This is my fifth cruise on NCL, one being a one-night cruise to nowhere on the Sun when she was unexpectedly diverted from New York to Boston following the events of September 11. This one-night cruise was put together under extremely difficult and stressful circumstances and I'll take this opportunity to commend the crew for a job well done! I knew from that one night that I wanted to sail the Sun again, especially when I learned of the Western Caribbean itinerary.
We were in cabin 8030 which was conveniently located near the glass elevators. Since this was our first family cruise I decided to go for a balcony, which I didn't think would actually make or break the cruise, but I have to say I am spoiled for life. It was very nice to wake up and enjoy a quiet cup of coffee in the morning or a glass of wine in the evening before or after dinner. There is nothing like being lulled to sleep by the gentle ocean breeze and the sounds of the Caribbean Sea. There was plenty of storage space for two adults and two kids. There was a refrigerator, hairdryer, a retractable clothes line in the shower, a hot water pot for tea or instant coffee. Our cabin steward did an excellent job.
Our breakfasts and lunches were at the buffets, the Garden Cafe and the Great Outdoor Cafe. Basically it's the same food at both, maybe a slight variation such as pancakes at one and French toast at the other. So if you find a line at the Garden Cafe just walk around the back to the Great Outdoor Cafe. There always seemed to be less of a line there. However, the lines moved quickly. I thought the buffet food was good with a good selection from which to choose. I loved the omelet station and fresh fruit in the mornings and the pasta station at lunch time. There was always pizza and hamburgers/hotdogs and on sea days great BBQ ribs and chicken.
We enjoyed our dinners in either the Four Seasons or Seven Seas most evenings. We had one off night on the evening in Cozumel where the ship was in port until 8pm. Everyone was coming into the dining room at the same time. We did not have to wait to sit but the service was slow and our wait staff became increasingly behind and confused as the evening went on and this turned our dinner into a two and a half hour affair. We weren't in any rush but were extremely tired from our long day in Cozumel and it was all we could do to keep our heads off the table. I had ordered the tuna steak well done and it came out pink, which was replaced but not before I had to pick up my daughter in the kids club at 10pm. Other than that one evening the wait staff was extremely friendly, responsive and efficient. In retrospect, this probably would have been the perfect occasion to have dinner at the buffet being as exhausted as we were. We were always immediately seated at a table for four with the exception of one evening where we had a 10-minute wait, not a problem at all.
The only optional dining we tried was the Teppanyaki room. This was excellent!!! My daughter and I had the filet mignon and shrimp combo, son the chicken/shrimp combo and my husband the seafood combo. This was served with salad, freshly made garlic fried rice, sauteed mushrooms and dessert of either green tea ice cream or fresh fruit. Definitely well worth the price plus provided a bit of entertainment. My husband and son also enjoyed the Sushi bar. In the Tapas Bar the sangria was very good and the tapas selection varied from day to day. A great place to pick up a quick snack. I had read that it was required to buy a drink in order to have the tapas but that was never an issue anytime I was there. You can also find chicken wings, nachos, French fries in the sports bar for snacking.
The only shows we saw were the family-friendly comedy shows, the magic show and Jane Powell. The comedian was funny the first time around. The magician didn't perform enough magic and should really drop his Liberace routine. Jane Powell was fantastic and should not be missed. I had chills and goosebumps during her rendition of "God Bless the USA," very moving.
We heard great reviews of some of the other productions but I came on this cruise to just relax and not rush and we did what we could when we could.
The Ports: Grand Cayman we booked the two-hour 11:15 Stingray City with Capt. Marvin. I was afraid to book the three-hour 10 o'clock trip because of the issue of tendering. This turned out not to be an issue at all and we had time to do a tour to the turtle farm and Hell before being dropped off at Capt. Marvin's. This was an added bonus as my kids really wanted to get the infamous "I Went To Hell for this T-Shirt" t-shirt and we all enjoyed the stop at the turtle farm. There is a Tortuga bakery and souvenir shop next door where you can try samples of the various varieties of rum cakes, all of them were excellent, or buy a bottle of Tortuga rum which they deliver to the ship. The Capt. Marvin's stingray encounter was quite a thrill! Although at first intimidating to get into the water it was quite an experience to be up close and surrounded by these gentle creatures. This is a don't miss excursion that is great for all ages. We also had a stop at the coral gardens for snorkeling but our time there was too short. The three-hour tour includes a second snorkeling stop at a reef which I hear was fantastic.
Next stop Roatan..ahh, Roatan.don't listen to anyone who says this port is not worth getting off at unless you are there to snorkel or dive! Get off the ship with your eyes wide open and you will have an amazing experience. Yes, Roatan is undeveloped, no big glitzy resorts and limited roadside shopping for local crafts. Our first stop was to deliver some school supplies and we had three young guides walk us into town to the school and into the classroom. The wide-eyed looks on the children's faces and the quiet gratitude of their teacher, the smiles of our young guides as we thanked them for their services was a very humbling experience that I wouldn't wanted to have missed, an experience my children will always remember.
We then hopped into a cab to Salt 'N Pepper, which for the price of $27 per adult, $16 per child included the transportation, lunch of lobster, fish, chicken, rice and beans, and the beach. The children's lunch was a hamburger or chicken but they gave my son the lobster for the children's price. My daughter ordered the hamburger and it was bigger than any Whopper I've ever seen. Just make sure you ask for it well done. We had to send it back twice but was delicious when they got it right. The lunch I thought was excellent. The beach was small but nice. We did not have any trouble with the sand fleas and did not use any insect repellant, but on the tender ride back to the ship I sat next to a woman who was covered in bites and I was surprised to hear she was at the Salt 'N Pepper beach also.
On our ride back from the beach to the dock along the unpaved road along the coast I was struck by the contrast of the majestic beauty of the Norwegian Sun sitting just offshore with all its comforts, amenities and conveniences to the backdrop of the simple, undeveloped beauty of the little island of Roatan. I will have that picture in my mind for a long time to come.
The next stop was Belize City. Here we did the cave tubing with Reggie along with a previously arranged group through Cruise Critics. It was a blast if not cause for a visit to the chiropractor! My only disappointment was that we lost two of our members to another van and didn't meet up with them until after the trip was over and that we didn't have Reggie as our own personal driver/tour guide. Our tour guide was excellent nonetheless.
Cozumel was an unplanned day but we ended up doing an Atlantis Submarine dive, a nice experience you only have to do once, and then headed for Chankanaab Park. We didn't snorkel as the water was a bit rough. We watched a dolphin encounter, did a little swimming and headed back to the port to check out Carlos & Charlies. We had to do an about face once inside as the kids were unhappy with the smoke and loud music. I'm sorry we missed the party!
The highlight of the cruise was the opportunity to meet up with a great group of people from the Cruise Critics. It was fun sharing the experiences of this cruise with some of the people with whom we were so eagerly anticipating and planning this cruise with for so many months prior.