Norwegian Sun Cruise Review by Jennsails
- Sail Date: June 2018
- Destination: Cuba
- Cabin Type: Family Balcony
Embarkation was a breeze. We arrived at 11:30, dropped our bags and parked at the terminal garage, ($17/per day) and walked the short distance to the terminal. Lines were fairly short and we were able to board quickly. We had not advance purchased the Cuba visa so the agent at check in facilitated that and just charged our card the $150 right there. She did misinform us that we would not require our passports in Cuba. This is not true, you must present your passport to the customs official upon departure in the port and carry it with you during the visit to present to immigration officials upon returning to ship. Staterooms were not ready until about 1:15 so we had time for lunch in the Seven Seas dining room and a drink by the pool before we could drop our things in the room, which worked out just fine.
This was an all-inclusive cruise, which was a really nice feature. There were no lines at the bars, nobody seemed to get out of hand, (except upon returning to ship from Key West but that's what a day in Key West will do) and the booze options were top shelf with plenty of beer and wine options as well.
The ship is small. After cruising on the Oasis of the Seas and other mega ships it felt very small but for 4 days it was fine. I'm not sure that I would love it for a longer cruise but it is lovely, very well-maintained, super clean and the staff could not have been more friendly or accommodating. An odd thing: there was no food allowed at any of the bars or in the lounges. One evening we brought a cheese plate with us into the Spinnaker lounge to listed to the piano player and have pre-dinner drinks and it was abruptly taken away from us. The renovation was indeed well done and the public rooms looked very modern and fresh. Our cruise was sold out but the ship never felt crowded at all.
As for the food, that's another story. This was our first time cruising with NCL and I was not sure how it ranked against other lines. I've sailed RCL, Celebrity and Princess with Celebrity and Princess by far surpassing RCL in my opinion as far as dining and food quality. I'd rate NCL lower than RCL. The buffet was sad. Yes, it's a small ship but there was absolutely zero diversity in the food selections each day. The salad bar had the exact same items daily, there was some sad looking meat and fish options and a carving station but that was about it. Pizza and pasta were only offered from 12pm-2pm. If you wanted a snack after 2pm it was hot dogs and burgers at the back outdoor buffet and that's about it. The buffet area seating was very plentiful. We never had to wander for a table during peak breakfast time, even on the sea day and the tables were bussed immediately. One of the cruise "treats" that I always look forward to is smoked salmon in the am and had always found it at the buffet on Celebrity and Princess. Not on NCL. It was on the menu for the MDR but I'm not a fan of the whole big sit down breakfast so no treat this trip. The MDR for dinner was just ok. Again, the menu was pretty flat and the food unimpressive. We sore of ate out of necessity rather than actually enjoying or looking forward to dinner, as opposed to other cruises. We would up leaving the MDR one night and ordering room service because the menu was so uninspiring that chicken fingers and pizza in the room sounded better. A first in my expansive cruise history. The service at dinnertime was mediocre. No de-crumbing of the table, no fancy dessert or table side pasta or salad presentation, just serve ya and see ya later. The MDRs claim to have somewhat of a dress code but we didn't see it. Shorts and t-shorts were the majority at dinner time. I did see the host ask someone to remove their ball cap but it is a VERY casual ship. I'm not sure if this is typical of NCL but certainly was the rule on the Sun, which was surprising but we didn't mind. I actually didn't even bother wearing any of the dresses that I had brought and stayed in casual shorts and flip flops the entire trip. I also always really enjoyed the late afternoon sushi bar and tappas that Celebrity offered and RCL had happy hour munchies in its' suite lounge and caviar in the champagne lounge. Nothing even remotely like that on the Sun. Again, maybe the larger ships or longer itineraries offer this but you won't find it on the Sun.
This cruise offered the unique itinerary of a stop in Havana, which sounded interesting. First port was Key West, which is always a great stop. We arrived at 1 at the naval base dock which requires a short trolley ride into town. We get to Key West fairly often so we waited until they had finished calling ticket numbers and just walked right off, no waiting or lines. The last trolley left KW at 7pm which made for a pretty short visit, especially for such a great town. At around 7am the next morning we heard the engine thrusters kick on and knew we were arriving in Havana so we jumped up and hit the balcony to check it out. It looked like we were arriving in Baghdad. The one usable cruise terminal looked ok but directly beside it stand two abandoned and dilapidated terminals which looked like they had been bombed. This is a fair theme to describe Havana. First of all, the water is brown. Not Caribbean, gorgeous blue like everything around it. It is brown and when we were in port, covered with a massive oil slick and tons of floating trash. It smelled. I was shocked and saddened to see this, just a mere 90 miles away from the sapphire water or FL. The air quality in and around Havana, especially in the city is bad. If you are sensitive to exhaust fumes as I am, its a challenge. The locals were nice enough and the history is fascinating but aside from the "woah I'm in Cuba" cool factor it's not real great. The cruise line makes a huge production out of railroading and intimidating you into taking one of their excursions but we did just fine on our own. The taxi drivers, (yes, in the old American Buick convertibles) speak enough English to get you to the museums, attractions and town square and ours provided us a super semi-guided tour for $40 CUC. It was a bucket list visit but I would not go back. I will say that if you want to see Cuba, a cruise is for sure the way to do it as 24 hours there felt like more than enough and it felt great to get back on the nice, clean, air-conditioned ship after a long day there.
The entertainment on board was pretty good, considering the size of the ship. The shows were good and seating was easy to find, even right up to the beginning of showtime. We often found ourselves asking, "where is everyone" it was so uncrowded. A big plus! I wish there had been more music during the day, especially on the sea day. Poolside there was a band for a little while but they seemed to play ONLY loud, latin music. A steel drum or reggae band would've been a nice addition.
Overall, for a quick 3 or 4 day cruise this one is a good option but if you're looking for gourmet food or even above average buffet offerings, this won't cut it. A+ for the friendly, always smiling staff and very clean ship. I would maybe try NCL again but for a 4 day it is hard to beat Celebrity as they don't seem to treat the 4 day passengers like the bad step-children of the 7 day passengers, providing the same level of quality and offerings.
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