This was our second cruise on the NCL line, our first cruise was on the NCL Star last Christmas (New Orleans). We have to admit that we came away from our second NCL cruise on the Sun with a much better experience and it is a much better ship!
We booked stateroom 1007 which is actually on deck 11 forward. We absolutely loved the location. Our stateroom was down a short hallway from the fitness/gym facility, no long corridors looking for our room. Plus, both the pool and buffet were a short distance away, very convenient for pool time and alacarte dining at the buffet. It was also a very quiet area, no noise from public areas or adjoining rooms.
We were pleasantly surprised with the room décor, soft muted and relaxing beige and aqua tones throughout. However, above the bed was a strange artwork, it looked like large bandages stuck on red colored squares. It did not fit with the décor, nor seem to be a “relaxing” piece of art. This type of artwork is more appropriate for a public area hallway that needs a “punch” of color.
The furniture was well arranged for navigating around the room. The king size bed was very comfortable with top of the line linens; we actually remarked we wished the bed/linens weren’t so comfortable; it was too tempting for extended afternoon naps!
The balcony is on the small side with two chairs and a small table with little room to walk around.
What impressed us the most was the bathroom; it had a small “walk in type closet”, a floor to ceiling cabinet of drawers, a separate room with the granite topped sink and vanity table, and another room for a full size tub/shower combination and toilet. There was so much storage space that we actually had empty drawers and cabinets. We think this is one of the best designed bathrooms we’ve ever seen on our 12+ cruises. We especially liked having the privacy of closing the shower/tub/toilet door while someone was using the sink or vanity area. We also liked the walk in closet; it was so nice to be able to hang our clothing in a large area without having to deal with wardrobe doors in our stateroom!
Stateroom amenities included waffle weave bathrobes, soap and hair shampoo (no conditioner!). Since the liquid bath and hand soaps were scented with lavender which I’m allergic to, we asked our cabin steward to provide an alternate soap (and hair conditioner), and he quickly filled our request. Mentioning our cabin steward (Jeoff), he was one of the best cabin stewards we’ve ever had. Always friendly and smiling, he paid attention to the details, quickly filled our requests, and he made the best towel animals ever.
We did have one problem with our stateroom. Each morning the balcony was completely flooded with about a half inch of water. It seemed like our balcony was the “low point” in that area and there was no drain. We were told that the water from hosing down the walking deck above. So each morning we called guest service and asked that they send someone to remove the water (wet/dry vac). The flooding did impact the enjoyment of our morning breakfast on the veranda while watching for flying fish. We couldn’t believe that for a ship this age, someone hasn’t figured out how to install a drain in the veranda to eliminate this problem! We did speak to both the hotel manager and guest services about this problem, and we were comp’d a dinner at the steakhouse. So just a warning if you book this stateroom and want to enjoy breakfast on the balcony…
Dining - we’ve come to realize that food on the NCL line is just so-so, nothing memorable or something to look forward to. We had breakfast and lunch at the buffet, there was plenty of selection, but it was always the same food. It was confusing to find some of the food items as some of the buffet service were located in different rooms, or in different areas of the dining room. Food lines, while crowded, seemed to move along fairly quickly and we didn’t have a problem finding a table. Each day there was a BBQ lunch available by the pool which was good. We did reserve a dinner at the Le Bistro for our anniversary. Both the escargot and clams in a saffron broth were excellent, and the service was very good. Our dinner at East Meets West (steakhouse) was also quite good as well as the service. We dined at the Four Seasons on 5 evenings, the only difference between this restaurant and the main dining room is that it’s a bit more casual. We found the service to be fairly quick, but we were disappointed in the menu selections and variety. For example, the same 4 soups and salads are offered daily, no variety. In fact, the entire right side of the menu never changes, the evenings specials are on the left side of the menu and at times, nothing really appealed to us. We also found some of the food to be improperly prepared, for example, I sent back risotto that was still crunchy, and returned Jamaican chicken as the only thing I could taste was rosemary. I think our biggest disappointment was in the deserts, many of them just had no taste (i.e. pear tartlet). We did opt for the made to order desert crepes in the buffet on a couple of evenings.
Ship layout – this is not one of those “wow” ships with artwork, flowers, and high end décor. It’s muted and comfortable. Public spaces were well laid out, and it was very easy to navigate around the ship. The only area that felt “crowded” was Dazzles lounge as it was the access/exit point for the shows in the theater. We never had a problem finding seating in any of the public lounges/theater.
Shows – the ship’s entertainment crew presented 3 shows which were pretty much the “standard” cruise ship musical/dance productions. While costuming was always impressive, the quality of the vocals and choreography could use some improvement. We thoroughly enjoyed Gari Lovini’s violin performance (standing ovation), hypnotist TerranceB, comedian don Friesen, and the Russian acrobatic performance by Soul Duo (another standing ovation).
Pool – there are 3 pools on the ship, one is the small “kiddie” pool, the second pool is the deep water adult pool and the 3rd is the play pool. While the pools didn’t seem to be overcrowded, finding a lounge chair on the decks was a challenge is you showed up after 7 am!
Shopping – one half of the shopping area was dedicated to jewelry (Emeralds International). The other half has the usual cruise shop items. I was disappointed that they did not sell any cruise related t-shirts. I think the cruise lines need to rethink the type of merchandise they sell. I find that the pricing for perfumes/cosmetics to be much higher that what I can find locally or on the internet, the same with designer handbags, Swavorski crystal jewelry, etc. Cruise lines need to realize that the pricing in their stores is not competitive to what guests can find on the internet, and generally have shipped for free!
Returning to Ship after Shore Excursion – this is one area NCL excels at, welcoming guests back to the shop after a hot/humid shore excursion. Chilled face towels are handed out, a tented area dispenses water and fruit juice, cookies and ice-cream (you’ve got to love a ship that feeds it’s passengers before they get on the ship!). There was even a nice tented area with sofas and chairs for relaxing. On the final shore excursion day, a large number of staff was on the dock, dressed in costumes and dancing and singing. It was a great welcome back, and a good marketing tool for the passengers of the cruise ship docked next to us.
Embarkation – we arrived at the port around 11 am and while the lines were long, it was very well organized and we did not have to wait long to be “checked” in at the counter. We boarded around 12:30, and our stateroom was available by 1:30. Our entire luggage was delivered by 6 pm.
Debarkation – we opted to take our bags off the ship and therefore, could depart any time after the ship announced we were free to leave. We left our stateroom at 9 AM and we were through customs and on the bus to the airport by 9:15 AM, a new record! It’s so much easier carrying our bags off the ship, don’t have to leave our bags outside the stateroom the night before, and don’t have to wade through a mountain of baggage in the terminal trying to find our suitcases.
Late Evening Entertainment – many of the dance parties, or adult games, were scheduled around 10:30 PM. We felt that this was a bit too late, especially with early morning shore excursions. It would be nice if the timing of these types of events could be moved up to the 9:30 timeframe. There didn’t seem to be anything to do most evenings after the 7:30 PM show, just wander around listening to music, or losing money in the casino, until game shows or dance parties started at 10:30. While I’m sure the cruise ship was happy that we made our donation to the casino, we found the night time entertainment to be a bit boring, with little variety in entertainment.
Overall we were satisfied with this cruise, no “wow” factor, bells or whistles, just a comfortable way to relax and visit the islands. We felt the cruise was a good value for the money, and would recommend the NCL Sun to others.