cards, nor use a meter. I'm not sure if that is typical, but next time I'll look into before our trip to make sure. She was nice and friendly but sat in the taxi as my husband loaded and unloaded the luggage, but did get out after he was finished to collect the fare.
We stayed at the Intercontinental and took a day trip to South Beach. It was a quick and easy $2 bus ride with the stop almost just outside our hotel. The beautiful weather that day at the beach continued throughout our entire trip.
Sunday morning was the day we had been waiting for. It was time to head to The Sun. We got there around 10:30 a.m. I would estimate. There was a bit of a line to get into the terminal for the security inspection but after that things moved very quickly. There were only a couple people in the regular line and the Latitudes line was empty. We soon had our ship cards and were assigned #2 for boarding.
I believe we boarded around noon or slightly before. We headed to Four Seasons which was open for lunch (this was the only day Four Seasons had lunch -- the other sea days and every other port day it was Seven Seas that served lunch). We find the restaurant much more relaxing than the buffet the first day. It wasn't very busy the first day. The menu was the same each day (which we were aware of) and we loved the Vietnamese Spring Rolls as well as the Portobello Mushroom appetizers. I really enjoyed the Milk Chocolate Mousse for dessert. We had a variety of entrees and always enjoyed them. I don't find we are 'picky' food people. We've enjoyed the food on the ships and have no complaints.
A big part of what makes The Sun so wonderful is the crew. We noticed this from Day 1 in Four Seasons and it continued throughout our entire cruise. They are all so friendly and helpful and really helped make The Sun our best cruise yet. Next time I cruise, I will begin writing down names from Day 1 for the staff recognition cards. We always had different wait staff for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They were all fabulous and worthy of recognition. From the hostesses to wait staff -- the entire Sun dining staff were the best.
We had all our breakfasts in Seven Seas. Other than the first lunch, which we had in Four Seasons, we had lunch in Seven Seas each day it was open (each sea day and every other port day -- it was open 2 port days). Seven Seas was also open until 8:30 a.m. on debarkation day with a slightly smaller menu.
For 2 of the other 3 port days, we went to Moderno, as it was less busy than the buffet, and it had a pizza and pasta bar. The other port day -- the last one - we had lunch in the buffet. Other than that, from time to time we would pick up a few snacks or fruit in the buffet but (unlike other cruises) did not spend a lot of time in it. I did visit the ice cream area several times that seemed to be open from noon until 9:30 p.m. There was also a self serve soft serve ice cream machine in The Great Outdoors that I saw and used a couple times. We would have dinner in Four Seasons (the more casual of the 2 restaurants for dinner) and often had a late night snack in The Great Outdoors (which was open until 11:30 p.m.)
We enjoyed the food and had no complaints. On the last 2 cruises (one with NCL and one with Royal Caribbean) we did visit a speciality restaurant once. We didn't get around to it this time and didn't feel the need anyways. We would usually go to dinner early (between 5 to 5:30 p.m.) We never had a wait and were often there early enough to get a window seat. Dinner was always served quickly and we were done usually within 45 minutes. This was great as we always had plenty of time after dinner to walk around the ship and decks and make the 7:30 p.m. early performance (the other was at 9:30 p.m.).
For the first time I had booked directly with NCL. It was just over 2 weeks out from the cruise and the price looked good. They were offering an OBC but we didn't get any as the Latitudes offer was more money off than the OBC was so they gave us that instead. Usually I would have gone through an online travel agency to get onboard credit. In this case, I was concerned the price was going to jump up so booked right away with NCL despite the lack of OBC. Turns out I could have waited and gone through an agency to get OBC as the price for the guarantee balcony actually dropped $50/person shortly after we booked (down to $719/person in the week prior to the cruise was the Latitudes offer). However, we were happy with the price and it is always a gamble and could have gone either way. Had I booked through an agency and gotten OBC we would have been more likely to spend money on board, but the price overall was great for a 10 day cruise in a balcony. I had purchased a future cruise certificate during our last cruise so having $250 to apply to the cruise is always nice (and of course, we bought another one on board this time).
Our rooms were ready fairly early the first day -- by about 1 p.m. We had booked a BX balcony guarantee and were assigned a B2 family balcony. It was on deck 8 and we were just a few doors down from easy access to the elevators or stairs and a few decks away from anywhere we needed to go (either up or down).
Our room steward was fabulous. One of the few drawbacks of our first NCL cruise was a not so perfect room steward. I hate to criticize anything as they all work so hard. In any event, our room steward on this cruise more than made up for any issues with our last steward. We didn't see a lot of him in the beginning as he was so good at getting in and getting out and getting everything done whenever we stepped out. He was always busy and we got cute towel animals each night. On the last night, when we tipped him extra, he genuinely seemed surprised and very grateful. On the last morning, he was hard at work as usual when we left our room for the last time. We thanked him for everything and said we hope to see him on a future cruise and he said the same.
We left Miami at 4:00 p.m.
For sail away, we went to the pool deck and the cruise director and staff as well as the entertainment performers were there. We then found out the cruise director was JC Sanchez and got the first glimpse of him and his cruise director staff. They were the absolute best. JC Sanchez was the best cruise director we have had. We felt that he and his staff really took the time to get to know the guests and interact with them and they were all entertaining. Kristine was the assistant cruise director. Eddy, Alvin, Daria, Jojo, Sara and Gabi were other cruise director staff and they were all great. Alvin remembered our names after asking only once, which really surprised us, as he interacted with so many guests.
We went to the show in The Stardust theatre each night at 7:30 p.m. We enjoyed all of them. There were 3 production shows, a comedian, a hypnotist, acrobats, a magician, a singer and a singing group. We would get to the theatre early as they only opened it 30 minutes prior to the show and there was usually a line up.
We also enjoyed the crew show (very talented crew) the afternoon of the last sea day with the usual NCL Fountains performance. Since you could video record or take pictures, I recorded the Fountains, JC Sanchez's performance as well as the cruise in review video which will be nice to review to remember the cruise. JC Sanchez is also a fabulous singer. He sang a song or two with the band (Exotique) in Dazzles a few nights as well.
Most nights we would go to the main show at 7:30 p.m. in the Stardust theatre and then watch whatever was taking place in Dazzles. There was often a game show (The Perfect Couple, Not so Newlywed game, etc). I remembered Dancing with the Pearl Stars from The Pearl and was happy that it was still taking place at NCL. There was a 2 part Dancing with the Sun Stars (passengers paired up with a dancer or cruise director staff). The winner of the first part competed with the winner of the second part near the end of the cruise. One of the waiters, Pasquale, took part in the 2nd competition and he was an amazing dancer. He also took part in the crew show and has a lot of talent.
There were different themed nights (e.g. 50s nights, 70s night) and of course, The White Hot Party. A band, Exotique, played most nights in Dazzles and they were great. This was their last date on The Sun and they will be on The Star from December 9 until March. They used to be with Princess for approximately 14 years and apparently no longer are due to cut backs. Princess' loss is definitely a good thing for NCL as they are great and a huge asset to NCL.
The original captain was Ronny Borg. In Barbados, he went on vacation and Tommy Stensrud is now the captain. Ronny Borg was the captain at the Latitudes cocktail party (which was split across 2 days due to the large number of latitude members on board). Tommy Stensrud was the captain that took part in the question and answer session which I enjoyed. Steven Jacobsen, the hotel director, also took part. Steven Jacobsen was an excellent hotel director. He was very visible on the ship. We'd often see him in the restaurant talking to passengers.
The ports -- as I mentioned, we only briefly visited the ports on our own and bought small souvenirs everywhere except Barbados.
St. Thomas -- the only port where we tendered (as there were already 3 ships at the dock). Tendering was well organized and quick. It was our third time in St. Thomas. The tender dropped us off in the downtown area. We found the store owners very aggressive. Couldn't walk a few steps without being ushered into a store. Since we weren't looking for jewelry, we took a walk to the area we'd been dropped off in before (we wanted to buy a Powerball lottery ticket and knew there was a place there to buy -- unfortunately we didn't win the almost $600 million jackpot:) ). It was a nice walk and we saw an iguana.
Dominica -- again, we got off the ship and walked around a bit on our own. I also saw a turtle swimming near the ship from our balcony.
Barbados -- the day we were in Barbados was Independence Day, so most things, other than right at the port were closed. We walked around a bit but an incident occurred that made us decide to go back to the ship. I know it could have happened anywhere, but it turned us off Barbados that day and we returned to the ship. As we were walking, a man came towards us and shook my husband's hand and wished him Happy Independence Day. The man had the appearance of a homeless person. My husband is friendly and shook his hand. After this, he realized, the man had put a bracelet in his hand when he shook it. My husband is the type of person that often gives his spare change to people on the street asking for it. He said no thank you and handed the bracelet back to the man. The man tried to put the bracelet on his arm while saying it was a gift. Again, he said no thank you but gave him a dollar bill. Again, the man tried to put the bracelet on his arm. As we started to walk away, he demanded $60 for the bracelet (a cheap type that you could buy for a dollar or two). Tried to block our path to prevent us from passing and made us feel threatened. Although he wasn't a big guy, we had no idea if he had any weapons. He insisted that it was Barbados, the bracelet was $60, if you touched it, it was yours and said a bunch of other stuff. We eventually got past him and saw a couple other tourists walking towards him (who he was making his way towards with the bracelet -- probably something he does all day) and we advised them to avoid him.
The other cruises we have been on had a Caribbean deck party during the later evening. This time it was at the sail away the day we were in Barbados (I think think it went until about 7:30). I am guessing but am not sure, with the older age group on the ship, it was thought an earlier deck party might be preferred. I believe that night they had a Caribbean themed night in Dazzles as well (with the pool band -- Titanium).
St. Lucia -- another nice day.
St. Maarten -- we had been here before and enjoyed it again. A highlight was seeing several dolphins swimming and jumping by the ship during sail away from our balcony. I wasn't able to get a good picture (they were way too quick), but I was happy to see them.
Before we knew it, we were at our last 2 sea days and then came debarkation day. We had the best cruise so far, continue to love NCL and freestyle cruising and are already dreaming of our next NCL cruise!