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ew101

NCL Sun Review 12/12-17, 2019

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We are not at all brand loyal in cruising.   Internet search engines and fate decide where and when we cruise.   We are very old fashioned though- ballroom dancing, libraries and walk around promenade decks are a huge draw.  Low prices are important for me – and I am fine with an ocean view cabin (for the record DW prefers a balcony).  The idea is if the price is low enough we can go more often.  Days at sea are relaxing.  After a few lovely trips on the Jade we were last on Norwegian on the Breakaway out of New York.  I was remembering crowds, smoke and the Main Dining Room (MDR) food budget being a few dollars a day too low.     

 

Early December is for some reason a low season in Florida for cruising.  I was randomly called to be at a conference Tuesday/Wed in Orlando.  A search revealed- the Sun was going out of Port Canaveral Thursday– 5 nights - $179 for Oceanview.  That was also the number of vacation days I had left and fit my budget. 

 

We were on the Sun many years ago.  I had some trouble finding online a recent Freestyle Daily- my DW is OK on cruising but is happier if she can dance and collect her steps aboard.  Hint: One lap around is 650 or so steps for her.   I try and figure out if there is any decent dancing before I book.  The Mexican ports were not great- Key West and Nassau are our nearby favorites – but an average port day beats a day at work.

 

The boarding letter said 10:30 and the Uber from Orlando ($67+ tolls+ tip) dropped us off right on time.   I had the idea to take an Uber from our hotel to MCO airport then one of the $15 port shuttles but got lazy.   There was no one in line but the terminal with loud piped in music and no real amenities (vending machines and flavored water) was dreary, cold and felt like a Soviet bus station.  Actually in Europe bus stations can have news-stands and coffee shops but I digress.   So we sat outside over by the parking lot.  Boarding started at 11:30. 

 

Lunch in the Seven Seas was good.  I had fish and chips, calamari and salad.  The servers were cheerful and we decided this was a happy ship.  This was confirmed all week.   We are not buffet fans at all.  Standing in line behind someone who does not believe in tongs in all it takes.  Somebody needs to invent or modify food service equipment for safely filling water bottles and large mugs. 

 

Walking around -the ship looked good- the reported common area maintenance issues were not in evidence.  Yes the aft awning is a little stained but that is not structural.  The atrium and other Deck Six venues (unlike the newer NCL ships) did not smell smoky.  They had the Christmas trees up and the holiday music going (a bit too loudly) and the chefs were studying a plywood platform in the lobby for a gingerbread village.  Several villages appeared later in the cruise. 

 

We took the cheapest “sailaway” OV cabin selection and got 8004.  Our $49 pp offer for an upgrade was politely declined.  This is way forward next to a forward facing suite.  It is quiet and has lots of storage and a large picture window.  It is roomy, has a couch but could use a tiny coffee table- which would block the folding of the extra bed from the couch now that I think of it.  One drawer and the closet door needed WD40.  Pro tip - reports from Housekeeping have to filter up the chain of command.  If you call yourself they will arrive in ten minutes and follow up by phone.   (This exact issue is actually all over current MBA school case studies on hotel operations).   Cabins were ready at 1:30 and luggage arrived 3 ish.  Other lines (hint) draft other departments for luggage duty – this was I believe just cabin staff.  Our cabin was expertly cleaned and are big fans of our Steward.  One morning our sewer line – maybe 10 cabins -was plugged – and a wheeled plumbing snake rig was seen out in the hall.  The worst thing for onboard toilets- clothing items- use the trash cans folks.      

 

We had eight foot seas leaving Port Canaveral and off Miami so it was bumpy on the way out but the rest of the voyage was smooth and comfortable.  I will say an 1100 foot ship tends to ride better in an eight foot sea than a smaller one but there are so many negatives on the larger ones not to mention a higher price.  I ran into Igor, the Hotel Director at the Latitudes Party.  I congratulated him on having a happy ship- and he said “It’s the software not the hardware”- I had to think a moment but it is the customer service moments and interactions that really make a good cruise.

 

We decided there were two and a half possible dance floors aboard- Bliss, Spinnaker and maybe the Atrium.    After dinner the Motown cover band set in Bliss was very good.  The talented Show Band did a nice dinner jazz set in the atrium.  They had an amazing pair of horn players.  We got some Rumbas out of the Latin Duo and we talked the Show Band into playing a ballroom set up in the Spinnaker, which is a lovely space.  45 minute sets were just right.

 

Several kinds of tap beer were in evidence and they had two IPAs.  We watched bits of five NFL games (somebody in NCL HQ is listening) and recent movies on the in-room Samsung flat screen TV.  NCL must pay attention to Cruise Critic- you could log in to the basic site for free (but not the boards). 

MDR breakfast, my standard Eggs Benedict, was just right.  They brought coffee and hot milk and an extra pot.   We all decided they have nailed MDR breakfast.  I did start to wonder about “Full English” but you could piece it together from the sides.  The cinnamon French toast became a dangerous vice for me.  MDR Lunch was good the Fritatta was lovely but the Philly Cheese Steak while tasty was not from Philly.   Our servers were cheerful and paying attention.   On some lines the servers are nice but it takes half an hour to get coffee. 

 

My MDR dinners for the most part - Pad Thai, Bang Bang Chicken, Alfredo (salty) or Oriental Pork- a poor cut of meat -were not successful but we had a lovely Greek Salad and the appetizers were fine.  Reports from Specialty Dining were enthusiastic.  Officers were all over and asking if we were happy.  Seating in the MDR was heavily oriented to couples and it was not crowded.  We dropped a note in the comment box but should have sent stuff back which we are not used to doing.  

More than once it felt like the ship was half full- she was sold out.  The newer ships perform an accounting miracle- take the same public spaces, shrink them and add four more decks of cabins. 

 

All week there were open seats in the buffet and tables and loungers open.  If you hate crowds this is the ship for you.  The pool deck band was very loud.  The wide promenade deck with loungers was luxurious, quiet and uncommon on modern ships.  After a few days DW informed me we got in 10,000 steps on average and I was trying to avoid the desserts.  There were real musical shows aboard but we were going to dance.  It was a case of so many choices.  One of the Latin sets was packed in Bliss (hint take the well done on-board Latin Dance classes) and the Motown band (440) even did a ballroom set the last night.  The days at sea at full speed were relaxing and reminded me of a Transatlantic.  The library and spaces right outside and inside were quiet for reading and writing and board games. 

 

They were selling “lite” $100 versions of the Cruise Next package for shorter cruises, but I could not make any sense of the math.   I heard “spend $400 get $250” which baffled me. 

 

There was an announcement in the How to Run a Floating Hotel talk they are phasing out plastic beverage bottles soon in favor of glass.    They never announce anything in these talks so stay tuned.  If you worry about azipods falling apart this is the ship for you.  They showed a sturdy propeller shaft in the video of the engine spaces.   We all laughed - one of the passengers was very worried the ship would run out of Corona.   

 

Truth be told we stayed on the ship in Costa Maya.  And we looked out, longingly, at Cozumel and stayed in the loungers on the Promenade Deck.  Another advantage of this class of ship for someplace like Alaska- you can access almost every square inch as a steerage (non elite) passenger and free sea views are available in all directions. 

 

There was a four-person line to get off the ship at 8AM.  CBP has those face recognition carts /machines so there was no separate CPB line.  At all.  None.  This is big folks.  We took the NCL shuttle bus/excursion and were in the check in line at the MCO airport by 9:30. 

 

Five nights (with two sea days) feels almost like a week in terms of relaxation for me- it is not rushed and great value. 

 

Edited by ew101
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Great review! I sort of ruled NCL out after taking the maiden transatlantic on the Gem... the velvet covered beds in one lounge and the bowling alley turned us off. We are also dancers and always looking for a ship that provides good music. Never thought of appealing to the band itself - our latest appeal was to the Cruise Director on Nieuw Amsterdam who hardly gave us a glance! I’m going to look at NCL again, the Sun in particular. Thanks so much!

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Yes the jazz type bands will usually play jazz unless you ask them to please dust off some ballroom type music.  Bands hate playing to furniture.  HAL is removing dance floors from their mid size ships.  Usually NCL has a Bandmaster you can appeal to also.  Ballroom dancing is more common on longer voyages.

Edited by ew101

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What a delightful review! I am brand loyal; well, more my spouse than anyone, he loves the freestyle approach with NCL. I am actually going on the Sun next month with my son before he leaves for the military in Feb. You have me looking forward to our 5 day cruise that I am hoping feels like a week long escape from the cold! This is also my first OV booked, on that half-sized Oslo deck.

 

What deck is that promenade deck that had all the loungers? On the pool deck?

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Thanks.  Deck Six goes all the way around and has ten ish loungers on each sde.  There is a half deck of obstructed OV cabins called 6A.  There are lots of loungers on 11 (Pool) and 12.  

Edited by ew101

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Thanks for the great review! I'm excited to see you were at MCO at 9:30, as I'd like to book the nonstop flight back to oregon leaving at 11am...would get me home in time for the second half of the Super Bowl!

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The new no CBP line on disembarkation process - yaa - makes earlier flights certainly possible.  If you a risk taker, it might work.  This was Tuesday.  If you arrive 9:30A on a Sat/Sun I have seen scary airport TSA lines though in Florida cruise gateway airports. 

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Thank you for the thoughtful and well written review. 

Best wishes, and keep the reviews coming.

Jim

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We went on the Sun for a b2b, 5 day out of PC.  Price was incredible and all we wanted was to be on the ocean.  My question, does anyone know the last name of the piano player, Derrick?

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Thanks for your review of the lovely Sun!  Just disembarked today. Sitting in the Atlanta airport on the way home. Enjoyed your remarks very much!!

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42 minutes ago, L1211 said:

Thanks for your review of the lovely Sun!  Just disembarked today. Sitting in the Atlanta airport on the way home. Enjoyed your remarks very much!!

You guys did a great job on yours also.  I'm glad you had a good trip.    

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