December 18, 2005
We have been on 12 cruises, (the past 3 there have been 9 of us traveling together, 4 kids ages 7-13 and 5 adults ages 42-78).
Embarkation at Houston was done on-ship in the Stardust Lounge. It was fast and easy. The port is basically a commercial port – so it is nothing special to look at/take photos of. (The port was changed from New Orleans due to Katrina).
The ship is clean and well taken care of. The cabin was nicely laid out – we were on Deck 8 in cabins with verandas. Very nice. Closet and drawer space is good. The room steward was efficient.
Entertainment was acceptable, though we did find some of the dancing quite suggestive; we are not prudes but the ship knew there were 400+ children on this sailing and we thought some of the dancing could have been toned down a bit.
One comedian was outstanding – the other was a bomb.
Food, compared to other cruises we have been on, was only fair to good. The buffets were pretty good overall. Not much cut-up fresh fruit however, which we really missed. The burgers at the outdoor café were terrible- over-cooked, dry and cold. The pizza was not much better. The menus in the main dining rooms were quite confusing- they seemed to try too hard to make dishes sound good, but they actually did not taste that good! We really did not enjoy most dinners. We did eat at 2 of the specialty restaurants – East Meets West (Steak) and Le Bistro (French). These 2 meals were outstanding!! Actually, more along the quality of dinners we have experienced on other lines, but you pay the extra charge for these meals on the Sun.
The main issue I want to address in this review is the Freestyle Cruising concept. This was our first time on a Freestyle Cruise. We thought it would give us more flexibility in planning our day/evening and dinner would not take as long since we would be eliminating the waiter “chit-chat”. However, we found our actual experience to be to the contrary. Traveling with a large group – it was tough for them to accommodate our group of 9 – they either squeezed us into a table for 8 or put us at 2 tables near each other. Also, since we did want to see the various evening shows and were a large group, we found we still needed to set a time to eat dinner. The biggest issue was that we found dinner actually took LONGER than with the traditional “same waiter every night”. Especially with a large group of varying ages, everyone has their dining idiosyncrasies. (the men wanted iced tea every night, one couple liked an assortment of cheeses brought at the beginning of each dinner, one child always wanted the sauces on the side, etc. etc.) So, rather than the same waiter learning our dining preferences, we found we had to explain these things at each dinner - hence dinner took much longer.
Bottom line - we think freestyle cruising would probably work best for 2 people traveling together who can make decisions on the fly, but it did not work out well for a large group.
In general, our experience on the Sun was good, though not exceptional. I doubt we would recommend the ship when we have had better experiences on other ships/lines.