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Norwegian Sun Cruise Review
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Copyright © 1995-2002 
Linda Coffman

 

Norwegian Sun
February 16-23, 2002
Western Caribbean

by Ray Quinn

Background
Fourteen of us took this cruise to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday. Everyone but a few kids had cruised before on NCL, Celebrity, and RCCL. We picked the ship and itinerary because many of us are scuba divers, we enjoy sailing on the newer ships and we were looking forward to freestyle cruising. I booked the cruise through Francine Dumont at Travel Trends. Her pricing was competitive, her service excellent AND everyone got room upgraded. She even helped a secure a private meeting room on the ship that was equipped with a big screen projector and VCR so we could show a family history video my wife created to honor my mom’s birthday. Perfect! 

I will start by saying that everyone had a wonderful time and we would all highly recommend this ship.

Air Travel
We purchased our air through NCL. We might do otherwise the next time as the flights we all very early departing and very late returning. Furthermore, the folks from Charlotte had to connect through Atlanta in spite of the fact that there are many direct flights to Miami. At the same time, the price for the air was competitive as it was President’s week and because demand was high so were the prices. We all tried to standby for earlier return flights, but those of us from Texas were the only ones that were successful. I got lucky and was upgraded to first class.

Embarkation
The baggage claim area at Miami International was a bit hectic, but the NCL representatives were helpful showing us the way to the bus. The porters were standing by to help, but frankly it was such a short walk to the bus and they weren’t really needed. 

Although many of us are Latitudes members, the priority check in wasn’t necessary. None of us (coming from San Antonio, Charlotte, and Rochester, NY) had a wait of any consequence checking in. When my wife, son and I arrived at noon there was nobody in line.

The Ship
The Sun is a beautiful ship. We all commented on the ample use of wood and how rich and nautical it looked.  Missing however was the dazzling atrium we have seen on the RCCL Monarch of the Seas and the Legend of the Seas. The casino was also much smaller than we are used to seeing, but again, that wasn’t critical. Some of us thought that the showroom was a bit tacky, but we were soooooo tired each night that we missed most of the shows! We came to dive, catch the sun, and eat!

The pool area is pretty typical with a nice bandstand, a good-sized pool and four hot tubs. For the first two days only one was actually heated but yet they all remained full. If you were a little patient you could always find your way into the hot tubs. The first day at sea I was reminded of the ritual of saving chairs. After a pretty wild bon voyage party the first night (regrettably for the whole family my wife has video tape) I slept a bit longer than usual, and at 8am I headed up to the pool. In spite of the “don’t reserve chairs” rule, there were indeed many rule-breakers on board and virtually all of the chairs on the lower deck and most on the upper deck had been claimed. Lesson learned. On the second pool day I was up at my usual time of 5:30 and our group had the primo location. 

The pool service was exceptional and not overly pushy. We befriended Michael Evans from Jamaica who we adopted as our drink server for the week. He was great and had us all saying “nice, nice, nice” and “it’s all good” all week long. We ordered dozens of buckets of beer from him and at the end of the week presented him with a bucket that had an extra tip in it.

Dining
Breakfast was good in both the main restaurants and the Garden Café and the Outdoor Cafe, however we were all disappointed with the overall poor quality/variety of the fruit. On past cruises NCL has had fruit bars in the pool area where they cut and served wonderful fresh fruit. We really missed this. The coffee served in both the Garden Cafe
and Outdoor Cafe was poor. It appeared to be made from syrup.

Prior to dinner the first night we all visited the Las Ramblas Tapas Bar for drinks and munchies. We enjoyed trying the different tapas and the duo playing Latin music added to the mood.

The two dining rooms we nicely appointed and the menus changed each night. We ate our first dinner in the Four Seasons dining room. The food and service was good, and you could easily be satisfied eating all your dinners in the two main rooms. But I have to say this… anyone who goes on this cruise and doesn’t try the other restaurants is crazy, because that is where the food and service really shine.

On our second night we ate in the Tapanyaki room in the Ginza Restaurant. This room will seat 12 (we had them set it up for 14) and they cook the food, steak, shrimp, chicken, fish, lobster, scallops, etc. on the tabletop. We paid $10-$12 per person extra, but the food and service was exceptional. We could hardly walk out of the room after dinner!

The next night we returned to the Four Seasons dining room and helped turn lobsters into an endangered species! My sister knew our waiter from a previous cruise and I think she warned him of our love of crustaceans. The lobsters just kept coming to the table. While the lobster was good, the escargot was awesome! The best I ever had. We all just kept dipping the bread into the garlic sauce. Soups and salads were pretty good, and desserts ranged from “looked better than it tasted” to “pretty darned good.”

Our group split up on the fourth night. My mom, son and I decided to try the Cooking Light cuisine at the Pacific Heights restaurant. We all loved our meal especially the salads, the mussel’s appetizer and the meat loaf.

Night five it was Italian dinner at il Aldagio. The food and service was exceptional… veal chops, pastas, fish, steaks, buffalo mozzarella salads, a decent variety of wine (we probably had six bottles for our group) and some very good desserts to go with espresso. Best yet, the view from this (and Le Bistro) is extraordinary.

On night six, the group split up. Half of us dined late at the Seven Seas dining room. The food was good, but we were too tired to really “dine.” After a taste of our desserts we were all ready to hit the sack!

On the final night all 14 of us dined at Le Bistro. Everyone raved about their food… fish, steaks, and more escargot. Great deserts too!

We never did get to dine in the East Meets West room, nor did we eat at the sushi bar. The kids loved ordering pizza, sodas, and desserts from room service. 

Shore Excursions
Because we had our own group of 14 and several of us had visited most of the ports before, we booked almost all of our own shore excursions. On Grand Cayman we booked a 47-foot Catamaran from Captain Crosby Ebanks. We snorkeled two sites including Stingray City. In spite of the rather poor weather the Captain made it fun. For starters there was an ample supply of Stingray beer. Then, the Captain allowed us to skipper the boat while he got out his guitar and sang us songs. He also cooked up a pretty good fish stew, which he served with yummy coconut bread!

On Roatan, the guys took the kids fishing. We trolled around the West End and then bottom fished at West End Point. The touring around the island by boat was as much fun as the fishing. The kids were happy and the guys agreed that the Port Royal beer tasted great in the hot sun! The gals took the East End tour and enjoyed it.

In Belize City we had a boat waiting for all of us to take us to Ambergris key for a mixture of diving and snorkeling. We were a bit short on time but still managed to dive and snorkel at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve’s Shark Ray Alley where you can hand feed stingrays and nurse sharks. Even my 80-year-old mom got in the water for this! We chartered the boat through Aqua Dives in Ambergris Key (vie email) and they were terrific. 

On Cozumel, the non-divers spent the morning shopping while the divers did a two-tank dive with our favorite dive operator, Papa Hog’s. We all then met at our favorite beach area Nachi Cocum. What’s special about Nachi Cocum besides the beautiful beach and the food is the freshwater pool, hot tub and swim up bar. Awesome! Many of the off duty cruise ship employees were there too.

Miscellaneous
Some members of our group used the spa for haircuts/colors or massages. While pricey, everyone was satisfied with the service.

Our cabin steward we less attentive than we have had in the past. In spite of an early tip and a request for a constant supply of ice, I found myself having to call room service for ice. The twin beds really didn’t convert into a comfortable queen.

As you may know, the cruise line allows passengers who purchase shore excursions through the ship to tender off first. This meant that we often had to wait 60 to 90 minutes before we could get off the ship to meet our privately booked tour.

Disembarkation
The new policy of allowing you to stay in your room until 10am was welcomed as many of us were in Dazzles until 3am! Getting off the ship was easy but packing the luggage on to the bus for the trip to the airport was pure mayhem. Too many people with too many bags and too few busses! If I had it to do over again I would have rented a cab. That was the absolute worst part of the whole trip. You would think that NCL would have developed a better way to deal with this rush of people by now.

Conclusion
For the 14 of us, this cruise was about as perfect as we could hope for. When we reached day seven we all wished we could stay on board for another week.

Photo Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line


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