We were on the 11 day Southern Caribbean Sun Thanksgiving week cruise and had a wonderful time! This was our 2nd cruise with NCL - the other being on the Star. We have also cruised Disney, RC, and the now defunct Premiere.
Ship - Yes, it's older and smaller but it's in great shape and it's obvious that the crew works hard to keep it that way. I often saw crew replacing, repainting or repairing areas on the ship. It doesn't have the WOW factor of larger ships either in terms of amenities or décor but it is pleasantly furnished and a comfortable home away from home. I loved the Observation Lounge on deck 12 Forward. I also loved the Great Outdoors at the rear of the ship for a wonderfully pleasant place to eat buffet meals (and the two buffet lines there that were never crowded because everyone was at the buffet inside, lol.). Though, of course, loungers by the pool were in demand, I never had trouble finding a open lounger if I went away from the pool a little ways. Personally, I liked that I could easily walk the length of the ship in a short amount of time, especially if I was running around trying to track down my teens! We were told that the ship was full but it certainly didn't feel like it. It never seemed crowded and we never had to wait more than a couple minutes for a table in the MDR.
Cons - the layout is quirky and takes a little getting used to. It's a railroad style architecture where the spaces all connect in a line to each other and you have to walk through one to get to the next. The only area where this is really inconvenient is on deck 7 where everyone (including kids) has to walk THROUGH the casino from the atrium to get to the shops and theatre beyond it. Also, since the casino is right off the atrium, smoke from the casino infiltrates the atrium but this is really only a problem on deck 7. On deck 6, you have to walk through Dazzles night club to get to the photo gallery, library and theatre. This was only a problem at night when the nightclub would get crowded or when there were shows with "adult" content that parents might not want their kids passing through to hear.
The décor in Seven Seas (the more formal MDR) is almost exactly the same as in Four Seasons. In fact, the chandeliers and lighting fixtures in there are downright ugly and strange looking (hanging horns from some kind of animal?). One of the things we loved on the Star was how gorgeous the formal dining room, Versailles, is while the more casual MDR has a more relaxed, modern look to it. I'd love to see the Sun really dress up the Seven Seas MDR to set it apart from the Four Seasons and make it more of a fine dining experience at least in ambiance (even though the menu is the same in both MDRs).
Cabin - We had booked 2 inside GTY cabins and were happy that NCL gave us two cabins just across a hallway from each other. Our cabins were spacious with tons of storage space. The beds are elevated with plenty of room to stash suitcases underneath. The closet is large and had multiple bins in it. The bathroom had 3 cubbies on either side of the mirror so lots of storage for sundries there as well. The shower was small but met our needs fine. In our cabin there was a loveseat-size sofa that pulled out to a bed. It was a nice little sitting area. We went on a cabin crawl with our CC group and saw some of the other inside cabins with different layouts than ours. Some were even more spacious and one even had 3 closets and a full length sofa! (Apparently, a few of the inside cabins can accommodate up to 5 people. It would be crowded but could be a great cost savings for a family.) On our cabin crawl, we also saw balcony cabins, mini-suites and even the Owner's Suite (wow, what a way to cruise). All were spacious and well kept up.
Cons - There is only one outlet in the cabin so be sure to bring a multi-plug extension cord if you have multiple things to plug in. The wall artwork was kind of strange looking - colorful, psychedelic modernistic sea scenes. Not a big deal - just think they could find something nicer.
Our cabin steward was the most reserved of any we have had on our cruises. We missed some of the cheerful interaction and banter that we have had with previous stewards. However, she did an adequate job of keeping our cabin clean and that's what ultimately matters.
Staff - Overall, the staff on the Sun were great. We attended our CC meet/greet where many of the senior officers introduced themselves and gave out a contact card with their personal contact info. We were urged to contact them if we had any problems whatsoever. We often observed the senior officers around the ship interacting with the guests. The level of customer service on our previous cruise on the Star is one of the things that made us really enjoy our first NCL experience and choose to cruise with them again. That high level of service was also evident on the Sun. With the exception of a couple of meals, the staff in the MRD were attentive and efficient. Likewise, the staff in the buffet kept everything well stocked and were constantly clearing away dishes from the tables. The staff at guest relations were excellent and very helpful in addressing some issues.
Food - We never had trouble finding something to eat! Most of the meals in the MDR were just OK - not bad but not memorably excellent either. Oftentimes I liked the food on the buffet better but I enjoy the experience of dressing for dinner and being waited on so we ate the majority of our dinners in the MDR. The steak and lobster on the first night is very good. My daughter loved the cream of broccoli soup which is offered almost every night. I liked the lemon sorbet. Thanksgiving dinner was a disappointment. More like cafeteria food than a fancy Thanksgiving feast.
On the buffet I liked the thick raisin bread French toast in the morning, the omelet station and the chocolate croissants. At lunch I liked the Thai/Indian food and the seafood pasta station. There is always plenty of fresh fruit and salad. In the evening, before dinner, I enjoyed the made-to-order crepe station, chocolate-dipping fountain and the tapas available in Las Ramblas. For late night, the sports bar offers good panini, strawberry shortcake and wings. There is also good pizza on the buffet at the Great Outdoors until 11:30. We didn't eat in any of the specialty restaurants. We only used room service one time but had a very large order (my 6'5" teen son eats a lot). The delivery was right on time with everything we had ordered. One area where NCL needs to improve is their desserts. Most of them look attractive but taste bland. In the MDR, I was disappointed that the only chocolate dessert was a berry chocolate cake. The selection of desserts is better in the buffet.
Entertainment - There were some really good shows. The NCL singers and dancers were some of the best I've seen. Their Broadway show and Rock show were both excellent. However, they have recently added a Burt Bacharach show that was not up to par. The setting (Las Vegas strip club w/ /Bacharach music - huh?) and choreography were strange and the music was not well matched with the vocal abilities of the singers. They presented a Broadway cabaret in the Observation Lounge one night that was very well done and well attended. They also generously gave of their own time to choreograph and dance in a flash mob proposal onboard. TerranceB, celebrity hypnotist was hilarious! If I had known how much fun his show would be, I would have attended both the early and later show. He also performed a "late night" show in Dazzles that was lots of fun and gave three hypnosis seminars on weight loss, insomnia and stress relief. Comedian Richie Minervini was also very funny and his humor was refreshingly clean. Soul Duo is an Ukrainian acrobat team of two people who are simply amazing in the things they can do. We had seen a similar act on the Star and enjoyed it again on the Sun. Aaron Shaw is a tenor who performed twice in the main theatre. We saw his first act and thought his singing was terrific. He just needs to polish his overall performance more. There was also a banjo player and El Gaucho - but we only caught a bit of each of their performances so won't comment on them.
In addition to the main theatre, there was live music all around the ship throughout the day and every evening. The steel drum band, Calypso Trio, by the pool was enjoyable. There was Dixieland jazz in the atrium one night and Big Band another night. There were also numerous smaller acts in the various lounges. We didn't go see them but as we were passing through would hear a little. They always seemed to have a good crowd.
The cruise director. Iain Bagshaw, and his staff put on a full spectrum of activities each day including trivia contests (which my husband loved), line dance and ballroom dance lessons, bingo, team games, arts/crafts, movies and themed dances. Despite the lack of "bells and whistles" on the Sun, you will never be bored. There is also a very nice fitness center (which my son enjoyed) and spa, shuffleboard, ping pong, walking/jogging track and a sports court.
KIds/Teen program - My kids are 13 and 17. They went to the "get to know you" social the first night and immediately made some pals to hang out with the rest of the cruise. The teen center puts together lots of fun activities for the kids. The kids also will use the center as a meeting space and then head out to do other things together on the rest of the ship. My teens really enjoyed the program and especially loved program staffer, "Teddy". The kids area looks nice and they also had a full schedule with many different activities for the various age groups.
Shops - I'm not a big shopper so spent very little on board. The majority of the shop area revolves around jewelry, perfume/makeup and liquor with a few sundry items and some NCL theme items. They did have a "Black Friday" sale for us but it wasn't all it was hyped up to be.
Casino - Did a slot pull with our CC group which was fun. Didn't spend much time in there due to the smoke. (Really wish that casinos would offer one day out of the cruise for us non-smokers!) As mentioned above, we had to walk through it frequently to get to other areas of the ship. It was never overly crowded and the staff seemed friendly.
Bad experiences - really none -- just a couple times in the MDR where the service wasn't up to par though it was great the majority of the time.
WOW experiences - 1.) being selected for dinner with an officer (put your name in the lottery by noon the first sea day). We ate with the hotel director, Sarper, and the training director. It was my family of four along with 2 German women and another couple from the US. We had a great time with them and were treated to complimentary wine, champagne and birthday cake (for one of our tablemates). After that, whenever we would see the officers around the ship, they would greet us by name and chat with us.
2.) My son's 17th birthday where both the hotel director and the MDR maître D' sent him lovely cakes that were well and beyond the normal small square "comp" cake for special occasions that NCL normally gives. He felt very special and enjoyed taking the extra cake to the teen center to share with his friends.
3.) Guest services staff who helped me get OBC that had been promised by my TA but hadn't shown up and also helped me find my 13 year old DD one night when she didn't show up for dinner and we couldn't find her.
4.) Coming back to the ship after a day in port and being greeted with a cool washcloth, juice, ice cream and cookies. At the final port, the crew put on a special celebration where they sing and dance at the gangway as guests make their way back on board.
Itinerary - It was the perfect mix of port and sea days. We enjoyed each of our ports and were able to book tours at the port for much cheaper than through the ship at each stop. I would gladly go back to any of the ports again. Favorite moments were Jolly Pirates snorkeling and rope swing in Aruba, Maho Beach in St. Martin, the Mountaintop in St. Thomas, walking through the Old City and holding a sloth in Cartagena and enjoying the colorful architecture and pontoon bridge of Curacao. This was our first 11 day cruise and even then, it still seemed to go by too fast. Embarkation and debarkation were both very easy.
I would suggest joining the CC roll call for your cruise. Chatting with people ahead of time and then meeting them onboard enhanced our enjoyment of the trip. We greatly enjoyed our time on the Sun and would recommend NCL and the Sun to anyone looking for a pleasant, relaxing vacation.