NCL has been my preferred cruise line, and this recently completed cruise on the Sun was my fifth NCL cruise. I make that point to show that I'm not someone who tried the cruise line only once. My four previous cruises - on the Pearl, the Jade, the Spirit and the Epic - were all outstanding. The food on the ships was, with few exceptions, excellent.
So it's with much disappointment that I must comment negatively on the quality of the meals on the Sun. If this Baltic cruise had been my first experience with NCL, it very likely would be my last. Because of my past experiences I probably will come back on another NCL ship, but not the Sun.
One doesn't choose a cruise for the food, I know. The Baltic itinerary was wonderful and did not disappoint at all. And this review is not a criticism of the service of any of the NCL crew. In fact, everyone on the ship, including all the restaurant personnel, were attentive, friendly, and skilled.
But we do remember our More
meals, and we don't want to repeat a bad experience. With just a couple of exceptions, the food on the Sun was inferior to that on the other four ships. Even the Spirit, of comparable small size to the Sun, had high quality meals comparable to the larger ships.
I will mention the good experiences first. I'm glad to report that Le Bistro (the French restaurant) was just as outstanding as on other ships. We were fortunate to visit on lobster night. My companion chose the broiled lobster tail and I had the fruits de mer in pastry. This excellent meal was the highlight of our cruise food. The second above average meal was in the new Brazilian churrascaria, Moderno. The skewers of broiled meats were all done just right and seasoned well. Finally, the Sports Bar served excellent short orders but wasn't open long enough hours.
After these, it's all downhill. The steakhouse (East Meets West rather than Cagney's) featured decent prime rib and filet, but the sides were awful. The baked potato looked and tasted like it had been cooked hours ago. The garlic mashed potatoes were plopped out of an ice cream scoop, and the creamed spinach was watery and bland. The first courses were just weird. I am not sure what the lobster bisque tasted like, but it wasn't lobster. The oysters Rockefeller arrived with a top coating of CHEESE covering the spinach and the tiny oysters. Cheese? That's oysters Bienville, not Rockefeller. You definitely don't mix the two varieties on one oyster. Plus, the cheese melted into a grainy texture (more on that later) which gave an unpleasant feel in the mouth.
I always enjoy the Italian restaurants on NCL ships, but Il Adagio was a disappointment. The meatballs were overcooked, small, and hard. The pizza was topped with Cheddar cheese, not mozzarella, and the texture was grainy just like the topping of the oysters in the steakhouse. (A room service pizza turned out the same way! But a pie in an Italian restaurant should be better than late night room service.) The nachos in Las Ramblas, the tapas bar, were topped with a similar grainy cheese sauce. This appears to be a common issue with the Sun's cheeses.
The main dining rooms (Seven Seas, Four Seasons) are as advertised. Small portions, bland food, nothing terrible but nothing to remember months later. At least there was no extra charge. The buffet? As always a wild scene, food cold by the time you find an empty table, strictly for quick breakfast on shore excursion days.
The most disturbing experience was at the teppanyaki table. Not the service, mind you - the two chefs know how to entertain the diners. The main courses (shrimp and filet) did not disappoint. However, the fried rice was very lightly seasoned and didn't have much taste, and the tiny portions of vegetables were served stacked on on top of another - one slice each of zucchini, yellow squash, and onion atop a mushroom. I've never seen this before. What disturbed us was the condition of the teppanyaki table itself. I've always seen a teppanyaki chef scrub and scrape the table top after he finishes cooking, leaving with a spotless stainless steel surface. This table had a baked on residue which appeared to be scorched leftover sauce and only partially would scrape off. This can't be good hygiene.
I loved the Baltic capitals. I would recommend the itinerary of Copenhagen, Germany, Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Helsinki and Stockholm. Just not on this ship if good food matters to you. Less