We just got back from 12 days on a Canada/New England Cruise on the brand new Norwegian Sun. It is a beautiful ship. It looks like they didn't cut costs on the building and interior design. There is lots of dark shiny wood and ... Read More
We just got back from 12 days on a Canada/New England Cruise on the brand new Norwegian Sun. It is a beautiful ship. It looks like they didn't cut costs on the building and interior design. There is lots of dark shiny wood and the show room is gorgeous. This was our first time for Freestyle Dining. The Garden Cafe on the 11th deck is far too small. Passengers save tables and it is impossible to find a table at mealtimes. The line advertises dress as casually as you like and it is taken literally. On formal night those in tux and gown were seated next to jeans and tee shirts. They request no jeans, tank tops, shorts or tee shirts after 5:30 PM, but this does not sink in with the passengers. The service in the dining rooms was very slow. Often we would sit for ten to fifteen minutes between courses. Lunch took 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Could this be to send the passengers to the Garden Cafe for meals? The new Freestyle includes charging your tips to your bill at $10 per day. That is fine, but it doesn't give the waiters much incentive to give good service. We found an excellent waiter (the exception) in one of the dining rooms and tried to reserve a table in his section for other nights. Reservations are taken only for 5:30 or 8:30. Thus you don't "dine whenever you want". The entertainment was very good. A large dance ensemble of about 18 singers and dancers. Very talented and good looking group. One of their shows The Producers did segments of many Broadway Shows. It was very good. The other shows looked like fun for the dancers, but weren't all that great for the passengers. One was a Salsa Show with the songs mostly in Spanish. Not exactly a sing along or songs one would remember. The first show was something about Peter Pan but no one could figure out just what was happening. Marty Allen and his wife were on and put on a fine show. Marty mingled with the passengers all week and endeared himself to many. This was a first cruise so there are probably bugs to be worked out in the dining room, but it seemed suspicious to all on board. Security was very tight and the Coast Guard was patrolling in the Boston Harbor. All in all I loved the ship, but have apprehensions about the Free Style and Tipping. Lamogg@aol.comOctober 2001 Read Less
I was fortunate enough to have been invited on the Norwegian Sun's Pre-Inaugural cruise to nowhere from Boston. Having had 3 positive experiences on the Norwegian Sky, I was looking forward to this new vessel, especially since it ... Read More
I was fortunate enough to have been invited on the Norwegian Sun's Pre-Inaugural cruise to nowhere from Boston. Having had 3 positive experiences on the Norwegian Sky, I was looking forward to this new vessel, especially since it is the first ship specifically built for NCL's Freestyle Cruising concept. The ship itself is almost identical to her sister the Sky. The most noticeable improvement onboard the Sun is the increased cabin size. We had a suite on Deck 11 (cabin 1009) and it was much larger than the suite we had onboard the Sky. The cabin was well appointed with 2 twin beds (convertible to a queen), desk, tv, refrigerator, sitting area with a sofa bed, chair and coffee table. There was plenty of storage space in and around the desk/vanity area as well. The bathroom was very spacious and well laid out. Prior to entering the bathroom, you had a walk in closet with ample drawer space, a small vanity/sitting area and a safe for personal items. The bathroom itself was huge by ship standards and had a full Jacuzzi tub and plenty of storage around the sink. The balcony was of decent size, however the 2 chairs were very small and most uncomfortable-- it almost seemed like they borrowed this furniture from the children's play area. Unfortunately, the decor and the improved cabin layout was the best part of this ship. The service was spotty at best. It took at least 10-15 mins to be acknowledged at any of the outdoor pool bars and the service at the indoor bars/lounges wasn't much better. NCL has never impressed me with their service and I must say they have remained consistently below par onboard the Sun. Another annoyance was the fact that with 9 restaurants onboard, only 3 offer "free" meals. The Bistro is still $10.00 per person, however the Japanese restaurant and a few others were priced A'la carte. It kind of defeats the purpose of having so many choices if one must pay extra to enjoy this experience. Another annoyance the necessity to have reservations to dine in these alternative restaurants.. so much for Freestyle dine when you want, where you want! We were unable to arrange reservations in any restaurant but the Italian one, and after dining there we know why it was so easy.. the food was inedible and we sent it back and headed to the main dining room for dinner. The service in the dining room was horrid-- after receiving menus it took almost 30 mins before our order was taken and it was at least that long before anything was brought to the table. Bread finally arrived, without butter, and in the absence of any wait staff we were unable to locate any. The salad was limp and soggy, like the dressing was placed on it hours prior to our dining. We ordered the Prime Rib, which was like shoe leather, dry and over cooked, and the accompanying mashed potatoes were INSTANT and not even real!! Needless to say most of this meal remained on the plate. Still hungry after visiting 2 restaurants, we decided maybe a slice of pizza would hit the spot-- WRONG-- they slammed the door of the Pizzeria in our faces. This was the first in over 30 cruises where we went to bed hungry. Breakfast wasn't much better, thank goodness we have a Duncan Donuts on every corner in Boston!! This was a huge disappointment, especially since we didn't have a bad meal during any of our cruises on the Sky last year. The entertainment onboard was excellent. We saw the main review show modeled after Cirque d' Soleil, and we also listened to a variety of bands in the lounges all of which were good. The late night comedy show was also entertaining. The casino was a bit tight on the payouts, but still a lot of fun. While it was nice to see the newest kid on the block, the poor service, and horrible food would prevent me from ever sailing on this ship in the future. I'm not a huge fan of NCL, and while I've had good experiences on the Sky, I've had too many bad experiences on their other ships. I'll be sticking to Royal Caribbean and Princess and a few others for my future vacationsbob.deagazio@worldtravel.comOctober 2001 Read Less
We just returned from the NCL Norwegian Sun's maiden voyage. The ports of call were great. We went to LeHavre, Cobe in Ireland, Glasgow/Edinburgh, Reykjavik, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and disembarked in Boston. The ship is ... Read More
We just returned from the NCL Norwegian Sun's maiden voyage. The ports of call were great. We went to LeHavre, Cobe in Ireland, Glasgow/Edinburgh, Reykjavik, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and disembarked in Boston. The ship is beautifully designed and handled the rough seas of the northern Atlantic very well. The food was comparable to most cruises we have been on and the variety was excellent. We had an inside cabin an found it very adequate for our needs. However we were disappointed with the cruise for the following reasons: 1. We were happy with the casual dress code for the dining room but we did not like the free style dining which allowed you to enter the dining room any time from 6 to 10 P.M. The festive air of the dining room when everyone enters at the same time is lost. 2. NCL has no provisions for obtaining local money before you disembark for a port. This was very difficult when we were in a port on the weekend and the banks were closed. 3. Seventy percent of the crew were first time sailors from Asia and communication was very difficult. The dining room crew was particularly inept. Two and a half to three hours were the norm for lunch and dinner because most of the time they got your order wrong. 4. We were at sea for 8 of the 16 days. NCL did not schedule many activities for these days so at-sea time was quite boring. There was no theatre on board and they played the same 4 movies on your room tv for the entire cruise. 5. The spa had excellent equipment but it wasn't large enough for a ship that holds about 2000 passengers. 6. All the floral decorations on the ship were artificial. Tacky All in all we felt the absence of luxury as compared to HAL, Princess and Royal Caribbean. They had a Java Bar that served exotic coffees and pastries at a price, but they charged you for an ordinary cup of coffee or tea also. There also is a buffet area open 24 hours and 3 other special dining rooms that you can make reservation in and pay $10/person. The meals were excellent and the ambiance was super. The help in these rooms were excellent. In time the crew should mature but their incompetence on our cruise was frustrating. We expected some technical problems on a maiden voyage but not a crew problem. Usually they take experienced crew from other ships and fill in the other ships with a small amount of inexperienced crew. They didn't this time. HWeiner697@aol.comOctober 2001 Read Less
We recently returned from the November 3-16th inaugural repositioning cruise of the Norwegian Sun (Boston to Miami with stops in Norfolk, Charleston, San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Aruba) and thought that I'd post a few of our ... Read More
We recently returned from the November 3-16th inaugural repositioning cruise of the Norwegian Sun (Boston to Miami with stops in Norfolk, Charleston, San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Aruba) and thought that I'd post a few of our observations. The ship is absolutely gorgeous! We had an outer cabin (without balcony) on Deck-4 (4010). There was a very large round porthole...about 48" in diameter with an unobstructed view. The room was quite spacious and had 2 twin beds that could be repositioned to a King Size if desired. We loved the down comforters! There was more than adequate hanging closet space and numerous drawers in the combination desk/dresser/mirror unit. The bathroom was adequate with a shower only but very good water pressure. The TV had limited live options (TNT and CNN on Satellite feed) and a pretty good selection of series reruns although we had run through the complete selection of WEST WING, Friends and Suddenly Susan by the 4th day at sea. Probably a dozen movie selections were available on a 2-hour rotating basis. We are reserving our opinion on the FreeStyle [Dining] concept. Great idea but the staff needs a lot more training and lots of language problems with the mostly Philippine and Romanian waiters. About 50% of the time, the service was marginal with very long delays! Overall, the food in the 2 main dining rooms and the 2- hour Garden Cafe was good to excellent. I would not say the same for the "alternative" dining rooms-poor service, mundane selections and we object to the $10.00 per person cover charge and the Ala-carte pricing in the Ginza and East Meets West rooms. The Internet Cafe is an interesting concept but the cost is prohibitive at 75 cents per minute and a charge of $3.95 for an outgoing message is outrageous! And lest I forget, the cruise was supposed to be 14 days but was cut to 13 and the scheduled stop at Bonaire was eliminated. Perhaps because the ship left from Boston instead of New York? More likely it was because NCL wanted to meet up with the Norwegian Star for a joint christening and publicity cruises to nowhere on the 16th. All in all, mostly a great trip and the problems experienced will probably be addressed on subsequent cruises. We would sail again on the SUN! jd3@cfl.rr.comNovember 2001 Read Less
Overall impression - beautiful new ship, friendly crew, food adequate to good, service good, entertainment excellent, positives far outweigh the negatives. This was our eighth cruise, and our views must be evaluated in the context of ... Read More
Overall impression - beautiful new ship, friendly crew, food adequate to good, service good, entertainment excellent, positives far outweigh the negatives. This was our eighth cruise, and our views must be evaluated in the context of prior experience with RCL, Celebrity, NCL and even the QE1 (no I am NOT THAT old!!). I am 60 and my wife is younger no more comment on that on pain of marital discord. I generally try to take a positive, half-full, approach, so take my comments accordingly. Since the November 3 repositioning cruise departed from Boston, the efficiency of the boarding process may not be relevant to those considering her regular itinerary. The process was unremarkable, which is a 'good thing'. There was an ongoing buffet in the Garden Cafe and Great Outdoor Cafe and our first experience with the various food stations that are set up in the Garden Cafe during breakfast and lunch. More on the quality of the food later. Orienting oneself on the ship was fairly straightforward. There are clear schematics of all the decks by each elevator bank. Because there are so many restaurants on the Sun, these proved very helpful. Our outside cabin was simply decorated and efficiently designed. The dEcor was passable but no more than motel level style. Storage space was ample, even for a 13 day cruise. Luggage could be stowed under the beds, although oversize suitcases will not fit under and either have to be left on the 'mini'-sofa or storage elsewhere requested. Bathroom small (of course) but well designed. This was our first encounter with freestyle dining, and we went with no preconceived notions. I had read the reactions of others who experienced poor or surly service and long waits to be seated. We never had to wait more than 5 minutes, and most nights there was immediate seating. The staff made every effort to sit us where we wanted on those occasions when we requested a window table. We were always asked whether we wanted to sit by ourselves or 'join' a table. Almost always we opted to join, since meeting new people is always a highlight of cruising. Obviously, some tables proved more interesting than others, but on balance the experience was very positive. We particularly liked the ability to dine whenever we wished. Service was surprisingly good. My personal rule of thumb is the iced tea refill test. If I have never to ask for a refill of iced tea, service is good. At most meals service was prompt and extremely friendly. There were some language and accent problems, but this will likely improve. Conversations with management level restaurant personnel showed recognition of the lingering problems of adapting to freestyle dining as well as training a new crew. They regarded the first month or two after launch as training voyages. While we didn't speak with many of the crew about their view of tipping under the freestyle system, most of those to whom we spoke noted the unfortunate problem of being stiffed by some passengers under the old system. How they will make out under the freestyle system is still an open issue. The food was generally good. Not as good as Celebrity, but in the same league as we experienced on recent RCL cruises. As with any large group, some passengers expressed their love of it and others their extreme dislike. Of the two main dining rooms, we preferred the Seven Seas by far. The dEcor is far more pleasant and muted than the Four Seasons, which is somewhat garish with the red carpet. We tried Le Bistro - the food was very good, but not 5 star quality - and the setting and service were first rate. It was worth the $10/person surcharge. Pacific Heights, the Cooking Light restaurant, was good, particularly the lentil soup and the room itself is nicely designed and decorated. We did not try Il Adagio - heard very mixed reviews; also no experience with Teppanyaki or other specialty venues. We did like Las Ramblas for tapas and flamenco guitar. Only midnight buffet was Chocoholic buffet - not as good as we remember on prior NCL cruises. Never had breakfast in the main dining rooms - always went to Garden Cafe - why get up early!! Some lunches there as well. I particularly liked the Indian food station. Barbecue each afternoon at Great Outdoor Cafe was good when they did ribs. Hamburgers were ordinary. Traffic flow in Garden Cafe was problem at times. Design of coffee, iced tea, juice like could have been better - had to reverse directions against line if you wanted to put cream in coffee - minor but annoying issue. Food in Garden Cafe was passable - was open 24 hours, ongoing stream of pastries, hot dishes, pizza, late night mini hot dogs, egg rolls, sandwiches, etc. Good location for late night conversations and socializing after shows. There was a problem with water leaking from ceiling of Garden Cafe - apparent condensation from cold water pipes. We had a long discussion with Peter, the frenetic Polish/French Canadian/ soon to be Arizonian asst. maitre'd in charge of the Garden Cafe. Many of the staff are new hires with no prior experience. Majority appear to be from Philippines, India and Romania. He recognizes that there is still much to be improved, but said the crew has made progress and things have gotten far better. He is a perfectionist, and it remains to be seen whether he will drive himself to distraction trying to whip the crew into shape, or the crew will survive to meet his demands. The entertainment was first rate. We have seen the Jean Ann Ryan productions on the Norway and Dreamward, but their shows on the Sun were excellent. Singers were very good. Sam, who played Capt.Hook in 'Cirque Pan' has a scholarship to study opera, and the quality of his voice was clearly evident. Since this was a 13-day cruise, there were 3 Ryan productions, and additional entertainers were brought on board to fill out the cruise. Don't know which will be used on the regular 7 day itineraries, but almost all would do a more than adequate job. The theater itself, the Stardust Lounge, provides good, unobstructed seating. The most comfortable seats are moveable seats in the first half dozen rows. The seating in the fixed theater type seats behind and in the balcony is uncomfortable and poorly designed. Also, the cocktail tables in the first few rows make getting in and out difficult. There were a variety of lounges - most with good pianists/singers, etc. Various trivia games, art auction, bingo etc. There are two pools on Deck 11, with 4 hot tubs in-between. Often hard to find seating near the pools, but pleasant area to relax. There are sports facilities - golf driving area (enclosed netted area), batting cage - which I never saw or looked for, basketball, and a large and well-equipped gym. The gym was open 24 hrs and equipment was plentiful - bikes, treadmills, elliptical, steppers, free weights and good variety of Cybex machines. Our greatest objection was to the loudspeaker announcements in the dining rooms, during meals, by the art director/auctioneer. He projects the approach and energy of a used-car salesman on steroids - a cross between the ginsu knife pitchman and circus barker. I know he wants to sell his paintings, but the high powered and high volume pitch is not welcome during lunch. On the positive side, credit to the photographers for not insisting on taking one's picture when he was asked not to or to wait till another day. syz802@earthlink.netNovember 2001 Read Less
...I have to say that THE NCL SUN is a beautiful ship when viewed from ashore. However that impression soon changes when you step aboard. I have recently returned from the 12-day New England/Canada cruise followed by the 13 (Was to be ... Read More
...I have to say that THE NCL SUN is a beautiful ship when viewed from ashore. However that impression soon changes when you step aboard. I have recently returned from the 12-day New England/Canada cruise followed by the 13 (Was to be 14 ) day re-positioning cruise to the Caribbean. 25 days of complete boredom. On Day 3, I had an interview with the Hotel Director, to whom I had addressed a number of complaints. I took with me someone who had been on 65 cruises and who had much experience of cruising. The Director that he was sorry that the ship did not please us but that NCL have their reasons for operating in this fashion and they cannot alter their procedures to facilitate a few minor problems relating to passenger comfort. My initial complaint was that the toilet paper was like sandpaper. No changes occurred. Our inside cabin was adequate although small with not much storage space. However having completed the first cruise and becoming eligible for the Captain's Club membership we were transferred to a much larger cabin with a greater amount of storage space. Also we were moved from deck seven to deck nine. I did hear of a number of two cruise passengers who went the other way and as low as deck 4. Another thing is the pricing of the cruise, passengers travelling in the same cabins as others, just like flying where everyone pays a different fare for the same flight. I met a Canadian couple who were on both cruises and they Paid $11,000.00 Canadian dollars for an inside cabin excluding air, we paid under $6,000.00 Canadian dollars for the same quality cabin. All things are not equal. There is nothing free about "FreeStyle Dining", You can't eat when or where you might like to do so., in any dining room, or with whom you may wish to dine. In the two Main dining salons, The Four Seasons and Seven Seas you may eat Breakfast-lunch or dinner where you are put and at two designated times, for dinner 6 and 8 pm. Needless to say we cannot all be seated at the same moment so it is a gradual system and not helped by loudspeaker announcements from higher echelons trying to sell their wares or by photographers taking your picture. Now we have settled into our seats and are ready to partake of a nice meal whether it be breakfast-lunch or supper. I'm afraid you are out of luck there as well, you pick-up the menu and if you find anything on it that interests you, better luck next time. The choices are limited, and what arrives on your plate is mediocre. Regardless of where you eat. We tried Pacific Heights, but were not pleased, we did not try any of he other pricey restaurants. Food quality and choices in the Garden cafe, or outdoor Cafe were the same - poor. Freestyle Dining also carried with it an entry of $10.00 a day supposedly to cover tips or gratuities to the staff anywhere, either in dining rooms or cabin attendants or waiters, in any eating area of the ship. This $10.00 item was charged to every passengers account aboard the ship, but one could opt-out of the system. That system of tipping does nothing for encouraging staff to do a better job. The female staff on board did an excellent job and tried their best, the male staff with few exceptions were the exact opposite. With no incentive to do better they didn't even try. One other thing regarding dining, the coffee bars were a design fault in the ship and should be changed. Entertainment on the ship was also mediocre. The Jean Ann Ryan Company are a bunch of amateurs doing the best they can which is not top flight. In between nights were filled with comedians or jugglers, hardly top flight entertainment. Even the seating in the Stardust lounge was uncomfortable. The seats up front, you slipped forward as you sat, the seats in the back were uncomfortable and poorly designed. For other entertainment there were TV's in every cabin showing four movies rotating at two hour intervals for twelve days, but you could also watch CNN or TNT or the bow of the ship. There were occasional Trivial games, art auctions, bingo (at exorbitant prices), photos to look at, casino, The Company Store otherwise known as the Galleria selling anything that the normal housewife desires like Columbian Emeralds, Diamonds, gold watches clothing (also available on Rodeo drive, and sundry other items too expensive to mention). And of course there were seminars to help you remember where you kept your wallet, financial seminars, where to put your millions OR you could watch a TV in DAZZLES showing one of the movies available on cabin TV to an audience of passengers. I asked a cabin attendant what would happen if I gave him a tip and he said that the management would ask him if he received one and if he said yes, they would extend their hand and expect him to hand it over, but if he said that he did not get a tip (and he did) they would send him home. A great way to run a ship One of the Dining room female staff told me there were days when she and others worked twenty-one hour days. I thought slavery was done away with years ago. I don't gamble, rarely touch alcohol, rarely go on arranged shore excursions, but when I make reservations to travel somewhere on a cruise, I expect impeccable service, above average quality food and served by professionals. Anyone going on an NCL SUN cruise will get none of the preceding offerings. They will pay Top Dollar for poor service, inadequate selection, and below average food choices. There will be few opportunities to enjoy the company of new friends because the company goes out of their way to discourage new relationships because everyone spends so much time complaining about the poor quality of everything that they don't have any time left to make new friends. The service given by an inexperienced female staff from undeveloped countries like Romania, is exemplary. They are all so afraid of losing their jobs, that they will do anything, work longer hours and then put up with the company claiming their gratuity, and who knows what they do with it? Male staff have the same problems but they come from Countries like India and the Phillipines, where they have been stepped on for years. Their attitude is, who cares. .Anyone wishing more information may contact me directly. Needless to say, I will never go on another NCL cruise even if it is FREE. I have only been on one cruise prior to traveling on NCL. That was a seven-day cruise to Alaska on CELEBRITY INFINITY. Not everything about that cruise was fantastic, they liked to plug their shore excursions and their expensive jewelry sales, and their photo sessions, but the food was excellent, had great selection and choice and was prepared and served professionally. The entertainment was great and in comfortable surroundings and there were many things afoot to entertain the passengers. Perhaps the Officers on NCL should take a cruise on Celebrity to see how it is done. They might learn a thing or two. Enough said, enjoy your cruising, but take my advice and don't go NCL. gkinnear@hurontel.on.caDecember 2001 Read Less
Big snafu at Port of Miami during check in!!! The people in the suites (6 others besides us) were not issued security key cards...asked three different people who all said we would receive them on board...NOT! Security obviously won't ... Read More
Big snafu at Port of Miami during check in!!! The people in the suites (6 others besides us) were not issued security key cards...asked three different people who all said we would receive them on board...NOT! Security obviously won't allow you to board without one...DUH! Four Seasons (mid-ship) restaurant food was never hot, only lukewarm so beware! Four Seas (aft ship) restaurant had much hotter food (same menu but the hot food was HOT!), a better wait staff (ask for Charles' or Clive's tables if you dine there!) and a Matre D' who was watching the staff like a hawk to make sure the guest was being taken care of. Biggest surprise was the Pacific Rim Restaurant...don't let the Cooking Light menu scare you away...it was fantastic! Intimate restaurant with a great staff! I heard that the PAY restaurants were good too but excuse me, I thought that the $10/person cover charge excess in a couple of restaurants (other cruise lines don't charge as much) and some of the dishes at the a la carte restaurant went up to $75 per item! We've cruised with NCL 6 times now (2x Wind, 1x Majesty, 1x Leeward, 1x Norway, 1x Sun) and there have been major changes in the operation of the ships since Star Cruise Line bought NCL about a year ago and most are for the worse! Freestyle cruising is great if you never want to dress up....even on formal night only about 35%-40% of the people dressed up. We (7 of us) were all in our long gowns and tuxs at dinner and two tables down there were people in loud tropical print shirts and shorts....excuse me but either require formal wear in one restaurant on formal night or get rid of formal night totally. Most people we spoke with on the cruise who have sailed with NCL in the past all agreed that the food has definitely gone down hill fast. Changes to the Kids Crew now basically keeps the kids locked up in the same room all night until 10pm....no one under the age of 13 is allowed to sign themselves in or out anymore (it used to be 9 years old). I have a 10 1/2 year old who has been signing in and out for the past 2 years and a 15 year old who couldn't wait to go to the teen events. Both of them went the first night or two then stated it was boring and didn't want to go anymore. These are two kids who would literally have to be chained to their seats at dinner because they wanted to go to these kids events who now didn't want to go. Our last cruise was just 5 months prior to this cruise (on a different cruise line) so I don't believe it was just a "phase" as they both couldn't wait for the kids crew to begin each night. If you want to see any type of entertainment you will need to eat at either 5:30PM (remember it takes about 1.5 - 2 hours for dinner) or wait until about 9:00PM....the shows are now scheduled earlier than normal on theme nights because they weren't getting enough people to go at 11:30/11:45pm for the theme parties (per the cruise director Denny Anderson) and they wanted to move them up so that the theme parties could start at 11:00 p.m....not many people went to them still! By the way, sea day daytime entertainment is definitely lacking with huge gaps of time between events). We are looking for a next cruise to go on and it definitely will not be on NCL again. My goal is to find a family friendly cruise line that can serve a hot meal hot and entertain me too! By the way...the parking lot attendant at the Port of Miami asked us what we thought about the freestyle cruising on NCL...we were honest and told him we weren't happy for the most part with the changes...he in turn told us that the majority of people he's come into contact with after an NCL cruise have also said the same things. paintont@msn.comDecember 2001 Read Less
Let me begin this review by saying that those of you who have cruises scheduled for this ship need not worry about the initial negative reviews. They are history! Our cruise wasn't "perfect" but we enjoyed ourselves and ... Read More
Let me begin this review by saying that those of you who have cruises scheduled for this ship need not worry about the initial negative reviews. They are history! Our cruise wasn't "perfect" but we enjoyed ourselves and wouldn't hesitate for a moment to sail the NCL Sun on this itinerary again. EMBARKATION With all the airport hassles, we opted to drive from the NJ/PA area to Miami. It was fun reliving all the childhood drives to Florida: South of the Border, Stuckey's, etc. But enough old memories. We arrived at the Port between 12:30 - 1PM. No problems parking the car, but it was a good thing we arrived early, as it appeared as though lots of other folks also thought it was a better idea to drive to Miami instead of fly. The terminal already had a huge line of folks waiting to get on to the ship. We waited about an hour on line before we even saw a ticket attendant. Once we saw the attendant we understood well why it took so long: they did more than just check your ticket and passport. You also set your shipboard account up at that time. There were three of us and it took about 5 minutes per person for the ticket attendant to set up our accounts. We were in our cabin shortly after 2PM. CABIN We were in suite 1201 on the Pool Deck. This was a category AE forward-facing suite with a balcony. The majority of the cabins on the Pool Deck were category AE. There were two forward-facing AA Owner's suites, two forward-facing BA category cabins, and two forward-facing AE category suites on that deck. The forward facing cabin that we had was slightly wider that the other AE suites on that deck. It also had a larger balcony that was made of teak. The balcony was able to hold two full-sized deck chairs and two chaise lounges. If I were to take a rough guess, I'd say that this balcony was close to double the size of the other AE suite balconies. The only complaint we had was that we wound up with standing water on our balcony. We phoned in a complaint and maintenance person came in to look at it and told us that the water was there because they had washed the decks above us and one of the drains was not working properly. Well, it was never fixed despite additional phone calls! Thank you NCL for nothing! But this one negative did not detract from our overall enjoyment of the cruise. The cabin had plenty of room it in for three adult females and could easily house 4 adults. Not once did we feel like we were in each others' way. The cabin had a large sitting area with a fold-out couch and a sleeping area with a king-sized bed. The individual who slept on the couch noted that it was very hard, but the maid was able to supply her with an egg-crate mattress that made sleeping much more comfortable. The bathroom with its separate closet and dressing room was to die for! The toilet was also in its own private area. These amenities certainly added to our feeling as though we were never in each others' way. There was more than enough closet and drawer space to store everything we unpacked. Our biggest concern was how we were going to find everything when we needed to repack! Gentlemen, the only way I can explain that last comment is that it is a female "thing". FOOD The food was good to excellent. We ate in the main dining rooms as well as a few of the specialty restaurants. We had breakfast each morning in the Garden Cafe. I did see the watery scrambled eggs that previous cruisers complained about one morning. I just reached for the eggs toward the back that were out of the water and they were just fine. As a matter of fact I lived long enough to write this review. They do offer eggs made to order as well as a cereal bar. The breads were to die for! Try the multi-grain bread as it is excellent. Because of all the complaints about the buffet food, I made an effort to take note what was served at different times of the day. It is typical buffet/cafeteria food. Nothing to write home about. If you eat it, it won't kill you, but there is better food available on the ship. We ate in both the Four Seasons and Seven Seas Dining Rooms and found the service to be efficient. We were able to finish dinner in about an hour or so each time we ate there. At one point we even felt as though we were rushed out of there. I did not find that offensive, I just felt it was the pendulum swinging the other way after all the complaints about the slowness of the service. The food in the main dining rooms was as good as any fine restaurants. By far the best food we had on ship was at East Meets West. It was so good, we dined there twice. They make a scallop-avocado appetizer that is to die for! Our waiter's name was Made and he was from Indonesia. He was one of the nicest folks we met on the cruise and we had made friends with him before we had left. For you sushi fans, the sushi on board ship was reasonably priced. For about $8, two people can easily fill up. My sister and I recommend trying the Futo Maki rolls. We also tried Pacific Heights one evening. If you're trying to cut back on some calories, this is a good restaurant to try. The food was good and low in fat. They did offer some low calorie versions of typical 'American' fare such as meat loaf and spaghetti and meatballs, but there were also more exotic dishes available that would you not typically make at home. Do try the sangria in the Tapas bar. I enjoyed the ceviche they offered very much. We also highly recommend the Java Cafe. Have Rafael or Mathilde make you a Jamaican coffee one evening. Don't neglect the whipped cream, either. Or the desserts! EXCURSIONS Grand Cayman We did the tour with Captain Marvin's Watersports. We opted for this tour based on all the good reviews of it we read on Cruise Critic. The trip to Stringray City is not to be missed, whether you opt for the ship's tour or Captain Marvin's tour. If you take the ship's tour, make sure it is the one where you actually get in the water with these beautiful creatures. Roatan We did the island tour and beach break at Fantasy Island. The island tour stopped at the airport tower, a resort with artisan shops, Sherman's iguana farm, and the Fantasy Island Resort. The iguanas were pretty neat. Fantasy Island was a nice break after riding in a tour van in which the air conditioning did not work well. Roatan is a poor island that is rich in beautiful beaches and people. Prices there are VERY reasonable and when you see how some of the folks live, you are going to want to leave some money behind. Belize We did the full day tour to the Altun Ha ruins. We were fortunate to be in the first bus that reached the ruins so we had the place to ourselves for a good hour before all the other tour buses got there. The lunch we had was delicious. The boat ride back to Belize City was terrific! We were able to see several crocodiles, one of which exceeded 10 feet, porpoises, manatees, and iguanas. This tour was worth every penny of the $80 per person we paid. Cozumel We did the Passion Island tour with lunch. We were driven to the end of Cozumel island where we boarded a boat to Passion Island. The beach was beautiful and clean, though the water looked a little too rough for swimming that day. There were a few concessions on the beach where you can get a little practice bartering for merchandise before you get your real shopping done. Lunch was served and was quite good. The margaritas were also included in the price. We were back to the ship by 2PM, where we dumped our beach stuff and headed back to town for some serious shopping. Not much to see around the port, but look for good buys in silver and leather goods. My friend thought she did well with a purchase of a blanket for $5 until we spotted billboard on the way home in Florida that advertised Mexican blankets for $3.99! TENDERING There was a bit of a wait, but nothing much to complain about. I did not find the wait to get on the tender any longer that the waits I experienced on the Norway. The wait to get back on the ship was a bit longer now due to the security requirements. Your bags had to go through an x-ray machine and you had to walk through a metal detector. A word of advice: when you get off the tender, walk up the two flights of steps to deck 5 and catch one of the atrium elevators back to your cabin because it's quicker. FREESTYLE CRUISING We liked the freedom of not being locked into a specific eating time. There was never any rush to get ready for dinner or breakfast. What we did not like was NCL's lack of consideration for folks who choose to dine formally on formal nights. Formal to us means formal: people should dress up and not show up to dinner in Capri pants and tank tops or in chinos and golf shirts. What NCL should consider doing is reserving one of the main dining rooms on ship for those who wish do dine in a formal atmosphere on formal nights. When we found nothing that appealed to us in either of the main dining rooms, it was nice to know that we had alternatives available to us and that was another plus of freestyle dining. DEBARKATION This was a no-brainer. You pick up colored tags the day before your cruise ends based upon your cabin location and whether you have to catch a plane or you have other arrangements. You place them on your luggage and it gets carried out in the wee hours of the morning. You leave the ship when the color of your tag is called. The ship cleared customs by 9AM and they began calling tag colors shortly after that. Since we had our own arrangements we could relax and wait on board and observe the frenzy that was taking place below us. What we were able to observe of the earlier departures was that things were really crazy out there with folks waiting on line to board buses to the airport. You do need to be at the airport these days at least two hours prior to your flight departure. If you schedule a flight prior to 11AM and the ship starts letting you off at 9AM at the earliest....well... you do the math!!! OVERALL IMPRESSION This is a beautiful ship with lots of nooks and crannies to explore. The ship was full and not once did we feel crowded anywhere. The three of us would take another cruise on this ship in a heartbeat! And, we would repeat Captain Marvin's Stingray City encounter and snorkeling in the second heartbeat. richtersl@juno.comJanuary 2002 Read Less
DAYLIGHT DREAMS, NIGHTIME SUN At the moment, it is impossible to separate the new Norwegian Sun from the itinerary it has been assigned. Of course, cruise lines often change the assignments given ships, but at the moment of ... Read More
DAYLIGHT DREAMS, NIGHTIME SUN At the moment, it is impossible to separate the new Norwegian Sun from the itinerary it has been assigned. Of course, cruise lines often change the assignments given ships, but at the moment of writing, the Sun sets a course that is a divers and snorkelers dream cruise. Setting sail every Saturday from Miami, the latest Norwegian visitor to the western Caribbean visits Georgetown, Grand Cayman; Roatan in the Bay Islands of Honduras; Belize City in Belize with diving calls to San Pedro; and returns via Cozumel, Mexico. Undoubtedly, these are four of the finest diving sites in the world, and are certainly four of the best in the Americas. The result is almost surreal. Water bugs have a dream world in the daylight, and the Sun at night. And what a wonderful Sun it is. The Norwegian Sun is the first ship designed from start to finish to facilitate NCL's trend setting "Freestyle Cruising". Freestyle is a radical break from the traditions of ocean liners and the first 25 years of the cruising industry, which achieved organization of services by regimenting the passengers. In the traditional system, all passengers were assigned either a first (early), or second (late) seating for meals, at a specific table in the dining room. This had its plusses and minuses for both passengers and staff. The stewards could predict with accuracy when cabins were vacated for cleaning, and the dining room wait staff could learn the preferences of the diners, and arrange efficient service because the likes and dislikes, as well as the number of meals at each sitting, could be anticipated. The passengers got to know certain tablemates very well over the course of the trip, and also developed relationships with the dining room waiters, busboys and other servers. Many passengers were comfortable having their days regulated by the dining hours, and the assignment to first or second seating often evolved from passenger input as early risers ate in the early hours while night people preferred second seating. On the other hand, not every vacationer likes being bossed around. NCL discovered that many people on vacation preferred to make their own schedules, choosing to eat where and when they wanted, attend shows at hours which suited them, and spend more time on shore at ports of call than was sometimes permitted by the early dining schedule. NCL President Colin Veitch noticed that land-based resorts did not operate on early/late timetables, and even before Asian based Star Cruises acquired NCL, Veitch had spearheaded an effort to convert all Norwegian vessels to the Freestyle system. Since then, several other cruise lines, most notably Princess and Carnival, have followed suit to a greater or lesser extent. On the Norwegian Sun, the differences between traditional cruising and Freestyle are most notable in four different areas. First, of course, is the meal service. Passengers do not have assigned meal times. They choose to eat when they want, and the Sun makes this easier by providing no less than nine different restaurants from which to choose. Five of these serve meals that are included in the cruise price, just as always. Two others (one French, one Italian) are very upscale and add a surcharge that really is just the tips for the service staff. The last two are both Asian (one traditional Japanese sushi and teppanyaki, the other California/Asian fusion cuisine) and operate with a' la Carte pricing including live whole lobster offerings. These alternative dining spots fill up quickly, proving the popularity of Freestyle service, and thus reservations are usually required. But the system does not suit everyone. On our trip, the first night out everyone seemed want to eat at the same time in the Seven Seas dining room, creating long lines. At the same time, a passenger could simply walk into the Four Seasons dining room, and the "East Meets West Pacific Rim" fusion restaurant was never busy during our week on board. Our personal method of achieving satisfaction, not to mention dining nirvana, on the Sun was to scout out the menus posted outside the dining rooms during the day. If the main dining rooms had selections we knew we would enjoy, we ate there when we wanted. If not, we called one of the alternative rooms and made a reservation. Both the French and Italian restaurants tend to fill up early, and we recommend reserving one day ahead. I always dodge the main dining rooms on "Caribbean" and "Southwest" theme nights. Also, there is no accounting for taste. My wife and I found the fusion cuisine to be way over the top, and this comes from people experienced in most of America's best restaurants. On the other hand, we thought the Italian restaurant was wonderful, and have had very good experience with the Le Bistros on other NCL ships. We scouted out the buffets nearly every night, and personally thought they were a little thin on choices, but they remain a very solid option for families with lots of little kids or for people who simply don't want to change out of their shorts after daytime activities. The second very noticeable effect of Freestyle is on attire. While NCL encourages at least one "formal" night per trip, there is really nothing traditional about it. There is a Captain's reception (by the way, current Sun Master Trygve Vorren is a very gracious host, and combined with NCL veteran Denny Anderson to create a warm atmosphere on the ship) to kick off the evening, but the biggest mistake NCL makes with Freestyle Dining is in not reserving one of the two main dining rooms for those dressed formally while directing those less dressed to the other room. Certainly on the first night out, this would have cut the line to the Seven Seas dramatically, and frankly, NCL should make more effort to preserve the formal atmosphere for those who want it. Under the Freestyle system, it is still possible for traditionalists to reserve a chosen table and service staff for the whole cruise if they prefer. The third most obvious change brought about by Freestyle is also the most controversial. This is the tipping procedure. All NCL ships now automatically add the "suggested" gratuities rate directly to your shipboard account. If you either think the staff deserves more or less than the standard amounts, you must go to the purser to make the changes or have the tips removed from your account. Needless to say, this makes it harder and more personal for the cheapskates to stiff the staff, but it also makes tipping less personal when the service is good. And many passengers claim that this form of tipping, coupled with the fact that most no longer see the same waiter and busboy every night, allows the staff to coast and provide nothing more than average service. My personal experience on the Sun says this is not the case. The service we received was at least as good, if not better, than on previous cruises, and certainly no worse than the service I received the following week on a different cruise ship. Here's a little trick you might find useful in choosing future cabins. We have found on our last 2-3 cruises that cabins located near or among the suites, regardless of cabin category, receive topnotch service. This was certainly the case for us on the Sun, where our cabin was one of the smaller ones sometimes used as connecting bedrooms for the suites at the very stern of the vessel. As a result, the stewardess assigned to us was the very same stewardess dealing with several of the highest priced rooms on the ship, and we received some of the best cabin service we have ever had. Although there are also effects of Freestyle on other services provided by the staff, and on shipboard and shore activities, the final most noticeable change on the Norwegian Sun came when it was time to go home. And my, was it a pleasant change from traditional disembarkation. Usually, you are required to vacate your cabin very early on the day the ship reaches port, wait in a public lounge or theatre until customs clears the ship, and then sent off in groups (usually organized by colored baggage tags) to collect your luggage and clear customs individually. But on the Norwegian Sun, more staff and a sophisticated computer system means that passengers who do not have early flights are free to remain on board, either in their cabins or on deck, and depart any time after their color group has been called. This system allows the ship to know who has left and who is still onboard, but it allows those with early flights to be assured of getting off first, while those flying later can hang around the ship (much more pleasant than hanging around an airport lounge). What does NCL mean when it says the Norwegian Sun is the first ship "designed specifically for Freestyle cruising"? First, it means that NCL experimented with the system on other ships, including the Sun's sister ship, the Sky, and corrected several problems that surfaced on those ships. That's not to say they got it 100% right, either. But at 78,309 GRT, the Sun is slightly larger than the Sky, mostly expressed in being two feet wider at the beam resulting in slightly larger cabins. People who have been on both say there is clearly more storage room in Sun cabins, and we certainly found there was plenty for the two of us even though I was carrying baggage for another cruise the following week. Secondly, there are two more dining options on the Sun than on the Sky, basically achieved by turning the Sky's wine bar into a Spanish Tapas restaurant on the Sun, and by dividing the Sky's Ciao Chow into the two Asian restaurants. On the other hand, both the Sky and Sun have a couple of major traffic flow problems, the worst of which affects the aft cabins. The problem starts with the fact that there are only two true elevator/stair stacks on the ships. This is then compounded by the fact that on the restaurant deck 5, you cannot get from the back to the front of the ship, and on Decks 6 and 7 you have to walk through bars or the casino to go from aft to bow. Finally, and worst of all, if you live in the back of the Sun, you must either go through the buffet restaurant or the sports bar and Asian restaurants on the Pool Deck to get from your cabin to the swimming pools and sun decks if you use the rear stair stack. And who wants to walk all the way through the ship on a cabin deck to use the forward elevators or stairs? All in all, the Norwegian Sun is a beautiful new ship whose crew has come together quite nicely in her first 90 days at sea. We found none of the mechanical or service glitches reported by cruisers during her early voyages. Expectations are everything on a cruise ship, and we found our only real complaint was something that no one could be expected to do anything about. Our aft veranda cabin got a light dusting of ash from the stacks (and once from the Great Outdoors Cafe barbecue) on several days, but I would think all experienced cruisers would know if you put yourself behind the stacks, you might see some smoke. Our cabin stewardess was aware of the problem and took extra care to keep cleaning the balcony. Perhaps the best innovation on the ship is the Tapas Bar and Restaurant on Deck 12 aft. This particular restaurant features a wide assortment of Spanish tapas, which are bite-sized appetizers. They are included in the price of the cruise just like meals in the main restaurants or the buffet, and they are an excellent alternative on nights when you are not as hungry. In addition to the regular selection of cocktails and beers, this bar also features some of the best sangria afloat. A pretty good flamenco guitar player holds forth as well. Which brings us to the Norwegian Cruise Lines Dive-In Program. The flamenco guitarist's roommate happened to be our favorite Dive-In instructor. NCL has, without question, the best diving and snorkeling excursions of any cruise line. This is mainly and largely because NCL does not hire outside providers for its diving excursions, but instead carries its own staff of certified divers to conduct the programs and serve as tour guides throughout each trip. The advantages of this should be obvious: The instructors answer to NCL, and they cover the same ground every week so they are totally familiar with the dive and snorkeling sites. They are in a much better position to negotiate and interface with the natives who supply the tenders and dive boats as well as those contracted to provide food and other services on shore. This program coupled with this itinerary is what makes the Norwegian Sun cruise different and special. As noted earlier, the ports of call on this trip are four of the finest diving and snorkeling spots you can visit, and when you add in the experience and ability of the Dive-In instructors on the Sun, you get a group of excursions that are truly unique. I am not personally much of a swimmer, but my wife is a water baby. She was in heaven while I merely enjoyed myself, but I think it is obvious that if someone who is not enthralled by the diving experience has a good time on these excursions, they are well planned and executed. NCL always gets high marks from passengers for these programs, but I think they must reach their zenith on the Sun. Now here are some brief comments about the ports. Georgetown and Cozumel are both very entertaining mixtures of shopping and water sports. Generally, when on a cruise, we try to sample the local cuisine when in port, and we found a very nice restaurant called Smugglers Cove in Georgetown (excellent conch fritters!). In Cozumel, having done the Hard Rock and Carlos and Charley's on previous trips, we opted for some very strong margaritas at Palmeras on this trip. Luckily, the Sun docks at the downtown terminal, and we were able to stagger back to the ship. It's amazing when you visit a port several times that you continue to find new places to shop and eat, and indeed we discovered some new streets and bazaars in Cozumel which are a bit off the main street. After several cruises, we also tried one of the Atlantis submarines this time. We found this to be an excellent and well-run excursion, and I think even certified divers would find this another satisfying approach to exploring life under the sea. The company has a large investment in these battery-powered boats, which have operated in safely in Cozumel and other ports for 13 years, and they are worth the relatively high excursion price. For non-divers like my wife and me, they are the only true way to achieve a 150-foot dive. The extremely clear waters surrounding the reefs off Chankanaab Park allow great viewing of the colorful fish, even through thick porthole glass, and you get great pictures as long as you turn off your flash. Because the Atlantis sub can go relatively deep, you sometimes find fish you might not otherwise see. Since I am not as comfortable in the water as is my wife, for me this was one of the highlights of the trip and made a third visit to Cozumel in the last 18 months fresh and interesting. Roatan, on the other hand, has to be one of the poorest places on Earth. Most of the roads are dirt and many of the homes do not have electricity. With no obvious agriculture, the economy seems to depend wholly on tourism. The recent hurricanes had washed out some of the roads, but the local taxi and bus drivers continue to use them. I do not believe that using independent locals for tours, transport or guides is any more risky in Roatan than other island ports, but I would advise sticking with the excursions provided by NCL. I believe, and others have reported, that most of the native school children are permitted to skip class whenever cruise ships are in port. This is because the island is so poor that the residents need every possible opportunity to try to earn a dollar, and this includes the kids. I am pretty sure that one dollar represents a week's living wage for many of these people, and that they exist from one cruise ship to the next. By far the best way to see the island and have a pleasant day on shore is to take one of the island sightseeing tours or an excursion to Tabyana Beach, a resort that is without question the most beautiful the island has to offer. Tabyana also offers the best swimming and snorkeling on an unspoiled living coral reef system. It provides super fish watching in relatively shallow and safe waters. The other new stop for us on this cruise was Belize. If you are interested in archeology and the Mayan civilization, you will probably opt for the tours to Belize City and the various Mayan sites within a 2-hour drive. There is also a cave tubing excursion, which gets excellent reviews from those who take it. We opted instead for the famous shark and ray alley snorkeling tour and a visit to the island town of San Pedro. Although the water is a bit deeper, the ray encounter is similar to Sting Ray City off Grand Cayman. The biggest difference is that the dive boats anchor near the barrier reef for some additional excellent snorkeling tours under the direct guidance of NCL's Dive-In instructors. San Pedro, on Ambergris Caye, is a wonderfully laid back Caribbean tourist town. The beaches are lined with small hotel resorts and timeshares, completely different in feel from the more prosperous and built-up resort islands, yet offering the amenities necessary to attract the North American market. The streets are dirt, the natives and the shopkeepers friendly. English and an English Creole are the main language of this former British colony, so it is a very comfortable place to be. In the final analysis, those travelers with water in their veins probably can't do better than a cruise which takes a first class resort hotel along with them on the trip. Those doing their daydreaming about diving and water sports should take a very long look at this itinerary, and while those for whom every port of call sounds the shopping bell will not be totally disappointed, there are better trips for them than this. The Norwegian Sun is very new, very beautiful, and very well crewed at this point, and will probably only get better as the staff becomes even more experienced and well-trained. Because two ports of call are off the beaten track, it may not be the best choice as a first cruise experience unless you are married to the water. But if you, like me, are often looking to visit places you've not seen before, the Norwegian Sun exotic western Caribbean is a great choice. Socerjim@aol.comJanuary 2002 Read Less
My husband and I just returned from the Christmas sailing on the Norwegian Sun. I always warn my husband not to read the cruise reviews prior to sailing, but he always does. As I expected, he had many negative thoughts about Freestyle ... Read More
My husband and I just returned from the Christmas sailing on the Norwegian Sun. I always warn my husband not to read the cruise reviews prior to sailing, but he always does. As I expected, he had many negative thoughts about Freestyle Cruising. I was appalled after reading many of the reviews after we finished our cruise. We have been on over 20 cruises and felt that this was our best ever. Do some people make themselves happy by complaining? We heard ridiculous complaints from others while on the ship. "They serve the same food everyday in these lunch buffets." I noticed that the variety of food was completely different every day! We really enjoyed Freestyle dining. We never had to wait to eat and never had any complaints about the service. It did appear that the wait staff seemed busier trying to make everyone's dining experience pleasant. However, they were gracious, always smiling, and apologetic if they felt they were making you wait. In fact, we spent less time in the dining room that we did with traditional service. Overall, the food was excellent! My only complaint would be the quality of the meats at the Great Outdoor Cafe. Each time I sampled the grilled steak, pork, or lamb, it was dry and tough. Meats in the two main dining rooms were always tender and excellent. We only dined in the alternative dining rooms once and that was at il Adaggio for $10 per person. I had the shrimp scampi and it was outstanding. The shrimp was larger than I expected on a cruise ship. The same was also true when I had shrimp cocktail in the Seven Seas one night. The tableside preparation of ceasar salad was nice too. The optional restaurants are just that...optional. If you don't want to spend $10 to eat in them, then don't. But then again, don't complain that they are there either. Each night on our cruise, reservations for the alternative dining rooms were full. Somebody must like the idea. The "free" dining rooms provide you with marvelous food that is right on par with most other cruise lines. The Jean Ann Ryan company was outstanding and better than the entertainment that I have seen on many ships. In fact, this company contracts with several other cruise lines. We were also lucky enough to be on board to hear Jane L. Powell sing. We loved her voice so much that we purchased her CD on board. The cruise staff was extremely courteous and helpful. Our cabin steward was perfect. The dining staff admitted that they are all adjusting to the freestyle concept. I certainly had no complaints about the service and disagree with others when they say that the staff is unmotivated to do a good job. We simply did not see this. As seasoned cruisers (I am also a part-time travel agent), we thought that Freestyle Cruising was a breath of fresh air. We would sail the NCL Sun again in a heartbeat. I do think that first time cruisers might like traditional cruising better though. There is something to be said about being herded in and out of a dining room like buffalo and serenaded God Bless America by the wait staff. It certainly is fun. That will be us in March when we sail on the Norway again. This time I will forbid my husband from reading reviews before he sails. He sailed on the Norway once before and knows that he loves it. I have to remember that there are some people who will never be happy no matter what. Read Less
The GOOD the Bad and The Great (out of a possible 10 -) LGA - (8.5)- Check in - organized calm but VERY long lines for check in - even at curbside - I cut the line to meet my friend who had already waited an hour and we then stood there ... Read More
The GOOD the Bad and The Great (out of a possible 10 -) LGA - (8.5)- Check in - organized calm but VERY long lines for check in - even at curbside - I cut the line to meet my friend who had already waited an hour and we then stood there for another 30-45 minutes. Checked in then went to metal detectors where there was another ½ hour line. Can't complain as they warned us ahead of time of these factors and we were prepared. Most people were good natured and patient which made the whole experience easier to handle. Plane - American -(7)- dirty and cramped - snacks were granola or granola. No movie, no announcements. Left on time and stayed in the air. Landed on time (around 12:20 p.m.). Man on my left nice but felt my seat was his seat too. MIA - (8) No one checked to see that we got the right luggage. Long walk to baggage claim check. Then long wait to get it off the carousel. Bathrooms on separate floor. Cabs (9.5) readily available (9)- cost for three of us $24 and we paid total of $30 for luggage and tips. (10 per person No we are not big tippers) ride about 5-10 minutes. To Collins avenue in South Beach. Pre cruise stay- Roney Palace Resort 7 - we got a price line price of 88$ (including taxes) - the room was bigger than my apartment in Manhattan. I am not exaggerating. There were two big beds and a view of the beach, private pool and beach area. Bathroom had separate sink area from the toilet with a walk in closet and an efficiency kitchen. We were supposed to have a snack bar or refrigerator and had neither. Pool was beautiful and heated with two hot tubs available for free use. Beach had nice chairs with umbrella tents for tip type fee - we could not swim because of all the blue jelly fish but it was pretty. - Service here was bad. I don't know if this was because of the renovations or the timing of our visit. Our bathroom broke three times. They finally offered us another room at 2:00 a.m. (which we turned down). Night before we walked around South Beach and ate at NEXT. If you choose to eat there (I recommend going to the nicer places on Ocean Drive instead) share the meals they are HUGE. Lincoln Drive is great for shopping (we got some handcrafted and interesting jewelry and loved the stores) but the real action is on Ocean Drive. If you are just going to have a "snack" or coffee and dessert, I recommend stopping at the sidewalk cafe/bakery called Soprano's or Tiramisu (Not sure) - we had sorbet there that was out of this world. We split tangerine and coconut. Each came in its respective natural shell. Well worth it and watching people walk by while we ate it was great. We walked there (If you are in high heal shoes take a cab - the walk is longer then they let on and all of Lincoln road is a walk too.) The cab back was under $6. The next day Roney Palace held our luggage after check out and we went across the street to LUMS and had a complete and cheap breakfast. Then we went back to South Beach to look around. When we went to pick up our luggage and go to the port, the new person at the desk did not know anything about our luggage and told us to go look for it ourselves. Needless to say we waited until the manager came and had HER find our luggage. Cab to Port - (8.5) this driver did not talk too much and although we were told it would be $17 he charged us $19 for the three of us. We paid him $25 total (easier to divide between three people) Embarkation - Fair 6 -Baggage check and pick up was wonderful - the men were friendly, patient and helpful. -Problems may have been partly our fault - we waited until 3:00 to arrive. We hoped that the lines would be finished and we could just get right on the ship - NOT. The baggage person said the lines were MUCH shorter - I hate to think of what they were like before! - It took us 1 ½ hours to check in and this included waiting on one of those "maze" like lines. We watched the emergency lifeboat drill from the port windows. (Sorry guys that's why I missed our 4:30 meeting in the lounge - I was not on board yet!) The crew was friendly and walked around with juice and water while we waited and we met some nice people on line. It did not have the "herding" feeling of the port in New York or where the Victory docked last year. Hint - 1. people with disabilities were permitted to skip that part of the line that had the escalator but ended up waiting on the same line we were on only about 10 people ahead of us. 2. Have all your luggage tagged before you get there and complete all the forms, including the advance registration. (You can do this over the internet but you still need to bring the print out with you for check in.) 3. Keep your passport(ID) and ticket in easy to reach location as you need to keep taking it out at several points in the process. 4. Be prepared to have your picture taken just before you walk onto the gang plank in customary cruise line manner. - the picture will be discreetly placed in the photo gallery (Hallway between Windjammer/Dazzles and Stardust) for one or 2 days before being removed. -walkie talkies worked. I spoke to my sister who was leaving on Explorer at the same time while in the port. First impressions - (10) - There were three ships docked (that I could see) - Explorer of the Seas (RCL's new ship) - beautiful in green glass and huge - Norwegian Sky with its nose to Norwegian Sun. The two sister ships looked elegant and pretty facing each other. - Getting on board was simple. As in prior reports, we were escorted to our cabins by our steward Maurice - EXCELLENT AND FRIENDLY (although my initial tip may have helped - and we were difficult passengers). The ship was perfectly decorated, festive without being gaudy with artwork of all genres around the ship. A fair amount of medium wood accents were found in each area while each had different atmosphere. Luggage was at our doors when we arrived and I did not hear of anybody having the typical cruise ship luggage delays that causes us all to bring a carryon, "just in case". Stateroom (7.5) Inside room 8306. This was bigger then the Sky???? WOW. Ergonomically designed earns points as does the refrigerator and the large closet. Light switches, once found, were strategically and conveniently placed. Beds were one to one and one-half feet apart. Roomie and I could barely stand together at the same time. Thermostat an issue as my roomie was always cold and I was always hot. Many people complained that the bathroom was always cold while the room was always hot. I missed the towel animals from the other cruise lines. Needed more hooks. When sharing a cabin, cannot hang wet clothes in shower if other person is going to shower. I took pictures that I hope will come out and will post them later on - probably on webshots or something. Amenities provided were basic. Shampoo and soap came out of dispensers - so if you are particular be sure to bring your own. Asst. Capt stated while we were boarding that there were no other cabins - thus no hope of further upgrade to outside cabin. Suggestion of power strip came in handy at the end when I needed to recharge my palm pilot and phone for use in Miami. There are only two outlets in entire cabin - one at "desk" and one in bathroom. I could not use the one in the bathroom as the plug to my hairdryer did not fit. (It is supposed to be adaptable but it was not.) - Speaking of which - the hairdryer in the bathroom was adequate but, if you are like me, and have long hair that curls in humidity, the power of my dryer could not be beat by the ship's hairdryer that resembled a vacuum cleaner. - If space in suitcase is more important to you - you can certainly do with the one they provided I think it had equivalent of a 1000-1200 watt vs. the 1875 now available (Hair dryer users know this code). Dry cleaner Hangers came in Handy for use throughout the cabin and in the closet as there was very little drawer/shelf space so we opted to hang most of our stuff. I think there was more space but we were both petite and it was difficult to use the higher shelves. Getting around the ship (8) was difficult at first, there is no "even/Odd" sides of the ship as on other cruise lines and the numbers are not posted at bottom of stairs but rather at ends of hallways. Maps are by each elevator and were easy to read if you could figure out which was the front of the ship and which was the back in relation to where you were standing - Easy when sober - not so easy when tipsy. Announcements (7) - while I loved the fact that we did not hear announcements every ½ hour like on Carnival, I did not like the fact that (with the exception of the get off the ship announcements at the end) you could not hear announcements in your cabin. They were not sent through the TV or any other means so, if there was an announcement and you were in your cabin, you missed it. Too bad for you. I understand that they do not want to interrupt your sleep but some system should be devised where if you had TV on to a certain channel or flipped a switch, that you would hear them or read them. We missed the "make-up" lifeboat drill also. Bon Voyage sail from Miami (9) - Beautiful sun set. Wait staff trying to sell souvenir glasses without explaining them. Windy but refreshing. I spoke on our walkie talkie to my sister on the Explorer until we exited the port. Great reception and my niece and nephew got a kick out of it. The sunset was beautiful as was the drinks and available food. People were already in vacation mode and friendly and nice. Right from the start I could tell that there was a good variety of age ranges, people, and personalities. Something for everyone. The band was playing in the pool area and music was being piped into the loud speakers. We moved from the front of the ship to the rear and sat in the garden Cafe out door dining area and watched as Miami became a distant light on the horizon. It was a little chilly but it was beautiful and we got the full effect of travelling on a ship. Confetti was given out with streamers. It was my friends' first cruise and one was a little disoriented and discontented while the other was taking a wait and see position. Freestyle Daily (8) this was provided in the cabin the evening before. It was organized by category rather than but time and was often difficult to see what things were on at the same time to make a choice. SUGGESTION TO NCL - put the menus (even if in small print) of the "included" restaurants as well as the pay restaurants in the Freestyle daily to save passengers from having to trek the ship to see if they are interested in that menu or want to reserve in another restaurant. Food - generally (7) - Preface - Look folks, Norwegian is not known for its food! If you expect a better level of food just pretend that your cruise costs $100 more and go to the alternative dining every night. I did not experience nor did I hear of a bad meal at any of the alternative restaurants. In fact, If I was just rating the two alternative dining venues that I participated in (Le Bistro and Ginza) I would raise my review to a 9.0 (points off for running out of lobster at Ginza, serving focaccia bread in my French onion soup and an abrupt waitress at Le Bistro.) We did not go to pacific heights based on fear of my traveling companion after a bad experience with the "cooking light" offerings in Four Seasons. Contrary to this expectation, I heard that pacific heights (healthy-no extra charge) was excellent. I cannot offer an opinion but can only relay what I heard. Both Four Seasons and Seven Seas offered similar if not exactly the same menus with slightly different twists. The food was presented well but I got the impression that the staff still needed to coordinate better. On occasion we received service from a waiter who was short tempered or impatient with us. KUDOS for hiring Gilbert (last name can't remember) from the French restaurant in the Philippines! He was personable, great, got the food on time, without complaint and was always smiling with good advice and suggestions. We only got his station 2 times. Although we asked at EVERY meal to be seated with others, either the timing of our dinner or just chance we ate by our selves. Friday night at Ginza and breakfast on Saturday morning were the only times we dined with others. I was disappointed with almost every fish dish served - they were usually over cooked. Shrimp came out excellent though and on the first day, the shrimp cocktail (3 shrimp) was cooked perfectly and the shrimp were large-jumbo (as opposed to the tiny ones we got on Celebrity and Carnival) - I heard that the Seven Seas served the small ones and I was glad we ended up in the Four Seasons for the first evening. I had a glass of the NCL sparkling white whine for 4.25 (including tip and tax) it was great (keep in mind that while I have experience in dining, I am in no way a wine connoisseur.) (Thank g-d for spell check!) Having been on a cruise before, I was not disappointed on "Lobster" night when the Caribbean lobster tails came out. I love New England/Canadian Lobster - have not acquired a taste for the Caribbean species. Also, the Escargot, highly recommended by previous cruisers was a bit of a shock to my companions. It was served in the , not so classic style without the shell and swimming (literally) in a pool of melted butter and garlic with a gratin on top. It was a little to rich for many - I thought it was good for something you don't eat every day. If the dish was beef - you could not go wrong - it came out exactly as asked for. Lamb was the same. Breakfast in the dining room was better but they serve from 7:30 to 10:30 and my friends enjoyed the freedom and speed of the buffet. HINT - at each restaurant it says on the menu that if you like the side or main dish from another entrEe you can create your own dish and mix and match. Also, it may seem wasteful, but you can order more than one appetizer, salad, soup, main dish - this way if something is not to your liking, you can have something else, and you can taste everything. I did find, that with the Freestyle dining, that if you wanted something different or in addition, that it came quickly. In regular dining on Celebrity and Carnival, you could not get a different dish unless you ordered it at the same time. Also, if you have a room that you don't mind eating in (not like our inside cabin), room service and food therein is free and the breakfast menu is the same - might as well get it to order. Food Recommendations: - ANY Beef dish - if you like beef (The Wellington was a little bit of a let down but it still tasted ok) Rack of lamb. Macadamia nut encrusted shrimp (Big eaters get two or order another dish had 2 shrimp). Chocolate Fondue at Le Bistro - fruit was fresh and ripe and they served only fruit we liked e.g. I am not a cantaloupe fan and they did not include that for me. Grand Marnier SoufflE with Chocolate sauce - better then the meal and too rich. Crepe soufflE in white sauce - same as above but different sauce and cooked in crunchy crepe. Ribs on buffet - offered only one day that I noticed but I may have missed it. Salmon Terrine - smoked salmon encasing scallops, shrimp and lobster meat with a crème fresh/dill sauce. Make your own Trail Mix for excursions and trips from the buffet (No one said you could do this and it worked out well.) TAPAS at Las Rambles - ask for olives and they will give you a delectable plate - you must go up to the service bar to get these and other morsels and appetizers and every time you talk about it people think you are going to the "topless" bar but the snacks are tasty and worth it at least once. Atmosphere was warm and there was a live guitar player there. Sports bar - while I did not partake, the wings and nachos looked tasty. Food LET DOWNS - ALL Buffets. Sprinkles (Ice-cream) was good when there was not a line. The buffet food was fair to blah. Breakfast was difficult. Fruit was rarely good. Basics including cereal, eggs, bacon (you know, all the stuff your doc said not to eat) were ok. Grits were like glue. Pizza - all Sicilian and sat under heat lamps. Hamburger patties sitting in warmers on buffet were less than appetizing. Chocoholics buffet was never refilled and the line went all around the atrium. By the time we got there it was picked apart and nothing looked appetizing. Duck - tasted gamy and the skin was soft. Duck overpowered sauce. No eggs benedict on breakfast menu (a cruising favorite). THINGS TO DO While this is by no means an all-inclusive report, the following are some activities that either myself or my friends participated in. First, the salon, my friend was desperate for a manicure and a pedicure. The staff messed up the appointment and refused to give her the pedicure unless she waited another 1 and ½ hour. She settled for a manicure that was not done properly. · The gym was well appointed and had good equipment. The track around the ship was an excellent walking track that had water fountains at strategic points, was visually appealing outside and inside also. There was a jogging track on the 13 level but I did not get that far up the ship due to the few number of sea days. · The pool was nice as were the four hot tubs in the middle. Kids had their own hot tub but sometimes they would use the pool then force their way into the hot tubs to warm up. No one was around to stop them or direct them elsewhere. Chairs were easy to come by but not so easy to strategically place out of the wind and in/out of the sun depending upon your desires. However, because there were just so many places to sit out on deck on this ship, there was rarely an issue unless people enjoyed getting catty and combative (There are always some on every ship). · The internet area was in the walkway on the 7th floor of the atrium between the art gallery and the casino. There was little or no privacy. Free hour was offered on one day if you read the small print on the Free Style daily. · Art Auctions - if you have money to burn it will appear to be fantastic deals. If you spend you get many freebies. If you don't, you get free champagne, some interesting way to spend the time, entry in a raffle, and a free certified lithograph. · Bingo/ cards - cards are those tickets where you try to get three of a kind and never win. Bingo is self explanatory and on this cruise I did not partake. · Slot/Blackjack tournaments - if you have done it before you know - nothing surprising here. Recommend that you sign up for slots at last possible moment and when there are only one or two opponents to increase your chances of winning a T-shirt. · GALLERY STORE - Surprisingly all prices were reasonable. They were similar to what you would see in any store and the selection was not bad. Thus, if you forget something, you can pick it up in the store. Liquor sales included a bonus present if you bought them before Thursday. · Singles party in Dazzles first night - JOKE - no one even attempted to announce the intention to get the singles together and most people participating were married. I noticed the singles watching from the outskirts then moving on. It looked like fun though and we did watch until the end. · Caribbean deck parties - worth it - be there. SHOWS - (8) - Stardust Lounge. Seating was creative and gave an opportunity to please every type of patron. There were club chairs with small tables in front, theatre chairs in the Mezzanine and in the back at stage level. Just notes, poles blocked many seats in the Mezzanine and the safety rail blocked the stage in front row on Mezzanine if you are a short person. I did not feel the safety rail was that intrusive but some might. Of course there were people saving seats as far as ½ hour in advance. Shows were good but they lacked variety and the timing was poor. I did not see all of them and my opinions are jaded by that fact. I did want to see the acrobatic comedy and caught the tail end of it (it looked excellent) but our dining plans did not coincide with the show. This cruise had 4 ports 4 days in a row so often by the time you got back to the cabin, showered (2 girls 1 shower - you can do the math), strolled/selected a dining venue, ate a 5 or 6 course meal, it was often too late to catch the 9:30 shows. We certainly did not make the 7:30 shows. The Jean Ann Ryan Troupe was very talented. The first show we saw was "Encore Mr. Producer" which was an ensemble piece including scenes from "My Fair Lady", "Les Miserables", and several others. It was performed well, was lively, and the costumes and sets were well done. I give extra points for having one of the male dancers land, shirtless - planned or not - in my lap. The second show I only caught a part of, Cirque Pan - it was a modernized and dancing/musical version of Peter Pan. Because of reasons unrelated to the ship or the troupe, I could not enjoy it and left after three dance numbers. I also don't think that it was my type of entertainment. I did not see any of the comedian's performances but I heard that they were typical of cruise line entertainment. Jane Powell's first performance 2nd show was magnificent! Adding to the excitement was the power outage at the end of her performance where she commenced an impromptu acapella (sp?) routine ensuring everyone that she would leave if there was a true emergency. I missed the second performance in favor of Ginza. I heard that I did not miss anything different from the first show. Jean Ann Ryan Troupe's last show was difficult to sit through. There seemed to be no point to the show, and the ship's rocking in the Starlight Lounge was conducive to sleeping in spite of the gratuitous fireworks, loud music and dancers in the isles. Added to this was a campy (reminiscent of the love boat song) rendition of a Norwegian Cruise Line song with a parade of NCL employees concluding with "We are the World." Rick and Steve in the Observation Lounge were fun and nice to listen too if the other entertainment is not to your liking. They are a part of Jane Powell's band so they are only there on nights Jane Powell is not performing. Kareoke was a lot of fun and there were some very talented passengers on board. It was set up in the disco, Dazzles which is comfortable, dark and fun with fake fog and disco lights. The Windjammer Bar was a popular hang out. The piano/guitar player, Roger Hernadez was very full of himself and was more interested in having us hear him sing then playing songs that we could all sing along too. It was a favorite hangout of my traveling companions. Immediately adjacent to the "piano bar", and sharing the same bar (Windjammer), was a Cigar bar for those of you looking for a smoke. It seemed small to me but I don't normally frequent cigar bars so who am I to say. Photographs and the library were down the hall from Dazzles, Windjammer and before the Stardust Lounge. Casino (8) Many have said that it was small but considering the size ship it was on, I think there was about the same as in Carnival Victory. The Machines were further apart and when people were smoking I appreciated that. Card players - go to the Let it Ride. As to the rest, Nothing was good to me. The craps table was exciting, as many people were always congregated and cheering. All the standard games were present by at least one table but not more. Slots did not include the variety that I preferred but, if you are into them they even had nickel slots and two penny-slots that gave out nickels when you cashed out. (I had never seen a penny slot before and easily lost an hour before the $5 I put in). I spent at least an hour every night in the casino and broke even. Food was put out around midnight that usually included sandwiches, pastry chocolate and cookies. PORTS: HINT 1. Get towels the day before from the pool area and put them away in your room. The steward will put two towels in your room to take ashore and ask you to fill out a form. You hand in the form and hand in the towels when you get back. The system is far from perfected and there is a good chance you will argue over whether or not you brought the towel back. At $25 per towel, it is a little annoyance that can be avoided if you get the towels before hand. 2. If you plan to snorkel either (a) go with the ships tours or (b) be sure that where you are going offers rental of equipment or (c) bring your own [NCL refused to rent equipment to me unless I was part of a tour.] GRAND CAYMAN I am not going to rate this as each person's experience will, without exception is different. Also, we only had 5 hours in this port which is VERY limited and not nearly enough time. NOTE Cayman money exchange is 1.5 dollars for every 1 Cayman Dollar. Everything is expensive! Be clear when negotiating whether you are being charged Cayman dollars or US dollars. (I got stuck with some Cayman dollars and the ship's casino would not exchange them) I had previously experienced Sting Ray City two years prior and neither of my companions wanted to go so we opted to go to 7 Mile Beach. If this is your first time going and you like snorkeling go with Captain Marvin's excursion rather than the ship's, you do more and it cost less. It is definitely something you must do in your lifetime as to this day I have vivid memories of it - it was great. I researched on the internet and spoke with other travelers and found out about Westin Hotel located on 7 mile beach. I had heard that the Royal Palm and the Marriott were not so great. The tender process to shore was unorganized, confusing and baffling. Also, when the tender reached the port there were crowds from other cruise lines and tours. We walked a little further past the crowd and found a taxi stand with a sign listing the prices to each hotel and location. It was $4 per person to get to Westin. When we got there we walked directly to the beach, there were chairs and tables for free, the beach was pristine and the swimming area roped off. The hotel offered a restaurant, locker room and stores. (I did not see a shower but there might have been one) A waitress patrolled the beach and offered drinks and food. A little ways down waverunners, paddle boats and kayaks were available for rental. I did not see snorkel equipment for rent but it was available for sale in the stores. It was a great day. It felt like we had the beach to one other couple and ourselves. Better than the closing scene from "Trading Places" You can arrange with your driver to come back at a certain time or take the waiting taxi's (Vans) back to the port - negotiate the fee before you go. We left early enough to go shopping in town (but for other reasons we did not) and then make the last tender to the ship. There was a long line for the tender to the ship and it was confused with the people going to the carnival ship. Make sure you are on the right line when you get there. ENGINE PROBLEMS - around 10:45 p.m. the power on the ship went out for about 30 minutes. It appeared to be handled well with the exception of the captain's accent. While it was nice to hear from the captain, it would have been better if someone had interpreted for him. It made it sound like he was intoxicated and did not reassure the passengers at all. The explanation for the defect was made early the next day that one of the generators broke down and was then repaired. We were 2 hours late in arriving in Roatan and we were allowed to stay there two extra hours so we did not miss any time at that port. Subsequent ports were on time. Having been on a subway train when it was stuck, I did not feel any danger or problems. There were many other nervous people on board though. ROATAN This port warrants as much research as possible. Once again tenders were disorganized, and the tours were off the ship first. The region is depressed and relies heavily on tourist trade. The wood shacks and houses have taken a beating in the weather. Don't drink the water. WARNING NCL has contracted with Tabyana Beach resort to turn away any visitors who are not traveling with the ship tour. Alternative trips would include Salt & Pepper or Fantasy Island I did not hear of any other beach type tours. We were shanghaied by Royce who's friend Miguel drove a big yellow school bus. For $10 a piece he took us to "Paradise Island" Resort whose "beach" was neighboring Tabyana. We were in walking distance of the beach where all persons traveling on the excursion were. The excursion offered a lunch, lifeguards in Kayaks and snorkel gear. We had difficulty getting chairs, were offered snorkeling by a shady character in a rowboat with a motor and had very little time. It was an experience though. - Take the comments about the Sand Fleas seriously. I used Off sun-tan lotion and was still bitten - leaving those telltale red circle bites on my leg. The beach and the water were beautiful, if choppy. People selling wares along the beach were prolific as were women attempting to convince me how nice I would look with braids. The crafts were beautiful, if not clichE, and worth the money if you were looking for knick knacks. Careful with your money though. You should give about ½ hour for brief shopping in the small town for coffee, rum or other items. By the time we got back we had time to shop but it was dark out and it was strenuously suggested that we not be in the town at night. Although not the best port, there was definitely potential for a great trip here. I was only sorry that I did not go off on a Snorkeling excursion on my own or with the ship to see the Reef. That is the best reason to go on this trip and circumstances prevented me from experiencing it. Everyone who went snorkeling or diving said it was fantastic. BELIZE I don't think there was a bad excursion at this port. My friend went on her own and took the public bus (1 limpira = 50 cents) to the Zoo , a refugee center for animals and walked around the town on her own and had a great time. She said she always felt safe and it was interesting and exciting. My other friend and I were eager to experience the Mayan ruins. Although the boards were not as helpful as I would have liked, we opted for a combination excursion offered by NCL and experienced and reported on by previous cruisers - the Lamanai & New River Cruise. It included a 1 ½ hour bus ride/tour a 1 hour river ride and a Belizan style lunch then a trek through the jungle to three sites then the boat and bus ride back. We saw crocodiles (babies), condors, egrets, cranes, buzzards, a howler monkey. We were very close to the water on the river ride. I sat at the edge and when our boat hit the wake of another boat, me and the 8-year-old in front of me were drenched. Water, rum and the lunch were included in the $82 cost of the excursion and, albeit expensive, I felt the tour was well worth the money. I do believe that this whole excursion could have been arranged without the ship though. HINT - if you want to get off the boat at the same time as the tours, listen for the announcements and go. The tickets for the tours are not collected until after you arrive on shore and are standing at the bus. The people ushering you onto the tenders do not check to see if you have a ticket. This would give you the opportunity to buy tickets for the very same tours in the port after arriving on shore. All the buses left from the same place. We did not have time to shop in town when we got back but there were crafts near where the boat docked for us to purchase. I bought some beautiful Ziricote wood pieces. Cozumel OH YEAH!!! NO TENDERS!!!! We docked here. What a relief. Of course the weather was not promising when we landed. My traveling companions, having partied heavily the night before had difficulty getting out early. I left without them to explore Cozumel. Get your negotiating hat on folks - if you plan to shop it is key. NEVER take the price they offer you. Always be clear as to whether it is in pesos or dollars (15 pesos to the dollar). I had been to Chankenaab two years prior so I did not fee that I missed out when I did not go. If the weather had been better, I would have tried a snorkeling excursion or playa sol - cabs are plentiful and most people speak English. Pretty much if there is something that you want to do or you heard about just go do it. We had 8 hours here so if the weather had been better this would have been a great day. I purchased onyx, ceramic and other gifts. A friend got a deal on a watch. (We are not sure if they messed up on the peso/dollar conversion). I missed Carlos and Charlie's but I will get there one of these days. We took to long shopping - I caught up with my friends at about 4:00. We had a snack at Palmero's (Recommended by almost every sales clerk and worth the visit.) I also bumped into the Miller clan there (Hellos to you all!) If you want to make a phone call or check your internet mail this is the place to do it. 10 cents per minute. There is a place called MODUTEL on the corner of 10 Avenida and Avenida Juarez (blue and white sign of telephone) that is a couple of blocks in and about 7 blocks from the pier that is particularly clean, unhurried, and friendly that I recommend over the internet cafe on the strip. There are some good stores and the "square" nearby which are also worth exploring for bargains and just experience. LAST SEA DAY There was more to do. The disembarkation lecture was offered at 10:00 a.m. and shown in the cabin the rest of the day. It was not particularly clear. We packed and placed our luggage outside (It was picked up within ½ hour). We thought we could stay on board for a while and relatively speaking, we could. We left at around 11:00-11:15 and were virtually the last ones off the ship as our solitary luggage sitting in the lot showed. Customs was a joke. They asked a couple of questions, brought us through the metal detectors and voila! The baggage people walked us right past all the transfers and busses right to the taxi which expressed us for a nominal fee to the Miami Airport. Our plane was scheduled to leave later at 5:49 so we took a free shuttle to the Dolphin Mall - fun mall and an experience - patrons seemed to dress up for the experience. Careful or you will end up with too many carry-on's. The plane ride back was better then on the way there. The plane was cleaner and they had music and tv. Snacks were mixed chips. Wish I was back in Miami though. Hope that this review is helpful and insightful for you all. Don't misinterpret any of my comments or criticisms. I had a great time and I would definitely cruise with Norwegian again. I liked Freestyle even at the expense of getting to know my waiter.jaimib@worldnet.att.netFebruary 2001 Read Less
Well, there are some positives * The ship is absolutely beautiful and well designed * The cabins are spacious, the balconies divine * The entertainment is the best I have ever experienced on a cruise Unfortunately, the ... Read More
Well, there are some positives * The ship is absolutely beautiful and well designed * The cabins are spacious, the balconies divine * The entertainment is the best I have ever experienced on a cruise Unfortunately, the cruise was a disaster for myself, my wife, and many other passengers. Most of the problems were caused by the crew via their negligence and bad attitudes. The lack of almost anyone with a command of English was a difficulty. I am aware of at least four injuries, two requiring hospitalization, that occurred in separate incidents. Following are some details: We left our house at 3:00 AM for our flight to Miami (not part of the cruise package). When we boarded the ship later in the day, we were tired but excited. At 10:00 PM, we were ready for bed. A call to reception for an additional blanket got a response that housekeeping was closed! I repeated my request and was told someone would bring one up. 20 minutes, no blanket, and another call and promise. 20 minutes later I got dressed and went down to reception, receiving a hostile reaction, but yet another promise a blanket would be forthcoming. 20 minutes later, still no blanket. I corralled a room service provider who thankfully found us a blanket at 11:15 PM. A major aggravation and a view of things to come. The first port was Grand Cayman Island. We arranged for a "Stingray Encounter" and were told to be at the dock at 11:00 AM. We boarded a tender at 9:45. The sun was out and it was very hot. At 10:15, the uncovered tender was still at the ship, but all the seats were full. At 10:30, we were still not underway. Several older passengers were feeling ill, but we could not get any information on the delay from the two crew members at the gangway. They pretty much ignored everyone. At 10:45, an hour after boarding, we were still not underway. Several passengers went into the boat and found the problem was caused by a malfunctioning laptop computer, used to record passenger comings and goings. There was a single, non-English speaking girl attempting to handwrite all the names. The tender finally left at 11:00 AM. The scene at the dock was mass confusion. The excursions were overbooked, and transportation was not available, so we spent another 30 minutes in the sun. Instead of the promised air-conditioned buses, we had school buses. During this time, one of the passengers that was on the tender passed out and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. She did not make it back to the ship and was left behind. The "encounter" was wonderful, but that was not any credit to the ship. While disembarking from the ship on which we had the excursion, no one helped the passengers onto the dock. A woman slipped and her foot was crushed between the boat and the dock. The representative from the ship was clueless as to what action to take, and coaxed the woman to return to the ship. He lost his radio during the day, and could not contact the ship at that time. The woman was in severe pain, and her foot was swelling rapidly. (It turns out she broke a bone, I believe). Back at the dock, the only tender available was several feet below dock level. As it filled, it sank to about 4' below dock level. The NCL people on the boat were not helping anyone get onto the tender, and several people fell. An older gentleman fell and required medical attention. Finally, the passengers helped others get onto the boat. During this process, the NCL people ignored the situation, although they were right there and could see what was happening. On arrival at the ship, the promised doctor was nowhere to be found. It amazes me that the ship was not prepared for a malfunctioning computer, that the passengers were not informed of long delays, that the crew did not help people on and off boats, and that the doctor was not available. Walking the main deck around the outside of the ship, I noticed some of the clocks were wrong. Mentioning this to reception got the answer that the clocks were controlled from the bridge. I said this could cause problems for passengers, and was told they would inform the bridge of the problem. Of course, the clocks were never fixed, and remained at different times (over an hour different) the whole cruise. (Most clocks by the elevators were also wrong, as were the clocks behind reception.) The next stop was Honduras. The Captain managed to get the ship stuck. It took about 90 minutes to get the ship free. A crew member confirmed this event, although it was never officially admitted to. On shore, we were told this ship gets stuck "all the time". Next was Belize. All the literature on shore excursions mentioned the importance of insect repellant. There was never any available to purchase on the ship. The excuse of running out was a lie, as many people tried to buy some while still docked in Miami. I was unable to purchase any in Grand Cayman due to the long tender delay, and none was available in Honduras. So, I asked at the excursion desk for advice. The response was "Not our responsibility". No advice, no concern, nothing. At the meeting the following morning for excursions, I again brought up the concern. The response was to slap at any bugs we found biting us. This is serious, this was their response. A show of hands from the passengers revealed almost everyone had the same concern. Even though the ships crew was aware of this problem, no one took a proactive stand and arranged for repellant to be available in Belize. So, we went without and got bit up in the jungle. I was amused to find the Captain again got the ship stuck by going outside the marked lanes, but many passengers were nervous and upset. The food during the cruise was very bad, except in the restaurants that charged additional. The buffet food was comparable to the worst all-you-can-eat buffets in the USA. Often, the food was reheated or recycled into something else with thick sauces. The supply of fruit was never replenished, and was inedible by the cruise end. The bananas were black. The food in the main dining rooms was at the level of "Denny's" on a bad night. The wait staff was uninformed and indifferent to our needs. Almost every announcement on the ship was "selling" us something. Endless announcements for the art auctions (where the auctioneer was rude to the crew and guests) and bingo dominated. Never an announcement that did not bring revenue to the ship. NOT relaxing. All in all, a very negative experience. I cannot see taking another NCL cruise. Too bad, because the concept of "Freestyle Cruising" is very attractive. I speak from the experience of several previous cruises on Princess and Royal Caribbean. JSales@BHSYSTEMS.COMMarch 2002 Read Less
The Jan. 5, 2002 cruise on the NCL Sun was a real treat. We approached this cruise with no small amount of apprehension due to the mixed comments we had heard regarding "Freestyle" cruising. All of our previous cruises had ... Read More
The Jan. 5, 2002 cruise on the NCL Sun was a real treat. We approached this cruise with no small amount of apprehension due to the mixed comments we had heard regarding "Freestyle" cruising. All of our previous cruises had traditional dining and, frankly, we enjoy dressing up for dinner, making it a special event each day. We were pleasantly surprised to find that the service and atmosphere and food met or surpassed all of our expectations. Embarkation went ok, but not without a hitch. One of our boarding cards was missing and had to be re-printed. NCL is really "missing the boat" when it comes to getting your trip started on the right foot. Lines are very long, with less then adequate help available. We're Latitude members and probably waited longer than other lines because there were only two agents handling Latitude Club members. RCCL beats out NCL hands down with embarkation. Our cabin was very nice...more room than we expected. We had a balcony cabin and thoroughly enjoyed the time spent in our cabin. Woodwork is excellent, as is the closet space. The ship is lovely, not spectacular, but very nice. Much of its appeal is due to the fact that it was less than six months old. The two main dining rooms were very nicely decorated. Le Bistro was nice, but not as nice as I had expected. Il Adagio Italian restaurant was very nicely laid out and the food was good, not exceptional, but worth the extra $10 for the atmosphere. We did not eat at any of the other restaurants, as the food was not to our liking. Getting a reservation for a table for two was no problem. Service was excellent, as was the food. We felt that the overall meal preparation and service exceeded RCCL, but not as good as HAL or Celebrity. Our biggest disappointment was the weather. We were scheduled for a snorkeling trip at Roatan, but it was cancelled due to high seas. Unfortunately, Roatan is a third world country that we felt was not suitable for wandering around on your own. Plus, there was truly nothing to see on your own, except the beaches, which were closed due to high seas. We thoroughly enjoyed our shore excursion in Belize City when we took a bus tour of the city and also saw Maya ruins. Very worthwhile trip. Grand Cayman also had rough seas, so we were unable to tender into the downtown area but had to go ashore where it took a 20 min taxi ride to get downtown, but, we enjoyed out time there. Cozumel was nice because we were able to walk off the ship and enjoy some excellent shopping, especially in silver and Mexican folk art. The pool area was just ok...it lacked "eye appeal." Seating was very limited in the pool area, so you often had to find a lounge on the upper level, which was very windy on sea days. We have mixed feelings about the "Free Style Cruising." We enjoyed being able to reserve a table for two whenever we felt like eating. But, since we enjoy dressing up for dinner, we did not enjoy the "resort casual" atmosphere on the ship most every night. There was only one formal night, and even that was not widely followed. You would think that NCL would have at least one restaurant designated as "formal." When all is said and done, we will probably stick with the more traditional seatings. lgdavies@bellsouth.netMarch 2002 Read Less
Direct USAir flight from Phila. to Miami. Taxi transfer ($21) to hotel Riande Continental Bayside, $110 for the night for three of us. Miami was very cold and never got about 71 degrees that day and cold at night. We arrived about 1:30 ... Read More
Direct USAir flight from Phila. to Miami. Taxi transfer ($21) to hotel Riande Continental Bayside, $110 for the night for three of us. Miami was very cold and never got about 71 degrees that day and cold at night. We arrived about 1:30 p.m. Hotel was old, like built in the 30's or 40's. Staff was very nice. Room and bathroom were small. Breakfast included next morning. Buffet, not very good, cold food. All of us went to Lombardi's Bayside restaurant at Bayside for dinner. There were 31 of us and I had filet mignon. One of the best I ever had. Wife had shrimp something. Very good wine with meals. Saturday Jan. 5, 2002 Left hotel, friend took our bags to the NCL docks. We were at a wedding on board the SUN at 1 PM so the cruisers in the group got to board at 11 a.m. bypassing the other 2,000 passengers. We went to our room but luggage wasn't there yet. We all met on the pool deck next to the chapel and had some drinks. Cash bar only for cruisers. Wedding went off without a hitch and there was a reception in one of the lounges from 1 to 3 p.m. Hors de Oeuvres and open bar and wedding cake. At 3 p.m., all non cruisers had to leave and we set sail about 4:30 p.m. Overnight, it was a little rocky. Son started buying buckets of Dos Equis Beer, 6 beers and free T-shirt, $24. Ate Le Bistro $10 extra pp. Had good time but dinner took a long time to be served. Sunday, Jan 6 At sea all day. Ate breakfast in the 4 Seasons restaurant. Raul was our waiter. Very nice. Had kippers. Played Bingo for $29. Forgot we bought 4th set of bingo cards. Used some next day. Dinner that night, we weren't hungry so we ate at the Mexican Tapas bar. Wife ordered a sangria drink, enough for two glasses and she was glassy-eyed on the way out. Had lots of fruit in it and it was very good. I had a 7 and 7 and was just okay. Had finger foods then went to 7 Seas restaurant for dessert. Didn't think they liked us sitting down at tables for just dessert. Wife had Tiramisu. Mon., Jan 7 Bought bottle of coconut rum and six rum cakes at the Tortuga Rum Factory, one of the stops on the Tale of Two Cities tour in Cayman Islands. Sampled rum cakes. Went to turtle farm where they have 30 year old 600 pound turtles and 3 month old turtles smaller than size of your hand. We took pictures of each other holding a turtle. Ate at Le Bistro, $10 PP, all 11 of us. We were tired so went to bed early. Tues., Jan 8 Son went Scuba diving in Roatan. Was part of NCL's Dive In program. We actually saw him go by in a boat while we were on a tour and at the dolphin show. Went to Tropical Treasures Bird Sanctuary at Sandy Bay (fish/bird/butterfly etc., museum and a Dolphin show. Also tropical Bird Sanctuary on Roatan Highlights Tour. Had swordfish dinner that night at 4 Seasons restaurant. We got to see some of the sights of the poor island country. $20 a week was about the average wage. I got a T-shirt at the bird sanctuary with a large red parrot on it. Went to CircuePan show on stage on ship. After show, went to a bar and saw part of the Who Wants to win a Million fake dollars show which was taped and shown next day on our room tv. We didn't stay till the end. It was cute but got boring after an hour. Ordered an Irish Coffee from Dazzles and had to return it. It was so bad. Bitter, like bottom of the pot of coffee.. Exchanged it for a diet coke and the waiter wanted to charge us for the coke. I told him no, he brought the coke and said "thank you sir." Wed., Jan 9 Continental breakfast in our room that morning consisted of a dozen pastries, bowls of cereal, orange juice, and reg. and decaf coffee. Our guide, Alise took us to Altan Ha ruins. Very informative. Tipped her $2 bill which she said she will keep. Belize Tale of Two Cities Tour 4 1/2 hours long. Nice. Drank free punch in Radisson hotel, Smoky Mermaid bar. Bought Bobby a shot glass ($5) in Belize and statue of a head for him ($19). Bought Son a bottle of Belikan Beer, the local suds. Had lunch of snacks, burgers and cookies in aft of ship, pool deck. Ate Le Bistro first time, had seabass with friends and rest of group. Thurs. Jan 10 Went to pool deck, 7 .a.m. by myself and watched us dock in Cozumel 8 a.m. through the binoculars. Continental breakfast in bed again. Canceled our Helmet Dive due to medical conditions. We were so proud of Son because when he immediately found out Marilyn couldn't go on the trip, he left and turned in our three tickets for credit which we received. He was pissed and we were so proud of him. Spent 6 of 9 hours in port shopping. Arte Joyero jewelry shop is where wife purchased her Tanzanite and diamond ring and a matching pendant. Total retail was about $800 but we got both items for $425 (ring was $300). Later found out VISA account was charged $465, a discrepancy in the Peso rate? I wrote a letter to WTC Visa about this. Local bank simply refund our overage saying too much involved to get a hold of merchant in Cozumel. Had lunch at famous Carlos and Charlie's restaurant and bar. Quite a festive place to be right in the middle of shopping district. Had coupon from Internet for free bbq spare rids which they honored. Wife and I split some Mexican dish for two. Son had beef tacos for lunch. He did have a few shots tho. They gave him a shot of Tequila into his mouth. Wish I had taken that picture. Three of us went to hot tub by the pool. Sat with two women from Minnesota, the one the same who offered some native girls a dime if they would do a dance for her at the bird sanctuary. Went to ship's casino and played slots and blackjack. Had a good time. Wife one night even joined a slot tournament ($20) but didn't win. Son overslept overnight in some mints, had chocolate all over his arm and neck. The mints were placed on our pillows each night before going to sleep. Andes candies. Le Bistro specialty restaurant one more time with relatives. One got a half bottle of wine from a previous visit to another restaurant and we finished that one. Menu didn't change from first visit. Food not as good this time as I ordered the Cooking Light fish dish. Fri. Jan 11 At sea all day. Had frozen chocolate and strawberry yogurt next to the pool. Watched ice carving demonstration. Ate a Cooking Lite pork chop for dinner. Terrible as was the accompanied rice. Wife had a veal scaloppini dish with rice, much better. Staff brought me a birthday cake and all waiters and waitresses came over and sang Happy Birthday to me. Won $50 blackjack and another $50 in slots. About broke even. Dined in main dining room, Seven Seas. All 11 of us dined one more time together Three bottles of wine that night for dinner. Sat Jan 12 Continental breakfast became addictive, did it again. No hassles. Had it delivered to room at 645 a.m. Off the ship by 9:15 A.M.. and took bus directly to Miami airport. Sat at airport for 3 hours. Miscellaneous: Nice to have a daily agenda sheet delivered to our room eve of next day. Didn't spend a dime at Internet room as it was about 75 cents per minute. NCL a week before the cruise told me it was a $200 per person credit to our room. After many inquiries, we found out this was NOT one of those credit cruises. Asked for $50 credit and a bottle of wine but was turned down for that also. NCL staff sent to our stateroom two letters explaining why. $491 for the week, total bill, Dad and Mom. Purchases: 3 marble chess sets, four T-shirts for son, 1 for wife, 5 cartons cigarettes ($60), 1 Tanzanite Ring studded with diamonds for wife with a pendant to nearly match $425; wood carving for another son, Shot glass, six rum cakes; two 5-packs Cuban cigars; We both caught colds on board. Took $70 off our total tips of $140. Tipped individually. NCL charges $10 PP per day tips. Bought bug spray on board for $11.95; $10 PP transfer from docks to Miami airport; USAir, $278.50 per person, round-trip, direct flight. Roatan-bugs and bites on legs while on the bus. I would definitely recommend NCL's SUN! Maril35@hotmail.com March 2002 Read Less
Background Fourteen of us took this cruise to celebrate my mother's 80th birthday. Everyone but a few kids had cruised before on NCL, Celebrity and RCCL. We picked the ship and itinerary because many of us are scuba divers, we ... Read More
Background Fourteen of us took this cruise to celebrate my mother's 80th birthday. Everyone but a few kids had cruised before on NCL, Celebrity and RCCL. We picked the ship and itinerary because many of us are scuba divers, we enjoy sailing on the newer ships and we were looking forward to freestyle cruising. I booked the cruise through [a travel agent whose] pricing was competitive, her service excellent AND everyone got room upgraded. She even helped a secure a private meeting room on the ship that was equipped with a big screen projector and VCR so we could show a family history video my wife created to honor my mom's birthday. Perfect! I will start by saying that everyone had a wonderful time and we would all highly recommend this ship! Air Travel We purchased our air through NCL. We might do otherwise the next time as the flights we all very early departing and very late returning. Furthermore, the folks from Charlotte had to connect through Atlanta in spite of the fact that there are many direct flights to Miami. At the same time, the price for the air was competitive as it was President's week and because demand was high so were the prices. We all tried to standby for earlier return flights, but those of us from Texas were the only ones that were successful. I got lucky and was upgraded to first class. Embarkation The baggage claim area at Miami International was a bit hectic, but the NCL representatives were helpful showing us the way to the bus. The porters were standing by to help, but frankly it was such a short walk to the bus and they weren't really needed. Although many of us are Latitudes members, the priority check in wasn't necessary. None of us (coming from San Antonio, Charlotte, and Rochester, NY) had a wait of any consequence checking in. When my wife, son and I arrived at noon there was nobody in line! The Ship The Sun is a beautiful ship. We all commented on the ample use of wood and how rich and nautical it looked. Missing however was the dazzling atrium we have seen on the RCCL Monarch of the Seas and the Legend of the Seas. The casino was also much smaller than we are used to seeing, but again, that wasn't critical. Some of us thought that the showroom was a bit tacky, but we were soooooo tired each night that we missed most of the shows! We came to dive, catch the sun and eat! The pool area is pretty typical with a nice bandstand, a good-sized pool and four hot tubs. For the first two days only one was actually heated but yet they all remained full! If you were a little patient you could always find your way into the hot tubs. The first day at sea I was reminded of the ritual of saving chairs. After a pretty wild bon voyage party the first night (regrettably for the while family my wife has video tape) I slept a bit longer than usual, and at 8am I headed up to the pool. In spite of the "don't reserve chairs" rule, there were indeed many rule-breakers on board and virtually all of the chairs on the lower deck and most on the upper deck had been claimed. Lesson learned. On the second pool day I was up at my usual time of 5:30 and our group had the primo location. The pool service was exceptional and not overly pushy. We befriended Michael Evans from Jamaica who we adopted as our drink server for the week. He was great and had us all saying "nice, nice, nice" and "it's all good" all week long. We ordered dozens of buckets of beer from him and at the end of the week presented him with a bucket that had an extra tip in it! Dining Breakfast was good in both the main restaurants and the Garden Cafe and the Outdoor Cafe, however we were all disappointed with the overall poor quality/variety of the fruit. On past cruises NCL has had fruit bars in the pool area where they cut and served wonderful fresh fruit. We really missed this. The coffee served in both the Garden Cafe and Outdoor Cafe was poor. It appeared to be made from syrup. Prior to dinner the first night we all visited the Las Ramblas Tapas Bar for drinks and munchies. We enjoyed trying the different tapas the duo playing Latin music added to the mood. The two dining rooms we nicely appointed and the menus changed each night. We ate our first dinner in the Four Seasons dining room. The food and service was good, and you could easily be satisfied eating all your dinners in the two main rooms. But I have to say this.... Anyone who goes on this cruise and doesn't try the other restaurants is crazy, because this is where the food and service really shine. On our second night we ate in the Tapanyaki room in the Ginza Restaurant. This room will seat 12 (we had them set it up for 14) and they cook the food, steak, shrimp, chicken, fish, lobster, scallops, etc. on the tabletop. We paid $10-$12 per person extra, but the food and service was exceptional. We could hardly walk out of the room after dinner! The next night we returned to the Four Seasons dining room and helped turn lobsters into an endangered species! My sister knew our waiter from a previous cruise and I think she warned him of our love of crustaceans. The lobsters just kept coming to the table. While the lobster was good, the escargot was awesome! The best I ever had. We all just kept dipping the bread into the garlic sauce! Soups and salads were pretty good, and desserts ranged from "looked better than it tasted" to "pretty darned good." Our group split up on the fourth night. My mom, son and I decided to try the Cooking Light cuisine at the Pacific Heights restaurant. We all loved our meal especially the salads, the mussel's appetizer and the meat loaf! Night five it was Italian dinner at il Aldagio. The food and service was exceptional... veal chops, pastas, fish, steaks, buffalo mozzarella salads, a decent variety of wine (we probably had six bottles for our group) and some very good desserts to go with espresso. Best yet, the view from this (and Le Bistro) is extraordinary! On night six, the group split up. Half of us dined late at the Seven Seas dining room. The food was good, but we were too tired to really "dine." After a taste of our desserts we were all ready to hit the sack! On the final night all 14 of us dined at Le Bistro. Everyone raved about their food... fish, steaks, and more escargot. Great deserts too! We never did get to dine in the East Meets West room, nor did we eat at the sushi bar. The kids loved ordering pizza, sodas, and desserts from room service. Shore Excursions Because we had our own group of 14 and several of us had visited most of the ports before, we booked almost all of our own shore excursions. On Grand Cayman we booked a 47-foot Catamaran from Captain Crosby Ebanks. We snorkeled two sites including Stingray City. In spite of the rather poor weather the Captain made it fun. For starters there was an ample supply of Stingray beer. Then, the Captain allowed us to skipper the boat while he got out his guitar and sang us songs. He also cooked up a pretty good fish stew, which he served with yummy coconut bread! On Roatan, the guys took the kids fishing. We trolled around the West End and then bottom fished at West End Point. The touring around the island by boat was as much fun as the fishing. The kids were happy and the guys agreed that the Port Royal beer tasted great in the hot sun! The gals took the East End tour and enjoyed it. In Belize City we had a boat waiting for all of us to take us to Ambergris Key for a mixture of diving and snorkeling. We were a bit short on time but still managed to dive and snorkel at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve's Shark Ray Alley where you can hand feed stingrays and nurse sharks. Even my 80-year-old mom got in the water for this! We chartered the boat through Aqua Dives in Ambergris Key (vie email) and they were terrific. On Cozumel, the non-divers spent the morning shopping while the divers did a two-tank dive with our favorite dive operator, Papa Hog's. We all then met at our favorite beach area Nachi Cocum. What's special about Nachi Cocum besides the beautiful beach and the food is the freshwater pool, hot tub and swim up bar. Awesome! Many of the off duty cruise ship employees were here too! Miscellaneous Some members of our group used the spa for haircuts/colors or massages. While pricey, everyone was satisfied with the service. Our cabin steward was less attentive than we have had in the past. In spite of an early tip and a request for a constant supply of ice, I found myself having to call room service for ice. The twin beds really didn't convert into a comfortable queen. As you may know, the cruise line allows passengers who purchase shore excursions through the ship to tender off first. This meant that we often had to wait 60 to 90 minutes before we could get off the ship to meet our privately booked tour. Disembarkation The new policy of allowing you to stay in your room until 10am was welcomed as many of us were in Dazzles until 3am! Getting off the ship was easy but packing the luggage on to the bus for the trip to the airport was pure mayhem. Too many people with too many bags and too few busses! If I had it to do over again I would have rented a cab! The was the absolute worst part of the whole trip. You would think that NCL would have developed a better way to deal with this rush of people by now. Conclusion For the 14 of us this cruise was about as perfect as we could hope for. When we reached day seven we all wished we could stay on board for another week. Feel free to email me if you would like more information, rquinn@colearn.comMarch 2002 Read Less
Well, here it is, my first Cruise Critic review. We sailed on the Sun March 9th to 16th. This [Cruise Critic] message board was invaluable to me in the weeks leading up to the cruise, so I'd like to "give back" in some ... Read More
Well, here it is, my first Cruise Critic review. We sailed on the Sun March 9th to 16th. This [Cruise Critic] message board was invaluable to me in the weeks leading up to the cruise, so I'd like to "give back" in some small part. Sorry if it is long, I have so much to say though, and I love reliving it as I write! Feel free to skim! Also: I should preface this piece by pointing out that I am definitely a glass-is-half-full type of cruiser. That is not to say I am not critical when someone messes up, but I am 23, just starting out in the professional world, still somewhat poor, and very appreciative of the opportunity to go on this cruise (my only vacation of the year). I had a smile plastered on my face for 97.5% of the time on this cruise (the other 2.5%, I was snorkeling, and smiling makes your mask leak!) In short, I have a lot of blessings, and to whine and moan about a steward who forgot to fill my ice or a waiter who forgot my coffee is simply silly in my mind (especially when you visit places like Roatan and Belize City). It's all relative! Anyways, I am already being long-winded.....so, on with it! EMBARKATIONEmbarkation was GREAT. We arrived at the Terminal about 11:30, dropped our bags off with a porter, and parked the car. Surprise #1: parking in the NCL lot at the terminal is $10 a day, CASH, UP FRONT. I know we weren't expecting that and it sort of drained some of our cash reserves, so be prepared. We were into the check-in area by 12:00 or so and through the line in 10 minutes max. Really great job by NCL in this department, but we were very early I suppose. Latitudes and non-Latitudes lines were identical. Security was less strict than I had expected, really just a quick X-Ray of your carry-on and off you go. No airport-like frisking and the like. (For those who like a drink or two, Laura and I had 4 bottles of wine in our checked luggage, no problems there, our steward even brought us a wine bucket and refilled ice in it every night!) By 12:15 or so, we were on the ship! Because of the speedy boarding, Saturday was really a bonus day that we weren't expecting. We spent some time exploring the ship and ended up poolside by 1 or 1:30 sipping drinks. Surprise #2: if we continued to order rounds of Corona and daiquiris all week, we would need a small fortune to settle up our ship account! $8.67 for two coronas (that includes tip), $13.63 for two daiquiris! Wow....so began our silent struggle with our bar tab. THE SHIP Overall impression of the ship: very clean and everything looked new (as it should, being only 7 months old). Relatively easy to get around, with a few quirks around decks 5 and 6 that are too confusing to explain, you will figure them out for yourselves. The pool deck was crowded on sea days (as expected) but otherwise, we rarely felt like there were 2,200 other people on the ship (we were MORE than full!) Our room (#4226, outside with porthole on deck 4) was perfectly acceptable. Small, but fine for two of us, and our stewards were great (granted, we are recent college grads so ANYONE doing ANYTHING to help us keep a room clean was appreciated!) Some of our favorite spots on the ship Observation Deck, on deck 12, off the Observation Lounge: Hands down our favorite part of the ship. This deck is a great place to just watch the majesty of a 900-foot long ship at sea (which I love to do). It was quiet, uncrowded (most of the time), and gave us a couple great sunsets. Pull some chairs out there and set-up with a bottle of wine and watch the ocean drift by...THIS is what cruising is about. Great Outdoor Cafe: Not so much for the food (we only ate breakfast there and it was average), but for the view! How people could eat inside the Garden Cafe (the buffet adjacent to the Great Outdoor Cafe) and not walk the 15 feet through the door to eat their meal overlooking a beautiful port-of-call or the blue Caribbean is beyond me. The Kids Hot Tub: Yes, I know how it sounds. But the 4 main hot tubs are covered by a roof and in the center of the pool deck. No views of the stars above or the sea around us. The kid's hot tub (up on Deck 12) is uncovered and right up against the side of the ship with great views to the starboard side. One of our favorite moments on the ship: 5:30 or so, evening after Roatan, the deck is mostly empty as the sun has just set and people are changing for dinner. Laura and I got a bucket of Miller Lites and set up in the kid's hot tub and watched Roatan fade into the ocean and the sky grow dark. So quiet and peaceful. An hour later, we were treated to a view of the stars that you can only get on the high seas. Ahhhhhhh...... Other highlights of ship: a GREAT fitness center, nice duty-free shop with surprisingly good prices, and good internet cafe. FOOD Simply put, I thought the food was fantastic. We ate at Le Bistro, the Teppanyaki room at East Meets West (our favorite), Four Seasons, and Seven Seas. The food was great every night. Good varied selection and always something that suited your tastes of that night. Helpful tip: ask your waiter what he or she recommends, they will usually point you in the right direction. The service was great at Le Bistro and East Meets West, and average at the main dining rooms. To digress a bit, here is my quick manifesto on service and freestyle tipping as it relates to restaurants: let's be honest here, 90% of people are just going to give their $10 per day per person into the tip pool and be done with it. No special tips of any kind to their waiters. Others (like many of the readers here I imagine) are a little more personal and give extra to stewards, favorite waiters, etc. That being said, if the passengers are (as a rule) not tipping these waiters in a performance-based manner, why does everyone expect them to be falling all over them as a traditional waiter would? I think it is perfectly reasonable to expect a waiter to be prompt with his or her service, keep drinks filled, and to be courteous and friendly, but do I expect them to act like a waiter at a $40 a plate restaurant in New York City? Not at all. Given the system that NCL has chosen to use, I think the service was excellent and perfectly within my expectations. Whew. Bottom line: food was great, especially the steaks. No complaints here. FREESTYLE I just want to make one (not so) quick comment on the freestyle thing in general. For the most part, I am all for it. LOVE the freedom to eat when you want and the tipping system is OK. But I DO NOT like the dress code. This is basically the ONLY thing I had a real complaint about on the cruise. And remember folks, I am 23, just out of UVA, I am used to people dressing in all manner of ways and it normally doesn't bother me. The dress code in all dining rooms, all evenings is supposed to be like business casual as I understood it. No jeans, no t-shirts, wear a collared shirts for guys, somewhat nice pants and/or skirts for the ladies. My plea to NCL: enforce it! I can't tell you how many times we sat next to tables filled with people in jeans a t-shirts! I swear, I am not lying about this. Now I am not trying to be snotty or put on airs like I am some sophisticated socialite (I am not, I love NASCAR for example), but please, have a little respect for your fellow passengers and more so, your servers. The dining rooms are obviously set up in a formal way: nice white linens, about 37 different utensils, waiters dressed nicely, candlelight etc...It is just disrespectful to go into an atmosphere like that dressed like you are heading to the mall. I know my mom would have hit me upside the head if I had done that, but maybe that is just me. I am not talking about wearing a tie and jacket or a suit. Just a nice pair of slacks or khakis for the guys and a collared shirt. That can't be so hard. If there is too much uproar, then make a casual dining room, and a dressed-up dining room and alternate them by night. Hopefully I am not alone in this. If I am, then I apologize for ranting. MBR Read Less
Returned from the Norwegian Sun, Western Caribbean, 30 Mar 2002. This was our sixth cruise, (3 with NCL, 2 with RCCL and 1 with Carnival). Although it was spring break, the number of children and teens was not excessive. It was a fun ... Read More
Returned from the Norwegian Sun, Western Caribbean, 30 Mar 2002. This was our sixth cruise, (3 with NCL, 2 with RCCL and 1 with Carnival). Although it was spring break, the number of children and teens was not excessive. It was a fun atmosphere without a lot of wild, obnoxious parties. From my teenage son's perspective, there were plenty of hot chicks. We traveled with our neighbors (two families of five). We booked an inside cabin for 2 adults and 3 children. It is cheaper than getting two rooms, but you need to book early to get a room for five. To save some bucks, we find this to be just fine as far as space is concerned. We were located near mid-ship on deck 10 and the rooms were extremely quiet. My wife and I were on the Sky last year, so we were familiar with the layout on the Sun. The rooms are bigger and the show lounge sight lines are much improved. The entertainment was good; although we enjoyed the shows and entertainers a little more last year on the Sky. We especially enjoy when you get a chance to talk to the entertainers on board ship after or away from the shows. Onboard activities were numerous for both kids and adults. We spent the usual amount on pictures and shore excursions. We ate plenty of ice cream, drank a lot of ice water with an occasional cocktail mixed in. Karaoke in the observation lounge is always a blast; especially when you have to follow some recent contestant from "Star Search". We all had a great time and were again pleased with NCL. Here are some specific comments: Arrival and Embarkation Cabs are still the easiest and quickest way to transfer between the airport and ship. There is no waiting and always a fixed price ($18 plus tip). Processing at the terminal was quick, and security lines were moderate in length, but quick. Embarkation was also uneventful. Wait for your color tags to be called and depart the ship. The best part is that you can stay in your rooms instead of wait in a designated lounge area. Departure time off the ship was about 9:45. Coke Cards On the first day at sea, we met a mother who told us about soda wrist bands being sold in the kids corner/club area in the front of the ship. She was mad because they were not really advertised. Anyone with kids knows they are a good deal. They are red plastic wristbands for $16 a piece. The wristbands are poor quality and all of ours broke before the end of the week. You end up carrying broken pieces around in order to use them. We got one for each of our three kids. We forgot to ask the age limit, but were told later they were intended for 13 years and younger. Our 15-year old used his band without any problem. NCL should come up with a soda card similar to Carnival and quit hiding their availability. Shore Excursions Grand Cayman: Seven-Mile Beach; Roatan Island: Tabyana Beach-Snorkel; Belize: Goffs Caye Beach; Cozumel: Sail, Snorkel and Beach. Because we went to the Sting Ray City on a previous cruise, we decided to go to the Seven Mile beach in Grand Cayman. We would still recommend the Sting Ray City tour for anyone on their first trip. The beach break is simply relaxing on a beautiful beach. The Tabyana beach excursion was exciting for two reasons. The bus ride across the island provides a fascinating view of the island people and homes. The beach is beautiful and the overall set-up is excellent (tables in the shade, all you can eat lunch, live music, plenty of lounge chairs, great snorkeling). All of the ship excursions in Belize are expensive. We took the Goffs Caye trip that is cheaper than the shark alley snorkeling trip. One of the highlights is the speedboat trip to the small-secluded island. Lots of speed, wind, and spray. Goffs Caye (Gilligan's Island) is about one acre in size and you can walk the perimeter in about two to three minutes. Besides a single hut in the middle to serve lunch, they have plastic chairs, tables and umbrellas. Lounge chairs would have been better. The seclusion of the island is wonderful if you are looking for a quiet relaxing day. You can sign up for snorkeling excursions at the small pier for about $10 extra. If you want more excitement, try a different excursion. The Cozumel snorkel-beach excursion included a catamaran ride, snorkeling, open bar and beach break. It is a great combo package. If on the early morning excursion, you get back in plenty of time to go shopping. Food and Service The food was plentiful and excellent. On formal night, they served lobster and steak. Without our asking, our waiter offered us a second lobster or additional steak. The service in the main dinning rooms was excellent all week. We had six kids in our group and the waiters were very gracious in accommodating the various food requests. Despite the concern about reduced service due to automatic tips, we saw none of that. Service was consistent and excellent. Free style cruising is extremely flexible in that you don't have to rush to eat at certain times. However, if you want to catch the early shows starting at 7:30 or 8:00, you need to enter the dinning room between 5:30 and 6:00. We only ate at one specialty restaurant, the Teppanyaki room. The food was excellent and the cooking show provided an exciting change from the main dining room. NCL Experience Read Less
My family and I just returned from the April 6, 2002 sailing of the Sun. My wife and I have sailed on seven different cruises on five different lines. This was our second cruise with NCL. We have a good idea of what is good and what is ... Read More
My family and I just returned from the April 6, 2002 sailing of the Sun. My wife and I have sailed on seven different cruises on five different lines. This was our second cruise with NCL. We have a good idea of what is good and what is not on a ship. The Sun is a four star ship, not a five. If you are looking for five star food and service you are better off with Holland America or Costa. The Sun is a nice new ship, well suited for the "Freestyle Concept". The ship is kept clean and orderly. We had a category A/B outside with balcony. We had some great views and enjoyed several breakfasts on the balcony. The cabin had plenty of storage space for all four of us and was fine for the minimal amount of time you spend inside. Our cabin steward kept things neat and clean and was always available for additional request. Several comments (in other reviews) have been made concerning the crew's attitude and about the automatic tipping system in place on the Sun. We found pre-tipping not to be a problem. All crew members we met had an excellent attitude and were very eager to address all your needs. The dining room staff are now asking you to fill out service cards at the completion of all meals. We were told by several waiters that the cards were "very important to them" (NCL must be giving some crew incentives for high marks). We found the automatic tipping to be easy and you can adjust the amount if you don't like something. The dining room service was quick and all meals were served "HOT" (another complaint I read). The food was good and each night had a different theme. We never found any food served cold and I think NCL has addressed the problems in the dining room to a great degree. Both the Seven Seas and the Four Seasons dining room menus differ a bit. Both have great ocean views and we never waited longer than five minutes for a table. In addition to the dining rooms, there are eight other options for dining. We tried Pacific Heights (for healthy eating) no charge, which was good, and Le Bistro ($10.00 cover charge), but well worth it. Le Bistro is the one not to miss. We tried the Tappas Bar (Las Ramblas) for a snack and found the Sangria to be excellent. All three of these restaurants gave five star service. You get what you pay for! The buffet has taken a huge hit in the reviews. There are two on deck 11,the Great Outdoor Cafe and the Garden Cafe. Both are fine! The food was good and the selection changed each day. You can have eggs cooked to order in the morning. The pasta bar was popular with the kids. Coffee/Tea stations are offered 24 hours a day. We didn't experience many lines and when we did they moved fast. On sea days, the Great Outdoor Cafe serves grilled steaks and ribs (very good). Over all the buffets have a good selection and are nice when you want to be laid back. One of the best parts of this cruise was the ports. The shore excursions are a bit high ($$$), but worth it. Grand Cayman Use one of the several tour options at the pier. They are cheaper and safe. You can go the Stingray City for $30.00 per person. Seven Mile Beach for $4.00 per person each way (by bus). Roatan Great for water sports and snorkeling! Pay for a ship tour here. Don't go ashore just to walk around. You'll be back on the ship in 15 minutes. It is a hole in the wall with no stores, bars, or restaurants. It is not worth your time to walk around and is a pretty island from the ship. Belize Nice to visit and shop! My son and I took the Cave Tubing & Jungle Walk (you must be at least 12 years old). This was one of the best tours I have ever taken. My wife and younger son took the Goffs Caye Beach Getaway and loved it. Cozumel Nice place to shop! Changed a lot over the last few years. Our family took a great tour (Sail Snorkel and Beach Party) loved it! TIP: When going ashore (not on a tour) wait one hour before going to a tender. You will get right on. For families the kids program was great for both the teens and the 12 and under crowd. The Sun was a nice ship with a relaxed atmosphere. You can email me with any additional questions at safety382001@yahoo.com. April 2002 Read Less
My wife (49) and I (50) sailed on the Sun 4/13/02. Beforehand, we compiled a group of Cruise Critic members on the Cruise Critic NCL board and were recognized by NCL as a "Group", which offered us a few nice perks. The ... Read More
My wife (49) and I (50) sailed on the Sun 4/13/02. Beforehand, we compiled a group of Cruise Critic members on the Cruise Critic NCL board and were recognized by NCL as a "Group", which offered us a few nice perks. The best of which was the chance to meet some wonderful people on board and to make some great friends. We have cruised with NCL twice in the past, twice with RCL, once with HAL, once with Premier and once with Dolphin. We both agree of all our cruises, this was the best yet. Embarkation We arrived at Miami airport from Baltimore at around 10:30, left there by 11:00 for a short ride to the pier, and after a very easy embarkation process we were on board in our Superior Inside stateroom by 12:15. We went directly to lunch where the line long at the Garden Cafe, but to be expected. This was basically the only time we had to wait in line to eat. The Room We had booked a "L" Gty and received a 5 category upgrade. The stateroom was the largest and nicest we have had; more storage than we needed, a refrigerator which we really didn't use, a safe which I found VERY handy, normal size cruise bathroom and lots of room. This was a large stateroom! As usual the steward was very attentive. The Ship The ship is brand new and was wonderful. I thought the Atrium was impressive. The show lounge had decent sight lines and surprisingly never full. Lots of little bars and alcoves for meeting friends and of course many dining options. We ate mostly in the Four Seasons or Seven Seas and found the food to range from good to very good. Never bad, but never great. We've had better food on other cruises, including NCL. We ate in LeBistro once, and my wife will talk about the chocolate fondue for ever. The casino was typical, the gym was huge, four large hot tubs plus one in the kiddy area. Lots of lounge chairs on deck. Entertainment I think NCL has the best entertainment going and this cruise is no different. They should pay Jane Powell what ever she wants to keep her on board because she is absolutely wonderful. Do NOT miss her shows. The comedian and magician put on good shows and the dance troop (Jean Ann Ryan) were the best we've seen . Any of the lounge entertainers we stopped to listen to were excellent. Although we didn't do much of this (wore out from other activities and time spent in the casino) they all seemed to have a steady following and what we did hear was very good. Itinerary This is where this cruise really shines. In Grand Cayman we did Captain Marvins 3 hour trip which included Sting Ray City. If you haven't been you must! Awesome. In addition we went to two other snorkel sites which were great. In Roatan we did the Salt & Pepper trip which was very nice. It included round trip transportation to the West End, a beach with lounge chairs and umbrellas for the day, decent snorkeling off shore, and a good local lunch which included a lobster tail. In Belize we did Cave Tubing with Reggie, a local, and it was wonderful. I recommend it to all. You hike along a fairly smooth trail for about a half an hour but the hike goes at the pace of the group so I think it is passable for most. In Cozumel we tried Dzul Ha for snorkeling but found the current much to strong so we ventured to Chaakanab and although the current was strong there also, we were able to snorkel. We also had fun watching the people swim with the Dolphins. We had lunch there and although a little pricey, it was very good and it was real mexican. We also did some shopping in Cozumel. If you like the water, snorkeling, diving, beach, this is the itinerary for you. Staff The staff were very good. Any time we asked for something reasonable it was accommodated. The group coordinator Christina welcomed our group and the Concierge "Ray" took great care of us. From making sure we had a place to meet, to helping u s with communication via notes in rooms to priority tendering services. We only needed to ask and Ray took care of the Cruise Critic Group. We met in the Tapas bar twice and each time the staff there were very attentive, put tables together for us and made us comfortable for our "gatherings" Freestyle Cruising I like both traditional and freestyle. I think freestyle is the rave of the future. If you prefer traditional, ask for the same waiter, same table at the same time each night and they will accommodate!! We enjoyed being able to go to dinner with newly met friends, and the option of dining when we wished. We eat early and never waited to be seated and found all of our wait staff to be attentive and competent. I personally have a distaste for dining on board at an additional fee, however after the meal in the LeBistro, I'm afraid I've been converted to the other side and will probably do it again! In short we had a wonderful time. If you have the opportunity to join on line acquaintances for a group cruise, I can only say our experience was terrific. We dined with newly met friends and went on excursions with several of them. I've read lot's of NCL bashing on line and find it from my experience to be unfounded. I rate them even with RCL and way ahead of HAL. dhunter@northnet.orgMAY 2002 Read Less
I want to share my experiences with you about this trip. I should probably start with some background. I am 37, Mary 35, 2 children who stayed at home and this was our first real cruise. My only comparison point is a day cruise to the ... Read More
I want to share my experiences with you about this trip. I should probably start with some background. I am 37, Mary 35, 2 children who stayed at home and this was our first real cruise. My only comparison point is a day cruise to the Bahamas and my years of Naval service on a frigate. We booked our own air with the flight arriving in Ft. Lauderdale and arranged ground transportation with NCL. Upon arrival at FLL, there were three ladies dressed in blue jackets to guide you to where the bus arrived. Your luggage was loaded on a truck to be delivered to the ship, and you were instructed the first bus would arrive around 11am (we landed at 10:15). I recommend you catch the first shuttle if possible, and the second bus arrived at the ship more than 1 hour after we had. The bus was modern, comfortable, driver was friendly and informative. The best site was pulling up the pier and seeing the Sun docked between the RCL Explorer and the Carnival Triumph. It really showed her size, and she is no small lady. Check in was a breeze, up the escalator and about a 15-minute wait in line. Asked for our tickets and ID, then a credit card for charges and boom, you are walking up the gangway. I have to hand it to them on security, we were asked for our ID's at least 4 times between entering the building and boarding. Now for some reason they feel that you will want to have you picture taken with two scantily clothed women looking like a combination of a majorette and a hooker as you board. Feel free to walk past this photo opportunity unless you wish to have your significant other question the reason behind your smile while viewing the photo later. Your room key cards are handed to you right before you board. Everyone is there to great you as you board, and even though you do not know who they are at the time, you will come to learn their identities as the cruise progresses. The end result being that we were in our cabin by noon. We upgraded from an inside superior to a mini-suite (#1201) a few weeks before sailing, and have no regrets what so ever. The cabin was perfect. Queen size bed, full sitting area with a sofa sleeper and arm chair, a hutch with the TV and refrigerator, and a writing desk. We also had a dresser, which we never used. The bathroom had a dressing area with a safe, 7 drawers, makeup vanity, marble top sink, private toilet, shower/tub combo and tile floor. The two of us were able to move around each other getting ready without much trouble. The only exception being when Mary was at the vanity mirror, which was by the entrance (chair was somewhat in the way). The balcony was at least 10'x10' teak and had two chairs and a mini table. We added two lounge chairs later in the week and still had room to walk around the deck. No one could see us on our deck unless I leaned over the rail while they leaned over theirs. If you want to see my view, just go to the NCL Bridge cam, it was identical. You may be taken back by the color scheme when you first enter, but it grows on you. We had three bottles of champagne, 2 baskets of fruit, and chocolate covered strawberries waiting for us when we got in. Part of this I am told was due to having the Mini-suite, part due to having purchased the $79 romance package (much recommended), and part due to celebrating our anniversary on board. FIRST WARNING TO FUTURE TRAVELERS: You will be handed a drink as you walk across the pool deck. IT IS NOT FREE AND THEY ARE NOT WELCOMING YOU, you will be handed a bill as soon as you take the drink. Feel free to say no thank you unless you want to part with your first $7 immediately. I should also mention that all drinks have a 15% gratuity automatically added on to the drink, but the slip they hand you has a line for tips. I missed that in the beginning, so I was tipping the 15% automatic plus a 20% that I thought to be customary. No wonder they loved me. For those who want beer, ASK FOR THE BUCKET OF BEER SPECIAL. Beers alone are $4 to $5, but you can get 5 beers in a bucket for $12 to $14. Save the remaining four for later in the trip. We immediately went and had lunch in the Garden Cafe. To start that topic, lets say this: The buffet is just that, a buffet. I would not rate its food as any better or worse than I would expect from any buffet, such as a Golden Coral or Hometown buffet restaurant on land. After all, the concept of a buffet is large quantities of food placed before you to feed many people quickly. So before you go and complain about its quality, realize its purpose. Lord knows there are many other places on the ship to eat. Also, just don't stop at the first line you see in the garden cafe: There are another 3 lines of food, a fruit stand, dessert bar, taco bar, pizza bar, and a vegetarian place as you head aft toward the great outdoors. Having said that, it was filling and quick which is what we needed after 7 hours of airports and busses. I will say that their fruit was to die for. I can only say that in my lifetime I have had the perfect watermelon or cantaloupe maybe 10 times. I do not know where they buy their fruit, but it was by far the freshest and sweetest I have had in at least the past 4 years. We meet up with our Cruise Critic group in the observation lounge an hour before sailing. I thought the time would be awkward and quiet, but au' contraire. What a group! Loved everyone we met, and it really brought a lot of enjoyment to the whole trip. Every time you turned around we would see someone from the group, and have a conversation. It really made the ship more as if a hometown full of old friends. At 3:45 you have to grab your life jackets and go to the lifeboat drill. What should be a simple 15 minutes and you are done thing, was held up by those who were too incompetent to read their muster station on their card. Its rather fun to watch people realize that 6A is not 7D and off they go. Please do not assume that you can avoid this, as your attempt to do so only results in the rest of us waiting longer as they call your cabin number 20 times and then make you do it again later. Either way, we were back in our cabin on deck watching the Carnival Triumph sail past us long before the ropes were let loose from the dock. As soon as the ship left port, the fun started. There was what seemed to be a million things to do. Casino, shows, bands, pool, arcade. etc. We took the time to explore the ship. Having found the children's play area, we immediately wished we had brought our daughters. We ate dinner in the aft main dinning room that night and it was fantastic. I will not bore you with all the details as I know many have gone on about the food before me, but the quality was as good as any 4 or 5 star restaurant I have been in before. A SUGGESTION: When your waiter or waitress introduces themselves, make note of their name, and thank them by name (Thank you Reginald) as the quality of your service will greatly improve. I noticed a few of those "Hey you" people? I mean come on! They are humans doing their work. I know if someone came to me and asked me to do my job while treating me like a servant, I would probably code them a virus rather than a solution. I was asked by one gentleman how my day was going, and retorted with I was more interested in how his day was. Needless to say, after a 30 to 40 second dialogues, my service was impeccable. The comedian Saturday night was interesting and grew on you as the evening progressed. The days at sea are smooth and relaxing with the gentle motion of the ship lulling you into a very relaxed and almost sleepy state. SECOND WARNING: BINGO. Ok, we love BINGO, but I could have bought a second cruise with what we spent on bingo. The prices change from day to day, and the games are always changing. You can get (depending on the day) 1 bingo card for four games for $19 to $29. 3 bingo cards for four games for $29 to $39, or the power bingo computerized 6 card machine for $39 to $59. They also give you a big sales pitch on buying the strip "CRACK-IT" tickets. I think you have about as much luck on those as you would bingo, so save your cash there for the bingo or the casino. Needless to say, I spent about $300 on BINGO and took home ZILCHO. I found the games more aggravating than enjoyable, and would rather not have had that addiction during my vacation. Mary enjoyed them though, and so Hi Ho Hi Ho, its off to Bingo we go... (for those who have sailed before.... I've got an OOOOOOOOO). The pools and hot tubs are filled nightly with sea water. It is really something else when you take your first dip and float to the top. Very soothing! If you order the frozen margarita, you can just lick your lips, rather than ask for salt on the rim. On the drink issue again, there is always the push to get the drinks in the souvenir glasses. I recommend two. One is a margarita shaker, which is useful for using later as a water glass near the pool. The other comes from the coffee bar on deck six which are actually glass (not the cheep plastic) and are currently adored in my china cabinet. On excursion issues: I learned of so many it was hard to chose, but we did the following. MAJOR TIP: If you intend to snorkel, go buy yourself some gear before you leave. They always have gear for you on the excursions, some charging a fee, some included, but no one can guarantee a good fit for you. There is nothing more aggravating then trying to snorkel with water seeping in your mask. Also, do you really know where that snorkel has been before you, or even if it has been sanitized. Now I wear a size 14 shoe, so flippers are not as common for me as some others, so maybe I am just biased. Either way, a good set of gear will run you $50 to $100 and is well worth the investment. In Grand Cayman we did the Captain Marvin stingray snorkel. It was fantastic. You are taken by van to the boat, and then out to a reef. You snorkel a sandbar area for about 20 minutes, then you are taken to the reef for about 20 minutes, and then are taken to the stingray area for about 30 minutes. I saw the ships excursion (looked like about 200 people trying to touch a stingray). Comparatively, our 35 people got to see and do more in a less confining environment for about $10.00 less. This is an experience you will not soon forget. The only injury in the group seemed to be a gentleman who was scratched up pretty good by another member of his party trying to hop out of the water in fear. Truly gentle creatures, though. Underwater camera is a must, and a person is there videotaping the whole experience if you wish to purchase it (ours was $45.00 plus S&H). In Roatan, we did the Salt n' Pepper excursion. Again, a van picks you up at the pier and takes you to half moon cay where there are some pretty neat reefs to snorkel over. If you are not into the reef experience you can sit on the beach or have you hair braided by the onslaught of children looking for a few dollars. A TIP: Roatan is a very poor country. We took some fruit from the ship with us just incase we needed a snack. Turns our that the children would love to have it there. Take a few pieces of food from the boat with you and make the local children happy. Paul and wife are wonderful hosts, doing everything they can to insure you are comfortable and enjoy your small stay with them. Paul is also trying to start Rain Forest excursions, which would make for a good experience. Food was included in the day price of $28.00, but was average local cuisine. Do not expect a gourmet dinner, and please bring your bug screen. In Belize we took Reggie's cave tubing. I will have to expand on this one. I have heard some complaints about Reggie driving to fast and the like, but I did not find this to be true. Reggie drove just like everyone else there. You just have to understand that it is not like what we are used to in America. The real experience I thought was the 45 minute walk through the jungle. It is amazing to see this, and how the people try and use the land to grow crops in the jungle. I even learned that cashews grow fruit - never knew that. The water was a bit low and you had to paddle most of the way, but a very awesome trip none the less. To learn that the land was once covered by ocean, to see these huge caves carved under the mountains by years of erosion, and to travel through them was a great experience. On the return trip, Reggie stopped at a place for us to eat a traditional Beliezian lunch of rice and beans, which was really good. The real treat was the view. The open air restaurant overlooks valley of palm trees surrounded by Myan hills. Have your camera ready. Suggestion for this trip: bring an underwater disposable camera with A FLASH! The caves can be dark. In Cozumel we knew we had to see some ruins. We took our only ship excursion here to go and see Tulum. I will give the ship credit here, and our mode of transportation was great. Where we had spent the last few excursions driving in mini vans, we were now on a large boat to cross over to Playa De Carmen, and then a real nice bus down the coast to the ruins. The guide was very knowledgeable and proud of his heritage. It took 45 minutes on the boat, then an hour on the bus. The government has changed the price for video taping to $4 US (was $10). This money goes to historic preservation, so pay the $4 with a smile. The guide gave us about 45 minutes of lecture about the site, pointing out neat features of the buildings and the grounds, then a 5 minute pitch for the preservation society, and then you were turned loose to wander the grounds and snap photos for about 45 minutes. It was beautiful and really was much more impressive in person than it was on the discovery channel. MY ONLY COMPLAINT - WE HAD TO STOP FOR 1 HOUR IN A JEWELRY STORE. Come on now? I paid NCL $80 bucks to see the ruins and got to spend 15 more minutes walking around a jewelry store than I did the ruins. I cornered the manager and probed to find out the relationship. Turns out that this store pays 20% of their sales to the cruise lines in the form of "advertising costs" to insure that all ship tours stop along the way. As far as I could tell, only 1 couple purchased anything, so what a complete waste of time. When we got back into Cozumel, we did the tourist trap road. If you really want to experience Cozumel, leave the main street where the ship is parked, and walk back about 10 blocks away from the pier. There you will find the true Mexican culture, great food, authentic souvenir pieces and cheaper liquor. On the main street you will just be haggling over prices. I did make one purchase. I bought a pair of Alligator boots and a cowboy hat for $160 US (would have been about $600 back home) for country western night on board the ship. Back to the ship. Photographers everywhere - Yes, every time you turn around there is a photographer waiting to snap your photo. We thought this was a bother, and hence always walked the other way, or said no. What a regret! When it came time to get memories of your trip off the wall, we only have the one of the two trampy looking females I mentioned in the beginning. I wished that we had taken more, as you are not obligated to buy them, but they would have been there if you wanted them. If you order the romance package that includes the photo, you can only choose from on of the mobile photos taken. Don't shy away from the camera. I attempt to be a health nut, and try to get my exercise in daily, even thought I put 8 pounds on during this cruise (Mary gained nothing - she makes me so sick). We attempted the gym on the first day out - so did everyone else. It was really made to handle about 50 people, and we were about number 75 and 76. If you are into running, hit deck 6 for the jogging track (from 8am to 8pm). It is great to run with the water next to you - makes you feel like you are running at superman speed. There is a running course on deck 12, but it is way too windy and way to short - you will get dizzy if you run around it too fast. Deck six is the full length of the ship, 3 and one half times around it equals a mile. The video arcade was fun... about 20 to 25 games and all reasonably priced. Casino - gave a couple hundred away here. I wish the ship had $1 tables, but all the tables are $5 and up. I have never had a dealer give me four 15's in a row in blackjack before, but maybe that have that special touch on board. The only time I every ran into anyone grumpy on the ship was in the casino ( a very special thank you to the old grump who habitually complained at the table - STAY HOME NEXT TIME). Had a good time. Never seemed to have to wait for a table to slot, so the size seemed right. I saw Jane L. Powell twice. On the second night I got called to the stage to sing (attempt to sing) "personality". She is not at all what I was expecting. Somehow the name made me think of an elderly former Broadway star. What you had was the self-proclaimed "chocolate goddess of love". She has a vocal range that is astonishing and a style much like (even better than) Mel Torme. A real treat. Her version of "Proud to be an American - God Bless the USA" can bring tears to your eyes. Cirque De Pan - talented youngsters. I just don't get what it was about. It seamed like an attempt at Cirque del Sole, but felt more like a college dance musical. Guess I will have to read up on that type of Art to fully understand if I enjoyed it or not. LeBistro - Fabulous- need I say more? Oh yes, I must?. ORDER THE CHOCOLATE FONDU FOR DESSERT? it is to die for. Il Adiago - never could get reservations, always too late. Pacific Heights - I thought the lasagna was good, but honestly, not a second stop should I sail again. Tapaki Grill - Excellent! Chef was right on, and as for my wife who generally hates all Asian cuisine - she loved it. Midnight Chocolate Buffet - BE EARLY. Have you ever seen what 2000 people trying to get into a room for 500 looks like. There are actually 4 lines for the buffet, but everyone was acting as if it was only one, so the midnight buffet took till after 1:30 to get everyone through. If you are a chocolate coinsurer, you will find it to be rather bland, however a chocoholic will enjoy it none the less. FOOD WARNING - While the food was really anywhere from good to great depending on where and time, the desserts (with the exception of the LeBistro Fruit Fondu) were disappointing. They all had little flavor and texture, and were rather dry. It would help if NCL could top off a great meal with a great dessert, rather than the average to bland. After you leave Cozumel, you can buy liqueur from the Duty free store on board and take it back to your room with you (before that the ship held it). I bought three large bottles (Crown Royal, Kuhualla, and Bailys Irish Cream) for $40. Somehow only left the ship with 2 bottles and misplaced about $100 at the casino that night ( I really could have sworn that there were three kings and four 8's in that poker hand). Art auctions - I got caught up and bought two pieces. All I can think now is what an idiot I was. I spent vacation money, buying things I could have got back home for the same price off ebay. Save you money and your precious time in the sun. Cruise Director staff is everywhere. Paul the CD was great and entertaining, but also have the annoying habit of saying "of course" in between every 10th word (and of course we will be having our bingo game where of course you can win a cruise, but of course you must be present to win of course). I am far from perfect with my grammar, but I heard this for 7 days and got old after a bit. I do want to take a moment to tell you about my favorite staff member. Mona Pop, also known as Monie, really made everything more enjoyable. She was everywhere: bingo, karaoke, auctions, boarding, tendering. She was lively, and full of spirit. If you want to add enjoyment to the trip, look for Monie, and tell her "Big Steve" said hello. I should also tell you about Kim, the cruise and port consultant. She gives presentations about things to do in port and where to shop, and then as the cruise finished up, she tells you about her really great deals on future cruises with NCL. Save your time here. Just pick up the port map and leave unless your whole purpose of the excursion is shopping. The talks are all about whatever shop's have lavished gifts upon her, and you can watch her spiel on the TV in your room at night. As for the really great deals- take a look at the book price in any NCL guide and knock off about $50 to $100 per person and you have her rate. I have found cruises she was offering me on NCL, for $400 less already on the internet. Finally, arriving back in Miami. It should be said here that the first 4 days felt like an endless vacation to me, then the last three felt like four minutes. Where did the time go? To all the nay-sayers who complain about the staff members disappearing on the last day --- BAH HUMBUG. I never had any lack of attention from the crew, but then again I treated each as an equal, tipped well outside of the normal charge at the end, remembered the names of those I dealt with, and called each by their name. You also have to take this into account (if you talk to any staff you will discover this), your last day of the cruise, is just another Monday at the office to them. These guys work 10+ hour days, seven days a week, and use what little off time they have to do laundry, read, sleep and relax before coming back up top to serve you. When the end of the cruise comes and you are looking for their service, some are just trying to get rested up before the next batch comes aboard. Be kind. Final - IT WAS A WONDERFUL VACATION. Probably the best money I have spent on a trip in a long time. I came home fully relaxed and ready to go again. I am already looking for my next cruise, and would travel NCL and/or the SUN again, over and over and over. She is a beautiful ship, filled with beautiful people. Thank you all for the WONDERFUL TIME!sfibelko@columbus.rr.comJune 2002 Read Less
A LONG review from two active cruisers The Itinerary: Western Caribbean. At Sea, Grand Cayman, Roatan Bay, Belize, Cozumel, and at sea. Quick Profile to keep in mind while reading the reviews: My wife and I (Ruth and Steve) are ... Read More
A LONG review from two active cruisers The Itinerary: Western Caribbean. At Sea, Grand Cayman, Roatan Bay, Belize, Cozumel, and at sea. Quick Profile to keep in mind while reading the reviews: My wife and I (Ruth and Steve) are both 31 and very active. This is our third cruise, having sailed with NCL and Royal Caribbean once each. We were on the cruise with another couple of similar age. Everyone cruises differently. For us, it was up at 6 am, going to work out, do tours, see the shows, etc. We have to be out doing things. In fact, we try to do everything we can, and love it when others get involved as well. We also are both newly SCUBA certified (we got certified for this trip a week earlier), and took 3 dive trips on this cruise. We like good food, but are nowhere near gourmets. We don't like giant productions being made out of a meal. We aren't big drinkers, so we won't be able to tell you much about the bar service. We also did not venture into the casino, except to pick up an item for the scavenger hunt. If you want dive information, I will be including the dive review listed separately at the end of the review. We booked all of our own dive trips, and overall had a good experience. If you don't want to read the whole review, here are the highlights: The Good The activities, the room, the itinerary, the cruise critic group, the specialty restaurants, the cruise staff, the service in all the restaurants, the diving tours, the level of activity and participation from the passengers, the fresh fruit, freestyle meals, freestyle tipping, and finally the overall vacation. The So-So The chocoholic buffet, the desserts, the entertainment overall, the lunches, the buffet food, the cabin steward service. The Bad The coffee, the breakfast, the pool size, the bartender harassment, the length of time for a specialty meal, room service, and the bill problems at disembarkment. Bottom line A few hassles, and not perfect, but overall our best cruise yet. Highly recommended! Want all the gory details? Read on, but remember that, as with any opinion, YMMV (your mileage may vary, and it probably will): ARRIVAL and EMBARAKTION We flew out of Philadelphia to Miami. We did not have transfers booked, but easily arranged them with the NCL representative standing right at the airport terminal exit. We landed about eleven am. We were at the port by noon and on the ship by one o'clock pm. The embarkation was very smooth. One note: The long line against the wall on the left that you first come to is the security line to board the ship, not to process paperwork. Those lines for the paperwork are on the right, and broken up into Latitudes, US and non-US citizens. It is here that you establish your onboard account. Overall, it was a very smooth process. We took our pictures at the standard welcome aboard sign. There were also pictures being taken with two stripper-type girls in sequin captain's jackets, NCL hats, and tights. Only the two guys took this photo :> I actually felt sorry for the girls that had to stand there and smile all day. It was kind of weird. As we walked onto the ship, we were met by a host and led to our cabin. I tipped him as he was leaving, and he looked surprised to see a tip. The Ship You've seen the pictures, so I won't go into tremendous details describing the ship. It had a nice atrium, where all of the desks are located. It took a day or so to figure out where a few things were, as well as the fact that you had to go up or down around the middle of deck 5 (where the Four Seasons restaurant was located). The Stardust theater is located at the rear of the ship on deck six and seven. The theater was nice and new looking, but it did have a bunch of support columns that kept getting in our way. The ship did not have as much class as did the Royal Caribbean ship we were on (The Grandeur), nor was it as garish as a Las Vegas hotel. I'd say it was somewhere in the middle. The atrium itself has glass everyone, with big sweeping staircases. However, it also has busy loud rug that takes away from the atrium formal pictures. The room dEcor is very odd. The pool deck is quite plain. On the other hand, the restaurants are quite classy, and the rest of the ship looks nice enough. Again, not saying this is bad or good - just different. The upper decks 11 and 12 have all the activities. There is a good-sized aerobics room. The fitness center is open 24 hours. It had about 9 treadmills, 4 elliptical machines, and a bunch of bikes, as well as the standard weight machines. There was also a full basketball court. Well, it was a lot small than a regulation court, but it had two nice backboards and nets and was surrounded by nets on all sides and the roof. This was a popular place all week, and I was happily able to get into multiple games during our cruise. There was also a batting cage and two golf driving cages. The Pool Decks There were two pools on the main pool deck, separated by four hot tubs. We were wondering why one was always much less crowded than the other, until we realized that one was over 6 feet deep, while the other was about 4 feet deep. On days at sea, these were both crowded, and we felt were WAY too small to accommodate that many people. We did have some trouble getting deck chairs on the days at sea, but we eventually were able to find two open ones (I often had to carry one to put it next to the other, though). There were the usual saving of chairs, but between the pool area and the sun deck above it I think everyone was eventually able to find a place to lie out. The Room We upgraded ourselves to a category BB balcony room (room 9213 on the Fjord deck). It was our first balcony, and we loved it. The room itself is the largest by far of the three we've stayed in. It had six drawers, numerous shelves, and cubbyholes everywhere. Our three large suitcases easily fit under the bed. There was so much storage space, that we didn't even use the hanging shoe pockets we had gotten from the dollar store to help store smaller items. There is also a refrigerator and a safe. The shower is your standard cruise shower. The head swiveled up and down on the pole enough to accommodate me (6'3) and my wife (5'3) without issue. The pressure was very good as well. You're fine as long as you don't mind taking a shower in a coffin ;> The rest of the bathroom had more of the cubbyholes everywhere, and was big enough for us. NOTE: The soaps and shampoo are all liquid, with liquid dispensers. This was very convenient, and certainly eliminates taking home cheap "souvenirs" like soap. However, some people may prefer a bar of soap, and should bring their own. Also, note that the hair dryer is attached to the bathroom wall with a short cord, and was not very powerful. My wife was glad she brought her own. The private balcony was wonderful. No one else was able to see it unless you craned your neck Apart from the ability to walk outside without leaving your room, immediately know the weather, and be able to sit quietly to watch the ocean, it also was helpful to dry out our wet clothing and scuba gear. Be sure to bring clothespins to hold the clothing onto the chairs. It can get windy. The bed is very soft, which is probably the only complaint I have. This was a great room. Warning: There is no clock (alarm or otherwise) in the room, but the automated wake up service works very well. The Itinerary At Sea - Two days that were pretty full of activities. My wife & I spent our time running up and down so we could do as much as possible (yes, this is vacation for us. You should see us when we go to Disney World. YMMV). Again, the activities were surprisingly well attended: Trivia contests, basketball shootouts, poolside games, aerobics classes, etc. You can find as much activity as you wish. These days were a lot of fun. We even went swimming for about 20 minutes on the first sea day. Hey, we were busy :> Grand Cayman - We booked our own diving at Eden Rock (see Diving Section, below). The tender is only a five-minute ride. Unfortunately, they use big tenders, so you can sit for 25 minutes waiting for them to fill up. It lets you off in the bandstand area. There is shopping right across the street. If you keep going to your left, you'll find more stores, and of course more Tortuga Rum shops. After diving, we had about an hour to hit a few shops for my favorite Cayman activity: Rum Cake Sampling. Hey, if every store is going to display them, I feel obligated to try them out. I did buy a few cakes for the family. Note for Americans: Remember that the driving is on the other side of the road here. Be careful when crossing the street. One Note & Warning about buying alcohol: If you wish to buy liquor, you must purchase it by 1:00 pm (as we were rudely informed by each shopkeeper as we entered the stores). Apparently, the duty free rum is packed and sent right to the ship. We saw about 40 boxes ready to be loaded on when we were catching the tender. I wanted a bottle of 151 Tortuga rum, but it was too late to buy it from the duty free shop to be shipped to the boat. Apparently, they have "no stock" of the duty free alcohol. They just order it and send it to the ship from a warehouse. However, they have lots of "stock" of the non-duty free bottles in the local shop, which happens to be attached to the duty free shop. Bottles duty free were selling for about $8 - 10 US. I figured I'd pay a few bucks more and get a non-duty free bottle. I was surprised to see it selling for $33.00. No rum for me. Also, the ship pulled out at the scheduled time, but then stopped for about 20 min. We found out later that someone had missed the last tender, and was taking another boat. The ship stopped and waited. I was impressed that they would do that. Roatan: We booked our own diving at the Roatan Yacht Club (see Diving Section, below). Roatan is basically the opposite of Cayman. Stepping off from the short tender ride (5 minutes), we were in a gauntlet of folks selling, dancing, begging, and trying to get your attention. We immediately got a taxi. Well, we got a guy to take us to a taxi. The rates were fixed. The taxi driver was paid for round trip, and was not to collect money until he returned us (the incentive to come back and get us). I was surprised that the ancient Honda made it the destination (true fact - the gas gauge was broken, and read past empty from the moment we got in the car. I was hoping the driver had put enough gas in it). The diving was pretty nice, and the dive shop folks were great, but I can't say too much for the areas we were driving through. Now, I think it was okay taking the taxi, but my wife did not feel safe. We found out the next day that two people that went off on their own were robbed of everything they had, including their room keys. That could happen anywhere, but I don't know if I would go off on my own again here. Belize: No diving here. Instead, this was our Cruise Critic Cave Tubing Tour. The whole group booked a non-ship tour with a guide named Reggie. The trip was very interesting. I don't think I would ever do it again, but it was neat and fun to do once. I'd recommend it if you can't find anything else you are dying to do (note that the diving here required more experience than my wife and I had, which is why we skipped it). Reggie was very accommodating, and I would certainly recommend doing his tour over the ships tour, since his is longer and cheaper, but otherwise exactly the same. Belize requires a high-speed tender with about a 20 min ride to the shore. There is a very nice dock area, with a visitor's area that has nice bathrooms, and lots of shops. The countryside did not look quite as nice, though. A few houses were nice, but many were huts and ramshackle shacks. The most amazing thing is all of the junked cars everywhere. Every house had a few. Many others were just left in the fields and the side of the road. They all looked burnt, gutted, smashed, or otherwise beat up. I've seen many folks asking about this trip, so I'm going into some better detail: We were met by Reggie, and broke up into three vans. We got the Red van, which had the "fast driver". 80 mph was the standard speed on the countryside, and at times he buried the needle in the speedometer. However, we always felt safe, and there was no reckless driving at all. The van trip was about an hour. The first 45 minutes were on a paved highway. WARNING - the last 15 minutes is on an unpaved, dirt and gravel road. Very bumpy and very narrow. There are often cars and trucks that want to be pass or have to be passed. It becomes very interesting. Be warned. Once we arrived (a good ten minutes before the rest of the slow pokes), we found ourselves in a campsite type area. We were able to get changed and get our tubes and little flashlights. There were two, um, bathrooms here. I use the word very loosely, since they were literally two shacks made of wood. Inside, there are holes in the ground, wooden planks over the holes, and toilet seats bolted onto the planks. Very posh :> The walk on the tour was 45 minutes. I was disappointed with the walk. My wife and I really wanted to see some of the rainforest and wildlife. Well, this walk was more through a jungle path. I did see some bugs, and one lizard, and a few pineapples. It is probably a moderately stressful walk. If you are used to hiking, you'll have no issues. However, there are a few steep hills during the walk. I'd like to tell you how great the guide was, but we were in the back of the 14-person line. So, we wound up talking to Abby and Darren instead of hearing anything the guide had to say. From what I was told, it wasn't much. Perhaps if we had been in Reggie's group we might have heard more. We all used bug spray, and as far as I know, no one got bitten. We also didn't see many bugs, so I can't tell you if we would have had a problem had we not used the spray. One more thing to note - wear Teva's or old sneakers - several people wore water shoes (Aqua sox) and were very uncomfortable on the jungle walk. Eventually, we made it to the river. The guide helped us into the river, and we began our tube trip. For anyone that has tubed before, you will find this a little different. There is little to no current in most places, so you have a good deal of paddling to do. Or, if you are my wife, you get to sit in your tube while I paddle us both. :> The caves are pretty big. For the claustrophobics, I'd say the ceiling heights range in size from about 40 feet most of the time to one or two spots that came down to about 8 feet. The great majority of it was in very large cave areas. They were very dark, though. We saw a few bats flying, and others roosting, but none were anywhere close to us. There were about 5 or 6 spots that had very shallow water, requiring us to get out and carry the tubes. These usually lasted a few hundred feet. Most of the time was spent in the river. The tubing lasted 1 hour and 45 minutes. The water was fairly warm, but the last 15 min in the dark caves found us all getting pretty cold. We were happy to get back out in the sunlight. We tubed back to the campsite, and had a five-minute walk to get back to the vans. They were kept locked, and all of our belongings were safe. Reggie was unable to give us a group discount, saying his prices went up in the recent past. Instead, he included lunch at a restaurant about 20 min away from the tube site. Our van had a minor mutiny when we returned. We all wanted to go back to the ship. Since we had a consensus, we told the driver we wanted to skip lunch. He was very nice about it, but it took a while for him to speak with Reggie before he would go. Reggie came over to us and made sure we wanted to skip lunch, and made sure we had a good time. We assured him that both were correct, and we were on our way for the hour trip back to port. Judy told me later that lunch lasted about 45 min, and was "okay". Seeing as how we had more food than we could possible handle on the ship, we were happy to head on back. Cozumel: We booked our own diving at the Emerald Dolphin Diving (see Diving Section, below). Cozumel was by far our favorite port. Reason number one: No tender !!! Very nice to walk out from the ship. Reason number two: the best diving. Reason number three: Carlos and Charlie's. Reason number four: Large blue margaritas at Carlos and Charlie's. The Sun was docked at Punta Langosta (Lobster Pier, so says my friend). It is new, and looks it. The slight down side to the dock: When you walk off, you have to go up and then down escalators. During this time, you conveniently pass a maze of upscale stores, and there is no way around it. It wasn't bad, but it was a pretty slick tourist trap setup. Once down the escalator on the other side of the street, you are at the entrance to Senior Frog's and Carlos and Charlie's. More on C&C soon. We caught a taxi to the dive marina. Diving was awesome here. Afterwards, we went back to ship, took showers, grabbed a slice of pizza, and headed back out. This is why it was so convenient to dock instead of tendering. We walked down the street through all of the silver, diamond, and t-shirt places (there are really about four stores repeated ad nauseum). Shopkeepers in Cozumel take an "active" role trying to get you into their store. They all stand outside like pimps and try and peddle their wares (Hey Lady, come inside for best jewelry deal in town). We live near the Jersey Shore, and so are well prepared for this type of sales approach. We ignored it, but some folks may be put off by it. On the way back, we had 90 minutes to spend in C&Cs for drinks and dancing. This is a new building, moved from its old location a few blocks away. Drinks are not cheap - $10 and $13 for margaritas, but they are big, they are good, and they are strong. After much contemplation what flavor "blue" is, my wife tried one and really liked it. C&C is loud, brash, and a heck of a lot of fun. Luckily, the ship was very close, so it was an easy stagger back to the ship in time for dinner. We weren't hungry by that time, but since when does hunger have anything to do with eating on a cruise? If you like any type of party atmosphere, definitely make a stop at Carlos & Charlie's. The Restaurants and the Food Rather than a day-by-day rendition, I'll let you know where we ate and throw our some high and lowlights. Some Restaurant Basics The Garden cafe and Great Outdoor cafe are the same buffet at the back of deck 11. The outdoor cafe is usually a lot emptier than the inside buffets, and had most of the same food. It was here that the omelet station, Indian food, and fruit station could usually be found. The lunch & breakfast buffets were here. We never ate here for dinner. The Four Seasons and The Seven Seas are the contemporary and traditional main restaurants, respectively. Both are on deck 5. The dinner meals were almost the same, with same variances of sauces or style of cooking, but the same general food (ie, one has standard prime rib, while the other has prime rib in an odd sauce). One of these restaurants was also open each day for sit down breakfast and lunch, but they switched off. The Four Seasons is right off the atrium, and thus usually a little more crowded. The Seven Seas is at the back of the ship, and we thought it had a nicer view. Otherwise, they are very similar. Pacific Heights served buffet Pizza for lunch, and sometimes held the lunch pasta station as well. For dinner, it became the "light" meal. It required reservations, but there is no additional cost. The other places were all extra cost. Le Bistro and Il Adagio were $10 pp. East Meets West and the Teppenyaki grill were a la carte. We did not eat at the a la carte dinners, but did eat at Le Bistro and Adagio. Breakfast: We ate at both the buffet and sit-down breakfasts. The sit-downs were better, but did not open until 7:30 am. We were usually leaving for our excursions by then. The buffet opened at 7:00 am. At both places, the pancakes were dry and the French toast was cold. On the other hand, the omelets were good in both places. The buffet had a very nice omelet station. The juices were not impressive in either place. I do not drink coffee, but my wife says that the coffee was awful, especially at the breakfast buffet. It always tasted burnt. Overall, breakfast was passable, nothing more. One note -I love fresh fruit. The first two days, there was a huge bowl of berries at breakfast (blue, black, and raspberry). These disappeared after this, and were replaced by melon. The berries were excellent. Keep an eye out. Lunch: We are never big for lunches on the cruise, since we are usually off doing things, and just can't eat that much food. Thus, we never made it to the sit-down lunches. The buffet lunch was average buffet food, although there was also a carving station. Some food was decent, and some wasn't. The next room over had a few sternos of different Indian food sitting in an isolated area. It was odd, since there wasn't anything to make people notice it. The pasta station, which floated between the Garden cafe and Pacific Heights, was pretty good, but was not made to order. Each day, they had a different kind of pasta. Most days, we wound up grabbing a few slices of pizza. Living in Philadelphia, we have a lot of good pizza shops around to compare. This pizza wasn't great, but it was pretty good. It made for an excellent light and quick lunch. They had three flavors: plain, pepperoni, and green pepper/mushroom. Pizza was usually very popular. There was often a line, but we never had to wait too long. One highlight of the buffet: Some days they had cookies out for dessert, and these were very good. Dinner: The reason folks go on a cruise :> First off, the food was pretty good overall. We were a little unhappy with the main meal one or two nights, but there are enough appetizers and extras (and desserts) to make up for it. The extra charge specialty restaurants are definitely a higher class of food. Also, with the price of the cruise, I had absolutely no problems paying an extra $50 for the two of us to eat two meals at the alternatives. And really, the food was still pretty good at all the dinners. The Four Seasons and the Seven Seas were the same in quality. Both ranged from pretty good to excellent. Some highlights of the week: most of the beef meals (prime rib, Caribbean night steak), and the tiger prawns. In case anyone is wondering, we skipped the following meals to go to the alternative dinners: Italian night (went to the Italian restaurant), President's dinner (basic food - steak & mashed potatoes), and the final Chef's Dinner (Pacific Heights). A warning note on the specialty restaurants: Part of the experience of the "extra fine" meal is to draw it out. Each of the two alternative meals lasted more than two and a quarter hours. The service was still very good. There was just much more time between courses. Now for some folks, this is great. For antsy people like us that just want to eat and do other things, the meals just took too long. The food was better, and we recommend these dinners highly, but be prepared for the time delay. We missed a few minor shows because of these meals. Here are the alternative restaurants we attended: IL Adagio: Italian, and our favorite restaurant on the Sun. It is located right behind the Four Seasons on deck five, but there is a staircase entrance on deck six right past the atrium. Adagio is set up with all tables having a window view. The four person tables are curved couches facing a large picture window. It was a gorgeous view. The highlights of our meal were: The shrimp scampi, the soups, the pasta (my wife asked to have it accompanied by a grilled chicken breast, which they did without complaint). The desserts were also excellent, including the hazelnut cake, which somehow was too rich for my chocolate fanatical wife. I had the "layered biscuit" dessert, which sounded boring, but was actually different kinds of strong rum creams, and was very good. Le Bistro: The French restaurant. I tried Escargot for the first and last time (I always try to have weird things on a cruise). Getting past the fact that these were snails, I found that they tasted like little slimy chunks of butter, swimming in butter sauce, with a butter topping, and some butter added on for good measure. Note that I don't really like butter :> Again, YMMV. Also, they offered a "Steak Diane" sirloin strip. This was good, but not as nice a cut of meat as the filet mignon. We suggest getting the filet, which was much tastier. The menu also offered a "Firestar" for $18 (in addition to the cover charge, I presume). It is a little roasting flame in the middle of your table, and they put various kinds of meat on it. We didn't try it, and didn't see anyone else trying it either, but it did look interesting Highlights: The filet mignon (excellent), the mushroom soup in a bread bowl, and the chocolate fondue (did you think my wife would let me get away without mentioning this?) Pacific Heights: We heard rave reviews about the light restaurants. We thought it was okay. We had the meatloaf and the calzone. The food was decent, and we didn't really know it was "light" per se. It just wasn't up to the hype we've heard. We thought the desserts were very bland. Luckily, by this point we had eaten more than enough dessert over the week. Note #1: The meal was served at normal speed, not the two-hour meal. Note #2: It is a very casual atmosphere. Note #3: Eat here near the end of week, if you are at all health-conscious. PH prints all the nutritional values for their meals. After you read the calorie and fat contents on these meals, which are about average, you will start to wonder what the hell you've been ingesting while eating multiple meals and sampling all the desserts all week. Do yourself a favor and just don't read the nutritional labels. That way, you won't feel bad. Chocoholic buffet: This was the only midnight buffet, unless you count snacks and a roasted pig out by the pool deck on Caribbean night. The buffet was okay. Like I said before, most of Norwegian's desserts are the same thing in different shapes. The cakes are almost all the same. Basically, they have light cake with different colored filling and icing, and they have dark cake with different colored filling and icing. The chocolate buffet looked incredible, but most of the food tasted the same. It was okay, but nothing was nearly as good as it looked. They did have a nice variety, including fondue, cheesecake, choc covered strawberries, ice cream, Eclairs, and lots of cakes. Note: the fondue and ice cream sundae bar were at the end - skip most of the cakes and save room for these! My favorite, not being a chocolate fanatic, were the gummi bears served as a sundae topping :> Two exceptions are the chocolate pecan torte served with dinner the first night, and the chocolate cake at Il Adagio, which were given high ratings by the chocolate lovers (ie, the girls) in our group. Fresh Fruit: There was a fruit station in the buffet for breakfast and lunch. It was very popular, and the fruit was usually pretty good. The server has a giant plastic bin filled with fruit, and sometimes has things that he wasn't putting out. I asked for a mango almost every day (the Caribbean is the only place where I can get a great mango). He had it on two of the days. Feel free to ask. The cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon and pineapple were everyday standards, and ranged from decent to excellent. ROOM Service We ordered the breakfast once (twice, really). The door-hanging menu (placed on the door by 4 am to have breakfast in your room) gives the basic choices of Danish, cereal, yogurt and fruit. We had read on these boards that we could request other things (such as cooked to order eggs) to be delivered for breakfast. On our first excursion day, we wrote in a couple of omelets, and some other requests. We were delivered ONLY the things on the preprinted sheet, and not a lot of them either. We tried ordering room service breakfast one other time. We opened the door in the morning to find the breakfast request still hanging on our door (it was on there by 11 pm the night before). So, don't rely on the room service breakfast. We found ourselves running up to the breakfast buffet every day. Our friends had the exact same experience with the breakfast service (no made to order items for them either). They also ordered regular room service once or twice. They said it took twice as long as posted (supposedly 30 - 45 min) to get a few grilled cheese sandwiches mid day. Without too much experience with it, I can say that the room service was not good for our group. The Bars Like I said, we are not big drinkers. Our ship bar bill for the week was $8.00. The drinks are pretty expensive, but the one my wife got was decent. The only real issue we had with the drink service was the CONSTANT pushing of drinks. Sit by the pool, and not four minutes go by without being asked if you want a drink. By now, everyone knows about the "Welcome Aboard" drink scam. I knew about it, and it *still* looked like they were handing out free drinks ("Here is your welcome aboard drink, sir"). Caribbean night was the worst. It was literally every minute, without fail, that a plate of pineapple and coconut drinks was waved in your face. That part got very annoying. On the plus side, the bartenders at the pool had water filled spray bottles, and would give you a refreshing spray as they walked by, whether you were a drink buyer or not. Plus, if you wanted a drink, I can guarantee that you got great service. The Service The room steward was pretty good. We rarely saw him, and he usually did his job. He did keep forgetting an extra towel that was requested. We kept leaving notes. Eventually, he left the post-it note up in the bathroom to remind himself, and he did not forget again. Overall, we have no complaints with the cabin service, although it is now our third cruise without a towel animal. The restaurant service was excellent. We had a few servers that were better than others, but almost everyone looked like they were trying to please you. It probably wasn't as good as our "traditional" dining servers on past cruises, but it was still very good. They were happy to bring extra meals, make changes to the menu, and check for extras (like mangos at breakfast - they didn't have any, but the waitress brought me a kiwi instead). Even at breakfast on the last day, we had pretty good service, although you could tell it was the last day. In general, the servers acted like they really wanted to please us. The Cruise Staff We thought the staff was excellent. The cruise director, Paul Baya, was everywhere. I'd go into more detail, but I think every cruise director is cloned from the same personality. Seriously, he did a great job. Additionally, the assistant cruise staff was great as well. Monie, Pedro, and Rodica all helped to make the activities a lot more fun. I also want to make note of Julia and Lara from the aerobics center. They worked us hard, and we appreciated the quality instruction. They were great instructors. One memorable entertainment moment for us on the cruise: We were doing the Broadway trivia with Ramona. We were broken up into groups of four. About halfway through, one rather aged gentlemen asked how many people were supposed to be in a group. When answered four, he proceeded to complain and grump about another group that had nine people answering questions. He was bitching about a trivia game on a vacation !! We all found this pretty funny, as did Ramona. Our running joke the rest of the week dealt with how many people were allowed in each group. The bottom line is that some people are just looking for things to complain about. The Entertainment We thought the entertainment was decent, with some hits, some misses, and one night skipped.. We come prepared for the shows realizing that we aren't on Broadway. Here is a breakdown of the shows: Encore, Mr. Producer: Decent. Some folks had good voices. A few were not very good. We didn't like the song choices very much. The show was entertaining though, and worth an hour of your time. Que Noche - A long week of diving, plus an evening at Carlos and Charlie's led us to be too tired to make it to this show. Cirque Pan - One of the misses. We've seen a few Cirque du Soleil shows, and really like them. As our friend Lisa stated, this show was more like interpretive dance than Cirque. I've read Peter Pan, and this show still wasn't making sense to me. There was much odd dancing, and little acrobatics. We left halfway through. Jane Powell - This woman has an utterly amazing voice, an unbelievable vocal range, and a very funny stage presence. We did not care for the style of music she sings, but still liked the show. Surprisingly, we enjoyed her performance during the farewell show more than her main show. Go see her on both nights. The Comedian - Forgot his name. He was okay. 'Nuff said. The Magician (Neil Sayres, I think): The other show that we left early from. We were just not impressed. I'm not sure if it was his level of ability, or the angle we were sitting at, but I was able to see almost all of his "moves". I'd watch as he flourished a silk handkerchief, made a few waves of his hand, and then reached under his cape to "magically" produce a tall glass. After 15 minutes of that, I had to go. The "Other" entertainment: This was better than the shows, for us. We liked Paul Baya, the cruise director. His Millionaire show was very good. The newlywed game was funny, as always. The Caribbean pool deck party was probably hilarious for all those men not dressed up as women and performing on stage. As I was one of the men so dressed, I'd have to say that I couldn't judge how funny it was, but I imagine other folks were laughing pretty hard. Overall, we thought the entertainment was pretty good, and about average for the cruises we've been on. The Photographers They are everywhere snapping pictures. We would get them taken whenever we could, since it costs nothing to look. On formal night, there are about five different formal portrait areas, all with different backdrops. The photographers are very good. The pictures came out very nice, but they are very expensive. They cost $10 for small ones, $15 for midsize, and $30 for a sheet of large formals, which included an 8x10 and 2 5x7s. I think they offer some "deal" that the sheets are $25 each if you get five of them. Be prepared to spend money if you want a lot of pictures. Disembarking NCL didn't require the suitcases to be outside your room until three am the last day. Also, it was nice to be able to stay in our room until our time slot was called. Once called, it was a quick exit for us. Customs was not an issue, and we quickly got our luggage and got onto the airport bus. Here, we had to wait until all were on the bus. At this point we wished we had taken a cab, since we could have gotten moving immediately. It wasn't a big deal, though (wait on the bus or wait at the airport). The bus drops you off to the an airport check in desk outside, which made it quite convenient to get our flight. Bill Warning - We did have one issue with disembarking. We were charged twice for transfers (an extra $40). Normally, I wouldn't make much of an issue, since mistakes happen. However, while in the long, slow moving line for the credit desk, we heard at least two or three other folks that had the exact same problem. We wondered how many people did not check their bill and just accepted the extra charge without noticing. There were other problems we heard about while waiting. Some of them seemed pretty suspicious, such as the guy that checked his bill at the desk the night before, and then had other false charges thrown on overnight. We were able to get our double charge fixed, and I am not suggesting that NCL did anything on purpose, but I STRONGLY suggest you check your bill carefully before you leave. Other than that, the process was quite smooth and easy. Other Freestyle Comments This was our first freestyle cruise, and we really loved it. It was great staying in the port as long as we wanted and not worrying about getting to dinner on time. It was great choosing where we wanted to go for dinner. At times we went at 6:30, but a few nights went a lot later. Only once did we wait to be seated, and only for about three minutes. It was also nice not worrying about tips, unless we wanted to give extra. Yes, we missed having a traditional server a bit. The service was probably a notch under that of traditional cruising. However, it was still excellent service, and we would do it again without a second thought. The Cruise Critic group and the future of such gatherings: Judy (and Abby) did an excellent job arranging things. Judy especially went over and above in printing up signs, bringing name tags, providing gifts (!) and leading the group. The people we met (Cheryl & Doug, Abby & Darren, Judy & Buzz, etc) were all great people. We had a fun bus trip to Cave Tubing with them (we had the fast red bus - ha ha). Plus, Ray Williams was excellent in arranging first tender priority for our group. Thanks again. Another note on Cruise Critic group meeting for the first time - if anyone is a natural born leader, recommend doing some icebreakers. That way, you can really get to know each other early on. We didn't really get to know anyone until the cave tubing trip in Belize. Everyone seemed so nice - I wish we had taken the time to plan to eat some dinners or to see some shows together. I have to say that I don't know how much longer such "unofficial" groups will be getting priority tendering. When we first boarded in Grand Cayman, the dive instructor started arguing that she was supposed to get her people on the first tender. She eventually squeezed all of her people on, but spent so much time arguing that she could have easily boarded the second tender. Since CC is not an 'official' group, I believe that things like that will make NCL give out fewer benefits like priority tendering. It was wonderful to use while we could, though. The Passengers This was by far the most active of any cruise we've been on. Abby theorized that this was due to the itinerary (basically a dive and snorkel itinerary, and tenders at three of the four ports), as well as the time of year (not spring break and during school). People were always doing to aerobics classes, and working out, and playing ball. They were also joining in on the contests and games. We saw very few children as well. Overall, this made for a great trip for us, since we've seen activities and events stay unused far too often. This is the end, unless you want details about our dives. Congratulations if you made it this far! Again, we have to thank the Cruise Critic message board (http://www.cruisecritic.com) for the excellent sources of information. We learned so much from here that we were able to fully plan our trip. The Dives We booked all of our own dives. Since this was our first time diving, and I was worried about things taking too long, we did a lot of Internet research. We also did not want to put down a deposit anywhere, since there is always a chance that a cruise ship will miss the port and most of them would not give refunds. Roatan and Cozumel reserved a spot for us without a deposit. Grand Cayman wouldn't do so, but told us that the dives are not that crowded, and that we wouldn't have a problem. We didn't. We pretty much relied on the advice of a cruise critic member that had planned his own scuba excursions on a previous cruise - thanks Thom. "Sun Scuba - know before you go" is the title of his post on the NCL board. On all of the dives, we saw a vast array of Caribbean fish. Parrotfish, Triggerfish, Angels, Yellowtail Snappers, Sergeant Majors, Squirrel Fish, large groupers, barracuda and many more were all very prevalent. At Cayman and Cozumel we saw a few sea turtles as well. Additionally, all three were very clear, and had some excellent walls and coral formations. All three shops were quite helpful, and the diving was excellent. I would recommend them all, although I may be hesitant about the traveling in Roatan. The folks at the shop were great, though. If we had to rank the diving overall, we would put them in this order: Cozumel, Cayman, and Roatan. Here are some details about the shops we chose. Grand Cayman - There were a bunch of choices here, but we chose Eden Rock for the good reviews, and its proximity to the tender dock. When you exit the tender, turn right, and keep on the right side of road. Eden Rock is about a four-minute walk from the dock. There is a small shop, and the dive boats and shore snorkeling/scuba are out back. The staff was very professional, and made sure we were well taken care of for our first real dives after certification. We dove the Cayman wall (to 110 feet!) for our first dive and to 60 feet or so for the 2nd dive. We actually liked the 2nd dive much better - there were more fish to see. Also, the 2nd dive was an "unguided" dive - they gave you directions, and then you were on your own. Since we were still new to diving, we requested a guide. They were more than accommodating. Jerry (one of the DM's) went in with us, showed us around, and made sure we got back to the boat on time. The services were very professional - a DM was always with us (the inexperienced divers). There were about 8 people on the boat, with 3 DM's. Also, they made sure you did an appropriate safety stop, and kept within the recommended no-decompression limits. Prices were $ 65 for the 2-tank dive, plus $10 ea for BCD and regulator. They also have shore diving available here - if experienced, you can rent equipment and just go - or you can hire a guide for $50. We were a little worried about time, but were back with over an hour to spare before our last tender to the ship. For Eden Rock information, contact Stuart Freeman [mailto:edenrock@candw.ky] Roatan - As I stated in the review, Roatan itself did not seem very safe. We booked with Patrick Zingg of the Roatan Yacht Club. ( http://www.roatanyachtclub.com) We asked for a taxi to the Yacht Club in the French Harbor. It is about a 20-minute ride. If you have enough people in your group, Patrick would pick you up for the same cost as the taxi, which would have made us feel a lot better. Once there, we walked to the back of the Yacht club to get to the marina. There were only six people diving, so we went out with Gillian Zingg on a VERY small dive boat. That first dive to 70 feet was very nice. There were some walls and coral formations that we had to negotiate. The seas were a little bouncy, and all three of us got pretty queasy during the ride back. None of us normally get seasick, but we were all pretty green after the ride back from the first dive. Luckily, we had some time at the marina for the surface interval, and the second site was a lot closer. They took us to a reef they called "fish soup", which was only about 45 feet deep. There were indeed hundreds of fish all around us the entire dive. We liked Patrick and Gillian, but wished the boat were bigger. However, there are not a lot of dive choices in Roatan, and think that the Yacht club was a good choice overall. We got back to the dock over an hour before the last tender was due to leave. The dives cost us $20 per dive, $15 for renting BCDs and regs, and another $15 per person for the taxi service. Cozumel - Once off the tender, we went to the Marina Caleta and asked for the Yucab III. It was here that we found Tony Castillo of Emerald Dolphin Diving (http://www.cozumel-diving.net/edds/). The only down side to this trip was that the boat picks up the divers from their hotels, so we spent an extra 40 minutes getting people from various docks. However, we think that EDD was also the most helpful of the three shops, and had the nicest boat (the only one with a head). The diving was the best here as well, and we highly recommend this company. Our first dive was to 80 feet. The water was amazingly clear. The second dive was to 50 feet, and we saw the best corals here on this dive. We were back at marina by 1'oclock, and one of the dive crew immediately left to flag down a taxi for us from the main road. We were back on the ship taking showers by 2 o'clock, and still had a few hours to walk around in Cozumel. We paid $67 for the dive, $15 for rentals, and $7.00 each way (per cab) for the transportation. If you have any questions, feel free to write us darkone@comcast.net (Steve) & flyerfan22@comcast.net (Ruth)June 2002 Read Less
We are in our mid forties and took our two children (ages 14 and 17) on the June 1st sailing of the Sun. It was our first cruise. We had a wonderful time. The Ship We thought it was lovely and clean. If you like to do the fitness ... Read More
We are in our mid forties and took our two children (ages 14 and 17) on the June 1st sailing of the Sun. It was our first cruise. We had a wonderful time. The Ship We thought it was lovely and clean. If you like to do the fitness room and don't wish to wait for your favorite machine, get there early. Cabin Our room was a balcony cabin on the Fjord deck and was worth every penny for the balcony. Just to be able to look out to sea when we were in our cabin was a pleasure. We were on the port side and enjoyed watching as the ship pulled into port, we drank coffee in the morning on the balcony, and simply walked out there from time to time to enjoy it. Our cabin had plenty of space. My kids slept on the sofa bed and complained about its hardness. Kid's Program My son (14), had a blast. We hardly saw him, except for our shore excursions. My daughter (17), on the other hand, would have had a better time if we could have taken a friend for her. Seventeen is too old for the Kid's Program (they do offer it for them, but if you have a 17 year old you know that they don't want to hang with the younger kids; however, they are too young for the college/singles crowd. She hung with us and we enjoyed lots of quality time together. Food I'll have to echo what others have said about the buffet food (Garden Cafe)--nothing special, but it was handy. The Seven Seas, Four Seasons, and Pacific Heights food was very good (we are not gourmets). We were satisfied with the "included" food and didn't venture out to the specialty restaurants, although I spoke with others who said it was well worth the 10$. Were somewhat disappointed with the midnight Caribbean buffet. Servic: We found the servers at the restaurants and bars to be excellent. I do have to agree that those who are on duty at the Garden Cafe could be a little friendlier, but perhaps they are overwhelmed with the volume of people that eat there. Entertainment Super! We don't do a lot of shows in our "normal" life. We loved Mary Ellen Hooper (the comedienne). Jane Powell was excellent; and while we are not really into dance shows, the Jean Ryan Co. seemed to have it together for that kind of show. We also really enjoyed The Power of Two--very entertaining--sort of a cross between Red Skelton and Gallagher. There is also a performer who looks a lot like Jerry Springer who sings in the sports lounge who is fun and we enjoyed. Ports My only complaint about the ports is having to tender (no more priority tendering for Cruise Critic groups ) and feeling somewhat rushed. I'd rather cut out a port than feel rushed. Captain Marvin's tour in Grand Cayman was lots of fun and far less crowded than the ship's excursion. Reggie's Cave Tubing in Belize was great. The walk to the river was no problem at all, and I felt like I was in a National Geographic picture during much of the river trip. In Roatan, we took the Tabayana Beach excursion. It was rather crowded and it had rained early that am, so the snorkeling was not as awesome as it might have been. If if ever do that port again, I'd like to find another couple or two to do an outside excursion. Finally, Cozumel was our favorite. We like to have a "local" experience, so after making inquiries, we ended up at a store which was similar to a Super Walmart and bought hot sauce and other Mexican goodies. We then took a taxi to the local flea market and bought embroidered shirts and took in the sights. We returned to the ship with out purchases and then set out to snorkel at Playa Corona (per recommendation of a cabbie) right next to Chankanaab. We rented snorkel equipment (8$/person) and snorkeled in an almost deserted area where visibility was excellent. Even though there were not huge schools of fish, there were many different varieties and we enjoyed feeding the sand snappers with crackers that we bought at the snack bar. I would enjoy Cozumel as a sole vacation destination. Casino Don't like to have to buy drinks at a casino. The slots eat your money more than usual. Roulette sign (the one that shows the numbers hit) still not working. Husband enjoyed blackjack. Embarkation Sort of a pain. We arrived about 11:00 (we had driven to Miami the day before) and after dropping off the luggage, we parked at the parking garage. We had to wait about 45 minutes or more with lots of other early birds before they let us on the ship (maybe we should have waited until 1:00 ?) The rest was easy. Disembarkation A breeze. We were off the ship and headed out of Miami within 30 minutes of being called. Additional Comments Don't have anything to compare it to, but I don't think I would like having to be at dinner at a certain time each night. Glad my husband didn't have to wear a tux at dinner. I was fine with the 10$ per person per day tip charge. All in all, it was wonderful. ncdavis@mindspring.comJune 2002 Read Less
My wife and I along with another couple just returned from our voyage on the Sun 6/15-6/22. I am 52 years old and this was our first cruise on Norwegian. We have had three other cruises, 2 on Carnival and 1 on RCL. IMO free style is the ... Read More
My wife and I along with another couple just returned from our voyage on the Sun 6/15-6/22. I am 52 years old and this was our first cruise on Norwegian. We have had three other cruises, 2 on Carnival and 1 on RCL. IMO free style is the best. We had a great time !!! To Miami We took our own flight to Miami because we had some tickets we could exchange. I recommend coming at least one day ahead of schedule unless you've made arrangements with NCL. We left LA on a red eye and were tired when we arrived but were lucky to check in our hotel by 9:00 AM. Embarkation It poured rain on this day and we were able to get on board by 12:00. It went very smoothly. We were personally escorted to our cabin and the young lady insisted on helping with our carry ons. Our cabin We had a cabin on deck 10 with a balcony. We had plenty of room for our clothes and luggage with room to spare. The refrigerator came in handy (for chocolate buffet stash-more on that later). There was a safe, nice sized shower, and liquid soap. We were very comfortable there and the balcony made it even better. The shipThe ship was very modern with great wood decor . It was of course -huge and took a day to get my bearings. Nice gym and steam and sauna. There were two large pools, one kiddy pool, and four Jacuzzis. I hit the steam and pools and Jacuzzis. FoodLots of it-all the time and it ranged from very good to excellent. We ate at the buffet for breakfast daily. The food was good, although the waffles weren't crisp -(oh well). Hot cereals, grits, fresh fruit and omelets made to order were at a station every day. I thought the coffee was good, not terrible as others have described it, but to each his own. When you arrive go directly to the buffet all the way to the rear-you can get your food faster. The lunch buffet I only ate once or twice and it was good-not great, but it's a buffet. We ate in both regular restaurants, but mostly in the Seven Seas. Service was very good. The food was excellent. One night my wife and friend didn't like their entree, let the waiter know and the waiters were more than happy to replace it. The maitre 'd and other staff came over to make sure everything was to our satisfaction on more than one night. My wife treated us to the Father's Day brunch at Le Bistro and it was excellent. Cost -$7. Again-great service. We also ate tapas in Las Ramblas and they were very good, but the Sangria was the best I have ever had and it had fruit. I wanted to go back there, but never made it. Ports of Call In Grand Cayman's we took Capt. Marvin's excursion. If you like snorkeling and want to touch the Stingrays, this is for you. We had a small group and we went to three sites. If it was too crowded we went to one of the other sites. I was disappointed we had to leave at 2:30 for the ship instead of the 4:00 listed time. We had to rush to shop, but the rums as well as the rum cake were fantastic. I recommend buying the rum cakes and the Rum cream and Banana flavored rum. Also buy it at the large liquor store instead of the small one recommend by the ship a much greater variety and they give you a little leeway on the deadline. It must be purchased before 1:30 and is delivered to your room. I only wish we had had more time. In Roatan we took the sightseeing island/beach tour. We had an excellent guide, a young lady named Rosalyn who I got to speak Spanish with. Although Roatan is a very poor island, she had great pride in it and her family. The poverty was depressing, but I never felt in danger. Those who have never been around poor people of color may very well be intimidated. I don't recommend going every where alone-use common sense as you would anywhere. But I think it is good to intermingle to learn about the people and show them respect and you will have a good experience. The beach was beautiful, but there isn't much shopping or other things to do. I learned a lot about Honduras and its people. Belize -- Overcast and some rain. We had a very good cab/tour guide named Ricky. Again, he was very proud and excited to show and teach us about his country. He began by telling us about the history of the country and showed us around major sites in Belize City. He also drove us out to the Belize Zoo about 30 miles from Belize City. The zoo was interesting and had animals native to Belize. While I've been to much better zoos, again I respected his excitement and pride in their zoo. Some of the animals were very unique though. He also took us downtown to a store where we got great deals on souvenirs. He wanted to take us to some other areas, but we asked to be returned to the pier so we could get some native food because time was getting short. We paid $30 each for this all day tour. Belize is a pretty country, but Ricky told us crime is rising and even street gangs have begun to spring up. Stay with a cab or tour from ship or in the local vicinity. We had no problems and were surprised to hear about gangs in Central America, but when some LA gang members are deported to their own countries-they take the lifestyle with them. It's sad. If you're into water sports and the jungle and countryside there are many excursions offered for that. It has the second best barrier reef in the world. Cozumel--If you've been to Baja CA- it's not a lot different. Lots of shops. Great buys in silver. Get your Kahula there and tequila. Carlos and Charlie's was a blast . Good food (small portions) and some of the best margaritas. (Try the banana). Again, it rained on and off so we canceled our snorkel beach excursion . Entertainment I saw the show with the comedian Donnel?? He was very good and set the tone for the cruise on our first night. Jayne Powell was very good and encouraged audience participation(even when you didn't want to like me).My wife and her friend said they liked the "Circus Soliel type "show. The newlywed game, 70's disco and the group Twice As Nice were great in Dazzles disco. I did have a problem that I never saw any kids have to show ID to purchase alcohol in bars or ship store. But that's me. The kids were pretty well behaved as a whole. Not as rowdy as I've seen on Carnival. Casino-Spent little time there the $5 to play most games were out of my range. They did have buffets on different nights. Our joke became "be careful where you go a buffet might break out." Lots of slots, 1 craps and 1 roulette table. Chocoholic's BuffetSome much chocolate , so little time. They didn't allow pictures until the buffet was served--duh!!!!!!! Anyway there were many things that were just covered with chocolate as well as the cakes, candies, etc. They had an unnecessarily long line, because they could have had 4 lines going instead of 2 . I've had better midnight buffets ,but it was different. Disembarkation A piece of cake, we selected around which of the allotted times suited us best-ate breakfast and waited in our cabin to be called. We were off the ship in about 15 minutes afterwards. The staff and captain personally said good -bye to each passenger. Nice touch. Conclusion I really enjoyed the service , food, and just relaxing and doing what you want to do when you want to do it. Freestyle is the way to go. The cruise director and his staff were great, no worries about tipping. Met some nice and interesting people. If you are into water diving or snorkeling the excursions are endless. But there are many other non-water related activities too. I never sail on the same ship or to the same locations(I did hit Cozumel twice though-no choice) ,but I would cruise NCL again. Any questions feel free to e-mail me. Enjoy your trip. chicmil24@aol.comJuly 2002 Read Less
A little about myself, this was my 9th cruise and my trip aboard the NCL-SUN was my 4th NCL trip. I am the type of person who is not easily impressed, I am highly critical and prior to any cruise I extensively research the ship, do my ... Read More
A little about myself, this was my 9th cruise and my trip aboard the NCL-SUN was my 4th NCL trip. I am the type of person who is not easily impressed, I am highly critical and prior to any cruise I extensively research the ship, do my homework and even print out a detailed itinerary for members of my family and friends traveling with me. For this cruise there were 12 of us, ages ranged from 17-58 years. Since Freestyle cruising is a new concept and I had read much about it, I was very apprehensive about booking with NCL. One of the big events during every cruise is dinner with all the family members and I was very concerned about not being able to either sit together, or even eat at a specific time; I could just imagine standing and waiting for a table. Well let me put all your misgiving to rest, everything worked out great, so read on. BoardingCould not have been easier. I stood in the latitudes line for a few minutes and everything went well. NCL insists on a passport or birth certificate as a form of ID, no other forms of ID are acceptable, oh well! Within minutes we were on board. Your luggage is left at the luggage drop off before you enter the terminal, so make sure your room number is clearly indicated on your NCL luggage tags. I give NCL a big thumbs UP. Smooth and easy. Cabins I always book the cheapest; I lucked out on this and managed to negotiate an outside with balcony as an upgrade. The cabin was large and well laid out. The room had lots of storage space, a small couch, dresser and the bathroom had a nice soap and shampoo stocked dispenser. The balcony was nice but not used often. So unless you MUST have a balcony, and want to stay in your cabin, I would opt for the cheapest inside and save the cash for the fun times. I did manage to view inside cabins and they appeared to be about 180sq ft.; that is a good size. Another BIG thumbs up. Freestyle Choose from a variety of restaurants in addition to the normal dining rooms; you can eat at any time within the operating hours. However, some of the specialty restaurants do assess an extra charge. Formal clothing is optional. Freestyle is an interesting concept but needs to be studied more. In every restaurant I visited I found passengers waiting for a table. In addition, even though the service was excellent and regardless of the restaurants, I found the service to be extremely SLOW! As an example, there is no longer a wine steward; therefore in addition to their normal duties, the waiter is responsible for the wine and drinks; this was a slow process and added confusion to ordering dinner. I would suggest that passengers eat all but two meals at the no-cost main dining rooms and perhaps pick a specialty restaurant or two to try while cruising. The food at the other places is no better, just a different atmosphere. Dining/FoodSince the numerous dining establishments is the concept behind freestyle, I have devoted a great deal of my review to the eateries. Overall food in the main dining rooms was nothing short of excellent. I rarely eat at BUFFETS for breakfast or lunch; for this cruise I broke my rule and ate once at the breakfast and lunch buffet. There was a variety of food at the buffet and it was plentiful, but the lines were long and the quality and presentation were definitely sub par to the dining rooms. So if you enjoy a good meal, eat at the dinning rooms for all three meals. To insure that my party always was seated together for dinner, arrangements were made with the maitre de. We were given a table and were asked to arrive at a certain time. The entire staff was accommodating and friendly. Note; Wine prices are high, however, they have an offer that is not widely publicized, if you buy four bottles, the fifth is free, so if you enjoy wine with dinner, this is a good deal. A solid 4 stars for the food. - Le Bistro: The most talked about restaurant. A charge of $10 per person is added. The food was excellent and well worth the visit. Once again, arrangements were made way ahead of time with the maitre de. We were given a table and were asked to arrive at a certain time. However, the same slow service was evident. Enough said! - Pacific Heights: Advertised as low fat cooking and no charge to eat there. Arrangements were the same as the others. This restaurant gets mixed reviews with members of my family; some liked it, while others did not. Personally I did not think much of the food, as the food was not tasty, but people who ordered the calzones were extremely pleased. - Las Ramblas: A small tapas watering hole. No extra charge although you will be expected to order a drink. Our party just walked in and put some tables together. The tapas are OK, but the evening live entertainment is excellent. You might want to consider this place as a pre-dinner meeting place. Note: at lunch Las Ramblas serves as a soup and sandwich bar; numerous members of my party lunched there and gave it high reviews. - East Meets West: Japanese food and sushi for a charge, depending on what you order. Members of my party did eat there. It was decent, but why pay those prices when you can eat just as good for FREE. Entertainment I will give the SUN 4 out of a possible 5 stars (I am a hard grader). In the evening, you will find music at a variety of locations throughout the ship. The Windjammer lounge had a piano/singer; the Dazzles lounge featured a variety of musical activities from live bands to disco, plus theme nights and little competitions (hoola-hoop, twist, lip sync, etc.); and the Observation lounge had a live band and was also the location of the popular adult Karaoke. Speaking of the observation lounge, if you are a latitudes member and you mention that when you order a drink, you will receive a 10% discount, another nice saving. The nighttime shows at the Stardust lounge were very typical of most ships, but the variety and quality was 4 stars. Activities Most daytime activities were ok, from the usual trivia to the Bingo (I always play bingo; I was a bit surprised at the high cost of playing and the low prize money given). The Casino was the norm, but what I liked was the space, the ease with which you could move around and lack of a feeling of crowds; everybody seemed to be having a good time. Teen activities My son (17) did not participate. If there were any on board, I never heard about them. Very little publicity, and big only one thumbs up. Excursion I never take the ship excursions as I find them too expensive. I did my own excursions, visited the same places as the ship's excursions, and saved an average of $25-40 per person per excursion. Front desk/purser I had to include this category since it is usually a hub of activity; in most ships you rarely get good service and the lines are always long. The SUN desk area was always fully staffed with knowledgeable and helpful staff. Any question was always answered properly, and I did not get the usual "I can find out" or "you need to..," In addition I had a small billing issue; the clerk worked with me daily until it was resolved. All I can say is BRAVO NCL. DisembarkationThis has been a hassle on every cruise. All I can say is the other lines need to look at what is being done on the SUN. Basically you leave when you want to depending on your connecting accommodations. You ask for a specific tag color based on your connections; however, everybody needs to be off the ship by 10am. You can wait in your staterooms until your colored tags are called. It was the smoothest disembarkation ever. A huge 5 stars here. OverallThis is a wonderful ship and not to be missed. NCL has done its homework. The ship is well laid out and everything seems to be centralized on two decks. The entire staff from busboy to the officers exceeded my expectations. Everybody had a smile and was willing to help. Tipping at the end of the cruise is eliminated as each passenger is assessed a charge to their rooms bills. I found this to be a major improvement and a change for the better. All this talk regarding lack of service since tips are automatically charged to your room daily is rubbish. In addition, I found walking through the well-stocked duty free shop on board to be a delight. The prices were competitive and the personnel were nothing short of wonderful. Besides the minor negatives I mentioned in my review, there are a few other areas of concern: the on board drink prices are a bit steep; I saw numerous kids/teens running wild and in an uncontrolled manner through the late evening well past midnight; the kids even presented a problem in using the elevators; the SUN's tendering process in ports of call is slow and gives favoritism to ship excursions a policy that I find unfair; the non-smoking areas in the lounges is not well enforced nor well publicized/ defined. Despite these few negatives, I think everybody needs to consider this ship; it was one of my best cruise experiences, and I would not hesitate to recommend this ship to anybody. Four thumbs up; NCL is finally doing it right. BRAVO! Happy sailing. wack001@smyrnacable.net July 2002 Read Less
My wife and 2 children just returned from a one week cruise on the Norwegian Sun. I would like to take the time to give everyone some feedback. EMBARKATION We arrived at about 11:00 AM. We parked in the covered parking (we live in ... Read More
My wife and 2 children just returned from a one week cruise on the Norwegian Sun. I would like to take the time to give everyone some feedback. EMBARKATION We arrived at about 11:00 AM. We parked in the covered parking (we live in Miami) and left our bags with a porter. We were immediately led to the check in station where we checked in with almost no line. We had to wait to board until Noon. We boarded with no difficulty and were taken to your cabin by an NCL staff member. THE ROOM We had a balcony cabin on the Norway Deck. Between my wife and 2 kids we had 7 bags of varying size. The bags all arrived by about 3 -4 pm. We took a tour of the ship and had some lunch while we waited. Once the luggage arrived we unpacked all 7 bags and latter discovered we had a whole other shelf area next to the TV we didn't even use. The room was beautiful and clean. The Balcony was wonderful. I don't think I could take another cruise without it. (This is our 12th Cruise). The room had a safe, TV and refrigerator. It also had a writing desk and two chairs on the balcony with a small table. The bathroom was large enough and the shower worked great. THE SHIP We loved the Ship. I have no idea what the complaint were about as far as colors. I think it was immaculate and beautiful. Our last two cruised were on Carnival and so this dEcor was a nice change from the more garish neon look. There were plenty of bars and deck areas to sit and people watch or sun. Our favorite place was the Windjammer bar, mostly due to the outstanding singer Roger Hernandez. He has a tribute every night to a different singer, Billy Joel, Elton John etc and later all requests. THE FOOD AND RESTAURANTS We managed to eat in every single restaurant except the Tappanyaki. (sp). We enjoyed them all. We had no problem with a wait time or service time in any of the restaurants. The food is very good. I don't expect gourmet quality on any ship that has to serve 2500 guests. We really enjoyed the ambiance of the specialty restaurants such as "The Bistro, Pacific Heights, East Meets West, and Adaggio. We ate in the main restaurants twice. Sunday night for the gala welcome dinner (we dressed formal tux and all as did may on board) and also for the farewell dinner on Thursday night. Both times we had minimal wait for our table and were waited on very quickly. I believe the quality of the food in the Restaurants with a surcharge is similar to the main dinning room, possibly a bit better. However, we really enjoyed the atmosphere of the smaller restaurants and the attention of the staff. The famous Chocolate fondue in the Bistro was wonderful. FREESTYLE CRUISING I think we have been spoiled for other cruise lines until they match NCL for this concept. This was our third cruise with the kids. The previous ones were on Carnival. We cruised about 9 times BK. (before Kids). With the freestyle cruising we were able to take the kids (age 9 + 11) to dinner or order room service for PB &J at about 6 pm every nite. At seven PM it was off to the Kids Corner for the Children. Mommy and Daddy then had the pleasure of dining alone in anyone of the 9 restaurants. It was wonderful! Getting reservations was no problem anywhere the morning of the meal or the day before. This was a luxury that made this a truly wonderful mix of a vacation with the kids and without at the same time. THE PORTS AND EXCURSIONS We reserved Capt Marvins stingray tour in Grand Cayman with another Cruise Critic member. It was the two hour trip that visited a reef area and Stingray City. It couldn't have been better. While we were on a smaller boat that easily held the 10 of us, we watched the Giant ferry carrying 200 or so people from the NCL excursion nearby. The captain of Marvins boat told us about the Stingray and helped us feed them. Being only 10 in our group made the experience very special DO NOT MISS THIS TRIP. My kids and my wife were awed by the beauty of the Stingrays and petting them was a trip. On Belize we booked with Action Belize a boat trip ECO tour. Other than the guy picking us up not having a sign on him, once we verified who he was we were taken to the boat. The trip was about 3 ½ hours in the mangroves on the boat seeing beautiful birds and alligators. We were taken to "Bird Island" that was a nesting area for IBIS and Herons. It was lovely. There was only the four of us on this tour and it cost us $49 per person. In Roatan we took a cab to a few places but I don't recommend this. They didn't understand where we wanted to go and we didn't get there. This was a wasted stop for us, but I'm sure the trip to the beach or snorkeling was good for others. I highly recommend taking a ship trip on this stop. Cozumel was shopping time for us. We had been there many times before and we got some great deals on boots and a beautiful Chess set for my son. We had a great lunch in Panchos back yard. THE SHOWS Sorry, other than listening to Roger Hernandez, we didn't attend any shows. KIDS CORNER My kids loved it. My daughter is handicapped and has other medical issues. They gave us a beeper so if we could roam the ship with no worries of problems. They beeped us when we were needed. My son really enjoyed his time with the Kids crew even more than Carnival. SUMMARY I had planed to have a good time on this trip and not be hyper critical of anything. Well as it turned out, that mind set was not needed. If there was any question in my mind before this trip as to the crews attitude about the automatic tipping, there isn't now. I don't think we came across one single sour crew member on board. Everyone was exceedingly friendly and nice. From the minute we got on till the minute we left. The room stewards were great as were all the waiters in all the restaurants. The casino was fine and I came away a winner. After a 10-year hiatus of not traveling on NCL, I may have trouble choosing a different line now. Shayjondad@hotmail.comJuly 2002 Read Less
Norwegian Sun Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.5 4.2
Dining 4.0 3.7
Entertainment 3.5 3.7
Public Rooms 4.0 4.0
Fitness Recreation 3.0 3.8
Family 3.5 3.8
Shore Excursion 3.5 3.7
Enrichment 3.0 3.3
Service 3.5 4.1
Value For Money 3.5 3.8
Rates 4.0 4.1

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