NCL SUN REVIEW- 7 DAY CARIBBEAN
This was my 9th cruise and my trip aboard the NCL-SUN was my 3rd NCL trip. For this cruise there were 12 of us, ages ranged from 17-58 years. Since Freestyle cruising is a new concept, I was very apprehensive about booking with NCL. One of the big events for me each cruise is dinner with all of my family members and I was very concerned about not being able to either sit together, or even eat at a specific time – I just imagined all of us standing and waiting for a table each night! But, I decided the price and time were right, so off we went.
Embarkation: could not have been easier. I stood in the Latitudes line for a few minutes and within 25 minutes we were on board. Your luggage is left at the luggage drop off before you enter the terminal, so make sure your room number is clearly indicated on your NCL luggage tags. I give NCL a big thumbs UP in this area.
Cabins: I always book the cheapest inside cabin, but this time I lucked out and managed to negotiate an outside with balcony as an upgrade. The cabin was large and well laid out. The room had lots of storage space, a small couch, dresser and the bathroom had a nice soap and shampoo stocked dispenser. The balcony was nice but not used often. So unless you MUST have a balcony, I would still opt for the cheapest inside and save the cash for the fun times. I did manage to view inside cabins and they appeared to be a good size. Two people in my group managed a mini-suite upgrade and those cabins were just amazing with full tubs and a separate dressing table area – huge and spacious – luxury if you can afford it.
Freestyle Dining: The concept is to choose from a variety of restaurants in addition to the normal dining rooms; you can eat at any time within the operating hours. However, some of the specialty restaurants do assess an extra charge. Formal clothing is optional. Freestyle is an interesting concept but needs to be studied more. In every restaurant I visited I found passengers waiting for a table. In addition, even though the service was excellent, I found the pace to be extremely SLOW! As an example, there is no longer a wine steward; therefore in addition to their normal duties, the waiter is responsible for the wine and drinks; this was a slow process and added confusion to ordering dinner. I would suggest that passengers eat all but two meals at the no-cost main dining rooms and perhaps pick a specialty restaurant or two to try while cruising. The food at the pay restaurants is no better than the main dining rooms, just a different atmosphere.
Food: Since numerous dining establishments is the main concept behind Freestyle, I have devoted a great deal of my review to the eateries. Overall food in the main dining rooms was nothing short of excellent. The variety of food at the buffet was good, but the lines were long and the quality and presentation were definitely sub par to the dining rooms. To insure that my party always was seated together for dinner, arrangements were made with the maitre d’ prior to sailing. We were given a table and were asked to arrive at a certain time each night – 6pm. The entire staff was accommodating and friendly.
Le Bistro: The most talked-about restaurant. A charge of $10 per person is added. The food was excellent and well worth the visit. Once again, arrangements were made way ahead of time with the maitre d’. However, the same slow service was evident.
Pacific Heights: Advertised as low-fat cooking and no charge to eat there. Arrangements were the same as the others. This restaurant gets mixed reviews with members of my family; some liked it, while others did not. Personally I did not think much of the food, but people who ordered the calzones were extremely pleased.
Las Ramblas: A small tapas watering hole. No extra charge although you will be expected to order a drink. Our party just walked in and put some tables together. The tapas were OK, but the evening live entertainment is excellent. You might want to consider this place as a pre-dinner meeting place. Note: at lunch Las Ramblas serves as a soup and sandwich bar; numerous members of my party lunched there and gave it high reviews.
East Meets West: Japanese food and sushi for a charge, depending on what you order. Members of my party did eat here and said it was decent.
Entertainment: Almost perfect. In the evening, you will find music at a variety of locations throughout the ship. The Windjammer lounge had a piano/singer; the Dazzles lounge featured a variety of musical activities from live bands to disco, plus theme nights and little competitions (hula-hoop, twist, lip sync, etc.), and the Observation lounge had a live band and was also the location of the popular karaoke. A perk of the Observation lounge was that Latitudes Members receive 10% discount prices on drinks, a nice saving. The nighttime shows at the Stardust lounge were very typical of most ships and the variety and quality was 4 stars worth.
Activities: Most daytime activities were OK, from the usual trivia to the Bingo. Nothing to write home about.
Front desk/purser: I had to include this category since on most ships you rarely get good service and the lines are always long here. The SUN desk area was always fully staffed with knowledgeable and helpful personnel. Questions were always answered promptly, and I did not get the usual “I can find out” or “you need to..,” In addition I had a small billing issue and the staff member worked with me daily until it was resolved. All I can say is BRAVO NCL!
Disembarkation: Great. Basically you leave when you want to depending on your connecting accommodations. You ask for a specific tag color based on your connections, however, everybody needs to be off the ship by 10am. You can wait in your staterooms until your colored tags are called, no need to be herded into public rooms.
Overall: This is a wonderful ship and not to be missed. The ship is well laid out and everything seems to be centralized on two decks. The entire staff from busboy to the officers exceeded my expectations. I found walking through the well-stocked duty free shop on board to be a delight. The prices were competitive and the personnel were nothing short of wonderful. The only other negatives were the numerous kids/teens running wild and in an uncontrolled manner well past midnight; the SUN’s tendering process in ports of call is slow and gives favoritism to ship excursions (a policy that I find unfair); the non-smoking areas in the lounges is not well enforced nor well defined. Despite these few negatives, I would not hesitate to recommend this ship to anybody. Happy sailing!