This was our very first cruise. We're a young couple who chose this itinerary for price and the ports, and we were very pleased.
We arrived in Miami two days before our cruise. We rented a car with Dollar. They had a shuttle that drove you from the rental agency to the cruise port. We dropped our car off at noon and were at the port by 12:30pm. Embarkation was very smooth. It only took us 20 minutes. When we boarded the rooms weren't ready, so we ate lunch in the Outdoor Cafe which provided some great views of Miami.
Since I've never been on a cruise ship before, I was very impressed with the Sun. It was large, clean, and a lot nicer inside then I expected. It was a little confusing to find our way around the first day, but by the second day, we had no problems finding anything. We stayed on the Oslo deck 6A oceanview which is a small half deck, not connected to other floors on the ship. You could only reach it by stairs from floor 7, so it wasn't in any high traffic area. This turned out to not be any problem whatsoever, and it was, in-fact a very quiet floor. The room stewards were very friendly and made it a point to learn our names. Our only complaint was on tender days when the ship dropped anchor at 7:00am which was very loud, though I'm sure everyone else in the bow had this problem as well. There were lots of lounge chairs, but it was difficult at times finding a towel or a place to sit near the pool. The upper decks seemed to be the most available. Our biggest surprise was the salt water pools, though I'm sure every new cruiser finds this to be surprising. The bar servers were in full force and never let you forget that drinks were available. Quiet spots on the ship were plenty. One of the nicest places and most under-utilized was the front observation lounge on deck 12. We were sailing over playoff weekend and the ships crew were very nice about the football fever, turning one side of the pool deck near the bar into a bigscreen tv viewing area.
I realized by midweek you can't do everything on a cruise, but we certainly tried. If there is one free thing everyone on this ship needs to do, is the cha-cha and meringue lessons with Olga & Dima. The classes taught simple steps, but these were two of the best and most entertaining hours on the ship. Dima is absolutely hilarious. We tried yoga, but found the class to be too short (35 mins) and too novice for our needs and not worth the extra $10. The free gym equipment suited us just fine. The production shows were good and worth attending. The newlywed game and some of the game shows were fun to watch. The Ms. Norwegian Sun pageant was funny. The staff put on a show called "Fountains" which was downright hilarious, and every younger person on the ship should attend the "Quest" scavenger hunt in dazzles the last night (definitely R rated). We did think Bingo was overpriced for the amount you pay for two rounds and small pot sizes. About half of the guests made an honest attempt to dress for the optional formal night. Men wore either a shirt & tie or a suit. Most women wore a nice cocktail dress. We ended up changing into more casual clothes after dinner and pictures. There was always something to do if you wanted to be involved and at the same time you could always find a quiet spot to read a book or just sun worship.
We picked NCL with the intention of trying most of the specialty restaurants, but that never materialized. The specialty restaurants were generally ½ price between 5:30 and 6:30. We ate Il Addagio the first night. The food was northern Italian cuisine, not a lot of pasta, and was wonderful. We ate in the seven seas the next night and were so impressed with the atmosphere, food, and service, we never found it necessary to eat in any of the other specialty restaurants. We never had to wait for a table in the Seven Seas. The food was fantastic. I compare it to the dinners you would pay $25-$40pp in most house restaurants in hotels like the Marriott and Hyatt. You would be selling yourself short if you settled for the upstairs buffet every night. We really didn't eat lunch on-board because of shore excursions, but we did agree the breakfast was not the best we've had and needed much improvement. Yes, the eggs were runny, but if someone can find a way to make non-runny bulk eggs, they'd be a rich person. Breakfast was so inconsequential to our trip, though, it was a non-issue. The waffle bar was decent. The wings in the sports bar made for a good pre-dinner snack and the ice cream bar was good but tended to run out of flavors.
Again, if you are worried about the freestyle dining options and don't feel it necessary to pay extra for meals, you will find great service and menu options at one of the two main no-pay restaurants all week. If you can't find something that suits your taste you simply aren't trying.
Roatan is simply beautiful. The port area looks and feels like a third world country, but it's the beaches that makes this place a wonderful port. If you skip the shopping and take a taxi straight to the west end beaches, this will be one of your favorite stops on this trip. Our ship was the only ship in port, so we docked right on the island and walked off the ship by 8:30. We booked a private tour online with Victor Bodden tours. Basically we hired a driver for the day who took us anywhere we wanted. Carlos was our guide, and we couldn't have been any better. He drove us all around the island, told us all of the history, and always made sure we stopped at great photo spots. We went to the iguana farm which was cute. My wife got to hold an orange monkey. We then went to the south shore zip line. This was a last minute decision and we didn't need any reservations; our driver just took us there and were immediately strapped in. It cost $45 per person which was less than the ship's excursion. We then went to half moon bay for snorkeling. This was absolutely beautiful. The water was so clear, and we could see so much coral. We brought our own snorkel gear, but you could rent some as well. We could have spent all day there it was so nice. We had lunch and were easily back at the dock by 3:00 with time for shopping.
Cave tubing was probably the final selling point of why we picked the NCL Sun. When we were looking at destinations, we thought Belize was a little odd, but when we found out there was cave tubing, we were immediately sold on this trip. We booked a trip through cave-tubing.com with Yhony for $45 per person, which is half the price of the cruise ship's excursion, but turned out to be twice was fun, and even more safe. There were two other ships in port that day, so we knew we had to get an early tender. Tender tickets were to be handed out at 8:30am. We were there with a few people by 7:30. We decided to form a line at 8:00 and actually received a ticket by 8:15, and on shore by 9:00. Yohny was there personally to greet us. We waited about 20 minutes for other passengers, then boarded a bus. We took a short bus ride to the office where Yhony himself drove a few passengers he was waiting for in his pickup to meet the bus. This is where Yhony worked his magic. I've never seen any person go out of his way to make sure everyone was happy as Yhony did. When you have Yhony on your bus, you know it's the party bus. We took a 45 min ride to the caves and getting there was half the fun. Once we arrived, we took a 30 minute walk upstream and then floated down. We were all linked together and had a guide, Dirty Harry, who steered us, which made the trip very safe. We didn't have to paddle once. Harry was a great guide who answered all of our questions. He even carried 5 tubes for the ladies for the whole walk. The caves were awesome. It reminded us of the pirates of the Caribbean ride. The water was a little chilly, but very gentle. We were back at the ship by 3:00 with plenty of time for shopping. This was absolutely a great time and I would highly recommend Yhony for the price and the fun.
There were 10 ships in port this day, and the port area was crazy. We had to tender, but the boats held almost 400 people, so it was not an issue. In-fact, it took longer to load than to actually ride to the dock. We had no set tour, so we figured we'd go to Paradise Beach. A round trip taxi ride was around $30-40. We were approached by a guy on the dock about renting a scooter. It was $35 for a tandem scooter for the day, so we did that. The rental process was no problem, and all you needed was a $50 cash deposit or a credit card. We rode about 15km to Paradise Beach. It was an overcast day, but the beach was about ¾ full. There were plenty of lounge chairs. The area was very nice, free, had clean changing rooms and bathrooms, but you were expected to buy food. We had a bucket of 5 beers for $15 and the best nachos ever. If you don't mind crowds, this place is great for the money. This place is really good for families and kids. We didn't pay the $9 for use of the water toys, but everybody who did seemed to love the giant inflatable iceberg and trampolines.
Great Stirrup Cay
This is NCL's private island. It's basically like being on the ship, but on an island. All of the staff from the ship comes over and serves you food and drinks. The food is free, and you pay for drinks with your cruise card just like on the ship. It's a big, lazy day on the beach. We have a couple pieces of advice. There are only about 40 lay down lounge chairs on the island. If you absolutely have to have a lay down chair, get on the first tender, and even then you are not guaranteed one. It really depends on when you get off the tender, otherwise you will get stuck with a folding chair or a picnic table in the shade, of which there were plenty. Rental of snorkel gear by the ship was a bit steep at $29, but we found a great set at Sam's Club for $40 which we brought with us and used in Roatan as well, so it paid for itself. The snorkeling is fun if you go out of the bay area and behind the rocks. We also snagged a bunch of bread from the buffet, swam out with it in a bucket, and fed the fish. That was so much fun. All in all, it was a very relaxing day.
We chose express disembarkation. We had to carry our bags off, which was no problem. We were off the ship by 8:00am. We had a rental car reservation with Alamo, and we only had to wait 5 minutes for a shuttle to the rental car agency.
We had the best time on the Norwegian Sun. The ship was great, the food was excellent, the service was unbelievable, and the ports were so much fun. I would recommend this cruise to anyone.