I have always read reviews on Cruise Critic with a passion and enjoyed the opportunity to learn something about a cruise I was going to take. I marveled at the amount of time some people put into the review. I thought maybe I would share my thoughts on my last cruise hoping it may help someone plan for their upcoming trip. I sailed on the Norwegian Sun 1/1/2014. It was an 11-night itinerary featuring the ports of Cartagena, Columbia, Aruba, Curacao, St. Martin and St. Thomas.
The Ship: 4 stars. I have always liked smaller ships. Somewhere between 80, 000 and 110,000 tons seems about right to me. The Sun at 78,309 gross tons fit me perfectly. She is easy to navigate and well kept. Yes there are a few places her age is showing but the ship is clean, the entertainment very good and the staff some of the best I have experienced at sea. The captain Ronny Borg was exceptional. He mixed with the passengers throughout the cruise and even held a Q and A session towards the end of the trip. His candid response to questions was refreshing. At our Cruise Critic gathering 6 or 7 of the senior officers came and also took questions from the group. I was very impressed that they gave of their time on the first sea day to accommodate us. I would have given the Sun 5 stars except for some problems in the venues. The biggest problem is there is no good sized lounge to host entertainment like the game shows. You know, things like the Newly Wed Game, Liars Club, etc. Dazzles is the best they have, it is midship and everyone has to walk through the lounge when going from front to back. The shows were always at 8:30 pm and were filled to capacity. Standing room only really and many people just gave up and walked away. A minor complaint and there really isn’t anything that can be done, just wish they had a bigger lounge so everyone could attend. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles on this ship and that is ok. It was still fun with plenty to do.
The Food: 4 stars. The food in the MDR’s was very good in quality. But after 11 days it became….well…. boring. NCL has a little different concept in the dining rooms. They have a bigger “classic menu” that stays the same throughout the cruise. Most cruise lines now days have this on the menu but not to this extent. Then on the other side of the menu you get the options that change every day. There are fewer appetizers and entrees on this side than you will find on other cruise lines. Like I said the food was good and the portions were just right for me. They were smaller than other cruise lines but my senior appetite just doesn’t need huge portions for me to be happy. Reduces the waste too. Lobster and Steak were served the first night so you want to be sure and go to the MDR for that meal. The steaks were always very tender and the other dishes were prepared just fine. Just maybe too much of the same thing. On a 7 night cruise this might not be so noticeable but on an 11 day cruise you do notice. The dessert menu also stayed the same throughout the cruise except for maybe 2 new items each night. That became a little boring after 11 days too. Maybe it is an effort to drive people to the specialty restaurants with a surcharge. We went to Le Bistro, Il Adagio and East Meets West Steakhouse. The meals in each of these restaurants were very good. The portions were bigger and the presentation of the food was very nice. We enjoyed each one. It actually went a long way in breaking up the same old thing in the dining room. I don’t usually like to pay extra for meals but the cruise was so reasonably priced that even with the extra $57 per person added to the cruise cost it was a steal. We would have paid much more on another line for sure. We didn’t go to the Sushi bar or the Teppanyaki Restaurant but since they share the space in East Meets West we did see them. The Teppanyaki only seats 12 people and so it only has 3 times available during the evening. It seemed to be sold out almost every day. The other restaurants seemed to have space available every day. We ate early, at 6 pm and there was always space available. We didn’t go to Moderno, the Brazilian style restaurant so I can’t comment on that. One night the MDR didn’t sound interesting so we went to the Tapas Bar for appetizers (free), then to the dinner buffet for cold raspberry soup (cold soups only available in the buffet, not on the MDR menu) and then into the sports bar for salads, chicken wings and French fries. We followed this up with a freshly made strawberry crepe made next to the ice cream station in the Garden Café.
The buffet is small and often times crowded. It is located on only one side of the ship making it a very busy place. Another minus for the smaller ship size. The Moderno restaurant occupies the space another buffet would normally be on other ships but they compensate by turning that into a lunch area for a couple of hours during the day. The Pizza is cooked here and there is a pasta station. They have a small buffet for making deli sandwiches, getting soup or salad and a couple of desserts. It is a nice dining area and usually not as full as the other side with the buffet line. The food is good but didn’t change much. You expect this at breakfast time. There are only so many breakfast foods but I did expect a little more variety for lunch. The smallness of the buffet area just makes it impossible to have a wide variety of foods. There was a deck bbq about 4 times during the cruise too. As has been said in other reviews use the Great Outdoors buffet when you can. It is underutilized and there are times when the Garden Café buffet is crowded but the Great Outdoors has hardly anyone in line. If there had only been a little more variety I could have given the food 5 stars. Still it was good food and it didn’t keep me from gaining 5 pounds over the course of 11 days!
The Entertainment: 5 stars. The production cast did a good job with 3 major shows. Not only did they do the shows in the Stardust Theater but the singers also did a show of Broadway hits with the Sun show band in the Observation lounge. Later in the cruise in Dazzles they did a Motown themed concert. Singers and dancers were at the sail away party and the White Hot party. These were in addition to the big production numbers. Not sure I have seen that much participation by the cast on other ships. I have many times said I wish the band would play more. They are always such good musicians. I got my wish here. They preformed about 4 times outside of the Stardust Theater in other venues. The main stage performances were rounded out by a comedian Bobby Collins who was funny. A magic show presented by the Cruise Director Iain Bagshaw. It was actually very good. This was the last sailing on the Sun for Iain, he is transferring to the Dawn now. There was a juggler/comedian named Michael James and he did a very good job and was very funny too. There was a pianist, Paul Pappas who received a standing ovation at the end of his act and rightly so. He was great. There were two variety shows featuring the entertainers on board too. All in all I thought the entertainment was very good. I have to say I was very impressed at the end of one concert towards the end of the cruise the senior staff came on stage and some of the waiters, stewards and crew members. It gave us a chance to applaud their efforts during the cruise. What I didn’t expect was these same people lining the exits and hallways so they could applaud us as we left the theater. A nice touch and it made me feel like they really cared.
The Cabins: 5 stars. I booked the lowest possible price in an inside guarantee and ended up with an upgrade. It was still in an inside cabin but in a handicapped room on deck 9. The extra space was great and very comfortable. Our steward, Edwardo called us by name every time he saw us. Something you usually only get on higher priced lines. The soap and shampoo were in dispensers on the wall. It had a lemon smell and seemed quite nice. No lotion or other amenities were in the inside cabin. Maybe there is more available in the higher priced cabins. The bed was comfortable, the pillows good and the room was well kept so no complaints.
I would say overall this was a very nice cruise. We had good weather the entire trip. The ports were interesting and fun. And what is not to like when someone cleans your room twice a day, feeds you and entertains you every day? Getting out of a cold climate into a nice warm, almost hot one for a few days in January is a good bonus too. I would go again in a heartbeat.