This was our 4th cruise with NCL so our expectations of a Freestyle Cruise and an exciting itinery were very high. Owing to the cruise being at the end of the European Season the passengers were somewhat elderly but that was not a problem and we just had to be patient when it came to standing in line and moving around busy areas.
The ship looked a little 'tired', although the crew did their best to keep it clean and tidy. I suspect a re-fit isn't too far away. I agree with the review from Roxy84 that the overall design of the ship is pretty poor. We too had problems finding our way around. We were on deck 10 so it was always a challenge finding the lower deck amenities. It was particularly unpleasant having to go through the smoke filled casino on several occasions. During bad weather it wasn't an option to use the Promenade Deck. The seating and buffet arrangements in the Garden Cafe were particularly poor with insufficient seating, even with the adjoining extra spaces, particularly at breakfast and lunch. A fellow guest summed it up well by saying that this ship is a summer ship with plenty of outside eating spaces which could not be used on most days on this stormy cruise.
We were very disappointed with the on-board activities programme. I know this itinery was a one off for NCL but I am sure they could have employed a visiting speaker or speakers to give something about the places we were visiting even if it were something to do with glaciation and plate tectonics. One film on Lief Ericson was the sole contribution towards an itinery which offered so much. All 3 of our previous cruises offered so much more which also applied to the other activities on the Sun which seemed to centre around bingo, trivia and mainly paid for activities. Consequently we spent more time in our stateroom than we anticipated.
The service we received was exactly what we expected. Friendly, helpful and of a very high standard in all areas of the ship. Our stateroom stewards were outstanding and they seemed to be genuinely friendly and they enjoyed interacting with their passengers. They said it was a happy ship and well lead by the captain who was very popular amongst the crew.
With the exception of Greenock we went on the ship's excursions in all ports of call. Yes, they were expensive, but then we were visiting expensive countries. Overall thay offered very good value for money since the guides gave so much information which you couldn't get if you went solo. Also there's no chance of missing the ship. Hardanger Fiord from Bergen was good but cloud over the mountains and in some of the valleys spoilt the overall effect a bit. Walking tours of Alesund and Lerwick were interesting and the Golden Circle in Iceland was excellent. The Geysirs were fun to watch and the waterfall stunning. We were also lucky in having an excellent and very amusing guide. Giant's Causeway from Belfast was also a very worthwhile trip as was our trip to Powerscourt and Dublin. It was a bit of a crush in the Stardust Theatre waiting for your tour to be called but everyone was patient and eventually made it safely to their coaches and guides.
We were pleased with our stateroom. It was our first time in a balcony and the extra room both inside and on the balcony was great. I spent quite a bit of time on the balcony and looking out to sea through the windows on the rough days and we spotted diving gannets, dolphins and whales. It was well worth the extra money.
On paper, the dining options looked good and we particularly enjoyed eating in the Four Seasons. We didn't feel the need to pay the extra for the specialist restaurants. On my 60th birthday my wife arranged for me to have a birthday cake in the Four Seasons and the waiters gathered around to sing happy birthday. A nice touch! We then went to the chocolate evening in the Seven Seas, mainly to see what it was like, but ended up sampling a little of what was on offer. Apart from a few days suffering from sea sickness we mostly ate in the Garden Cafe. If you went after 7.30 in the evening it was very quiet so you could take your time over your choices. Unfortunately the buffet food was not as varied or as good as on previous NCL ships, particularly the deserts. This also applied at lunch.
Entertainment was very mixed. Most of the main events in the Stardust Theatre didn't appeal to us and from what we heard we didn't miss much. We were disappointed to miss the comedian due to sea sickness but thoroughly enjoyed the MacDonald Brothers and the follow-up presentation by Bob Arno. The visiting Scottish and Irish Folk shows were also good.
Embarkation was very quick due to us being latitudes members and disembarkation was just a stroll off because our car was parked at Dover and we were not tied to any particular time.
In summary, we thoroughly enjoyed our ports of call, the crew were excellent, the activities and entertainment not up to the usual NCL standard, the food excellent in restaurants but disapointing in the buffet and the sea too rough in the North Sea and the North Atlantic. Would I cruise with NCL again? Yes because we prefer Freestyle Cruising. I am not sure whether I would sail on the Sun again unless the Garden Cafe was redesigned.