Amy and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary on the cruise. As most of our "cruise critic group" is aware, I surprised Amy with a "renewing of our vows" party on the Thursday prior to our sailing. Obviously, this made our cruise that much more special.
This was our ninth cruise. Three on NCL's Starward 1981, Leeward 1994 and Sunward 1992; Carnival Celebration 1987, two Big Red Boat cruises 1993, 1994, RCCL Grandeur of the Seas 2000 and the Grand Princess 2001. We stayed in a category BA cabin on the Norway Deck with a balcony and shared it with our 20 year old son Ryan and 16 year old daughter Lindsay. (More on that later).
First and most important of all, we had a fantastic time. There was a lot of good and a little not so good, but as Regina said in her review, "it's how you choose to deal with those things that will determine how you perceive your vacation."
Embarkation was the most efficient and fastest I have experienced in nine cruises. We drove from Orlando and arrived at the terminal around 11:30. We unloaded our bags (8 suitcases and 4 carry-on bags!!!), parked the car, walked through the terminal, checked in through the latitudes check-in area, took our picture with the half naked women and were in our room within 25 minutes! Personally I liked the picture with the half naked women!!
THE SHIP A-
My biggest joy when cruising is the ship itself. I could just as much enjoy a cruise that was only at sea as one that stops at several ports. So with that in mind, the Sun was new, very well kept and clean. The layout was efficient and easy to get used to after one day of roaming around. Had this been our first cruise, I would have been overwhelmed and tremendously impressed with the ship. However, I cannot help but compare the ship to the RCCL Grandeur of the Seas and the Grand Princess cruises. The Grandeur of the Seas was just that...you were taken in by the grandeur of that ship. It too was new and gave you much more of a luxury liner type feeling. There are few words to describe the Grand Princess. It was much larger and elegant with an incredible amount of private spaces to get away and be on your own. While the Sun might not have been as impressive, we had just as good a time that we had on the "Grandeur and Princess."
My second biggest joy on a cruise is the food, and in general the food on the Sun was Good, VERY GOOD and in some cases EXCELLENT! We ate dinner four nights in the Four Seasons Restaurant and three nights in specialty restaurants. Except for one breakfast, we ate in the Garden and Great Outdoor cafe every day. Here's the breakdown:
Four Season's Restaurant B+
We ate there on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Thursday evening. I would rate the Saturday meal and Sunday meal (lobster) as very good. I also ordered the Beef Wellington on Sunday and it was good, but not great by any means. I ordered the steak on Monday and it tasted like and had the consistency of shoe leather!! Don't order the steak! The breads were very good and most of the appetizers were very good as well. We had different waiters each evening and I felt the service was good, but definitely not near as good as the specialty restaurants.
Le Bistro A+
I agree with Melissa's review. It was awesome!! I ordered the Filet and it was great! The Escargot was wonderful, the mushroom soup was great, the Caesar salad was excellent and there just are no words to describe the chocolate fondue!! Just be careful!! I ate mine and half of everybody else's!! Let's just say you wouldn't have wanted to come in our cabin later that night, and while snorkeling at T'sul Ha in Cozumel the next day, the fish seemed to really keep their distance from me!! HA!
Il Adagio B+
The food was very good other than the Veal. I ordered the Veal Chop and it seemed kind of tough to me; however, my brother ordered the same dish and devoured it like it was the greatest thing he had ever eaten. Goes to show how different people are and how no one should take these reviews too seriously, as all of us have our own likes and dislikes. We had 8 people and the restaurant can only seat four at a booth. So we sat in side by side booths. I would not recommend this. Only go if you are a couple or foursome. Every booth faces the window and you will be able to see the sunset. Unfortunately, that was the only night that there was not a decent sunset. Others I spoke with raved about this restaurant. I was very tired that night, so don't take my comments too serious.
East Meets West A+
East meets West charges $10 service charge person as do Le Bistro and Il Adagio. You can hand pick a lobster which is a la carte. You can also order Sushi which also is a la cart. Otherwise the service charge covers everything else on a really good menu. This restaurant was just as good if not a little better than Le Bistro minus the chocolate fondue. I ordered the pot stickers appetizer, crab wonton soup, and the Japanese Tenderloin dish. Amy had the Sea bass which was out of this world! I also had a sampling of just about every dessert (which did not have the same effect as the chocolate fondue)!! Everything was Excellent. The presentation of the desserts was really cool and they all tasted wonderful.
Garden Cafe and Great Outdoor Cafe B
These restaurants are really one in the same. The Great Outdoor Cafe is located just outside the Garden Cafe on the back of the ship. They virtually serve the same menu. The Outdoor Cafe does on several occasions serves cheeseburgers, hot dogs, ribs and great French fries. In the Garden Cafe, as well as the buffet line, they also have a create your own egg or omelet station, a fresh fruit station and a hot and cold cereal station (the bowls are not large enough to hold all the cereal). The food was good and the service was decent. The lines at times were much longer than I experienced on RCCL or Princess. The juices and fruits were sub par and limited. Again the RCCL and Princess ship excelled in that category. Anyone who is expecting a five star meal in the buffet (I have no idea why anyone would expect this) should skip breakfast and eat lunch and dinner in the specialty restaurants. On a side note, it would be interesting to see how many people on the ship die of heart disease. It is simply amazing how one small plate can hold so much bacon, sausage, corn beef hash, and eggs!!!! HA!!
We did not eat in Pacific Heights, Ginza or the Tappas restaurants.
One last note. My son Ryan is a strict Vegetarian. Every restaurant had a vegetarian meal and lots of choices amongst the appetizers and soups. He thoroughly enjoyed every meal except the vegetarian meal in Le Bistro. Le Bistro's spent way too much time on the presentation rather than the quality of the vegetarian meal. The portions were small as well. He more than made up with it with several appetizers and desserts. All the other restaurants were very accommodating including the buffets. We couldn't find any soy milk or ice cream. We asked our TA to make those arrangements. Next time we will make those arrangements directly with NCL.
We love all kinds of music and entertainment and we love to go the shows on cruise ships. We enjoyed all of the music we heard in several of the lounges and absolutely loved all of the shows we attended. The entertainment overall was the best we have experienced on all of our cruises. Here is the breakdown:
Jane L. Powell (AKA.The Chocolate Goddess of Love) A++
What a performer!! With a voice range from the lowest of lows to highest highs, she will entrance you with her renditions of many popular songs. She is funny, talented and it's a wonder she isn't on the billboard charts. Her rendition of Chris Crosse's "Sailing" was my favorite. She performs on Monday and closes out the cruise on Friday night. We bought her CD and my son took a picture with her. Listening to the CD makes you feel like you're back on the cruise ship again!!
Mary Ellen Hooper A
Mary Ellen was a wonderful comedian. She had us practically rolling in the aisles and wiping the tears from our eyes as we howled in laughter. She performed on Saturday night and also closed out the cruise on Friday night as well. On Sunday night she performed in the observation lounge at 11:30 for a late night show, but we missed that one. She also was on the panel of the "Liar's Club" event which was in Dazzles Lounge Thursday evening. She was hoot! Don't miss her show!
Acrobatics of the Power of Two ARudi and Christy are married and performed some outstanding (Cirque type) acrobatics. Christy is a blonde, tall, very physically fit beauty. They are amazing together!! If you are into a lot of "slap stick" kind of comedy (which I am), Rudi is hilarious in all his antics. Warning to all women.if you are looking for some attention, sit on the front row stage left!! As Rudy would say, "I likeeee you.Rudy has five brothers that all grew up in the circus. We saw his brother perform on the Grand Princess last year! Rudy was also on the panel of the "Liar's Club" and was hilarious.
Jean Ann Ryan Company A
The Jean Ann Ryan Company I believe has been with NCL from the start. They are by far the best "regulars" on any ship we have sailed. They performed on Saturday's welcome show, Sundays "Encore! Mr. Producer," Tuesday's "Que Noche," and Thursday's "Cirque Pan." We did not make Que Noche or Cirque Pan. They were wonderful in the shows we did see. Encore! Mr. Producer was great. It is a tribute to the producer (forgot his name) of musicals like "My Fair Lady," "The Witches of Eastwick,," "Oliver," Les Miserables," and several others. There rendition of "The Witches of Eastwick," and "Les Miserables" (my favorite play of all time) were sung and choreographed wonderfully!! Don't miss this show if you like Broadway hits!!
The music throughout all the bars and lounges were very good. Our favorite was Roger Hernandez who played each evening in the Windjammer Lounge. He looked like Billy Joel's brother and on several occasions did an hour tribute to Billy Joel. The lounge was my favorite. There were bar stools around the Piano. Then there was an area filled with cocktail tables that were non-smoking. Behind a barrier there was a wonderful cigar bar and private smoking area. A wonderful place to listen to good music, smoke a cigar and sip on a brandy!!
TOUR EXCURSIONS A+
Rather than bore everyone with the details of each excursion I will expound only on two:
Captain Marvin's Snorkeling and Sting Ray City A+
Unbelievable! Amy, Ryan, Lindsay, my brother Ron and I joined about 20 others from our "cruise critics group" to go see the stingrays in Grand Cayman. We were one of the first groups to get off the ship to take the short 5 minute tender ride to Grand Cayman. We all walked along the narrow streets for 3 blocks or so to Captain Marvin's shop. We checked in and even though we had pre paid over the internet, we had to run our credit card through for payment. You can pay cash at this time if you prefer. While we were waiting to be picked up from the bus we bought some muffins, donuts and coffee from a bakery about a block away. The food and coffee was very good. But we paid an additional charge of about $4 because of the currency exchange rate. I also was given change in Cayman bills and coins. Be sure to take $10 or so in dollar bills if you want to buy anything to eat. This also would hold true for Belize and Roatan.
The first bus could not fit all of us, so a few of us waited another 15 minutes or so for the next van. The ride was about 20 minutes to the boats. There were two boats that our group was divided on. Our first stop was at what they called a reef garden. The waters were crystal clear and we saw many different types of fish and coral. Then it was on to Stingray City witch was only a minute away. This is where the tour gets real interesting. My son Ryan was one of the first people to jump in. Very shortly I heard him loudly screaming and laughing. He was completely surrounded by stingrays. I jumped in and after walking a few steps was engulfed by the stingrays as well. What an awesome experience!! When my daughter came in she immediately jumped into Ryan's arms and screamed. My wife and daughter did not spend much time in the water!! It's not for everyone, but the stingrays are really harmless. Our guide was excellent. He helped all those willing to hold and feed the stingrays. You hold out the food away from your body and place it underneath their body for them to eat. It feels like a vacuum cleaner when they suck the food out!! They feel like giant Portobello Mushrooms!! You can just watch if you don't want to get out of the boat. This tour is a must!!! The ship offers a similar tour, but the group sizes are larger.
Reggie's Cave Tubing A+
So many people have written about this, I can't say much more than they already have. So I will give you some hints and try to relieve your mind of any hesitancy you might have. The driving is not as bad as some make it out to be. The streets are very narrow going through the city, but all the drivers and pedestrians seem to know what they are doing. So as you squirm at some of the near misses, no one on the road seems to care or notice. Once out of the city there is are very few cars on the road, so it is very easy to do 80 mph. Our driver actually pretty much held steady at 65 mph. It was no problem for me, Ryan or Lindsay to hike through the jungle. There were couple of steep areas that were very mildly challenging, most anyone under 60 years old would have no problem maneuvering through them. The hike through the jungle felt more like a leisurely walk on a path in the woods. We did see neat things such as pineapples, cabbage patch, and cashew trees with real cashews on them. We broke open a mini-coconut and ate the meat. It was actually very good. There is a cave that you can walk into and shine your light about 50 feet straight up and see dozens of bats hanging on the top. I was worried the water would be real cold. It was about 75 degrees and felt great. The caves were awesome and tubing down the mini-rapids was fun. The ships tour is a little shorter, costs almost $30 pp more and has larger groups. I was in the half of the "cruise critic group" that had the flat tire at the restaurant. We had three hours before the last tender and I was never worried. I chose to turn this lemon into lemonade!! We enjoyed the lunch, talked to the talking parrot they have at the restaurant, helped change the tire and took several pictures of this Kodak moment! Great time! Highly recommend it to everyone.
Between the four of us we also took three of ship's tours. Lindsay and I snorkeled at T'sul Ha in Cozumel. Ryan and Amy toured Tulum in Cozumel and took the East end tour in Roatan. They were all great tours.
There are "two pools" separated by a cluster of four Jacuzzis. It's really one big pool. The area is clean and nice, but two side by side pools are not enough for 2000 people in my opinion. Too bad they couldn't have designed the ship with one more adult only pool or to place the two pools at separate ends of the ship. Remember I am comparing, the Grand Princess had five pools, but also had 3000 people.
Mandarin Health Spa C
I never learn. I went to the spa as I have on other ships also. They as well as the spas on other ships were overpriced and didn't provide as good as service as you can get in your neighborhood spas for half the price!! Advice..get a massage the day before the cruise!!
Daily on-board activities B
The sun offers lots of daily activities such as line dancing classes, health and wellness classes, kitchen tours, bridge tours, bingo, aerobics, yoga, computer classes, etc. The ones we attended were well done. No better or worse than other ships we sailed. The only disappointment was the "pool games." They played more or less of a trivia game with a small gathering of people around the stage. No belly flop contests, no "how many ping pong balls can you stuff in your bathing suit contests," and my favorite "no chugging a can of beer swimming relay and passing out!"
On board shopping B
There was a Columbia Jewelers that sold mostly very high priced items. There was a $10 dollar store that sold everything for $10. It had most things you find in the $1 store back home! The NCL store had a good variety of clothing, hats, perfumes, alcohol and souvenirs. Princess and Grandeur both had better shopping if that's what you are in to.
Photo Gallery F
This truly was a very big disappointment. Every year I pledge to my wife that I will not buy many pictures but end up buying a lot of pictures. This year the Photo gallery made sure I had no choice. The second day of the cruise their processing equipment broke. On Monday, since I didn't see some of the pictures that we had had taken on Sunday, I asked the Photo Gallery representative where they were. He told me they would not be up for viewing until Wednesday night. Well, there were no new pictures up all week. I heard about the broken processor through someone with our "cruise critics group." I understand and accept that equipment breaks down. But wouldn't you think they would have some type of backup? I can't imagine how much revenue they lost last week. I am more upset that they obviously lied to me on Monday night and did not tell me about the break down. Anyway, it's just one of those things. We took over 250 of our own pictures, so we have lots of great memories!!
Cruise Director and staff A
Paul Baya was great. He ranks up there with the best of the other directors on other ships. The staff was very helpful and a delight.
As I said at the beginning four of us shared a BA cabin on the Norway Deck. We had four large suitcases, three hanging bags and about four other bags with miscellaneous items in them. My son chose to live out of his suitcase. There was plenty of room for Amy, Lindsay and I to store all our things in drawers and storage areas. There would have been room for Ryan's things as well. Every one of the bags fit comfortably underneath the bed with room to spare. The balcony was a great place to sit out and relax and read. Four in a room kind of kills romantic interludes, but being able to be with your children and share such a wonderful experience is priceless. And I gotta tell you, we are fortunate to have the two greatest kids on the face of earth!! A word of advice..enjoy and cherish your children every day!!
Room Steward C
Our room steward, George was average. We didn't see much of him. When we did he was not very friendly or outgoing. No neat designs with the pillows or towels at night. My mother who was on deck 8 had a great steward who new just about everyone's name on their floor and made really cool designs out of towels such as elephants, peacocks, etc. He was so good; he was voted the best employee of the week. NCL puts out a form for everyone to nominate their favorite employee for the week. Be sure to fill one out as it is really an honor to be recognized for great work.
I have to say a few words about our "cruise critic group." Since we traveled with other family members we didn't get to spend a lot of time with the group. The times we were together on the excursions or in the bars or shows were great. It was great to meet people you only knew through the internet. Everyone was so nice and I hope to have the opportunity to see everyone again. How about a reunion cruise!!!
I envy future cruisers who go on the ship for their first cruise as you will use this cruise as your benchmark for future cruises. The more cruises you go on, the more you tend to compare. Make no mistake, we had a great time on the Norwegian Sun and would go back on her anytime. One last word of advice to fellow cruisers..relax and enjoy every minute of the cruise experience. Leave all your "hang ups, stresses and baggage (not the suit case kind) at home. Life is way too short to short to get upset about any minor annoyances.