We chose this cruise because my parents had cruising the Panama Canal as a bucket-list trip. They asked my fiance and I if we'd like to join, and we said yes! My parents chose the cruise line and itinerary, and we came along for the ... Read More
We chose this cruise because my parents had cruising the Panama Canal as a bucket-list trip. They asked my fiance and I if we'd like to join, and we said yes! My parents chose the cruise line and itinerary, and we came along for the ride! My parents stayed in a suite, while we stayed in a balcony mid-ship room.
The cruise left from Miami, and we flew in the evening before. We shared a room with my parents that was booked by the agent my parents' used to book their trip. Because my parents booked a suite on the boat, the agent took it upon themself to book my parents the Presidential Suite at the hotel, which was a bit overboard. It was a really nice room, though!
Embarkation was a little rough. The Norwegian-booked shuttle from the hotel was over an hour late to pick us up (it was supposed to arrive at 11:15, and our boarding appointment as at 12:30), and the bus that did arrive was not large enough for all of the passengers, so we had to wait longer for another bus to come pick us up. We were not given any explanation of this, and were left wondering what was going on. Next time, we would definitely arrange our own transportation to the pier rather than booking through the cruise line.
Once we arrived at the pier, we dropped our bags with a baggage handler (who flat-out asked for tips) and entered the terminal. My parents were in a suite, so they were whisked away to the priority boarding area, and were on the boat almost immediately. Us plebes in the balcony room, however, went to general boarding, where we waited in a slow, agonizing line for about 2 hours. I know that "every cruise line is like this," but there has GOT to be a better way to get people on the ship. Nerves were starting to wear thin after a solid 4 hours of standing and waiting (interrupted by a short bus ride), but things turned around as soon as we got on the boat!
- We loved the Sun! This was my second cruise, and this ship was just a bit smaller than the Carnival Valor, about 1,900 guests. The decor was nice, if a little bit on the "cruise cheese" side, with turquoise carpets, fishes, and the strange Greco-Roman theme of the casino.
- I saw that the boat had been remodeled within the past few years, but it is starting to show some wear, with some thin carpet in the staterooms, threadbare seatbacks in the theater, etc.
- What I liked most about the ship was that despite the embarkation disaster, it rarely felt crowded! The only times that it was irritatingly crowded on board were in the buffet right after shore excursions returned, and during the damned "$10" sale at the boutique.
- Our mid-ship balcony stateroom (8220) was plenty roomy for our needs and had tons of storage (there were drawers and cabinets we didn't use) and plenty of space under the bed to stow our luggage (we had 2 large suitcases and 2 carry-on suitcases).
- I have to shout the praises of the SHOWER! The stall itself is nothing to spit at (tiny, as usual), but good lord, the water pressure and temperature were AMAZING for a boat.
- There was shampoo/condition hybrid and body wash provided, plus hand soap. I ended up using my own.
- The hair dryer does the job, but just barely. It's basically a flexible tube coming out of the wall, and it's hard to use. The tube gets hot, and it's almost impossible to try your hair without the hot tube coming in contact with your arms, etc. Uncomfortable, would recommend bringing your own hair dryer.
- There was really only 1 outlet in the whole cabin. We brought along a power strip (with USB ports) and it was a life-saver.
- We also brought a bluetooth speaker for music in our stateroom, which we played at a reasonable volume, of course! It added to the ambiance.
- Dining was fine, but nothing to write home about. We ate at 3 of the specialty dining restaurants, ate in the main dining room 4-5 times, and ate the rest of the time at the main buffet (Garden Cafe and Great Outdoors, aft).
- Cagney's was very good (steakhouse), but I was disappointed with Moderno, the churrascaria.
- I wasn't too fond of how the restaurants were set up... basically, all many specialty dining restaurants were right on top of each other in the same dining areas. For example, Cagneys, the sushi, and the hibachi restaurants were basically in the same dining room. It wasn't good ambiance to have to listen to the drumming at the hibachi grill when you're trying to enjoy a steak dinner.
- The 2 main dining rooms are exactly the same, except one of them doesn't allow shorts. It was a little ridiculous to have this pretty arbitrary distinction, because the menu was the same, the decor was the same, and the "no shorts" dining room guests truly didn't look any more upscale or dressed up than the more casual dining room.
- The food was probably the low point on board for me.
Entertainment and Activities
- There was always SO MUCH going on on board that we had a hard time deciding what to do! We were partial to the trivia and game show type things, which were a lot of fun... the staff did a great job with these!
- Shows - We only attended 3 shows in the Stardust Theater... there was a Mentalist that was OK, but very overblown, a comedian (I fell asleep), and we attended the "We Will Rock You" show, which was my favorite. It was cruise ship cheese-tacular at its finest, and we were smiling the whole way through (though my fiance is sure that Roger Daltry was spinning in his grave).
- There was a "Equator Crossing Ceremony" which should have been a lot of fun, but it was so crowded and sweltering (you know, equator!), I couldn't enjoy it. Alas, I did not get a picture of myself kissing the fish.
- Fitness center was very nice! I took part in several of their classes. They were just OK, quality-wise but it was nice to get some exercise in on the ship. I like a little more challenge in my workouts, but I understand that they have to design the classes for the lowest common denominator.
- Our stateroom steward, Arvin, was amazing, and did a fantastic job the whole way through.
- The restaurant staff was spotty... some incredible servers and others who seemed like they were learning as they were going.
- Bar staff was mostly great... some were super friendly, others just got down to business. I did get a little upset at one point (#firstworldproblems, I know) for being asked to not eat at the bar at a pool-side barbecue when there was literally NOWHERE TO SIT anywhere else. They said it was because they can't have food blowing across the bar, which I get, but it was completely still that day and, again, nowhere else to sit.
- I did note that there was some language barrier issues at play, but I think it could be handled better. If a crew member does not understand the question, I wish they would not just say "yes" without trying to actually figure out what the guest was asking. There were many occasions where we later discovered that we had gotten an incorrect answer from a crew member.
- Given that my previous cruise experience was a Caribbean cruise with Carnival, the port experience was very different! All of the ports were primarily shipping ports, which I VASTLY preferred to many of the Caribbean ports, which seem to be duty-free shop after duty-free shop (no, I don't want to purchase any diamonds!).
- We did an excursion at every port, which got a bit expensive. Most were worth it!
- My mom is mobility impaired, and it seemed that people really did need to be good self-advocates for accessibility. Because of the nature of the ports, there were frequently long walks to and from the tour busses, which was more difficult for her, and we sometimes wished that they would have some transport chairs available outside as there were so many older passengers on this ship.
- I understand that accessibility in foreign countries can be varied, but I wish that Norwegian would provide more feedback/training to tour operators. Many operators walked far too fast for mobility impaired guests, and they didn't seem to be mindful of differing mobility levels. Some of the "Level 1" activity excursions had more walking that we expected for that level, which was hard for my mom. It's hard to enjoy an excursion when you're having to try hard to move fast enough to keep up without falling!
- A couple of tours did have all of the activities advertised due to availability. It would be nice to be made aware of that, but it's possible the tour operators didn't even know certain aspects of the tour weren't going to be available until they arrived (though I feel it's the tour operator's job to ensure that the tour they're advertizing is the tour we're getting).
- Peru was the stand-out destination for us. Such unique landscape!
- We had the Ultimate beverage package as a freebie (but still paid gratuity). It was worth just in convenience.
- There is a $13.99 daily "service charge" that is the gratuity for wait staff and stewards. I wish they would just include that in the price of the cruise rather than springing it on you later. Our bill at the end (including excursions and all on-board spending) ended up being about $1,400 each.
We would definitely consider cruising with Norwegian again, and perhaps try one of their newer ships! Read Less