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Overall Rating
Food
Service
Cabins
Entertainment
Family Friendliness
Shore Excursions
Value
Steven Shafer

Age: 55

Occupation:Scientist

Number of Cruises: 4

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Norwegian Sun

Sailing Date: 2011-12-24

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

A very good experience on the NCL Sun. This was the fourth cruise for my wife and me since 1994 (one each on Princess, Celebrity, Holland America, and now Norwegian) first time for a Caribbean itinerary (others were Alaska twice, once to New England/Canada). All have been happy experiences; the NCL Sun probably was closest in feel to the Celebrity Galaxy. The Port Canaveral facility is excellent, made to move a lot of people quickly. From the time we arrived at the terminal facility (about 12:30 pm) until we walked into our cabin was about 45 minutes. We had a group of six (my wife and me, and parents, aunt, and family friend ranging in age from mid-fifties to early 80s). We had some snafus with the booking agent (not NCL), but the staff at the ship’s guest services desk fixed it quickly and politely. The ship’s layout was a bit confusing at first, but we got the hang of it after a day at sea. Overall, no problems, no complaints related to NCL or the Sun itself. Crew was pleasant, courteous, and helpful. We never stood in a line for what I would call an excessively long time. What looked like a long line to disembark over the gangway at Cozumel actually moved very fast; 10 minutes. Other ports used tenders, and we got on and off quickly. At the end. we chose the fast disembarkation where you schlep your own luggage, and we were off the ship, through passport/customs, and on the street within 30 minutes of being told we could disembark at Port Canaveral. We had a great time.

The main restaurants (Four Seasons and Seven Seas) were excellent. We ate most dinners in the Four Seasons and never were disappointed. You do have to ask for the wine list. Pizza on board is very good, as are the pasta bars. Breakfast buffet is great with a lot of choices (the powdered scrambled eggs were awful as is to be expected, but the made-to-order omelettes were excellent). The lunch and dinner buffets are pretty typical, by that I mean acceptably good but not outstanding. There are places to eat all over the ship. The East Meets West steakhouse ($25 cover) was excellent, we all had very good steaks. The only thing that marred this was a large family with three small, unruly, and loud children who got seated at the table next to us, and the parents made little effort to control the children, but that wasn't the staff's fault. The Adagio Italian restaurant had excellent food as well, although we had reservations confirmed for six people but were seated at two adjacent tables, a minor annoyance.

Stateroom was large by our experience. We had a veranda stateroom on deck 10, not far behind the bridge. Very little engine vibration or roll could be felt. The ship is very smooth (admittedly, we had great weather). Plenty of storage (we did not use it all). Suitcases fit under the bed. Very clean and well-tended by the cabin steward. I do not agree with NCL's policy of auto-tipping on your bill, but the steward was so good at keeping the cabin clean, towels replaced, etc., that we left extra for him at the end of the week.

Ambivalent about the onboard activities, but for the most part, we want a place to relax and some interesting ports to visit. We attended only one evening show in the main theater, and it was typical of cruise ship singing and dancing. No live instrumental musicians, and the dancers were lip-synching, but the four "stars" all sang with varying degrees of ability. Quite loud and over-miked. We don't go on cruises for the on-board entertainment, however, and we don't go to casinos. I attended two martini-tastings, which were a lot of fun and had good value. In sum, we were not consumers of most onboard activities (auctions, karoke, dancing contests, etc).

We did three shore excursions. At Cozumel, we visited the Mayan ruins at Tulum. This required a 45-minute ferry ride to the mainland, followed by an hour busride (with a 30-minute stop at an art coop, not a bad stop). Once at the ruins, we had a very knowledgeable guide and plenty of time to explore the area on our own, perhaps 2 to 2.5 hours on site. So it was a fair amount of travel to and from, but worth it to see very well preserved ruins. We did not schedule an excursion at Grand Cayman, just walked around the shops, which are either jewelry or tourist schlock that all appears to come from the same jewelry and schlock warehouses. At Ocho Rios, my wife and I did the zipline adventure. We had done that in Alaska and found it great fun. In Jamaica, the ziplining itself in the jungle canopy was great, but the outing itself was poorly organized, with a LOT of waiting around. The company running the activity just wasn't able to deal efficiently with the large number of people participating: a long wait while everyone was put into their harnesses (two guys doing that), and at one point more than 40 of us were crowded onto a platform on a hillside for about 45 minutes. The activity itself is great fun, but I wouldn't do it again at Ocho Rios because of the poor execution. At Great Stirrup Cay, we went on the 1-hour Eco Boat tour, which I expected to be just OK, but we really enjoyed the scenery and the informative and entertaining comments by the guide, well worth it. The private island experience was a good one, with plenty of cookout-style buffet food and a clean beach environment.

Overall, the trip was very good, comparable in value to our experiences on Princess, Celebrity, and Holland America. Of the four, my wife and I would give a small advantage to Princess on food and the appearance of the ship, but not a major issue. Many of the issues like noisy children in the steakhouse and poor organization of the zipline adventure were not NCL's fault, although they might want to re-examine some of their family seating and shore excursion selections. One thing my wife and I noticed is that it's hard to escape music. We ate breakfast every morning on the open aft deck, and we would have liked no music piped in back there until say 10:00 a.m. Not a deal-breaker. But the food was generally good to excellent, the cabin was spacious and well-tended, and the crew was pleasant and dealt with our various requests and issues along the way. We had a happy Christmas cruise with family and would travel with NCL again.

The biggest problem was booking through cruises.com. They screwed up the pairings of us, and over nearly a year we fought them on billings. You cannot talk to the same person, so every phone call you had to start from scratch explaining the problem, and then they didnt fix it. I'd use NCL again, but I will never use an online booking agent again.

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