We just completed our 11-day Southern Caribbean cruise aboard the Sun and the family had a wonderful time. We liked being on a somewhat smaller ship compared to the 4,000 passenger ships we'd been on before. It made it easier to get around, which was important for me as I need the help of a cane to stay vertical.
The biggest negative was the size of our stateroom. We reserved a "guaranteed" picture window room and ended up in an odd little mid-floor with rooms that were even smaller than the others. There was literally no floor space after the couch was unfolded for my daughter's bed. I had to crawl over both beds to get to the bathroom. Also, if my daughter was much older she wouldn't have fit in the fold-out. The room isn't suitable for three passengers and kids older than 10 would pose sleeping issues.
It is hard to say what our favorite part of the cruise was, which is a good thing. We loved the freestyle approach and the open dining options. The two dining rooms provided ample options relative to dress and we never had a wait to be seated. The flexibility of not having a set time to eat dinner was a welcomed change, as was finishing the three courses in about an hour instead of the 2+ hours it can take on other lines. HOWEVER, the quality of food isn't what it was a decade ago, and the size of the ship meant fewer options with the buffets. We found NCL to be better than Carnival at least...but don't expect four-star dining. Mixed drinks were a bit expensive and the quality was inconsistent, as was the alcohol content.
The entertainment was varied and some was great, offering a little something for everyone. My wife pretty much loved it all, but I found a few of the acts leaving a bit to be desired. One of the comedians was rather self-absorbed (Bud Andersen) and spent a bit too much time focusing on how great he is. Then there was George...he wasn't a good enough vocalist to be a singer and wasn't funny enough to be a comedian, so he combined the two to create his act. It was a bit corny but the overall entertainment package was quite fun. The ship performers were good and the ladies, in particular, had some great voices.
The kids' program was quiet (only 25 children on the cruise) but our 7-year-old daughter had an absolute blast. The staff in Kids' Club was fabulous, as was pretty much every member of the service and entertainment staff.
There were two "Dress up or not" nights on our cruise. We opted to go all-out on those nights, as we were celebrating our 10th anniversary, right down to wearing my tux and my wife sporting her LBD.
We didn't do any of the ship-sponsored excursions. We thought the costs for three people were a bit steep and were able to arrange for the same experiences on shore for a lot less. It wouldn't have been so bad for a party of two or if we were interested in a "booze cruise." As for the ports:
Cartagena: Don't bother with shopping in this port (the ship's suggested mall-Perrino Gallo-was a waste of time unless one is looking for emeralds, possibly). There are a few things worth buying in Cartagena (coffee, coffee candy), but the prices in the port shop were comparable to in town. Explore the city, old and new, and save the shopping for the two St.'s.
Aruba: We went to Palm Beach on the bus...$2 each. A taxi ride was $15-$18 and they said the bus would never come, but we had no wait going out or coming back. Eagle beach is a bit closer and is also nice. There were places offering to rent chairs on Eagle Beach, ranging from $10 to $20 EACH. We found a resort on Palm that let us use their chairs since we were patronizing their bar. It was wonderful and relaxing...and a lot cheaper that the $125 we would have spent on a ship excursion to get us 10 miles down the shoreline.
Curacao: A nice walk across the floating bridge led to some fun shopping. Prices got lower on the outskirts of the nice shopping district, but the sense of security also diminished. We found this to be a great spot to enjoy the locals and browse.
St. Marteen: Options on this island are seemingly endless. Some say the Dutch side is best, while others prefer the French portion. We did the water taxi across the bay. It is $7 per person for unlimited rides, so one can go shopping, take their haul back to the ship and then return to enjoy the beach. There were ample options to rent chairs and a good deal can be found with a little bartering...$15-$20 for a six-pack and two chairs. There are lots of beach options on the island, but for family time we found the beaches across the bay to be great.
St. Thomas: Great shopping, great beaches, great snorkeling, great sailing...good luck fitting it all in. We spent our honeymoon there and found something different to do every day.
You'll love the staff and service on the Sun, but temper your expectations with food variety and beverage quality. Those areas just aren't what they used to be in the industry. I'd definitely travel on the Sun again, but it will be hard to ever go back to a 7-day cruise. This length was fabulous. We met some great people; I wish we would have met a few of them earlier in the trip. More questions? You can reach me at email@example.com.