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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2015
We just got back from our cruise on the Norwegian Sun to the 11-day Mexican Riviera and I wanted to write a review, not so much of every detail of this cruise, but more as a comparison on how this Norwegian cruise compares with similar ... Read More
We just got back from our cruise on the Norwegian Sun to the 11-day Mexican Riviera and I wanted to write a review, not so much of every detail of this cruise, but more as a comparison on how this Norwegian cruise compares with similar Royal Caribbean and Carnival cruises we have taken. This is a popular Cruise Critic question, so I thought I would add my comments. First some background. This was our first Norwegian cruise but we are pretty experienced cruisers, having completed maybe 6 or 7 cruises on Royal and another 6 or 7 on Carnival over maybe about 15 years time. Both Royal and Carnival have evolved greatly over this period, so for clarity we are only comparing this cruise to the last Royal and Carnival cruises we have taken. These cruises were definitely much fancier and better in the past, but that is another story. For here I’m comparing recent (within 2 years) cruises. So this was the longest cruise we have ever taken, and I would say 11 days might be my max length, but on to the review. We started off in San Diego at about 11:30 and had to wait almost two hours to board the boat. The lines were long and slow. I can’t blame Norwegian for this because they don’t own the port, but it is by far the longest we ever waited in line. Going through security was easy and no problem bringing on board 24 cans of soda in our carry-on. Carnival and Royal are on much tighter alcohol watch than Norwegian, which was nice. They actually trust you. THE SHIP When we got on the ship, as far as I can tell everyone’s room was ready. With many Carnival and Royal cruises that wasn’t the case and we often had to wait until 3pm to get in our room. Luggage arrived at 4pm or 5pm which is typical. Our balcony room was a bit bigger than I remember on a similar size ship from Carnival. The Sun had lots of storage, but the bathroom was tiny, and the shower, round with a curtain was tiny to. I’m not sure how some bigger guests even fit in the thing. This was probably my biggest criticism of the room. Otherwise lots of space. The mini fridge is filled with stuff you can purchase, but we emptied it out and put in our soda. Again lots of room to store it. The Sun itself is a mid-size ship, 2000 passengers, and I think about 14 years old. Overall I liked it once you get used to the crazy layout. It never felt over-packed. Although Norwegian has much larger and newer ships, this one compares with many Carnival ships we have been on, and the price of the cruise was similar as well. The Royal ships we went one tended to be bigger and newer, and the price much higher as well. I won’t compare apples to oranges, but this ship was very similar to Carnival ships like the Glory, basically at the lowest step of the price spectrum. One VERY different aspect of Norwegian compared to Royal and Carnival was that I the 11 days of our cruise, we were NEVER approached once to buy a drink. On Carnival and Royal this can be unrelenting from the second you step aboard. Many passengers likely took the drink package they were offering, but we never saw anyone drinking in excess. Because this cruise was in Oct./Nov. it had a minimum of people under 30, and only a few kids. Although a smaller ship, we never felt much motion except for one rough day at sea. Even then, it wasn’t bad at all. ENTERTAINMENT There were 3 or 4 “Broadway” type products that were maybe 45 minutes long each, so one every 3 or 4 days. This is similar to recent Carnival and Royal we have experienced. The days of longer events every night are gone. Other than that they had the usual Bingo and trivia contests, and craft activities. One nice event was a 4 day Spanish class, which I have never seen before on a cruise. Norwegian gives you an activity card you get signed at each activity you attend, and at the end of the cruise they give you prizes based on how many activities you completed. Nice touch. We got a deck of cards for completing 13. There were only four cruise staff conducting everything, and they seemed very overworked, but they were always very friendly to passengers. We were a fan of Hector, who ran everything from Spanish classes and bingo to trivia contests. One day he showed us his schedule, and he was running some event every 30 minutes from morning to late at night. He was VERY overworked. Other than that, I say it was pretty standard stuff. Art auctions, wrinkle cream seminars, gold by the inch, and $10 watches and bracelets. FOOD / DINING Now on to the important things, food. Let’s start at lunch. There were the usual buffets and overall, I’d say they were about equal to Carnival and Royal. Maybe quality slightly above, and variety slightly below. There was pizza and pasta bars and an ice cream shop, but no deli, or Chinese or Mongollian BBQ like on Carnival and Royal. There was two soup choices and the usual salad bar. On the plus side no long lines like Royal and Carnival. Instead you just pop in and out of line and get what you want, which I think is easier anyway. Breakfast is typical cruise breakfast fare, with the addition of smoked salmon and herring everyday. Royal used to have this years ago, but now long gone. I haven’t seen either on Royal or Carnival in many years. Diner is where I think Norwegian excels with lots of choices. First there is the buffet which has DIFFERENT choices than what the dining rooms are serving. On Carnival, the buffet usually serves the same stuff as in the dining rooms. The next option is the Sports Bar which serves food (free) from 5:30pm to 5:30am. You can get chicken wings, salads, fish and chips, hamburgers, chicken sandwiches and even Won Ton or Tomato soup. The chicken wings were a bit dry, but all the rest was pretty good. There there are the dining rooms, two large single level dining rooms. Both looked about the same size, but one was for long pants and collared shirts, and the other, anything goes. Norwegian does not have formal nights or casual nights, nor do they have set dining times. Feel like dressing up, you can, wear shorts, you can. The food in each dining room was almost all the same with very slight differences between the two. They both seemed about equally busy and we never waited for a table for two. In my opinion, this is the best way to go. In the dinning room they had 5 or 6 appetizers and 5 or 6 entrees that were the same everyday, then they added 3 or 4 appetizers and 3 or 4 entries new each day. Overall this felt like a bit less variety than Carnival and Royal offer. On the plus side, all entrees were free, no extra cost items like steaks Carnival likes to charge you extra for. There were also other differences on Norwegian compared to Carnival and Royal. I felt the Norwegian quality was a bit better, and the size of Norwegian appetizers and entrees were definitely bigger. Carnival and Royal definitely had smaller servings. On Royal or Carnival, I would order 2 or 3 appetizers and 2 entrees. You really had to. On Norwegian, 2 appetizers and one entrée is all I could eat. For example, I would almost always get the spring roll on all cruises. On Royal and Carnival this was a small spring roll with some lettuce garnish. On Norwegian, it was a large egg roll with lettuce covered with a very fancy cantaloupe garnish. I also always got the salmon, and Norwegian’s was bigger and better. I never get desert, but wife did and these seemed bigger also. I’d say service and speed were about equal on Norwegian, Carnival and Royal, but Norwegian does not have someone pushing drinks or shots, and the servers don’t do any dance numbers, which slows the service. Now a BIG Norwegian negative, the $7.95 room service charge. I rarely use room service, but this seems so petty to me that I may never go on Norwegian again for this one reason. Carnival and Royal do NOT charge for room service. On Norwegian room service is free ONLY at breakfast and only if you order pastry and juice only. Get eggs or bacon and its $7.95. I heard complaints about this fee everywhere to no end. If Norwegian is smart, they will drop it as soon as possible. That about sums it up. A great cruise, good food, but that $7.95 charge leaves a very bad taste in my mouth, and again, I very seldom even use room service. Food choices were a bit limited, but food quality was a bit better than average in my opinion. I heard several complaints from other cruisers while on board, but this was definitely an older crankier crowd, but I don't think these were always fair. This was an 11-day cruise with a balcony room under $900, so please don't compare it to much more expensive cruises. It needs to be apples to apples. One last thing. On this cruise we had a Cruise Critic Meet and Greet, so got to meet many other Cruise Critic people. We had 50+ people, and Norwegian provided cookies and iced tea. Had the same on Carnival and they provided alcoholic drinks for our Cruise Critic event, so Carnival wins there. :-) Read Less
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