It is always important to set reasonable expectations for any planned trip. It is never realistic to expect open seating buffets to offer 6* quality dining experiences, for example. Norwegian is also not a super premium brand, and it certainly does NOT cost a 6* price. On the basis of what was promised (or at least perceived as promised) and what was actually delivered, the Norwegian Sun cruise rates a 9+ on a 1-10 scale, in my opinion. Here is my assessment:
1. Ship Condition: The ship is in excellent condition. Everything is in top working order. Aesthetically and cosmetically, the ship is virtually unblemished. You can't expect a floating hotel that houses 2000 guests and that is subject to rolling seas, vibrations, and constant movement to NOT have some maintenance issues. When there were maintenance issues, they were promptly addressed.
2. Ship Size: 2000 passengers with a 900+ crew is a good mix. The ship is over 800 feet long and offers a lot of More
amenities. It is not a mega-ship that offers rock climbing and water park slides, but it also does not take you a $10 cab ride to get to the pool.
3. Food: Excellent selection on the buffet lines. There was always a good selection of fresh fish, beef, pork, and lamb. The Sprinkles ice cream bar was open during the day and closed when the evening buffet closed. The food on the buffets was always fresh and varied and was consistently of high quality. The burgers (and more) in the aft of the ship were great when you just wanted something to eat after coming in from a tour, and the sports bar offered good food (but a LIMITED) sports viewing experience. The sports bar needs to have more availability than 1 ESPN channel and NFL Channel.
4. Itinerary: EXCELLENT. 5 ports with varied experiences available. Dominica and St. Lucia were rain forest tropical with waterfalls and lush scenery. Barbados, St. Maarten, and St. Thomas appealed more to the beach and sun lovers.
5. Crew: The officers were incredibly accessible. If you ever had a problem, I am quite certain that the right person would be contacted and that the issue would be addressed immediately. The average person you meet in the restaurant, on deck, or in the hall was always polite and smiling. I think the people genuinely like working on this ship.
6. Entertainment: Always good and sometimes great featured entertainment in the main room. Magic (excellent), hypnotist, Cirque performers (excellent), a dynamic opera quality male singer (excellent), and in house entertainment troupe rotated shows. There was a LOT of other entertainment going on each night in many other locations. Something for everyone.
Like I said above, the Norwegian Sun offered excellent value for my travel dollars spent. My brother and I already placed a deposit for our next cruise. You simply cannot go wrong with this ship and this itinerary. Less
www.suntoursbarbados.com is one of 2 large tour companies on this island. They provided a very comfortable car and experienced driver for $40/hr US, so we could experience the island on a private tour basis. We did a complete circuit of the island. Highlights included 2 churches, The Crane Resort and Bottom Bay on the southeast coast, Bathsheba Beach, Farley Hill, St. Nicholas Abbey, and Morgan Lewis Sugar Mill. St. Nicholas Abbey was a very pleasant surprise. We didn't go into the abbey, but the grounds were splendid and awesome for pictures. Farley Hill is restricted in access, but there are still decent photo opportunities and the grounds are very photogenic. There were 4 of us and we paid less per person than the ship tour would have cost.
This is a snorkel and unique swimming opportunity. There are bubbles rising from the sea floor from an underwater steam vent. This is how the "champagne" beach got the name. The snorkeling is very good here for non fish visuals. Lots of sponges, sea fans, etc and decent number of fish. Very good experience overall.
www.nietours.com provided a custom tour of the island (5 1/2 hrs) for the same per person cost as a 3-4 hour canned tour from the ship. Totally awesome experience with a personalized tour that took us places that few tourists see. Nature Isle Explorers provided a totally custom tour experience that included the entire mid to lower portion of the island. This included Scott's Head and the Soufriere fishing village, both of which are very worthwhile visiting.
Trafalgar Falls, and the thermal pools below, were an excellent stop. Most tours only allow viewing of the falls from the observation platform, but our private tour allowed us to sit in the hot water pools below the falls as well. Excellent photo stop for pictures.
www.realstluciatours.com provided a custom tour at group tour prices. The Pitons delivered the visual impact that was expected. VERY good. Anse La Raye fishing village was exceptional for photography, and the church there was worthwhile to visit. The Immaculate Conception Church and Morne Fortune in Castries were good photo opportunities. The sulphur springs were much better than I would have thought. There is actually a large mud pot pool that bubbles up and is easy to photograph from the viewing platform. The steam vents are impressive and also make for a good photo opportunity. More compact than in Hawaii on the Big Island. St. Lucia was a 5* experience from start to finish.
Good island with typically good beaches. I really enjoyed Moho Beach, where the airport runway begins across the road from the beach. The beach itself has excellent sand and the water is beautiful here as well. Orient Bay and the clothing optional beach area is good, but not great.
I walked around the port and liked the area. Took pictures of some churches, government buildings, and the harbor. I then hopped on a shared ride taxi to Sapphire Beach. Great sand, beautiful water, and decent snorkeling. Well worth the effort and less crowed than Coki or Megans Bay. Took a private cab back to port. It was an enjoyable day.