Norwegian Sun Cruise Review by blueskyinkazoo
- Sail Date: December 2011
- Destination: Eastern Caribbean
- Cabin Type: Mid-Ship Balcony
What we loved and would do again...
Balcony room - worth the extra money! Great to be able to sit out there and watch the ship pull into and away from ports. At various times saw dolphins, pelicans, and flying fish and enjoyed relaxing with a book.
Family time - lots to do as a family. This seemed to be an ideal age for kids, I wouldn't want the extra stress that comes with younger kids but I can also imagine that as they get into their teen years they may find some of the activites boring. There were not a lot of kids on our cruise (we had to take ours out of school for a week) but enough to have kids to do things with.
Mid-ship cabin - took the advice of some more experienced cruisers and booked a cabin mid-ship. Our first 2 days at sea were unusually rough and although we felt the motion in our room, it was noticeably worse at the aft and bow (ends of the ship). We probably spent the most time on the 11th level where the buffets and pools were but didn't find it inconvenient to get to anything.
Kids Crew - I have to admit my initial impression of the kids area was less than spectacular. Compared to some of the pictures of the newer ships it seemed kind of plain. However my kids really enjoyed being in it and on several occasions we went to get the kids and they didn't want to leave so we had to come back later! The counselors were lots of fun and they had a variety of activities for the kids. We loved being able to have a little adult time (including a dinner alone when the Kids Crew took the kids to dinner) to do things like an Art Auction, etc. They also had several family events including pizza making, dodgeball, and sand-castle building.
Freestyle dining - it was a big plus to us to be able to eat when we wanted, not at an assigned time.
Buffets - had a lot of fun trying the different buffets. Other than a couple instances when they were crowded (usually at the end of a port day) they were convenient with an excellent variety of food.
Photographs - before the cruise we had never considered planning to have a family photo done. However, it was extremely convenient. Each day photographers were set up at several points in the ship with different backdrops each day. At any time they were staffed you could stop by and have your picture taken. There was no obligation and you could purchase any (or none) of the pictures after you saw them. After going through the hassle in the past of trying to get the whole family ready and to a photo shoot at a certain time and then having to wait because they are running behind, trying to preview and select the pictures while dealing with tired kids, etc. this was a much easier way to do it.
Towel animals - our steward left several different towel animals. The kids couldn't wait to see what would be next!
Evening shows - we took our kids to all the 7:30 showings in the Stardust Theater and they enjoyed them all.
What I didn't like (which wasn't much!):
Waiting - Once on the cruise ship there was almost no waiting. However when traveling (with kids especially!) keep in mind all the waiting that is involved leading up to and after the cruise. In our case we waited for our plane, waited over 1/2 hour for a pre-arranged shuttle from the Orlando airport to our hotel at Cocoa Beach (a 45 minute ride), waited almost an hour at the hotel the next morning for our shuttle to the pier, waited in line at customs and to get checked onto the boat (both fairly short waits). On the shore excursions there was some waiting for transportation and the tender boats. Finally, after the cruise there was the waiting again to clear customs, shuttle, and plane. Our kids did pretty well with this, but be prepared, especially with younger kids!
Main dining areas service - Although the food, view, and atmosphere were excellent, the main complimentary dining areas (Four Seasons and Seven Seas) were very busy at peak times (we went when they first opened, around 5:30/6, they may slow down later). We had several instances where our servers didn't bring us key items (ketchup for the kids french fries, sour cream for a baked potato) until we got tired of waiting and ate them without. We also gave up one evening on ordering dessert after waiting and requesting to order it several times. I don't think this was due to any fault of the server(s) except being too busy to provide good service.
Distance from airport to port - we chose to port out of Port Canaveral because from Michigan we can get relatively inexpensive flights to Orlando. However the extra hassles involved in arranging the transportation and the waiting time were not worth it. I think next time we would pay a little more for a flight and port out of a dock close to an airport.
Great Stirrup Cay (private island) - we enjoyed our time on the beach here. We were concerned about getting chairs, etc. but there seemed to be enough for everyone (although this probably would not be the case on some of the larger cruise ships). Getting there early had the advantage of getting the better seats, though. We decided to do some snorkeling. One thing that we found is you have several options here: you can bring your own snorkel,mask, and fins (although fins aren't necessary) or you can rent some or all of the equipment needed. In the on-line booking we didn't have the option to just rent some of the equipment, but on the ship or at port this is an option. In our case we rented a vest only for our son ($4.99) because he brought his own equipment. I rented a complete set of equipment ($29.99) or you could rent just the fins & vest for $15.99 (this is adult pricing, kids are cheaper except the same price for the vest). The vest is not required (you are naturally more bouyant in salt water anyway but the vest is an extra safety step) but you cannot rent the other snorkel equipment without the vest. In the main area of water I did not see any fish (although someone said they saw horseshoe crabs). However we went to an area near some big rocks (ask the lifeguards) and it was like swimming in an aquarium. I saw at least 5 different kinds of tropical fish and they were beautiful!
Overall we loved it and immediately started talking about when we can take our next one!
Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
NassauBecause of traveling with kids(ages 8&9) we decided to skip the shopping and do Atlantis. We decided to do it on our own as opposed to doing an excursion. Immediately on arriving into the main docking terminal there was an area for ferry boats to go to Paradise Island (where Atlantis is). The other option is motor transportation. Both seemed to be comparable in price (the ferry was $4/person one way). We opted for the ferry, as we thought it would be more enjoyable. One of the native Bahamians provided a narrative history as we crossed. Unfortunately we were not able to hear him well but he seemed entertaining. He boldly passed the hat around after for tips. As we approached the docking area our boat's engine had a problem. After attempts to fix it we ultimately had to be towed in by another boat who fortunately was close enough to see our problem. In retrospect, the excursions we booked directly through the cruise line seemed to provide a little more reliable transportation!View All 5,278 Nassau Cruise Port Reviews
Once at Atlantis, our biggest concern was time. We really only had about 4 hours there so we couldn't justify the $400 it would cost for our family to do the Atlantis Adventure (waterslides, etc.). We opted to do the "Discover Atlantis" tour. It included "The Dig" Lagoon (huge aquarium with impressive sea life) and several more lagoons. It was not supposed to include the beach, however it was their slow season and an employee told us off the record that they weren't enforcing limited access to the beach, so we spent some time on the beach too (however there was no changing areas that we were aware of). We actually ended up running out of time to finish exploring all the lagoons. For us this option (the least expensive) worked out well for the time allotted. Although the slides and pools looked great, I wouldn't do this unless there was more time to justify the cost...
View Cruise Critic's Nassau Cruise Port Review
San JuanLots to do here. We started out with an excursion to the Rainforest booked with the cruise line. This was the only excursion we booked with the cruise line that included transportation and it was definitely of a higher quality that transportation we arranged on our own. The tour was well organized. We were able to get on the first bus so it was not crowded. It is a 45 minute drive to the rainforest so that takes up a considerable amount of your port time. The rainforest was beautiful, but don't expect to see any wildlife with the exception of lots of snails (escargot). We stopped at a large waterfall and took a brief swim. We appreciated the fact that our tour guide kept us moving in order to get back and have time to explore other sights, however it would have been nice to stop and enjoy the walk more.View All 3,095 San Juan Cruise Port Reviews
After having lunch back on the ship we waited for a free shuttle to take us to the Castillo San Felipe del Morro fort. Unfortunately due to time constraints, we were only able to spend about an hour here ($3 adults, free for kids). The kids were fascinated by it (and the adults too!) and we could have easily spent much longer here (there are 2 parts to this fort and for an additional fee you could visit both). We planned to take the free shuttle back to the port but after waiting for it, we were not able to get on it because it was full. We ended up taking a taxi ($15) back to the port.
Both of these excursions were enjoyable. However, given the limited time if I had to pick one I would do the fort and not feel as rushed. It is maintained by the US National Park Service and you receive a very information fold-out map/brochure with admission that has a lot of interesting history to it.
View Cruise Critic's San Juan Cruise Port Review
St. ThomasStarted our port visit with Paradise Point. Because our ship was not able to dock at the main port (Charlotte Amalie) we had to take an open-air shuttle to get there. There was some confusion as we were told to get on and off several shuttles before leaving (we pre-booked the tram tickets but it did not include transportation). Once we arrived at the tram itself there was a wait of about 20 minutes. Once on the tram the temperature went up by about 10 degrees, making for a hot ride. Although the view was incredible from the top, there wasn't a whole lot else there. There were several typical souvenir type shops, a small ferris wheel, a nice-sized restaurant, and bathrooms. There were also several cages of various birds and other animals. However they had very minimal provisions (a branch to sit on was about it) and no signs identifying anything about what you were seeing. In the future I think I would only do this excursion if you didn't want to do anything else and/or it was a cooler day!View All 1,055 St. Thomas Cruise Port Reviews
After we left the tram we were able to find an open-air shuttle that operated like a bus. We got on with some locals and the bus stopped periodically to let off or pick up passengers. It was only $1/person, significantly less that the taxi we paid to get to the tram. Due to a misunderstanding with the driver about where we wanted to go, we ended up a beautiful beach that was not our original destination but was wonderful! Apparently most cruisers go to Magen's Bay, which we were told was beautiful but crowded. Our beach (I am intentionally not saying the name to respect the locals) was amazing. We snorkeled, found sea glass, and shells. Some friendly locals offered to let us use their snorkel equipment and we were asked how we found this beach, since it is not usually frequented by cruisers. (I am intentionally not saying the name to respect the locals) My advice here would be to ask a local or bus driver for a recommendation. If our experience was any indication, there are a lot of beautiful beaches.
If I did it again I would go the beach first and skip the tram, as we could have easily spent more time on the beach.
View Cruise Critic's St. Thomas Cruise Port Review