This was our first NCL cruise and we were pleasantly surprised. We always book an inside cabin for financial savings, but two days before sailing I was able to upgrade to a mid-ship balcony cabin on deck 9 for $100. This was a first for us and we absolutely loved it! There was plenty of storeage space and a nice sitting area as well as the balcony. I would have liked lounge chairs on the balcony, but I do not know if it is possible with the available space. However, now I know what everyone raves about !
As for the ship. Embarkation was a breeze. We live in Florida so we drove to the port and after parking and taking a shuttle, by 11:30 and were on board and having lunch by 12:30. Having heard the nightmare stories about the buffet, we went to the dining room for lunch. It was good but not great. I think all our meals in the dining rooms were good but nothing was outstanding. I love to cook so I am very conscious about serving good food. The lamb that we had 4 times was the best. The steaks were small but tasty. Although most portions were small, you could always order extra. lobster tails were served the first night and I requested two, and got them.
Our favorite ship of all times is Oceania Insignia, followed by Celebrity Equinox. I do not think it is fare to even compare them with NCL. I think that NCL, RCI, and Princess fall into a class of their own as well. But, the Sun is a great size ship, easy to navigate from place to place. Most outstanding was the staff. They were always smiling, greeting us, and obviously liked their jobs. This is the first ship we have sailed where the officers in their white uniforms, actually did work. Especially on the buffet decks, where they would help clear tables, reset them, and set up chairs. It shows that they have worked their way up to their ranks by starting at the bottom and they have not forgotten that.
The buffet food was good, with a wok station, carving station for lunch and dinner along with the varied entrees served. The desserts were sometimes without flavor but there was always something to enjoy. The chocoholic buffet was amazing !!! We did not find the need to go to any of the specialty restaurants and most evenings they were almost empty. We loved the Freestyle dining, sometimes dining alone, other with new friends. The price of alcoholic drinks was between $8 and $10 plus 18% gratuities. We did bring 3 bottles of wine and paid the corkage fee at embarkation. This way, we knew we would enjoy the wine and still paid less than anything we would have purchased on board.
The pool was a lot of fun with waves and the hot tubs helped our aches and pains. I did not expect to see as many children as we did, especially since school is in session for another week before Christmas break. That was sometimes annoying in the pool and hot tub area.
The music ranged from average to outstanding as well as the shows. Candy was our cruise director and very personable. Richard Montervini was an outstanding comic and Elvie Rose was great too. The Sun does not have the "Broadway" sets for their shows as we have enjoyed on other ships, but they definitely have some very talented people that we enjoyed. Bingo was offered but very pricey. the cheapest package was $29.00 for 4 games all the way up to $89.00.
We only took one NCL excursion and that was in Ocho Rios. We went to Cayoba Gardens which were very pretty and then had coffee and banana bread at the Almond Tree. We went to the Wassi pottery shop which I enjoyed. Before returning to the ship, we stopped at the Taj Mahal mall to shop. Overall, I was not impressed with Ocho Rios. In Grand Cayman, we snorkeled on our own, just a 10 -15 minute walk from the ship. I have never seen such big fish anywhere else I have snorkeled. They were huge friendly tarpon ! Having been to Cozumel twice, we just walked around San Miguel and enjoyed it. Great Stirrup Cay was a nice, relaxing end to our cruise.
The two days at sea were great. You could do everything that was offered by the entertainment staff, or do it your way and just relax and sun yourself. There were very few loud announcements, but there was always music playing, but not overly loud so it was enjoyable.
We would definitely sail on the Sun again and would also look into another NCL ship, as well. The determining factor would be the itinerary and the cost.
We are totslly exhausted tonight however. But as they say, if you do not come home from a cruise feeling tired, it means you did not have a good time !
HAPPY CRUISING !