Our April & May 2010, experience with the Norwegian Sun cruise ship during a Trans-Atlantic, 15-Day cruise to the ports of Europe appears below:
I. Background Information.
We are a relatively young couple in our 30's from New Orleans, Louisiana. This was my 11th cruise and her 12th cruise overall, so we're pretty well-versed when it comes to seasoned cruisers, and have a goodly amount of cruises to compare this ship with! We've been on 4 Norwegian cruise line ships now, with this particular ship included. 7 of my other cruises were with other cruise line companies between 2002 & 2009.
II. Hotel Information.
We arrived in Miami, Florida one day prior to the ship's sail date on Sunday, April 25, 2010. This time our stay was at the La Quinta Inn East, on North LeJeune road, bordering Miami International Airport's eastern-most runways. However, I was NOT awakened by any aircraft. There's a Bennigan's restaurant within walking distance. This particular motel offers a FREE airport shuttle service, which came promptly without me needing to call, and also this La Quinta Inn East offers a FREE shuttle to the Port of Miami. However, on day of embarkation the shuttle was running terribly late and even later with the inclement weather that arrived late that morning on April 26th. We chose the 10 AM shuttle bus and arrived at the Port of Miami around 12 Noon. My only disappointment about the La Quinta Inn East was that the room was small and there was no refrigerator either in the room. Check-in was incredibly slow and I feel that the motel needs to hire more help with the volume of traffic this motel exhibits.
If you'll be arriving to this motel by car, getting to the motel can be really rather tricky in finding, especially coming in from the north. I had to do a goodly amount of researching the roads to find out I needed to make a U-turn on LeJeune, after exiting off of 112 West to come back around and get off the service road, as soon as I seen the Red Roof Inn, next to the La Quinta, so this can be tricky to get to if you're not well-versed with the infrastructure of the roads. Overall the motel was in decent repair. They have one computer in the lobby for internet service use, but you have to pay for it, like $0.50 per minute, way too much overpriced!
My reason for staying at this motel again would be on account of the free shuttle services provided to the port of Miami and the free parking, too. However, the free parking is now only for a 1 week stay. Beyond one week, you'll have to pay $5 a day for parking.
III. Ship Information.
The Norwegian Sun is an older, aging ship, built in 2001, and last refurbished in 2004. It has a tonnage weight of 78,309. Guest occupancy is 1,936, based on double occupancy. The length of the ship is 853 ft, and beam width is 105 ft. The cruising speed of the ship is 23 kts. You can tune-in to weather conditions and geographical positions on the ship's whereabouts at all times using your in-room TV and tune to that channel. Additionally, a short blurb on the weather for the next day is posted on the Freestyle Daily caper the night before, on the top of the headlines sheet.
There are 2 main formal dining rooms onboard the ship: #1.) The Seven Seas, and #2.) The Four Seasons. I recommend you eating in the main formal dining rooms as much as possible as this is where the food is the best, and it's a much nicer ambience. In other areas, there's the Garden Cafe upstairs for run-of-the-mill buffet food, which is always a mad-house! There's also a Sports Bar, (the "Sun's" rendition of the Blue Lagoon on other NCL ships). Here at the Sports Bar on deck 11, aft, they serve comfort food like chicken wings hot or mild, traditional beef burger, fish n' chips, chicken tenders, and the like - an attractive menu. The ship also has a gym, spa, steam room & sauna as well. As with all other ships, there's also a casino and shops onboard the ship, too. There are other upgrade restaurants you have to pay for if you want to use them which include the French & Italian restaurants, and Japanese restaurant, Teppanyaki. These require surcharges to get in these restaurants if you want to use them, but Pacific Heights does NOT require a surcharge; just reservations, that's all, if you want to be sure of securing a time without a wait. I didn't ever use the pools or hot tubs, but I knew they were there and passed by them out on the decks. At the aft of the ship, there's the Great Outdoors Cafe which served typical outdoor food like hot dogs & hamburgers along with other choices. It's a covered area outside to avoid sun exposure, too.
The ship is not a well-decorated ship at all, in comparison with some of the other cruise ships I'd been on. The atrium is very plain and bland-looking with no real beauty to be found anywhere in the atrium/centrum. There is, however, a pretty display of artwork above the entrance to the Seven Seas Main Formal Dining Room on deck 5, aft. Otherwise nothing is picture-worthy onboard the ship.
IV. My stateroom.
We had stateroom 9126 for this 15-Day Trans-Atlantic cruise. This was an interior stateroom with approximately 175 square feet of space. I found it to be plenty big enough for our needs and suited us well. By the way these staterooms go, this is the biggest-sized stateroom I'd been in. The only cramped space was in the bathroom, as the shower was extremely small, as I'm 6 ft, 2 inches tall. The shower curtain continually wanted to smooch with my legs, and the showering experience can feel quite claustrophobic to some! The rest of the inside stateroom had plenty of closet space, and a large couch, too. There was also a small refrigerator and safe provided. The closet even had a light in it.
The bone I have to pick here with NCL were with the towel linens! Never, in my 11 cruises, had I ever been given worn-out towel linens in the bathroom. This happened continuously during the first 5 to 6 days of the cruise. First we were given towels that were shredding apart on the sides, unraveling threads, and very thin towels. Next after that, we were awarded with towels that had small holes in them! Can you believe?? My older towels that I've had since my college days are in better repair than these given to us on the cruise ship! This was terribly unacceptable, and I informed the Guest Service Reception desk about this just once, and the problem was rectified thereafter. The managing hotel director & housekeeping staff should have known better to retire old, used towels that were unraveling apart (shredding), and discard the holy towels, too! What an eyesore, I tell you!
Other than this glaring blunder with the linens, the stateroom steward did an acceptable job for most days, except when failing to fill our shampoo vial and recycling a used, damp towel mat. Eww!
What about the beds, you ask?? Ha! This was a tale of 2 stories. On one side of the bed, it was acceptable. The other side of the bed, felt as though a 500 pound person had been sleeping on the bed for months, as I sank way down like a hammock!
Climate inside the stateroom was very good, however, and I never felt uncomfortably hot nor cold. So the good points about the stateroom were the plumbing as there was very strong water pressure, and lots of good hot water. The spacious size of 175 square feet was well-appreciated too considering the average inside cabin size is around only 149 square feet, for the industry average.
Okay, here it comes: Dining. Your buddy weatherguy, (that's me), has some mixed feelings about the dining. Let me give you the best and the worst onboard the Norwegian Sun cruise ship during our April / May 2010 Trans-Atlantic sailing.
#1.) The BEST places for dining:
Are at the main formal dining rooms of the Seven Seas & Four Seasons. The ambience is much better in these locations, and the lunch & dinner time food were the best in these locations. I also thoroughly enjoyed the MANY menu options in the Seven Seas restaurant, as the menu offered a fantastic selection of exotic choices!! This is VERY IMPRESSIVE what NCL has done with their menus. Never did I once feel like the food ever became repetitive, as the menu options were very plentiful and creative. NCL did a fine job on the menu selections with this ship!
The food in the main formal dining rooms was consistently good when I ate there. However, again, as is the case with all the cruise lines and cruise ships, desserts were a tragedy & train wreck about 80% of the time. I'd say about 8 out of 10 times, most desserts were no good, lacking in quality and taste. Every once in a while you'd hit a really good dessert like an apple streudel, or Tiramisu, or Honey Crème Brulee. I recall one blueberry cobbler was good, too. Otherwise, 80% of the time, the desserts weren't worth bothering with. You'll see! Mark my word, you'll be dissatisfied with them too! They use cheap, poor quality ingredients like jello fillers in place of real heavy whipping cream, because it's cheaper! Anything to save a buck, huh, NCL?? But you're in good company, because all the other cruise lines do the same thing, serving low-quality ingredient desserts, that have no taste, either. (Keep in mind that I did not pony-up for the specialty restaurants, as I don't believe in paying more money for food.) This means I'll only comment on the free restaurant locations.
An honorable mention is in the Sports Bar, whereby I enjoyed the menu options there and the quality of food was pretty good, too; however, you wind up waiting for excessive periods of time to get served! That excessive wait time in the Sports Bar was unacceptable. I constantly was at the server holding his feet to the fire to expedite my order for food.
#2.) The WORST places for dining:
Are at the Garden Cafe & The Great Outdoors Cafe. Yes, I ate food there during breakfast & dinner, and the food is not good here at the Garden Buffet. The choices are very limited and food during breakfast was not well replenished, either. The food sits for a while, when not consumed, & gets tired-looking, needing to be put to bed. Furthermore, this buffet location for food is ALWAYS a mad house! Finding places to sit were a challenge, but somehow Thao & I were able to manage as we were up in the morning early enough before the rest of the gang moved in. In the morning, grits were consistently too runny, and the cherry danish I always had to ask for. Choices were limited for yogurt too - the most limited selections I've ever seen on a cruise ship, really!! The overall breakfast display of items at the Garden Cafe were mostly unattractive, very limited in variety and of poor quality. For instance, the pancakes were served cold! I didn't see any French toast nor waffles. I later learned you had to go in to Pacific Heights on the other side of the ship to request a waffle! That's really impractible to have to run to the other side of the ship just to get waffles.
So, I avoided the Garden Cafe, (what I like to call the "Mad House Buffet Line", whenever I could at all possible except during port days, when I had to grab a quick bite to eat there, since the main formal dining rooms take too slow to get in and out of.)
As for the Great Outdoors Cafe, I had lunch there once or twice. Don't even go here. Food sits around even longer than at the Garden Cafe, and because of this, the food becomes stale really quick. I had pizza that felt like cardboard in my mouth!! No joke!! Not many people go this far back to the aft of the ship outside to eat out there so with very few people out there to eat the food, then that means the food just sits there, gets tired & old, and needs to be put to bed, (thrown away)!
Activities were an impressive HIGHLIGHT for me & Thao. I was, at first, a bit skeptical, that we'd be stuck with a dull, uneventful and boring 6 days at sea with this Trans-Atlantic cruise, but to both of our surprise, there were a goodly number of activities ongoing during these sea days.
For me, I love the games!! Game shows, after game shows, after game shows!! And these shows became spectacularly creative!! I was most impressed and happy with this.
I got to appear on stage for a record number of 9 times!! 9 times I was up on stage!! I was in 5 game shows: (Family Feud, Jeopardy, Weakest Link, Crowing Ms. Norwegian Sun, & Battle of the Sexes show). During 1 dancing disco fever show, I was dressed as the construction worker in the Village People, and 3 times I appeared up on the Stardust Theatre stage: Once for the "Welcome Aboard Show", once for a magic show, and once during a comedian's show. So I kept myself, (and others), well entertained!!
It was in this segment of the cruise, the activities section, that really crystallized my cruising experience, as I had untold amounts of fun being participants here, there & everywhere!!! It was truly a BLAST!!! I enjoyed every moment of it! I received a number of compliments by fellow passengers.
I also single-handedly organized 2 group luncheons for the cruise critic groupies community. On my first luncheon that I organized, I counted 44 attendees. On the 2nd luncheon there were 40 attendees!! So, yes, we passed a good time, I'd say!! :0)
When I wasn't participating in game shows, or watching game shows, then Thao & I were out taking FREE dance lessons offered by the cruise line!! There were typically 2 free dance classes offered per sea day, both of which she and I went to. They were about 1 hour long each. Most of the free dance lessons were Latin dances, which is Thao's favorite!!
Then, after the free dance lessons we took, like Salsa, Meringue, Argentine Tango, & Paso Doble, we'd go ahead and practice what we learned to the music of Avalon on Deck 12, in the observation lounge at 930 PM each night for an hour. So count it up, and we had 3 hours worth of dancing during each of the sea days. I kept continually busy, and so did Thao on account of the numerous planned activities.
In other activities of interest, they also had progressive trivia games, karaoke, sing-alongs, movie-clip trivia, bingo, and plenty of places for dancing venues throughout the ship.
I credit and commend the cruise director's staff for orchestrating such a GREAT number of varied activities during these 6 days at sea!! I never, not once, even turned on my stateroom TV at all during those 6 sea days!! There was that much to do and keep busy!! Lots of GREAT times and GREAT memories I'll have for a long time as we got pictures of ourselves dancing, and when I was up on stage during the many shows I participated with, too!
Unfortunately I cannot say such great things when it comes to the service personnel onboard, especially with the restaurant wait staff. The lack of personal service & personal attention has become very obvious during this cruise on the Norwegian Sun cruise ship during this April / May 2010 Trans-Atlantic.
In the main formal dining room, the waiting became excessive to receive our food. Water glasses were never refilled, except only upon request. Dirty dishes were very slow to be removed from the table. And crumbs on the table cloth were never cleared away either. During lobster night, no butter was offered! Lobster wasn't peeled away from its shell either as we had on RCCL. You add-up all these oversights, and you come to realize that service on this NCL Sun cruise ship, was anything BUT special nor personal either.
When in the Garden Cafe, the food buffet workers were not attentive to food outages, and did not replace until told to do so. Say what?? I should not have to tell service personnel that there's no more danish and that we need more. They should be doing their job instead and take notice on their own, instead of seeing how far along they can get away with not restocking the food items on the buffet. One gal was even slow to respond, almost reluctant to move from her place to restock food items.
I felt as though service personnel on this ship only provided the most rudimentary basic services, and NO ONE --- absolutely NO ONE ever went out of their way to please nor go the extra mile to please. I always found myself having to ask for more water, ask what's happened to our order as time was taking too long in the main formal dining room, asking for this and that, when I shouldn't have had to ask for so much. These services should have been provided without me having to open my mouth. That's the difference between personal, attentive service vs. the most basic rudimentary service that was offered. So in summary, service personnel was lack-luster and has a far way to go for improvement.
In the Sports Bar, they have only 1 - only one server providing service to the entire bar. This means wait times became excessive, and he did not even move fast either. I felt like I was at the DMV office waiting for a driver's license, rather than on a first-class service cruise ship. It was that frustrating! The food & beverage director & restaurant manager should know better than this and should be ascribing more servers and wait staff to that sports bar!! Just you wait and see when you go in there!! You'll see what I mean, and you'll whole-heartedly agree about the terribly slow service due to the severe understaffing of that Sports Bar.
I already explained how my cabin stateroom steward provided us with shredded towels & holes in some of the washcloth linens. He additionally recycled a wet bath mat and passed it off as having us use it again when we had it on the floor; that same time we ran out of shampoo as they failed to check the shampoo vial, a point in time when I really needed the shampoo the most.
Because of the poor-to-fair service rating I experienced, points must be subtracted and taken off from the overall cruise star rating of my encounters & assessment. There will be absolutely no "sugar-coating" to the rating when it comes to the service onboard this ship. No one went the extra mile, and even failed to meet minimum criteria, on some occasions, during this cruise.
I will define the entertainment subject as falling under the nighttime Stardust Theatre entertainment venues in the large 2-tiered theatre. In this category, I rate the entertainment as about average -- not below average; not above average, but just right at average, or even arguably mediocre, upon relative comparisons to my other cruises I've been on.
I'll go on to say that during a 15-night Trans-Atlantic cruise, there finally came some variety of shows.
Here are the shows we were entertained with:
#1.) A juggler / comedian #2.) "Cirque Pan" production show #3.) Guitar & Song Gipsy Fiesta #4.) Physical Comedy Show #5.) "Encore" Production Show #6.) Comedian show #7.) Vocalist impersonation of Celine Dion tunes #8.) Latin Dance show, during daytime #9.) "Shout" Production Show #10.) Magic Show #11.) Pianist musician show #12.) Another Female vocalist show #13.) A puppeteer show #14.) Singer impressionist show #15.) Ventriliquist show #16.) Welcome Aboard show / audience participation #17.) Opera vocalist during daytime show
So there was some variety offered here. I'd seen better production shows on Princess cruise lines. To me, there was just a little bit too much singing shows, I thought. The comedians were only average, I'd say. I actually enjoyed the juggler / comedian probably the most of any of them, which was on the very last night of the cruise before dis-embarking. He was quite funny! The "Encore" production show was better than the "Shout" production show, as there were more varied costumes / regalia that were worn and more variety of scenes. The Cirque Pan show was a joke. I was expecting a Cirque du Soleil derivative with Chinese contortionists and acrobats, and this show fell far short of that. The Cirque Pacific show I seen onboard the Norwegian Star last October 2009 was FAR SUPERIOR of a show than this ridiculous Cirque Pan show. The only positives about the Cirque Pan show was the creative & decorative backstage set of artwork displayed in the show and the costumes worn. Other than that, there wasn't much talent displayed. You'll come to realize what I mean when you see a real bona-fide Cirque du Soleil presentation or derivatives thereof, and then it'll hit you where the true talent really is: It lies within the Chinese contortionists and acrobatics they do, which was absent on this ship.
IX. Ports of Call & Tour Excursions.
Of our 7 ports of call, my 3 most favorite ports of call were:
#1.) Ponta Delgada, Azores #2.) Paris, France (from the Le Havre seaport) #3.) Brugges, Belgium
1.) Ponta Delgada, Azores (Portugal) ~ This was 1 of my most 3 favorite ports of call and tour excursions that I purchased. I rightfully selected the "Hot Springs & Botanical Gardens". I really enjoyed this one a lot as I'm a natural sciences kinda guy, and enjoy seeing nature's wonders. We additionally got to see a tea factory, got to sample several different delicious teas, got to see the machines in working progress and took pictures and videos of the ancient equipment, and smelled the aroma inside the tea factory. We were taken into Ribeira Grande City & Church which wasn't that big a deal, but I didn't even know a stop would be made here anyways.
Some of the highlights of this tour were a picture stop at Pico do Ferro viewpoint which overlooks Furnas Lake and Furnas Valley. Awesome, spectacular views can be seen from here and I highly recommend taking pictures with you and your guests.
Next, we visited Terra Nostra Botanical Garden and got to see a RARE iron hot springs where people were swimming and relaxing in. The entire large orange pool was orange because of the iron in the water! Amazing and SO NEAT!!! The iron hot springs leave a burnt orange residue on your skin and was told you feel tired after coming out of the warm springs pool.
Our final stop was at the hot springs themselves whereby you can see active steam vents of sulfur dioxide emissions. Bubbling ponds of water can be seen and heard, and even deep down below underneath the rocks as well. It made for some great pictures, too!
I'd fully recommend this tour for anyone who has an appreciation for nature and an interest in volcanic steam vents, bubbling hot springs, and loves getting picturesque scenery of landscape as the drive was most beautiful with lots of cliffs, and panoramic scenery of the island! A super great tour this was!
2.) In Lisbon, Portugal ~ Here we chose the "Monumental Lisbon" tour. Our stops included Alfama Quarter, the oldest part of Lisbon, and walked the narrow streets, followed by a stop at Rossio Square, the heart of the shopping district. Shop quickly as you'll only have about 25 minutes to do so.
Our 3rd stop was at Jeronimo's Monastery, which provided for nice pictures both inside and outside.
Our 4th stop was made at the Tower of Belem, where Portuguese explorers were seen-off. Must hurry at this location as only 10 minutes was given, and it costs money to go up inside the Tower of Belem too, which there was no time given to do this.
Our final 5th stop was made at the Monument of Discoveries on the banks of the Tagus River, erected in 1960. Again, must hurry as you'll only be given 5 to 10 minutes here.
I was a bit upset at the tour guide for rushing us so quickly on this tour, particularly near the last couple of stops, as we were rushed to get pictures. Overall, just a so-so tour. I could take it or leave it. It's not the worst tour I've taken in my life, but it's also not the best either.
3.) Vigo, Spain ~ Here at this port of call we chose "Fortresses of the South". We made stops at the Medieval city of Tui & cathedral of Tui in Spain. The outside of this building was a nice stop for pictures & you're allowed to take pictures inside the cathedral if you want, too. After doing some considerable walking uphill & downhill, here at medieval Tui, we boarded our motorcoach to cross the river and reached the Portuguese side at Valensa. Inside this fortress, we were released for about 45 minutes of time to take pictures inside and outside of the fort, as well as doing any shopping inside the castle with the many shops that were there. There were places to eat as well as to shop here inside the fortress of Valensa. The scenery of this fort was very much reminiscent of the 2 forts I visited in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico a few years ago when I visited there. This tour was probably one of the dullest tours I did of the 7 ports of call we visited. Going inside & outside of churches is getting pretty repetitive now.
4.) La Coruna ~ At this port of call we decided, under the direction of my father, to go ahead and visit Santiago on our own. We purchased a motor coach ticket from the cruise ship. I believe we were given about 4 hours of free time once dumped off from the motor coach in Santiago.
The big beef here in Santiago is the church, Santiago de Compestela. You enter in the building one way and exit out the other. Ceremonies were ongoing when I entered, and you can take pictures both inside and outside the cathedral. Like the other cathedrals, this one was very similar inside, but only much larger than others I'd seen, which meant more pictures.
There's also a Museum of Galicia people if you're up for it to visit about a ½ mile's distance away.
Otherwise, I found there to be a goodly amount of shopping adjacent to the cathedral, with tons of shops scattered up and down the roads near the cathedral. There's places to eat, a little grocery supermarket, and even a couple of pharmacies, too, if you need.
You had a chance to see some pilgrims who walked countless miles with a stick in their hand to make it to this cathedral from far abroad. In retrospect, I'd probably have chosen a different tour, as I'm getting pretty tired now of visiting all these cathedrals and churches. This now marks the 4th port of call in a row whereby we've visited churches of some sort! For those who have an appreciation for visiting cathedrals, history, and religion, then this tour is a right choice for you!
5.) Paris, France (Le Havre) ~ Here we chose to go all out and visit Paris, choosing the "Scenic Paris & Lunch Cruise". Let me tell you about this.
The drive on motorcoach between the port of Le Havre and Paris takes about 2 hours & 40 minutes to arrive to Paris.
Once we got inside the Paris city district, the first stop was made at a plaza overlooking the fountains in the foreground, followed by the Eiffel Tower in the background. From here, you can take some panoramic photos of the Eiffel Tower & fountains. There were tons of people there, so it'll be hard to get a photo without others in the way, unless you go up to the ledge to take photos.
After that stop, we spent a long amount of time driving through the streets of Paris. Nearly all the sites we seen were from the windows of the motorcoach. You will pass by the Arc de Triomphe a couple times for pictures, and you'll also pass by the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and the side of the Louvre. You will NOT get to go inside the Louvre, nor the Cathedral. You also will not be able to go up the Eiffel Tower on this tour either, as the lines are long, and time too short.
We did make one more stop on the streets of Paris, to get a picture stop at one of the monuments, and only were given about 10 minutes to do so.
Otherwise the final 3rd stop was made at the foot of the Eiffel Tower for our River Lunch Cruise on the Seine River.
This was a special & memorable moment. We were served lunch aboard a glass enclosed river boat capsule, which was completely surrounded by glass from roof-to-floor windows. We were very close to the water of the Seine River, maybe only 3 ft from the water sitting very low, but had complete views from floor-to-ceiling windows.
On the Seine River, we were served blueberry champagne, White Wine, Red Wine, and a salad, followed by a main lunch dish of Salmon & stuffed tomato with bell peppers, and then a dessert, which was a pistachio-based ice cream derivative, garnished with warm apricots; quite tasty! The wine was complimentary with the meal! You could consume as much wine as you'd like, & then they'd keep filling up your glass. (That's what made this tour so expensive, was the all the wines & champagnes!) Some tables went through 4 bottles of wine, I learned!
After visiting and seeing the sites on the Seine River lunch cruise, it returned to the same point on the dock it originally departed from, and we were given 1 hour of time for shopping which was right near the foot of the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately this area was NOT embedded within a shopping district, so shopping was very tight. They did have a souvenir store right next to the river boat dock that offered a few samplings of souvenirs, but nothing extravagant.
My advice is that if you're looking to do some serious shopping in Paris, then do another tour besides this one. Also, if you're wanting to make many stops to visit many sites, you'll have to choose another tour other than this one as well, as this tour that I went on, is ONLY what I'd call an "Introductory tour of Paris". This means most of what you see is while you're on the motorcoach, and you drive-by many sites without stopping.
The river boat lunch cruise on the famous Paris' Seine River was definitely a memorable experience, something I won't forget. I've never seen a river boat constructed quite like this before, with floor-to-ceiling windows! Music was played while you ate and cruised the Seine River. A live-playing violinist serenaded your table while you ate and took in the sites along the Seine River. A couple, I saw, even chose to dance on the dance floor, too!
Visiting Paris was 1 of my 3 favorite ports of call I did during our 7 ports of call.
6.) Brugges, Belgium ~ On this port of call in Zeebrugges, we chose to go with the tour entitled, "Romantic Brugges". I'm happy to enthusiastically recommend this tour to everyone. This was 1 of my 3 most favorite ports of call. It's too bad there aren't more cruise ships going to this little charming district in Belgium.
It's a unique experience to visit the town of Brugges, by doing both a walking tour and canal boat ride, alike, as we did both. The canal boat ride was peaceful & relaxing and allowed yourself to unwind while taking in the distinct flavors of Brugges' architectural building styles, which was quite interesting I thought. Going under the narrow-topped tunnels was kinda neat too! The walking tour is very informative, and you do walk a goodly amount of distance both before the canal boat ride and after.
There are tons of places to shop in Brugges. The most notable shops they boast are chocolate factory stores everywhere. Then there are the Belgium fries and Belgium waffles which you can splurge on in addition to the many chocolate stores we found along the streets. I'd highly recommend visiting Brugges to anyone who's interested in shopping, eating, and who craves for chocolates, while enjoying the architectural styles of this quaint, charming little village! It was a favorite of mine!! :0)
7.) London, England (via Dover) ~ For this port of call, we chose the tour called "Scenic London & Free Time".
The amount of free time given was exactly 1 hour and 10 minutes, as I looked at my watch, from 150 PM to 3 PM, and the free time was given at the end of this tour.
Again, just like in Paris, many of the sites you see in London are whilst onboard the motorcoach bus, with only a couple stops made. The first stop we made was at the Tower of London Bridge. Here you had lots of time to take pictures, and make a quick sneak peek inside the Tower shops. We could also take photos of the new city hall, too.
Afterwards, we passed by Big Ben, Parliament Square, and Westminster Abby. No stops were made at these locations, so you had to take pictures from the bus, which was sometimes a challenge. My favorite, most picturesque monuments were at Parliament Square. I'd have liked to had a stop here.
Instead, though, we were given a stop at Buckingham Palace, where we were able to get out of the motorcoach and have a goodly amount of free time to take pictures of the outside of the palace, the gold-topped gate, and fountains in front as well.
After Buckingham Palace we visited Kensington Place where we were dropped off for free time right next to the famed Harrod's department store. Harrod's is to London as Saks 5th Avenue is to the United States, just as a point of reference for you to understand. We had 1 hour and 10 minutes of shopping time there in Kensington Place, before we were taken to the Heathrow Airport.
Again, this was what I'd call an "Introductory Tour to London". It just passes by pointing out the highlights of London mostly from the motorcoach bus, so you'd have to be quick to take pictures from the motorcoach bus.
I'd recommend folks to take an open-air, 2-tiered (double decker) bus, that has no roof, so you won't have glare on your pictures from any windows, and no roof obstructions to your pictures. Just dress warmly as it is cool in London, but at least you'll be able to take better pictures on the top 2nd deck of a London red bus, as there won't be any window glares to your pictures, and you'll be able to take pictures on the left and right no matter where you're sitting as there's no roof to that bus.
Traffic in London was enormous and extremely SEVERE! The streets are terribly slow as there's a population of 7.25 million inhabitants residing in London, England and about a total of between 11 to 16 million transiting per day!
Disembarkation in Dover, England went smoothly, I thought. There were no major delays to disembarking for our last tour of the cruise. We found our luggage quickly in the place it was supposed to be found at, and boarded our motorcoach promptly.
There are no customs declarations forms to fill out in London as there are in the United States, so you don't need to worry about that, for the time being, until you return to the U.S., and then you make your declarations onboard your return flight home to the U.S.
Otherwise passport immigration inspection to the final disembarkation port of Dover is done while onboard the Norwegian Sun cruise ship, a couple days in advance, where they have a couple of England representatives on hand that stamp your passport. The line is long and takes about 20 to 30 minutes in line to see the immigration officers. You're called by your deck, between the hours of 8 AM and 12 Noon.
Overall, this was an enjoyable cruise. The fist 6 days at sea were the FUNNEST, GREATEST time I've EVER had on a cruise ship in all my past 11 cruises, mainly because of the many varied activities that were offered onboard. I had such a GREAT, smashing-good time participating in the 9 shows I appeared in on-stage, and that made it all the much more enjoyable. The dance classes and dancing we did was upbeat, lively and entertaining to us both. I enjoyed some ports of call more than others, and that was noted above. The only downside to this cruise was that the service personnel seemed like under-achievers, and the towel linens in the staterooms need replacing, too. There was a great selection of entertainment in the Stardust Theatre, but would have liked to seen some more impressive shows than were offered. Also, the Garden Buffet needs improvement on quality and choices of food. For that reason, I'd always recommend everyone to use the main formal dining rooms as much as possible as the food is much more fresh, and the menu choices offer so much more. Just be prepared to wait a while in the main formal dining rooms as we can call the service wait staff anything but fast!