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Copyright © 1995-2002 
Linda Coffman

 

Norwegian Sun
November 9-16, 2002

by Mark Van Raam

This was my first cruise as a passenger. I have been to sea many times since I work at a shipyard. This was definitely a great ship and a great crew. Our group of 17 was mostly around 50 years old. We had two Ďseniorsí who were hard to keep up with. One couple got married on the Saturday we departed.

I started hunting information on the web months before. Iím so glad I found Cruise Diva. I learned a lot from just reading othersí experiences, as well as the time line and hot tips. I sent out over 15 e-mails of tips and excursions to my group. If it had been up to me, this would have not been the itinerary I would have picked out. It would have been my loss. The ports this ship stops in were great and not to be missed.

SHIP:  What can I say, this is great ship. I never met one grumpy crew member. Everyone was friendly and seemed to be happy serving us. Several of our servers were outstanding. Our cabin stewards, Cecil and Lenor were excellent. Anna Marie Malalta in East Meets West and Mario in Il Addagio were outstanding. Janice, the fitness instructor was really good, too.

Our groupís staterooms were all over the ship, some with balconies and some with inside staterooms. One of our group specifically wanted an inside stateroom, low in the ship because they were worried about getting sea sick. My brother was aft on deck 10. They felt vibrations most of the trip. I donít think anything was wrong, just normal movements of a ship in a seaway. My cabin was low and all the way forward on deck 4. We never felt anything, except when maneuvering in port when the bow thrusters were running. My point is, no matter where your cabin is, you are always going to feel some small vibration or movement. You are on a ship, not in a hotel.

The walking track on deck 6 was great, and I did a couple of miles during our two sea days. I also took two Spinning classes for which there is a $5 charge. Since I commute to work by bike, I wanted to keep up and not feel out of shape after the cruise. This was a great workout. I could justify to my self having a bacon sandwich and omelet for breakfast. NCL has a program that gives you a free tee shirt if you get a card punched, after you participate a number of the exercise programs.

I used the pools and hot tubs and never found them too crowed. The hot tubs werenít too hot and were a great place to spend half an hour relaxing. My one true complaint was that some of the other passengers were inconsiderate in hogging the towels around the pool the last day at sea. Do you really need 3 towels? NCL needs to enforce the rule that after 30 minutes unattended, the deck chairs are cleared.

A couple of things I would change: Announcements were minimal, but I would cut off the announcements of ĎHemmi, your art auctioneerĒ lauding the next great sale. The port talks were more sales pitches for certain stores. That can be part of it, but put the good stuff, like currency, taxi arrangements, and attractions, at the start.

The shipís internet cafť was good to keep in touch with the kids. We used it 3 or 4 times and the total was about $20. I recommend against the package deals, unless you really need to be on the internet for many minutes. Set up a free Yahoo or Hotmail account before you leave and use it on the ship. 

The lounges were good. We spent time in the observation lounge, sports bar, and Las Ramblas. All were good. Watched a 49erís game Sunday in the sports bar. Free munchies and hot dogs. The bucket of beer for $15 (for 5 beers) is the best deal. You can save what you donít drink in your cabin refrig for another time. Las Rambles had free munchies also.

RESTAURANTS: I never had a bad meal. East Meets West was the best of the bunch. Pacific Heights and Il Adagio were great  We ate in the Main dining room twice. Both times were excellent and the staff was great everywhere. We ate in the Garden Buffet one night when we didnít feel like changing. I donít agree with some reviews. The food there was good. If you didnít like one thing there were plenty of other choices. We ate breakfast in the Buffet or just outside every morning where we gathered to plan what we were doing or where to meet. On Sunday we had lunch at the outdoor barbeque one deck above the pools. Chicken, sausage, and ribs, baked potato, baked beans, and a cold corn dish were featured. There were plenty of choices on where and what to eat.

Several in our group used room service every morning for coffee. There was an added bonus of a call right before they came to your cabin. You left a card on you door the night before. There was also a pot to heat water for instant or tea in every room. Each room also had a small refrigerator. We stopped on our way from the airport and bought a couple of 12 packs of Diet Pepsi, both because we like it better than Coke and to help cut down on costs. My brother likes wine with his dinner and brought some bottles from home and paid the $10 corkage fee. Another of our group has his wine confiscated upon boarding. A talk with the Hotel director the next day returned the wine.

The Chocoholic BuffetóIt was just OK. Looked better than it tasted. I wouldnít stay up that late for it again.

ENTERTAINMENT: Do not miss the Ďsamplerí of all the entertainers the first night. The comic, Milt Abel was great I caught his late act in the Observation Lounge later in the week. He was really good. Twice As Nice was fantastic and not to be missed. We tried to go to all of their shows. Jane Powell was very nice and well worth all of her praises. One night we watched the ĎNot So Newly Wedí Game. Funny. Circ Pan was OK. The dancers obviously put in much effort and were very good, but the story (Peter Pan) and costumes were disjointed. The deck parties near the poolótoo late at night (Hey, Iím usually asleep by 10:45) and too lame.

EXCURSIONS: We booked our own. In Grand Cayman we used Captain Marvinís (captainmarvins.com) and it was wonderful. Two stops at coral and stingray city. Not to be missed. It was a hit with everyone in our group. It is only two blocks from where the tender docks. What a beautiful area. We stopped there on what in the US, is Veteranís Day. Most of the stores were closed for the equivalent British holiday.

In Roatan, it was a toss up between Paya Bay and Fosterís. We went to Fosters. What a great place. For $35 we got picked up and dropped off, lunch (anything on the menu, including lobster) and a fantastic beach. The owner met us showed us all the rooms and made us feel at home. Roatan is indeed poor, but much lies beyond where the ship docks. Donít miss this port.

In Belize, I went cave tubing with Reggie. I canít say enough about the trip through the caves, Reggie and his wife, or where we stopped for lunch. All were terrific (Iím running out of superlatives). My pictures donít do the place justice. JBís famous watering hole was a great place. For $5 we got a typical Belize meal of chicken, rice, coleslaw, plantains, and beer. Thanks, Reggie. Regtour.com. My wife and others in our group went to Cay Cauker. From the pictures and description, it was a great place to spend the day. The area around the tender area looked interesting (outside of the gated area) and safe. I wished I had had more time, but you canít do everything.

In Cozumel we spent half the day at Playa Azul. A small, family beach, off the beaten path. The locals said it was their favorite as well as some of the crew on the ship. Good cheap food and drinks. Watersports are available here (parasailing and jet skis). $7 cab ride. Check out it out at cancunmap.com. We went back to the ship to shower and change and headed back out. We had trouble calling home from the phones on the pier. We walked a couple of blocks to the left as we got off the pier and found a phone/internet store. 95 cents/min to call home. The rest of the strip, I could have missed. Shopping in tourist traps is not my thing.

THE BOTTOM LINE: A great vacation and I would definitely sail this ship and line again. Freestyle is a great concept. The port mix was great. I would give it a rating of 4.9 out of 5.

Photo Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line


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