We had a wonderful time on The Sun. This was our third cruise having gone previously on a seven night cruise on the Norwegian Pearl and an eight night cruise on Navigator of the Sea (Royal Caribbean) before. This cruise was longer and was on a smaller ship than our previous cruises. We found that we loved the differences in both cases.
Regarding the length, 11 nights really allowed us time to fully relax and enjoy the cruise fully. We absolutely loved the itinerary. It was great to start our cruise with two full days at sea. These first two days gave us a chance get to know the ship and it’s crew. We had three ports of call followed by another sea day. This was followed by two more ports and the cruise ended with two more days at sea. We loved this schedule, it gave us a great mix of active and relaxation days, plus the different ports were different enough in flavor and culture that each one offered something different for us to explore. Prior to the cruise my wife was a bit concerned that 11 nights might be just a bit too long, now she thinks that the longer cruises fit us better than the shorter ones.
Regarding the smaller size of The Sun. The ship is small enough that we felt like we received individualized attention from the ship’s staff. The ship was not crowded and still provided most of the amenities we enjoy on the larger ships. In fact the only item I missed on The Sun was that it didn't have a cigar bar which both of the larger ships we have cruised on before offered. We did notice two bottle neck areas on the ships that traffic tended to back up. The first was following the evening shows the aft hallway on deck six from the Stardust Theatre leading forward toward Dazzles tended to back up, especially if people were stopping to look at the photos posted along the wall. We found a quick solution for this was to bypass the issue by using the outside walkway on deck six. This walk was always uncrowded and provided a great opportunity to enjoy the sea. The second bottle neck was in the buffet especially the area toward the aft area. This meant that during prime meal times there tended to be a backup to access the buffet. This wasn’t a real issue for us, we tend to eat at the sit down restaurants more than the buffet. We never had to wait in a line of more than one or two people at either of the main dining rooms or any of the other dining venues we chose.
The Sun is also an older ship but she has been refitted a couple of times. The ship was always spotlessly clean and well maintained. We did notice a few areas where she was showing a bit of age on her, nothing bad, we could just tell she wasn't brand new.
We had cabin 8270 which is a starboard side balcony cabin near the aft of the ship. Our cabin was a good size. The bathroom was small (as they always are on cruise ships, but not bad, I could even take a reasonable shower) The room had a king bed and a full size couch that would pull out to provide a second bed. The closet was reasonable and had plenty of hangers and several baskets along one wall which provided plenty of storage. There was also plenty of drawer space our standard small writing desk with chair. The cabin also had a coffee pot (which was nice), a small flat screen television and two fluffy bathrobes. The balcony was wonderful!!!!!!!! It was about four feet deep and ten feet wide and was supplied with two deck chairs and a small table. This cabin is positioned directly above the Stardust Theatre, we occasionally would hear a little bit of sound during show times, but even that was very faint. We found that the location of the cabin provided easy access to many of the key places we visited regularly. We could easily walk down one or two sets of stairs to quickly get to either the theatre or the Seven Seas dining room and the elevator also provided quick access to the places to eat on deck eleven and twelve. Our cabin steward Arvin was a real jewel. He kept our room spotlessly clean (even slipping in to freshen things up if we stepped out for just a few minutes). He greeted us by name every time he saw us and was always incredibly pleasant to speak with.
We found the food on board to be very good. As I have said we tend to dine at one of the full service restaurants while cruising. The Seven Seas dining room was nicely decorated and required that guests wear at least resort casual (long pants and polo shirt) while dining there. Four Season was also well decorated but guests were allowed to wear shorts while dining there. The menu in both of the main dining rooms had two parts every day. The first set of selections were the same every day and provided fare such as steaks, fish and pasta. The second set of selections changed daily throughout the cruise and provided options such as lobster, lamb, duck and that sort of fare. We found that the beef options were always consistently good at every meal so we tended to order that choice most frequently. We enjoyed the food very much (too much in fact since we both experienced the standard cruise weight gain effect) One thing that really impressed me during our cruise was that I mentioned to one of our servers who happened to be Pilipino that I really enjoy Chicken Adobo (a national dish from The Philippines). They said that it wasn’t on the menu but suggested that I might be able to get some if I were to request it. I took them up on their suggestion and asked the Food and Beverage Director if it would be possible for me to special order Chicken Adobo. Sure enough a couple of days later The Food and Beverage Director saw me around the ship and asked where we wished to dine that night and what time I wished to have the Chicken Adobo served. That night we were treated to a truly memorable meal. The staff served us the best Chicken Adobo and another Philippine pork dish I didn’t recognize I have ever had. The food was wonderful, but what made it so special was knowing that the staff were willing to go out of their way to prepare something that wasn’t even on the menu just for us. The wait staff in the main dining rooms were always very attentive to meet our needs.
We don’t usually do many of the specialty restaurants when we cruise, but due to the length of this cruise we did take the opportunity to visit several of them. East Meets West is an absolutely wonderful steakhouse. The beef fillet was just about the best I have ever had. La Bistro was probably our favorite of the specialty places, the atmosphere was very nice and the food was perfect. Moderno was also good if you are a carnivore (I will say the salad and soup bar that comes with the meat is also pretty top notch).
One thing we found especially nice about the Sun was the variety of fun little places to grab a bite if you didn’t want to hit one of the main eating establishments. Here are a few of the great extra options: The Great Outdoor (the outdoor aft buffet) offered a nice late night buffet including some pretty awesome pizza. Los Rombles is a Spanish themed bar on deck 12 that offers a nice selection of free Topas food from 5 to 10pm every night (the olives, the sausage and the shrimp were my favorites). The Sports Bar offers no charge all night bar type food (burgers, wings, chips and dip). Moderno also offers a free pasta and salad bar everyday at lunch. We also really enjoyed ordering an early morning coffee service from room service that we could sip while enjoying our balcony.
Before the cruise I was wondering if the entertainment would be varied enough to keep me interested over eleven nights. Overall we found the entertainment to be good. The singers and dancers troop did three production shows scattered over the eleven nights. Two of the production shows were just average, but we really enjoyed the “We Will Rock You” show which featured rock and roll from the 70’s and 80’s.
The guest entertainers were all pretty good as well. The Hypnotist was very entertaining and very funny (he also offered free stop smoking and weight loss seminars in the afternoons). The comedian was just about like every other cruise ship comedian I have seen, funny but not really anything special. The guest tenor did two shows one he sang classical and Broadway type songs, the other he did love songs from the 50’s and 60’s. We really enjoyed the acrobats; I kept saying to myself how do they do that. The banjo player did a good job with his material, but we don’t really typically listen to banjo music so we found a full hour of it to be a bit much. The cruise director Ian also did a matinee magic show which was very good. We also enjoyed the matinee crew talent show on the last day of the cruise.
We also really enjoyed several of the lounge acts that were scattered around the ship. We enjoyed several of them throughout the cruise. We were particularly fond of Jim Long who is a piano player/singer that appeared in The Windjammer most nights. He did several special sets including a tribute to Elton John, tribute to The Beatles, a fun sing along.
The casino on board is fairly large for the size of the ship. Prior to the cruise I had purchased two promotional packages one through Norwegian and one through a casino promotions company (google discount casino Norwegian cruise) both of these promotions essentially gave me two for one buy in for casino play. I enjoyed the casino especially on sea days and actually ended the cruise going home with a little bit more money than I started with (well in my casino money at least).
I also made use of the steam room and sauna which are located up in the spa but don’t require a spa purchase for you to use them.
We also had a great time on this cruise meeting fellow Cruise Critic members. Our Meet and Greet on our first full sea day was very well attended (something like 75 people I would guess). The cabin crawl was tons of fun including the special treats set up for us in the owners suite. After this introduction it was great to see the different members around the ship during meals or at the shows. We met so many wonderful people this cruise.
As for the Ports of call:
Due to the schedule this port is only a half day port starting off really early in the morning. However, this really does work out well because even in late November Cartagena got hot and humid by noon time. We walked out of the port (through the second set of gates) out to the main street where we negotiated with a taxi to take us to the El Centro for $8 (make sure to get your walking tour map at the port tourist office) then we spent the morning walking around the old city. We also made a visit to the gold museum (free of charge). After we had walked around the old city, taken all the photos we wanted and did a little shopping we caught a taxi back to the ship (again $8 with a little negotiation). Before we boarded the ship we spent a little time walking through the small zoo that they have at the port. Overall a very interesting day that cost us almost nothing.
The ship docks here just after lunch and stays till mid evening. Once leaving the ship directly across the street from the cruise port is the main bus station (the buses stop in the parking lot behind the building to the left as you have the port to your back). We took bus 10A ($2.30 per person each way) from the downtown to the northeast end of the island to Malmok Beach where we spent the day snorkeling (must have your own gear). There is a nice reef formation less than 50 feet from the shore that follows the coastline for a considerable length. The water was calm and warm. I saw a considerable variety of fish and other life including: squid, puffer fish, triggers, tangs, an ell, pipe organ coral, fan coral and several fish I don’t know the breed. We caught the bus back to town and spent a little bit of time walking around the shops near the port terminal. Another fun day that cost almost nothing
We spent the morning walking around the downtown area enjoying the pastel colored buildings and the fun shops. Early afternoon we caught a city bus($3) that took us on a full loop of the eastern end of the island. We didn’t get off the bus we simply rode it for its full loop which allowed us to see the interior of the island as well as the smaller towns that are far away from the tourists. We really enjoyed the ride.
When we got back to the ship at the appointed 4:30pm all aboard time we found that due to an issue they were working on we would be staying till 8:00pm. This extra time allowed us to head back into town and enjoy the city as night fell. We also took the opportunity to find a grocery store were we purchased the same liquor the tourist shops were selling but at less than half the tourist price.
We had been to this island before and had already done the shopping thing so this time we rented a car and spent the day driving around the island. I paid $54 for a small car for the day. We had been told that Frier’s Beach (near Marigot) was nice so we stopped there and found a wonderful little bay ringed by white sand and palm trees and best of all there were only a few people there. We also really enjoyed Oyster Pond and the area around. At the end of the day we walked along the boardwalk where we found our vender from last trip who offers cold soda right on the beach for $1 a bottle.
We spent Thanksgiving Day in the US Virgin Islands. I had pre-booked a jeep for the day at a car rental right in the terminal. Ended up paying $94 all fees and gas included for the day. Once the ship docked we headed straight for the car rental and off we went. I must admit it was a bit unnerving to be driving on the left hand side of the road, especially in a Jeep that was set up for right hand driving. Once we left town we headed straight for Red Hook to catch the ferry over to St. Johns ($50 round trip for the jeep and all passengers). We then spent the day driving around the Virgin Islands National Park. The park was so lush and green, we really enjoyed exploring the rain forest. I also had a short time snorkeling at Water Lemon Cay on the north side of the island. Snorkeling at Water Lemon Cay was excellent, probably the best coral formations I have ever seen anywhere plus several really nice fish to enjoy including what I think was a Tarpon that was just about as big as me. After catching the ferry back to St. Thomas we stopped at a small grocery store that had a lunch counter where we purchased a very nice selection of island fare for a late lunch.
Once back at the ship since St. Thomas was our last port of call on this cruise the crew of the Sun met us on the dock for a dock side party and welcome back aboard.
My wife and I really enjoy cruising on Norwegian, we feel that they offer a very personalized experience. The crew is always so friendly and helpful. We like the free style approach to cruising where we can choose to eat whenever and wherever we want. We found that The Sun offered those qualities in spades. We were especially fond of Arvin our cabin steward, Patrick the concierge who met our every need every day and Dan the Food and Beverage director (he up growing up in a small town in Arkansas just minutes from where my wife is from, we really enjoyed sitting and chatting with him), Jim the piano man in the Windjammer, and the entire morning and noon service staff in Adigio who did a wonderful job every day with our breakfast and lunch needs. It was a wonderful trip, we had a great time and we are already thinking very seriously about booking the same cruise again next year.