Not Great - Not Bad: Norwegian Sun Cruise Review by kiwibor

Norwegian Sun 4
Member Since 2007
34 Forum Posts

Overall Member Rating

Not Great - Not Bad

Sail Date: April 2011
Destination: Transatlantic
Embarkation: Port Canaveral (Orlando)
We are two friends in our early 60's. This was our second transatlantic cruise with NCL. First was on the brand new Gem 4 years ago, so it is not fair to compare the older Sun to the then pristine Gem. That being said, the Sun was a bit shabby, but certainly in good enough condition that I have no complaints except for one. After about a week, our balcony was covered in salt, which we kept tracking into our cabin. The grit from the salt detracted from the pleasure of being on our balcony, which was a bit rusty and in need of paint. But, any balcony is better than no balcony!

To get to Port Canaveral from the Orlando airport, we used the "Cruise Xpress" shuttle. Absolutely fantastic service for about half the price of the other bus shuttles I found on line. I was a bit hesitant to use a company that charged so much less than the others, but I was very pleased with the service and highly recommend Cruise Xpress.

Embarkation took about a half hour (we got to the More pier at about 1:30 p.m.), and that was with being able to use the Latitudes line. No complaints - and, our luggage was delivered to our cabin by late afternoon, so that was a plus.

Balcony cabin was fine - again, a little shabby. The cover on the couch looked old, worn and a bit dirty. Tiny TV, but I was still able to enjoy watching William and Kate's wedding on the small screen. We had the bed separated into twin beds, which left about 7 inches between the end of one bed and the cabinet, so one had to be careful when maneuvering about the cabin. However, I found that there was ample space for luggage and one's belongings. Plenty of drawers and other spaces for clothing and other items. The bathroom was quite small, but big enough for what one needs a bathroom for. I flooded the shower stall only once on a 15 night cruise, and that was when I took a long shower to wash my very long hair. Always had plenty of hot water no matter what time I showered. If you are fussy about soap/shampoo, bring your own rather than use the "mystery" products in the dispensing containers in the bathroom. It seemed that the gap at the bottom of the cabin door was a bit bigger than other ships I have been on, which allowed for noise in the hallway to be heard in our cabin at times.

Our cabin steward, Mark, kept our room very clean and tidy, and he always responded to our simple requests efficiently. Mark was always smiling and we were very happy to have him for our cabin steward. It seemed that the majority of the crew on this ship was from the Philippines (as Mark was), and they all seemed friendlier and more helpful than the crew on my last two NCL cruises.

The entertainment left something to be desired, but I don't cruise in the hope that there will be fabulous entertainment every night, so I wasn't disappointed as I didn't have high hopes. I'd seen the juggler, Romano Frediani - billed as "one of the most popular shows in NCL history!" - on my previous cruise, the NCL Production Cast performers were better at dancing than singing, the faux Beatles were fun - but not vocally great, and the hypnotist TerranceB was dreary. Maybe other acts were better, but we didn't go to the show each night as we didn't enjoy them all that much. FourEver, the Il Divo knock-offs, were actually quite good. The lounge/bar entertainment wasn't stellar enough to make me want to sit down and order a drink. On the Gem cruise, there was a group called the Alambra Trio (?) whom I listened to at every opportunity, and I missed having an enjoyable lounge band on this cruise. Frankly, the crew talent show was the best entertainment on the Sun transatlantic cruise. The art auctions were entertaining in their own way. I was amazed that there were so many repeat buyers on board. Well, as a friend of mine has to constantly remind me, "there's no arguing taste," or lack thereof. If over-priced Thomas Kinkade and Peter Max items are your cup of tea, by all means, DO NOT miss the art auctions. I attended them simply because I was fascinated that so many people were buying what was offered, and doing so happily. Watching the auction staff operate is another form of high entertainment, and provides a fine example of P.T. Barnum's proclamation that there's a sucker born every minute.

The most disappointing thing on this cruise was the lack of educational programs. This was a 15 night cruise, populated primarily by retirees, and the trivia contests were packed. We needed more mental stimulation! On the Gem transatlantic cruise there was a fantastic nautical lecturer who was the highlight of the cruise. The Sun cruise would have been much improved by adding some intellectual entertainment. If nothing else, couldn't NCL have dug up crew members from the ports we were visiting to teach us basic words/phrases in the native language? We were treated to Spanish lessons (though we went to no Spanish speaking countries) by J.J., who was a very good teacher and one of the more entertaining crew members - along with Rommel. They were both very funny and I enjoyed attending the activities they were hosting.

The food on this cruise was much better than the food on my other NCL cruises. Yes, the Garden Cafe was crowded, but the crew was very efficient with the clearing of tables, etc. There was a fairly good selection of buffet items available, and most of it was quite tasty, except for the desserts, which were gelatinous and tasteless for the most part. I was very pleased to discover that in the morning the Moderno Churrascaria served healthy breakfast items. I don't eat eggs or meat, and the food available at Moderno - salad, yogurt, fruits, etc. - was just what I wanted to get my day started. The fellow from Romania who manned the Garden Cafe ice cream station in the evening was wonderful - always asking if we were enjoying the cruise, and scooping ice cream as though it was the best job on the ship. His enthusiasm for making sure the ice cream eaters were happy was remarkable, and we always looked forward to seeing him in the evening.

We didn't eat in any of the specialty restaurants, as we didn't want to part with any more money after having paid $130 more each for our balcony cabin than balcony cabins were priced two weeks after we paid for our cruise. My request for an on-board credit for the difference was refused. I was disappointed that the two main dining rooms served the same food. However, the food was very good - significantly superior to other NCL cruises I've been on. There were interesting appetizers and a good variety of choices on each nights menu. Portions were rather small, but if you were still hungry, you have ordered another meal! Personally, I preferred the somewhat small portion size, as it is easy to gain weight on a cruise with food being available all of the time. The dining room desserts were not very good, so after trying them a few times, we stuck to having ice cream at the Garden Cafe at the end of our evening instead of having dessert in the dining room. My only complaint about the dining room food was the "international cheese platter" that was offered every evening. The blue cheese was edible, but the other selection (two portions of the same thing) was an awful tasteless mass of hard white cheese. The dining room staff was wonderful every time we ate in one of the main dining rooms, with the exception of one night when we dined relatively late and our server seemed anxious to get the evening over with. I hate feeling guilty for holding up the dining room staff on the rare occasions when I dine shortly before the dining room closes. Overall, the dining room servers and their assistants were excellent. We ate in the Sports Bar a few times. The food and service there was very good, though there was a chilly wind tunnel effect in the Sports Bar, as the servers had to go outside and bring the food in, so every time the door opened, we got hit with a cold gust of wind. In the late afternoon when the Garden Cafe was closed, there was an area with a small buffet with snack items on the pool deck. Enough items were offered to hold one together between lunch and dinner! Curiously, even though they make their own pizzas on board the Sun and have a pizza oven, the pizzas are NOT very good. As pizza is the world's most perfect food (when properly prepared), I wish NCL would lure a pizza chef from MSC, and then a cruise in the Sun would be close to perfect! Plus, beer or wine are the perfect companions for a great pizza, so NCL would make more money by selling appropriate beverages to with their pizza. Truly, the pizza ovens are Sun are being wasted, and it is a shame they can't make good pizzas.

When disembarking, we chose to take our luggage with us instead of having it unloaded for us. When we disembarked in Copenhagen (we left the ship at 9:00 a.m.) it was the most efficient disembarkation I've ever experienced. The luggage for the other passengers was orderly and in well marked areas, and the lines waiting for cabs were not that long as there was a steady stream of cabs available. Since the disembarkation area was rather small, the ease of getting off the ship and into a cab was remarkable.

All and all, the transatlantic cruise on the Sun was pleasant and relaxing. As I smoke two cigarettes in my cabin each morning with my coffee while I watch the news, I am grateful that NCL still allows smokers to do so. Would I take another NCL cruise? Absolutely - casual attire and a lack of formality is what I am looking for in a cruise vacation. Just a little more to occupy our brains on a transatlantic cruise with all the sea days, please! Less

Published 05/20/11

Cabin review: BB8253 Mid-Ship Balcony

Balcony cabin 8253 on the Sun was an average balcony cabin. Bathroom was a bit small, but serviceable. Be aware, due to very small shower stall, it will flood if you are not careful. Always had plenty of hot water in the bathroom. Large couch was a plus, and there was ample room for luggage and plenty of room for clothing and other items. Balcony was quite small - it had a door, rather than a slider, which made the balcony seem even smaller. Barely room for two chairs and a tiny table on the balcony. Beds were not firm, but comfortable during our 15 night cruise. Cabin is a bit cramped when separating the bed into twin beds - have to be careful getting around the end of the bed closest to the bathroom, or you will constantly bang your leg into the cabinet.

Read All Mid-Ship Balcony (BB) Reviews >>

Port and Shore Excursions

Lisbon is not a particularly good city for getting off the ship and going your own way. Either take one of the tours offered by the ship, or make arrangements for a private guide before you leave on the cruise. While pleasant, Lisbon was not a "must see" city with lots of "must see" attractions. I enjoyed my time there, but it is not on my "must visit again" list. An interesting thing I did not know about Lisbon is that apparently one can go to a pharmacy and obtain common drugs. One of our fellow cruisers told us that she has a sore throat by the time we got to Lisbon, and simply went to a drug store and easily got an antibiotic. I'm not recommending this practice, but it seems pharmaceuticals are available if you need them when in Lisbon.
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