Consider this a review from the point of view of someone whos never cruised on NCL but has some experience on HAL and Princess. We chose this cruise based on price and itinerary and while we were not disappointed in either of these respects, we did find ourselves quite disappointed at the end of the cruise for 2 very specific reasons that Ill detail at the end. To us they were important; to you they may not be. The Sun is a very clean looking ship, well maintained, smartly painted and kept up quite well. I've not seen any areas of the ship where trash has been left to stand for days or even hours as I have on both HAL and Princess ships. You can find rust on the Sun, but not nearly so easily as you can on other ships. She was in dry dock less than a year ago so that certainly helps. The colors in the carpets and drapes are all strong and not sun faded. Overall, I'd have to say the condition of the ship is perhaps a halfstep above the other ships weve been on.
The rooms are a bit more cramped than others weve had and the storage space rather more limited. Each cabin has a small refrigerator and while that may be fine for some, I'd rather have the storage space. It is possible to have the mini-bar goodies removed so you can use the fridge for other things. One thing we noticed was that the water pressure in the cabin was almost overpoweringly strong and there was a never-ending supply of nearly scalding hot water, both quite appreciated. In fact, the water pressure onboard was better than it is here at home. Dust accumulated on every surface at a furious rate in our cabin. I don't fault the stewards though as they cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. The AC, which worked well throughout the cruise, seems to generate the dust and distribute it. When we opened the air intake to look at the filter, we found it solidly blocked by 2+ inches of woolie dust. Our steward was most apologetic about it and cleaned it thoroughly, explaining that it was maintenances job to clean and replace them. All four cabins of our party had the same problem, and I think that this, in part, led to my wife developing a sinus infection that drove her to the ships doctor; a cruise first for us. The beds are standard singles that can be pushed together to form a queen of sorts. How they manage to move them is another question as they seem to be made of solid concrete and only get firmer as the cruising nights pile up. Then there's the pillows or whatever they really are; I suspect they might alternately be used as body armor. I never pulled the cases off, but I also suspect they may be 2"x12" planks of wood, they litterally are that hard and flat. That's it for pillows, 2 per bed. No throw pillows for charm or propping up to read. The love seat there is barely room for makes into a bed, but only apparently for torturing its inhabitant as sitting on it alone is cause enough to contact Amnesty International. We've discovered that the drapes that cover our generous porthole hang at noticeably different lengths. This causes the weighted bottom of the shorter of the two to bang annoyingly when the seas are a bit rambunctious behind the wall they slide into. There are no chocolates during evening turndown service or note from the crew or captain wishing us a good night's sleep. Also, no magically refreshed fruit bowl in the room, not that there's much space for it to sit if there were one. The bath is functional. Dull white nearly seamless formed plastic walls with a formed sink and tube-like (yes, tube with an e) shower stall. A hair dryer hangs above the toilet and the towel that hangs from the lowest towel bar does so into or over the trashbin, your choice. Fortunately, the stewards always hang the floor mat there. The bath stall is clean, and appears to be easily cleaned, but I just can't help noticing all the (not yet all my own) hairs that inevitably stick to the white plastic walls during the wiping down process. This is a bathroom that is made for "multi-taskers" as I can literally sit on the can, wash my face in the sink after shaving it while soaking my feet and legs in the shower tube. All soaps come from dispensers, there are no bottles of name-brand shampoos and no body lotion whatsoever.
The food is fine; we had no trouble finding something to eat at each feeding and it seems to be available more often than on HAL/Princess. There is almost always food someplace, whether at the sports bar, outdoor cafe, buffet or main dining rooms. One thing to note is that for the 24/7 pizza, there is a $5 delivery charge, double the delivery charge to have pizza delivered at home. The problems we had with food tended to be getting at it. Because there are so many venues for food, they are all are rather small and quickly fill up at prime dining times, making movement difficult, with the exception of the main dining rooms. Also, there's no easy way to get through the Garden Cafe (the buffet) to the Great Outdoor Cafe (aft buffet) from the pool area of deck 11 when the troughs are open. As for service, it's generally good but tends to be slow, especially in the main dining room and the sports bar. You can pay to eat at several different venues which are unlike any Ive seen on other cruise lines. Theres a Brazilian Churrascaria onboard which is pushed heavily by the staff, a French restaurant, a sushi bar, a tappas bar, and Italian restaurant and even a teppanyaki experience. We chose to eat only once at Il Adagio, the Italian restaurant with nice views of whatever is alongside the starboard side of the ship. We celebrated the birthday of one of our party of 8 and when we made reservations found that they could only accommodate parties of 4, meaning we were side-by-side in booths, not the greatest arrangement for a party but we made it work. The service here was attentive and personal. The time we spent enjoying beautifully presented good food went quickly, unlike it does in the main dining rooms, where long stretches of time passed between courses and service. Seating was quick in the main dining rooms, but it seemed we were waited on by robots who made little attempt to do more than required to serve a multi-course meal. I think this is attributable to the Freestyle Dining concept. We found it too much to try and keep up with or avoid any particular waiter. We spent a lot of time at the Garden Caf, Great Outdoor Caf and the Sports Bar. Wed like to see the concept of the sports bar on other ships. Also, we missed the full hot and cold sandwich bar found on the HAL/Princess ships weve been on. There was a lunch-time DIY cold station where you could make your own sandwich, but it was hidden over at the churrascaria and we generally avoided this area as it was just inside from where smoking on the pool deck was allowed and always smelled of it. We did find, unfortunately for our waistlines, that the ice cream/dessert bar was open continuously from lunch time until well after dinner, and thoroughly enjoyed the peach and blueberry cobbler but passed on the bread pudding, which others did seem to enjoy.
The fitness center saved the day, however, from the indulgences of the ice cream bar. I used it almost daily and on the couple of days I didnt, I could be found power-walking on the promenade on deck 6. One note about the promenade; it was good for walking, even with the mild elevation changes forward, but otherwise I had no use for it as there was no chaise lounges or chairs to be found there, unlike on HAL and Princess ships. I missed that very much. The fitness center was by far the best Ive seen on any ship Ive been on. There were no fewer than 8 treadmills, 4 recumbent bicycles, 6 ellipticals and a good number of weight-training machines and free weights. There was also stair climbers and upright bicycles for use. This room was separate from the area where yoga and other trainer-led classes were conducted, so there were no conflicts with classes and very rarely ever a wait for a machine to work on, even though they were in nearly constant use. Once or twice, I found a machine out of service, but it was usually repaired and working the same day. The doors were open from 6 am until 10 pm daily and while there was a small sign on the wall in front of the treadmills indicating their hours as 8 am to 10 pm (meaning while there as a spa attendant available) I never saw any enforcement of this. I have to say that while on HAL and Princess I never saw many machines in use and no rush to the fitness center but Id sure like to see them add addition weight equipment such as found here on the Sun.
Other items of note: My wife was pleased to see that Park West ran the art auctions onboard rather than the inhouse auctions found on HAL and Princess. We had such a bad experience with the art director on the ms Veendam in Dec. 2010 that we really thought wed never go back to one, but Park West fixed that opinion and she was glad to see them onboard. We did notice that on deck 7 where the Sun Club Casino is located, smoke from the casino was noticeable, and even could be smelled on other decks in the atrium areas. My guess is the HVAC, which should produce negative air pressure in the casino, wasnt doing its job fully. We didnt attend any of the shows, but from what we heard most everyone was pleased, however, one of our party found that whenever she was in the Stardust Lounge, she would break out in hives and therefore quit attending them. There was something in the fabric of the seats that irritated her skin. We found it odd that each evening before sundown the pool deck and the deck 12 above was cleared of all lounges. There was no lounging in the evenings allowed, even when the weather became conducive as we moved further south across the Atlantic. When they were out, they were at a premium. I think the open-air pool deck might be the reason behind removing the lounges. The HAL ships Ive been on with their retractable pool deck roofs are a really great solution to this problem. There seemed to be few wine stewards in the buffett areas but did find that you could identify them by the purple tops they wore rather than the white tops of the wait staff. We did have to flag them down though as they rarely stopped and inquired whether you needed anything. Overall, the crew did an excellent job and I have no complaints about service other than whats been mentioned. One thing to note, though, is that this crew was of a much more diverse mix of cultures, origins and nationalities than Ive found on HAL and Princess and seemed to be more relaxed and casual, but always professional. Our room steward, Silby, did an outstanding job. Our cabin was on deck 4, the lowest passenger-accessible deck on the ship, which often equates to the least experienced hotel staff, but we found that didnt apply on the Sun.
Now to the disappointments. You may find them silly and superfluous. Two things weve come to expect and appreciate on our cruises on HAL and Princess are a trip log and a survey at the end of the cruise. We received neither from NCL. We love the trip logs weve received in the past and reference them often when reminiscing as they record the daily itinerary, location, and facts about the cruise in general, like distance traveled, food consumed, and so forth. To us, they are an indication that the cruise line wants to help me remember the time I spent with them. And, while a survey can sometimes be a bother to complete (but has never been obligatory), they are an indication that the cruise line cares to know my thoughts, good and bad, about their performance during the time we spent with them. These things communicate something to us that just didnt happen on this cruise. I did not get the feeling, upon leaving, that NCL cares how I felt they fulfilled my expectations, nor that I remember this cruise or care to ever cruise with them again; not the sort of feeling you want a customer to leave with.