My husband and I just completed a 7 day Carib cruise on the Norwegian Sun going to Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, and Great Stirrup Cay. We are seasoned travelers and therefore do not expect to live above the standards we live with at home; i.e. demanding a fresh towel every day, demanding fresh sheets every night, grumbling if the fork is not placed in the proper position at the table. At the same time we understand you get what you pay for, and you get back what you give to others. We go on vacation to have fun, relax, maybe go to a new destination or do something new and different. We don't make any expectations for our vacation, and we go with the flow.
I'll talk a little about the Norwegian Sun. This is the second time I've been on the Sun with the first being in 2005 during hurricane Wilma. Right off the bat I know she is sea-worthy (LOL). I understand the ship went thru some dry dock time and the improvements are extraordinary. New carpet, new bathroom countertops, new eating facilities. Good job NCL! The ship is laid out nicely and easy to get around. We had an aft-facing mini suite and couldn't have asked for a better room. The room feels like it is about the size of 2 balcony rooms with a huge bathroom. There was ample space around the bed and couch for two people to easily move around. There is tons of storage space with a credenza in the room and then floor to ceiling drawers/cabinet in the closet. The bathroom has a vanity with a chair and lighted mirror and a drawer containing a hair dryer. This space was valuable to me. There was also the regular sink with drawers underneath and large mirror over the sink and shelves on either side of the mirror. Complimentary lotion provided and replenished as used. The shower also had a full size bath tub with shower gel and shampoo. One thing I did notice about the shower/tub was that you had to raise your leg over the side of the tub and step up about 8-10 inches. No big deal, but I could see someone falling when wet and stepping out. Use the handles to steady yourself or sit down on the side of the tub and swing your legs out. Inside the closet going into the bathroom was an electronic safe. Big enough for a small laptop (like a 13"). When re-programming it we had to really push some of the buttons. It looked like some of the numbers we used more than others and thus required a bit more effort. No big deal as we were able to program the safe and had no problems getting in it. The bed is hard as a brick, 'course I like a soft bed. There were a total of 4 pillows on our bed, and I put one (the non feather one) behind my back and used the feather pillow for my head. Worked out just fine. I'm sure the couch folded out to accommodate 2 more people, but we didn't mess with it. It was nice to curl up on when it was raining and read. Admittedly the tv was rather small, about a 15". But, I didn't come on a cruise to watch tv; I would rather watch the view outside the balcony.
The balcony was large enough for 2 chaise loungers , 2 regular chairs, and a small table for drinks. We didn't use the regular chairs and therefore stacked them in a corner out of the way. We found ourselves laying out on our balcony way more than in a beach chair by the pool. The view from the balcony is amazing. You get a full 180 degree view. Granted, you can't see what's coming, but we took the advice of another couple and turned the tv on the station for the ship web cam and we then knew what was in front of the ship. The view is not blocked by the stateroom partitions since the aft of the ship is sloped. On this particular cruise we had sun on our balcony during the morning going to Cozumel, and after Cozumel we had sun on the balcony in the evenings.
Some folks wonder about the noise and wind in an aft facing room. First, there is NO wind at all. Even when the wind was blowing 50mph outside one day there was nothing on our balcony. The main noise we would hear was the moving of the chairs in the Great Outdoors right above us. A couple mornings at 4am the staff (I guess) started re-arranging the tables/chairs in the outdoor seating area. Then one morning at 3am I was awakened by the chair noise. I think it was the wind blowing them around maybe, because it was 3am and the Great Outdoors doesn't open until 7am. I don't know, but that was the main noise, and I am such a light sleeper. If you are a heavy sleeper you may not hear anything. We couldn't hear people talking or mingling, and we couldn't hear dishes when sailing. When in port you could hear a little bit of people talking but they had to be at the railing at the back of the ship and you had to be outside at your railing. We became accustomed to the chair noise after a few days, and do not consider this to be a deal-breaker on the room. We also had a tiny bit of soot on the chairs, but so not a big deal. I sneaked an extra wash cloth to wipe down the chairs and rail from soot and rain. We had no food come onto our balcony from the Great Outdoors. The only other noise/sensation was when the ship was speeding up or slowing down quickly (coming in and out of port). We could feel a vibration from the propellers, but again no big deal. The benefits of an aft facing room far outweigh the trivial bothers.
You can make any restaurant reservations when you get aboard. We made reservations for all week the first day we got on. Teppanyaki tends to book up fast since they only have dinner at 5:30, 7:30, and 9:30 each night. We ate at Moderno the first evening and it was amazing. Service was top notch with friendly and personal service. Nice salad bar albeit a bit different from your normal salad bar. Good opportunity to try something new. The meats were all delicious, but my favorites were the lime chicken, chorizo, filet, and garlic beef. You will leave with a happy tummy! The second evening we were surprised to be chosen to have dinner with a ship officer. (Sign up for it at the reception desk when you first arrive). We had dinner with the Financial officer along with 2 other couples. Dinner was held in the 4 Seasons. This was such a fun dinner and we really enjoyed sharing stories, learning about ship finances, and meeting new people. Definitely be doing this again (hopefully). We also ate at Teppanyaki one evening. This is a 2 hour meal but well worth it. At first, you are given miso soup and then a seaweed salad which is fantastic. I thought seaweed...hmmm probably not something people should eat, but I tried it anyway and wow was it good! You give your main entrÃ©e order and a bit later the teppan chefs arrive. Also, try the Wasabi cocktail it is really yummy and doesn't taste like wasabi. We both had the filet mignon and jumbo shrimp. OMG this was soooo good! The whole experience with the chefs and their light hearted and funny personalities combined with such good food was incredible. We then ate at Il Adagio on our last evening. Another round of super service with friendly staff. I was recommended the spaghetti cabonarra and it was delicious. Other eating enjoyments we had were the sports bar (aka Blue Lagoon) and the deli lunch at Moderno. The sports bar serves all the comfort food of the old Blue Lagoon. I love the hot hot wings, chicken tenders, fish and chips. If you want the hot hot wings ask for the hot wing sauce, otherwise you get mild wings. The deli lunch at Moderno is a great place for pizza, Caesar salad wraps, chicken salad, meats, cheeses, and breads. Got really busy towards the end of the cruise when more people found out it was there. One thing on the pizza, and 1 of only 2 grumps I experienced on the cruise. The pizza maker has zero personality and zero ability to see that everyone wants pepperoni pizza and to stop making veggie pizza. Anyway, we would wait in line for pepperoni pizza for about 15 min, but hey, we didn't have anywhere we needed to go so we rolled with the flow.
Arrived in Cozumel on Monday. Now my hubby and I have been to Cozumel frequently so it feels like a second home to us. We normally stay at a palace resort in Riviera maya but have turned to cruising since Mexico has had some unrest. Cozumel still has the wonderful friendly people and it was good to see that the city is building up. We did the Scoot Coupe excursion thru NCL and had an absolute blast. The little cars would go about 40 mph and were a bit squirrely at that speed, but we still had so much fun. You get to see a large portion of the island, stop at 1 souvenir shop, and stop at 2 beaches. Well worth the money. After the excursion we went to our favorite restaurant in Cozumel -- Palmeras (www.restaurantepalmeras.com). To get here walk left outside of the cruise terminal. Walk until you see a blue domed roof on the right side of the road -- about 'Â½ mile. The restaurant is on the main road. They have fabulous filet tacos and fajitas for about $30 for 2 people including beer and tip.
Arrived in Grand Cayman on Tuesday. We did the sunken ship snorkel excursion thru NCL. Now, you have to tender in Grand Cayman, and on this day I think it was a training day for tender operators. First, though, since we had an excursion we had to meet in the Stardust lounge at 12:15PM. We didn't leave for the excursion until almost 1pm. I think there may have been some lack of communication because they were allowing people without excursions to leave the ship before people with excursions. Normally, people who book an excursion thru NCL get priority tender to meet the excursion time. This was not the case and therefore we didn't leave for the tender until almost 1pm. Then the tender operator was not the most efficient and it took us another 45 min to tender when it should have taken 20-30 min. Oh well we're rolling with the flow. The excursion folks waited for everyone and then we were off to the sunken ship. This was a nice snorkel experience and something different. The ship is too deep to snorkel dive but would be amazing to do a certified dive. Anyway, had fun, good rum punch afterwards, nice folks operating the tour. After the snorkel they take you to a beach for about 2 hrs. Now, since we got off ship late, tender was late, we were dropped off at the beach until 5:15 then a bus would pick us up and take us back to the port. All aboard was 6:30pm. That didn't leave a lot of time in between in you wanted to shop. More about that later. At the beach they have a bar, food, and restrooms. The sand is unbelievably soft and fine and white. Just gorgeous. They have wave runners there if you want some more fun, too. We stayed at the beach a little while and then caught a cab back to the port for $8 to get a little shopping. At the port there is not a lot of shopping places, and the shops that were there are pricey, such as $25-$30 for a tee shirt. The one shop I found to be the best is a little pink shop right outside the NCL tender area. Reasonable prices and nice items .
Arrived in Ocho Rios on Wednesday. Was raining when we docked but that's why it is a beautiful country! We did the White Riving Tubing and Bamboo Beach Break excursion thru NCL and this was the most fun! Still raining when we got to the White River (Calypso Rafting) tubing area. Gonna get wet anyway... Little cold in just a swimsuit, since we were able to leave all other items in the van, and walking down to the river. Once in the river on the tube you forget about the cold and rain and the fun begins. Rain stopped 5 min later and sun came out and everyone is singing as you're rafting down the river on a tube. Watch the video on YouTube about "Tubing White River Jamaica" and it will show you exactly what it's like. The same guide took us to the Bamboo Beach Club where it started to rain again. Did someone say rum punch?!? However, I found the mojitos to be better than the rum punch. Plenty of time for shopping after the excursion since it didn't get dark until about 5:30PM. However, watch out for the locals on the side of the road when you walk from the pier to the shopping area. It is a short walk of maybe 10 min, but the guys on the left side of the road can be tricky and a bit forceful. They act like you are disrespecting them and try to start something all the while putting their necklaces on you. Simply keep your hands in your pockets and act like you don't speak English. Walk on the right side of the road if possible, or with a group. All in all the best port on this cruise. Tons of shopping good prices.
Arrived in Great Stirrup Cay on Friday. The last time my hubby and Iw ere at GSC was in 2009. What changes they have made to the island! Thoroughly impressed. I'm also glad to see NCL putting some money into making their island more enjoyable for their passengers. When we were there in 2009 we could snorkel, beach, or hike. The shops were small and the buffet area was also small. Now, they got new buildings, restrooms, dive hut, clam shells, snorkeling, kayak, floaties, hippo slide, lots of palm trees, big eating area with picnic tables, and twice as many shops. We did the wave runner excursion thru NCL. Wave runners are new and in excellent condition. However, understandable, NCL has you sign a waiver stating you won't hot dog on the wave runners. Ok, bummer that you can't wake jump but I understand where they are coming from. Wave runners were still fun and the water is stunning. The wave runners have a "dry box" on the front to put items in. I took a digital camera (not waterproof) and put it in its case in the dry box and it stayed dry. There are 2 stops during the excursion to talk about the island etc and this is a good time to take pics. The second stop is the best since the water is a lighter blue. Wet suits are not mandatory.
Surprisingly on this cruise we did not go to one single entertainment event. We talked of going to see the juggler but was sidetracked. And on two separate evenings we heard a woman singing and it wasn't that great so we knew we would not enjoy that show. This did not affect our enjoyment as we were able to entertain ourselves in other ways.
Overall had a blast on this cruise. Ship was not overly decorated for Christmas, but the decorations they had up were in good form. They had a behind the scenes tour if you wanted to participate for a cost (about $50 per person I think). Everyone we encountered were friendly and ready to help. Lots of great personalities if you take the time to talk to people. The times I went thru the buffet to get to the ice cream machine it was packed. I do not care for buffets and thus will not eat there. I think you get much better food in the restaurants and the experience is much more relaxed since you don't have to fight someone for that piece of whatever. They did have chocoholics one night at 10:30pm and I wanted to take my hubby to that to let him experience the feeding frenzy, but we just couldn't stay up that late. Maybe next time. The only other person (2 of 2) that I found NOT up to NCL standards was the cruise consultant, Jaime. He was really unhelpful and lazy. Not going to say too much about him other than spare yourself the bad encounter. One other thing I was glad to see NCL promoting is the STYLE comments cards. I always like to give good comments to those deserving. Disembarkation was not as smooth as times past. We choose the EZ walk off with all our luggage and found that quite a few passengers had the same idea. This might have bogged customs down, but it took about an hour to get off ship. No big deal since we rented a car to drive back to the Orlando airport ($80)and our flight didn't leave until 1pm.