CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews

Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Sun Western Caribbean August 24, 2002

Let's first get the weather out of the way: it was fantastic the whole week, with a little needed cloud cover in Cozumel to knock back the heat.

About Us: I'm 45, my wife is 37, and our two kids are 15 and 6. This was our 10th cruise. We cruised once on the BRB, 4 times each on CCL and RCI

Leaving NYC out of LAG: Pushed back 4 minutes early at 07:18, then sat on the runway till 08:00 due to claims of bad weather down south. Smooth flight, still arrived on time. Miami Airport to pier: Luggage arrived fast, no wait for a taxi with set fair of $18 to pier.

At NCL Terminal: Arrived shortly after 11:15, walked right up and checked in, no lines. Mentioned we did early registration, didn't seem to matter. Then had to wait till the boarding started at 12:00, seems the Coast Guard delayed clearing the ship, a NCL rep said they usually have it cleared around 11:30. Still, a short wait on line, aboard by 12:10.

The Paxs: Was told there were 2,224 aboard, over 400 kids. There was still space for some 300 more paxs.

The Waiting In Line: Never had a wait for dinner, the shows, or tenders, even for disembarkation. All the waiting was spent on line boarding the SUN, and that in itself, was fairly short.

Our Cabin: No escort. Found our Cat BA cabin #1002 on the Deck 11 (pool deck), a forward facing cabin next to the Owners Suite (1003), with our balcony having teak decking with 2 full size chairs, 2 full size lounge chairs, and one table. Cabin was spotless though wear and tear was evident (stained carpets, chipped furniture, even had a piece of molding fall off the wall). Nice 19-inch color TV with video jacks in the front for playing back your recorded videos or video games if you brought along a PS2. Two twin beds were pushed together to make a King. The sofa was a pullout double, fairly comfortable. Two robes were found in the largest closet. The bathroom has plenty of storage, a 'gift basket' of soaps and creams, and the shower stall has dispensers of soap and shampoo, and can accommodate a average size adult. A plate of fruit was delivered to us by our cabin steward. Home for the next 7 days.

Our Steward: Joseph was fantastic...Joseph got the Star Performer of the Week award. Need I say more! (he got dinner for two at an onboard restaurant of his choice, a gift certificate, and most important, a day off). Never had a problem being shorted on towels or ice, being denied any request, and always had complete upkeep of our cabin. Joseph was Omni-present, always there, remembered all of our names and always shouted a hello to us, even when we strolled past him in another cabin, down on his hands and knees, scrubbing the door to their bathroom.

Tour of the Owners Suite: Joseph gave us a tour of cabin 1003 since those folks hadn't checked in yet. All's I can say is; WOW! And that was before we saw their balcony, which was even larger than ours, with a hot tub.

Life Boat Drill: Quickest we've experienced, all of 14 minutes, though we had a female Drill Instructor shouting out orders...NCL (or her) do take their safety seriously!

Departure: Pretty close to on time, a bit after 4pm. Enjoyed the sailing out of the port of Miami all from the privacy of our balcony, cocktail and binoculars in hand. (as they would always be, during the rest of the cruise, especially on Sea Days, when sailing into port, or seeing land masses off in the horizon)

Freestyle Dining: Loved it! Worked real well for us. Usually went to dinner between 6 and 6:45 PM. Never had a line for getting into the restaurants, though we usually started to see line queue up when we were leaving.

Waitress, Dining, and Restaurants: First night, we choose the 7 Seas Room, and due to probably the best waitress we ever had: Bogdanka, we never wanted to leave table 216 (all the way aft by the windows, port side) and try the 4 Seasons. Our first meal took all of 35 minutes, the service was that great, didn't even feel rushed. Every dinner we had was under one hour, except for Thursday when leaving Mexico, as we wanted to stretch out dinner and see Cozumel float by during sunset and see all the city lights. We also did Pacific Heights and East Meets West (cover charge is $5 up till 6:30 PM, no charge for our 6 year old).

The Meals: All generally good in the 3 rooms mentioned above:  7 Seas: Ate a lot of soup, fish, salad, pasta, and steak...good to very good. Even enjoyed the two lobster tails you get on Thursday. The few times we had dessert (we usually ended up doing a 'pu-pu' platter of entrees), we found these to also be good. Our 6 year old's kids menu had plenty of choices to satisfy her (and me at times) Do try for aft tables by the windows. During the duration of the cruise, we kept hearing how much better the service was here -vs-other tables in the 7 Seas or 4 Seasons.

 Pacific Heights: Saturday night we made reservations for Sunday at 6pm. We had our choice of seats. Really enjoyed the pork chops and calzones. Great Southwestern chowder!

 East Meets West: Whoa...nice mixture or clash of the two cultures. Great beef dish, the wontons were unlike any I've ever ate before. Once again, sampled a little bit of everything, a totally different food experience -vs- the take out Chinese down the street. I enjoyed everything I touched, my wife was a little more judgmental, but still thought the food was 'unique'. Again, 50% off the cover charge if you have reservations before 6:30

 Las Ramblas: always enjoyed any of their food they had out. Great soup and sandwiches. No pressure ever to buy a drink. Place was never crowded. Great service. Check their open times, not as liberal as the other restaurants.

 The Buffets: Not bad, variety and volume is the name of the game here. Always something slightly different each day for breakfast or lunch. The made to order omelets were very good and always sported a line. During Sea Days, the Outdoor Grill had some very good variations of BBQ food, and at least 3 different type of chicken wings and pizza were available during the cruise. Tables always seemed to be bused in a timely fashion (saw 3 staff members swoop down on the same table within seconds of it being vacated) . Hint: always go to the aft stations, usually less crowded. You will be given hot towels to wash your hands before eating

 The Sports Bar: They no longer serve munchies here

The Shows: Never crowded, never had a problem finding a seat, though we usually showed up 15 minutes prior to the start. Missed the first night, attended all other shows. Enjoyed Cirque Pan and the first Jane Powell show (nothing else needs to be said except her 2nd show, the ships 'Farewell' show, seemed a little weak. Didn't care for Que Noche at all. Jimmy (JJ) Walker was onboard and had a real funny act (not one shout of DYNOMITE!). Liars Club was also a very enjoyable experience. The various lounge singers earned their pay plus some.

The Cruise Director: Rich C and Bingo Bruce got the job done. I'd say slightly above average. Rich was dead on with the Rain Man and Pee Wee Herman. Appears NCL doesn't stage 'passengers' in the audience to interact with the CD during shows.

Various Ship Board Activity: Always had plenty to do or watch. Could get free bingo cards, $9 cards for 5 games, or $12 for the daily jackpot. The casino is nicely sized, plenty of slots (though they weren't kind to me), midnight snacks can be found here. Enjoyed seeing the art auctions, playing volleyball, basketball, hitting golf balls and baseballs. The pool deck band and activities such as Ice Carving demonstrations, Horse Racing, etc, were also good.

The Pool Deck: Some decent late night shows were held on the stage here. During the days at Sea, this area does indeed get crowded and feels crowded. Perhaps one large pool -vs- two small ones, would have been a better idea? Usually didn't have a problem finding a lounge chair, but when we did come up short, no problem just parking it on the wooden wall that surrounds the two Oasis Pools and hot tubs. The children's pool area was nice for the limited amount of space they devoted here. Was never too crowded, could always find a lounge chair and tan, with great views of the sea. There is also a bar nearby.

The Ports of Calls and Excursions: JUST EXCELLENT!  Grand Cayman: NativeWay sports must be giving Capt. Marvin's a run for their money in terms of clients. Great personal service for us 15 on this excursion. We had the 2 stop 2 ½ hour snorkel tour turn into a 3 stop (Barrier Reef, Coral Gardens, and Stingray City) 3+ hour tour. $25 per snorkeler, $10 for my wife and daughter to come along for the ride and watch us do our thing. All 3 stops were great, the fish, coral and stingrays were a-plenty. Just fantastic clear, clean water at the sandbar, and I couldn't do justice trying to explain the Stingray experience...gotta do it. They even picked up a ray and brought it over to my daughter who was sitting on the boat and let her feed and pet it, where she was promptly awarded with a nice spit of water in the face, from the ray. (hope my pictures do this overall experience some justice). Juice and ice water were included and we were dropped off at 7 mile beach on the way back. We thought 7 mile beach was over-rated, no soft white sand where we were (believe it was the Royal Palms area, though we had great views of the Sun). Had time to visit Eden Rock, get a cocktail at the Paradise Inn, and feed the fishes Corn Flakes and watch them go crazy.

 Roatan: Loved It!!! Beautiful Island and people. We were able to dock here. After experiencing the rush of being swarmed by taxi drivers and tour operators, we negotiated hiring a taxi for the day. Prices started at $100 for the four of us, everyone ending up being happy with the price of $60 we settled on. We ended up with Jermnoy Webster, taxi #140 and off we went for a tour of the east side of the island with stops at the airport tower (what views), two ship wrecks, and the Las Palms shopping area (just a beautiful beach area with a seaside bar, white sand, baby palms, lounge chairs, and docks leading to both the sea and by sides) before heading off to tour of the West End/Bay side. During our drive up the mountain, we had great views of the sea on both sides, with tropical vistas, did a few 'Kodak Moment' stops. We ended up at what I believe was called the Maya Princess Resort on West Bay beach, just down the beach from the ships excursion at Tabyana...what a great beach, one of the best examples of a true Caribbean, tropical beach experience. You must stroll along the white sand from the coral wall at the Tabyana side, all the way down to the end of the beach, passing docks and all the little beach areas and clubs, all surrounded by palms and tropical plants. We stayed here for almost 3 hours while our driver waited for us, then went back to the pier, via the southern route, with great vistas of the sea, houses on stilts, coral beds and NCL SUN in the background. ***Do note: Roatan is indeed a poor island. We saw families living under blankets stretched over clothes lines, in ravines between two hills. Some school buildings were mere planks nailed together. A gas station consisted of a shack, where you bought gas in gallon jugs (a nasty dark orange looking gas that made our taxi run real bad the rest of the day (added a little charm to our Roatan experience) that was poured into the tank via a funnel. Still a great, lush tropical island, with some of the happiest, always smiling people, we've ever met in the Islands***

 Belize: Another great experience due to Reggie (cave tubing for my son and I) and his 19 year old son (Zoo/City tour for my wife and daughter)!!! Reggie met us on the dock, and by 09:30, the 12 of us were off for cave tubing in one of his air conditioned vans. All the good praise you've read about Reggie is 110% accurate! We highly recommend Reggie for both tours. Excellent hike through jungle and bat cave and along the banks of the river. Loved forging the river in our tubes, holding onto a rope, to reach the other bank of the river. Was indeed a bit muddy in places, with uphill portions using cuts in the rock, wooden planking, or tree roots, as steps. The river was just at the right height with the right amount of current. Only had to forge the rapids twice (not because they were too fast, but because the water depth was too shallow...ever hear of a butt bark?). Great experience floating in a deep, dark cave in the underworld, hearing the faint sound of rapids down river, then turning on your head lamp to see the interior light up. And the best was saved for last: we exited the last cave into a tropical sun shower, while tubing down a wide portion of the river, leading to a fork: you had the choice of walking over a gravel bank or riding the current through a 90 degree bend in the river, testing your tubing navigation against a few 'obstructions', have no fear, Reggie was there! He had your complete safety in mind, which was his number one concern! (this portion of the trip is avoided by the ship's excursion).

 Other Belize highlights: driving through a shallow, fast moving river on the jungle trail leading to the caves, having Reggie narrate the local history of the surrounding mountains, describing the plants, flowers, and fruits that were seen during your hike through the jungle, hearing about the undiscovered Mayan temples still waiting to be excavated, seeing a trail of green marching across the jungle floor in front of you (ants carrying little leaves that they 'process' into mold and then eat), a visit to the BAT cave, and finally, a stop at a local restaurant for rice and beans (or was it beans and rice, there is a difference.) and drinking a cold local brew, watching the local parrot strut around on the floor, muttering in Spanish. This stop had drop dead gorgeous views of lush plains and valleys with tropical plantasia and palms, leading to vistas of mountains in the background shrouded in clouds...a true Kodak moment. Thanks Reggie!!! Oh, do note, Reggie pointed out a street NOT to walk down, as he was dropping folks off in town for a 5 block walk back to the ship. Drugs are the major crime in Belize City which has Capital Punishment with the judge declaring: Hang, till you're Dead, Dead, Dead!

 Cozumel: NCL no longer offers the Passion Island Excursion, too many mixed reviews. However, no worries, found my lost shaker of salt at Playa del Sol! A great stop and ya know what? This was the only excursion the ship offered that was cheaper than doing it on your own. But first: the taxi drivers were on partial strike (full strike the day before) and NCL arranged water taxis for $8 R/T to Playa del Sol (cheaper than the $14-15 taxi ride one way) and $22 for a beach break: all the great stuff that has been posted here before that the beach offers, plus beer and drinks for the day at $22 -vs- $25 the beach wanted. The pool was outstanding for our kids, all the activities they offered kept us entertained for hours. We then went back to the ship around 1:30, showered, lunched, napped and left again at 4pm for:

 Mini Golf: What a great little oasis right past the town plaza, get to see the real side of Cozumel during your walk to the course, passing sidewalk cafés, markets, and local artists at work. While you pay $7 for the adults ($5 for our 6 year old), your given a menu of CDs to chose from, to be played while golfing, asked what type of refreshments you want to drink before you start play, and then given a 2-way radio for ordering drinks while out on this tropical, shaded course. Just a fun time had by all, with our 6 year old getting the only hole in one. We did spend some time fishing our ball out of the various pools and waterfalls while also checking the trees and bush for local animals and inspecting the fruit that was growing.  Other Cozumel Activities: hair braiding, $1 a braid, including beads, being solicited for cigars or to get high, watching the local artists draw and paint, shopping, watching the local taxi drivers march and strike, walking along the seawall, having a peak inside C&Cs new location, then enjoying a stroll along the seawall and pier back to the ship, and eating dinner while sailing off into the sunset, seeing Cozumel slip behind in the ships wake, while being winked at by the two lighthouses.

***NOTE: Unlike or recent Voyager of the Seas cruise where the ship was the highlight, the ports of calls and the excursions where the SUN's highlights for us!*** Disembarkation and home to NY: Got some lime green tags to be on the last call off the ship. Was told this would be at 10:05. We got called and left our cabin at 09:11 and where into our taxi to the Miami airport at 09:34. No problem with finding our luggage or waiting in line for customs...nice job NCL: able to wait in our cabin the whole time after having breakfast. At Miami Airport: Swimming pool, hot tub, lockers, shower, pub grub, cocktails, and working our tan for 5 hours...geez, almost felt we were still on the SUN, but nope, Airport Hotel, Rooftop Club in concourse E, and what a great view of take offs and landings for you airport buffs. We had a 5:15 PM flight. No problem with early check-in of luggage. Once again, American Airlines played the overbooking game and we left 35 minutes late to NYC. Slightly nasty flight attendants this time, they must of had a long day. Touched down at 8:18pm, grabbed our luggage, and home at 10pm. Would we sail NCL again: Hmm, possibly. The Dawn likes like a nice ship, but we won't go right out and book the SUN again. Like quite a few others we spoke to, seems RCI is the game in town, but we would try Princess or Celebrity before doing NCL again. After being on the VOTS, even at some 78,000 tons and being over 840 feet long, the SUN felt small and slightly lacking in various aspects the VOTS offered. I guess we're fans of the bigger is better idea. Though we thought the service was superior on the SUN. And, Freestyle dining worked really well for us!

Finally, our dislikes/just ok part of this cruise experience. Please keep in mind the good far outweighed the bad and most of below were observations:

Having to wait till 5:30 the first night to get our kids their soda cards, and you can only get them from the Kids Club. (do note: you can pre-order the cards and have them waiting for you at checkin, but you need to pre-order at least 3 days in advance of your sailing date. No hotdogs, burgers, or pizza to be found (even though they were announcing pizza can be had in the Garden Cafe) till about 5:45 PM on embarkation day...try getting the kids to eat fish, meatloaf, or curried chicken during lunch...didn't work, they were starved by dinner time (though Dad screwed up and forgot about room service) The selling of drinks in souvenir cups: NCL stations at least 2-3 staff members right outside the doors leading onto the pool deck, handing you a drink as your stepping through the door, never mentioning they cost money, nor wearing any kind of button saying the same...we didn't fall for it, but many people did, especially with the announcements of: "Come join our sail away party" No sliding doors leading to the pool deck from the cabins/atrium. Not one cushioned deck chair to be found on the promenade deck. No NCL staff 'supervising' the Kids Pool. I know kids will be kids, but the bigger ones had no concern or courtesy towards the little ones and after quite a few knock downs, being splashed or squirted, it looked like a Jerry Springer show fight was gonna break out between some parents. TV Channels...Hmm, too much TNT and 'our favorite' shows being shown over and over again. The first run movies were pretty lame and only got worse the 5th time they were on. And to see all the ship's shows put on during the week, you have to 'type' in channel 28 on the remote as the up and down channel selection buttons skip right past 28 I thought I saw the ship rats (think mall rats) start to show up about 2pm on the last day of the cruise, but they were nowhere to be found, cluttering up the stairwells and being surly when politely asked to move aside, or just plain old hanging out in the elevators, after midnight, like they were around early afternoon. I think NCL had some sort of teen program going on during the late hours of the last night, good for them! Having the talent show in the observation lounge, too small a venue, with very poor sight lines. Credit foul-ups. We were lucky, NCL only gifted us with a $30 bingo charge we didn't make. IMHO, NCL needs to allow you to view your credit statement via your TV or at least give you your statement earlier than they currently do. They only allow you to address disputes from 05:30 to after 8am on disembarkation day. The line was very long: $150 charge in the salon that didn't happen, with the lady missing her NCL provided transportation to someplace and being told she had to take a taxi without NCL picking up the tab, a gentlemen being charged $90 for a advance in the casino he didn't request, another false charge for bingo, etc, etc...some lady was on line so long with her little kid, that the kid got sick and the lady had her kid stand in the middle of the atrium, throwing up and making a mess, as a type of payback to NCL for making a mistake on her credit account and then having her wait in line for so long to have it corrected. Finally, can't blame this on NCL, but it leaves a bad final impression of your cruise experience when disembarking and someone B&Ms and cries that you cut them off in line to customs because you weren't ahead of them in line, when they walked of the gangplank, and then have them muttering behind your back, all the way through customs and into baggage claim. This was a long review, sorry. Disregarding the above, we did indeed have fun in (and on) the SUN!

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