Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Norwegian
Ship: Norwegian Sun
Sailing Date: January 22nd, 2005
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
This was our first cruise. Having read so many reviews on various cruise lines and ships, I quickly came to the conclusion you either like cruising, or you don’t, and if you have a disastrous first cruise, you may not try it again. We selected the Norwegian Sun because of these reviews. Freestyle cruising seemed to fit our laid back vacation style, and after what looked like rocky customer service from when the Sun first launched, it appeared they had resolved most of these issues. We booked through Yahoo Cruises and made our own travel arrangements, flying into Miami the night before the cruise departed. We took out the travel insurance, and would definitely do that again, even though we had no need of it on this trip. We found out that about 35 passengers from the Northeast missed their flights and the departure from Miami. We would pick them up in Grand Cayman on Monday. We arrived at 12:20 to check-in. We were met curbside by a porter that was happy to check our bags. We found out we should have been given luggage tags earlier, but had received nothing. We knew our stateroom number, so the porter was able to tag the luggage and take care of it. We had 4 bags, $5 seemed appropriate and the porter seemed happy. (The bags did show up!) Check in was quick, short lines and very efficient service people, as you walk on the ship, you became familiar with their waterless hand washing system. We were on-board and in our state-room by 12:55.
We had Lunch in the Garden Café, our first buffet and it was a good one. As far as buffets go, it was good. One thing we learned the next day however, there was an Outdoor Café, just around the corner, the lines are shorter, the food is the same, and you can sit on a covered or uncovered deck. They do have a security check, however I think it is more geared to confiscating alcohol from carry-on than for Security. We read in previous reviews this would be the case so we did not even bother bringing our own. On ship Prices for wine and Champagne are very reasonable, for excellent vintages. The luggage arrived about 3:45PM. Our stateroom was 8066, right above the life boat deck. The extra cost for the balcony was well worth it and helped make the trip for us. Sitting on the chairs, drinking Pina Coladas, or sipping champagne, reading, sunning ourselves, watching the ocean go by was great. One note about room service, it takes about 45 minutes to an hour when you make an order. When we were in the room, the balcony door was always open. The staterooms are nice, “spacious” on a cruise ship really does not exist, but they are nice and comfortable rooms. The bathrooms are small, but clean and efficient. The cabin service is outstanding. They cleaned twice a day, towels anytime you wanted them, the Cruise Daily, treat each night a towel configured in the shape of an animal on the bed was a nice touch. A swan, elephant, dog, lobster, walrus - sometimes with my sun glasses as eyes.
Out of Port, the cruising was smooth but you could feel the swells. Many people used patches or Dramamine, we chose to use wrist bands. We didn’t have any sea sickness problems at all. On the third day, the sea was a little rough, several people became ill (sea sickness), but the service crew are right there for assistance and clean-up. I might add, this Ship has a high focus on sanitation. One that I think is appropriate given that during this week, two other ships (Royal Caribbean and Holland) both had onboard illness issues. We also had one passenger have a heart attack in the hot tub. Their response was outstanding. If you need to see a doctor, they have one, it is $50 for the visit at a minimum. They have great exercise facilities. Deck six is a walking/jogging track, with exercise machine room just off the pool. Working out for an hour each morning made the dining experience that much better in the evening. There are numerous dining opportunities on ship, we tried hitting them all. In the morning we would eat breakfast at the outdoor café, Pacific Heights for pizza and sandwiches for lunch and then one of the formal dining rooms for dinner. We tried the Seven Seas, and Four Seasons several times. I have read reviews that favor the Seven Seas, but really there is no difference between them. Same service, same Menu each night, decorations very similar. We also ate at the Bistro and the Italian Restaurant Il Adagio and found them to be excellent, but you pay a cover charge. Dining at night in the main restaurants requires slacks and a collared shirt. No a problem for us. There was an optional Formal Night in Seven Seas and Four Season Restaurant. I bought a Tie in the $10 Store on-board and went, but could have skipped it and gone to the Bistro or Il Adagio just the same. We decided to take advantage of the wine club. Buy 5 bottles of wine and get the 6th bottle of wine free on the final night. I found the wine prices better than most restaurant wine lists. One other offer we did take advantage of was the $28.95 all you can drink soft-drink package. Soft Drinks are $2.00 each, so if you drink more than 2 a day, this is a good deal. We had no problem getting refills. Beer selection is good, but is the most expensive option for alcohol. They do have a six bottles for the price of 5, in an ice filled bucket. I found the Draft beer in a large 20 oz glass to be a better value.
The only disappointment we found on the trip was when we arrived at Grand Cayman. The Harbor Master closed the port and no one could go ashore. The tender with the 35 Northeast late arrivals came out to the ship. We had booked our own Scuba Trip to Sting-Ray City, however there was no cancellation fee if the ship did not let us come ashore. This saved about $35 booking this way. Apparently you have a 50-50 chance of seeing Grand Cayman week to week right now due to the Hurricane damage to the dock and rough seas. In Roatan, we booked the Ship Excursion to Fantasy Island mainly because both my wife and I scuba dive, they had a great shop their and it was easy to go out on a boat. If I only wanted beach time however, most people raved about the Tabayan Beach Party, I would do that rather than going to Fantasy Island. The Norwegian Sea was also in Port with us. It is an older ship with no balcony rooms that we could see. Having a balcony on our ship made a great deal of difference in our enjoyment. We have great Full-Moon over the Sea pictures, and some awesome sunsets and sunrises.
In Belize, we toured the Altun-Ha Mayan ruins and still had lots of time for local shopping. Again, how much time you have for shopping, depends on which tour you go on. Our tour was only 3 hours, leaving us a couple of hours of shopping. If you go on the river tour, you may not have time for shopping when you get back to the dock. Those that went to Shark Ray Alley and Scuba Diving raved about the experiences as well. In Cozumel, we arranged our own Scuba Diving through the internet. This saved us about $40 from the Ship prices. Our Dive Boat left at 9:00 for a two tank dive, and we were back by 2:00 and shopped until 6:00. The Diving is outstanding in Cozumel. On the ship, there were lectures, cooking classes and many ship board activities too numerous to take them all in. We did enjoy the onboard art auctions and free champagne each time they had one. On board shopping is reasonable, shopping in Belize, Cozumel, or on board is very similar for Tanzanite and Emeralds. We found bargains at 50% of what you would find in the US. For Diamonds, we saw no real bargains. An absolute must do and extreme highlight on the final day at sea was a Chocoholic Buffet in the Four Seasons. Chocolate sculptures and ice sculptures were in the dinning area and there must have been 25 different chocolate desserts. It only lasts an hour on Friday, but it is well worth it. The disembarking process is efficient. You can go the express way if you want to walk off the ship with your luggage in tow, or you can let the ship do it for you. Either way it is easy. Everyone will be off the ship by 10:30. Our group left at 9:30 am, giving us plenty of time for breakfast. At the Airport, we talked with others from Royal Caribbean and Carnival. Everyone raved about Royal Caribbean. For Carnival, most said very little. With our own experience, we will definitely go back on Norwegian, we will also try Royal Caribbean at some point, but that does not diminish our experience at all on Norwegian, we strongly recommend them. The only snafu we encountered was the fault of the Travel Company. We were to receive $75.00 in ship-board credit. For some reason NCL did not receive it. We are still arguing with Yahoo over this. One other note, on our return to the Miami Airport, Atlanta was closed due to weather. Norwegian and Royal Caribbean had agents visible and helping customers find alternate routes. Carnival was no where to be seen. It was a great cruise and we will book with Norwegian again.