Number of Cruises: 6
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Sun
Sailing Date: February 18th, 2006
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
Norwegian Cruise Line
NCL Sun Cruise Review
I went on this cruise with my husband, my three siblings and their spouses. We ranged from new cruisers to experienced, and this review includes our collective experiences.
This was my first cruise with NCL, having previously cruised with Carnival and Holland America. We chose this cruise because we were looking for an Eastern Caribbean itinerary for a specific week and at a reasonable price. While this cruise left some things to be desired, even a so-so cruise in a lovely part of the world beats the best week at work in the Midwest/West in February.
Embarkation from the Port of Miami took about 45 minutes. We had all ‘pre-registered’ online beforehand and printed the registrations as instructed, but nobody asked for them. There seemed to be a general lack of organization, dissemination of information, and order in various processes on this ship, from embarkation to tendering ashore to asking basic questions about services available on the ship. Examples are included in their respective areas below.
Staterooms were more than adequate and laid out nicely. We had a ‘guaranteed’ inside cabin (0101) – extremely happy with the upgrade, and others in our group had Deck 10 balconies and a Deck 6 window. You may want to avoid the Deck 6 window cabins that look out onto the jogging track. The ship was in good condition and pretty consistently kept clean. Public restrooms seemed few, hard to find, and were quite cramped (it was difficult to wash your hands when people were trying to enter/exit the stalls). Quite often, the paper towel dispensers were empty. These are small things, but they add up and were more pronounced on this ship.
General décor was a little Vegas-like, and plastic trees and flowers adorned the dining rooms and lounges. Again, small things and certainly not a cruise-wrecker, but compared to a previous cruise on Holland the differences are quite marked.
The food in the buffets was good and plentiful, with average variety compared to other cruises. On the first day, a huge line formed at the Garden Buffet entrance closest to the pool. After waiting a while, someone mentioned that there were other short lines in the back of the ship. It would have been nice if someone from the ship had directed the people proactively and avoided the backlog altogether. Food in the formal dining room ranged from very good to fair, with most selections in the ‘good’ range. Service was quite good all nights except one. Desserts were the only consistent disappointment as expressed by most members in our group.
Drinks were exorbitantly priced, more than I’d experienced on either Holland or Carnival, even considering inflation. My brother-in-law took out a second mortgage to purchase an unlimited soda card. We are not teetotalers and we certainly paid the price on this cruise. Holland allowed us to bring wine on the ship and consume it in our room, and NCL forbids any alcohol of any kind brought in at any time. Wine selection is limited in the lounges, but decent in the dining room. However, two of the dining room’s reasonably priced decent wines were out of stock when we tried to order them. Note to NCL sommelier – there are other white wines besides Chardonnay.
Ports of Call:
Cayo Levantado, Dominican Republic: Four of us did the Whale Watching excursion, and four of us did the scuba diving excursion. Disappointment was expressed by all. All persons who had booked excursions for this day met in one of the formal dining rooms and it was quite packed. The process of calling out tours and trying to get the people out in an orderly fashion lacked efficiency and fostered frustration for the guests. We paid $84 and were actually on the whale watching boat for less than 2 hours. We returned early because many of the guests were sick, due to the slightly rough sea and small ship. We didn’t see as many whales as I’d anticipated, and I admit I had unrealistic expectations ~ something more like a ‘wild Sea World’ show. The scuba divers in our group said both the lack of fish and variety were disappointing. Other guests who went into town also expressed disappointment with this port of call (had to tender to shore and the town was very poor).
Tortola: By far, one of my favorite destinations in this part of the Caribbean. We had been there last March on another cruise, and a couple in our party had spent time considerable there on a dive trip. We hired a cab driver with a van to accommodate all eight of us. ($150) We spent about five hours driving around and hit the following local digs: Brewer’s Bay for great snorkeling and an uncrowded smaller beach, Rudy’s Roadside Bar for nice views and a thirst quencher, and a restaurant on the top of the island, called “Top of the World” or something similar, for a nice lunch and more breathtaking views. Truly a day in paradise.
St. Thomas: We had to tender to shore, which was a time-consuming and patience-building affair. First, a member of our party waited in line for 45 minutes to obtain an earlier tender ticket, and then we waited another hour for our tender ticket number to be called. It just seems there should be an easier way. We shopped a couple hours and my sister-in-law purchased a beautiful diamond at a jeweler across the street from the tenders called ‘Gems and Gold Corner’. A smaller shop not on the ‘recommended’ NCL list, but a very nice selection and excellent service.
After shopping, we took the “Champagne Catamaran Snorkel” excursion. By far, the best value excursion I’ve ever booked through any cruise. We sailed to St. John and the Adventure catamaran crew was excellent, as was the snorkeling and beach we visited. We enjoyed a great fruit/cheese/snack treat after the snorkeling as well as memorable rum punches. All this for just $64! Again, another slice of paradise.
Grand Stirrup Cay, Bahamas: This is NCL’s private island and it is very pretty. The promised barbeque on the island was canceled and we didn’t have much time there, as the tender process again was very time-consuming. A front blew in late in the afternoon and there was a significant delay and some difficulty in getting the last tenders back to ship. I found the snorkeling to be less than advertised.
I visited the “Guest Services” desk one day to inquire about the duration of one of our excursions that had been booked online 7 weeks previously. The person at the desk didn’t know the duration, didn’t know where to find the information, and replied “I must have known the length of the excursion when I booked it.” Yes, this was true but somehow I had forgotten it and that is why I found it necessary to ask her. The next day, I found an excursion price list with all the durations on a form near the counter where I had spoken with her.
I needed a wake up call and dialed ‘9’ for “wake up call’ as indicated on my stateroom phone. Nothing happened, so I called ‘Room Service’ as there was no speed dial indicated for guest services/front desk/general information. I was told to check with my cabin steward for instructions, so I asked for his phone number. I was told I should ‘just go out in the hall and look for him.’ He came and said the instructions were ‘in the book’ and he found them for me. Turns out they have changed the speed dial for wake up calls from ‘9’ to ‘99’ and didn’t update the directory on the phones. Again, in the scheme of things this is very minor, but demonstrates a lack of attention to detail and good service.
Our cabin steward and stewardess did a fine job of keeping our cabin clean. We were fortunate to meet Alexandra from Romania on the first day of the cruise and she took excellent care of us throughout the cruise in the various clubs. We tended to frequent the clubs she was working at as she provided great care and was simply a breath of fresh air.
The stand-up comedian, Joe ?, was very good and we thoroughly enjoyed his humor. The Motown group was also impressive and these two stood head and shoulders above all other entertainment on board. The casino was one of the best as far as payouts that I had seen on a cruise ship.
Overall, the cruise was probably average to above average, but I doubt that I would book on NCL again. I hope that this review didn’t seem overly negative, but for an extra couple hundred dollars, so many little things can be so much better.