Norwegian Sun Review
Sail Date 03-04-2007
As a former travel agent, and avid cruiser, I realize how important it is to have ship reviews. As hard as it is sometimes to take the time to write the review after the excitement has worn ... Read More
Norwegian Sun Review
Sail Date 03-04-2007
As a former travel agent, and avid cruiser, I realize how important it is to have ship reviews. As hard as it is sometimes to take the time to write the review after the excitement has worn off, and the bags are unpacked, I know how much I enjoy reading reviews, so this is my way of giving back the cruise community. Let me say that I am fairly critical, having been on nineteen cruises to date.
PRE-CRUSE STAY IN NEW ORLEANS
Since we drove in a couple days early, we chose to stay a few minutes out of the downtown area in Metairie. It seriously was less than a 10-minute drive to the French Quarter. We stayed at the Sheraton Metairie, which I believe to be a new Sheraton acquisition. The property nice and clean with free covered parking. Nothing too special, but nice nonetheless. We were able to get a GOV rate of 70.00 which was far lower than the rates downtown where parking was up to 20.00 night or more. On the Saturday before the cruise, we wandered around the French Quarter, and went to the D-Day museum. The D-Day museum was a favorite with my kids, and in my opinion, NOT to be missed. After some Cruise Critic recommendations, we ate at the GUMBO SHOP, which was very good, in a nice festive atmosphere. This was my first ever trip to NOLA, and quite frankly, I am surprised at the level of damage and destruction that still exists from Katrina. The tourist areas are fairly well repaired, but that's about it.
We had breakfast this morning at Cafe Beignet. (This is also a must for a NOLA visit!) After some research, we decided to park at the cruise terminal for the 98.00 weekly rate. This was by far the most convenient. After paying, we pulled up where the porters unloaded our luggage, and directed us to the fourth level where we parked right next to the elevator. With a few steps, we were in the terminal. We arrived about 10:45 with no wait at all. Check in was a breeze, and we waited for about 15 minutes or so in the waiting area before boarding the ship. NCL gets an A plus on their Embarkation efficiency. Having sailed on the SUN three years ago, we knew how to get to our room with no problem.
This time around, I booked an Inside Stateroom on the Viking Deck (8). There are five of us (three kids, ages 6, 8 and 11) I've always thought that the SUN has nice staterooms with well through of appointments. Plenty of closet space, a stocked mini bar and refrigerator. The room was equipped with the two twins that make a king, a sofa that folds into a double, and one upper berth. I'm not as impressed with the bathrooms on this ship that are small and very RV'ish. They are all plastic, not tile like Carnival's bathrooms. The showers are very small, and the soap and shampoo dispensers are inconveniently located and hard to reach. I found that the entire bathroom is always soaked after a shower, which I guess is why they made them all plastic.
Now, I'm not the type of person that usually carries my own sheets to a hotel room, but I have to say, I wasn't too impressed with the cleanliness of the room. I noticed that Vaseline had been wiped on the bed skirt, and was still clumped up. Of course, I can only imagine how it got there. So needless to say, they don't wash or change the bed-skirts every week. Also, there were stains of who knows what on the sheets as well. I had all of the linens changed that night, but it was impossible to get in touch with a Steward until dinnertime. Also, during one of the weekly linen changes, I noticed the sheet on the upper berth was stained and full of little black hairs. TOTALLY DISGUSTING!
After settling in, we wandered the ship, had lunch at the buffet, and made dinner reservations for Adagios for that evening.
Having been on the SUN in 2003, I was able to compare it from then to now, and I believe it to be in great shape! Having just completed some refurbishment in dry dock, there was evidence of newness in many places. Most of the upholstery in all areas was brand new as was much of the carpet (not all). The ship was very clean, and one new thing I noticed since 2003 was the installation of dozens of hand sanitizing stations. My kids loved cleaning their hands every time they passed one.
We were able to eat at both Adagios, and Le Bistro, both of which were fantastic, and well worth the money, especially if you take advantage of the ½ price early bird specials. (Reservations at 6pm or earlier) One thing to note is that if the kids order of the usual kids menu, they are not charged the cover charge for specialty restaurants. We were thankful for that. I didn't know this, but it takes 7-8 hours to reach the mouth of the Mississippi River, and while we were eating in Adagios on the first night, we had perfect seats to watch the sights as we passed by. Much to our surprise, there is a little town that shoots of fireworks every week as the SUN sails by. It was really neat to see from our table beside the window. We also visited Las Ramblas for Tapas appetizers on a few evenings. This is not to be overlooked. We really enjoyed the environment there.
MAIN DINING ROOM FOOD AND SERVICE
We had the opportunity to dine in both dining rooms, and I found the service and food to be excellent. Of course there are always things on the menu that I just don't care for, but I found the quantity, quality and presentation to be fantastic. We were always treated very well by the wait staff. We never had to wait in line to eat, but then again, we usually eat early.
Like I said, eating is one of my favorite parts of cruising, so I am very picky. I found the meals served on the Buffet to be very well done. There was always something different, and plenty of options. Breakfast really is what it is, but there were always options if you didn't want the standard liquid scrambled eggs.
We also made it to the Chocoholic Buffet, which was great as usual. The fresh fruit dipped in hot fudge was my favorite!
We are not big drinkers by any means, but we like to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, and an occasional cocktail. Thank God we are not, because NCL charges through the nose for drinks!!! One glass of Sangria at Las Ramblas was 7.84! This is absurd! NCL needs to revisit this. Full bottles of wine were also way overpriced. 28.00 for a bottle of wine that would cost 7.99 at the liquor store. They would allow you to purchase a full bottle, and they would store the unused portion to use at a later time. This was nice, and made it a little better, but still way overpriced. I would hate to see some of those bar bills from someone that drinks a lot.
After 19 cruises, I would say that I am a pretty good judge of Cruise Ship entertainment. The Jean Ann Ryan Dance Company on the SUN is the BEST I have ever seen. Their theater productions of MR PRODUCER, QUE NOCHE and CIRQUE PAN are far superior to anything I have seen on any cruise line. As far as the other headliners, there was a cheesy Hypnotist, and very good comedian, and a phenomenal 19 year old artist named Chanz Powell. Don't miss this guy!
The cruise Director was a British woman named Linda Minnikin. A very nice lady that always took the time to talk with you. She's been with NCL for 28 years, I believe she said.
What can I say other than WELL DONE. Our kids couldn't wait to go back to the Kids Corner. The staff there was wonderful, and according to my kids, much better than the last time on the SUN. One note is that there were only 74 kids 2-17 onboard, compared to the 550 that are booked on the 04-18-07 sailing. We hardly noticed any kids around most of the time. The kids were given the opportunity to spend some time with the Captain in a Q&A session, as well as with the Cruise Director. They were even brought up on stage during the finale where all of the crew is introduced. They were introduced as "Junior Cruise Directors". My kids were on cloud 9, and loved every minute of it.
The casino was the normal cruise ship casino. Smokey and stocked with the usual table games and slots. There were multi combination slot machines ranging from 1 penny to 25 cents, as well as one machine that was 500.00 a pull! BINGO was extremely overpriced, but fairly popular. They were pushing those wireless automatic bingo machines were you could play 72 cards for 100.00. All you really did is sit and watch the machine play for you. The cruise staff also pushes the pull tab lottery tickets (Krack-Its) very hard. Otherwise know as "Rip-Offs)
PORTS OF CALL
COSTA MAYA - This was our first visit to Costa Maya. We enjoyed are day at Mahaual which is a 3.00 pp cab ride (2.00 for the return). There are many places you can get a 40 minute massage for twenty bucks. This was wonderful, and one of the highlights of our cruise. Eating at Mahaual isn't that cheap. We ended up paying 40.00 for 5 drinks, and two plates of Nachos. There is plenty of vendors selling necklaces and souvenirs there, but beware, it's junk. The necklaces the kids bought fell apart after one day.
SANTO TOMAS - The ship docks at a container port where there is a warehouse full of shopping and tour vendors. There is live local music and dancing going on, and you really got the feeling these people appreciated the money you were spending. We booked a tour with HAPPY FISH, and got a bargain. 100.00 for the five of us, for a 5-hour tour of the Rio Dulce, and the fishing village of Livingston. Our guide, a local Guarfana Indian did a great job, and took us way up stream were we were able to interact with many local Indians. This was a scene right our of National Geographic. Kids no older than 7-8 paddling around in canoes carved out of tree trunks. Teenagers fishing with nets, women washing their clothes on stones. This was a very good experience for my kids to see. We stopped at a thermal hot spring, and had the chance to explore a cave that was recently discovered. Later we went to Livingston were we were taken to the Happy Fish restaurant. The food was great! We had three fish and seafood meals with drinks for 33 USD. The really neat thing about this port was the send off they give you as the ship leaves. All of the vendors, tour guides, local policemen, dock workers and their kids line up and sing and dance and wave as the ship pulls out. Very touching!
BELIZE - We originally had plans to go cave tubing, but had to cancel as my youngest wasn't feeling well. We just explored the port area. If you are into knock-off designer purses, there are many places where you can buy COACH, GUCCI, or whatever.
COZUMEL - Having been to Cozumel a few times, we had no real plans. As we were walking around, we ran across one of those vendors pushing timeshare presentations. We were offered 5 day passes at their all-inclusive (alcohol included) resort for 50.00 for attending the 60 minute sales pitch. We did it, and it was fun. All the food and drink, swimming, etc for 50.00. The resort was nice, but I would never purchase for the 50K they were asking. They even covered cab fare back to the ship.
We were issued lavender luggage tags with an approximate time of 10:15 for debarkation. We were able to sleep in until 9am, ate a light breakfast, and we were off the ship by 10am. The porter carried our checked luggage all the way through customs and to our car. Again, NCL gets an A plus for there efficiency.
We booked another night at the Sheraton Metairie, and spent the morning enjoying the Riverwalk area, and the Audubon Aquarium. The aquarium was nice, but nothing special. Our Aquarium in TN is MUCH better. However, the IMAX presentation of "Hurricane on the Bayou" was fantastic. It really opens your eyes to the coastal erosion issue in the region.
This is a wonderful cruise, one of our best ever! I love the itinerary, and the Freestyle Dining concept. NCL is doing a great job overall, and we would definitely cruise with them or on the SUN again.
Happy Sailing! Read Less