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Brendan Willmore

Age: 32

Occupation:Business Administration Management

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Norwegian

Ship: Norwegian Sun

Sailing Date: April 9th, 2005

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

What a fabulous cruise. Having cruised before with Carnival twice, we decided to try an extended seven day cruise through the western Caribbean from April 9th -16th. From beginning to end NCL was first class all the way.

Our destinations included The Grand Caymans, Belize, Honduras, and Cozumel Mexico. Each port offered something different and we took advantage of a different excursion tour in almost each country.

Embarkation, was a breeze. Unbeknownst to us, since we had booked a mini-suite our names were on a VIP list, so as we entered pier check in, we were wisped to a special VIP counter, hand walked to a reception area where champagne was flowing as well as an assortment of cheeses and other goodies. We were given our stateroom cards and introduced to our personal concierge. This was going to be a great trip.

The room was good, comfortable enough, with barely room for our five bags of luggage. The real treat was the balcony. I would never cruise again without a balcony. Waking up each day and walking onto your own private balcony while the ship pulls into an exotic port, priceless. The bathroom was smaller than a standard walk in closet, but It served it’s purpose.

The housekeeping staff addressed us by name from day one. The room was always clean and every afternoon we would return back to our cabin from an intense excursion to find NCL outdoing themselves once again. From chocolate covered strawberries to shrimp cocktail, it was an unnecessary but welcome complimentary treat. With the afternoon snack was an enclosed note from the hotel director, concierge or casino host. The entire NCL staff was as impressive.

The excursions we booked were worth every cent, except one. In the Cayman Islands, we swam with the sting rays, literally for almost an hour on a sand bar in the middle of ocean. Afterwards we were bused back to the downtown shopping area to hit the fabulous jewelry stores, and a bargain they were. You can pick up an decent Omega, Movado, Breitling, or Tag watch for about 65% less than US prices, and tax free. Our next port was Roaton, Honduras. The only complaint we had was the tabanya beach party. Granted, a tour is needed here on this island, the staff is very upfront in advising the guests that island is a third world country, the streets aren’t well kept, there is a lot of pollution and poverty so a guided event is recommended. The private beach which is about a 30 minute bus ride from the pier was clean, however the food provided for the cookout was horrible. We snorkeled in the ocean and relaxed on the beach for about an hour, then we took a private taxi back to the ship, since the returning bus doesn’t leave for a few hours after arriving. The third country we visited was Belize. We didn’t book a tour here, instead we decided to enjoy the day walking around the local flea markets to find trinkets and souvenirs. We did this for a couple of hours and returned to the ship with bags of local finds. When leaving the pier for the market, beware you must exit through large prison type gate with many local travel guides peddling there tours quite intensely almost to a point where you feel overwhelmed.
Finally the last country we visited was Cozumel Mexico. We didn’t think it could get much better until we swam with the dolphins in Mexico. Holding onto the fins of these amazing mammals as they pull you through the water is breathtaking . This is a excursion you must book. Professional photographers are there to catch all this, once is a lifetime moments, we purchased both pictures as well as the video, edited and individualized to feature you throughout the video. This dvd is prepared within minutes of the end of the tour. Memories for life.

The entertainment on the ship was good, not great. The comedian was funny and she did a couple of shows with different material throughout the week. The Jean company, NCL’s headliners, did a good job but had some sound issues from the microphones out of there control. The cruise director and her staff did an outstanding job throughout the week. With so much going on each hour from sun up to past midnight each day they executed each event flawlessly. The only activity we didn’t care for was the bingo. It costs almost $25.00 for an electronic game board ( paper cards are still available but few use them) for four bingo games with prized of about $70.00 to $100.00 each game. So it costs $50.00 to play four games for a couple and if you happen to get lucky and win a game you get alittle more than your money back. We dropped almost $200.00 at bingo throughout the week and one once. We would skip it next time.

The casino was great. For avid gamblers, they’ve got the most popular and latest machines ranging from nickles to a hundred dollar machine. These machines were hitting left and right. We had heard horror stories from other gamblers about how tight the machines were on cruise ships. We didn’t see that at all, in fact jackpot bells went off more often than we’ve ever seen in a land based casino and we’ve been to quite a few. We have to admit, we did quite well ourselves. NCL recently has partnered in a certified slot program were they guarantee there slots payback 95% or better. They also have updated there player comp program. All guests can sign up for a player card, as well as casino credit prior to the cruise ( no need to worry about cash). Your slot and table action is rated throughout the week. Based on your play in the casino, the host will determine a cash amount to be deducted off your incidentals on the last day of the cruise, similar to a land based casino.

We took full advantage of the spa a few times throughout the trip. The full body deep tissue massage is as wonderful as it sounds. They do push there products, so be careful, we like to think we don’t fall for all that but we have a counter here at home full of things we bought in the spa, we’ve only used once.

The food was excellent, we ate four meals in the main dining room, and tried both the steakhouse, sushi bar, and the Japanese restaurant all for a additional surcharge. The minimal fee charged is well worth it, a filet and two pound lobster for ten bucks each, a must. The highlight of the dining experience came the last day at sea, with the all you can eat chocolate buffet. I suggest you skip breakfast that morning and hold out for that buffet served in the early afternoon, wear some loose fitting pants and go to town.

Disembarkation was even easier than thought possible. You can choose to leave real early when the ship gets the all clear from customs, when your assigned floor leaves, or stay in your cabin and sleep in and enjoy a lazy morning with breakfast on your balcony. If you happen to book a mini-suite or higher, there are all kinds of perks throughout the cruise and disembarkation is one of them. You can choose to meet very early with other VIP’s in a specified location and walked off the ship first with your concierge.

Overall, NCL exceeded every expectation we had and have already booked our next cruise for 2006 on there newest ship the Jewel. Happy cruising.

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