March 11, 2007
My husband and I went on this cruise 3/11 – 3/18. This was our 4th cruise, 1st with NCL. We have previously been on Carnival Imagination in 2001, RCCL Grandeur in 2003 and Carnival Miracle in May, 2006. Overall, I would consider this cruise incredibly…. average.
This was the first time we have been to the new NOLA terminal and things went very smoothly. We drove in from Alabama on Sunday morning, about a 4 ½ hour trip, parked in the deck and got in line for the metal detectors then in line for check in. We were in line about 15 minutes, took the mandatory embarkation photo and were on board by 1:30 p.m. We had an outside room on Deck 4 and were a little disappointed with it. On the Miracle, we had been upgraded to a balcony room, which was very nice, and though we knew a standard outside room would not be exactly the same, the room was a good bit smaller than expected. Décor was the standard cruise type so we did not love or hate it. Bathroom was adequate and hubby loved the shower. Always lots of hot water and plenty of water pressure. Our cabin stewardess Minnie was lovely. We tend to be pretty low maintenance, only needing fresh towels and the bed straightened and she kept us happy in those regards. It was spring break week and lots of students on board. I'm sure their rooms were in need of a bit more attention!
I decided to try NCL because of the "Freestyle" dining and the experience was OK. On previous cruises, hubby and I usually just eat the buffet all week because we don't like sitting with people we don't know (daughter says we're anti-social, I say we're just shy). I like being able to eat when and where we want, but the food, in general was just OK. We didn't starve, but weren't very excited either. The main restaurants were nice, but served the same menus every night. Also, one night we didn't get dessert. Our server picked up our dinner plates and never came back. We sat about 10 minutes then left. The buffet was good for breakfast and lunch. Breakfast was the same stuff every day, but several options so you didn't have to eat eggs and bacon every day. Waffles were good. They are served in the Pacific Heights restaurant so you have to look for them. There was an omelet station somewhere, but we never found it. Lunch was typical buffet stuff and the outdoor café served hamburgers, hot dogs, salads, etc. They always seemed to be out of hamburgers though. Pretty popular I guess. Buffet dinner was not good, not much variety of entrees. Salad bar was good though and we ate lots of salads!
Entertainment was pretty good. I agree with several others I've read on here, the Jean Ann Ryan dance Company was wonderful. Their production of Cirque Pan was amazing! Didn't see the hypnotist or comedian. Chantz Powell is a good entertainer. Hard to believe he's only 19! The talent show on the last night was fun.
Now to the part we really didn't like – onboard activities. Since we've been on 3 previous Western Caribbean routes, we've done Costa Maya, Cozumel, Belize before. On Tuesday we stopped in Costa Maya, where we've been 3 times before so we decided to stay on the ship. On previous cruises, there are lots of things going on poolside even on port days. Not on the Sun! No band, no hairy chest contest, no ice sculptures, nothing but servers hocking helmets of beer and drinks of the day! Most of the Costa Maya day NCL workers were around the pool deck grinding rust off of hand rails! Very disturbing. More of the same in Guatemala. I wasn't feeling well that day (allergy attack/sinus infection I'm still fighting with) so we stayed on the ship and played cards inside (I couldn't listen to the grinding anymore). Once we got to Belize, though we didn't have an excursion booked, we went onshore just to get off that boring ship for a while. Here you'll find the standard tourist area but everything was nice and clean and unlike Mexico and Jamaica, there weren't people every 3 feet screaming at you to buy something. We stopped at the Iguana Rana for fish & chips and a couple of Belkin beers (made locally). Hubby said the beer was good, but I'm not a beer drinker so I took his word for it. Last port was Cozumel and we spent the day at Playa Mia. Fairly crowded but a pretty nice day. Lots of activities, parasailing, jet skis, etc. We booked the excursion on the ship so we had use of non-motorized toys, lunch buffet and the most important part – open bar. Good pina coladas and bottled water was nice. We got a couple of extra bottles to take back on the ship. Lunch was pretty good and it was an overall nice day. I would definitely recommend going to Playa Mia if you just want a day to relax or if you enjoy lots of water activities. Good excursion for the whole family.
The entertainment staff are very fond of game shows on this ship and that's about it. They had the Newlywed game, Family Feud, Weakest Link and a Jeopardy style game. Of course, they strongly encouraged visiting the bars and shoved Bingo down your throat. The bands on board were, what little we saw of them, not the greatest. One reggae band that played by the pool only played for a couple of hours on sea days. The other club band was not that good either. Hubby and I enjoy sitting back listening to some music but we just couldn't cut these folks.
As I said, I tried NCL because of the Freestyle thing, which is a good concept, but not well organized on this ship. I don't think we'll be cruising NCL again, definitely not the Sun again.