To tell you a little about us: we are veteran cruisers, sailing almost 30 times and on all mass-marketed lines; some are now ships of the past. This was my third time on the Sun and hubby's first. In recent years we have concentrated on NCL only. There are many reasons we have decided on NCL; of course the obvious reason, like many other people, is freestyle cruising. Other ships do a form of it, but NCL does it best. The relaxed, personal and friendly crew and management adds to our love for the line. We both are retired seniors normally cruising once every 9 months to a year. Prior to our past 2 cruises we used another line, starting in Canada. We have cruised all of the Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, repos, Alaska, Panama Canal, and the first sailing from Dover to NYC on the Jewel.
Our cruise vacation started 2 nights before sailing. The reason for 2 nights is we had awful ice and snow storms here in NWA and chose to spend the night prior to leaving for Miami, at our local airport hotel. Thank goodness we did, as we never would have gotten to the airport on time for our early morning flight. Luckily, the weather had warmed up a bit, some of the ice had melted, and we got out almost on time. Our flight was uneventful and we arrived in Miami only about 30 minutes late. That night we stayed at the Homewood Suites near MIA. In recent years, Homewood Suites has become our first choice for hotels when possible. The room was clean, in excellent condition, with full kitchen and a separate bedroom. Some are living/bedroom combos, but still have plenty of room, a complementary dinner including wine or beer, and a decent breakfast the next morning.
We asked the front desk clerk the best way to get to the port, figuring going back to the airport would be best, but they had the name of a company that was a little less expensive and would pick up us at the hotel. The driver was there right on time to transport us to the port. I will say he was a wonderful driver, even if he scared the holy heck out of me a few times. We arrived at the port about 10:45 and were eating lunch within an hour. Checking in was a breeze, Because we were VIPs (just why I am not sure) we were able to eat in Il Adagios. As soon as we finished our lunch we headed to our balcony cabin on deck 9.
The cabin was clean, as was the balcony, and everything was ready for us, including a bottle of wine from our travel agent. After taking time to read all the information and letters in the cabin and spend a few minutes on the balcony, we decided to take a look around the ship. Our biggest complaint about the cabin was the tiny bathroom, but hubby loved the shower. I would also add that the balconies are pretty small; I don't think dancing on them would be appropriate. The queen-size bed was very comfortable and the thermostat was easy to control. Balcony cabins are complete with small coffee makers as well as bathrobes for the guests. I will add the cabins are showing some age, but so are we. Before we knew it, the life boat drill was over and our luggage had arrived. As for the lifeboat drill, they are much less painful than years ago. It only took a few minutes to unpack into plenty of storage space in the cabin. We never used all of the space available. I took advantage of the 50% off pressing promo, sending a few blouses, a couple pairs of pants and a few other things pressed.
We chose an early dinner the first night. We didn't have to wait and were given a choice of eating alone or with others. We chose others. Surf and turf was the featured choice of the day. Hubby chose French onion soup as an appetizer and said it really wasn't as good as some. I had salmon tartar at the recommendation of someone with whom we were sharing our table and it was not something I would order again. Before we even started eating, the waiter asked if we wanted something from the bar. I ordered a glass of house white wine. I imagine hubby thought I had drank enough that day because, almost as soon as it arrived, he managed to knock it over, spilling it on my dress and everywhere else. At least it wasn't a red, like I would usually be drinking. Let me assure you, he will never live down the clumsy spill. The dress was sent to the laundry, so I was left pretty much with only pants to wear to dinner for a few days. But that was OK since freestyle means, among other things, you can dress for comfort. One dining room does not permit the wearing of shorts at dinner. The bad thing is that rule was not enforced the first night. I don't know about afterward; I didn't pay much attention.
Overall, with few exceptions, our food was par or above. The servings were small, which saves on wasted food and one is allowed to order more. We found the choices to be just fine, with 3 entrees each day - plus a fourth, labeled the chef's choice of the day - and veggie dishes and wonderful, always available dishes. Always available are salmon (cooked perfectly) steak, lamb shanks and chicken breast. Always offered were mixed green salad and Caesar salad, 2 soups and a couple of always-available appetizers. Besides, always available there are daily soups, salads and appetizers as well as pasta and dishes for vegetarians. I have no idea where people get the idea there are not enough choices. Food was always the right temperature and, considering they are cooking for more than 2,000 guests, the food is seasoned correctly or as much as can be. I need to add that I am considered a good cook (gourmet level, says hubby) who uses spices and herbs and even I was satisfied with the dinners.
We chose 3 specialty dining rooms. All were great, the best being Il Adagios and our least favorite was Le Bistro, a surprise as it has always been our favorite. We loved Moderno's. Both the quality and the service topped our list. We did try the buffet, the sports bar and the great outdoors, none of which disappointed. Weak spots included salad dressing (nothing special; desserts (likewise); and room service (the worst), though we rarely need room service. We only did because hubby wasn't feeling well. If I had it to do over again, I would have gone to the sports bar or the buffet and brought something back.
We intended to see the first night show, but time just slipped by. We were tired and wanted to listen to some piano music, so we just did that. In the 11 days we saw 4 of the shows in the showroom. All were great. Our only complaint was the NCL production team, though very talented, seemed to think no one could hear them if they didn't yell. I guess that with age, the desire to hear everything 3 times louder than necessary isn't important. Maybe they think we are all hard of hearing; if I had any doubt about mine, it disappeared. Most nights there was a game show in the Dazzle's nightclub, plus music throughout the ship. For those who like a lively nightlife there seemed to be enough to keep them hopping.
For those who are looking for more to do than just go to the nightly shows, there is always the casino, which on the Sun is a little more generous than some ships. Don't get me wrong, the slots are not live Las Vegas or even the Indian casinos, but you can play for a few minutes on the $20 bill you stick into the machines. Hubby actually won about $100 overall. I wasn't that lucky. During the day there are trivia games, pool games (not a lot of that), tournaments, arts and crafts, dance lessons, the usual port talks and cooking demonstrations, just to mention a few activities. Some days, there are movies as well, but don't expect to see any really exciting movies in the cabin. The ships want you out and about, the better to spend money. That is how they stay in business. For sure they don't make it on the fares.
We had several days at sea on this cruise, but enough time in ports to enjoy ourselves. Our first port was Cartagena, Colombia. We chose a ship excursion which, if we had it to do over, we would not have done, but a horse drawn carriage ride through the city was fun. We stopped at the end for shopping. There were some decent bargains, true, but like most ports, a lot of what was being sold was overpriced junk. From there we went to Aruba. I wish we had planned something, but all we did was get off the ship, do a little shopping and headed back again. In Curacao we did a lot of walking around. The port area is the nicest we have ever seen. It was more of a park, with trails, landscaping, and a huge shopping center. We chose to stay on ship in St. Maarten as we have been there many times, both cruising and on land trips. As there were 8 ships in that day, the highlight for us was sitting on our balcony as the sun started to set and watching the other ships depart one by one. Our final port was St. Thomas, one we have visited many times but we had never seen Coral World, so we chose a tour through our travel agent. It was a wonderful afternoon with a decent price tag. As we headed back to the ship, we said goodbye to the Caribbean for a while, knowing we would be back before long on another cruise booked on the Dawn for late April.
Two days later we were again in Miami, choosing to use NCL's transfer to the airport, a very smart move, I would add. If you have to fly in and out of Miami, this is the way to do it. Miami is our least-favorite airport and it continues to keep its reputation as the worst of the worst.
With the holidays about over, our suitcases are finally completely unpacked and the laundry done. We can look back to those 11 days on the Sun and carry with us mostly positive memories.