My husband and I just took our third cruise with NCL, and this was the best one yet. We simply cannot wait to do another, hopefully back on The Sun. many passengers are repeat guests, and I now understand why. Here is the break-down:
Super easy. We flew into Miami and planned to just grab a cab to the port, but we saw NCL in the airport and had them take us instead. $16 per person, and they get your luggage delivered right to your state room. What could be better than that? Getting on the ship was easy and fast too, and our rooms were ready by the time we finished lunch at The Garden Cafe.
We visited 5 ports on this cruise, and each was great simple because of the excursions that we booked. I highly recommend comparing the NCL's excursions with Shore Trips.com, cruisingexcursions.com, and shoreexcursionsgroup.com. You can really create a great experience by looking at all of them. We especially enjoyed The St. Maarten Party Bus! My husband and I aren't huge partiers, but we were the only ones on the bus, and the staff really took care of us. We got a tour of the entire island - including Orient Bay Beach, Marigot, and Maho Bay - and we drank unlimited amounts of rum punch from our personal bartender while our tour guide/bus driver told us about the island. A really cool experience! Our other excursions inclusing an intense but really neat hike to Sari Sari Falls in Dominica, a tour of Lushan Country in St. Lucia complete with a hike through the forest with an experienced guide and fresh fruits and Caribbean food, and finally, an all-inclusive tour of Barbados that included Harrison's Cave, a botanical garden, Caribbean lunch, and a nature preserve with green monkeys. We arrived at St. Thomas with no tour in mind, but for $20, jumped in a cab and were taken all over the island for two hours, including three different mountaintops. You pay $21 just to go the mountaintop by rail. We stopped there on this tour as well and tasted the famous banana daiquiris that were apparently invented there. Not really the best drink, but we got it for the experience.
ENTERTAINMENT ON BOARD
We were really impressed with most of the shows that we saw, as well as the music in the lounges at night. Michael Redden is especially talented as a musician, very much like John Mayer. We really his shows. There was a piano player on board that was quite good if you like that. The Sun Production cast was the only thing that we were not impressed with. The guys were ok, and there is one brunette girl that is good, but the three blonde girls tend to yell into their mikes a lot. We didn't enjoy these shows very much. Soul Duo was a cirque show, and they were quite impressive! We also enjoyed the comedian, hypnotist, and magician. The last night offered us "Paperback Writer - The Beatles Experience," and this was a huge highlight for us. These guys were great and so realistic! The ship also offered a Beach Boys tribute band on one of the last days at sea, and they were great as well. Additionally, many of the performers offered an additional show at some point either late at night or during the day. These were good as well.
I don't know what people expect, but I think the food in the main dining rooms is great! Yes, one half of the menu stays the same, but the other side changes nightly, and there are plenty of choices. Additionally, the two dining rooms' staples are different, so you can also switch for a change. I had a great experience in both. The first night I had my one and only disappointment when I ordered the surf and turf and my steak was well done instead of medium rare as ordered. The waitress took it back, my second steak was just as well done, and finally, a perfect steak came out. She felt bad and refused to let me eat the steak until it was done right. Every other meal after that went smoothly. My husband and I also enjoy the specialty restaurants. La Cucina offered delicious Italian, perfect steak (the first time!) at Cagney's, and our favorite is always Le Bistro. Amazing authentic French food. I wouldn't pay to eat specialty every night, but it is a nice change. We also did the Murder Mystery Lunch on the last day at sea, and this was not only really good food, but super fun as well. I definitely recommend this one! Otehr food options included a really cool Tapas Bar (Las Ramblas) on Deck 12 that no one ever seemed to go to. It was a quiet place to hang out and play cards or have a conversation while snacking on little things. They also had a three drinks for $15 special that rotated daily. Definitely a good deal! The sports bar was good as well, and we enjoyed the wings there while watching the NCAA Basketball Championship game on the first night. The only food that we weren't impressed with was the Garden cafe. It tasted good, and there was plenty of variety if you walked around to the different stations, but by the tike we sat down to eat it, it would be cold. Mind you, it was maybe a two minute walk to the table. Unless you ordered made-to-order (like omelets and pasta), it was sure to be cold.
ON BOARD ACTIVITIES
We really enjoyed all that The Sun had to offer us on board. Lots of trivia in all varieties, mini golf in the atrium, ban bag toss games, ping pong tournaments, movies, Bingo, and Deal or No Deal. In the evening there were a variety of fun game shows, such as a Not-so-Newlywed Game, Jeopardy, and this game where you had to run up a microphone and name the sing being played, then get your entire side of the room up there to sing with you. Silly fun. There were also some crew talent shows (They are talented!), karaoke, and lots of opportunities to get to know the staff. One night they had a really fun sing along program, and on the last song, they ushered us to the middle of atrium while we sang at the top of our lungs while balloons came down from the ceiling and we tried to keep them all in the air. More silly fun, and one of my favorite moments.
This is where The Sun really shines (Cheesy but true). Richard (the Cruise Director) could be seen literally all over the boat, and he went out of his way to know people by name. He knew mine by the second day and always took a moment to check in when he saw me (always using my name). Asst. Cruise Director Patrick was fabulous too, as were all of their staff. Lester, Sarah, Jacob, Hector, and Matt were our favorites. Great attitudes, and again, they took the time to really get to know us and give a personal experience. The bartenders were great as well. I had two favorites, and they greeted me by name each time I walked in and always gave me great drinks. I can't say that I ever met a crew member who didn't impress me. I loved them all.
THE SHIP ITSELF
Sure, The Sun was built in 2001 and has seen better days, but they are always painting something and making it look beautiful I couldn't walk up the stairs without seeing someone either dusting the handrails or vacuuming, The crew take a lot of pride, and it shows. It's a smaller ship with only 1800 passengers, and this gave us a really cool experience. We got to know many people well, and that's what made our vacation so neat. There were never any lines on the ship, never a fight for a deck chair, and yet still plenty to do. Public rooms were typically really quiet, and there were plenty of spots to read or play a game other than the small library.
We had a HUGE inside stateroom. It was handicapped (Surprise to us!), so the bathroom was big, and we had plenty of space to move around as well. Our room steward was great and left cute towel animals every night. The TV didn't show much, but we also weren't in the room much, so that didn't matter to us.
So way up at the top of this review, I wrote how great it is to use NCL to get you to the boat from the airport. However, I don't recommend using NCl to get back to the airport. We actually left the line to get on the bus, because it was taking forever and we knew that we were already running late for our 12:15 flight. We jumped in a cab instead and were quickly whisked away for $20 flat. This was definitely a better option. Just getting outside took time. Customs seemed longer than usual, and even finding our luggage was hard. Luckily, we made it home in one piece and even had a really nice person checking us in at the airport that didn't charge us for the extra weight that we accumulated in our checked bag.
I can't say enough great things about The Sun. This was truly the best vacation ever, and a great reminder of why we choose NCL. I really hope this ship isn't retired in a couple years when we take another cruise. The industry seems to be going bigger, but this personal experience really made our vacation. Thanks for an amazing trip!
Our excursion in Barbados was really busy! We had 45 minutes at Harrison's Cave (Cool place, but we traveled by car through the cave, and I wish we could have walked through), 45 minutes at a botanical garden where we took a self-guided tour with a really nice map and flower id guide, 45 minute Caribbean lunch where we ate flying fish (an island favorite), and then finally 45 minutes at a nature preserve where we saw lots of animals, including those famous green monkeys. The tour ended with complimentary rum punch. It was exhausting to do all of this in one day, and a lot driving, but a great way to see so many things in a day.
The hike that we took was to Sari Sari falls and included lunch on trail. It was a super intense hike. Very steep, and you had walk through streams that were knee-deep. Definitely bring good hiking/water shoes! After seeing the falls, you hike back and have a Caribbean Soup before completely the hike back through the water and up the hill. Beautiful falls, but again, really intense hike!
This was a really cool spot! Lushan Country Life offered us a walk though the forest with an experienced naturalist guiding the way and teaching us as we walked. We sampled local fish and bread, as well as lots of fresh fruit. Our guide picked things out of the forest and passed them around for us to smell and taste, and he even showed us how to open a coconut! This was a really great tour, although it was not as long as advertised. Still, very all inclusive and full of knowledge.
We had a blast in St. Maarten. We booked Da Party Bus, and it was quite fun! We visited Orient Bay Beach, Marigot, and Maho Bay, as well as a couple stops for photos along the way. Unlimited rum punch and knowledgeable guides too. Really fun way to the island. We also had time after to simply enjoy the island, which is one of our favorites. Great shopping, friendly people, and always easy to find free Wifi hotspots.
We jumped on an island tour with a cab driver, and it was pretty good for only $20 a person! In two hours, we had great views from three sky points, and we stopped at various places, including the Sky Top where they have those famous banana daiquiris. Overall, simple but fun way to see the island. We've been to St. Thomas twice, and this is our last favorite port. We aren't beach or scuba people, and the first time we went, we visited St. John and walked around Virgin Islands National Park. That was really fun! This time we just explored the island.