We have traveled many time with Norwegian, but due to our most recent experience will think twice about cruising with them again due to what we feel are deceptive billing practices.
We rented a car from the west coast of Florida and took the free shuttle to the port in Miami. Embarkation was fast and our cabin was ready when we boarded at 1:00. Of course, the buffet was already serving.
Our inside cabin was spacious, with a full size couch in addition to the bed. Storage was plentiful. The bathroom, while small, was adequate, and the shower had good pressure. The small flat screen TV was a constant problem as the control had a very small range of operation and channels were quite limited. Our room steward, Michael, was outstanding and made wonderful towel animals every night.
The ship is not new but is well maintained. Cleaning is constant. The Sun was refurbished in 2011. Having sailed on her prior to that, I find the biggest difference to be new carpets, not layout.
Dazzles, the night club which is used as a second theater venue, is really inadequate. It has heavy tub chair seats that do not lend themselves to large group seating. This proves problematic when it is used for the "game show" type of events in the evening.
The Garden Cafe (buffet) is crowded, but extra seating is gained by using the Sports Bar, and Moderno reataurnt, which are across the corridor. Moderno also has its own small buffet line and offers freshly made waffles and eggs for breakfast, and pizza at lunch. The main food line in the Garden Buffet offers a good variety at all meals. The sticky buns at breakfast are a real treat! The Great Outdoors, which is located nest to the Garden Cafe on the aft end of the ship, also has a buffet line and outdoor seating.
We ate all of our dinner meals in the main dining rooms, either The Four Seasons, or the Seven Seas. We preferred the service in the smaller, Seven Seas, although the menu with a few exceptions, is the same in both restaurants. The dress code is a little more relaxed in the Seven Seas, but we found that most passengers dressed nicely for dinner. We considered the food to be quite good in the main dining rooms and felt no need to dine at the extra price restaurants. The breads were exceptional throughout the ship! Steaks, although thin, were flavorful. Fish tended to be overcooked unless a special request was made. Desserts were generally better in the buffet, although all come from the same kitchen. Ice cream, both hard and soft serve, was available in the buffet. Soft serve in The Great Outdoors.
We found the nighttime shows, while not really headliners, to be quite entertaining. There was a good variety, with acts ranging from a banjo player to aerialists. We especially enjoyed the magician. The theater itself, is small, with many blocked views due to support columns, however, everyone always seemed to find a seat.
We did not use the Spa, but found the spa waiting room, just off the pool area on deck 11, a wonderfully quiet and relaxing place to read.
The library has very limited hours. Get your books early!
I particularly enjoyed the Cruise Director's staff, with the exception of the only girl in the crew who tended to be rather rude to the guests. There was the usual array of activities such as origami, napkin folding, flower making, trivia, etc. Since this was a longer than usual cruise, we got some repeats at the end. This was a little disappointing. We especially enjoyed the Team Progressive Trivia. Signatures are awarded instead of prizes at the completion of most contests. Signature cards are redeemed at the end of the cruise for somewhat less than "fabulous" prizes.
As we had cruised the Panama Canal cruise twice before, we opted not to go on any excursions this time. Most we spoke with enjoyed the ones they went on, with the exception of those at Puerta Chiapas. This is a new cruise port and I don't think they have their "act" totally together, yet. In their defense, we were told that they had not been informed that there would be two ships in port that day and were under-prepared in staffing both the tours and the "for pay" buses to take patrons into the town. This seems unlikely to be the case, however, since many of the tours are booked far in advance of embarkation. The welcome center is quite nice here, located in a well landscaped park, but nothing else is within walking distance other than one restaurant. It needs to be mentioned that we sailed, virtually in tandem, with the NCL Pearl, the whole trip. She beat us to the ports every time and perhaps skimmed off the better tour directors.
I did find that the information on the ports was lacking other than the maps provided the night before in the daily paper. On-board presentations which were billed as giving information about the ports, only gave the locations and shopping maps of various "guaranteed" stores, mostly jewelry.It would have been helpful to have some information on such things as the safety of the area, how to walk downtown from the ship, etc.
A pleasant surprise on this ship is that the bar staff was not constantly barraging you with offers of bar service. They are present if needed, but not aggressive. This is especially appreciated on the pool deck.
The one thing that stood out on this ship for me was the friendliness of the crew. They may not have the largest or newest ship in the fleet, but they have the biggest smiles!
Our only real problem on this cruise came the morning of disembarkation, when the final bill arrived. We had accrued several hundred dollars in cruise credits that we had assumed would be counted against our final bill. We had, in fact, checked twice with the front desk about this, and were assured that this was the case. They even mentioned the figure that our card would be billed. When our final bill arrived, the last morning, however, we saw that this was not the case, and our credits had not been deducted and were, at this stage, since nothing can be charged the last day, wasted. Of course we marched down to the front desk to complain and were told that cruise credits could not be used against the ship's bill, despite what we had been informed earlier. We felt totally cheated and mislead! Even though NCL had been one of our favorite lines, we will think long and hard before sailing with them again because of what we feel are deceptive billing practices.
Since we had an early flight (the ship did not provide a shuttle for those with flights before 1:30), we walked off with our luggage. The walk-off line formed an hour before we were allowed to get off the ship. Fortunately, we were in line early so did not have to wait once the line was opened. After clearing Customs, we went outside and found the shuttle kiosk. Even though we had not pre-booked, a shuttle van was easily procured for the 45 minute ride to LAX.
I am sad that our wonderful cruise ended on such a sour note with NCL. Beware!