This is my first shot at this; I will try to cover everything as best I can. We took the NCL Sun out of Port Canaveral for a 3 day cruise that visited Nassau day 1 and the private island Great Stirrup Cay on day 2. We’ve cruised on NCL ... Read More
This is my first shot at this; I will try to cover everything as best I can. We took the NCL Sun out of Port Canaveral for a 3 day cruise that visited Nassau day 1 and the private island Great Stirrup Cay on day 2. We’ve cruised on NCL 7 times including this one (Sky x2, Dawn, Spirit, Pearl, Epic). We like that we know what to expect. I’ve never been on another cruise line, although my partner has. We chose this cruise as a quick mid-summer vacation over a weekend.
Side note: As a tip for others, we’ve cruised out of Port Canaveral 3 times and used the park and shuttle service at the Radisson every time. It’s about $10 a day and they handle your luggage on the shuttle and make sure it gets to the porters at the curb at the port. We have received good service from them, but anything beats paying the high port parking charges.
On embarkation Friday, we decided to try something new, and get to the port early. We hate the long lines at check in; it’s always hot, the employees are slow, don’t care/can’t do anything to help, and people are testy. So this time, we arrived at 10:30am.
Now it could’ve been that it was a smaller ship and therefore not as many people, but we will definitely try to get there early in the future. The lines were short, check-in was relatively painless and we waited for about 45 minutes before they let us board the ship.
Our first visit to our stateroom proved to be a harbinger of things to come. There was pubic hair on the middle of the bathroom floor, and the carpet outside the bathroom was saturated w/ water. Our feet squished and you could see the water come to the surface. We immediately informed our stateroom steward who was lurking outside, and then went down to guest services to fix this and other issues, including the fact that one of our keycards didn’t work.
Side note: If you ever have an issue on the first or next to last day of your cruise on NCL and can solve it anywhere but the guest services desk, you should do so. In my experience, especially at these times, lines are extra-long, employees are rude, short w/ customers, and will say nearly anything to get you to go away. Always get a name and note the time you visited, as we’ve been told outright lies at the desk before.
We arrived to find long lines at the CSR desk, and during especially busy times they have employees stationed in line to “triage” concerns and try to lessen lines, but it’s not very effective. This particular time, however, we got a service agent who took our cards, fixed them, and then can with us to our room to make sure they worked. I was impressed, as we hit the lottery, it seemed. No employee on NCL had ever showed that level of follow up. I also showed him the water on our stateroom floor, and the fun began. Several people visited our room for the next hour or so, but no one ever really told us what was going on. During this time, I turned on the shower and could visibly see the water leaking out the crack under the bathroom door onto the carpet. Once we knew this, it was time to move cabins. I’m not walking on anyone’s dirty shower water. How this issue wasn’t noticed by a steward is very suspicious to me, and seems close to negligence. I immediately called the CSR that helped us before, as he left his card, and began speaking w/ his supervisor. During the wait to move cabins, our stateroom door was opened by staff and there was a blower placed in our room. Everyone walking by looked in to see what was going on, so we were the entertainment for the afternoon. Instead of video of us enjoying and exploring our ship, I have video of the blower in our room. Overall, it took us 5 hours to be moved, and the supervisor, “Natasha” acted like it was our lucky day because we received an “upgraded” stateroom. (It was the same balcony room type in a different location at the rear of the ship-which was the loudest room we’ve ever stayed in-especially when the ship was moving. And it shook/vibrated like crazy). We also had an issue w/ one of our suitcases not making it to the room until almost 10pm, and we had to track it down ourselves (made worse by the fact that we switched rooms). I visited the CSR desk again later on and spoke w/ the agent who had helped earlier, and said we felt like we needed something needed to be done in terms of compensation for the entire mess, but we received no word after that. The first third of our cruise was ruined. No one ever came to check on us, apologize, or see if everything was OK. Ever.
Side note: NCL has been AFWUL, TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE w/ service recovery when something has gone wrong on our cruises. Most of the time it has been minor stuff, but the “silo” approach they use w/ chain of command means that one hand is never aware of what the other hand is doing. It seems that when we make more noise/complain more, things tend to get resolved quicker. This time, we quietly went along w/ the program and the results weren’t good at all. Being that NCL is all I know, I can’t compare it to any other line’s service.
So with the fiasco of “water” gate behind us, we were able to get out and explore the ship. The Sun is one of the smaller ships in the NCL fleet, but it’s recently been renovated and has a fresh, smart feel to the public spaces. We settled on the piano bar as our first destination. Like most of the NCL ships we’ve been on, this one has a piano bar that’s decorated like your grandfather’s library. It’s usually one of our favorite places to get a drink and hear decent music. Turns out that most of our drinking and music time was in this bar during this cruise. Service is generally OK, but sometimes during busy periods you’ll need to go to the bar and get your own drink. Since this cruise was priced w/ alcohol included, we like to try things that we don’t consume on a normal basis. But just a warning: the “freebies” only include booze to a certain level; that Bulleit bourbon or Grey Goose vodka will cost extra.
Side note: A disturbing trend on NCL cruises in the past two years or so has been musicians’ use of drum machines/artificial accompaniment. In my opinion, this sounds horrendous. Most of the artists we hear are very talented, but when they use these devices, sound hokey and contrived. I wish they’d discontinue the practice. Again, I have nothing else to compare it to, but am curious if other lines commit similar atrocities. The acts we heard used iPads for lyrics, but we didn’t hear any drum machines on this cruise. (Thanks, Cruise gods!)
After a few drinks, we decided to check out the casino. We typically spend several hours gambling on every cruise we’ve been on, and this one was no different. But the casino on this boat is not a very nice space to spend any time. It seems cramped, was extremely hot each time we were there, and has the worst smoke/particulate management system of any NCL casino we’ve been in. We chose not to visit until the very end of the night because we/our clothes smelled terrible after 5 minutes of being in there. On top of that, the limits on table games are very high. The minimum for blackjack was $15 for the duration, and it’s the least desirable kind of table: continuous shuffle. Three card poker limits were $10, and they only had one table. Most cruises lower their limits at least for some of the time, but we didn’t see that if it occurred.
So on to dinner! We have always thought that the food served in the 2 main (free) dining rooms has been pretty good, and that’s been our experience on every NCL cruise we’ve been on. It’s usually good enough that unless we have a special occasion to celebrate, we don’t spend extra on the pay restaurants. I would say most meals are comparable or better (especially the fish selections) than most casual sit-down restaurants on land. They change they menu every night and no matter which main dining room you choose, the menu is the same in both places. There’s usually a beef, chicken, and fish selection that changes and then they serve some “greatest hits” dishes, e.g. steak and French fries, every night. On this cruise, the entrée choices were decent all 3 nights, but the desert and appetizer choices were stagnate. Service was pretty good, there was one night that things were taking a little longer than normal. Breakfast on Saturday and Sunday in the Seven Seas was good as well; as a tip: skip the eggs to order and get the omelet. That way your fake eggs are fresh! We always make some trips to the buffet during the cruise, and this ship has one of the smaller buffets on any ship we’ve seen. We like visiting the outside grill in the back of the ship, there’s always a hamburger or hot dog waiting for you when you need it most. The bar out at that restaurant is less crowded than most, also.
So the first day we visited Nassau. We’d been here 3 times previously, seen most of the city including Atlantis, so this time just opted to walk around for a few hours on the streets relatively adjacent to the port. The straw market is pretty cool, and if you’re a wristwatch enthusiast, there are several high end boutiques we enjoy browsing in. The straw market is a good place to buy cheap made-in-china souvenirs, and we always have fun bargaining w/ the locals. This port is really easy to visit, as the ship dock right up to the pier and getting on and off is as easy as walking a few hundred yards. Atlantis looks cool in the distance, but we visited one time and found it didn’t have much to offer that was worth the cab fare.
On day two, it was Great Stirrup Cay. We’ve been to the private island 5 times, and it’s always a highlight of our trip. Once you get off the tender boat, you are free to do whatever you want for the day. We enjoy snorkeling and bring our own equipment to save rental fees. I’ve never rented the NCL equipment on the island, but I’ve seen plenty of people having trouble w/ it, and it looks cheap. For the price of one rental, you can buy a high quality mask/snorkel and keep it forever. I have my own fins too, but you probably don’t need them for casual snorkeling here. Again, the ones they give you in the rental package are very small and cheap. They are working to place man-made sculptures and other items along the ocean bottom, most of it is cheesy but fish seem to like some of the statues. The snorkeling spot is about 75 yards out away from the main beach along some rocks, pretty easy to get to. When you’re done w/ recreating, you’ll be hungry. They have a buffet that’s pretty typical for NCL that goes until 2 or so in the afternoon, then they close it down. The food spot is pretty easy to get to no matter where you choose to set up your chairs. They seem to be adding more and more stuff every time we’re there; they’re in the middle of building a lighthouse right now. I would suggest walking down a ways along the beach (to the left), you’ll find less crowds and more shady spots for the taking, but all with easy beach access. The tender process to/from the island is always a tricky proposition, people are always anxious and cranky both ways, but especially on the way back to the ship. It’s worse when the sea is misbehaving, but this time it wasn’t so bad.
When it came to disembarking the ship on Monday, we also tried something new, we carried our own luggage off the ship. It was easy b/c with a shorter cruise, we didn’t have as much luggage, and it made getting off a breeze. We were in the car headed home by 10:30am.
So that’s pretty much it; but I do have a few observations of this cruise relative to other NCL itineraries we’ve sailed on. There were less kids on this cruise. For us, that’s a bonus. I’m not sure if it’s typical of this itinerary, but there were more couples and large adult groups (like bachelor parties). We wondered if this would be a wild, everyone-was-plastered-drunk all the time cruise, but it wasn’t the case. It was pretty normal. For a quick vacation, this would be something we’d do again. We were disappointed that the cabin mishap caused us to miss 1/3 of our fun, so that was unfortunate. Read Less