We cruised the Norwegian Sun on 8/31/02 as a celebration of my mothers 60th birthday. There were 9 in our party occupying 4 deluxe staterooms with balconies. This was my 14th cruise (my first on NCL) and a first for my mother, her husband, and my brother and his family. Others in our party had also cruised before. Embarkation was a breeze and we were one of the first ones in the door. However, we did observe that embarkation gets a little more hectic if you arrive after 12 AM.
The first meal we tried was served in the Garden Cafe and included self serve tacos which were delicious. There was also a wonderful curry served one day that was so delicious that we went back for seconds. It seems that on most cruises the desserts sometimes look fantastic but fall short on taste and this ship was no exception in that category although, there were a few desserts that were exceptionally delicious enough to mention. The crème bruelee that was served in the dinning room and a rhubarb pie served in the Garden Cafe were very delicious.
We found the rooms to be very roomy with plenty of storage space and loved the bathroom shower that included an adjustable shower head. Having a room with a balcony was wonderful (a first for all of us) and a special treat that my mother really enjoyed! The sheets and duvet were exceptionally soft but there was always that annoying "hump" in the middle of the bed where the two twin beds were pushed together to make a double bed. The ship was lovely without being too gaudy and flashy.
We were a little concerned about "Freestyle Cruising" since this was our first experience with that type of service. The service in our room was very good although I did miss the special touches such as the "towel art" that I was accustomed to on other ships. We asked for an extra bucket of ice in our room and from then on there were always two full buckets. The service in my sister's room was not as good as ours and they had a few complaints about the cleanliness a few times. My brother and his wife were very pleased with the Kids Crew program.
Since school had already started there was not an abundance of children so there was plenty of staff to cater to the children's needs. We did not try any of the specialty restaurants that had an extra cost but we did try the Pacific Heights which used the Cooking Light menu and were so pleased with it that we ate there several nights. The calzone was delicious and could be ordered with or without meat. About half of our group are vegetarians and we found plenty to eat but wish there were even more to choose from. The meatloaf in the Pacific Heights got great raves and was ordered at more than one meal.
We found the service in the Pacific Heights to be superb. Anything we asked for was answered with a smiling, friendly "certainly" by our waitress. The main dining rooms, the Four Seasons and the Seven Seas, were very similar and the service was very acceptable. We celebrated my mother's birthday at the Four Seasons one night. It was a fun and exciting time where we were greeted with a bottle of champagne (we chose bottled water) and a small birthday cake with her name on it while Happy Birthday was sung to her by the waiters. There were no extravagant Midnight Buffets which was a little disappointing but there was a Chocolate Extravaganza one night that was very eye appealing. The shore excursions were excellent.
Our first day and our last day were at sea with the ports of call the four days in the middle. Our first stop was Grand Cayman. We booked a Stingray City tour on line through Captain Marvin's and it was a real highlight. It was a little cheaper than booking through the cruise and we got an extra snorkeling stop. Captain Kirk stopped in two different places to let us snorkel before arriving at Stingray City, he was very informative and we were the only party on his boat. Everyone loved swimming with the stingrays and Captain Kirk even knew their names.
Our next stop was Honduras. A very poor and simple place but once we got off our bus at Tabyana Beach it was heaven! This was one of the most beautiful beaches that I have ever seen! We snorkeled with our cruise guide and he would dive down and get items, bring them up to the surface and tell us about them. Lunch was also served and I must say that the spaghetti was absolutely wonderful! They also served hamburgers, salad and fruit and the most different tea I have every tasted. My mother said it was a "dream day" for her. Our next stop was Belize. I cannot speak from experience here because my husband and I overslept and missed our excursion but we were told that it was very fun. We had booked the Cave Tubing and Jungle Walk tour which was 88 dollars a piece and we were told that we could not get our money back if we cancelled less than 24 hour ahead of time.
When we got to the excursion desk we were treated very nicely and given several options and told we would get our money back. This really impressed us about Norwegian Cruise Lines and I hope they realize that it represented very good customer service. After that it was on to Cozumel. Many in our group had already been to Cozumel and after cave tubing we were ready for a rest. We shopped in the morning and found a beach called San Francisco Beach where we just laid out, swam and rented some jet skis. It rained a little but we still had fun.
This was one of the calmest rides I have ever had on a cruise ship. Smooth sailing the whole way!
The entertainment was excellent! The cruise director was one of the funniest that I have ever seen. There was a magician/juggler/comedian that was absolutely hilarious! He was on the first night and I would say that this is a show not to be missed! The singer Jane Powell was also very entertaining and funny. One night Jimmy "J.J." Walker did the show and it was fantastic! (Although, he was a special show and was only on board for two weeks.)
Disembarkation was the best I have EVER had! You get color coded tags according to the time you want to disembark and let me recommend that if you want to stay on the ship and leave late to get your tickets early because the later ones run out the quickest. We wanted to be able to sleep in, have breakfast and visit some before leaving the ship. We were not crowded into some lounge and forced to sit there for hours before being allowed to leave the ship. It was very calm and leisurely and very quick! I believe we were the last passengers off the ship.
Overall I would recommend the Norwegian Sun and NCL cruise lines and would sail with them again. The freestyle cruising and tipping turned out to be much better than I expected and it was a dream vacation for all of us.