I wanted to write a complete review of the NCL Sun and all that I experienced. Please note that I am not sold out to NCL. While I do love this cruise line for the freestyle aspect, I also love to sail on Princess and RCCL. I am not a die hard NCL fan and therefore, I hope this review is viewed as balanced.
We did not stay at a hotel, but we did rent a car from Orlando International Airport to the cruise port. Had a bit of trouble finding the rental car facility at the port, but once there, everything went smoothly. Rental car facility was adequate, but next time, we would just pay for the transfers. Its a bit of a hassle to get the car, drop it off, then shuttle to the port. Id rather taxi in or shuttle and start my vacation off with little to no frustration.
NCL Sun April 16, 2011, Port Canaveral, Cozumel, Guatemala, Belize and Key West 7 day Cruise.
The embarkment process was painless. We arrived at the port around 11:30am and immediately was greeted by the friendly porters who took our baggage. We headed in through a pleasant security staff (this surprised me). They even joked with me as I had not had my paperwork out and ready. They were patient and kind and I appreciated how they werent rude at my mistake. Security was a breeze and up to the counter to fill out the health form and immediately to the line to check in. My husband left our cruise tickets on the counter and had to get them....again, another friendly staff member who patiently waited as he went to find it. The staff member joked with me and we chatted a couple minutes and then we were through the line. Got in the usual line of chairs while we waited. We sat for maybe 10 minutes tops and then we were standing and through the line in minutes. Next thing I know, I am on the ship and headed straight to the buffet. Painless!
A few things about this itinerary...First, the port area in Cozumel is very nice, clean, safe and decent shopping. There were a few pesky tour operators and some of the store owners are a bit pushy, but that happens just bout everywhere you go on the islands. They offer a little carriage ride from the shop to the port shopping area because the pier is quite long. We walked with ease, but for some, this is a long way. Second, Guatemala. I cannot say enough that we did not like this stop for several reasons. First, the water is really dark, green, river water...not the typical beautiful crystal clear waters we typically see in the Caribbean. I am not sure if it was just the weather or if its always this way, but the water is soooo choppy. My friend broke her foot getting into a small boat for her tour. We did the Discover Rio Dulce tour. This is a 30+ minute very rocky boat ride to the river and even then, it wasnt that smooth of a ride. This is NOT for people who get motion sickness even in the slightest. Even with taking motion sickness medicine I was really really sick the whole time. The guide was knowledgeable and kind enough to wait a couple minutes while I gathered myself together from being so sick on the small boat. A friend of ours on the boat (with life jacket) ended up with a really large bruise on his back from hitting the seat over and over. This was through the life jacket to give you a sense at how rough the water was. Plus they drive so incredibly fast, that you pound the water really hard up and down plus the side to side rock. The tour itself was fair. We didnt see much on the river, except for small children who rowed out to our boat to beg for money/sell us shells or flowers. It was so sad. The scene along the way reminded me of Gilligan's Island with grass roofs, etc. Very poor country, but with that said, the tour guide did an outstanding job at offering us a wealth of information about Guatemala and the area. We got a private walking tour in the city which was actually the best part of the tour and then we headed back for the long rough boat ride back to the ship. Third up was Belize, we were unable to get off the ship this day because they used tender boats and the ride to Belize was about 20 minutes. Since I endured a rough day the day prior, I didnt want to put myself through another boat ride the very next day. I do want to mention the awesome shore excursion staff member who very kindly removed/canceled my tour in Belize even though I was past the 48 hour cut off for cancellation. Under the circumstances, they were very helpful, kind and sympathetic. She even offered me some tips on taking tender boats ashore if I decided I was up to it. Even if they wouldnt have canceled for me, we wouldnt have gone, so I was pleased to not have to pay and in turn, we paid for the Behind the Scenes tour on the ship, which was great and I will review later. Finally, Key West. This was sort of a joke. Since it was part of the US, we had to clear customs first thing in the am. We got in a line of about 500+ people when we got there and thought we'd never get through; however, the line moved fairly quickly and they did the best they could. Once through, we were able to leave the ship. On this stop, we only had till noon to be back, so by the time we went through customs and got outside it was about 9am. Where we had docked was the military area and they wouldnt let you walk the pier, so you waited for a trolly and they took you to town. There isnt a choice in this. We got to town and walked around for a couple hours and had to come back. It really wasnt worth stopping honestly. Key West is a neat place, I hope to go back and enjoy it some day. I wish I had more information on the itinerary for this trip, but that is it. The only thing I could add is that I have been to Belize before and did the cave tubing and it was a blast.
We had a great guy named Rene. He was very friendly, very good about keeping the room straight for us and having fresh towels, etc. I got a few towel animals, which I love, so that made me smile. I would say he did a really good job overall, but there wasnt anything extraordinary done that week.
This was the largest "regular" balcony room I have ever had. Maybe because this ship is older and the rooms are slightly bigger, but there was a full size couch and a queen size bed, plus the dresser and makeup area. The bed was super comfy! You know how you can always tell where they put the two twin beds together, its like a dip in the center of the bed...well not on this one! It was seamless and oh so comfy. I love the down comforter and double pillows too! Another thing I loved is the light right at my head that I could turn off after I read my Freestyle Daily and was ready for bed. The TV is small and the old box style. There were a few channels with regular programs on it so if you were tired of watching port reviews, you could see the news, sports and other programs. The bathroom was pretty worn out. The shower is circular and small. If you MUST bend over to get something, your hiney is going to stick to the shower curtain and it may just find its way in your cheeks (he he). BUT...that is the BEST shower head ever! what an awesome and refreshing shower. I didnt use the shampoo provided, so I cant comment, other than it was there. The hairdryer was horrendous! Seriously, it was quite funny after a while. It looks like a vacuum hose and its awkward to hold. It blows cool air and barely comes out. Bring your own hairdryer if you sail on the sun!!! There was good amount of shelves for all your bathroom items and the mirror was a decent size. The floor in the bathroom needed replacing in my room. The closet is good in size. There were several hangers and we had adequate space for our clothes. There are even baskets in the closet that you can organize the clothing. There was a small dresser next to the closet and then another dresser by the vanity. We had plenty of room and there are a bunch of hangers. Balcony was normal size, but we were very disappointed that they didnt open up between rooms. We booked 3 rooms in a row in order to open the doors between balconies for one large area to sit and visit, but we werent able to do this. The balconies are fairly private though.
Ok, so this is like a serious traffic jam area. It wouldnt have been too bad, but they set tables up in the middle of the walkway to sell things like jewelry, etc. This caused alot of back up and plus its the main walkway from the theater to the Dazzles nightclub where everything happens. Most of the photographers were really nice, but at each location, it was the exact same poses, almost like it was a list they had to check off. One lady photographer needs some assistance with composition of her pictures. I normally buy alot more pictures and just couldnt find enough good ones to buy this time. Twice in the dining room, they skipped our table. I was starting to feel offended...lol, just kidding.
I dont read, but I thought it was a nice touch that they had 3 puzzles per day in the library. Soduko, Crossword and some trivia. They also had a room to play board games inside the library. Our friends 16 year old son said they had the best couches in the library. Oh so comfy!
The theater is really cozy. There are soft chairs and tables in the front area and then the traditional theater seats in the rest of the areas. Its a small theater, but this is a smaller ship than I have sailed in the past. The production cast that was on board this past week was not very good. Im sorry to say that the singing was not very good. The dancing was pretty good, but the singers were fair. I actually left the show. The comedian, juggler and hypnotist were great. The liars club show was the funniest thing I have ever seen on any ship. For those of you who have never seen this game/show, there are 4 people on stage that are given crazy words. Each person must give a definition of this word and the audience must decide who is lying and who is telling the truth. They had the cruise director Shona, then the comedian, juggler and hypnotist as the ones giving their definitions of the words. All of them had the most hilarious stories and definitions to each of the words, you just couldnt stop laughing. By far, the best show Ive seen on the high seas! The international crew show was fantastic. In fact, they have a band made up of several crew members and they were awesome. They should let that girl be the singer for the production shows. I enjoyed the dancing in this show as well. Very nice!
Dazzles Night Club/Entertainment
Oh what a fun place this is! The 70's party was great. I loved how the crew dressed up in 70's outfits and then they had some people dress up as the village people and perform a little show. It was great. The music was fantastic and there was the house band that played here several nights and they were fantastic! cozy sitting area, a little tight in spots, but adequate. Small dance floor, but enough room for those who wanted to dance. The newlywed game, Karaokee, Wii games, afternoon movies and the "Quest" were some of the fun things happening in this area. For those who havent seen the Quest...it is the funnest game to watch for those who are a little shy and even more fun for those playing. This is a must do, but only if you arent easily offended. This is an adult only game and can get a little crazy! What a great way to end the week. I laughed and laughed and laughed! Thanks NCL for some good entertainment! Also, there was a waiter in this bar each night that remembered that I liked smoothies and came by each night to see if I wanted one. Yeah, I know he was trying to make a sale, but hey, he remembered me and what I liked to drink after waiting on hundreds of others. It made me feel special!
I cant comment on the kids club because we do not have children. I can say that there didnt seem to be many activities for the teens as they always ended up "invading" the adult parties in the evening hours. I say invading only because at the White Hot Party, it turned into a teen dance club and many people left because of this. Maybe it was because it was spring break and there were more teens on board, but just thought Id mention our experience. I never had a problem with unruly kids though.
NCL Sun offered various trivia games, scategories, name that tune, urban legends, word games, etc. throughout the week. There was one lady who didnt have much of a personality, but she wasnt rude, just not overly friendly. One of the people we were with said they encountered a really rude staff member at one of the games. I did not have this experience. The games were really short and quick. I wish we could have played longer. What seemed to be lacking here was poolside games, sexy legs contest, more poolside dancing, etc. Since this ship doesnt have rock climbing, mini golf, etc, I would have liked to have seen more activities. They had more things on sea days, but port days were really slow.
Oh the dining. Everyone loves to talk about the dining! I am seriously NOT that picky when it comes to eating. I am picky on what types of food I eat, but as long as it tastes pretty good, I dont have to cook it, then Im happy. Ill offer a few things. The buffet was a little lacking compared to the NCL Pearl that I have sailed twice and thoroughly enjoyed/raved about the buffet on that ship. Not alot of choices. They did to pool side BBQ with burgers and hotdogs several days. YUM! The salad was great, the fruit at the buffet was good, but not for room service. They have ice cream all day. Several days they had it dipped in a chocolate fountain. They had soft served and regular ice cream as well as brownies, pound cake, cookies, cobbler, etc. to go with it. This was great and we ate it every day. They also have a self serve ice cream station at the Great Outdoors area. The Sports bar had sandwiches, chicken fingers, etc type food, but I heard the staff here was really rude. I didnt encounter this personally, just got that second hand from someone in our party. The dining room had great service, never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a table even with the rush at 6pm. They offered chicken, steak and pasta as standard daily dishes with another menu that changed daily. I really enjoyed the steak from the standard dishes. Lovely deserts to choose from including some sugar free options as well as sherbert for those who cant have ice cream. The pizza was horrendous. Seriously, the worst pizza Ive ever had on a ship. NCL needs to step it up in this department. They did have a nice little buffet by the pizza offering lighter options such as tuna, chicken salad, deli meats, etc. We enjoyed this for lunch one day. Another day we ordered sandwiches to our room for lunch and this we great. Quick service and good food. We ordered room service for breakfast every day. They were right on time each day except for one. They did mess up our order twice, but it was insignificant because we order this as breakfast #1, then hit the buffet for our "main" breakfast. We do love to eat!!
We tried two placed, the Brazilian Steakhouse and the Regular Steakhouse. I loved the regular steakhouse, had a nice meal, cooked just how I like it, very tasty and worth the money. I got the apple crisp for dessert and it was heavenly. There were a couple waitresses that sang happy birthday to me and they had the best voices! Harmonized and everything. They brought me a delicious coconut cake and it was great! The Clam Chowder soup was pretty good here, but a little salty. I had the New York Strip, it was cooked just like I like it...dead...and still tender. Very good flavor! The Brazilian Steakhouse is unreal. You have all you can eat soup and salad bar. this is not the tradition salad bar, but very unique with a wide variety of items to sample. They warn you not to eat too much to save room for the 10, and I do mean 10 meats they bring to the table. You have a card, one side is red, one side is green. When you need a breather, you put it on red. When you are ready for more meat, you put it on green. After you have tried all them meats, they ask if you want seconds on anything. Plus there were sides, like rice, beans, fried bananas (yummmy) and cheese bread. There was so much food and it was delicious. There were ribs, sausage, chicken, lamb, steak, fillets, etc. Way too much to eat but worth the money for an interesting experience. By the way, there was dessert too!
Behind the Scenes Tour
So, we couldnt go into Belize because I was over the top of the sea sickness the day before; therefore, we decided to take this tour and Im soooo glad we did. It was $55 per person and it was a 2.5 hour tour. We got to see so much and learned alot about how things operate. We saw many officers including spending about 15 minutes with the captain...what a great guy! We saw the laundry area(very fascinating), the uniform shop as Id call it, the bakery where we sampled fresh bread right from the oven, several kitchens, the prep area, the freezer, storage area, the incinerator, the loading areas, the crew area, the backstage of the theater, and the bridge. I think that was everything. The entire tour was great, everyone was so happy to see us and shared great information and took time to answer questions. The crew in each area was fantastic. The Sui chef gave us hand outs on how many people are fed/meals prepared statistics, which was a nice touch. I really enjoyed this alot and was able to take tons of pictures. Our guide was also fantastic!
Future Cruise Consultant
Great lady! She was so helpful, friendly and knowledgeable. We wanted to try out the Epic and she gave us a preview of her big presentation she was giving that week, which we also attended the presentation. We put a deposit down, but you cannot book a cruise on board like you can on other cruise lines. I found that odd, but that is a NCL policy, so I got the cruise rewards and will book later.
Fairly small, but this is a small ship and truthfully, the casino was never filled. One nice touch I wanted to mention is that they had a mini buffet at the entry to the casino one night when I was there. i dont know if this was a nightly thing or just that night, but I was so hungry and appreciated the mini buffet setup just for the casino players. I will also mention that the casino cant open until the ship is about 30 miles from land, so for all those who sat at the machines complaining that they couldnt play immediately after sailaway, they need to take a chill pill! It was about 25 minutes after we set sail if I remember correctly.
There just isnt enough seating in this small area. There is an adult only and a family pool side by side. There were always children/teens in the adult pool, which is just plain rude on the parents part, but there needs to be a way for NCL to monitor that. Also, the chair hog situation was out of control on the Sun. They need to devote one attendant to walking around, picking up towels and other belongings that are "holding" chairs for hours and hours to allow others who are there NOW to sit down and enjoy the pool This is quite frustrating and I have been known to move things, but I didnt this time. We did have to sit on the wall by the pool as there werent any "empty" chairs one day. After 30 minutes, it needs to be removed and they can come claim their items at the lost and found. People are so darn rude!
The Great Outdoors
This is one of my favorite spots on the ship. Quiet, beautiful breezes, buffet and bar right there and a nice amount of seating. We enjoyed breakfast here every day. Also, the bar tender each morning was so nice to me and kept me loaded up with diet pepsi. I really appreciated him!
I hope I covered everything. I feel like I have been writing for hours. This is all I can remember right now, so i hope it was helpful to someone. Overall, I rate this cruise on the NCL Sun as VERY GOOD! Would definitely sail again!