We booked a cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines (Our First on NCL) on the Sun sailing out of Port Canaveral, Florida, for December 4th - 11th, 2010. Ports of Call included the Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Maarten, VI, with three sea days to enjoy the warmer climate and ship amenities. We were able to board/embark without any trouble and they took our pictures at the cruise terminal vs. as we boarded the ship (A nice first). Our vision of the ship was compared to fifteen (15) previous cruises on Holland America, Carnival, Princess and Royal Caribbean. To our surprise, The Sun has a piece of elegance of the ships of the past with wood panels/flooring, decorative colors and paintings in abundance. We were guided to the Garden Cafe' on deck 11/Pool Deck. What we found was total disaster in the layout and organization of the buffet area. Massive lines that did not move, poor access & egress flow. Everything flowed together (Salads, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, and Desserts & Ice Creams). We found too many food stations that had to cook each individual item while you waited. Space was very tight everywhere you turned you were running into people. Ship was built in 2000, so they had to have an idea of how this would not have worked. Compared to any of our previous sailing, this ship missed the "Boat" and our first impression bubble burst!!!! We were told that this was the only restaurant open on the ship until dinner.
We finished lunch and continued our tour of the ship. All the amenities seem excellent and the crew was very friendly. You could actually carry on a conversation and understand them. We were given the OK to go to our inside cabin. What a surprise awaited us!!! This is the largest interior or exterior cabin we have ever had. Plenty of storage available, but the bathroom was just like any other - tight!! Refrigerator and safe were available and were quite comfortable and enjoyed the quiet. Never did see our room stewards from day one.
The Great Outdoor Cafe' was a real treasure when it was open and you can enjoy the full panoramic view off the rear of the ship. Best hot dogs and hamburgers on the ship. Desserts and salads were excellent. Much needed maintenance on railings and step ways. Using 2X4's as railing is NOT acceptable. This ship was to be dry docked in early 2010, but NCL Corporate kept her active despite some necessary renovations and repairs.
Four Seasons and/or Seven Seas Main Dining Rooms were nice, but the service and quality of food lacked from our expectations. Service was slow every night and quantity/quality of the food was less than other cruise lines. Open dining in all dining rooms might work if properly staffed, but too few people trying to cover a much larger area than able to serve in a reasonable manner. Every item from appetizers to desserts was brought out by a different person. The Management is more interested in selling passengers upgrades to high end venues. These are a little pricy and the quality/quantity is not much better with about the same service.
After an enjoyable day at The Atlantis in the Bahamas, we departed for our next two ports of call -St Thomas and St Maarten - a sea day away!!!???? Tuesday, our sea day was interrupted mid-day by a sudden stop and we were dead in the water. The Captain announced there was a minor technical problem and there was nothing to worry about. We started moving again, but at a much reduced speed. After the first show that night, the Captain announced that our propeller/propulsion clutch on one screw had stopped working. As a result, a New Freestyle Cruising itinerary was being put into to play to accommodate our slower speed. We would NO LONGER be going to St Thomas or St Maarten. The Captain and NCL Corporate had put us on a course to Samana, Dominican Republic, and Great Stirrup Cay (NCL Private Island in Bahamas). Dominican Republic is under a Cholera Alert, but we were going regardless. Had to be tendered into the Port which is like most of the ports in Belize or Roatan were ten to fifteen years ago - very little to offer in excursions or accommodations. This is one of the most desolate areas that we have ever been in. Having travelled over the years with the US Army, we have seen many places to compare to this poor choice!!!
Our New Freestyle Cruising caused some ill feelings with a large number (25% to 50%) of passengers who had booked this specific cruise to do Christmas shopping in St Thomas and St Maarten. Much hostility was present as was witnessed at the customer service desk that evening. It looked like NCL had every Security Officer on duty to hold the irate guest at bay. Many wanted unreal demands (100%) refund to the Captain walking the Plank!!! We were finally able to come to an agreeable resolution to have one person deal with the Captain. A passenger named "Larry" volunteered to represent us. He was on his Honey Moon, but stepped up to the cause!!! He had a meeting that night with the Captain. We met the next night in the Stardust Lounge which was offered by the Captain. He updated us on what had been discussed, but did not promise anything other than NCL Corporate & Captain where working on an offer. He indicated that we would know something the Last Full Day of Our Cruise. Many did NOT want a credit on another NCL Cruise, but a refund (full or partial) on this cruise. NCL "Corporate" did give us a $100 on board credit, free wine at dinner on Wednesday night and free photographs for the entire cruise (if you know to ask, no announcement). Plus a 50% discount on snorkeling or water slide in Great Stirrup Cay which also was NOT announced. We have contacted several cruise agents who verified that the port charges were $280 dollars per person, while Customer Service quoted us $14.37 per person which was an additional credit to our final bill for the lesser amount. Who made money on this???
Friday finally came and our letter from the Captain& Corporate. They are allowing a 30% value of this cruise to be taken off the next NCL cruise. Based on the meetings, we wonder how many people will take another cruise on NCL? May be the CEO should do some "Under Cover On This Boss".
Also, it should be noted that when we left Great Stirrup Cay, we were using both propellers/screws. Our speed resumed to full speed, but the Captain did not post the Knots per hour on the onboard TV network - Wonder Why??? But we did get it back to Port Canaveral ahead of schedule. Disembarkation was NOT well organized (no tags put in rooms). You had to go to the front desk and pick from what was left. We were suppose to get off at 8:15 AM, which turned into 9:15 AM plus stand outside in the cold for half of that time. Other cruise lines have this down to a science at the same port.
We'll probably try those others before we set foot back on the Sun again. We can NOT recommend this ship to any prospective cruisers or guest.