Since the Cruise Critic site contains an excellent and comprehensive review of the Sun written before the ship’s late 2010 refurbishment, this review will focus on our experience during the 15-day repositioning Transatlantic cruise in April-May, 2011.
The Sun is a clean, fresh-appearing and well-maintained ship. Its facilities for sports, fitness, relaxation, dining, entertainment and quiet spaces were excellent. The crew was pleasant and helpful at all times. Our cabin, a Mini-Suite, was nicely sized, had excellent closet space, and a well-designed bathroom. It was maintained and excellently serviced by a well-trained and attentive stewardess.
Food selection and taste, in both the Garden Café and The Great Outdoors Cafe was good to fair both in variety and quality for breakfast and lunch. Tables were cleaned promptly after use, making space available quickly for new users. Unfortunately, dinner in the main dining rooms was quite spotty: sometimes barely adequate: variety was limited (the identical menus applied both to the Seven Seas and the Four Seasons restaurants for dinner), portions quite small and served so rapidly that dinner usually lasted less than 30 minutes – essentially a rushed feeling. On the other hand, variety, quality and the quality of service was sometimes very good to excellent. Service in the Seven Seas restaurant was spotty (except for breakfast on debarkation day, when the food was cold, service – at our table only – was ridiculously slow and I had to call the dining room manager to be able to get a decent breakfast). Service was more consistently good in the Four Seasons restaurant. The wine steward in each formal dining room only occasionally visited to ask if we wanted wine with dinner, and infrequently visited our table to refresh our glasses. I have a suspicion that these issues devolve from NCL’s eat-when-you wish “Freestyle” dining: no set dinner seating times, no fixed tables or table companions. Food and service in the specialty (now $20 to $25 per person cover charge) restaurants, especially Le Bistro, East Meets West Steakhouse and the new Churrascuria was excellent. However, I considered as exorbitant Le Bistro’s $10 supplemental charge for the "chef’s specials." And, the lobster tails were 3 tiny tails, which were tough. A disappointment. (Incidentally, we ate at the specialty restaurants 6 times during our 15 day cruise – a testament to our unhappiness with dinner in the Four Seasons and Seven Seas.)
The evening entertainment in the Stardust Lounge was excellent and nicely varied. The Sun’s Cruise Director, Pedro Serra, is a treasure – a huge asset to the entire cruise experience. The performers were superb, notably Paul Adams, the comedian, and Romano Frediani, the juggler/comedian. Both are longtime NCL performers and we certainly understand why. The small music groups/entertainers were generally good. The production group was very good, both enthusiastic and talented. Daytime programs were adequate – some quite interesting - but the absence of educational and informational programs was evident and missed.
Considering the importance of revenue derived from optional passenger purchases of beverages, it was puzzling to observe a dearth of servers in the lounges. Several times, even when the lounge was standing room only, only one or two servers were present, and even then not very attentive to customers wanting to purchase beverages. Certainly, it was not the result of a lack of staff, but rather a lack of staff assigned to this task. Seemingly staff waiter assignments seemed to be based on the locale, and not on the size of the audience.
Also inexplicable was the inefficiency of the shore excursion staff in their failure to allocate numbered stickers for bus assignments until it was time to depart the Stardust Lounge (meeting place for those going on excursions). This resulted in huge queues and long waits. When asked why the stickers could not be issued as people arrived in the lounge, I was told that “we can’t until we get the bus assignments, and those are not available in time to do so.” This is patently ridiculous, as buses, each bearing a number and the name of the shore excursion, were always assembled on shore well before the ship docked, making the required information immediately available after the ship was secured – usually an hour or more before passenger assemble for the shore excursions.
Public areas were fine and service around the pool area was adequate. However, NCL’s requirement to bring one’s pool towel from the cabin and exchange it at the pool, rather than having pool towels freely available at the pools (without "registering" for a towel), is disappointing. Of special note was the able assistance of the Internet Café manager. Its facilities and available business services were also quite good. WiFi wireless Internet access is now available throughout the ship. Ship-to-shore telephone is available from every room, even if quite expensive. Gym and Spa facilities and staff ranged from excellent to very good.
Likely because this was a repositioning cruise, our fellow passengers were mostly elderly with many wheelchairs and walkers evident. Other reviews of the Sun have noted that the Sun’s guests are “casual, sophisticated but unpretentious.” “Casual” may be an understatement: the “formal” night was announced as “dress, or not,” and when asked when the formal nights were scheduled, the staff at the reception desk did not know and could not find out, even using their computers. Also, we would argue with the term “sophisticated,” as, for example, we observed many guests wearing sneakers, flip-flops, and other very casual clothing in the Four Seasons and Seven Seas dining rooms. Only a very few men were observed wearing jackets at dinner in either formal dining room. “Freestyle cruising” apparently translates to “ultra casual,” unless these observations relate more to the repositioning-type cruise.