Number of Cruises: 4
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Sun
Sailing Date: February 18th, 2006
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
Norwegian Cruise Line
NCL Sun Cruise Review
I don't know about you, but I've finally found a cruise line that caters to my tastes. We never waited in line! From check in to check out, they got it figured out so you never wait. It was the best vacation we ever had. Totally relaxed. Much better than previous, traditional cruises. The staff was so friendly from arrival to departure (yes, better than Royal Caribbean!). Norwegian clearly focuses on ensuring customer satisfaction and weeds out the bad apples. Most of the staff was European, not Caribbean, which seems to make a difference.
Traditional cruises are boring in my opinion. They tell you when to eat, where to eat, whom to eat with, and what to wear! (sorry I don't have a tuxedo...aren't we on vacation?.) The level of service you receive depends on which waiter they assign to you for your entire trip. Miss a meal and they aren't very happy. The waiters are clearly counting on your tips and a missed meal is a deduction from their paycheck. We missed two meals on our last cruise and they moved us from a window seat to the noisy dish station with a busboy for a waiter. Bottom line: Limited choices, longer lines, rigid schedules. Same old. Same old. You feel like you are on a turnstyle. Expect to pay $15-$30 per day in tips at the end of your cruise.
FreeStyle = Choices. Eat where you want, when you want, with whom you want. Wear whatever you want (*exept at dinner, you are required to wear slacks which is good, because I can't stand to see those overweight bozos with their fannypacks and booty shorts walking into the dining room with three loud kids, dragging sand and still wearing their pool floats with no respect for others). No waiting. We never ate at the same place twice. From Japanese, Italian, Spanish, French, we never ran out of dinner options. We ate at the buffet for lunch and breakfast. I like being able to sit out on the deck or take breakfast back to my room. Why people eat breakfast in the dining room is beyond me. Some people like to be served I guess.
Tips are a very reasonable $10 per day for the entire staff, compared to other cruises (Royal Carribean was outrageous)
We still received 4 to 5 star treatment at every turn. Clearly Norwegian understands people want flexibility in their vacation and they give it to you with FreeStyle.
As far as our destinations, we enjoyed our cruise so much it didn't matter. But we chose the Easter Caribbean itinerary because we were tired of the western Caribbean, ie, Jamaica (scary people who look like they want to kill you), Grand Cayman (pricey, overcrowded), and Cozumel (crowded) are so overrated, over traveled. We loved whale watching in Samana, Dominican Republic, Tortola is so beautiful (the park hike was well worth it), St Thomas was great if you like shopping for diamonds (be careful, while there are deals to be found, the markup is unreal. I watched one customer talk a store down 50% on a $4000 ring) Jewelry has to be biggest scam in the world. The moment she walked out the door, that ring was probably worth less than $500 street value. Ok, sorry ladies, I know you love Jewelry. Hopefully my wife doesn't read this! Ok what was I writing about again...
Entertainment on the cruise was ho hum. I think they paid more attention to dining options and freestyle than other areas of the ship. But that's okay. We didn't need to be entertained. We met fun people from all over the world. The disco was cool. Karaoke felt like American Idol.
The t.v. options were like a bunch of old Ted Turner classics, BBC or CNN reporting bad news from Iraq so we turned it off. Although there was a channel that showed our ship's progress with some smooth jazz which we liked. There's a good library on the ship. I finished a book! Wireless internet is available in some areas if you want to check your work email..but why are you on vacation again?
The gym was awesome. My wife signed up for yoga, pillatae (sp?), aerobics, boot camp, etc. and we did a lot of walking around the deck. We always used the stairs. Certain people are programmed to take the elevator at every turn. No wonder they gain 10 lbs on the cruise. I suppose these are the same people who wait fifteen minutes for the closest parking spot. No doubt Americans were the most stressed out and out of shape people on the cruise compared to the Europeans and Canadiens. We actually lost weight.
My wife signed me up for a massage. I probably wouldn't have done it if she hadn't. Boy was I glad she did. That was the best massage I ever had (ok forget about the one in Thailand). That cute little phillipino girl (or guy. not sure they all have the same haircut) was surprisingly strong. I enjoyed every minute of my massage, from the moment she climbed on my back and went to work, the the finger massage at the end (don't get any wrong ideas) There wasn't an ounce of tension in my body for three wonderful days.
The last day at the private island was uneventful. The island hasn't changed since I was there fifteen years ago. There's no shade and you are confined to a real small beach area. The island shuttles were slow and subject to frequent break downs. They never had the beach barbecue we were promised due to some delay in arrival. This was the most disappointing phase of our trip, but we got over it soon enough.
The only complaints we ever heard on the ship were from a group from Texas who had become agitated after a five minute wait for their tables to be readied. I could tell these were the kind of rude people you could never please in the first place. Good thing we were not on a traditional cruise or we might have been seated with them.
I can't say enough about FreeStyle cruising. While Traditional cruise lines may cater well to families and seniors, younger couples and single travelers may not want to be held to a rigid schedule. I realize this was more of a personal perspective and many people will disagree, but I suspect there are others who think like us. Hopefully other cruise lines will pick up on FreeStyle. Until then, we are staying with Norwegian FreeStyle.