This was our ninth cruise, the fifth on Norwegian, and the first on the Sun. I am by no means an expert on cruising but I have been enough times now to have comparables to judge from. I am 41 and my wife is 38 and we have also cruised with Carnival and Royal Caribbean. This cruise took us on a seven day trip from Port Canaveral to Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. This was our second embarkation from Port Canaveral and I must say, both times the boarding process was extremely smooth and hassle free. We arrived at the port around 11 am and were walking on the pool deck in less than a half hour.
We are inside room folks because I am not a firm believer of paying for the upgraded rooms if we only plan to sleep in it. On this particular cruise, we were upgraded by the cruise line due to a minor technicality on their part, and put in a room on deck 9 that was still inside but slightly larger than the rooms we have been used to. The room had all the standard features you see on the other cruise lines such as a television, fridge, and ample closet space. The bathroom was the usual small but functional room. I found the shower to be a little smaller than what I have remembered but it worked out fine. Our two room stewards we very responsive, polite and I appreciate the fact that they remembered our names each time we pass them when returning to our stateroom. They both did a great job keeping our room tidy for the week.
Over all, the Sun is in very good condition. The crew does an exceptional job of keeping all the public areas very clean and well maintained. Despite being a smaller ship than other NCL ships we have been on, all the usual venues were available as far as restaurants, lounges, shopping, casino and dining rooms, but on a slightly smaller scale. We found the casino to be one of the smallest we have seen and it was nice that the Stardust Lounge, where most of the entertainment was done, didn’t force you to walk through the casino to get to other locations on the ship when a show was finished. Being a small casino it seemed that the smoke from cigarettes was overpowering and being non-smokers, we found using the casino to be bothersome and chose to spend only a marginal amount of time in there. The Stardust Lounge first appeared to be poorly designed. When we looked at it on the first day it seemed as though many seats would have obstructed views but we found that if we got their early enough, we had choice seats with great visibility each time. It is a small theatre and most shows only ran once so accommodating everyone on this ship was not possible. We were disappointed that quite a few of the activities took place in Dazzles Lounge and seating was very limited with even poorer visibility. Some of the more popular activities such as Norwegian Idol and the Newly Wed game should have been scheduled for the theatre because there was enough room for all who wanted to watch.
Let’s talk food. My family is generally very easy to please and we can put up with quite a bit of disappointment before allowing it to ruin our vacation. However, and because a lot of people look forward to the food on their cruises, I would not want you to get too excited about the options on the Sun. Although this didn’t ruin our vacation, it did overshadow it. The buffet on this ship is the smallest buffet I have ever seen on any of our cruises. It was poorly designed which created severe bottlenecks at the entrances, the food selections were very minimal and usually appeared to be “left-overs” from the dining room’s evening meal the night before. Traffic flowed very poorly and it was exceedingly common to see someone cut off others, who had been waiting in line, to reach in for an item. There was clear frustration from most dining in the buffet so we found it easier to eat most of our meals in the dining rooms. The food in the dining rooms always had decent selections and we enjoyed most of our meals. It did seem as thought there was a staffing shortage in the dining rooms. Most cruises we’ve been on had a waiter and an assistant for each table. On this trip we would have several people servicing our table and in some cases as many as five. What I mean by shortage of staff is that even though we had that many people, there was usually quite a bit of waiting between courses, errors were made with our orders and the wait staff would be serving many other tables scattered around the dining room as opposed to keeping a waitperson centrally located. We did have dinner one night in the East Meets West steakhouse which was worth every penny we had paid extra for. In the “free” dining room the steak that was on the menu one evening was completely tasteless. They served ½ lobster tails on two different occasions during the week and we were hugely disappointed. Being from Maine we are partial to Maine lobster so we don’t get too excited about the rock lobster that is served. Furthermore, because the lobster is prepared ahead of time it was over cooked, very tough and dry. Most of the food was good but not the outstanding quality you would expect on a cruise.
The entertainment was just ok. There was a comedian named Bud that only made us laugh a few times and a juggler with five Italian names that performed all the same stuff you see from every other juggler. The house entertainment was very good however as they performed some popular Broadway songs from newer Broadway hits. The Cruise Director’s staff was entertaining as well and did a good job when presenting different activities. It seemed as though there were times when there weren’t a lot of sponsored activities to do on the sea days.
If you have done many cruises in the Caribbean you have already been to Nassau and St. Thomas. Both are good places for shopping but I find Nassau to be rather dirty and it surprises me that the locals don’t do a better job of keeping up with the maintenance of their streets and buildings so as to be presentable to the thousands of cruisers who get off the ships there each day. We took an NCL sponsored excursion to the Blue Lagoon which was a beautiful secluded beach but the high winds made it difficult to enjoy the day. St. Thomas is better kept and cleaner but unfortunately it rained the day we were there so we just wandered around the local shops. The day at St. Maarten was a first for us and we hired a local driver to take us all around the island to see all the popular spots. He charged us $30 each and we spent two and a half hours with him. Try to get over to the beach by the airport around 1 in the afternoon. You will be astonished at what you see. He stopped where we wanted to stop and took us to a popular shopping area. We got to see both the French and Dutch sides of the island. His English was poor but for the most part we understood the important things he was trying to tell us.
At no fault of NCL, we were at the mercy of the hurricane season. We have taken several cruises in November before and never had problems with the seas but this trip, every day and night was rocking and rolling through the waves. We didn’t get sea-sick at all but it makes it much harder to get around the ship when you’re unable to walk straight. Regardless, we have yet to be completely dissatisfied with any cruise we have been on, like I said we are rather easy to please.
Disembarkation was a breeze. We did the self-disembarkation and found the process to be very quick and hassle free. There were people in front of us who left their luggage outside their stateroom the night before who were put back on this ship for failing to follow instructions. Folks who left their luggage out were not allowed to take part in the self-process because their luggage was not ready at the pickup points.
Folks with very high standards and expectations would be unhappy with this cruise but for the rest of us, I would have given this cruise a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being exceptional).