Norwegian Sun - Eastern Caribbean: Norwegian Sun Cruise Review by MSL

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Norwegian Sun - Eastern Caribbean

Sail Date: February 2006
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Embarkation: Miami
First time cruisers. Booked air, cruise and transfers via a large Internet travel agency. First researched trip through local travel agency but their low prices equaled the lowest stateroom categories. The Internet agency offered similar prices and we were able to book exact room #s in a higher category. Did not have any problems booking trip with online agency.

NCL reps were visible at the Miami airport. Once we got to the pier, there were no or very short lines during embarkation. Went through many stop points with people telling you: get out your passport, take a picture, sign this, put away your ID, go in this line, and so forth. Slightly overwhelming but a breeze to get through. Crew greeting on the ship was brief. Couldve used an escort to the stateroom but it was not hard to find.

Room was clean and small, but adequate. Our party had 4 people and thankfully we booked 2 cabins. It would've been very tight with 4 people in 1 room. Getting ready in More the morning, for dinner/shows, etc. would've taken a very long time with 4 people sharing bathroom time and privacy. Bathroom was super tiny with shampoo/conditioner, liquid hand and body soap, lotion, shower cap, and hairdryer (broken but in working condition). Room had a safe, fridge, coffee maker, TV, DVD player, desk chair, couch, but no alarm/mounted clock. There was plenty of closet and drawer space. The ship did not have self-serve laundry so we packed extra clothes and still didn't use up all the storage space.

Why we chose NCL - it's Freestyle cruising concept. Loved the freedom of dining where and whenever. Buffet variety and taste was good although the set-up on this ship wasn't user friendly. The main courses were in a corner so at times it did take awhile to get through the buffet lines. The two main dining rooms had a very pleasant environment with yummy food. Each day was a different theme so the menus changed daily with the exception of a few dishes. The other eating places, a-la-carte or with cover charges, are worth the added cost. Service in these places was better than in the buffet or main dining rooms. The staff seemed more seasoned and personable. Overall dining experience was excellent! From talking with other cruisers, if you like traditional dining with assigned dining times, seating, wait staff, then NCL Freestyle cruising may not be for you. It really depends on personal preference.

Disappointment of the cruise was having to skip the private island day due to bad weather. Instead, our ship docked in NASSAU for a few hours. This port of call was quite hectic and disorganized. We were harassed by vendors, taxi drivers, tour guides. We were like sheep being herded into stalls for shearing. And in town, most of the shops were closed as it was Sunday afternoon. Nassau not a pleasant experience.

Monday was an at sea day. There was plenty to see and do aside from lounging around the pool. The entertainment (live music, variety shows, etc.) was better than anticipated.

On Tuesday, we docked in TORTOLA. This island was OK. The pier and town area was quite under-developed. But as this was a scheduled port, there were many pre-arranged tour guides/drivers waiting for us. We chose to go to one of Tortola's beaches. After a scary 30 minute ride up the mountain and down the other side, we arrived at a small tourist beach. The sand was nothing to write home about. The water was murky. The excitement of the day was watching a seagull dive for fishes. And I did enjoy a fresh coconut drink. Shopping in Tortola was limited to vendor stalls with Hawaiian shirts/shawls, cheap t-shirts, souvenirs and native jewelry/stuff.

The next port of call was ST. THOMAS. Due to the island's popularity, we docked at Crown Bay pier which is 2 miles from town. It was very easy to get off the ship and grab one of the waiting taxis. Our original plan was to shop for 3 hours and then spend a couple hours at Magen's Bay beach. Well, we ended up shopping for 7 hours. Among the 4 of us we purchased 5 rings and 3 earrings, not to mention other jewelry purchased on the ship. Unfortunately, we never made it beyond the Main Street area. Definitely plan to visit St. Thomas again in the future.

The last port we visited was SAMANA, Dominican Republic. We had to tender to the pier. The process was smooth as we booked an excursion which included express tender service. Our guides drove us through the country-side. Samana is quite poor, but the scenery was breathtaking. Lush hills full of palm trees and greenery. The homes we passed were simple shacks. No windows, no running water, no electricity, no driveways as people walked or drove motorcycles/mopeds/bikes. But all the people we saw were smiling and waving to our caravan. We sampled fresh fruit and learned about coffee beans and cocoa plants. We stopped at a beautiful beach but we didn't have time to swim. And we hiked to a waterfall and swimming hole. After our excursion, We walked to a nearby market in town, but did not stay long as there were quite a few panhandlers and most people did not speak English. We didn't feel safe venturing further away from the pier and decided to tender back to the ship early for a late lunch.

Friday was a relaxing at sea day before returning to Miami.

Debarkation was quite simple. We chose to put out our luggage on Friday night for the staff/crew to collect and bring ashore. We woke up, had breakfast, packed our toiletries and carry-on. Then we waited for our group to be called to leave the ship (process is based on flight times and luggage color tags). The line down the gangway was short. We quickly found our luggage and went through customs security. Outside the terminal, buses/taxis were waiting to take us to the airport.

Words of wisdom as a first time cruiser: Take advantage of the different specials and freebies that are offered by the shops, casino, spa, etc. Book an inside stateroom to save toward excursions and purchases. Book shore excursions as some islands don't have much to offer from a tourism-standpoint. Bring an alarm clock. Do bring semi-formal and formal clothes so you and loved ones can take gallery-quality photos. Ship photographers are everywhere and there's no obligation to buy. Practice your Karaoke before showcasing your talents onboard. Don't over-indulge at the chocolate buffet. Do budget for the $5-10 cocktails you will drink every day. Don't save pool chairs when you're actually in the casino; give it up for fellow cruisers who are actually pool-side. Remember to drink water and stay hydrated!

Cruises are not for you: if you don't like crowds, if you don't like waiting in line, if you don't like tourist-trap tourism, if you like to spend more than 5 to 7 hours in one town/island. Less

Published 03/22/06
Helpful? Thank MSL

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